Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Interstitial Cystitis Diet Hacks Part 1: Why Journal?

I have to tell you a cool story. Before I had interstitial cystitis and became a reluctant expert on the IC Diet, I was a regular, everyday dietitian working in a hospital weight management facility. I loved my job. Loved the people I worked with and the patients we saw.

Occasionally over the years, I wondered what happened to some of them. Then recently I ran into one of my former patients who recognized me. It appeared at first glance that she had kept the weight she had lost off (which is more than I can say for myself!), but she had a surprising story to tell.

"Julie, after a few years of maintenance, I gained about 50 pounds back. I realized I had to do something or I would be back where I started, and I came across all of my food diaries in my kitchen cupboard. I had stacks and stacks of them. I want you to know I sat down right there on the kitchen floor and started to read them again....all the food I ate (and wanted to eat but didn't), all the feelings I had (good and bad) about losing weight, the new recipes I had tried back then, the number of steps I took each day....all of it. It was like taking the weight management classes all over again, and I could hear your voice teaching and guiding us through the process. I even remembered you telling us to save the diaries forever so we could we could revisit them in the future. Well those diaries are the reason I was able to lose those 50 pounds again. Thank you!"

Now, to be honest, I had totally forgotten about my advice to save the food diaries. I am sure I said it, but nevertheless, this wonderful woman's story reminded me once again about why food and symptom diaries are so important for interstitial cystitis/painful bladder patients! Not only can they help you figure out your food and other triggers, you can record your symptoms, your feelings, your limitations, and your victories! Your food and symptom diaries are YOUR IC story!

How can you make the best of your journaling? Try to do each of these three things every day:
  1. Spotlight what you are doing. Recording your food, activities, symptoms, feelings, and challenges raises your own sense of awareness. Keeping tract of these things can provide you with valuable insight on how the food you eat or the things you do affect your symptoms.
  2. Set small goals for yourself. Sure you want to be pain-free. That is an umbrella goal for us all. But how do you get there? Maybe you want to drink less coffee and more water. Or, maybe you want to move more each day. Even write down when you try new medications and supplements and keep track of how you feel. Committing these goals to paper can help you navigate the many changes needed to have a healthier IC lifestyle.
  3. Record the results of small changes. Did you feel better or worse trying a new brand of water? Did hiking at the park give you less pain than riding your bike? Did the new recipe you tried bother you? If not, did your family like it? 
In addition, your journal can be a valuable tool when you visit your health care providers. You can talk to them about the changes you made and how they worked for you. You may be able to explore treatment strategies together based on the patterns, successes, and failures you read in your diaries. Finally, if you save these diaries like my weight management patient did, you will have them to look back at if you have a flare or recurrence of symptoms.

How do you journal? Do you keep track of the foods you eat and the things that you do? Have you found it helpful in managing your own IC care plan?

You can find free downloadable samples of food and voiding diaries at IC Recipes and Resources!

Julie Beyer, MA, RDN
Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate

Also See:

Helping Yourself Is the First Step to Getting Well

For step by step guidance for creating your own personal interstitial cystitis meal plan, see: Confident Choices®: Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet.

For some basic, family-style, IC bladder-friendly recipes, see: Confident Choices®: A Cookbook for Interstitial Cystitis and Overactive Bladder

For health care workers:  Interstitial Cystitis: A Guide for Nutrition Educators

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