My Diet Struggle – Keto-Carnivore or Vegan?

Meat and VegetablesI’m sitting here in pain.

Abdominal pain. It started late yesterday afternoon and it’s now 8:05 the next morning. It kept me awake most of the night.

It’s a digestive thing. Nothing too serious…I can just tell. You know…the kind you feel after eating too many beans? Ya, that kind.

But intense. It comes in waves, so it’s not constant. But a new cramp comes on every few minutes and it makes me writhe and palpate my belly like I would knead a big wad of bread dough.

That does seem to help.

A little.

So, before I get into the whole how and why of my current predicament, let me just establish one important fact:

I’m Swedish.

And English. By ancestry. So, Scandinavian and Northern European.

That little fact will come in handy later on in this post.

I won’t go into my background going raw vegan and what motivated that lifestyle change. I already addressed that topic in excruciating detail in another blog post HERE, but suffice it to say that I am still drawn to that dietary choice every-so-often…mostly because I had success with weight-loss during that time…something that has been an almost constant challenge for me my entire adult life.

But here’s the thing…

I watch YouTube videos by all the big names in that community; Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his son, Rip. And I completely buy into the science behind their claims. And being concerned first and foremost with my health and longevity and weight-loss as a secondary benefit, I go to the store, load up on all of the low-fat, high-starch grains, potatoes, vegies and fruits recommended feeling determined to make it work for me

THIS TIME.

And then I start eating that food…and the symptoms start.

Ugh!

It used to be severe joint pain. I’m talking the kind that is so bad I literally thought I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. I couldn’t even roll over in bed at night or lift my legs to walk on a flat surface without unbearable pain in my knees. And sometimes ankles and wrists, too.

And anemia. Bad anemia. Like…I felt like I was going to pass out in public.

That went away when I re-introduced animal products into my diet.

Thank goodness!

But then I realized I was finally on the other side of all of the hormonal changes that went along with my 10-year journey through menopause.

So, I started to wonder if the joint pain might have been associated with hormones.

Additionally, I had regained the 35 pounds I lost when eating raw foods which enticed me to try going plant-based again.

But every time I did I would get the strangest symptoms as a result. I mean, immediately after eating a carb-heavy meal.

The middle toes on (primarily) my left foot would stiffen up in Charlie Horse cramps.

This happened consistently. I know because I tested it. I would return to a ketogenic diet for a period of time and then try going vegan again.

Every. Single. Time…without exception…the cramps would return. And more recently they even began creeping up my shins and calves and were affecting both legs instead of just the left one.

On the up side I experienced no more joint pain or anemia…but then again…I couldn’t follow the diet long enough to find out. Because the cramps in my toes came so immediately following that kind of meal that I was compelled to give up on the vegan approach and go back to a heavily animal-based approach.

And I wondered why?

What caused these cramps?

I started doing some research. And I discovered that a lack of magnesium could be the problem. I read lots and lots of testimonials by people who had similar cramps as mine. And when they took magnesium the cramps went away.

YAY!

I bought some magnesium pills that were recommended by an authority on one of the sites I was visiting and when they arrived I started taking them in the dose suggested on the bottle.

Then I tried eating a vegan diet again.

Yaaaa…no.

That didn’t work for me.

So, here’s where the Swedish heritage comes into play.

I’ve always identified with my Scandinavian heritage. That’s my mother’s side of the family. But even my dad’s ancestors come from England.

It’s dark and cold there much of the year. No freaking pineapples, bananas, or other tropical fruits and vegies grow there. Only hardy varieties that tolerate long months of cold weather.

They eat MEAT over there. And lots of fish. And dairy. True, they also eat whole grains. And some wild berries, nuts, and greens. But mostly their diet is animal-based.

This fact is not lost on me. That’s where my dna comes from.

Sooo…what the hell am I trying to do with this whole vegan thing?

That thinking prompted me to do further research into the keto/carnivore approach to eating.

I lost the most weight I had ever lost in my life up to that point (I was 20…get serious, right?) following the Atkins diet plan. About 32 pounds in 3 months. Impressive.

But I also remember feeling kind of crappy following that eating protocol. I was dizzy and weak. And besides that…I was dieting for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to lose weight to impress my (then) husband who was in the Army at the time. He had been stationed in Germany where he ended up staying for nearly 9-months before our 2-year old son and I were authorized to join him.

So, I lost the weight (at the time I started the diet I weighed an enormous 153 pounds on my 5’9″ frame, lol!) and got down to the lowest I have ever been in my teen or adult life…122 pounds.

Hey, I wanted to be a fashion model back then, so I was thrilled!

But…Germany.

Bratwurst and brotchen with french fries, pastries galore, breaded schnitzel pan-fried in butter served with gravy and spatzle (homemade noodles), and lots of alcohol!

Yaaaa…it didn’t take very long before that weight came right back on.

Add two pregnancies in 4 years and it was a losing proposition.

Over the years I’ve tried following the Atkins plan many times and just haven’t had the same success I experienced with it that first time.

Fast forward to the present…

After my experience going raw vegan I kind of threw the baby out with the bath water and started eating whatever sounded tasty and made me feel good.

That last part is all-important.

If something doesn’t make me feel good then I re-adjust. Which means I kind of bounce around a lot.

I want to lose that weight, damnit!

And I _have_ had some success recently.

I tried OMAD – One Meal A Day. Basically consuming no calories during the day until dinner-time. Then just eating one big plateful of whatever I wanted along with one large beverage. I would eat that one meal between 4-7 pm and then be done for the night. No more calories until the next evening. Except I did allow myself a little fat in my morning coffee and that didn’t seem to halt my weight-loss.

Following that regimen I lost 35 pounds over a few months. And I’ve kept that off for almost two years now. Well, mostly. I regained 5-10 pounds of that, depending on the day of the week I weigh myself. But mostly I have kept it off.

So, I feel good about that.

But I have another 35-40 pounds to lose.

So, the struggle continues.

When I stalled on OMAD…actually, I’m not even sure I was stalling…but I was introduced to the idea that if I added a ketogenic element to my OMAD diet then that would really amp things up for me, health-wise as well as with my weight-loss.

So, I implemented a low-carb, high-fat aspect to my OMAD plan…

A-n-d…no. I pretty much haven’t lost any weight since.

In fact, as I already stated above…I’ve actually g-a-i-n-e-d pounds over the last few months.

But I mostly felt good following that plan.

M-o-s-t-l-y.

The toe cramps started coming back.

And this time they were happening when I was eating low-carb foods.

Soooo…that pretty much blew my theory that the Charlie Horses were related to high-carb foods.

Which….(of course) led me to do more research.

This brings me pretty much to the current time.

I had been following a heavily animal-based approach…even tried fully carnivore for a week or so (that is exactly what it sounds like – ONLY animal-based foods. Literally ZERO plants) then back to keto because I just didn’t like the lack of variety in an animal-based approach.

But still…my toes. Ugh.

So, the research.

I then discovered that a potassium deficiency could be the cause of these cramps. So, once again, I purchased some supplements and started taking one 550mg tablet with my first meal of the day. This was, like, 4 days ago now.

And the Charlie Horses went away.

Wow.

So, I decided to really test this out by following a high-carb, high-starch, low-fat vegan diet to see if my results held.

And THEY DID!!!

I was cautiously enthusiastic…

For three days…they held! I ate oatmeal for breakfast and rice and veggies or potatoes and beans for dinner. Fruit for dessert.

And I felt GREAT! I was symptom free!

T-h-e-n yesterday happened.

And I’m miserable.

I didn’t sleep because I kept getting abdominal attacks throughout the night.

I’m exhausted.

This isn’t a stomach thing. This is lower-abdominal.

Anyhow…I’m back to butter coffee this morning and I read that things like broth and tea can help sooth abdominal distress. So, I’m thinking I’ll go down to the kitchen and start a pot of bone broth simmering.

Have you had similar dietary experiences? I’d love to hear about them along with any suggestions you might have for achieving better results.

I realize I’m my own little science project here. But I’d like to think I have more important things to do in life than spending every waking hour trying to figure out what I should put into my mouth, omg!

I’d love to hear from you 😉

~Tracy

Raw Foods and Menopause

In 2000, at age 38, for the first time in my life I started experiencing some strange health challenges.

We had recently moved to a 20 acre piece of property we purchased in Central Oregon and were drinking the local, city water while waiting to put in our own well. Shortly thereafter I began experiencing muscle weakness in both of my arms and dizziness that became nearly debilitating…especially whenever moving from a horizontal to a vertical position, or when rolling over in bed at night. Kind of like an ear infection would effect your equilibrium.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it might have something to do with the water I was drinking (strange that no one else in the family had these symptoms, though…) and I quickly started purchasing 2.5 gallon dispenser jugs of purified water to consume. The pain got better almost immediately. But the dizziness persisted…not nearly as badly as it had been before changing to the purified water…but it still clung to me, off and on, for several years afterward.

In late 2006 my younger cousin, Floyd, who was 40 at the time, was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a softball. This had a significant impact me, both emotionally and psychologically. I desperately wanted to find a way to help him beat that illness. Combined with the fact that my father had suffered a double heart attack, several years earlier, at age 60 and was experiencing a gradual, but progressive, decline in his health, I was motivated to begin research on ways to heal the body through diet and nutrition.

This is when I found the Raw Food lifestyle. And without going into all of the history surrounding that (I’ve already written about that experience in detail on my other blog: http://tracyjprez.wordpress.com) I will say that over the next couple of years I followed that lifestyle with quite a bit of personal success. But it caused a significant challenge with my family, who did not embrace the idea of eating mostly raw foods, and this resulted in a fractured home-life, when it came to meals and food consumption. So, in early 2008 I gradually began eating more and more cooked foods.

During this same time frame I began noticing that my body was starting to experience some definite hormonal shifts. I wasn’t FEELING any different, but my monthly cycle was becoming sporadic, so I knew that something was changing. I hadn’t really experienced much weight-loss on raw foods during my first attempt following a high-raw diet, but most of my strange symptoms did go away, and I really LIKED the lifestyle.  However, due to the situation with my family and other factors, I was lead back to eating mostly cooked food again. By January 2009 my weight was at an all-time high of 193 and I was feeling awful about myself. I’m tall, 5 feet 8 inches, so I can carry more weight than most women without looking especially over-weight. But no matter how you stack it, 193 is about 50 pounds more than I should weigh in order to be healthy. By this time most of our children had grown and were off, living on their own. So, I was in a better position to take a serious shot at Raw Foods again. And this time I did succeed in losing some significant weight! Between March and July I lost about 35 pounds and was feeling sooo much lighter and happier! I was energized and feeling more enthusiastic about life and this way of eating than ever before!

In November of 2009 I launched my online magazine, Eighty Percent Raw (www.eightypercentraw.com), fully convinced of the benefits of this lifestyle. Again, I’ve written all about that experience on my other blog: http://tracyjprez.wordpress.com. So, I will skip writing about all of that here, again. I want to get to the point of this post…

And that is this – Looking back on all of this upheaval and fluctuation in my weight and my health, with the symptoms that have come and gone in the process…I really think almost all of this can be attributed, primarily,  to the hormonal changes my body has been going through. And I don’t think enough serious consideration, or discussion, is given to what havoc is really wreaked in a woman’s body, nor for how LONG, throughout the whole menopausal adjustment period. This isn’t like some short-term “condition” or illness that we go through and then get over in a couple of months. At least not in my experience. And if you are anything like me, you have tried all kinds of things in an attempt to force your body to cooperate with you to “fix” the problem. Well, guess what? Apparently the body wins. OMG! LOL!

Sooo…here is where I am today. I am returning to a high-raw foods lifestyle, once again. I am no longer experiencing debilitating joint pain in my knees (which always resurfaced whenever I would go back to high-raw or high-carb in the recent past…but, again, this appears to be related more to hormones and not to diet, as I previously believed) and my general health seems to be better than it’s been in quite a long time now. But I still struggle with the weight.

Raw foods is the one “diet” or lifestyle that helped me lose weight and KEEP IT OFF _without even trying_ for nearly two years. That is saying something, for me!

Here are some of the insights I’ve gained, so far as my own body and weight-loss and diet are concerned –

1. I can’t eat starches and lose weight (ie; cooked grains, legumes, potatoes, etc.)

2. I have to watch my fat intake. I can’t eat a lot of nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, etc. and lose weight (though, I was using eating lots of nuts, seeds, coconut, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and olives with no problem prior to the major hormonal change, so I am going to be watching this)

3. Not sure if I need to be careful about condensed sweets like dried fruit, agave nectar (not currently using), pure maple syrup, honey, etc. So I will also be watching these. Also, not sure if I need to be cautious about high-sugar, high-starch fruits like banana, mango, papaya, etc. But I have my suspicions, so I am also keeping a close watch on what happens with these. *I _have_ noticed that I break out and get swelling and cracking around my lips when I consume much raw pineapple or watermelon lately… so I seem to have some weird food intolerance’s that I haven’t experienced before.

I would LOVE to have an open dialogue with other women who have had challenges going through menopause, especially where weight gain and hormonal symptoms are concerned. And I would particularly enjoy hearing from those who have overcome these symptoms and are following a high-raw foods diet & lifestyle!

Until next time…

Tracy