Here’s another lengthy wordy post for you with some of the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head lately! As usual this will be of interest to some of you and boring as hell for others ;-) I do talk about my relationship with food and if you feel this will affect you negatively then maybe don’t read this. If you are a new reader and wanting to catch up then these posts help to put some of this stuff into context.

Photo 03-02-2013 08 26 02Go get yourself a cuppa as this is a monster post!

First things first I just wanted to clear something up, for my own sake really, on writing this blog and what I’m sharing here with you…

When I write this blog my desire is to share with you my journey trying to become my version of healthy. I’m not writing this to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat or to start eating as I do. I live my life and I share it. I do also try and share interesting information that I think might be useful but I believe that you all have a mind of your own and can take the bits that are relevant and useful for you and leave the rest, with tolerance and understanding, as I tend to do with other blogs :-)

Of course I hope to inspire others in various ways, but I’m not writing this blog as a doctor or a nutritionist or anything other than the imperfect ‘me’. I’m always going to be learning. I am a health coach, but that is something very separate from what I share here, my clients would tell you that I work with them in a highly individualised way, I don’t recommend that they all start adding coconut oil or butter to their coffee for example ;-)

I just wanted that to be clear before I go on. I’m not trying to shirk my responsibility or accountability, but if I ever feel like I can no longer ‘be me’ on Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish for fear of readers not liking what I put out there for whatever reason then this whole thing becomes rather fake and pointless. I do enjoy comments that challenge me to examine my behaviours and beliefs in a respectful way, so do keep em coming!

*edited to add* – I received a lovely comment from a reader yesterday explaining that she was veggie and was finding me posting about steaks and bone broths a bit alienating and also asking why I went veggie back then, for health or because I loved animals. I thought I’d share my response here:

‘When I went veggie it was a mix of the health related stuff, the ethics and the environmental side of things too. However, I will plainly admit that I put my own health above the other two things, and when that started going wrong, then it prompted me to start eating animal foods again. I also feel that my understanding of food and where it comes from has evolved, I think that mass production of meat is cruel to a horrid degree, so I try my best to eat organic and local as much as possible, but I know that of course animals are still harmed and killed. I read something the other day that has stayed with me – nature is violent and we are a part of that cycle, the best I feel I can do for my health, while still trying to do what I can, is value the lives of the animals that are nourishing me by using as much of them as possible (e.g bone broths) and getting them from the most humane sources. I never preached about ethics when I was a veggie because I truly believe we all have to follow our own paths. I am aware that I may be alienating a lot of my readers, but as I will say in my post tomorrow I can only be ‘imperfect me’. Hope that helps answer your question, I enjoy it when people ask things that might be difficult for me to respond to but it helps me take a hard look at myself and sometimes that is good :-)’

I think its fairly obvious that there has been some big changes in the foods I’m eating. When I started this blog I was an omnivore eating fairly high protein (as that was what had helped me lose some of the weight before I even knew what a blog was!) then I became veggie, vegan, then back to veggie, then back to omnivore and at the moment I’m rather a ‘high fat’ omnivore. What an adventure that has been! Just a reminder that the main issue (amongst various others) that made me return to eating animal products is that I believe I have hypothalamic amenorrhea. That is also the drive behind a lot of the way I am eating now including plenty of fats (including saturated!), very little soy and nutrient dense foods like bone broths and organ meats.

I’ve learned a lot about myself which I will come on to in a moment, but first of all I wanted to talk about some of the changes I’ve experienced since I started eating more animal products and more fat, and well, a whole lot more in general!

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My hair and skin

I’ve noticed some big changes in my hair and skin, since late last year my hair has become a lot thicker and I have visible new hair growth! I’ve always had fine hair, so this is wonderful even if its a bit difficult to style properly at the moment! With my skin, my face is doing really well. I think I had started to look quite ‘grey’ but now I feel that my face is a lot more glowing. On the negative side my keratosis pilaris has worsened on my arms which is frustrating, especially as vitamin A is suppose to help with this condition and I’ve been eating plenty of liver! (got a big post in the pipeline all about skin care as a few of you have requested this!)

My sleep

This is one thing that has clearly improved since I started eating more high fat / animal products as well as using a light alarm clock. Even just since the start of the month I have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of my sleep. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep but now I’m getting 8 hours solid, deep, blissfully unbroken sleep. I’m just starting to appreciate the impact of sleep on health so I’m very glad this has improved so much.

My digestion

My digestion has improved a lot. I never really noticed the bloating I would get – usually mid afternoon – until it stopped. I’m not having to go to the bathroom several times a day any more either (I was almost too regular if you know what I mean). Digestion seems to be pretty good!

My energy levels

My energy still tends to be up and down. I started eating more like 3 times a day (with evening meal and dessert eaten at the same time) and that was working well but I’ve started to have more of a pronounced energy dip in the afternoon so I think I need to experiment and try reducing morning coffee, eating more at lunch time or make time for an afternoon snack again.

My hormones

Still no periods. I had some blood work done this month, and after taking to the nurse I had believed that my hormones were now normal, however I dug deeper, talked to the doctor and I’m not quite there yet. Last year certain hormones were low, and all of them have improved but my LH levels are still low – very much a typical HA hormonal profile. I had a good talk to my doctor and really I know I just need to be patient now. PCOS, early menopause and other reasons for this have been ruled out, so I feel that if I keep my weight stable, don’t stress my body out with more exercise and continue to work on handling stress, I’ll be ok :-) I’m also excited to be starting acupuncture this week!

My weight

I am the heaviest I have been since I started writing the blog. Still 4 stone (56lbs) down on my highest but 2 stone (28lbs) up on my lowest. I try not to worry myself about the number, I’m still happy with what I see in the mirror and I feel like this is a much more natural weight for me than I once was. I’m not losing weight eating this way, very much the opposite! As someone that has always been on the bigger side I just think I’m designed to be curvier. I do struggle with the occasional ‘fat days’ but I have stopped comparing myself to others – whether that’s models, random people on Pinterest or even other bloggers. Now that I don’t even see a skinnier body as an option for me any more, I don’t feel that urge to lose weight. Once my hormones are back to normal I’m looking forward to being able to exercise more intensely and I’ll probably drop a couple of pounds, but I’ve learned my lesson. I will definitely never make the same mistakes again and allow myself to become under nourished and over exercised!

Exercise

Total exercise per week is about 4 – 5 hours with no strenuous activity as part of that. I’m doing strength training (roughly using the plans in LiveFit to give me some structure) a tiny bit of very light cardio on the gym machines, yoga and walking. I’m bloody loving my exercise at the moment! I don’t think I’d have a lot of time to do much more than that anyway. It’s just enough to stop me from going round the bend and keeping some tone in my muscles.

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I’m not attributing all of these changes, positive and negative to eating more animal products or fats, or suggesting that my former vegan diet was to blame for any problems that came before. Some of the problems I did have like feeling cold all the time were probably more due to being under nourished. Likewise some of the positives I have experienced could just as likely be as a result of a higher calorie intake irrelevant of the source.

All I can say right now is that I’m feeling good about how I’m eating. I’m not specifically avoiding grains and beans, its more that I’m enjoying other foods right now and as far as dense sources of carbs go I’d rather eat squash and sweet potatoes than rice! I am still loving full fat dairy and I’m excited to try raw dairy shortly. Most of the animal products I am eating are the best I can afford – locally sourced from the farm shop or organic.

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The bottom line for me whether you are high raw,  gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, primal or whatever way you chose to label or not label your diet, is eating whole real foods as much as possible. I’m not completely anti processed food, I think we have to be realistic and some processed food can healthily be part of a mostly whole foods diet – plus what would life be like without pizza and cake? It just depends on the individual, and as I have said many, many times before – find your version of healthy!

Through all of this I have learned a lot about myself, for example I am definitely an all or nothing person. I do strive for balance but that will always be a struggle for me so I can either fight it, or use it to my advantage. I also love learning about health and nutrition and experimenting and expressing that learning through my own diet. This blog is about my adventures with food, and it really is just that, an adventure! How I eat is probably always going to be an expression of things I am learning about, from the books, blogs and of course the more academic stuff I’ve been reading while studying. What I do need to be mindful of is not allowing my all or nothing nature to take things to unhealthy extremes. I also need to continue to question the information I read and expose myself to, pulling it apart and seeing which bits make sense for me as an individual and which aspects work for my body. I feel I am getting better at this!

I just want to be as healthy and happy as possible and I guess that is why I’m always reading and researching new perspectives. Right now I’m just going with the flow, happily experimenting with new foods and hoping that my body is going to heal itself as a result!

What have you learned about yourself recently? What influences the way you eat?