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I've been on this crazy, horrible diet for a month, now. That seems wild.
I call it horrible, when the reality is that it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. It's just been one of those life-altering changes that I wasn't in the right head space to commit to. It's one thing to make a conscious decision to do better - to lose weight, to eat healthy, to cut out sugar - but it's another one when you're forced into it when you're not ready. Isn't that what they always say about addicts of all kinds? They have to want it. Well, apparently, when your health and that of your baby is potentially jeopardized, you may cry about it a little - but you'll do it. And I'm starting to be thankful that I was shoved into this position when I was. Because it's becoming very clear that I am much better off as a result.
At the time of this writing, I'm about to be 8 months pregnant. I just had the mandatory Gestational Diabetes sonogram to make sure that my baby isn't getting "too big". This part of GD is always laughable to me, because I just make big babies no matter what. I was 9lb 2oz at birth, my husband was 8lbs 15oz (so, almost 9 pounds)...and my first two babies were 9lbs 5oz and 9lbs 6oz. Clearly, that is just the mold we are made from. I didn't have GD with my first two, so their size was not due to sugar problems. So when they took this baby's measurements and discovered that he's almost 3 weeks ahead of other babies in size, and nearing 5lbs, it was no shock to me. My doctor looked at the sonogram results and my history and said, "Yeah, we know you're not going to have a 6 pound baby. I bet everyone is being so cautious with you because they're worried about your large baby size but I think it's silly - you're not pushing this baby out, and your babies are just designed this way!"
Man, do I love a doctor that will just be straight-up with you. She also told me that my numbers look so good I could take the night off on my birthday and eat whatever I wanted. I did, by the way. I was a little conservative with the carbs for dinner, but I definitely indulged in dessert, and it was AMAZING!
But more on that later.
So here I am, a month into this diet, 8 months pregnant, with a nearly 5 pound baby. And you know what happened to me? I lost 5 pounds. Um, what? Never, ever did I think I'd be LOSING weight at the end of one of my very large pregnancies. But truthfully, I packed on the pounds early and fast with this baby, and I definitely had those 5 pounds to lose. I was nervous that I was going to cross into 200lb territory at the end of this pregnancy with the way things were going, and now I'm confident that I can completely avoid it. You probably don't remember (all the way back in my first GD diaries post) that my end weights with my first two were 182 & 185. I'd really like to stick to that range, and now I realistically can. Even if the baby hits 9+ pounds, I still have room to gain weight myself and not surpass that.
And even more than that: my skin has cleared up, I'm sleeping better, my heartburn has gone away, and I have more "good days". Good days are the ones where I get a random surge of energy and can actually pull the house back together, or run an errand without feeling completely steamrolled. I only get 2-3 of those a week (I'm still battling anemia and the heat REALLY causes me to struggle), but that's more than I used to get! Seriously - I was in rough shape.
I haven't been exercising, really. I do take walks here and there, and I do a lot of simple yoga-like stretches on the floor, but unless you count the extreme effort it takes to get my kids through gym class each week, that's the extent of it. My body is just in too much pain to push myself through that, too.
But the best perk of all, is that I feel better about myself. My belly is so very exaggerated as my body slims down and my baby gets bigger, so the comments are coming at me full force - "You must be due like yesterday!" and "Are you sure there's only one in there?!" - and that really bothers me. But I'm no longer spilling out of my maternity clothes, and things that I was already growing out of fit me again. I feel like when I put an outfit together, and do my hair and make up, I actually look a little bit like ME. And I haven't had that since January. JANUARY. I have spent almost all of 2013 feeling like a stranger in my own body, and struggling physically and emotionally, battling depression all the way. And I still have some truly terrible days, but for the most part - valuing myself again is HUGE.
And as you saw last week, I've learned a lot - about things that I think will stick with me for life.
I'm starting to get a little thrilled about some of our meals! Many times I feel like it's boring having the same stuff all the time, and I get sick of all of the intricate prep work of eating whole foods. But then when I sit down with my plate and see how colorful and varied it all is - I can't help but think it's kind of awesome.
My lunch is very much the same every day. When I first started the diet, lunch was the hardest time of day for me and my blood sugar. And ya know why? Because I'm hardwired (probably like the rest of you) to have a sandwich for lunch. And man - the carbs in bread! Even in whole grains, flat breads, tortillas - it's outrageous. I had to get creative and find a way to eat a sort of typical lunch without all of the carby breads. And a 1/2 sandwich just didn't seem very appealing to me as a hungry, pregnant, & busy mama. I started making this little platter of things - some lunch meat (usually turkey, microwaved quite a bit because I'm on the listeria paranoia train - choo choo!), slices of cheese (usually swiss, sharp cheddar, or colby jack), 2-3 whole grain crackers, 1/2 of a banana cut into slices with peanut butter on them, and a little bit of some other fruit. For now, that's cherries, because they are so sweet and delicious and I adore them - but they are starting to be pulled from stores, and that's not only depressing me, but I have to find an alternative for those soon. When my husband is around to see me put my lunches together, he usually says, "Man, I want that!". It doesn't sound like the greatest thing in the world, but when you see it all splayed out on your plate like a little buffet sampling, it's pretty tempting! My kids always try to come and pick off it, too!
Dinners are very typical, and some would say bland. We have some kind of grilled meat (chicken, steak, beef or turkey burgers without the bun), 1/4 of a sweet potato, a big pile of 1-2 veggies, and a 1/2 piece of whole grain bread or 1/2 of a whole grain roll with butter. This is also when I take my vitamins & my extra iron. It creates this stunningly colorful and attractive meal, as boring as it sounds! And I always walk away feeling satisfied! I'm supposed to have a snack before I go to sleep, and I almost never want it. On those nights, I just have a glass of milk. Also, as I'm writing this in the summer, we usually have additions from our garden in our meals, and this not only makes it really fun (we're both overly thrilled about making things out of ingredients we've grown!), but it makes things extra yummy, too! We eat our own fresh tomatoes all the time, we add our own broccoli to batches of the store bought stuff. We pick and add basil and parsley to everything. Matt even pulled out some potatoes the other night and made homemade potato chips for the boys (not that I could partake in that, but what a great alternative to those horrible grease-filled bags - the boys have been deprived of a lot of childhood staples due to my diet, so it was a nice treat for them).
One of my FAVORITE dinners, made largely from our garden, is caprese chicken. I cheat a little, because I use firmer cheeses than fresh mozzarella (again, listeria freak) like swiss or cheddar. I just chop up tomatoes and little "ribbons" of basil, both from the garden, add in little cubes of cheese, and dress it with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper. We serve it on our plates like a salad, but then we eat it along side grilled chicken (usually topping each bite with some). It is so good, so fresh, and doesn't feel diet-like at all. Sometimes I spoon a little extra balsamic/olive oil dressing on my chicken, too. It's so delicious, you should try it. The only thing to be careful with (if you are struggling with GD yourself, or limiting your sugar just because) is the amount of balsamic vinegar you put in. You'll have to check the brand you have, but typically a serving is 1 Tablespoon - and I usually only need a 1/2 Tablespoon to cover everything. You can do this with store bought ingredients, too, of course - we're just in peak tomato season and eating our tomatoes like crazy right now!
My breakfast is ALWAYS THE SAME. I don't know about you guys, but I'm just kinda that gal. Aside from the occasional brunch or weekend pancakes, I find a breakfast that works for me and I eat it every single day - no matter what is going on in my life. When I was on weight watchers, it was the lowest point value english muffins with 1 carefully measured out tablespoon of peanut butter, and my morning coffee with 2-3 tablespoons of creamer (I willingly committed points to that each day!). Right now, I start my day with a glass of ice water and an iron pill. I make sure I drain it while I'm making breakfast, and before I eat anything else. My GD breakfast is a 1-1/4 egg "patty" (I basically crack 5 eggs into a bowl, scramble them, cook them frittata-style, and cut it into 4 slices, making each one worth 1 and a 1/4 egg. I eat one, then wrap up the other 3 for slightly quicker breakfasts for the next 3 days), topped with 1 slice of american cheese, 3 slices of turkey bacon, all on a whole wheat english muffin. I also have a cup of decaf coffee with 2-1/2 tablespoons of plain, unsweetened non-dairy creamer, and about a teaspoon of agave nectar. I really have no complaints. I mean, breakfast sandwich every morning? Uh, yeah. Better than some GMO corn-based junk, coated in high fructose corn syrup and red 40, right?
I know that I still have some processed elements in my day...like the turkey bacon (although it's way better nitrate-wise than real bacon!), and the lunch meat turkey for lunch. But because of cost and time, this is the best I can do right now. We buy organic meats for dinner, and since we eat the largest quantity of it with that meal, that's important to me.
When I look over my diet, I can't believe what a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I was hardcore vegetarian! Now I'm....kind of the opposite. My husband jokes and calls this diet "the meat and two veg" diet, and if you've got adolescent humor like us, I hope you'll get a giggle out of that. It's true, though. That's how we plan our dinner. What meat are we eating tonight? What veggies? Okay, done. Our diet has striking similarities to the Paleo diet - except I think we eat more carbs/grains than they do. Though not by very much. We don't eat white potatoes or beans or simple carbs at all anymore. And our carb intake now is small and complex. The only reason I eat any at all is to keep my blood sugar even so it doesn't spike if I end up taking some in somewhere down the road. The key is really sugar. The closer it is to sugar, the farther away I get.
And so now I wonder - what will I do when I'm no longer pregnant? I became a vegetarian because I simply didn't like to eat meat. The thought of it grossed me out - preparing it, cutting into it, chewing it. I spent my whole life feeling that way and wasting it, and I decided to try not having it at all - and it suited me. I never missed it! And I felt good about myself for the impact it had on the environment. But very early on in this pregnancy, I started craving it like CRAZY. And those feelings I used to have about it have really diminished. I just don't know if that's the pregnancy talking, or the GD, or my anemia (despite that being the best it's been in years while I was a vegetarian) or just a year of not having it and suddenly wanting it again? I had always planned on going back to vegetarianism after this baby was born, but now I'm not so sure. Right now, Paleo fits me better - and the impacts to my body are clearly fantastic. I never had that result with vegetarianism. People always asked me, "Do you feel like you have more energy? Do you feel healthier? Have you lost weight?" and I was always kinda like....eh, no. I didn't. I ate so little meat as it was, that it wasn't a drastic change for me at all. And I filled in the meat gaps with carbs, and more carbs, and cheese, and tons of legumes. It was black beans every night around here! I actually felt more bloated, and I held onto a couple extra pounds that I didn't usually have. I can only assume that it was my body's way of dealing with the bombardment of grains and legumes - it's not for everyone, and as I'm learning, I don't think it was for me. Look what it did, in the end. My pancreas was tired. And with the added pressure of pregnancy, it couldn't keep up. I can't keep doing that.
I was happy as a vegetarian, and proud, and I always wondered how celebrities that would preach about Veganism but would end up saying "I had to quit for health reasons," and then never elaborate. Vegans always seem so healthy to me! But now I know. It's not for everyone's body type - even if you want it to be. And now I can't help but feel like I need to give my body a shot on the Paleo diet, once it's just my body again and not supporting another life, too - and see how it does. Maybe it's better suited for me. I really think that is the path I will follow for a while after this pregnancy and see how I do.
I've also come to realize how truly sparse and special treats are meant to be. I know that's probably a silly statement to make, but man - we used to indulge even more than I realized we did. And we weren't even that bad compared to the masses! I really feel like treats and baked goods and things need to be limited much more than they used to be, and when we do them - we go all out. Like something impressive and time consuming to make that's completely indulgent and wonderful, and we'll enjoy it for the gift it is rather than "just another in a long line of treats". They will be blessings rather than a given. And this is how I'm finally coming to understand gluttony.
It's amazing, how far I've come in a month. I started this process crying, fearful, angry, disappointed, and bitter. I was crushed when I got the phone call telling me that I had GD, and I spent a week or two fighting the process the whole way. I would break down and sob, pray, ask God over and over again why he had to make me deal with this after a pregnancy of difficulty and turmoil that I was already exhausted from. And then one day my mom said to me, "Ya know, I know this is hard, but maybe this is God actually gifting you with the help to get to where you actually want to be." I thought about that for days, and I realized it was true. Everything I stood for before this pregnancy started was gone in the blink of an eye. I went from eating clean to shoveling back snacks and carbs and sugar and processed foods - because "I could". That's not to say I ate horribly, I didn't - but looking back on it, I didn't realize how many of those things were in the foods I was eating. I bet most people don't! Even when you think you're eating healthy, you're probably not. Remember back in Part 1, when I was mad at an article I googled for saying, "If you're not already eating these, start now and think of it as a lesson on how to teach your child how to eat right!" because I was already well acquainted with a plethora of healthy fruits and veggies. But the truth is, my portions were totally off base, and the carbs I ate between those things were causing the problem. The end result was an unhappy me - I was way over a comfortable weight for myself, depressed, broken out, exhausted, anemic, angry, and bitter. I spent months being upset and frustrated and sad. MONTHS of my life. And while this felt like the proverbial crap cherry on a crap sundae, it's ended up being an incredible blessing.
I've gotta say, I'm still a little nervous. I'm a few days away from my next meeting with the specialist, and I don't know how they'll feel. I'm guessing that they'll agree that I'm perfectly capable of controlling it with my diet based on my numbers. But my fingers are crossed that they'll let me drop my testing down to once a day - just my fasting numbers (which seem to be what they care about most). I'm getting use to testing, and I don't hate it as much as I thought I would, but this whole watching the clock constantly thing is still driving me a little crazy. I'm just not wired this way. And I'm really not sure I can handle it for another 7.5 weeks...if they ask me to keep at it, I have a feeling I'm going to get increasingly sloppy about testing every 2 hours on the dot. I'm hoping that my hard work will at least pay off that way!