My Health Journey so far - Week 8

My intention to update my blog every week did not go to plan :) As usual right?! The last few months have been a real rollercoaster of emotions as I’ve tried to find a diet and lifestyle that works for me. I want to feel well, I want to have energy and be full of life and also I really want to not have to worry about what my skin looks like.

Anyone who suffers from acne or a skin condition knows that it can take a toll on your emotional and physical wellbeing; the energy spent researching remedies and products to improve it, the worrying about how you will look in photos or at a big event, the hours of researching health issues that might be causing it - it all adds up and can become a big part of your life. That is how I’ve felt at times the last few months and I look forward to a time when I won’t wake up and one of the first things I question is what kind of state is my face in today.

There have been a lot of learnings and things I’ve been trying that have helped and I want to share a few here:

Label checking doesn’t just apply to food

In my last post I mentioned chip-gate - the time my boyfriend accidentally fed me tortilla chips cooked in Soy oil (reminder: I have food intolerances to Soy and Sugar, recently discovered by my naturopath). The week after that happened I had a huge cystic acne outbreak that lasted at least a week, which I definitely attribute to the Soy chips (as I’ve been mostly clear since and I’ve been able to track a lot of my biggest outbreaks over the last 6 months to heavy consumption of soy). In the days after I ate the chips, I had a niggle in the back of my mind. Something was telling me that there were other hidden soy/sugar dangerous in my life that I hadn’t found yet. I started checking labels around the house and checked my vitamins, only to find that the Vitamin D I’d started taking after my diagnosis used soybean oil as the carrier oil! I was so shocked but also grateful that I’d realized. I’d been taking those little soy pills every day since my last naturopath visit and I couldn’t understand why my skin had been getting worse, despite cutting out sugar and soy…that might explain it! I worked with my naturopath to find a soy-free Vitamin D brand and now I check labels a lot more rigorously, even things like the melatonin gummies I had for trouble sleeping contained both Sugar and Soy!

The offending Soy-based Vitamins!

The offending Soy-based Vitamins!

At home, I now feel like I’m doing well soy and sugar free. Eating out is a different story, as I often want to try to ‘guess’ which dishes are soy and sugar free only to later worry about it. Now, with the help and encouragement from my boyfriend, I’ve started asking my server at the outset what I can and cannot eat. It means they usually have to go and speak with the chef, but mostly it’s been fine. My boyfriend pointed out to me that my orders of “tea with Almond milk’ are likely containing sweetened Almond Milk (sugar) so now I have to ask if the Almond milk contains sugar at the outset.

It’s all a learning curve and each week I feel like I’m learning something new and getting more and more rigorous about excluded my intolerances from my diet completely.

Different kinds of help

Did I mention the This Magic Life space is beautiful! I love going there.

Did I mention the This Magic Life space is beautiful! I love going there.

The last two months I’ve also enlisted in the help of a facialist to help me with my skin. I’ve never particularly thought that facials helped me - I’ve had one-off facials in the past and felt like the extractions did more harm than good - but with my new resolution to not pick (sometimes that goes better than other times) I started feeling like having regular extractions and a skincare routine that’s been vetted by a professional would help me stay on track. I found This Magic Life in San Francisco completely by chance - I confided in a friend that I needed help from an acne specialist and she happened to walk past This Magic Life and saw the tarot cards in the window and suggested we go check it out. After buying a gorgeous tarot deck, Sally, one of the aestheticians, came to talk to us and asked if we were interested in facials - my friend couldn’t believe the serendipity!

I’ve had two facials with Sally so far (one a month) and am going to be upping to 2 a month if possible for the next few months. I really feel like the facials are making a big difference in helping to get rid of the build up in my skin. Sally has also put me on a skincare routine that includes nightly exfoliation which is brand new for me and I think is also helping. Highly recommend her work - she made me feel comfortable from the very start and I’ve been able to open up to her a lot about my struggles with my skin and skin-picking which has felt really liberating for me. She is an acne expert and makes be feel very supported - I heart Sally !

Intuitive Eating

A few weeks after I found out about my intolerances I decided that I wanted to switch up the restrictions on my diet (previously plant-based and gluten free, now soy and sugar free too). I was finding it impossible to eat out and was finding it hard to find enough variety in my meals. Plus, I think I just decided that I didn’t want to live a life with so many rules around food. I decided to incorporate eggs and fish and see how it went. I really LOVED eating eggs again, so much so that I was finding myself eating 4 or 5 a day. Unfortunately, around this time my skin started getting a lot worse (may have been due to the vitamins in hindsight) so I decided to pull back on eating eggs until I felt like my skin was more stable, then to reincorporate them slowly.

I’m still not eating eggs, but I am eating fish and meat once or twice a week. Plus, although I’ve done enough research on the impact of gluten on the gut to make me want to avoid eating gluten regularly, I have eaten gluten a few times without any side effects. It does feel odd stepping away from the vegan label I’ve stood behind for 18 months, however my body is feeling much better and I am enjoying the freedom of not worrying so much about eating out, knowing I’ll find an option that will work for me. When people ask me now about my diet preferences I explain it’s like a pyramid, at the top are the non-negotiables (no Soy, no Sugar) and then there are the ‘would rather avoid’ (gluten and dairy), then there’s the sometimes (meat, fish, eggs) and then there is 90% of my diet (vegetables, grains, nuts, fruit).

My morning GF oatmeal with berries and hemp seeds - the best way to start the day!

My morning GF oatmeal with berries and hemp seeds - the best way to start the day!

I’ve been navigating my new-found freedom with my diet through trying to practice intuitive eating - which basically involves we taking a mindful moment to myself to ask “what do you want to eat”. As we are in fall/winter in SF, I have been really craving hot oatmeal with fruit in the mornings and have had that every morning for about 3 weeks straight. I will keep it up until it no longer feels aligning and then I’ll try something else. Nothing is off limits (except soy and sugar!) and I do my best not to give any space to thoughts of what I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be eating. If i want it and it tastes good - I eat it!

I have been seeing some improvement in my skin over the last few weeks though I still feel as though I have a way to go. I don’t currently have any cystic acne which I am grateful for and I’m doing my best to avoid touching and picking my skin - that still remains a challenge for me but talking about it with my boyfriend and friends has helped me a lot. I am not longer so ashamed of my habitual behavior and I know that habits CAN be broken, so I’m working hard to notice the moments when I feel most compelled to pick and I’m working on affirmations and distraction tactics to try to break the pattern.

I’ll be back for another update soon.