Hello my fellow food lovers,
Today I will take a break from my usual recipe posts to talk about something near and dear to my heart and that is my struggle with autoimmune disease and obesity. It sounds so awkward for me to say obesity because for years i was so thin and was told to put weight on and that i certainly did. My weight went up with my first child in 2011 and i lost weight and was in the best shape of my life in 2014, i wasnt just thin i was toned and strong! Fast forward to 2015 & 2016 when i had my two youngest children back to back and i became the heaviest i had ever been! I didnt even believe my natrually thin frame was capable of getting to this point and thus began the moment for change. March 8, 2018 I embarked on my wellness journey and my thirty day whole foods and clean eating challenge…i aptly gave it the moniker Kendra la Foodie Whole30+! For some reason that challenge name stuck with me and helped me stay focused on my end goal.
(*Me at my heaviest at the start of this journey. I was 213 pounds.)
When I started this challenge after an impromptu discussion with my brother about how his best friend had gone Paleo for one month with drastic results. I figured what have I got to lose, in fact i had everything to gain! I couldn’t have felt any worse…my health was in terrible straits and my self-esteem was lower than ever after having gained so much weight after giving birth to my youngest children who were born sixteen months apart! I was the heaviest I had ever been and weighed in at over 200 pounds, wearing a size 18! I hid it well folks, most people would never know that is how much I really weighed because I carried it well on my muscular frame but I had the lowest self-esteem of my life! At the same time my autoimmune disease was in an active flare period and i was losing my hair, suffering from breakouts, lethargic and in constant pain from high levels of inflammation in my body. My joints were not only inflammed, my over active immune system was not partial so was also attacking my organs. Specifically my heart and liver and I was constantly in and out of my doctor’s office and the emergency room due to complications as a result of my chronic, uncontrolled inflammation. I was prescribed several medications to control my inflammation. Prednisone to quickly bring down my inflammatory response. Also, Methotrexate, a chemotherapy agent used in very low doses to suppress my immune system so it would stop attacking me but that in itself carried it’s own risks and terrible side effects. I was later prescribed monthly injections of biologic drugs to halt my immune response and a strong NSAID Meloxicam to bring me daily relief from pain. I hated medications, my system is very sensitive to the side effects associated with the chemicals in these drugs and at the time I was and still am, breastfeeding my son so i had all these meds in my cabinet but never took them because my baby meant more to me than feeling better. Apart from occasional Ibuprofen or Meloxicam on particularly bad days, i never followed through with starting those meds. I knew there had to be another way and decided i was finally willing to explore it for myself through whole foods. I knew even if it didn’t help much in my case, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. I also became a permenant diabetic after the birth of my two youngest children and I knew a healthy diet would only improve that as well. So I started it and you won’t believe the results that happened seemingly overnight!
(*Me currently seven weeks post challenge. I lost 26 pounds and dropped 3 dress sizes. I have about 32 more pounds to lose to reach my goal weight so I’m staying focused!)
Guys I lost 26 pounds in six weeks and revved up my metabolism with very minimal effort on my part! It’s amazing and very simple. Surprisingly, I barely have worked out except for light weight aerobics and streching to improve my joint function. Occasionally I have done interval workouts but exercise was only about 5% attributed to my results. I mainly just reduced my carb intake to about 25% per meal and only rice, sprouted grains, whole grains and low carb options. I completely eliminated processed sugar and only occasionally used raw sugar. I did a lot of Paleo and Keto inspired meal plans and Paleo baking and drink only water 99% of the time. I eat a ton of fruits, veggies and lean protein and on occasionally intake a cheat meal or snack. I think the key to my success, has been eliminating processed sugar, drinking tons of water and increasing my fiber through lots of fruits and veggies. I love, love, love sweets but my old cravings for cakes and pies and cookies have been replaced with cravings for fruits, and yogurts and smoothies.
As I always say, I believe in balance and moderation but most importantly I believe in honesty. I’m not going to say I never have a cheat day or give into cravings now that my thirty day challenge has ended because I totally have, but I know that certain foods my body just can’t handle now and I will have to pay for it with pain and inflammation the next day so I keep an account in my mind of checks and balances and see what food actually triggered it. If I have a cheat and suffer adverse reactions, i try to steer clear of it next time. I love food so much guys and I still make lots of traditional treats for family and friends and for the blog and my cookbook of course, but the thing that helps is that I just taste test one serving of everything I make instead of pigging out on it and I am happy to say that I have not gained any weight but somehow have still been losing weight without even trying, its like my body reset itself! Through this journey, my husband Chef J was inspired to start his own and I am so happy to tell you guys he lost ten pounds and counting! I am so proud of him!
I have seen both my primary care provider and rheumatologist since my challenge began and ended and as a result of my challenge I am happy to report that my labs are much improved. My inflammatory markers have improved significantly and are only moderately elevated which can be monitored with lower dose medications. My HbA1c dropped from 6.7 to 6.1, so I am still a diabetic but don’t need medication and with continued weight loss I hope to beat diabetes all together. My cholesterol levels are nearly in the normal range. My prior hypertension is completely reversed and my once extremely elevated liver enzymes are now completely normal since reducing my inflammation which stopped attacking my heart and liver.
I’ve also improved my ability to exercise. A lot of the times I am unable to exercise because of joint swelling and knee pain but have found ways to incorporate a routine that does not put stress on my joints and actually helps improve my joint function and muscle erosion as a result of the damage RA does to my joints. I often do low impact cardio like Leslie Sansone Walk Fit and Pop Pilates. Also, deep streching through basic yoga has done wonders for my mobility and energy level. Lastly I do light weight strength training exercises like Tracy Campoli which have been helping to tone my body and strengthen my hand strength which was becoming degenerative as expected when dealing with RA.
As for supplements, I take green tea extract, quality omega-3 fish oil, a whole food probiotic multivitamin and hair, skin and nails vitamins. Tumeric and cinnoman tablets have helped with my blood sugar levels and inflammation as well. I also try to drink Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in water before bed and probiotic rich foods like kefir, yogurt and kimchi which has helped with my weight loss and digestion due to the fermentation properties they contain. Dr. Josh Axe & his colleague Jordan Rubin’s videos and podcasts have been everything to me on this journey. My favorite Paleo bloggers Lisa from Downshiftology and health food mastermind Gina from Skinny Taste are my go to as well so check them out if you haven’t already!
Guys I hope my journey inspires you too start one of your own if you haven’t already! I’m not going to say I don’t still have good days and bad days because I absolutely do!!! Some days I still feel absolutely lethargic, in tons of pain and inflammation and some days I make bad eating choices but those have become the exception rather than the rule and with rest and a refocus break, I’m back on track and feeling better! I have so much I’m working on right now, my evangelizing work and spiritual growth, being the very best wife I can be to my amazing supportive husband, i couldnt do it without his constant love! Being the very best mother to my three inspiring children, even though they have special needs they never give up and always aspire to be the best versions of themselves! They are my motivation and I strive to be an example they can look up too. I am working hard to build my business, my blog and following my passions of cooking, writing and enjoying life. I have several self-published books in the works and am availing myself of many new opportunities on the horizon and I need the energy to do it all, healthy eating does that for me!
You owe it to yourself, your spouse, your children to be the very best you can be! If your struggle is weight loss, autoimmune disease, diabetes, or any number of serious conditions like cancer or heart disease, I know diet can do much to stop the progression or possibly put you into remission, so let your body heal through the power of clean eating! I would love to hear from you guys in the comments about your personal experiences and journey and feel free to ask anything you would like. We are a community of supporters and food is not our enemy it can be our greatest healer. I am still on this journey and have a long way to go on the road to optimal health and my best self but I’m glad I started and I’m not giving up! I encourage you to do the same!
Until the next recipe, happy eats FOODIES!