(General) Thoughts on Our Fertility Diet

I am still in a state of shock about Mi.Vida’s results and I will admit to having several breakdowns over the last 24 hours. Mi.Vida and I also had a hard conversation and I will admit feeling a deep gratitude that I know so much about infertility and the differences between how men and women process their grief, or I’d be writing a very upset, ranty post right now.

Instead I’m going to write a little about this diet and what I have noticed about the general state of food in general, and in my life. I’m doing this because I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I’m also doing it because it lends an air of normalcy to things that I really need right now. I’m not quite sure yet how to process the fact that we have such slim chances of conceiving on our own (1-3%) and that we don’t feel comfortable spending what little money we have on a one-time-20%-chance of getting pregnant. So instead of tackling that shit show, I’ll write about this diet.

This is what I’ve learned in the past month of avoiding sugar, wheat and dairy.

EVERYTHING is sweetened

It is really hard to avoid sugar and it’s variations (high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc). It’s in EVERYTHING. We were drinking “Original” Almond Milk for three weeks before I saw there was an “Unsweetened” version of the same thing and realized the one we had been drinking was sweetened. You have to specifically find unsweetened versions of most things, even coconut milk. Reading labels is REALLY important; you can never assume.

You Get Used to It

I never realized how sweet everything was until I stopped eating sweetened foods. About a week after I started the diet I treated myself to a small cup of “hot cider” (unfiltered apple juice microwaved with a cinnamon stick) and I almost couldn’t drink it; the sweetness of it was overpowering. After moving to the unsweetened almond milk, the regular original stuff tastes too saccharine. Once you stop eating sugar, you realize notice when something is sweet.

Eating Vegetarian/Vegan without Wheat and Soy is HARD

Vegan and vegetarian dishes fall back on wheat products, like bread and pasta, a lot. It’s hard to cut out both dairy and wheat the same time, especially when you can’t fall back on soy substitutes for dairy. We’re also getting sick of chicken pretty quickly but finding other meats (lamb is recommended on this diet) very expensive. Ideally we’d like to be eating more vegetarian meals but again, it’s hard to find them when we can’t have pasta (rice pasta is just awful, we pretty much refuse to eat it). It can be hard to find new and interesting recipes that meet our qualifications.

Eating Healthy is SPENDY

It’s no surprised that eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is expensive. Eating cruelty free meat and eggs is even more so. Our grocery bill has skyrocketed on this diet and cutting down on take out (we only get our favorite Thai food every couple of weeks) has not made up for how much we’re spending at Whole Paycheck. Every week we bring down the cost some more, but the prices of this kind of food is just higher. It’s definitely going to be hard for us to maintain this level of good eating for a prolonged period of time, especially while our local farmers markets are closed for the winter.

Eating Healthy Takes Time

The other major change for us has been how much time eating this way requires. Gone are the days of the frozen pizza and the box of mac n’ cheese (which has literally NOTHING we can eat in it). Making everything from scratch–even when we do “cheat” and use canned diced tomatoes or black beans–requires a shit ton of time. It also requires a shit ton of clean up. We’ve had to make radical changes in how we do things to accomodate how much more time we’re spending cooking. We also have to make big portions of everything so we can take the left overs to work for lunch, because it’s almost impossible to eat out and follow the guidelines.

Eating out (or with others) is a CHALLENGE

Most restaurants do not have something on the menu to accomodate our diet. Asian cuisines like Chinese and Thai food are great because they have lots of dishes, though it’s hard to know if the sauces comply. We’re not following the restrictions so rigidly that we avoid eating out completely, we just do it sparingly. It’s also really hard when you’re out with people or eating at someone’s house. Luckily we don’t do either much and our parents, who we are most likely to join for a meal, are very supportive and accommodating. I would guess that when we are invited to someone’s house for a social event we’ll have to bring our own dishes. It’s also really hard to get together socially without drinking beer or coffee. Mi.Vida finds this to be really challenging and basically avoids any scenarios where he’d be the only sober participant. It makes me sad but I understand why he choose to not go instead of go and stay sober. I think that is much harder for men.

There Are Definite Benefits

Eating this way definitely has it’s positives. For one, we’re both losing weight. I’ve probably lost about seven pounds in less than a month, and that is with no portion control–I eat as much of everything I want (even walnuts, which are my go-to snack). Mi.Vida has lost even more. There is definitely something about sugar/wheat/dairy that packs on the pounds. This diet has also helped regulate my IBS symptoms, I’m now very regular and I rarely have any intestinal distress. I have also noticed much less mucous/sinus congestion, which has always plagued me. In fact, I think this diet has helped me rid my speech of this awful sound I make at the end of some sentences (mostly when I’m nervous or think something is funny–I make this sound like Ernie laughing). It’s hard to tell if it is gone because those who know me (and me myself) don’t even hear it much anymore. (I should ask my 8th grader, they could tell me.) I also wonder if my general allergy symptoms will be better on this diet. I will soon find out, as spring is right around the corner.

All in all, I find this diet to be pretty manageable. Mi.Vida is having a harder time, but he’s sticking with it. I hope it gets easier as we learn more varied recipes that we enjoy and that don’t require a ton of prep time. And of course, I hope this diet has the desired affect and helps our reproductive systems get back on track (or at least closer to the track).

I hope to write more about my more personal experience with this diet soon. Until then, healthy eating!

11 responses

  1. I wrote an article a while back on vegetarian gluten-free meals – some of these need to be modified to be dairy free, but see if any of these work: http://gluten.lovetoknow.com/Vegetarian_Gluten_Free_Meals

    You may also want to try this one to liven up the chicken a little: http://gluten.lovetoknow.com/gluten-free-chicken-recipes

    Good luck – I’ve been on this diet since September and gluten free for about two years as well. It does get easier with time.

  2. I’ve always been fascinated at the connection between health (physical and mental) and diet. I just read the latest story on Mark’s Daily Apple about a woman who beat her long-time eating disorder WITH FOOD. So cool. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/a-journey-towards-self-discovery-and-self-love/#axzz2JqgVHbrQ
    It can be a lot more expensive to eat healthy, but there are a few ways to save – we are part of a farm coop and buy directly from the farmer, and have a chest freezer so we can buy in bulk when they offer. I’m part of another buying club, where we pay at least 30% less on other stuff like nuts, dry goods, soaps and other beauty products, etc. You should look into clubs in your area – they’re everywhere!
    Wheat (and gluten in general) is toxic for so many people – I’m happy you and Mi Vida are both seeing results on this diet! Purely anecdotal, but my sis and her husband, after ttc their second over 5 years, got pregnant after one year gluten and corn free. Her husband has virtually no sperm (seriously, like less than 1 million) and she has one blocked tube, and that was the only change they made since they couldn’t afford any type of treatment or acupuncture. So…anything is possible, I think.

  3. I am a strong believer in our health being tied to what we eat. We went almost completely Paleo in our house (which is very, very similar to what you’re doing) for 3 months and we were both the healthiest we’d been in a long time. We felt good, we had more energy, we just felt “cleaner.” When we gave up dairy completely several years ago for several months, all signs of allergies went away. It’s amazing – and I truly believe that what you’re doing is going to benefit you in SO MANY ways!

    I’m excited for you! Isn’t it fun losing weight without any effort or thought about that, in particular? Cut the gluten, cut the dairy, (and cut stupid meats like bacon and the such) and you’re left with nothing but things that are good for you! It feels so good!

    I hope this helps things for both of you in regards to fertility. B was just telling me about something he’d read on reddit that linked Paleo to an increase in testosterone and an increase in semen quality (I had no idea he was reading about such things!). I find this all so interesting!

    Good on you for sticking to it!

  4. I hear ya on all counts (except on losing weight, which I haven’t done lately). As for the expense, I really liked this quote from Robyn O’Brien, whom I heard speak about clean (non-GMO) foods: “You can manage your health at the grocery store or you can manage your disease at the hospital.”

    I admire how well you’re doing this!

  5. I’m trying to eat more “cleanly,” too … we eat pretty healthy here, and I have never been a big wheat/dairy eater (except baked goods), but I’ve been cutting out pretty much everything and for the most part eating vegan with no wheat or processed flours, in an attempt to manage my weight gain. Whole rice, whole oats, whole farro, etc. My husband and son won’t do it, though, so it definitely complicates cooking, which — agreed — takes time. Hang in there. If nothing else, I hope you will begin to feel better.

  6. Gotta agree with everything you say here about the diet!! I’m not sure if you’re doing the same one I am, but it sounds very similar if not exactly the same. Eating out is so hard! Chipotle has good options and panera has a secret menu with options. It was a definite adjustment, but my taste buds quickly adjusted and the crappy foods I was eating just taste terrible now.

    The non soy- non dairy non wheat thing is really difficult at first. I’ve been doing a lot of stews / soups. Polenta, lots of rice. A lot of squash or egg plant as filling sides. or mains (I think tonight I might do an eggplant parm sans parm! it turns out pretty good). I still have yet to buy lamb, even though I like it, it’s expensive and impossible to find. I’ve been doing grass-fed beef once every two weeks or so.

    Hope you get in the groove soon! I don’t mind the rice pasta, though it is a bit different.

  7. I think it’s wonderful that you two are doing this diet. My husband and both daughters have food allergies, and due to breastfeeding I also cut out the allergens from my diet – gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, and flax. I lost weight and found that my PCOS symptoms are better controlled now. I also credit the diet with getting pregnant with my second daughter 🙂 Sometimes what seems like a curse can also be a blessing in disguise.

  8. My daughter is dairy intolerant and having never been exposed to any kind of ‘special’ diets before I found it incredibly hard to figure out what to feed my kid. I bring food for her where ever we go, I can’t depend on dairy free options. I can’t imagine cutting out wheat and soy as well! Good for you for sticking with this!

  9. I am so impressed that you are doing this diet, and thank you for all the points you made. I am determined once we eat all these damn casseroles people keep bringing us (ha) that I am going to really get serious about healthy eating. You are inspiring me!

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