It seems like everyone needs a bit of a reset button come January, and a New Year’s resolution pertaining to health, fitness and weight loss goals are more ubiquitous than the empty glass juice bottles found backstage during Fashion Week’s from New York to Sydney. I can’t claim to have resisted the holiday gluttonous spirit, and feeling sluggish, tired and a little puffy left me searching for an answer come January 1, too.
I’ve always leaned towards a more natural approach to diet, opting for full-fat, natural butter over chemically engineered alternatives. In the past, I’ve simply relied on counting calories to lose a few, as cutting out Coke Zero and McDonald’s has never been a thing for me since I don’t touch the stuff anyway. Atkins has never been the answer for me either; eating packaged bars with ingredients I can’t pronounce doesn’t jive well with my eating habits.
So in order to get myself in check, I got in touch with Dr. Renata Taravski, HBSc, ND Naturopathic Doctor. After I outlined my reasons for reaching out, she sent me an intake patient form via email to fill out and scan back, and we scheduled an appointment a few days later to go over everything. The forms discussed things like my personal and family health history, goals and main concerns, which were lack of energy, a few extra pounds and an unhappy complexion.
Having my lab work reviewed is part of Dr. Taravski’s Naturopathic assessment, which helps get a clear picture as to any underlying factors or imbalances that may be in the way of achieving my health and wellness goals. This is done via blood work, which Dr. Taravski requested me to get for my liver, thyroid, sex hormones, cholesterol, complete blood count, B12 status (vitamin plays a big role with energy and metabolism), vitamin D and ferritin (iron storage levels).
She also highly recommended I get a food intolerance test, which tests 120 foods. She routinely does this in private practice because SO many people (85%!) have food intolerances. There are clinical benefits of eliminating food intolerances (which 85 per cent of people have) from the diet, and the results she sees with patients are amazing”herself included.
Food intolerances can cause anything from migraines to fatigue to irritable bowel syndrome, and can be tricky to determine which food is responsible for the reaction without doing testing as food reactions take hours or days to develop. A simple finger prick draws blood, which Dr. Taravski analyzes and then goes over the results extensively, providing tools and resources to eliminate the reactive foods.
During our appointment, Dr. Taravski thoroughly went through a myriad of other questions, like what kinds of foods I eat and crave, digestion, bathroom, menstrual and sleep patterns, how my immune system is, what I’m allergic to, and my history of antibiotics. I learn that my love of chocolate could mean I have low blood sugar and magnesium levels, and my ostensible overuse of antibiotics has eradicated a lot of the good stuff in my gut. I find out I’m still recovering from this today, even though it’s been over a year since my last course.
I thought eating pickles, sauerkraut and Greek yogurt were good enough, but Dr. Taravski tells me some of these foods have yeast or are damp foods, which can contribute to my allergy suffering. To repair damage and help me reach my goals, I’m prescribed a two-week diet that cuts out dairy, which should help with my complexion as it’s full of hormones which is messing with my own biology; and gluten, sugar and alcohol to detox my liver and body. The diet was also supported with a prescription (which was emailed to me by the Doctor, filled online and shipped to my door in days!) for super high quality probiotics, fish oil and Vitamin D.
Wondering exactly what I was supposed to eat and avoid, Dr. Taravski sends me an email outlining what foods I can eat freely, which ones I should limit, and what to avoid. I was surprised to read that I am meant to limit my fruit intake to two servings a day; the purpose of this was to really reduce my sugar intake. I am also instructed to drink water with quarter lemon squeezed into it first thing in the morning, and rub castor oil on my abdomen nightly to further the detox process.
I have to admit it’s a little daunting looking over my diet plan; WTF am I going to eat? I had no idea balsamic vinegar has gluten in it?! The good Doctor sends me a few recipes, like black bean brownies and a chia pudding breakfast bowl, plus tells me Pinterest is a goldmine for gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free recipes and assures me I won’t starve.
I start with a trip to the grocery store, stocking up on nuts, seeds, fresh produce and a million lemons. I am supremely lucky to have the support and help of my classically French cuisine -trained husband who immediately whips up healthy homemade salad dressings, soups and stews to last me the better part of the week. After enjoying a bowl of mushroom soup and turkey breast for dinner around 9, I log on to my email to do some work and desperately miss the glass of Grenache I usually treat myself to when working late.
The first few days are a breeze; I open my fridge and everything is already there ready to eat. (Thanks again, T!). Mid-week, I accompany my bestie to this hyper-cool studio where she gets this beautiful and badass geometric lion tattooed to her sternum. (L, it looks SO EFFING COOL!) Bestie needs a drink post-ink, and I don’t blame her. We sidle up to a handsome marble bar and are delighted to discover bottles of wine are half price, which we obviously order immediately. I feel guilty, so we opt for Pinot Noir¦ it’s lighter, so less toxic to my liver, right? At least I abstain from the gluten-, dairy- and sugar-filled bar snacks, even though they’re mellifluously calling my name because it’s late and I’m drunk and starving from eating soup all day (I haven’t figured out GF carbs yet).
I get home, admittedly a little buzzed and demand my better half grill me a burger. He obliges and even cuts the (organic, free-range and grass-fed!) beef into slider-sized bites and stacks them on little lettuce buns for me. Yes, he’s perfect. I skipped my usual sugar-filled ketchup squirt and melt-y cheddar cheese topping and it still tastes super good. This is working for me!
The next day, I wake up feeling not as fuzzy as I usually would after splitting a bottle of wine¦ is this because of my clean diet? After my new typical breakfast of half a banana, berries (which fills my fruit quota for the day!), nuts, flaxseeds and a coconut milk cappuccino, I don’t crave chocolate, which is an entirely new sensation for me. I feel like I unctuously escaped a hangover, and a check-in from the Doctor boosts my morale even more.
Asking how I was doing thorough out the process gave me full confidence Dr. Taravski really cared about my overall wellbeing; she was there for me when I needed support, had a question, or was just pleased to hear it was all going well. It made the entire experience that much more realistic, authentic and achievable; I appreciated the personal correspondence so much and it made the transitional a (gluten free) piece of cake.
I continue to do pretty well the following week, and have added gluten-free carbs to my diet, like potatoes, buckwheat and quinoa. I’m getting my period and annoyingly still break out, but am told this could partially be due to the toxins releasing. On day 11, I slip up and eat more burrata than I meant to (as in, I didn’t mean to eat any, but definitely had a few ounces¦ oops) and ask Dr. Taravski how guilty I should be feeling. She tells me it’s ok to cheat, and that she doesn’t even like using that word.
It’s about doing the things that support your health MOST of the time; being too rigid can be stressful and isolating. However, some people, depending on their health goals and condition, need to be really committed at first to get the results they want. Also, It’s more about when you fall off the bandwagon, which happens because we are human, getting back on the next meal as oppose to next week, next month or even next year. Plus, having what we crave in moderation, swamping in the healthier alternative and enjoying the yummy things once in a while, keeps you on track ” deprivation sucks.
Feeling elated to hear that, I jump back into things with an optimistic and positive outlook. By the end of the two weeks, I’m down 3.5 pounds, my skin is happy and clear, and I can honestly say I feel lighter overall and definitely have more energy. I expected to dive head first into an entire pizza the second my two weeks were up, but I am actually still avoiding dairy, gluten and sugar because of how damn good I feel. When I do go for that slice of pizza, I know it’s totally ok to enjoy it though, and I can feel good about a balanced, healthy approach to diet and health.