Half way through this nutrition experiment and I can’t help but think that respiratory patients in general could benefit greatly from the path I’m taking. With so much focus on medication, patient access to programs, the latest advances in medicine, have we forgotten that our bodies have a unique ability to adapt if we care for them in the right way.
Before I go any further I think it necessary to stress I do not come from a medical background. This article is based on my personal experience and what I have learned along the way.
Are we planning to fail?
In any good COPD management plan nutrition and exercise are essential to creating a pathway for patients to a better quality of life. If you’re a patient how much emphasis do you place on nutrition and exercise? If you’re a healthcare professional do you place as much emphasis on nutrition and exercise as you do on medication?
If I don’t take my medication I become breathless and start on the slippery slope to poor health. If I don’t eat nutritious foods I can’t exercise correctly, I become breathless and my health suffers. In my opinion if we aren’t incorporating good nutrition into our management plan we are setting ourselves up to fail.
It’s a holistic approach that we all must adopt. Many people over the last few years have questioned if I really have COPD, because COPD Patients don’t RUN marathons and they certainly don’t compete in Ironman events. But as I’ve always said there’s no secret cure or remedy that I’ve discovered, it’s really just about treating your body right. Think in terms of filling your car up with petrol, if the fuel is poor quality then so is your cars performance.
Recently I’ve had my second body scan and blood test to see how my eating plan has affected my body. The changes have been pleasing with a loss of 9kgs since I started but what was more pleasing is the loss of 4.25 kg of visceral fat. This has resulted in my body now coming into the healthy/normal BMI (Body Mass Index) range of 24.6. I have gained a small amount of lean mass and my bone density has increased slightly.
So how do I feel? Fantastic! While completing my day to day activities hasn’t changed I am feeling less fatigued at the end of the day. Whether it’s in my mind or not I don’t know, but I do feel like I’m breathing easier and I have noticed a reduction in the use of my rescue inhaler. We’ll have to wait until part iii when I will have had my next round of PFT’s and exercising testing to have some meaningful data on any improvement.
Running has been a revelation with an improvement in times including another PB for the half marathon distance. I am able to control my breathing better especially when running up hills, no longer do I have to stop at the top of a hill and catch my breath. Now when I reach the top I keep running and am able to recompose myself as I continue to run. My stamina has improved and I suspect my body is now burning fat and not sugar, future tests will confirm this.
The nutrition plan I’m following is about food pairing, removing refined sugars, gluten, certain carbohydrates and dairy. Some may say I’ve removed all the fun from food and indeed there was a time I would have agreed. But when you discover just how tasty nutritious foods are and how well they can combine to create beautiful recipes you will change your mind.
Since being diagnosed with COPD five years ago I have been eating good quality food most of the time but have never concerned myself to much with what types of food I should eat at what time of day. But if you think in terms of your body’s energy requirements then most people will need less energy as the day goes on, with the start of the day requiring more energy than the end of the day. Foods are broken up into three basic categories proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Breakfast we combine proteins and good sources of carbs as I move through the day I pair protein with fats while reducing my carb intake as I require less energy. I never combine good fats and carbs in a meal as it can create fat storage, something I’m trying to avoid. Food pairing isn’t new but it’s new to me and once you understand how it works meal preparation is easy.
Eating small portions more frequently gives our digestive system a fair chance of doing the job it was designed to do, it will kick start your metabolism as well as help with fat burning. By eating small portions our energy levels stay even and we’ll experience less fluctuations in our blood sugar levels which is very important. When our blood sugar level spikes our body’s ability to burn fat is compromised which is why it’s very difficult to lose weight when you’re consuming food containing refined sugars such as lollies, chocolates, alcohol, cakes and white bread during the day.
For the first four weeks I decided I was going to be strict with my eating plan and not allow any sugary treats. In the early weeks I noticed some cravings for foods I was no longer eating, mainly foods with refined sugars, I also felt a little hungry between meals due to the decrease in portion size. However, by week three I no longer experienced those feelings and my body had adopted to the way of eating.
Water plays an important part as it keeps you hydrated and helps flush toxins out of your body, liver and kidney function is helped by maintaining good hydration. I have found that drinking 500ml of water before meals helped me transition into smaller portions as it helped in feeling satisfied.
I’ve often talked about sustainability and how it applies to exercise and nutrition. My eating plan after week four incorporated treats I look forward to, chocolate an ice cream or dining out, were all rewards I treated myself to on the weekends. That doesn’t mean I gorge myself on sugary treats all weekend, it means a treat, something to look forward to. It’s the 5 and 2 rule, 5 days strict eating and 2 days I relax the rules a little. However, what I’ve found is that I tend to crave the good foods over the treats, except for my popcorn at the movies!
What I’ve learned about this journey so far is nutritional food is easy and enjoyable to eat and once you have a disciplined approach to this eating plan you can incorporate some treats without breaking the bank.
COPD patient’s ability to prepare food can be compromised depending on the stage of their disease and their mobility.For a quick easy lunch combine tinned tuna or salmon in a bowl of fresh salad and you have a nutrition bomb.
If you have a little more time and are more mobile, Turkey meatloaf (turkey mince, quinoa, zucchini, carrot, onion, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper, egg and tamari) is a great healthy lunch option which can be prepared in approximately 15 – 20 minutes with a cooking time of 45 minutes and provides 8 meal size portions, with leftovers being able to be frozen.
Salads can be added to any protein for a healthy dinner option, a good guide is a 100g of protein for women and 200g for men. Foods such as eggs, avocado, spinach and rye bread can be combined for great breakfast and lunch options. Don’t forget fish is a great healthy alternative to red meat or chicken that can be easily paired with salads of green vegetables. Remember the more you become used to preparing these meals the quicker and easier meal time becomes.
The biggest hurdle with changing your eating plan is breaking old habits, don’t fall into the trap of buying what’s easy.Learn where to buy good ingredients and stick to that routine and remember the calories in a small chocolate bar take about 20km on a bicycle to work off!
Permanent weight loss means a lifestyle change, otherwise you end up being a yo-yo dieter with your weight going back on when the diet ends.
In Part III, I’ll reveal all the final data including body scans, pft’s and exercise stress test results that will determine for me if this is my permanent eating plan or another fad. I suspect it will be permanent.
PS – I’m running the Gold Coast marathon on July 3rd, I’m raising funds for Lung Foundation Australia. Your donations would be greatly appreciated! https://gcam2016.everydayhero.com/au/copd-athlete