Rabbit Starvation

A few weeks ago, I was complaining (ok, I was full on whining) to my fiance — who is graciously and selflessly doing the diet with me — about how much I hated the endo diet, how hungry I am always am, how terrible I felt, and how badly I wanted a slice of pizza.

Fiance: I know it’s hard, and I’m sorry, but how do you feel terrible?
Me: I’m so cranky, and I’m constantly tired. My mind is foggy. I just feel bleh. And it’s really hard to be hungry all the time, no matter how much I’m eating.
Fiance: Maybe you should start keeping a food log so we can make sure you’re getting enough calories. What did you eat yesterday?
Me: A fruit and spinach smoothie with almond milk for breakfast, a huge bowl of eggplant and lentils for lunch, and the black bean quinoa thing we had for dinner.
Fiance: And the day before, do you remember?
Me: Another smoothie and some popcorn for breakfast, salad and two bean tacos for lunch, and the chicken stir-fry I made for dinner. See, I’m eating. I’m often stuffed after a meal, but then I’m hungry again in like an hour.
Fiance: I think you’re rabbit starving.
Me: ?????

Rabbit starving, it turns out, is a kind of malnutrition that early settlers faced when they tried to make it through the winter eating only rabbits. Rabbit is a very lean meat, and no matter how much of it you eat, it can’t sustain you because there isn’t enough fat.

The side effect of the endo diet is that you eat healthy. Take out dairy, red meat, eggs, animal fat, sugar, and gluten, and there’s very little left in terms of indulgences and junk food. So without even meaning to, I removed almost all of the fat from my diet, and it made me feel terrible.

Interestingly, it stopped me from losing weight too. The first few weeks, I lost weight quickly and easily, but then it just stopped, even though I was following the diet very strictly and had even added in some exercise. Then I went on vacation, and while I did adhere to the diet, I ate much less healthy. I ordered sandwiches on gluten-free bread with a side of french fries. I snacked on potato chips in the hotel at night. I had sorbet twice. I even had a snow cone and french fries for lunch one afternoon when we were at a county fair and my options were very limited. The strangest part (and what should have been a huge red flag) is that I lost about a pound and a half that week! In hindsight, we’ve decided that my body must have gone into some kind of starvation mode in those weeks when I wasn’t feeding it any fat, and when I went away on vacation, my metabolism revved back up.

If you’re wondering why this didn’t happen to my fiance as well, it’s because he loves nut butters. He puts a huge glob of peanut butter in his morning oatmeal, and often snacks on rice cakes with sunflower seed butter in the evening. He also has a jar of nuts on his desk at work and will sometimes grab a bag of chips from the vending machine. His higher intake of fat and his lack of hunger and symptoms is also what led us to conclude that I needed to eat more fat.

It’s kind of counter-intuitive, I know, I’ve been enjoying losing weight (the only perk I’ve found from endo!), so it seemed smart to eat healthy while I eat for my endo, but I guess there really is such a thing as eating too healthy. Anyway, I’ve now been eating a handful of nuts with my morning smoothie, am sauteing our veggies with olive oil and garlic instead of steaming them, have incorporated avocados into more of our meals, and have been more lax about using oils in my cooking. Since making this shift, I’ve felt much, much better and have continued to lose weight!

So, if you’re also following the endo diet, be careful about your fat consumption. It’s an important nutrient despite what the diet industry has drilled into our heads 🙂