Sunday, July 27, 2014

Whole30 - the Why's and the results

I'm sure you have heard of the phrase "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade".  I finally reached that point towards the end of June.  As I previously mentioned, I heard from my immunologist that my maxed out arthritis medication had stopped working.  It was hard to hear and it was yet another lemon thrown right at me.  Here are some of the previous lemons I had been dealt, it will help you to understand why I made the decision to do whole30
You can buy the book It starts with food here and learn why it is so important to remove certain things like grains and dairy from our diet. The book is inexpensive and easy to understand. I recommend it to everyone.

For 7 years I have battled autoimmunity.  Early January 2007 I was admitted to hospital via ambulance directly from my GP's rooms.  I was rushed to theatre for exploratory surgery which is when it was discovered that my gut had ruptured in more places than they could count.  Prior to this I had been fit and well and just felt a bit off for a couple of months. I had worked right up until 2 weeks prior to this.  That night in theatre I lost a large section of bowel, and when I woke up in ICU the next day I was told that I had chrohns disease, I had lost over 1 metre of bowel, I had multiple fistula's, the night before I had been 12 hours from death but I somehow pulled through (Praise God). I didn't understand.  No one else in my family had an inflammatory bowel diseases.  I had immigrated to Australia as a newly wed only 6 months prior.  How can this have happened?

I went on to spend 2 weeks in ICU as the infection just would not break and it compromised my blood pressure and heart rate hourly.  In the end I had 70% muscle wastage, I was fed via an IV with TPN for 7 weeks, I spent 6 months of 2007 in hospital over 8 admissions - 2 months straight on one of those occassions, I spent 9 months in a wheelchair and had random members of the public yell abuse at me because they viewed me as not physically disabled but mentally.  I spent many more week and months in hospital after 2007 and I have had a total of 6 laparotomies to get me to where i am today.

I have also been pumped full of steroids like you couldn't imagine.  As a result my weight has gone up and down more times than a yo yo in the 1960's when they made a resurgence. The only time I ever lost any weight was with excessive exercise and starvation which you guessed it made me sicker. At the end of June this year I had reached my heaviest ever and I was pretty miserable about it.  Life was more difficult than it needed to be, my joints were suffering more than they had to and my depression was definitely taking a hit. 

The news from my immunologist was just one too many curve balls.  I was not going back down the road of hospitalisation, pain, IV's surgery.  I needed to find something to help and find it quickly.  Enter paleo which I had flirted with for about a year but never stuck to for more than 2 weeks at a time.  What was going to be any different this time? I was devastated that at 32 my doctors couldn't get me painfree or even walking semi normally.  That was to be my motivation and motivate me it did! Tuesday past was my last day on Whole30 and I am feeling a lot better.  I am sleeping better, my skin is clear, I feel happy,  my energy levels are better, I can get out of bed before 11am these days, hello 7 and 8 am! (I have chronic fatigue or maybe that is had), I don't need 3 hour afternoon naps and I can walk down the stairs like a normal person without crying out in pain. My joints are improving. I had my blood inflammatory markers taken at the 3 week point and they have started to drop, the only change was whole30.

On Wednesday (day 31) I weighed myself and I was 8kgs  (17.6 lbs)down!!! Yup 8kgs in 30 days and I haven't been starved (look at my instagram account cat_keast and you will see I have feasted for 30 days). I went to the gym once when tiger blood hit so it definitely isn't from the excessive exercise that I once had to do.

I feel good and for that reason I am continuing on until the end of August.

Are you interested in doing a Whole30? Let me know in the comments section and we can support each other through it.  It is only 30 days and you have so much to gain. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Paleo Way

WOW what a week it has been.  I have been completely immersed in the world of Paleo information, research on the low carb high fat lifestyle, low sugar, no refined sugar etc, and I have loved every second of it.  You see, this stuff makes sense when it is broken down into small bite sized pieces. 

Last Saturday I was extremely fortunate to attend The Paleo Way with Chef Pete Evans, Luke Hines, Nora Gedgaudas and Wes Carr.  It was a 4 hour seminar presenting a vast amount of facts.  Let me summarise what I learned and took away from it.

First to take the stage was Luke Hines.  For those who haven't heard of Luke, he is a personal trainer and also competed in My Kitchen Rules.  He shared that during his time on the show he got to know and chat with Pete Evans (one of the judges) about his own lifestyle and training, he felt he wasn't making as many gains as he could.  Pete suggested Paleo and since then Luke has not looked back.  He said that he was feeling his healthiest and strongest ever.  And hey if he can look like that, well quite frankly I'm in! Luke was radiant, energetic, oozing health and confidence. 

Then came Wes Carr singing Pharrell Williams 'Happy' which put us all in an even better mood and had us pumped and ready for Pete.  More on Wes later.

Cue MASSIVE applause and Pete Evans arrives on stage for the first of his seminars in 'The Paleo Way' tour of Australia.  How lucky were we Brisbane that they picked us to kick things off. 

Pete was overflowing with passion for the topic of Paleo.  He presented some rather startling statistics.  For example the Autism rate in 1974 was 1 in 10,000, today in 2014 it is 1 in 50!!! That fact blew my mind.  What has changed? Increased processed foods for a start! Another fact for you, in the 1800's people were consuming 1.25 teaspoons of sugar a day, today in 2014 it is more like 40-45 teaspoons and to be honest I think for a lot of the population it is probably a lot lot more than that.  It is hard to ignore those facts, they are real, they are happening, they are all around us.  People are getting sicker a lot younger and expecting medical staff to fix things that they can't.  As a nurse I see this day in day out, there is only so much we can do, sometimes you really do have to help yourself.  Empowering healthcare workers with the knowledge to share is a great start and for that reason I am glad that I went to this event.

Another Quote that struck a cord with me during Pete's presentation was this. 

"What we eat is a dialogue about who we believe we are to ourselves and to the world"

You owe it to yourself to eat the best diet you can so that you can be and present the best version of yourself. 

Pete also shared about his up coming show which will air this summer.  It will be about Paleo and include different professionals opinions, recipes etc.  It was also discussed about his aim to get the food pyramid changed.  The food pyramid in Australia and I am sure in other countries around the world has a base of grains.  Our bodies do not need these and these grains and pseudograins are making us sick.  Pete stressed the importance of eating mindfully.  Ask yourself will this food nourish my body and help me achieve all that I want to? I can hear all the parents crying out but what about my children, how do I tell them they can't have sugar and sweets etc.  Pete had a great response to this and it was about educating the children, not just dictating to them.  He shared a story from his own parenting experiences.  I have copied and pasted it below from Pete's facebook page.

“Here is a story I told my kids two years ago after I picked them up from a party. They both had big lollie bags in their hands and they wanted to know whether they could eat them or not.

I asked my girls if they had a bunny and they knew that by letting the bunny only eat grass, lettuce, carrots and drink water, that the bunny would live a healthy disease free life, would you feed it only grass, lettuce, carrots and water? They both replied with an eager ‘YES dad’. 

I then asked that if you had some lollies or soft drink that the bunnies wanted, because some of the other bunnies in the field were being fed lollies but the other kids…but you knew there was a chance of the bunnies getting sick or shortening their life, or being in pain, would you feed the bunny those lollies or drinks?….well you know what the answer was, it was an adamant ‘NO dad’. 

Well I said you are my bunnies and I will do my best to make sure that you have a diet that consists of the types of foods and water that will help maintain their health and they understood that. 

And then the penny dropped for me and I told them that they have to treat their own bodies like that of the bunnies that they want to live a long disease free life, and they also understood that”.

Next to the stage was Nora Gedgaudas, I don't think I have enough descriptive words to explain how amazing this lady is.  Nora's knowledge is vast and she has a talent for explaining it well and on many different levels.  I want to be like Nora when I grow up!! (At 32 that should have already happened but hey, I'm a work in progress!) For one thing Nora showed just what Paleo can do for you just by giving her presentation.  She was an example of stamina right there on the stage with an almost 3 hour presentation.  I will summarise the bits that really hit home for me. 

Some more shocking statistic's to begin

In Australia

1 in 2 men will get cancer by the age of 85
1 in 3 women will get cancer by the age of 85

More than 30 % of the population will suffer from 1 or more chronic diseases.

The leading causes of death are Heart Disease, Cancer, Autoimmunity and Diabetes! We can each do something about each of those issues. 

A quote from Nora

“We all need to understand where we came from to work out who we are, or who we need to be.”

Nora explained that we are all Ice Age beings, there is evidence of tools that humans used to carve up meat and fat.  The statement that many people give us Paleo folk was then addressed.

"But the cave people didn't live long lives, it's therefore not like it will be good for you"

Nora addressed this perfectly.  In those days life was a lot more dangerous, you know the whole wild animal issue, there weren't hospitals with high powered antibiotics to help with infections and they didn't have the cosy homes that we all enjoy so climate did take it's toll.  During these times there was no such thing as ADD, obesity, dementia, autism and autoimmune issues.  Therefore it is something that we are doing that has changed.  Processed food anyone?

Some more interesting facts from Nora included that the human brain size has decreased since the introduction of more grain based diets.  Our brains need fat to function properly, we need to be "fat heads not grain brains".   I've seen this in many head CT's and in the older patients the doctors just point and say "oh that's some shrinkage, just from age", not true, it's from a lifelong diet low in fat and high in grains. 

The grass fed versus grain fed meat battle was also touched on.  And the census was that grass fed was definitely much better for us.  Cattle are designed to eat grass not grain! As I've mentioned before if we are what we eat then so to are cattle.  They also get inflammation and disease so feeding them a diet that they are designed to eat (grass) is what is best for the animal and the knock on effect is that it also benefits us.

Nora highlighted that our bodies have 2 fuel sources, we can have sugar for fuel or fat for fuel.  If you body uses fat for fuel then the body is ketogenic.  A ketogenic state results in a 39% increase in cerebral blood flow! If your body uses sugar then you just have sugar highs and sugar lows, you won't have that increased blood supply to your brain to give clear thoughts. 

Nora went on to describe the body as a wood stove (stick with me this makes huge sense).  A wood stove needs to be 'fed' in order for the fire to keep going (our metabolic state).  Carbs in this scenario are things like crumpled paper and small sticks, with alcohol being petrol.  Fats are large logs.  If we eat a diet that is high in carbohydrate, then we will always have to tend to our wood stove.  Ever wondered why you are hungry every 2 hours, even though you just ate that large bowl of pasta? Well it is like throwing paper or twigs into the wood stove.  They will burn and burn quickly but the fire will begin to die.  However if you have eaten a meal based on good fats and low carb, it will have been like throwing a large log in to your wood stove. The fire (your metabolic state) will burn consistently and you will feel a lot better and have no highs and lows. 

Gluten was then explained and let's just say it should be public enemy number 1.  If you can't give up grains straight away, then at least give up gluten.  At least 200 conditions can be linked back to gluten and all autoimmune diseases can be.  That for me was scary as I have autoimmune issues, luckily I have already given up grains, but this reinforced why it was so important for me.  Autoimmune issues are now the 3rd leading cause of mortality in the industrialised world, behind cancer and heart disease!

Next came Wes Carr back to the stage to share a little of his story and that of his families.  I found this really interesting as it was so personable.  Wes has battled depression and anxiety and his son was diagnosed autistic.  As a family they made the decision to switch to paleo and have not looked back.  Wes reported feeling a lot stronger in his thought process and his son is thriving. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Paleo Way and it has reinforced so much for me.  It has given me hope that through a change in diet to a more strict Paleo plan that I will begin to see changes in my physical, emotional and mental health.  The journey may not be easy at first but it will definitely be worth it. 

Thank you Pete, Nora, Wes and Luke for touring Australia and getting this message out there.  Long live the healthy fats and grain free lifestyle. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Make your own....

I am learning a lot about food since starting my Whole30 journey.  I am also becoming more mindful about what I put into my body and the consequences that it will have on my energy levels, thought process, joints etc.  It has forced me to read packaging a lot, and initially I was annoyed all the time because it seemed like everything had sugar, sulphites,wheat or lactose. This annoyed me only because I then felt I had nothing to eat, what was I supposed to do, survive on air and water?  Fast forward to today (Day 19) and I am looking at packages and shaking my head because these 'foods' do not need all these additives, fillers, sugar.  I shake my head as I watch others fill their trolley with these products completely oblivious to what is really in those 'foods' and consequently how it will make them feel.  So I have set about teaching myself to make as much from scratch as possible.  That way I am in complete control over every ingredient.  I will share some of my trials with you here and hopefully we can learn together. 

First up is Mayonnaise.  Let's start by looking at the label of a store bought Mayonnaise. 
I was a bit confused by the glucose -fructose syrup, wheat starch, thickener, flavourings and colours.  Why does mayonnaise need all these things? What do these do to our bodies?

I did a bit of searching online and came up with a recipe that is quick, simple and made from ingredients that most of us have in our kitchens.  Below is what I used. 
 It isn't the same huge list of ingredients that is for sure.  So to make your own kick ass mayonnaise, add  the following to a blender - two whole eggs, 2 tablespoons on lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of a spice of your choice - I used curry powder but traditional mayonnaise is mustard powder, pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper, with 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Blitz for approximately 30 seconds.

Next you have to add 1 cup of olive oil to the previously blended mix.  However DO NOT just dump the whole cup into the mixture, this will cause it to split.  You need to slowly pour it in, while the rest is blending.  As you are pouring it in you will be able to see the mayonnaise start to take shape and the mixture will thicken. 
Once the cup of oil has been added, continue to let the mixture blend for approximately 30 seconds longer. Then voila your mayonnaise is ready and it will taste so much better than any store bought bottle. 
Place your mayonnaise into an air tight container or jar and keep it in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

I have been using my mayonnaise in salads like Nom Nom Paleo's Madras Chicken Salad.  It is also delicious mixed through my scrambled eggs in the absence of any dairy. 

What is your favourite way to use Mayonnaise?

Saturday, July 5, 2014


I have just completed Day 13 of my Whole 30 challenge.  I feel empowered although I am still waiting for the awesome tiger blood energy to kick in! Never fear, it is rumoured to appear from day 16 onwards.  On the whole I think I am in a better place than before I started this challenge.  My thought process is less cloudy, I feel more alert and I am needing a lot fewer naps.  My hands became a lot less puffy early in the process and haven't changed much since.  I am hoping that they improve a little bit more.

My sick leave has been extended which I am in two minds about.  I am grateful for more time to focus on getting into a better place health wise and allowing time for the doctors to figure out exactly what is going on.  But there is always the longing for the challenge that is critical care nursing and the pride in earning a wage.  I am trying not to focus on the latter as it will come and I will be back working those crazy shifts that punish my mind and body.  In fact I have been doing a lot of soul searching in recent weeks and wondering if critical care nursing is for me.  I've worked in that field since 2005 and I love it or is that loved it.  As you can imagine it takes a toll on you emotionally.  I am starting to feel that there are other areas of nursing that I could thrive in.  Areas that had no night shift which would ultimately be better for me and my immune system.  I must remember that I have to be well enough to be in the privileged position of being a nurse for others.  I pride myself in being able to serve them in times where sickness as hit and the joy of seeing someone get back up on their feet and take on the world again can not be described fully.  Therefore over the next few weeks I am planning to update my CV and have a look around for other jobs.  I may not fully give up critical care nursing at first, rather keep it as a safety net while I test the water elsewhere.  I am ready for a new adventure and challenge in my professional life.

I am always up for a challenge, however it has to be the right challenge.  Over the past year I have found this frustrating as I couldn't find any suitable challenges due to my ill health and chronic pain from my arthritis.  Last week I made the decision to stop letting the arthritis dictate what I can and can not do.  I bravely enrolled in an event in October here in Brisbane called the Neon Run.  It is a 5km event and whilst I do not plan to run it (I've never been a runner) I am planning to get out there, with my husband and supportive friends and walk those 5km.  For many of you reading this 5km does not sound like much, but for me with the daily battle of arthritis and the joint pain and stiffness which comes with it, the 5km is a big deal.  Also being out in the community participating is a big deal especially for someone like me who suffers from depression.  Getting involved in large events can cause feelings of anxiety and in recent years I have had to learn to overcome them.  I am going to walk those 5km with pride and happiness, I am fighting back and winning.  The event is also for Beyond Blue, an organisation which helps people battle depression and other mental health issues, something which remains a battle for me.  I am extremely excited to be able to participate in this event and will be heading back to the gym after a short 3 year break! to walk on the treadmill and get some fitness back and some muscle growth happening.

Do you set yourself daily, weekly, monthly challenges and goals?  Tell me about them in the comments, I would love to hear them.