When it comes to the lifestyle changes those of us living with autoimmune disease are encouraged to make, no one knew better than me, a trained Registered Nurse, how important it was to exercise, sleep, limit alcohol, avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight. Yet two and a half years ago there I was, 75 pounds overweight and living on disability because of my psoriatic arthritis, and drinking too much alcohol to numb the pain of divorce and the loss of a career I dearly loved. Needless to say, I was not in a good place.
I knew I needed to lose weight, but this was different from my previous weight loss journeys. In the past I’d go on a diet because I had a class reunion or some social event that I wanted to look good for. I typically chose my diet plan based on how fast I wanted to lose the extra weight, and over the years I pretty much tried all of the diets out there and some more than once.
But this was different. I had just gone thru a major life event, the loss of my 29 year marriage. Going thru a divorce is probably the hardest and saddest thing I’ve ever had to endure. I lost a few pounds from the stress of what I now call the “divorce diet’ but there I was on total medical disability due to psoriatic arthritis, 75lbs overweight, on multiple medications including three just for high blood pressure, two for heartburn (GERD), and inhalers for reactive airway disease, prednisone and an NSAID for arthritis.
And, I was also self-medicating my arthritis pain and heartache with alcohol. I was in a world of hurt and financially was circling the drain because I couldn’t afford the medications or the alcohol.
I reached out to a physician friend that I had once had worked with. I had heard that his wife was a health coach and was helping people to lose weight and get healthy. When we spoke on the phone, he told me more about the program and the cost. I knew I couldn’t afford it. I thanked him for his time and politely told him there was just no way that I could afford it.
He said, “Layne, you can’t NOT afford it!”
What? That didn’t make sense. He didn’t know my living conditions or my limited income.
He insisted, “You need to do this for your health, before you know it you’ll be off most of the medications and it will save you money in the long run.”
I thought about it for a day or two and decided that I really didn’t have much choice. I had to take control of my health and more importantly my life. So, I waited until my disability check came, called him back and signed up that day.
I had to wait a week for my meal replacement order to arrive so I had some time to cut back on my alcohol consumption. I was a little worried about the dangers of delirium tremors as my consumption had become excessive; I was averaging probably 6 to 7 drinks per evening. It’s hard to say as I never measured. I also never drank during the day; I started while I was cooking dinner and continued until bedtime. So, that was a lot of alcohol in the matter of only a few hours.
I still remember standing at the kitchen sink pouring my last bottle of 100 proof vodka down the drain. That was it! I was done and quitting “cold turkey” –another thing I don’t recommend!
The first week of my new diet was rough! My coach contacted me daily and talked me thru each day. I monitored my blood pressure and much to my surprise, per my doctor’s advice, I was able to stop my first blood pressure medication after only five days on the program. I just couldn’t believe it! I didn’t think I’d get off the first medication until I’d lost several pounds. I was absolutely shocked that my previous diet was the reason I was on so many medications. Much to my amazement I was soon off most of my medications and felt better than I’d felt in years!
However, my arthritis started to flare. My wrists were swollen and I could hardly dress myself. I remember one day going to put gas in my car and I couldn’t get the gas cap open on my car and I had to ask for help. That was a first for me and I was devastated. I just didn’t understand. Here I was getting healthy, off most of my medications, my BMI was nearly within normal range but my arthritis was flaring.
That’s when I began my quest of elimination diets and looking more closely at what foods might be triggering my arthritis to flare. What I discovered: My love of taco salads was not loving me back. I had sensitivity to nightshades and all of the fresh tomatoes, green peppers, and salsa stirred up my arthritis. We are all different and one person might flare due to gluten sensitivity and another might have sensitivity to foods in the nightshade family or to dairy. Elimination diets are lengthy and tedious but for me I now know to steer clear of nightshades and dairy.
So did diet cure my psoriatic arthritis? Absolutely not! I still and always will have psoriatic arthritis but I’m healthier overall than I’ve probably ever been. My blood pressure is within normal range; I do mild exercise daily and moderate exercise at least three times a week. I weigh myself once a week just to make sure I’m still where I want to be and to keep myself accountable. I would love to eat only organic foods but that’s just not realistic on my tight budget so I just do what I can and eat as healthy as I can.
My diet advice? Eat a simple, clean well-balanced diet and enjoy your food in its most natural state if possible.
I started the program on March 26, 2013. I took the weight off really fast and reached goal in July 2013. It’s a fairly expensive program and I didn’t have money to waste! I was overweight most of my adult life and really overweight for probably 10 years. If I can do it, so can you!