One of those Big Life Changes…

My clarity of thought has been, let’s call it, “challenged” for the last 30-some-odd weeks. Around the time of my last post, my husband and I were making a major life decision: after years of not being sure about the subject, we realized that we are ready to have a child.

Pregnancy has been an awesome experience. More in the older sense of the word “awesome”, as in filling me with awe. It’s beautiful, it’s exhausting, it’s completely overwhelming. And of course, it has left no corner of my life untouched – as I know will continue to be true once our Little Girl arrives.

My hardline stance on food consumption was forced to waver a bit in the face of first trimester cravings. Well, okay, at times the dietary restrictions had to be tossed directly out the window so that I wouldn’t resort to gnawing on the furniture. And my thyroid progress backslid somewhat under the strain of producing for more than one person. But I do credit the good health “cushion” I created before becoming pregnant with a number of positives.

  1. No morning sickness. I had some nausea early on, but never to the point of vomiting. I understand that the experience of pregnancy is different for everyone, but I believe that the stable diet I maintained up until then contributed greatly.
  2. Quicker bounce back. Even at those times when I’ve caved to eating some grain here and there, I’ve been able to bounce back quickly from any ill effects that crop up. My body is more resilient than it used to be.
  3. I’m not afraid. I haven’t been as perfect food-wise during pregnancy as I had been for the previous year. But I actually have faith that my body can and will heal from everything, and that my body is just asking me for what it needs right now. During the long years before the diet switch, I didn’t trust my body at all. It was not a pleasant feeling; it felt like living in hostile territory. But that was simply because I didn’t understand why my health was broken or that there was anything I could do to fix it. Now I know, and since making the progress I have, my body has become very clear with the signals it gives me. I can trust myself – my whole self. What a profound relief that is.

So here’s where I have to acknowledge, part of the reason for the long silence has been that I didn’t want to turn this into a blog about the pregnancy, the child planning, the new-parent anxieties, etc. etc. But it’s really impossible to say much of anything without acknowledging the change, because it touches everything I think about. Next up I’ll probably talk about how I hope to handle teaching Little Girl about food, and maybe also how much I’m looking forward to playing with her (spoiler: it’s a LOT).

The Patient Patient

Here I will share a few details about my journey to create health.

Between 13 and 15 years ago (sometime in high school), I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Syndrome, which is an extreme form of hypothyroidism and classified as an autoimmune disorder. I was informed that eventually my body would destroy my thyroid gland, and that I should expect to be on medication for the rest of my life. There was one wonderful endocrinologist who set me up with a stable dose of Armour Thyroid, and that’s what kept me feeling well and functional for the 13+ years between then and August, 2011.

In August 2011, two things happened. First, I started talking to my mother (whom I adore) about the possibility of trying the Atkins diet. My weight had been slowly but steadily creeping up over the years, and though I didn’t look horribly overweight, the number on the scale suggested that there was a problem I should address. My mother and I decided to try Atkins together, for moral support. This meant cutting out sugar, bread, and all other major sources of carbs.

I went through sugar withdrawal (the use of “withdrawal” here is not an exaggeration – try cutting ALL sources of sugar, HFCS, honey, syrup, etc. out of your diet for 2-3 days and you’ll see what I mean). I declared that I could never imagine giving up bread. I despaired when I realized that eggs – a major Atkins diet staple – gave me a bad reaction if I ate them for more than three days in a row. But the sugar withdrawal cleared, and I reassured myself that I could survive without bread for a while, and I found other things to eat for breakfast. And then the second thing happened – my husband and I had the good fortune to begin working with a wonderful and gifted chiropractor / nutritionist. She told me that she’d worked with other thyroid patients, and that if I could strictly adhere to a handful of dietary guidelines, that my thyroid gland could heal in about two years.

Heal. As in, completely. As in, cured. It was the promise of total wellness, something I’d stopped thinking about because the idea that I would never know it was too painful. And she was putting it in my grasp.

I agreed to the guidelines, which are as follows:

  1. No sugar. This includes ordinary sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave, evaporated cane juice… just about every ingredient that tries to fill sugar’s shoes. Even baking with unsweetened applesauce has proven problematic. I also put Splenda (sucralose), aspartame, and all other artificial sweeteners on my NO list. I am deeply skeptical of artificial sweeteners because let’s face it: they are not food.
  2. No grains. This includes wheat, rice, and corn (which is not a vegetable, no matter what the food pyramid would have us believe).

I’ve added a few restrictions of my own to the list, based on personal experimentation, but those are the two most significant. Courtesy of the no-Splenda clause and a few other things, I would classify my diet these days as more Paleo than Atkins. By the time I had followed these guidelines for three months, I’d lost almost thirty pounds. And on top of that, a personal miracle occurred: my decade-plus stable dose of thyroid medication dropped by a third. Food is the medicine that heals. I eat vegetables, meat, nuts, some fruit (not too much), and potatoes (my go-to filler food for preventing further weight loss).

And just this week, a year later, it happened again. My dose is now a third of what it once was. I don’t miss bread or sugar anymore, and I’ll tell you why. Now that I’ve stopped eating junk that hurts me, I can hear what my body tells me. And my body says “I want to be well. That’ll make me sick. I don’t want it.”

In about a year’s time, I expect that I’ll be able to report that my thyroid gland has healed and I’m medication-free. I’m looking forward to it.