I had amazing success going Whole Food Plant Based, Low Glycemic Index and Low Fat. in 2018. Then during 2019 life garbage hit the same time all these trendy vegan fast food options hit and I only half heartedly followed the WFPB plan. I packed on 20 lbs because of that mistake.
In June I had a hysterectomy and I even brought my food with me to the hospital so that I could eat clean. I started off with no weight gain at all.
Once home, there was no peaceful recovery awaiting me. Life just isn’t like that sometimes. All the cooking fell into the hands of my husband. When he would ask me what we should eat, I would look at his stressed out, exhausted face and here the suggestion of him just going through a fast food drive through for the Impossible Burgers and I would just nod my head.
“Tomorrow will go better and then we will eat better,” I would think to myself.
But life demands didn’t run smoother for a long stretch.I went from over a year of solely eating beans, greens, vegetables and fruit, to the last few months dining on Beyond Meat Burgers, Impossible Burgers and vegan Big Mac’s at a wonderful local vegan restaurant.
Not only did my symptoms of my chronic illness worsen, I regained 20 lbs in a few months time. I avoided my scale and all mirrors. I really think something happened in my head after surgery that I doubted I was worth the effort.
It all changed when I woke up recently in the middle of the night and snapped out of it. I got online and placed an order to be delivered to our home from a couple of local groceries.
I pictured in my fridge my large Tupperware container stuffed with fresh spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh vegetables. I pictured fresh low glycemic grains, a couple types of fresh fruit. I pictured my pantry filled again with all varieties of bean and lentils. Then I made it happen.
From the delivery services for Aldi, Target and Whole Foods came the bags of leafy green and beany redemption. My husband was all for it. I told him no more of the stuff we had been eating. No more Impossible Burgers. He could bring into the home whatever he wanted, but no more fast food versions of vegan foods for me.
Day one: did fine but had a bowl of cereal that evening, shredded wheat. That was one more serving of grain than I needed. Still woke up the next day with a four pound loss *I have lipedema, lymphedema, and Dercum’s Disease and they all cause as one of their symptoms, rapid gain so if treated right you can lose some of it fast too.
Day two: lost another pound!
Day three: lost two more pounds
Day five: lost another two pounds!
In vegan circles the Impossible Burger, and other similar sorts are being declared the salvation of those who wish to eat less meat and to protect animals. There is merit to that. All I want to add is that for some of us, it is harmful as are many ultra processed, mass produced vegan foods. Once a month and special occasions, eating those tasty treats isn’t going to hurt anyone, but the average American tends to eat fast food more than that. Talk to your medical professionals and get their take on it. I just know what such food did to me.
My non medical advice? When you talk to your doctor, ask about Whole Food Plant Based. Maybe find a good bean burger recipe (I list a few of my own in this blog if you search the archives) and make them. If you are lucky to have a Whole Foods Market close by, Engine 2’s Black Bean burgers are also really very good.
My experience has been that there is nothing like a rare disease to make a person feel helpless. It doesn’t matter how many miles you travel (for me it was 7,000) to find expert treatment. Over time I know I lost my hope and sense of empowerment. Then last year I learned that empowerment sometimes can be found again in the simplest of ideas. My regaining my sense of empowerment had been 10 plus very painful, long years in the making.
Dercum’s Disease sufferers like myself face the same obstacles Too few doctors know about it and there is no known cure. Also, there are really no reliable treatments. I had just gotten married when it set in with a 60 lb weight gain, numerous painful lumps, brain fog and increased immobility. My physician had one other patient who in the past had the same symptoms. In the years to come I saw doctors from one side of the country to the other multiple times where Dercum’s Disease and other associated illnesses were diagnosed. Dercum’s Disease and two other of the disorders can put considerable non calorie based weight on a person. I likely had some of these disorders since childhood. All those years and no one knew why I was as I was. Having names for what was wrong with me helped, but there were no answers.
In spite of seeing the country’s top experts, I found zero relief. I still didn’t give up easily. I did both the standard and out-there treatments. I heard through a friend that she found hope spending a few days in an out of state University hospital’s ICU getting round the clock Ketamine infusions. Fearful of my husband losing his job, my husband had to drop me off at a homeless shelter- in that community. That is where I stayed until a bed opened up in the intensive care unit. During the treatment I went through a 2 day psychedelic trip. Ketamine can do that. It did not benefit my health, but I did though, acquire a small collection of wigs because of the hair loss. I tried.
As is the case with many with Dercum’s Disease, the weight kept coming on and my diabetes and coronary labs got worse. Tachycardia joined the mix. To make it harder to combat, Dercum’s Disease and physical workouts do not go together. There is a problem with the lactic acid that lingers around the Dercum’s Disease lumps. The only physical activity I can tolerate is in the pool and that is not easy for me to access.
I kept doing what the rest of the people in the Dercum’s Disease crowd were doing and whatever doctors said to try. My physical and mental state worsened as I appeared destined to live in an ever-growing painful shell where I would die young from cardiac and or diabetic health issues. That is what people with Dercum’s Disease usually die from.
Doctors told me that restricting calories would not help my disorder. My disorders kept the weight piling on. So like any other red blooded American woman, it didn’t keep me from trying. Is there anything we deem worse than being large? It’s how we are socialized. I followed Weight Watchers, RAD, Paleo, KETO, Low carb, the American Heart Association Diet, South Beach Diet, The American Diabetes Association diet. . It all combined had minimal positive results. Some had horribly negative results.
Every six months or so I was traveling to see one of the national experts on Dercum’s Disease and the other disorders commonly associated with Dercum’s Disease that I have. I would arrive with some hope. Sometimes I would be understood and sometimes I would feel not understood. They would put a hoop up for me to jump through, I figurately would jump it with bells and a smile. My Dercum’s Disease continued progressing. My health got worse.
Then I just could do it no more. I traveled out of state once again and was honest with my doctor.
“I’m ready to stop chasing the unicorn”, I believe were the words I used.
I do believe that there is some empowerment that can be found in accepting reality. The doctor that day told me to just accept it all as it being what it is. I have to admit that I was at the time relieved to hear that because I really could not handle trying anything else. Really had tried more ways of getting better than most. My family had sacrificed so much. All those miles and dollars spent on improving my rare condition and everything associated with it, and nothing worked.
Fast forward a year later. It took a weekend of endless vomiting, where I found myself in the hospital and received the lab results for me to finely listen to my body. It was the spring of 2018 when all that happened and the only logical conclusion was that I had to change my way of eating. I had been on the same way of eating everyone else in my shoes had been told to follow. I had been eating low carb and focused on proteins. From that point forward, I had to do something different. The only reasonably healthy foods left for me to eat were the foods I had been told would be bad for this condition. Sure they were the same foods I grew up eating from our garden, but they were considered to be “high starch” by current popular recommended diet standards.
I did some research and sure enough, there were studies done that for my overall health I could eat the garden delicacies such as basic vegetables and fruits. I could even eat beans! I felt I had nothing to lose. I would start eating this way, get labs done and then talk to my doctor.
I indeed did start to eat that way and within a month had labs drawn to make sure the change agreed with me. That cardiologist appointment to discuss the results was the best doctor appointment of my life. His receptionist asked me if I had gone through bariatric surgery. My cholesterol had dropped 57%, my A1C dropped 3 points, and I had dropped a couple clothes sizes and quite a bit of weight. The cardiologist told me to continue eating that way. He even cancelled some of the cardiac testing he had jotted down before seeing me.
That was the moment I felt empowered for the first time in years. I made a decision for myself, sought medical labs and advice at the onset and found my own way to make a positive difference for my health. . One by one, my doctors all were in agreement that I should continue eating this way. From Ohio State University to my cardiologist to my primary care doctor to my cardiologist, everyone was amazed with the results.
I just passed the 1st year anniversary of empowering myself through intuitive measures for my care. I have gone from a size 32 to a size 14. I’ve gone from 13 pills a day to one prescription and a supplement. I am no longer on diabetic or cardiac related medications. I have no more IBS symptoms or year round allergy concerns. My legs that had been miss shaped with one leg larger than the other, are now the same size and shape. I’ve lost 60% of my Dercum’s disease tumors in my stomach. For the first time in my post pubescent life, my top half and bottom half are the same size.
It’s’ true I still have Dercum’s tumors in my stomach, arms, along both ribs, along my spine and the base of my back. They are in my neck and head legs and feet. I still have difficulty sleeping, being comfortable, and the misery can be considerable. I have brain fog, but it’s improved some. I still have to spend my day with my legs up and spend more days in bed than I want to but there is no choice. I still am forced to use a wheelchair in the house when in the kitchen. A motorized scooter is how I manage myself out in the community. I average once a week getting out if my husband drives. Every now and then I can pull off driving if it’s just in the neighborhood. Sometimes a little further than that, but we don’t count on my being able to do such things. I am still significantly suffering from Dercum’s Disease.
But I use to have surgeries to remove Dercum’s Disease tumors. Now without surgery, 60% from one area have vanished and I possibly added 20 years to my life by improving my overall health. What is not to love about that? I wake up every day with hope. Hope is a powerful commodity not to take for granted. My finding my empowerment didn’t find a cure but it did find a useful treatment for Dercum’s Disease, Lipedema and Lymphedema . Those disorders have not advanced. They have improved in ways that shouldn’t have happened through just nutritional changes. . It also reversed my cardiac and diabetic numbers so I could get off all that medication. So while there is suffering, to have any positive change, I am so grateful.
Empowerment isn’t about suddenly being handed a magic wand and all your problems are solved. Empowerment doesn’t mean what works for one person will work for another. Empowerment for me is that I can count on myself to make decisions and to think for myself. You never know what might change your life.
Many people who have the physical diagnoses of fat disorders such as Lipedema, Dercum’s Disease are said to have trauma in their history. Many with eating disorders have a similar background.
I’ve come to know many, many people who are in this circle of physical health and emotional concerns with that history.
Trauma if left as it is, can make one’s life less than it could be. It can ruin a life. It can shorten a life. It can impact future generations.
Don’t throw away the power you have by allowing yourself to linger in a life that isn’t all that it could be.
I learned this mostly by taking myself by the hand and pulling and pushing myself forward. Sometimes through therapy sometimes in having my life move forward. all on my own.
Life has a way of taking that blank slate of a precious baby each of us once were and puts emotional dings, scrapes, dark marks and dents into our sense of self and world view.
Many of the world’s ills are passed down from one generation after the other. Humans are the most capable creatures we know of on the planet, yet we seldom seize our own power we have to heal ourselves. If we can’t heal up some of the junk we emotionally carry around, the world is having to live without all the positive we have to offer it.
If we aren’t careful, we can end up knowingly or unknowingly wallowing in the muck of other’s dysfunction and take on a confused toxic world view.
Is this really a social issue?
1 in 3 children are abused physically, sexually or emotionally by age 14. Then consider how many young adults are abused by significant others physically, sexually or emotionally in their 20’s 30’s and into the twilight years. It’s not uncommon for people to have layers of abusive experiences that puts them in a mental haze and inner physical turmoil that changes even their brain chemistry.
The important point I wish to make is don’t shy away from doing the work needed to rebuild yourself. Your value and my value is not based on the attitudes of those who in the past have harmed us.
I have had to rebuild myself and when I was up and running again, even though still in the process of repair, some people would say they didn’t know me anymore. I was nothing like the girl who would roll over and play dead on command.
Reality can be painful but it forces you to live where you have the most power in your life. Reality is where growth takes place. Where there is growth then life changing positive decisions can happen.
So if you haven’t done so already, find power and purpose in rebuilding in yourself what needs to be rebuilt.
There is no reason to apologize for believing every life has a place and deserves respect and dignity. You will be forced to include yourself in these ranks the more you understand.
Once you really learn and understand this and know that you are worthy,, you won’t settle for the dysfunction you’ve taken part in or subjected on yourself.
Be prepared because as an individual heals, those who are wallowing in the dysfunction will try to pull you back. Your health is too unsettling to their world and for them it’s uncomfortable. Pick and choose your battles. Sometimes you can maintain relationships and there are times when you have to walk away. Each situation is different. Forgiveness is fine, self preservation when based on what you know to be true, is a must.
If you have the feeling that in their eyes you are expendable, if they leave you feeling small and not worthy, and there is a long history of such behaviors and attitudes, it’s ok to walk away. They may raise a fuss through dysfunctional means, but that should only strengthen your resolve to not waste your time with them.
It is true that I have had some positive changes in my health since eating a plant-based diet over the last weeks. However I am still suffering from medically verified chronic illnesses. They range from the tragically common to the annoyingly rare.
I still get my butt kicked by them especially if I forget myself and become too active… Like having the audacity to go along for errands and using my scooter instead of walking, or walking across a small restaurant floor to sit at a table.
This is when, the busy world be damned, I double down in taking the best care of myself possible.
In bed I go. It can be days, weeks, months. Even in bed or wheelchair there’s no escaping the pain or the long list of other issues that come with it.. I’m rarely on my feat. It’s been years since I haven’t been in significant pain. Movement builds up lactic acid in my muscles which just makes it worse so bed rest is the best I can do.
There was a time that my poor husband would throw together something for me to eat or go through a drive-thru. The fat, sodium, and inflammatory qualities of red meat wood just make me sicker.
Over time I’ve gotten very good at predicting when I’m going to be bed bound. When I have one or few good days in a row I’m really bad about overdoing it because I want to make hay while the sun shines. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
If I focus on plant-based nutrition, I find I recover a little quicker and have more emotional energy to stay positive during these times.
We keep our weekly shopping list to what will be the highest nutrition and easiest to manage regardless of my being in bed or sofa bound.
We do buy a limited amount of processed plant-based foods like pre-made veggie burgers and crumbles, canned beans and frozen vegetables for cases of emergency.
It’s important to make and freeze some meals in advance. Tonight we made sure he put 18 homemade spicy black bean burgers in the fridge that in the morning my husband will grill up and toss in the freezer.
I give myself permission to heal any way needed. It’s ok to find joy as I do so. Joy is healing.
Because of the plant-based diet my frame of mind is more positive and my body is changing in positive ways. I know I’m also doing everything I can to have a quality life. Going to a plant-based diet has been the most positive medical experience I’ve ever had.
There is so much about having chronic illnesses that have no cure and few treatments that makes you feel out of control. Seeing positive results on blood sugars, hypertension,weight and swelling, from the foods you put in your mouth is empowering.