I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 14 years old. Finally getting a diagnosis was both great, because I finally knew why I had all these scary symptoms, and terrifying because I now knew I was facing a lifetime battle. Crohn’s is incurable and at 14 I was going to have to start figuring out how to live with it.
Today, I compete in the Men’s Physique class of bodybuilding, which is focused on attainable everyday looks and fitness. I started bodybuilding as a way to regain control of my body and utilize all of its strengths to fight Crohn’s, and it’s done all that for me and more. I love competing, I cannot stress enough how much I’ve changed since overcoming malnutrition and putting on 20 pounds. The competitions are great, but I don’t focus on placing, bodybuilding has done so much for me, I want to inspire others!
A few things you should know about Crohn’s:
- ALL food can send you to the bathroom. A LOT. Like 30 times a day a lot.
- Because food does not stay in your system, most people with Crohn’s absorb less than 25% of the nutrients in the food they eat.
- Crohn’s also causes joint issues (it’s an inflammatory disease).
- Most people with Crohn’s struggle to maintain their weight when suffering through relapses (the disease can go into remission).
So, with all these potential barriers to feeling strong enough to workout, how do you overcome it? With diet and proper nutrition, a positive attitude, and a significant amount of perseverance.
Trial and error
While there is no specific Crohn’s diet to follow, there are a few guidelines and tips I have learned from almost three decades of suffering from Crohn’s disease. Spicy foods, fried foods, dairy, whole nuts, and fruits with seeds or skins are just a few things that may be triggers if you have Crohn’s. The joke among Crohnies (people with Crohn’s), is if it tastes good, you probably shouldn’t eat it. However, there are some foods, like lettuce, that are not bad for you nutritionally, but can be difficult for persons with Crohn’s to digest.
Finding the right diet and nutrition plan for your Crohn’s disease is a bit of trial and error, but avoiding known triggers is probably a safe bet. Or, add them to your diet one at a time and monitor the impact each has to determine your tolerance. One thing that should always be incorporated into your diet are vitamins and supplements to replace some of the nutrients that your body is not able to absorb from food. Also, breaking your meals into smaller amounts with less food to digest has been a helpful approach for me (and one recommended by doctors).I choose to eat the same meals every day because I know they are safe. @breakcrohns guest blog. Click To Tweet
Two other practices I have incorporated into my diet are smoothies and food repetition. Smoothies are much easier to digest and absorb for all people, not just Crohn’s patients. And, it’s a great way to get a meal that incorporates fruits and veggies! Because so many foods can cause a reaction for me, I have made a choice to eat the same meals every day because I know they are safe for me. It also helps with meal and competition prep; two birds with one stone!Smoothies are easier to digest and absorb for all people. @breakcrohns guest blog. Click To Tweet
Having a hidden disease is tough, learning how to explain to people why I won’t eat something is often unnecessarily difficult. Generally, I eat what I can before I go out, or to an event, and then do my best to not discuss my dietary restrictions. When you don’t look sick people have a hard time seeing it as a restriction and not pickiness.
Below is my daily meal plan. This is what works for both my Crohn’s and my body building. It might not be perfect for you but, if you have Crohn’s, it might be a great starting point for building your diet.
WORKOUT DAY MEAL PLAN
BREAKFAST (MEAL 1)
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal measured uncooked
6 egg whites
1 whole egg
1/2 cup mix bananas, blueberries, raspberries
MID-MORNING (MEAL 2)
2 Scoops of Whey Protein Shake (2 Tbs of Almond Butter) Mix with water
1 cup berry of choice (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
LUNCH (MEAL 3)
2 slices Ezekiel Bread
6 oz turkey burger, 1/2 avocado
Large leaf spinach, unlimited
½ tomato, medium
1 small sweet potato
MIDDAY (MEAL 4)
½ large banana
4 small strawberries
1 scoop whey protein of choice
½ brown rice
2 scoops whey protein mixed with almond milk and water.
MEAL 5 (DINNER)
8 oz lean-turkey, salmon, or chicken
1 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil
2 cup green veggies (green beans or broccoli, measured uncooked)
MEAL 6 (LATE-NIGHT SNACK)
8 oz nonfat Oikos Greek yogurt, vanilla or plain
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp sugar-free chocolate syrup
10 almonds, crushed