My Experience with the Paleo Diet and Ideopathic Intracranial Hypertension

 

It is no secret that health and diet are closely linked.  For me, my diet plays an immediate role in my health and wellbeing.

I began having severe headaches in my 20’s.  They would keep me up for days at a time and make it impossible for me to lay down, because laying down only made them worse.  Instead, I would sit up and rap my knuckles against my head,  tap/press my head against the wall, or submerge my head in the hottest bath I could tolerate, except for my nose and mouth.

When I finally got insurance, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with ‘cluster headaches’ (without any testing or a real exam) and was given Midrin, which can be addictive, and is no longer on the market.  It took the edge off but never relieved them. Eventually, after a 3 day headache, during which I hadn’t slept a wink,  my fiance talked me into trying marijuana to see if it would help.  I had never tried it, but was willing to try anything at that point. And it worked.  Within 30 minutes I was asleep and woke up headache free. I used marijuana to manage my headaches for about 5 years, until I went back to work as a nurse.  Then I was back to dealing with my headaches on my own, which meant suffering through them.

It wasn’t until I saw an EYE doctor that my problem was properly diagnosed.  I was 40 years old.  He noticed that I had papillary edema which causes my optic nerve to bulge into my eyeball (a sign of increased intracranial pressure), and told me I needed an MRI to rule out a brain tumor, but suspected I had Idiopathic Intracranial hypertension (also known as pseudotumor cerebri). And he was right.

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Treatment options are very limited for me.  My choices: brain surgery to place a shunt to divert fluid from my brain and medications to decrease fluid.  I don’t want surgery, and the medicine doesn’t really work as well as I’d hoped.  The other option is losing weight.

I’d tried shakes, pills, weight watchers, and south beach, and lord knows how many other ways without alot of success prior to my diagnosis. Of those, South Beach had worked the best, but I just couldn’t stick with it.  After my diagnosis I began searching again for another way.  Thats when I came upon the paleo diet, though it is truly rather a lifestyle.

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What surprised me the most is that after a lifetime of struggling with retaining fluid, not only in my brain, but the rest of my body as well, I suddenly began shedding water as if I had taken a diuretic- in fact BETTER than when I take my diuretics.  In the first 10 days I had lost 20 pounds.  I felt immediately better. The headaches subsided, my mental clarity improved, my chronic fatigue and shortness of breath were nearly gone.  In 10 days!

Doctors and scientists claim not to know what CAUSES of my condition but I will tell you, first hand, that when I cut grains from my diet, my symptoms virtually disappear.  I can’t say that would be the case for everyone, but if you suffer from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension / Pseudotumor Cerebrii, and you eat a SAD (Standard American Diet) you might consider making a change.

The paleo lifestyle is not a set in stone plan.  Some eat dairy, some dont. Some eat legumes (peanuts, beans), some don’t. Almost all completely stop grains and many also stop all sugars, including honey, fruit, etc.  For weight loss, that is ideal.  But occassionally I will use honey or a sugar substitute to cure a vicious sweet tooth from time to time.  There are lots of great paleo recipes out there on Pinterest. I have a small but growing collection on my pinterest page.  Also, recipes labeled as Keto (ketogenic) are paleo friendly and tend to be high fat, moderate protein and low carb.

Here are a few of my favorite resources:

 

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K*I*S*S- Keep it Simple, Sweetheart!

Happy Sunday!

It’s been a very busy week, and sadly, I was not successful being keto. But I graduated my middle child, cheered for him at the meet of champions and spent several evenings watching for and hiding from tornadoes.  One must love Oklahoma in the Spring!

But at least school is out for the summer and things are going to be much more relaxed for me.

After eating grain free for 5 days, the pain in my joints had begun to ease up quite a bit.  But once the week got away from me, and I gave in to the temptation of drive thru on the run just to make it through the week, the pain began to return.  Just a nice reminder that preperation is paramount! My goal for the week is to have my lunch and breakfast prepared the night before on days when I have to leave the house early.  My plan for breakfast is to prepare some keto waffles and keep them in the fridge to be thrown in the toaster paired with berry compote or almond butter… or maybe both, and some precooked bacon or sausage.

When I  eat healthy I seldom want a meal mid-day, but I will prepare a snack just in case.  I’d love to hear what your favorite ‘go to’ snacks that keep in a hot car.  Of course nuts and pork rinds will be at the top of the list.

Dinners are always my biggest challenge, since I tend to want to prepare tasty recipes with many indredients.  This is something I’m going to be working on.  But here is my plan for the week.

  • Sunday: Steak with herbed butter, twice baked cauliflower, salad
  • Monday: Pulled pork roast in the crock pot (a good opportunity to try some keto bread recipes to make pulled pork recipes) vegetables in butter
  • Tuesday- Leftover pulled pork, vegetables in butter
  • Wednesday – Left Over pulled pork, vegetables in butter. (Freeze any leftovers)
  • Thursday: Garlic Butter Shrimp over zoodles,
  • Friday: Pork Rind Nachos
  • Saturday: At the Renaissance Festival!  Smoked Turkey Leg… not sure there is much more available to me, so I would be wise to eat before going in.

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It feels good to have developed a meal plan for the week that is uncomplicated and I should be able to stick with. I can’t wait to get out and take some pictures and just enjoy the atmosphere of the festival this weekend.  And then it’s off to South Padre Island next weekend. Lots of opportunities to eat health down there, and lots of me time to relax and get centered.

Wishing you all a healthy and successful week.

On Your Mark…

So it is Friday, and I’m still just working on getting ready to start.  No work today, other than a couple of notes, so I’m a little slow getting going.  In fact, I didn’t even get out of bed until 10:30!  That wasn’t the plan but it felt so good!

I spent the morning looking at recipes on Pinterest and makinga  shopping list.  Being a woman who LOVES FOOD, recipe searching is a guilty pleasure, but let me tell you what I have found during past attempts.  I spent far too much time worrying about making full meals. So much so, that by the time I figures out what I wanted, it was too late to make it! Sabotaged before I even began.  This time I pinned a few recipes that I knew were easy, or that I’ve already made in the past and liked.  This time I MUST keep it SIMPLE.

In the past I also overwhelmed myself with trying to track and put numbers to everything.  Again, more time spent sitting at my desk, and not spent on living the lifestyle.  This time, just as with other habits, learning to track macros will be one of the habits I add in.  As I mentioned yesterday, my first (and current habit) is eating no grains. As a bonus, it naturally makes huge cuts in my sugar consumption.

While researching food choices, I happened upon a wonderful Keto/Low Carb Macros calculator at Tastaholics.com.

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Based on my information (estimated 320 pounds, 49% body fat, Sedentary lifestyle, with added no exercise) for weight loss I should be eating 2117 calories, (166 grams fat, 131 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates – or 52% fat, 41% protein, and 8% carbs)  Different calculators may give different results, but it’s a good starting place when I’m ready.

Now, as I said earlier, I’m not ready to start worrying about macros just yet, but I will make it a habit eventually.  For now, I’m just focused on re-learning how to eat without bread, pasta, and other grain laden accompanyments.  (Henceforth known as the root of all evils for this girl).

So back to whats for dinner. ..

I know in the past making things too complicated played a big role in my failure.  I’ve come to the conclussion that I will need to focus less on ‘meals’, and more on ‘eating’.  Having food ready to curb cravings, spending less time in the kitchen, (which means preparing larger meals that can last several days when I DO cook), and preparing lunches in advance for work days when I’m on the road. Another challenge I have when I don’t eat out or eat often is staying hydrated.  I tend not to drink as much and I become dehydrated, which my body interprets as hunger most of the time. In fact, ensuring hydration may need to be my next habit. It may mean setting an alarm every so often to ensure I don’t forget.  But I’m getting ahead of myself!

Shopping for dinner….

Before I can do that, I have to clean out the cabinets and the fridge!  Ah yes. That is an important step in the beginning. Getting rid of all the temptations. Thankfully, (i suppose), money has been really tight and other than cleaning out pastdue leftovers, there is very little for me to clean out. At least I wont have the ‘kids are starving in Africa’ guilt trip recording playing in my head.

So what do I already have that i can incorporate. * chicken, fish, italian sausage, bacon, and hamburgerin the freezer * Frozen  green beans, broccoli, cauliflower * apples, grapes * coconut oil, butter, olive oil * mozzerella block, shredded cheddar, cream cheese.* Canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, almond butter, cocoa, stevia,

Heck, I could make a meal out of those things for a couple of days. I’m off to a good start! …

6 hours later, guess its a good thing I had things already in the house, because I can’t seem to make a decision to save my life.  (You ought to see me and my best friend try to decide on where to go for lunch!)  So instead of shopping, I opened a can of chicken breast chunks, added grapes, purple onion, mayo, and poultry seasoning, and enjoyed a nice bowl of chicken salad  a bunch of grapes.

Well, guess I’ll finish my shopping list and do my shopping in the morning.

 

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

Wow. Just…wow!

Is it possible that, once again, I am right back where I started? Of course it is.  Making changes takes… well changing.  And I haven’t yet. At least not in a positive way.  But I’m still trying.

 

This year has brought a lot of realizations for me.  First, my handsome son, a state track placer and scholarship recipient, will be graduating in 9 days! Im still trying to let that soak in.  It still doesn’t seem real. And before I know it, he’ll be gone to college! And my daughter will be starting her senior year.  Unlike my son, she no longer needs my help. She’s chosen a path and will graduate as a certified welder, and her teachers say she is absolutely amazing! She has no problems managing money, she is confident and strong.  Truly, she is already raised. And she isn’t even quite 17 yet.

So here I sit, feeling like my whole life is leaving me and trying to make plans for the future… only the things I want, and the things I am reasonably able to do are not the same. Things like amusement parks, hiking trips, backpacking, kayaking, scuba diving, traveling by plane, ziplining, horseback riding.  I want to travel out of the county, but who wants to be seen as the obese American?  And I’d like to LIKE what I see in the mirror. I’d like to meet someone to share my adventures with. I’d like to be stronger, and happier, and just feel like my life isn’t completely out of control.

Those are all the things I’ll need to remind myself of as I start AGAIN… WHY I am doing this.   And what are my milestones.  When can life truly begin again.

Now I know some of you may be saying, ‘you don’t have to wait for life to begin’. But I beg to differ, and here is why.  One of my biggest challenges in my journey is avoiding distraction. It’s staying on plan, and that is REALLY hard to do when I can’t plan in advance,or don’t have the energy to prepare myself for success (by preparing foods in advance, having the house clean, laundry done, etc. )  All of these things are VITAL for me, and to be quite honest, I’m currently lucky to do ONE of those things each WEEK.  My endurance is terrible, my pain in unbearable, and I my mental clarity is sorely lacking… something that I know from experience is a direct result of eating processed foods and grains. For me, those things are equally as addicting as crack and heroin.

So now it’s time to figure out how to do this without getting overwhelmed and giving in.  The only way I’m going to do that is by taking it one step at a time.  One new habit at a time.  A lot of personal reflection. And plenty of forgiveness for my shortcomings.

I began the first step yesterday by cutting out grains.  This one is huge for me.  When I eat grains my joints become inflamed and painful, my mind becomes muddy, I have chronic severe headaches, and the pressure in my brain begins to worsen. (Literally. I have a condition called pseudotumor cerebri, or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension)  When I cut wheat in particular, not only do my symptoms improve, but i quickly begin to drop water weight at a rapid pace.  I will hold myself to just this step until May 20th. And May 21st I will add a new habit. And will add a new one when the last has become manageable, until my life is back in control.  I won’t worry about my next step for now. Today it’s simply no grains.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

A Little of This, and a Little of That

It has been an interesting week.  After weeks of stress and long working hours, things are beginning to slow down a little.  Still much work to be done, but a little more time to get it done in.  Unfortunately, I must be sedentary to get it done, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have struggled to remain on plan most of the last few weeks, and haven’t always been successful.  There have been trips to fast food resteraunts, where I’ve not eaten entirely paleo, but did manage to stay grain free which is a huge part of this battle for me.  I went to my favorite bistro one day, a quaint little place that offers gluten free breads and wraps, and fresh, homeade soups.  Unfortunately, they goofed and gave me regular bread on my grilled ham and cheese, and it left me feeling sick for 3 days.  I’m just now returning to normal.  The headache was a little more persistent than usual, and really brought me down.

At least, I think that is what it was.  In March I underwent a partial hysterectomy.  And I’m so very glad I did.  No more anemia, quite a bit more energy, and I can wear white pants for the first time in my life!  On the downside, since I was never very regular to begin with, and I still have my ovaries, I am beginning to realize that I still have some PMS symptoms:  The food cravings, and most of all, the sudden need to cry myself silly for a day. What’s difficult about that is that now I never know when to expect it, so when it hits me it is difficult to know if I’m truly depressed, or if I can just expect to feel normal again tomorrow.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  After a day of misery and self loathing, I WILL wake up the next day and I’ll know then.  Thankfully, this morning I woke up my usual self.  Strong, determined and ready to conquer the day.

I have been hovering between 280 and 285 for over a  month.  It’s been frustrating, and every other attempt, I would have started sliding back into my old ways.  Not this time.  I may not have been on point at every meal, not always paleo, but always gluten free (by choice anyway.)   This morning I stepped on the scale and was happy to see a 279.2.  May that trend continue!

And there have been several non-scale  victories.  This week I played raquetball twice.  It was awesome, and felt so good to use my body in an agressive fashion!  It’s been a long time, and I liked it!

Even better, BEFORE I played, I realized I was able to raise my foot onto the opposite knee (to put on my socks and shoes, and TIE my shoes )  without having to grab my foot and PULL it onto my knee!!!  I just put it up there, pretty as you please!  I sat there stunned for a moment, just staring at my independent foot in wonder.  Now for anyone who has never had the pleasure of having to wrestle with their body to get shoes and socks on, this may sound strange.  Why do you think I have been wearing slip on shoes for the better part of 5 years?  The effort it took to lean over and grab my foot, while my abdominal organs were being forced upward into my chest cavity by my lap, was traumatic. First you feel all the blood rushing to your face, then the air being pushed out of your lungs to make way for everything below to take up residence where the air should have been.  I had to suffocate myself anytime I wanted to wear shoes!

And thus the woman who wore only slide on shoes was born.  I must admit, I am not the least bit sad to see her go.  Step one, wear normal shoes!  I’m hoping someday I will even get to wear heels again!

I spend a good part of today planning a weekend getaway for next weekend. It’s been a while since I just escaped with a friend and no kids.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything that didn’t involve work in some fashion.  So next week, Ashley and I are headed to Eureka Springs, Arkansas!  And for once, the plan isn’t to spend a bunch of money (just half that lol).  Instead we are making it an active weekend.  Friday night, dinner and dancing is on the agenda, Saturday we will be hiking the Blue Springs trails… AND taking pictures of the botanical gardens.  A little shoppin and relaxation in the afternoon, then dinner and some more dancing in the evening.  Sunday we will head out for Buffalo River and do some more hiking (and picture taking)  I’m excited!

I hope you are all finding ways to be not only active but having fun while you do it!

Back on Track!

Fajita Salad
Fajita Salad

True to form, I have been off plan for the past couple of weeks.  and it’s been a CRAZY two weeks.  But things are finally starting to slow down, and I was able to FINALLY get back on track, effective today!

I know what your thinking.  “More excuses.”  A reasonable thought.  I know if you want it bad enough you are going to get it done.  And I DO really want it.  I want ALOT of things, and sometimes everything converges together and I have to choose one.  Family, photography, work, sleep, or weight loss.

As a single mother, not working is not an option, and per usual, when things in one area of my life go crazy, they ALL do!  For the first time in a while I’ve had more than 40 hrs worth of work to get done in LESS than 40 hours.  At the same time,  ‘my on the side’ photography business went wild.  Baseball/softball/tball season  is one of my busiest times anyway, but this year the months worth of work had to be crammed into 2 weeks because half of the season was rained out!  And I had requests from twice the number of teams that I did last year!  (I couldn’t possibly say no, when I’m trying to build this burgeoning little business.)

In the last 2 weeks I haven’t slept more than 4 hours a night, trying to process thousands of pictures, all the while, my computer has been acting up and taking 4-5 times as long to complete tasks.  I’m surprised I have any HAIR left, and I haven’t yanked it out in frustration.

Which brings us to today.  I finally crawled into bed at 630 this morning and slept a full 5 hours. Woohoo.  When I woke up I got back to work, but instead of continuing to fight with the computer, I focused on fixing whatever was causing the problem.  By 5pm I’d made a bit of progress, but I needed a break. What better time to plan a menu for the week and go grocery shopping, right?  And thats what I did.  Then I came home and COOKED!  For the first time in weeks!  Todays picture (above) was my plate just before I finally got to eat, since I’d forgotten all day, unless you count a handful of blackberries for lunch.

For me, in order to be successful, I have to go by the KISS philosophy.  “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  So I fired up the castiron skillet and fried up some beef fajitas (with bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, butter, chili powder and garlic.)  I served mine over a bed of lettuce and made my own dressing by simply mixing salsa and sour cream together.  Yum.  And so easy.  A little homemade guacamole on some black bean tortilla chips.  And wallah!  I’m a happy girl.

While I was at it, I boiled up some eggs for a quick, on the go, breakfast, and packed some leftovers for lunch tomorrow at the office.  In the morning I will start my crock pot and we will have some BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw, and BBQ beans.

Now I realize this is not strictly paleo, but I’m not beating myself up for it.  And that makes me a winner. Because I’m moving in the right direction, and accepting of my limitations now.  I’m just so glad that I have finally figured out that life is not black and white, win or lose, succeed or fail.  There’s a lot of gray in there.  And if you beat yourself up every time you aren’t perfect, you are just setting yourself up for more failure in the future.

Love yourself, do your best, and own it all. The victories AND the challenges.  And know that it is all part of this amazing journey.  I hope you are all had a blessed day!

A New Challenge

Yes, I know, following my blog is like watching a magic show… Now you see me, now you don’t…. Oh look, there I am again! Well, I could say that life is complicated.  But that would be an excuse.  Everyone’s lives are complicated.  Some of us still manage to manage their time and meet deadlines.  I am not yet one of them, but I’m working on it!

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(Myself and my dear friend, Jen. This is what I’ve been up to! Photographing! Her’s was my first wedding. It wasn’t the plan but when the photographer didnt show up, and I was glad I could be there and help out in a pinch.)

Since my last post on April 6th (oh my! Thats 6 weeks ago! So much for daily posts!) I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster.  After my surgery I was healing well, until suddenly, I wasn’t.  A few doctors visits later, and I am finally healed and ready proceed.  Unfortunately, during that down time, which also included a crazy end of year sports schedule, (my son qualified for the state championship track meet!), a wedding,  more changes at the day job, and a bout of depression, I went completely off lifestyle.  I reverted to the crazy woman, living out of her car (not literally), fast food garbage littering the passenger side floorboard, frantically running from one place to the next!  It’s so strange how we can realize how unhappy we are and knowing how good we CAN feel, and still not make the proper adjustments…. day after day…. month after month… year after year, and convince ourselves it’s out of our hands, and that we have no control over those choices we feel we are FORCED to make because we had no options.

Or, at least, that’s what we choose to believe…. Until we choose not to.

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(My son, the runner with the black and blue shoes running at the Oklahoma High School state track meet.)

This week I finally got back on track: First with food choices, then with remembering my medications, and finally with adding exercise.  I actually went for a walk this week.  Yes, ONE.  One 1 mile walk.  Don’t judge. It was a start.

So, when I last weighed on April 4th, I celebrated dropping into the 270’s with a 279.  Stepping on the scale this morning I was a tad bit terrified.  And then a lot bit relieved.  I was afraid I had gained back 20 lbs, but to my surprise, I was 285!  Thats a gain of 1 lb a week while I was off plan, which sucks. But 6 lbs is a bump on this journey to lose 180 lbs. I started out at a high of 330. (Thats hurts my fingers and my heart to type).  I have a total weight loss of 45 pounds! Thats nothing to sneeze at.  So it’s time to put on my big girl britches and keep going!

Besides my weight loss goals, I’m also working on improving on my photography craft.  One of the things I’ll be starting is a 365 day challenge. This entails taking a new self portrait every day.  What a great way to merge  my 2 top goals into one, than to practice my photography by recording my weight loss progress!  So I will be starting a new blog to run concurrently with this one to record my progress with photography too.

Then I can neglect TWO blogs! ….

Just kidding… or at least I hope I am.  I may not post every day, But I”m going to commit to at least 1 week.  And more when I am able.

Anyways, it’s going to be a wonderful holiday weekend for me.  Today I will be attending my daughters CHS Soccer End of Year Party.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone one more time before they all scatter for the summer.

Tomorrow is girls days out (rain or shine), to our annual Rennaisance Festival at the Castle in Muskogee (OK).  Every year I swear I’m going to rent a costume and get into character.  Then every year I end up saying, ‘okay, well next year’. And that is most likely the case again this year because with two kids in high school, the end of the school year gets very expensive. (Oh, who am I kidding?!  Every month of every year has been expensive raising these two on my own.  (But I wouldn’t trade them for anything.)  at least, by this time next year, maybe a corset will actually accomplish something other than making me look like a stuffed pigeon!

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(My favorite shot from last years festival!)

Regardless, I can’t wait to take pictures!  Where else do you get such interesting subject?  Let the fun begin!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  And don’t forget to remember the REASON for the holiday.