Going Paleo

I’m going Paleo. And I’m terrified.

I’ve already cut down on dairy because it gives me stomach and intestinal pain. If I do consume something with cheese or milk, I usually take a lactase pill to control it a bit.

I tried to go gluten-free out of sheer curiosity last year, but I barely lasted a week.

I mean, I love me some bread. And pizza. And Oreos.

I could go on and on about things that I like to eat. And of course none of them are considered Paleo. At least not the ones sold in most stores.Paleo diet, not Paleo diet

But this “diet” has been suggested to me by people I know, as well as others whose stories I have only read online. And they seem pretty convincing to me.

The main reason for introducing this change to my lifestyle is for health reasons. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease about a year and a half ago. Before the diagnosis was official, I had 2 major flare-ups during the two years prior to that. You can read my blog post about it, but basically, in order to maintain remission, I’m on meds for the rest of my life. So far, so good; I haven’t had a flare-up since my diagnosis in October 2012.

However, prescription costs add up. I’ve had to switch insurance plans (and therefore meds) 3 times due to moving downstate and enrolling in and graduating from graduate school. Monthly co-pays for my meds have ranged from really cheap (as in paying $1 when I was on Medicaid upstate) to now paying over $100 with Empire Bluecross Blueshield. Thanks a lot, Obamacare!

Plus, it’s a real pain in the ass having to take multiple pills multiple times per day. I was originally taking 6 pills twice per day with my first set of meds. When I went to the doctor near campus in NYC, he suggested I try another kind, in which I would only have to take 3 pills twice per day. Heck yes! Well, now on this new plan, my insurance won’t cover that medication, so I’m back to taking more pills – three pills, three times per day.So many colorful pills! Looks like candy!

At this point, I’ve been taking so many darn pills for so long that it has just become routine. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t love it if I could simply get through the rest of my life without being a pill-head. One less thing to worry about.

Back in 2011, my now-fiancé Tom was the first person who told me about this Caveman/Neanderthal/Paleo Diet. He was convinced that it was a great idea; it’s based on what cavemen and women used to eat, so obviously it’s natural and healthy. Sure enough, he lost weight. But I think it’s mainly because he was sleeping during the day, working in his basement apartment at night, and mostly only consuming foods very high in fat like nuts. Oh, and cups upon cups of coffee. He didn’t stick with it very long as there were some, ahem, crappy side effects and he started looking very sickly.

Since then, it has become a popular diet. Many people partake in this and other “fad” diets to lose weight or to reap the health benefits. But still others do it just to say they are partaking in X, Y, and Z. Like I said, I’m more in it for the health benefits; losing weight and maintaining it would just be a bonus. I’ve got a wedding dress to fit into!

Personally, I think I’ve gotten too lazy and have started taking my health for granted now that I have it back (with the exception of those dang pills). So I’m making a commitment to start introducing Paleo meals and guidelines into my diet. I’m not going to just dive all-in all at once because I find that this is more difficult to stick with than making small efforts here and there. I would hope that in the near future I can be mostly Paleo. And maybe pill-free?

I’ve started looking into recipes, cookbooks, blogs, etc. on all things Paleo. One blog that I’ve come to love is called Against all Grain by Danielle Walker. Her story is similar to but even worse than mine – she dealt with crazy abdominal pain, lost tons of weight, and had multiple blood transfusions and iron infusions, before she was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (which is similar to Crohn’s).Against All Grain - Danielle Walker

She changed to a Paleo-style diet and has seen remarkable results. She posts Paleo recipes, has her own Paleo cookbooks, reviews of others’ books, and even writes about her struggles with not eating those comfort foods we all know and love. Definitely relatable and inspiring. And so dang gorgeous!

So the first step would be to pick out some Paleo meals to replace my typical ones, get the ingredients, and try this thing out! Suggestions, personal accounts (successes and failures), or favorite Paleo recipes would be greatly accepted and appreciated!

2013 Reflections and 2014 Ambitions

With 2014 just around the corner (as in less than 12 hours away), I figured I would make a list of “resolutions” for the new year! Yeah!

Now I have some reservations about the idea of making New Year resolutions in January because

  1. I think we should reflect on our lives and have goals for the future all the time, not just when the clock strikes midnight on the 1st of the year.
  2. Being in school for the past 19 years, I guess I’ve been brainwashed in thinking of a “new year” as starting in September. In all those years as a student and future years as a teacher, I’m of the mindset that, “it’s only January; we still have a whole 6 months of the year left.”
  3. I think a lot of times people make these great resolutions with good intentions but without realizing how much they have to change their lifestyle or mindset in order to accomplish them. So as soon as they falter, they don’t have a plan B set in place or a way to get past the roadblock. They end up letting the feelings of defeat get the best of them and, soon after, they simply give up.

Not only did I include goals/resolutions for the upcoming year, I figured I would include regrets and accomplishments from the previous one. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

2013 Achievements:

√  Moved to and lived in New York City

√  Completed graduate school at Columbia University

TC ID

√  Kept my Crohn’s under control

√ Created and maintained a blog (except for the past 3 weeks…but with the holidays and work and completing grad school, I think I have a legitimate excuse)

√  Obtained 3 different jobs in NYC (TA at a private middle school, cashier at a small pharmacy, aide for a high school student)

√  Got engaged – I guess that’s more of an accomplishment for Tom (proposing and getting me to say yes)

Christmas ornaments!

2013 Regrets:

  • Stumbling in my spiritual life and thereby trying to control too many aspects of my life
  • Constantly worrying about what others think of me
  • Lack of self-worth/esteem/ambition/confidence
  • Not reading enough – about the world, about math, about teaching, about God
  • Watching too much YouTube (read about my addiction here) and Netflix (currently on season 5 of Gossip Girl)

2014 Goals:

  • Get married! (this one’s more of an event than a goal…woot!)
  • Get a teaching job (I miss being in the classroom – check me out student teaching back in 2011; I’m the one in purple, holding paper in the front. I know, I get mistaken for a student a lot.)Student Teaching - October 2011
  • Push through the premarital book we were recommended and started last month; I didn’t expect it to be this difficult! Let me give you an explanation:

You see, it’s not so much the discussions we end up having about our roles in the marriage or our expectations or whatever the exercises ask us to do or reflect on. The part I struggle with is the fact that we have to constantly reflect on our parents’ marriage, our relationships with our parents, and just our pasts in general.

These questions honestly make me question who I am because I can’t even rationalize some of my thoughts and thought processes. I end up so deflated after doing an exercise in the workbook that I honestly don’t want to do any more. But I know it’s helpful to look at myself and reflect on my past in order to set my sights on what I want in the future and in our marriage. It’s just tough when you didn’t grow up a cookie-cutter life of two healthy, married parents.

Tom has been a real trooper, coming up with ways to alter some of the exercises so that we don’t have to necessarily focus on those things that frustrate me. For example, one week we had to analyze our expected roles in our marriage. However, the book asked us to write down which of our parents were responsible for which household and/or professional responsibilities. Going through the list, I realized that after the age of 10, I did quite a few of the duties, my dad being absent and Mom’s health not so great. After the age of 15, I did most of them. Gee book, thanks for bringing that up.

Well, since Tom marches to the beat of his own drum and since my parents’ marriage ended when I was young and Mom’s MS made it difficult for her to do things, he suggested we just focus on our marriage because that’s all that really matters at this point. We ended up agreeing on most (with the exception of maybe 1 or 2) of the “roles” we plan to split or share in the book.

  • Buy a house
  • Find a church to attend consistently and become an active member in
  • Keep up with student loans
  • Survive the remaining 6 months of my current job, 4 hour daily commute and all
  • With said 4 hour commute (making for 12 hours out of the house every day), find time to run or go to the gym. Come on, you can’t honestly set resolutions without including health and fitness.
  • Create and use my own math/education blog (this is halfway done already…I created a blog, Chatting About Math, on edublogs.org, but feel like I have nothing to contribute since I am not in the classroom full-time yet)
  • Read more – about the world, about math, about teaching, about God. This should be made easier with my daily commute.
  • Write more – on this blog, on my math blog, maybe contribute to someone’s blog or something?
  • Learn how to argue/debate and stick to my ideas/decisions – this may sound like a weird one, but I tend to avoid arguments or debates because I suck at them. I don’t want to create arguments just for the sake of arguing, but I would like to become better and defending my position on topics.
  • Gain more self-confidence/esteem/ambition/worth and not be so dependent on what others say or think

So there you have it folks. Kind of a long list, I know, but I think there’s a good mix of small and large goals, some more easily obtained than others. What are you most proud of from 2013? What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s Eve as well as an amazing 2014! Cheers!Happy New Year

My Year With Crohn’s Disease

I realized yesterday that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease exactly one year ago. Happy Autoimmune Disease Birthday to me! It took me awhile to write and edit this post, so it’s not exactly to the day, but it’ll do. I figured I would write about my journey with this disease – from flare-ups, finally being diagnosed, medications, and now, one year later, how I’m dealing.

Holliday and Becky
November 2010 – My roommate Becky and I

Okay, so I have had two flare-ups in my life, but it wasn’t until the second one that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I have no doubt that my flare-ups have been stress-induced. To start off my first flare-up, let’s take a trip to my senior year at Geneseo. Fall 2010 began pretty rough: my 6+ year relationship had become very rocky, I was going to college full-time, working at Walmart part-time, and on top of this my mom’s Multiple Sclerosis was a constant worry.

My health decline started with stomachaches that would not go away no matter what I did. If I was in my dorm room, I would lay down for the 5 or 10 minutes it took for the pain to go away on its own. There was no pattern to them – I thought maybe it was something I ate, but then they began happening before I ate as well as after. I then began noticing little bumps on my legs one day when I was shaving; they looked like whiteheads or ingrown hairs, but they seemed a little more on the green side than on the white side. Weird.

By the end of October my relationship ended, my schoolwork was getting more difficult, and it seemed I never had time to relax, let alone sleep. I was constantly feeling alone and left out because none of my friends had to worry about working and school, so they were able to enjoy their nights watching TV, going to dinner together, just hanging out. But I didn’t have a second to stop and chill.

Sabres game
December 2010 – I was completely exhausted here, but I couldn’t miss out on a Sabres game with friends

Throughout this time, those small “pimples” on my legs grew and became large open sores. At one point, I would try using a cotton ball with either hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean them, put some Neosporin on them, and cover them in band-aids every single day. No matter what I did, though, they never got better. I mean they were getting so deep and wide that I had craters in my legs. Yeah, gross.

I also was getting swollen joints – I wore a knee brace under my pants because I couldn’t bear all of my weight on my knee without it feeling like it would buckle. Up until this point, I had really only had my nauseous episodes while in my room, so it was easy enough to just lay down for a bit to let the feeling go away. But then it started happening at work; I almost passed out a couple times during my shifts at Walmart because of the pain, nausea, and lack of nutrients.

Wow, what a mess I was!

Okay, so by this point you’re probably asking, “Why the hell did you not see a doctor?!” Well, you see, I did not have insurance. I had just turned 21 in August and my dad took me off his plan. I didn’t have money to pay for my own plan, let alone a bunch of medical bills. I was in the process of enrolling in a state-funded insurance but that takes forever, so unfortunately I never saw anyone for this until it was well-developed.

I ended up going to the ER, though, over winter break because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to be wrong and things were still not getting better, even after being home on break from school and work. Because I did not have insurance, they were not willing to do much for me. I mean, the doctor tried to give me a pelvic exam – I think she thought I was either pregnant (I assured her I was not) or had cysts. After a long and frustrating night, I went home with no more answers than I had entered with.

I eventually got approved for insurance and started making appointments with a doctor in my hometown as well as the doctor on campus. Cultures of my sores were taken but showed no signs of what they were assuming would be strep or staph infections. Antibiotics and corticosteroid creams were tried but nothing was helping. Strangely though, everything just sort of went away on its own by about mid-March 2011; I wasn’t taking meds or applying any creams at that point, so my mysterious condition was still very mysterious.

powderpuff
May 2011 – Regained my strength in time for the IV powderpuff game

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2012. I had been accepted into Columbia University for graduate school in July and decided to defer admission until spring 2013 because there was no way I could go with such little time. And since my mom had been in the nursing home for over a year now, I had been spending my time alone in my house except when I was substitute teaching or working at Walmart. So I was pretty stressed. Add on the fact that I had just gotten a long-term substitute job for a maternity leave for the first 10 weeks of the 2012-2013 school year. I was so excited to get more experience teaching middle and high school kids, but man oh man did the stress get to me.

By the first week of September, my symptoms started coming back. The pain. The nausea. The extreme weight loss. The sores. Everything was back. And with a vengeance. I mean, I was literally waking up in so much pain all over my body, I had to hobble like a 90-year old woman. At one point, I was hardly able to put my shoes on because my one ankle was so swollen. The sores started as painful lumps under my skin before they actually opened. Again, gross, but that was my reality.

Miss Chatt
Looking really gaunt with my teacher ID

She finally referred me to a GI specialist and wanted me to get a colonoscopy. Because of my age, the GI specialist decided to “simply” perform a sigmoidoscopy first. Tom came up to stay with me for a few days and take me to my appointment since I was going under anesthesia and would be in no shape to drive myself home. Apparently I was very persistent in trying to share my cookies with him once I woke up after the procedure. Unfortunately I missed a day of school for this test and it showed nothing.

Two weeks later, I ended up in the ER again. This time, because I had proper insurance, the doctors ran a whole slew of tests. Blood tests and cultures, a CT Scan, and a chest X-ray. Around 2:30 a.m., after about 5 hours of being there, the doctor came in and said that all tests pointed to either Crohn’s disease or colitis, but to get a definitive answer I would need to get a full colonoscopy. Until then, she gave me steroids, antibiotics, and mesalamine (anti-inflammatory meds for those with ulcerative colitis flare-ups). Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful.

Megan and Holliday
September 29, 2012 – In Baltimore with Megan

The GI specialist received my ER tests and made an appointment within the next week; obviously something was wrong or they wouldn’t be so quick in doing this. So on October 8, 2012, I went in for a colonoscopy and came out with a definitive answer: I have Crohn’s disease.

passport
November 2, 2012 – Moonface Holliday

Since that day, things have been great. It sucks that I have to take 12 pills every day (I take Delzicol, if anyone’s wondering: 6 with breakfast, 6 with dinner) but I would much rather deal with that than with the excruciating pain I was in. I’m back to a healthy weight and I haven’t had any problems thusfar with my medications. I try to be a little better with my diet, but the doctor has not restricted me in any way. Many people ask if I’m not allowed to have nuts or seeds, but my GI doctor said, “If you like it, it tastes good, and it doesn’t bother you, eat it.” And I have. And I do.

I even emailed the doctor at Geneseo with my story (a bit more condensed) so that maybe if he ever comes across these symptoms again, that person won’t have to go through this huge mess like I did. I feel like I should be on that show Mystery Diagnosis. That could be interesting…