It’s been nearly three months since my last post…but in my defense, I ran off to Hawaii and got married, flew to Newport Beach to buy a boat with my husband of one week, and then turned around and went right back to California for a little wine tasting straight from the barrels in Napa Valley. In hindsight, I’m not really sure if that qualifies as much of a defense, but it’s definitely been a chaotic couple of months of traveling, stress, diet changes, and Crohn’s management.
So much has happened that I’m not even sure where to begin. Do I talk about the endless temptations of food on vacation that led me to bake a sourdough loaf upon return to Texas? Which then led to a rapid decline in health, beginning with the return of Crohn’s symptoms including a rash on my legs; an abscess; mucus; sharp, stabbing gut pain; and an overall feeling of blah. Do I start with the two nights of no sleep that I felt were necessary in order to get enough work done before leaving on vacation? Which, coupled with countless nights of not enough sleep and endless worry over how much time I’d be taking off work, what wouldn’t get done while I was gone, and what would be waiting for me upon return, was starting to make me sick. Or, should I start my story by talking about the worry and self-inflicted pressure I put on myself to prepare for an imaginary fitness competition in an effort to be in beach-ready shape for our Hawaii wedding? Which accomplished nothing other than to match my emotional exhaustion with physical exhaustion by spending an hour every day walking four miles with a 20 lb. vest, powering through a few extra bodyweight workouts, and squeezing in a couple of yoga sessions before boarding the plane for Hawaii.
As you can tell, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. So, rather than making you read a short novella after my little writing hiatus, I think I’ll break this saga apart and share it over the next two or three posts; more like a cliff-hanger trilogy for your reading enjoyment 😉 Looking back, I think the three lessons I’ve learned that I’ll be writing about from all of this are:
2) I need to prioritize sleep and caring for my body,
3) I need to be more mindful and grateful of what I can do and what I can have rather than focusing on the negatives of what I can’t do and what I can’t have.
So, my fellow Crohn’s warriors (and everyone else who’s along for this crazy ride), let’s get into a little more detail and break down the last three months…
First up, let’s talk about my diet.
As you know by now, I love steak, I love meat, and I do love eating my carnivore diet. So, I took a chance and didn’t pack any food on this trip, which actually felt liberating. With my carnivore diet, I figured it would be fairly easy to find hamburger patties, steaks, and eggs at most restaurants. As it turned out–not so shockingly–it was. I did pack a portable blender, so for breakfast–along with my bacon, eggs, and sausage plate–I enjoyed a bulletproof coffee with 1 TB of ghee blended into a fresh cup of coffee in my hotel room every morning. A hamburger patty with cheese and bacon was my go-to lunch option. And, for dinner, I enjoyed a delicious, buttery ribeye every night with a glass of wine. Overall, I felt great on vacation the entire time; which is somewhat surprising for a girl with Crohn’s, lots of stress, and not on medications.
So what happened that led me to baking a loaf of sourdough bread upon return? A couple of things actually. For starters, I’m only human. I will admit that while I don’t typically have cravings for other foods on a day-to-day basis when I’m in my normal routine of work and home life, things are different on vacation. Ten days in Hawaii and it became harder with each day to pass by the seemingly endless shave ice stands, hotel bars with drinks featuring pineapples and little umbrellas, dessert menus, candy stores, bakeries, and various shops with the always-present smell of warm, caramelized sugar in the air.
It was a barrage of temptation, pummeling my senses. It was hard to stay strong, but I did. At least while I was on vacation. Even though I felt great and I didn’t have any Crohn’s symptoms, I let myself ruminate on what I couldn’t have. I spent a large amount of time wishing I could have dessert or an afternoon treat without suffering consequences. It was this line of “poor me” thinking that led me to convince myself it would be fine for me to come back home and bake a loaf of traditional sourdough bread that I could enjoy as my one personal treat. Surely that wouldn’t do any harm…or so I thought.
Since our trip to Newport Beach was less than a week after we returned from Hawaii, I waited until we came back from Newport to bake the sourdough, which ironically turned out to be my best loaf yet. It rose beautifully and had a wonderful texture…but I digress. Having been running on limited sleep and lots of stress, I don’t really know if the sourdough bread was the straw that broke the camel’s back or if my system had just been free of anything that could be inflammatory for so long that the reaction was more severe. Either way, I quickly went from feeling great to feeling miserable. I then thought it might be a good idea to include some of my beloved sauerkraut back into my diet, but that just seemed to fuel the fire. Realizing that I was now doing more harm than good, I went back to eating strictly meat, eggs, and butter. A few days later and I was definitely on the mend. It’s now been a few weeks since my sourdough experiment and while I’m not back to feeling 100% better, I do continue to improve every day. I’m focusing on getting enough sleep, watching my diet, and not overdoing the wine (which was easier said than done while wine tasting in Napa).
Is it easy to limit what I eat and follow my carnivore diet? Sometimes. As my story illustrates, vacations and anything that takes me away from my daily routine certainly makes it more challenging. Do I crave other foods daily? Not really; the high-fat carnivore approach I follow makes this diet satiating and very satisfying. Do I wish I didn’t have Crohn’s? Of course, but that isn’t going to change. But what I can change is how I look at life and what I do to make the most of it. I’m more determined than ever to keep myself in remission without the use of medications and more hopeful than ever that my journey will help at least one other person navigate their own. I’m not saying medications are bad, they have their place and I’ve certainly needed them at points along my journey. I also recognize that I may need them again in the future and will cross that bridge when I get there, but for now–for myself–I’m hoping to stay off of them for as long as possible and hoping that I can instead “let food be thy medicine.”
In my next post, I’ll get into more of the nitty, gritty details of what Crohn’s symptoms were returning post sourdough, why stressing over them perpetuated an already stressful cycle, and a few of the non-prescription tools (other than my carnivore diet) I keep in my toolkit for managing Crohn’s and it’s inflammatory responses within the body.
Until next time 🙂