I’m now a month in, with a month to go. To be honest, I’m amazed I’ve got this far. I think a big thing in my favour is that I live and work alone, and have done for fourteen years, so I don’t have to worry about cooking two different meals, or expecting someone else to cook two different meals, or be tempted by what people in the office are having for lunch, or having to turn down trips to the pub after work. Compared to the distractions many other Elimination Dieters have to contend with – family meal times, colleagues bringing in cake, feeding the kids and not thieving off their plates etc – I’ve got it pretty easy.
I think most writers are solitary creatures, we have to be if we’re to get anything done. It takes intense concentration to put yourself in that zone to be able to create other worlds out of nothing but your own imagination, it doesn’t just ‘happen’, so my set-up is the perfect environment for me on a number of levels – and it’s definitely helped me stick to ‘the regime’.
I am getting more creative, too. I figured out what to do with the butternut squash, finally (roast it or make soup), and it’s fast become my new favourite food, despite it scaring the hell out of me when I first bought it. Beetroot, however, well I need it to make my tomato-free marinara sauce but, beyond that, it’s a bit useless, and it stinks.
I’ve stuck rigidly to the plan, I haven’t deviated once, so it was a bit upsetting to wake up on Tuesday and feel two very tender lumps appear from nowhere. Over the course of the day, they got more delicate and there was no ignoring them. I’m a calm person by nature, I don’t get panicked over stuff, but I was definitely feeling anxious, wondering if all this was for nothing, and these buggers were just going to plague me forever. The next day, I woke up to five new, and very sore, blisters. What was happening? I pored over the journal I keep, which details everything from what food I’m eating and the times I eat them, to what my mood’s like, any tired spells, sleep patterns, everything – I have to be scientific about this if I’m to spot any patterns, both good and bad. But I couldn’t find a single flag that might perhaps give me a clue as to why I was flaring up.
Then it occurred to me that it could be the supplements I was taking. After all, a zinc tablet doesn’t just contain zinc, it contains all kinds of other things to make it into the pill it ends up as – fillers, bulkers, shapers etc. Could there be an erroneous ingredient in one of the many supplements I was taking, which was triggering this attack? I did as much research as I could, but I think in the back of my mind I knew it was nothing to do with the supplements, because I’ve been on them since early December, so it would be unusual for there to be a reaction now.
Then I thought about washing powder. I tend to buy whatever’s on offer, to be honest, and don’t really pay much attention. I’d bought a new one that week, had done a wash on the Sunday, and by Tuesday (when I’d flared) I was wearing clothes that had been washed in that detergent. I looked at the packet – it was Surf gel pouches with ylang ylang – pleasant enough – although I did notice the stuff was Biological, whereas I’d normally go for a Non-Bio. Because Bio is bad, right? Or so we’re led to believe. But as I did my research, I discovered the opposite is true. All the marketing tells us that Non-Bio detergent is kinder to our skin, and the environment, but it’s not. The main difference between the two is that Biological detergent has enzymes in it which help break down dirt, whereas Non-Bio doesn’t. It’s long been peddled that Non-Bio is kinder to the skin, because the nasty enzymes in Biological can cause rashes and irritation. But there have been intensive studies done on this very question, involving a wide range of people from eczema sufferers to babies, and there was absolutely no indication that Biological detergent caused any kind of skin irritation. Of course, we may be allergic to several other chemicals in washing powders, and I know some people are sensitive to certain detergents, but it’s not the enzymes causing that problem. Also, the same enzymes only need low temperatures to start working , whereas Non-Bio products need much hotter water to work. So most of us think we’re saving the planet by washing at 30 degrees, but if we’re using a Non-Bio detergent, then our clothes aren’t getting very clean at all and are probably breeding harmful bacteria as we speak… (I’m sticking to Bio from now on, after learning that lot!).
So I discounted the Surf as being the reason for my flare, and was back to square one. By Thursday, the two lumps had definitely receded, which I’d never experienced before in such a short space of time. Usually when I flare up, it’s for weeks. So to feel the first two lumps almost disappear within 48 hours was encouraging, if weird. It didn’t make sense. This wasn’t how it happened. The other ones, the blisters, were still there, stubborn and sore.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to ask the experts. There’s a fantastic online community of HS sufferers, who are always on hand, day and night, to offer help and advice to one another as we all plod along on our own individual journeys. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, you can sense the desperation and pain in their words as they type. But it’s also an uplifting place to visit because I know these guys can empathise with what’s happening – they’ve been there. I call them – with 100% affection – “The Coven”, because they always seem to come up with a magic answer I’d never have thought of. They’re my friendly bunch of good witches who always know just what to say when you really need to hear it. So I asked the question – what can be causing such a strong flare when I’ve followed the ED to the letter for a whole month?
Holding my breath as I waited for a response, I couldn’t help but think of the worst case scenario – that nothing was going to help me and I was stuck with this forever. I knew this Elimination Diet was the last throw of the dice for me, there was nothing left to try.
Within an hour, the replies had come thick and fast, and the vast majority of them were all saying the same thing: your body is going through a drastic change, it’s having to adjust entirely to what you’re putting into it. There’s a lot of toxins inside you which are yet to expel themselves, and this halfway stage is the time it starts to do that. There’s a reason why the ED is a 60-day plan, not a 30-day plan. You’re flaring because your body is pushing out the poison. It doesn’t happen to everyone but it’s not unusual if it’s happening to you. Stay on schedule.
Hearing that was more than a relief, it was invigorating, like I’d been given a second chance at life. It’s been a few days now since the eruption. The lumps are all but gone, but the blisters are still inflamed, and I’m hoping they go down soon, as the last thing I want to do right now is have to go on more meds for an infection – which would nullify everything I’m trying to do here.
So it’s going to be a week of crossed fingers and slow walking, just praying that there’s a turnaround soon. I can always console myself with my new culinary creations. This week I’ve made Salmon, Carrot & Sweet Potato Broth, Salt & Pepper Chicken in Butternut Squash & Garlic Sauce, and Banana Smoothies with Coconut Milk.
I also seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in TJ Hughes’ Homewares section, poring over stuff like stock pots, slow cookers and vegetable slicers. Seriously, every day I’m out on my walk, I seem to gravitate towards London Road where I think to myself “oh, might as well pop into TJ’s and see if they have a random kitchen item I haven’t bought yet”. I even bought an oven glove the other day. I’ve never possessed one, ever. Next, it’ll be kitten-shaped tea towel holders, or a lime green silicone trivet. I know! What’s a trivet?!
I am learning so much…
Oh, and I lost over 2lbs this week – bonus!
Average daily calorie intake: 1056
Energy level: 8/10
HS severity: 8/10 (booo…)
Weight loss: 2.25lb
Total weight loss (28 days): 8.25lbs