There are a lot of changes happening for me this year! Nixing my couch potato lifestyle to one of consistent, fun physical exercise, and turning my “carb-face” diet to one that’s meticulously planned out every week and ensuring I get enough of my 5-a-day and less of food that my body recognizes as poison, wasn’t easy. It took me over a month just to come to terms with committing to it and an extra week just to push myself to start. But thanks to the support of my doctor and nutritionist at LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine, I have successfully been able to make the transition from binge-eater to self-aware without shedding any tears, simply by understanding the science behind the choices that I now consciously make.
The decision to break old habits and switch to a healthy lifestyle didn’t come lightly and started late last year after getting a Preventive Wellness Consult (Php 2,500 – Php 3,000) at LifeScience, the cutting-edge wellness center in Bonifacio Global City. When I got my results back, I was reeling from the shock and disbelief of having to discover my body’s metabolic age of 43 when I haven’t even turned 30, and although my doctor acknowledged that most of my problem was stemming from an ongoing thyroid issue, my current diet and sedentary lifestyle have also attributed to why I constantly feel tired, sleepy, and moody half the time.
Before leaving my first visit, my doctor recommended that I take a Food Intolerance Test (Php 19,000) to determine what food my body deemed intolerable, making it work overtime to process the poison out of my system. Unlike allergies, food intolerances don’t have any obvious outward symptoms of the body rejecting whatever you ingested (like skin rashes or anaphylaxis), but may manifest as a sore tummy, gas, migraines, bloating, or drowsiness. We’ve gotten so used to ingesting food that our body finds intolerant, we don’t notice the subtle signs and dismiss them as an attribute to stress or general tiredness.
I found myself back at the center after two weeks to get my results and sit down with my nutritionist to work out a course of action for the small steps I needed to take to slowly start implementing diet changes before the Christmas and New Year festivities were in full swing. I was in for another unpleasant surprise: I was intolerant to most of the staples in my diet. Presented in order of reactivity, the major culprits to my bloating, migraines and sleepiness are cow’s milk, egg white, caesin (found in milk and cheese), goat’s milk, barley, corn, sheep’s milk, cola nut, wheat, yeast, crab, gliadin (found in wheat and other cereals), cashews, couscous, peas, and rice.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression
I had a long talk with my nutritionist about the list of foods that I was supposed to totally avoid if I wanted to get my body to heal faster, and although I understood the point she was trying to make, my brain just didn’t want to take it all in. Her voice sounded muffled, like she was trying to talk to me underwater. My mind didn’t want to hear any of her explanations and I felt like I was being forced to say goodbye to an old friend. I wasn’t ready for the intense anger that followed. I was angry that I had to give up on all my comfort food if I were to make myself feel better. I felt cheated. I didn’t really want to do this anyway. I could just stand up, walk away, and pretend that this never happened. I could, but then I really wouldn’t be doing myself any favors if I followed that line of thinking. I came to LifeScience to move forward with my life, not stagnate.
Shaking my head, the thought of just giving up and living a life that was doing absolutely nothing for my energy levels, my waistline, and my self image was even more dreadful than giving up the junk. Deciding to move forward, I asked my nutritionist about what diet options I should look into, so I could also do my research. I am definitely not one to go vegetarian anytime soon, so that was out of the question. Southbeach? Cohen? Paleo, maybe? A tweaked version of the popular Paleo diet (sans eggs) was best suited to me, and looking up recipes and food substitutes would definitely help. Technically, I’m only intolerant to milk from cows, goats, and sheep – my results say nothing about carabao milk, which may be a bit more expensive, but is also a lot richer than its counterparts. I could also still indulge in creature comforts like ice cream as long as it’s been made with coconut milk – I could live with that.
Leaving the center, it hit me: This is a complete lifestyle change that requires great disciple and will power. Will I be able to do it? If I wasn’t going to commit to it 100%, what would be the point of starting it? Could I seriously maintain it once I start? Also, substituting my food for their alternatives (i.e. regular flour for coconut flour, rice and couscous for quinoa) is expensive, and I’d have to eliminate half of the items in my pantry. I kept thinking, “Oh, if only I had known taking on a stressful job would trigger my thyroid then I wouldn’t be in this mess…” and so on, and so forth, trying to bargain with myself for the next couple of days on whether or not I should even try making the switch.
So here we are, halfway through the first month of 2015, and so far, I don’t feel like I’m missing out or craving for certain foods at all. Going through the process, one realizes that it’s a mental and emotional challenge, rather than a physical one. It’s amazing to realize how the simplest changes can make such a big impact in your life. Trips to the supermarket now take thrice as long, as I find myself spending a few extra minutes reading the labels to make sure my reactive food products aren’t hidden in the list of ingredients – you’d be surprised how many times yeast comes up. I walk around the aisles with a cheat sheet of food items that I can and can’t have, and find myself constantly googling if lentils are beans or legumes, and if millet is barely, wheat, or something completely different (turns out, it’s a seed).
My biggest worry going into the diet change was avoiding milk. It’s in everything I love – bread, butter, cheese, custard, puddings, chocolate, cake, and ice cream – food items that I usually have a stash of stored in the pantry. My doctor gave me a list of specialty shops and bakers one can contact to bake loaves according to your dietary preference, like Amores Gluten-Free Foods, while one can turn to Heart 2 Hearth or The Superfood Grocer for guilt-free treats. Healthy Options has a good variety of nut-based butters in squeeze packets (I stock up on the Macadamia Butter whenever I get the chance), and Rustan’s as well as Adam’s Seriously Good Ice Cream sell coconut milk-based ice creams that actually taste really good. The only item on the list that I have trouble substituting is cheese. I love my Parmesan, Manchego, Havarti, Cheddar, and especially Bleu, but with my food intolerance, the only cheese I can indulge in is kesong puti, a local soft white cheese made from carabao milk.
Personally, I found breakfasts to be the most challenging meal of the day to adjust to, since I usually either have a bowl of cornflakes (which will always contain wheat + dairy), a bowl of granola (which will always contain one or two grains + dairy), or sit down to a Full English on weekends (which always has eggs and is eaten with toast). Nowadays, my first meal of the day consists of a bowl of chia seeds steeped in soy milk with a few drops of vanilla extract that I put in the fridge before I go to bed, an assortment of chopped up fruit (whatever I have at home – living on a tropical island has its perks), and drizzle of honey for sweetness. The clean eating leaves me with a lot more energy to go about my day, and I noticed the bloating and gas is gone, too.
Have I been able to stick to my diet change 100%? Of course not. But that’s okay. You’ll find yourself hanging out with friends and they may be in the mood for pizza and soda, and you don’t want to be the girl that goes, “Do they have salads at Pizza Hut?” Indulge a little bit, but then go back to your routine and set meal plan the next day.
I welcomed the new year with a resolution I am planning to keep – to change my lifestyle for the better, starting with my diet, and to get my metabolic age down to my actual age or younger. This started with changing my diet and eliminating food that would harm rather than help my body. The next step at LifeScience is to undergo a Micronutrient Test to analyze how much of each vitamin and mineral my body is actually absorbing, the results will be the basis for my doctor create personalized supplements for me to take that have been tailor-fit to my genetics. Once the healing has started, I can start on an exercise plan to get myself back to fighting form.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this journey, it’s that the road to a healthier and better you is anything but easy, but with LifeScience, one can easily understand the science behind the changes that have to be made, making for a smoother, more manageable transition.
LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine is located on the 8th floor of the ACCRA Law Tower on 2nd Avenue Corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig an is open between Monday to Saturday from 7am – 8pm. For inquiries about their various services or to book a consultation, please call +63 2 828 5433 or +63 917 573 5433.