• charlottemheald

My Story (Part 3)

One day while browsing on Facebook I found the Paddison Program (PP). PP was started by Clint Paddison who is his early thirties was diagnosed with RA and experienced rapid degeneration of joints and function. He spent a couple of years trying to devise a nutritional plan for his own healing through research and some experimentation. He reduced his inflammation, regained his mobility and healed from the inside out. He had finally devised the Paddison Program! He went on to create a business out of supporting others with RA to heal through his elimination diet and suggested lifestyle interventions. (https://www.paddisonprogram.com/)

I signed up for PP - this sounded like something that was going to work for me and with hope still encouraging me on this journey I felt I had nothing to lose!

I never knew how much buckwheat would come to mean to me and that I would juice celery happily every day for the next year. After the initial cleansing days I gradually added in baseline foods such as buckwheat, quinoa, seaweed, leafy greens, carrots and so on. At this point in time I had hoped for a rapid improvement and had thought that give or take 3 months and I’d be reintroducing a wide range of foods and starting to live a ‘normal’ food life again. Little did I realise that over a year later I would still be eating just a few more foods outside of the baseline and not the wide range that I had hoped in that time.

Part of the program was my daily assessment and recording of joint pain, this was critical to gauging progress and monitoring inflammation. It was one of those things that seemed to stay the same day after day then gradually I would notice one finger at a time that they felt ‘better’ and they kept getting better. I started to feel I might even be able to run again and then one day I did - this was a momentous occasion for me and proved there truly was hope for my healing and my future, I was actually making progress!

The social side of food and eating was a big challenge for me during this time and to some extent it still is today. It took all my strength to attend a social function knowing that I would need to pack my own food or order a special meal and sit with others who were eating a wide range of foods that I wasn’t able to enjoy. Along with this was the need to explain the healing program I was following to all those who looked on mystified at my plate! Food envy at times brought me to tears, it was really tough. During this time I adopted an affirmation from Louise Hay to support my healing journey with food - “nourishing my body is a joyful experience and I am worth the time spent for my healing”. Repeating this over and over in my head eased the food envy and started to support my healing in a positive way, after-all feeling deprived wasn’t going to do my mental health any favours.

Weight loss was an unplanned yet not unexpected part of my healing journey. I had never in my life been concerned with my weight and had never expected to feel vulnerable about weight loss. When I was most unwell and my body was working hard to fight inflammation I lost a lot of weight. I felt self conscious about my weight loss and at times tried to cover it by wearing baggy clothing - baggy clothing that was just getting baggier! Part of PP protocol was to weigh and record my weight regularly, this meant buying some bathroom scales, something I'd never owned before. I soon saw those scales reading lighter and lighter, something that became increasingly concerning for me, though I knew deep down this was a part of my healing and I would soon reach a turning point. My own concern for weight loss was emotional enough for me without the comments I faced from those around me. To this day I still wonder why it is apparently ok to make direct comment to someone about being ‘thin’ and ‘skinny’ and yet I know I certainly would never make comments about being ‘heavy’ or ‘fat’ to someone who had obviously gained too much weight. I realise that the comments I received were probably well meaning and from a place of concern however it has made me reflect on the choice of words I use.

I continued to engage with others in the PP through an online forum. This was and continues to be a great support to me. I share updates in my online journal including my latest blood results, progress, food introductions and challenges, other members can comment and offer ideas and support.

Physical activity for RA is very important but at times my range of movement has been limited. I have tried Bikram Yoga (Hot yoga) and found this to be amazing! It’s similar to doing 90 minutes of continuous yoga in Fiji - that’s what I tell myself! My closest studio that offers this is over an hour away so I haven’t been able to get there as often as I would like. The purchase of an exercycle (stationary bike) has been a game changer. I estimate that I have been ‘on my bike’ an average of 6 days per week for the past 14 months. I ride for 30 minutes each time and have moved up to the highest resistance which feels like an accomplishment! If I ever have inflammation a spell on my bike can often clear it out which is great! I occasionally do some yoga and enjoy how this leaves me feeling. I know I need to make more time for yoga in my life.

In one of my happy places, working with my coaching clients

Creating more balance in my life and reducing stress has played a huge part in supporting my healing. I can feel the inflammation creeping back i if I get overtired, feel stressed or have too much happening in my week. I have learnt to say ‘No’ a concept that I struggled with before. Saying No has meant dropping things from my life and creating more space for ‘me’. It was tough letting go of some of the volunteer roles that I held and the connections that came with them. One I had made the decision and left these roles I felt a weight had lifted from my shoulders, a sure sign I’d made the right choice. I often wonder how things may have turned out if I had adopted more ‘balance’ earlier in my life - hence the fact I promote self care and balance to my Health Coaching Clients.

Learning to meditate and practice meditation regularly has been a valuable tool to add to my healing toolbox. Meditation gives me a little ‘quiet’ and ‘still’ time in my day and has helped me to reduce stress and restore calm when needed.

Fast forward to August 2019 :

  • I am now free from inflammation most of the time

  • I have regained weight and reached a healthy ‘plateau’

  • I have more energy than ever before

  • I sleep well and wake feeling motivated and ready to go!

  • I prioritise self care

  • I plan my weeks/months to give myself a healthy balance

  • I still follow the Paddison Program and continue to gradually reintroduce foods

  • I have faith in my bodies ability to heal - hope is always with me

  • My diagnosis doesn’t control my life or define who I am

  • I am truly devoted to my healing

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible” - Christopher Reeve

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