When I was asked, a couple weeks ago, to write a breakdown of the nutrition perspective that I followed, a laid out step-by-step how-to for removing prescription medication (which I did in 2015), I felt absolute hesitation. I have had some major trolls surrounding this topic, none of whom actually could use the information I am sharing, but all of whom believe that nutrition advice should only come from humans with a few letters behind their name and a hefty student loan debt from eight years in school.
Here are my facts:
- I am a normal human being who battled Rheumatoid Arthritis using daily prescription medication from early 2011 until late 2015.
- I have lost over 125 pounds naturally, and I wholeheartedly believe that our health is the biggest gift we can ever possess.
That being said, I also have switched careers and use my story to help other humans live a healthier life. I provide online accountability in mindset, nutrition, and fitness. I have been on a mission to transform ME for years, and that eventually led to me being inspired enough to take it public. I coach women in the online space after careers in both culinary arts and education. I have decorated the most beautiful cakes, baked the best bread pudding, and taught three-year-olds how to sit through a snack time while wiping tears that fall on their cheeks after a tumble off the slide. I have been a chef and a teacher. And, now I bring both of those skills briefcases to the world of virtual wellness coaching.
So, the big asterisk here is that I am not a licensed anything (except birth-5 teacher and pastry chef), but I speak with sincere transparency that healing is possible if your passion for the overall target you are aiming at is sky high and unwavering…it can falter, just don’t let it fizzle.
Autoimmune warriors “slip into my DMs” all the time to ask me to describe, step-by-step, how I removed rheumatoid arthritis prescriptions over 239 weeks ago, and the answer is not as simple as a combined food list to hand to you.
Healing is never linear. Healing is so personal. And, healing has many, many layers.
This is my attempt to break down a very simple glimpse into the process of maneuvering a body that is out of control with inflammation from the three-pronged overview of mind, body, and soul. I have found that my story is not complete without addressing all three. For the sake of time, this post will be limited to “body,” but I wanted to note the other two areas for anyone who is seriously considering a different course of disease management. It is a potential avoidance of frustration in your future if you dive into each area significantly.
When I get asked about managing disease with nutrition, I hear a lot of different myths about how I live, so let’s clear those up first:
- Weight loss does not make any disease “go away.” As much as I wish losing over 125 pounds made my battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis less painful, the truth is, it didn’t change anything about the joint pain. Overall, my knees and feet (which were never affected by RA) felt less stress, but the pain I felt in my hands and wrists continued like any other Thursday…there was no change as the scale dropped in numbers.
- I have never entirely removed animal products or only eaten plant-based. I believe that eating plant-based is wonderful, as long as you are eating whole foods and not relying on many processed options, however, I will not be addressing this any further, as this is not how I have been able to remove my personal medication and live pain-free.
- I have never followed a keto-style diet, or high fat, low carbohydrate eating plan. I eat food and enjoy all food groups, I do not believe in restricting any one food group because I feel this has more detriment to our psyche than it is worth on the scale. I have a philosophy with nutrition that food is neither good or bad, but I also have a very simple definition of what constitutes “food.” Ingredients are more important to my philosophy of eating than overall macro-nutrients. Eating high quantities of fat has never been something I am interested in, so again, I will not deny the effects this may have on weight loss or overall disease activity, but it is not something I can personally share about in my story.
- I have no shame in supplementation. I live in a region of the United States with very little local fresh produce. While I am very blessed to have readily available fresh produce/food at local stores, the local nutrients that can provide meaningful biology to boost my immune system is just not there (not to mention, we have a very limited summer season), so I rely on a blend of supplements to help boost my personal biology, gut health, immunity, and energy. Many elimination diets frown on this. I made this a non-negotiable from day one of attempting to eliminate inflammation, and it proved very beneficial in my disease management (and a few others I have coached through this process).
- I lived and breathed this process for a lot longer than 30 days. Many elimination diets/programs have a 30 day period that you follow the plan, then slowly reintroduce foods to see how they react in your body. I did not do that. I just kept going with the eliminated lifestyle and it worked wonders. I will say that “determined” is an understatement. I want to highlight this because healing is not for the faint of heart, the impatient, or the dilly-dallying. You must be in for the long haul and have a spirit of investigation. Becoming a detective in your body is going to prove fruitful. Stay the course.
Now, let’s get to why we are all actually here, shall we?
The topic of nutrition is way too overcomplicated. For just a minute, humor me and set aside some (or all, especially if the information is detrimental) of the thangs you have been taught about food. Food is simple. Food is nourishment. Food is fuel for our moving body, our functioning organs, our day to day life.
If I can give you anything to chew on, please hear me when I say that we (especially in the U.S.) are programmed to crave. We are programmed to desire and long for foods. We are taught that sweet and salty must be included in our diets, and we have lost all touch with the reality of what true sweetness from food’s natural state tastes like. I would love to wave my wand over your nutrition mindset right now, as you read this, and help you know that you do have the power inside of you to overcome anything that you are currently playing as a story between your ears when it comes to changing your nutrition. Hold onto that empowerment. You are more than well-able. And, because you have read this far, and are still reading on, you will do whatever you decide to do. LET’SSSSSS GOOOOOOOOO!!!
Okay, so if food is fuel, then we can deduce that our local grocery stores, convenience stores, and food suppliers have a big discrepancy between the actual fuel that does our bodies amazingly well, and the chemically-processed and created foods that line much of our store shelves. Please understand that my approach is probably harsh, only in that I am not going to slowly tear off your band-aid. That sucker has to go. So, let’s pretend for a minute that we are shopping at your local grocery store. You have a few major departments that are valuable and worth noting and shopping from frequently.
- Fresh produce
- Eggs and dairy (I say dairy very lightly, it is a whole other beast)
- Frozen vegetables and protein
- Dried goods like raw nuts, seeds, and healthy fats
- *Note: I am not including *most* processed foods in this list of necessities. These are specific inflammation triggers that have been researched, shared, and listed in many different books you can research and look into yourself. This is my approach!!
Looking at the grocery store from the perspective of the list above, you can be fairly sure that your ingredients lists are short and minimal, which is what we want. You can also be sure that you are getting quality sources of whole foods. Think of the food you are buying — is it available in its most natural state, or closely related (frozen without additives)? This is the main goal.
Eating a whole food diet in every meal will bring about natural inflammation relief. The foods that I initially eliminated for a planned 30 days included:
- Grains (whole or processed, these were a huge trigger for me)
- Legumes (including peanuts/peanut butter)
- Dairy of all kinds (believe me, you can survive!)
- Added sugars and sweeteners (again, I know you can survive!)
- Alcohol (this never bothered me, but mind over matter!)
- Additives, preservatives, food chemicals, think fake ingredients that you cannot pronounce — if it is created in a lab, it is not food!
If you just rolled your eyes ALLLLL the way into the back of your head and told yourself that it is not possible, I am your soul sister. This list came my way about six months before I actually looked at it again and took on the challenge. I was not about it the first time I read through the elimination process. No bread, no sugar, no dairy, no candy, no FUN!Except, that was my food mindset speaking.
I was heavily addicted to sugar, processed foods, and focusing on food as an emotional experience instead of eating what my body actually needed to survive, thrive, and heal. If you can make this swap, you can find healing. I am convinced. I have done it. I have watched others do it. It is possible, so please do not stop because that list scares you. Unpack why it makes you uncomfortable, and see where the emotions around food lie for you. NO shame. Food is not an emotion. Your worth is not reliant on the weight, food, or pain you feel. You are amazing just as you are right now. We are just going to keep that light shining brighter and brighter with a little bit more healing in the wings!
Like I mentioned in the bullets above, weight loss is amazing, but has little effect on the pain levels, inflammation, or overall disease activity, so I would truly recommend you take this challenge on with the focus of healing pain above weight loss. Do not allow this to turn into a diet for “diet culture” purposes. You will be losing inflammation which brilliantly changes bloating, water retention, and swelling — this will naturally bring about slight weight loss as a bonus, not the main goal. I want to leave you with these nuggets to ruminate on.
In my virtual coaching program, I go a lot deeper into these lists, what to buy, what to avoid, what to actually do, how to eliminate trigger foods, how to supplement, how to incorporate exercise, the role of water and sleep, and the mindset around healing (emotional healing, soul healing, and body healing).
For the purposes here, I will leave you with this. Food is a mindset that you can have powerful results in. You can do any of the things you want to do. Healing is necessary and it is possible. I will say that no two bodies are the same, so your approach may include some tweaking to fit your needs. That is the space I provide with my wellness clients. It is powerful to hear their testimony after applying these principles. And, if I have the opportunity to celebrate a fellow warrior lessening their medication dosages or removing medication altogether, it is just the cherry on top.
Feeling good is not reserved for special people. I believe we all deserve to live pain-free and in freedom of enjoying our lives without the complications that autoimmune disease brings about. I was given this fight to show the world what is possible, will you be the next warrior to prove it, too?
I have given you a huge piece to chew, here, and I definitely understand it can be fairly overwhelming to walk through an overhaul. I am available by email firstname.lastname@example.org or at nickyandspice.com and on all social media platforms as @nickyandspice.