The past three months I’ve been transitioning into a pescetarian lifestyle. Being the carnivore that I am, it’s been a struggle. You may ask why is she doing this then? Back in April I had a health scare. I was having lower back pain where I felt like my lower back was being crushed while doing certain activities. While resting from CrossFit, I had x-rays and blood work taken. My chiropractor and primary care doctor both told me that my lower back looked like it was for a much older person. It looked degenerative. Awesome right. And blood work showed I was ANA+ giving my PCP the conclusion that I had early onset arthritis. I’ll get back to that.
From that point, I decided to make changes in my diet. Not that I ever ate that terrible in the first place, but I knew I had room for improvement. Thinking I had arthritis, I researched online the foods that caused inflammation throughout the body and the foods that reduced inflammation. Of course all my favorites cause inflammation: red meat, dairy, wheat protein, sugar, fried foods, caffeine, and alcohol. I had read articles in Runner’s World of elite athletes becoming vegetarians and vegans, and not only did it improve their lifestyle but fueled them to become better runners. There must be something to these anti-inflammatory foods after all. I had toyed with the idea of vegetarianism in the past because I don’t like chicken, turkey, and pork anyways. But with my recent health report, it was exactly the push I needed to change my diet and take it to a new level.
So you might be asking what is a pescetarian? According to wikipedia, “pescetarianism is the practice of a diet that includes seafood, but not the flesh of other animals. A pescetarian diet shares many of its components with a vegetarian diet and includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs, and dairy, but unlike a vegetarian diet also includes fish and shellfish.”
I absolutely love dairy, but I’ve been decreasing the amount of dairy in my diet. The only time I have skim milk now is if it’s in my protein shake, oatmeal, or cereal. I used to drink at least two glasses a day. I’m a lover of cheese, so instead of eating chunks of it out of the fridge, I only have it on salads or entrees I’m cooking. And of course, I still eat my greek yogurt.
As for the grains, I’ve been experimenting with gluten free products. I’ve had quinoa and brown rice pasta, and gluten free bread and cupcakes. I’m used to eating whole wheat spaghetti two times a week, so this was definitely a huge change for me. I struggle with it because I love pasta and I need the carbs to support my training. When I took out wheat products completely for a few weeks, I felt weak during my workouts. So I’ve kept in whole grain bread with honey only before workouts and I’ve noticed my speed and endurance improving with the added carbs. I feel more energized. Quinoa is another story, I’m struggling to make it taste good. So please send me suggestions.
I’ve always loved fruits and veggies, so eating more of them hasn’t been an issue, especially since I juice every morning. I know I’m getting more than enough of my nutrients in the fruit and veggie category. Plus, I’ve started experimenting with veggies that I normally don’t eat such as portabello mushrooms, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts – which I have a new love for.
The biggest struggle is red meat. I love red meat, and I love it juicy and bloody. I love filet mignon, burgers, and meatloaf. Previously, I ate red meat two to three times a week, maybe more. It’s been a slow process to remove red meat. I’ve been gradually taking it out of my diet. Right now, I probably eat it once a week, which is a big step for me. I try to save it for the weekend when we go out to dinner. Then it’s like a treat for being extra healthy all week. Again, I don’t really like chicken, turkey, and pork so it was super easy taking those out. Since I’m not getting the protein from traditional meats like before, I’ve increased my seafood during the week. We used to make fish once a week. Now I have fish or seafood three times a week. I’ve also increased my intake of protein shakes and bars, and I’m getting small amounts of protein in nuts and quinoa.
I’ve definitely noticed a change in my body since my pescetarian diet. I’ve leaned out a lot. I have long lean muscles and less body fat. And I’ve dropped a pant size. I’ve always been a size 2, but now I’m a size 0. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but it’s an added bonus of a healthier lifestyle. To keep myself accountable, I started a food journal online three months ago to track everything I’m eating. I’m not being obsessive by recording my calorie and fat intake. Just simply recording what I’m eating and how much. It allows me to look back each day and see what I ate and how I felt afterwards.
I’m not saying this journey has been easy and I still have a long ways to go, but overall I like the changes I’ve made. I’m healthier, I’m leaner, and overall, I just feel better. Every now and then I still have my binge day where I’m craving a McDonald’s chicken nugget meal or a steakburger, fries, and milkshake from Steak ‘N Shake (I’m a french fry freak). And I give in 50% of the time, which is better than 100%. Baby steps.
On another note, I finally had my rheumatology appointment earlier this week. And the conclusion is that I’m in a gray area. The rheumatologist thinks that my ANA test was either a false positive (hooray!) or that it was related to my kidney disease that I had when I was six. As far as my lower back is concerned, he has differing opinions than my PCP. He thinks instead of arthritis, it could be from overuse. Hmmm overuse of my lower back at age 29? Then why did both my chiropractor and PCP think it was arthritis? He said based on my symptoms I don’t need further testing at this point in time. Just monitor my symptoms and decrease activity if it flares up. And there still is that possibility that my lower back looks degenerative from my high dose of steroids from my kidney disease or from falling in soccer. Sometime in the near future, I’ll get a bone density scan to see if the steroids affected my bone development. At least it’s not lupus or some other autoimmune disease that I was terrified of. So at this point, I’m okay with being in a a gray area. And I look at it as a blessing in disguise because it was just the scare that I needed to to kick start myself into a healthier lifestyle.