Well, there might be still more room for improvement in the bloating department, especially post-meal, perhaps even pre-meal, but for now, I feel I finally have a handle on the situation and it’s already “okay” though I won’t be trying out to be a supermodel any time soon – which is not relevant to me anyway as an often-not-passing-as-female trans woman.
Before I get into the content of this post, I would like to make it known that I am not offering any nutritional advice, just sharing my personal experience about what seems to be working for me at the moment. Long term this might change and I am open to further dietary modification as long as it’s still vegan – I have no intention of deviating from veganism due to ethical and ecological considerations. Some people and places you can refer to get plant based dietary advice are nutritionfacts.org, John McDougal, Chef AJ, Doug Lisle, Alan Goldhamer, True North Health Center, GojiMan, Caldwell Esselstyn and Michael Klaper.
In the end, what seems to be working for me now is to combine the advice of these doctors, establishments and practicians to eat whole plant foods and avoid processed food together with advice from my naturopath to focus more on cooked foods, more starches rather than fruit as well as other optimizations to help with my sensitive gut that I will detail later on. Just keep in mind that I am merely sharing my own personal experience and am not qualified to give nutritional advice and what works for me may not work for you or you may have a completely different issue, even if it still causes the same symptom of bloating.
In the pictures included in this post, you can see me starting from November 2018, the day after a several day junk food binge up until February 2019, having pretty much resolved my pre-meal bloating and this time (what you don’t see in the pictures) also having drastically reduced my post-meal bloating.
Pre-meal bloating refers to the level of bloating I have when waking up after a full 8 hours of sleep. If I don’t get my full 8 hours, I don’t de-bloat as much as I would if I had enough sleep.
Post-meal refers to the level of bloating I have after finishing all of my food on a given day, although most of the bloating would occur even after my first meal.
Until now, I tried to just eat whole plant foods – salt, oil and sugar free, starting the day with a huge salad, then having lots of fruits, then in the evening having a sizeable stew with whole grains and legumes – typically green lentils and brown rice, often with a potato, mushrooms, broccoli and served with raw vegetables like purple cabbage, tomatoes and a bit of chopped onion.
While that served me well with my pre-meal bloating, but only if I kept it up 100% and did not deviate one bit into the land of processed food such as vegan burgers, vegan ice cream, vegan pizzas, soft drinks, french fries and falafel – I still suffered from huge post-meal bloating, which caused a situation where for all my efforts to eat healthy, which paid off in other ways such as having 50-70 LDL cholesterol which is heart attack proof, being able to recover faster from workouts, fixing chronic diharrea from finally getting decent amounts of fiber – despite all these benefits, I still looked skinny pregnant after eating – despite being normal BMI, sometimes even a few kilograms underweight.
My height is 179cm, and as you can see from the pictures for November, December and January, at any weight where I am normal BMI (above 59 kilograms) I have a bloated belly, and this is in my pre-meal state. Only now in February, at 57 kilograms, do I finally wake up with a flat belly.
This is something I managed to recreate many times over the years simply by avoiding junk food for several months and then getting back to square one in one week of junk food binging. I would get strong cravings to eat junk food whenever I was around it, and in this modern day, you can’t completely avoid junk food even if you don’t have it in your home. You go out. You walk by restaurants. Your friends and family eat it. You can’t completely avoid exposure, and that one first bite would always be enough to send me on a week long junk food binge, and one week was always enough to make me lose months of de-bloating progress from eating whole plant foods and avoiding processed food.
It always took me a very long time to lose weight as if it were fat, but I gained it very quickly which is not supposed to be possible with fat gain. I would say it was water weight, but then I should have lost it as quickly as I gained it. Before my bottom surgery, it took 4-6 weeks to lose my pre-meal bloating after eating processed food for a week. After my bottom surgery, it took twice as long – 3 months! – and again, even when I ate well enough to reduce my pre-meal bloating, I still ended up being almost just as bloated post-meal as if I didn’t eat healthy at all.
That’s when I finally started realizing after years of acting as if I am fat and trying to eat huge volumes with few calories that my problem was not that I store fat in my belly, my problem was that I am bloated and have some sort of gut issues. Everyone is talking about being fat and losing weight these days, but we barely talk about gut issues that some people have. Perhaps my possible gut issues are what always prevented me from being fat no matter how poorly I ate, but they manifested as bloating instead – especially when I went vegan and started eating more carbohydrates and less fat.
So I scheduled an appointment with a gastroentorologist back in November, but none were available until the final third of February. Now it’s the first third of February and my appointment is still on, but funnily enough – I found a way to make huge improvements with this issue before that, with the help of a vegan friendly naturopath. By the time I see the gastroentorologist, there might be nothing left to diagnose and he’ll just tell me to continue doing what I’m doing.
What did I do? I combined the naturopath’s advice together with what I learned about eating whole plant foods and avoiding processed food. In the last month where I implemented this double combo, I progressed much faster than I did in the previous months, as can be seen in the big difference between January and February pictures compared to the difference between December and January. November to December saw a big drop as well, and that’s where half of the weight lost in that month was indeed most likely water weight – since I dropped down from 67 to 64 kilograms in several days, but it took a month to lose another 2 kilograms – and the rest continued to go down slowly, as if it was fat loss.
The things the naturopath told me to do included:
- eat more cooked food
- eat less raw food, especially cut back on fruit
- cook food for longer, add more water and turn down heat if needed to get it pretty mushy
- use orange/yellow lentils instead of green, they don’t have the shell which can be hard on the digestion
- soak legumes, grains and almonds overnight before preparing/eating them
- reduce fruit intake and limit it to fruits that are similar to apples and pears
- eat soaked almonds together with the fruits
- avoid tomatoes and eggplants – she underscored this several times. I actually never eat eggplants but I love some tomatoes together with my stews, and I also really like potatoes which I think are another type of nightshade.
- have apple cider vinegar with salads or before large meals. I don’t like the taste of it so I just had a tablespoon of it diluted with a half cup of water like medicine a half hour before stews while they are cooking – sometimes I skip this.
- use vegetables from the pumpkin family like pumpkins, butternut squash and zucchini – cook them together with the stew
- green leaves are good to have but avoid anything cruciferous
She wanted me to eat oat meal for breakfast but I hate oat meal.
She also claimed “oil is not your enemy”, but I know too much from listening to Dr. Esselstyn and other plant based doctors to agree with that. Plus I have my own personal experience that oil is one of the foods that have the worst possible bloating effect on me – so I didn’t blindly follow everything she suggested.
How did I implement this in practice?
At first I followed very closely what she said, and had stews with orange lentils, brown rice – soaked those overnight and washed them with a strainer before cooking. To these I added lots of butternut squash and zucchini, but I found trying to cut the rock hard butternut squash into cubes to be very tedious and once I used only zucchini the stews became very, very bland, despite adding spices and despite being accustomed to eating SOS (salt, oil, sugar) free 99% of the time for five years now.
Once I saw my pre-meal bloating was close to resolved, I began experimenting with breaking some of her rules. I added an avocado a day, a tomato a day and a potato a day to my stews. Just these three additions made the stews taste so much better for me, made them more satiating and to my joy – did not cause a relapse in my bloating! So that’s what I am doing now and I will see how this works long term.
- when I start getting hungry, cook some stew and possibly take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted with a half cup of water half an hour before eating.
- eat stew made from brown rice, orange lentils (both soaked overnight and rinsed before cooking) and a potato peeled and chopped into cubes and serve it with selenova lettuce, a tomato and/or an avocado. Can cook that with some zucchini if I want. If it’s a day after running the previous day, I am likely to be hungry enough to eat double what I eat on a post-rest day, so I have the first batch with lettuce and a tomato and the second one with an avocado. Cook without adding salt, oil or sugar but use SOS free spices freely. I personally use turmeric and curcumin.
- for dessert have an apple with 8 soaked almonds.
- rinse and repeat when I am hungry again.
- eat 16-18 grams of freshly ground flax seeds once every two days to balance out omega 3s. For cronometer tracking I just input half the amount each day to see the nutritional balance of omega 3s to 6s and make sure it’s at least 1:4, if not 1:3.
Now that I’ve had a few days experience with these changes without any detrimental effects on my bloating, I am happy to be getting the best of both worlds – enjoying my food again and not being bloated! Though it remains to be seen if this will persist over weeks or months.
I even busted out a tight dress that has been hiding in my closet for years waiting for me to get my bloating sorted!
I think most people don’t have gut issues but have trouble not being overweight, whereas in my case – I have somewhat of the opposite problem, but not exactly.
I still eat only whole plant foods, just like on any healthy diet.
I still eat mostly starch for satiation and energy.
I still get plenty of protein from eating legumes every day.
But in my case, trying to eat so much calorie dilute food apparently just didn’t work out with my gut. Trying to cram in enough calories in 6 pounds or more of food was too difficult, and with hindsight I can theorize (just a theory though) that the reason I went on junk food binges was that I couldn’t get enough calories despite eating lots of food, because I behaved as if I am fat and tried to lose weight.
I still lost weight though, but I am trying to keep on what I do have by adding these whole plant food sources of fat which don’t seem to bloat me (almonds, flax seeds, avocadoes) unlike say, medjool dates which I really like but because they bloat me I only buy 3-5 of them as a snack once every week or two.
It’s still low fat compared to the Standard American Diet – less than 20% of calories from fat, but it’s not as low as what you might eat on a McDougal diet, less than 10% of calories from fat and it’s still largely starch based like a Mcdougal diet. It also precludes all added salt, oil and sugar since those bloat me very quickly.
All in all, now I am eating 4 pounds of food on a heavy day, usually the day after a run, and 3 pounds of food on a more relaxed day, which is easier on my gut than having 6-8 pounds of food a day which would be appropriate if I were an obese person trying to slim down or if I were a thin person with a healthy gut. Well, I only suppose I have gut problems because of my bloating – but I would venture to guess it’s a safe bet that it’s true.
It would be nice if we talked not just about problems with being overweight, but also gut problems people might have and how those can be confused with fat, something I did not understand for years. I don’t know if what I tried will work for others with bloating problems. I know there is the whole low FODMAP thing, and some of the things I did that worked for me fly in the face of low FODMAP rules like eating apples and lentils, albeit orange lentils. I think there are probably many different types of possible gut issues people can have and each one might need a different approach to solve it even if on the surface the symptoms are the same. At least, that’s the impression I get from watching Gojiman’s videos on gut health. I might save up money to do the tests he recommends, especially if my bloating gets worse again and I can’t figure out why but doing the two consults with my local vegan friendly naturopath was much cheaper – and so far, combined with eating whole plant foods, seems to be effective.
So again, don’t take this post as advice that *you should do this* beyond the general rule of eat more whole plant foods and try to reduce or avoid processed food… but do take this as a personal anecdote that these issues can perhaps be solved if you look hard enough, without giving up veganism like some ex-vegans have lately been doing and getting a lot of attention for that.
These ex-vegans probably don’t represent the vast majority of vegans, since people with gut issues are generally a minority and vegans are a minority, so the vegans with gut issues are a minority within a minority and they get heaps of attention because people are always looking for excuses to continue doing what they’re used to, so these “I am no longer vegan” videos will inherently get lots of views and attention in a non-vegan world – and it’s a damn shame, because it comes at the cost of animal killing, animal suffering and destruction of the habitat the human race and other species on Earth need to survive.
As for the planet? Well, as George Carlin once said, the planet will be fine. The time it will take for the ecosystem to recover from the mess we are making is like a blink of an eye in the total lifespan of a planet like Earth – but we’ll be long gone. Make no mistake, whenever people talk about the environment or the good of the planet, what we should really be calling it if we weren’t using a euphemism to sound altruistic is: the place we humans need to survive.
I hope my anecdote serves to show that with some perseverence and experimentation, I managed to improve my gut issues while staying vegan and the more veganism becomes widespread, the more incentive there will be for the medical system to research and know how to treat the minority of people like me who have gut issues that can manifest more obviously when going vegan and thus typically eating more carbohydrates, but nonetheless these gut issues probably existed before people went vegan but remained unseen beneath the surface.
I also ran my modified plan through cronometer to see how I was doing for nutrients and calorie intake. Please note that I measure my weight pre-meal after waking up without clothes to get my net weight, with food I’m around 59 kilograms, and with clothes and after food more than 60 kilograms. So hey, with clothes and food I am not underweight, but I am guessing the BMI scale refers to net weight.
This is what I ate on February 4th.
This is the nutritional data of February 4th 2019 foods eaten.
This is what I ate on February 5th 2019.
This is the nutritional data for what I ate on February 5th 2019.
This is an average of the nutritional data for these two days. I pretty much compensated for the extra calories spent the previous day running, so in theory I should not be losing weight but I just eat until I am not hungry and most days I don’t track myself on cronometer. I just wanted to demonstrate that what I’m eating is nutritionally adequate.
I am going to continue experimenting with adding more foods to see what bloats me and what doesn’t and try to cram in more calories without eating things that cause me to bloat… and who knows, maybe long term my bloating will get worse again and I will need to delve deeper to resolve it… or maybe it will improve even more – will be interesting, at least for me, to find out.