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Birthday Reflections…My Life After GAPS

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Another year has come and gone. It sure has been a crazy one. At this time last year I was quite pregnant and trying to prepare to be a mom of two. Now I have an almost 4 year old and a 10 month old. Life sure is busy! But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Over the last year I have gone through a lot of physical and mental changes. I’ve had my share of ups and downs. Even my weight has fluctuated by about 60 pounds (pregnancy will do that :P)! I started last year not feeling that great. I went on GAPS to heal my gut. I did experience a lot of healing. But I also unintentionally did some damage to my health. By November of last year I was gradually feeling worse. By Christmas I was not doing well at all. My weight was down below 100 pounds! I was confused and frustrated. Shortly after Christmas for some reason I just felt like things needed to change. I was moody all the time. I had no energy. Something just didn’t feel right. I knew I could not stay on GAPS. Before if I had tried to eat a “forbidden” food I would have felt so anxious and guilty about it. But I started to eat foods that weren’t “allowed.” And I didn’t care. My mentality was changing for some reason. I just couldn’t explain it. Then I started hearing more info about low carb “dieting” and the dangers. Without realizing it I had put myself on a low carb diet. And it was taking its toll on my body. It caused weight loss, digestive problems, adrenal fatigue, anxiety, increased OCD, all sorts of stuff.

In January I started slowly trying a few grains and starches in my diet. Maybe one piece of bread a day. Or a few bites of potato. Gradually I started adding a little more. And I was loving it! By February I was done with GAPS. I stopped taking my probiotic. I stopped obsessing over broth and fermented foods. I stopped eating huge piles of meat. I started experimenting with all sorts of soaked baked goods.

I was eating more. My digestion really improved. I put on a few pounds. My mood and energy improved. It has been pretty amazing to see the changes.

I do still think GAPS is a very valuable diet for healing. But you do have to be careful not to eat too low carb. You also have to remember that it is not a life long diet. It is a temporary diet meant for healing. Some people need to stick to it for a couple years. But some could benefit from even just a few weeks. I think 10 months was plenty (maybe even too long) for me.

I do think our bodies need a good balance of protein, fat and carbs. If you exclude any one for an extended period of time it will have a serious impact on your health.

I also think every person’s body is unique. You have to figure out what works for you. I am learning new things every day. I find that I can actually tolerate wheat quite well. I don’t believe I am sensitive to gluten at all. I do digest it better if it is properly prepared. I don’t, however, do well with starchy foods like rice, bananas, corn, potatoes and carrots. Maybe someday I’ll tolerate them better. But not right now. GAPS was very helpful for me to figure out what does and doesn’t work. It was like an elimination diet. I cut out all grains and dairy for a while. Now I tolerate both wheat and dairy very well. And I’ve pinpointed the things that really do bother me.

I’ve also learned that our bodies change all the time. What works right now may not work in 5 years. I have to be open to adjusting as time goes on. I can’t get set on one “diet” and assume it will work forever. I’m learning what works for now. And I continually reassess.

I do try to eat a whole foods diet. But I also know it is important to be relaxed about food. If I obsess and stress over every little thing it won’t be good for me. Then I’ll feel sick no matter what I eat. So if I eat the “wrong” food once in a while or something refined or processed it’s not the end of the world.

Now on to the main reason I wrote this post. I have gone through a lot of changing and healing in the last year. And now that another birthday has come and gone I’ve been reflecting on it a little. I want this next year to be different. I want to truly live. I want to put some of my past issues behind me. I want to move forward. I want to be a good wife and mother. I want to truly embrace and love myself where I’m at. I want to accept myself. I want to extend grace to myself. I want to be a good example to my children and a blessing and joy to my husband.

As I have started this journey of change in the last couple months quite a few things have happened. One being that I have gained (so far) about 8 pounds. I was underweight to begin, so some weight is good. But I still struggle with it daily from a mental standpoint. After years of eating disorders it’s still hard for me to gain weight…and be happy about it. I don’t like when my jeans start to get tight…even if they are size 0! I don’t like to step on the scale and see the number go up yet again. That being said, I’m trying to truly embrace myself where I’m at. Why does a number on the scale bother me? I’m not really sure. Am I trying to please someone or meet some ideal? Not really. I even asked Justin about it and he said I look a lot healthier/a lot better now. If I feel better, look better, am healthier and am enjoying food again why should I worry about a few pairs of tight pants? I really don’t know. I’m a 32 year old wife and mother of two. I want to love myself and teach my children to love themselves. I don’t want to obsess over body image. I want to embrace the new me…and the person I’m becoming, the person God is teaching me to be.

One other big thing is that I had major colon surgery 6 1/2 years ago. Ever since then I have been on prescription miralax. For years I didn’t think much of it. But after a while I didn’t want to take it anymore. But I had to. My body was dependant on it. I didn’t like the idea of putting chemicals in my body every single day. But I couldn’t function without it. I’ve tried numerous times to cut back only to feel so awful that I had to bring my dose back up. Sometimes even higher than I started. Over the last year I have slowly been making progress with decreasing my dose. There were times I thought maybe I’d just have to accept the fact that my body needed it and I’d have to take it forever. Well, I am happy to say that today is day 4 WITH NO MIRALAX! None at all! Do I feel great? No, not really. But that’s ok. My body is adjusting. And I know I made some poor food choices this week…choices that I know don’t work for my body at this time. I’ll get through it and get things back on track. I hope that my life with miralax is over for good now.

I’m sure I could continue with all the little things that have changed in the last couple months. All the little things I’m learning that help my body and all the things I’m learning that don’t. The mental clarity that I have some days. The improvement in my OCD. The unexplained calmness I feel some days. The excitement I have about life. The hopefulness for what’s to come. The peace I have about where I’m headed. The boldness I feel many days about pushing myself and stepping out of my comfort zone. But I’ll stop here…since I have a stinky little boy that needs me 🙂

Life is good. God is good. And now I know that food is good 🙂  I’m learning every day. I’m striving for balance in my diet, in my work and in my play. I’m seeking God’s will for my life. And trying each day to love and accept myself and be a good wife and mother. I’m excited to see what God has in store for me in the next year.

This post is linked to Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Friday.


  1. Sara says:

    It’s crazy how much life changes in a year, isn’t it? Sounds like you are on the right path now, although I remember thinking that when you first started GAPS, too, and you felt so well. I hope this time is different and you can finally, truly live your life the way you want to!! 🙂

    So many girls and women have body image issues thanks to the media and all the air-brushed pictures of models on magazine covers. Its quite sad. I hope you can overcome your obsession with your own body image. Maybe you should get rid of the tight 0s and pick up a couple pairs of the next size so you don’t have to deal with the mental games of tight pants. Just think, the bonus of getting into your healthy weight range will be more options when you go shopping for clothes. 🙂

    Way to go on dropping all of the miralax! That is great!!! You’ll feel better in time, as your body continues to adjust and as your mind lets go of the thought that you’re not taking it anymore.

    God has blessed you this past year, indeed. I hope you continue to grow and enjoy your life. Becoming a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person will happen simultaneously. 🙂

  2. Shu Han says:

    that;s a beautiful summary. I actually linked to your blog from matt’s blog. I found myself very much on the same health journey, and I’ve finally gotten over the fact that there isno perfect diet out there, and that we just need to relax and enjoy the food. if it’s real food, it’s already going to be something to be happy and thankful for, or if you do it matt-style, maybe even the junk food is what our bodies need, though I haven’t gone that far yet. for me, I LOVE cooking, so it’s never an issue of not wanting to eat soemthing delicious and homemade.


    I think I’m still pretty anal about health, though that idea of health has changed. thanks for sharing your story and happy birthday(: all the best x

  3. Mary Voogt says:

    Sara – I have thought about that. I did feel good at the start of GAPS. But the main reasons this is different are that this time I’m being relaxed about food and I’m open to continual change. I’m also figuring out what works for me, not subscribing to one “diet” or food theory (i.e. GAPS, paleo, gluten free, etc.). I’m eating real, whole food (mostly) that I like and that treats me well 🙂

    It’s funny, I actually don’t really compare myself to other women. I mostly compare myself…to myself. If I start gaining weight then I compare to how I used to be. I have already put some clothes away. The same thing happened before I got pg with Abram. I lost a bunch of weight after Rebecca was born, was under 100 lbs. for a while. Then when I wanted to do another round of IVF I had to work to gain weight. I didn’t like it, but I knew my body needed it. It was good for me to finally put the small clothes away that time. And I’m starting to do it again. I hate the feeling of tight clothes. No matter how skinny I am/feel.

  4. Mary Voogt says:

    Shu Han – Thanks for much for stopping by and leaving a comment! I checked out your site. Looks like you’ve got lots of great stuff on there. I’ll have to check out your recipes for sure.

    I LOVE cooking too. That’s the problem now…I’m making so much food that I love and can now eat…that I’m really eating 😛 I’m sure this is temporary as I adjust to a more relaxed approach to food/diet. I won’t overeat so much anymore (i.e. no more need for RRARFing :).

    I am pretty anal about health too. Just ask my husband 😛 It gets even worse when you have kids. Their health is so important.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    if it makes you unhappy, why don’t you get rid of the scale. Since the number doesn’t actually matter why look at it and have it “taunt” you?

    Besides, all scales are lying and evil anyway.. 🙂

  6. Mary Voogt says:

    I have stopped weighing myself very often (I used to do it daily, now once a week at most). I figure if I feel good and my clothes fit I shouldn’t worry about a number 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. Come back again and introduce yourself.

  7. Anonymous says:

    yeah, that’s the one thing i can’t figure out about GAPS. why isn’t it presented as an elimination diet? that’s what it is. instead it’s presented as an ‘eat these foods at these times’ ‘one size fits all’ diet. i think that causes many problems for many people. so, thanks for helping to spread the word about GAPS as elimination diet.

  8. The Voogts says:

    Thanks! I wish I had figured it out sooner. Instead of following rules that “should” work I need to listen to my body and what “does” work. GAPS is a guide, but it is unique for everyone. It really helps you pinpoint your own body’s needs/tolerances.

  9. Kevin says:

    Hi, Mary – I came here by way of reading your post “Why a gut healing diet may not be the place to start” on the Kitchen Stewardship blog. I want to thank you for sharing the info there, because it is helping me in my process of figuring out what to do next. First, I have severe adrenal fatigue (as Dr Dan Kalish would say – “there are no good days anymore (at this stage).” I am basically incredibly tired all the time and can only get a few minutes to an hour per day of rising above this lethargic energy level and get anything done. Two, I have multiple digestive and gut-related symptoms that have worsened over time, and I’ve been told I have leaky gut syndrome from a health-checkup consult (and some blood labs done there) at a local integrative clinic. OK – How your post is helping me is that: I know I need to take action to try to turn the corner and start improving – BUT I don’t know whether to address my adrenal fatigue first or my leaky gut first. I’ve waffled back and forth so many times! At the same time, by now in 2018 (yes I’m a tad late to this post 🙂 ), there are SO many posts and info out there extolling the virtues of a very low carb diet, especially Keto, that I have been feeling tugged to go on Keto. More to the point, I have thought about going off carbs and trying to switch to burning fat for fuel – but … I can’t figure out for sure if that would help or hurt my adrenal function. So thanks for pointing out in your post that when someone is trying to heal from adrenal fatigue (or other chronic health issue), that going off carbs completely (or very low carb diet) might not be the way to go (at least before healing from that health issue). Also, I have been severely sleep-deprived for the past 6 or so years (because the first few years I took care of my bedridden mother when she had a serious illness and then later I tried to resume earning an income and I just thought my sleep can wait) – and actually I believe my lack of sleep is the primary reason I fell into adrenal fatigue. So, I really find helpful your suggestions to eat nourishing foods and not restrict (especially carbs) when I’m trying to heal my adrenals, and to get enough sleep, along with getting a hair tissue analysis and other helpful suggestions. Thanks again! A lot of this comes down to info overload (particularly on diets that are trendy right now). I seriously have been thinking recently that if I just go Keto (no grains) maybe that will fix all my issues, but I now think I just wanted the simplicity of one plan to follow, but Keto doesn’t seem a good fit for adrenals and also I’ve been a grains eater all my life, so I now think that would be extra stress I put on myself if I were to go that route, so I don’t think I’ll do that now (at least not as a place to start my healing – as you stated in your post). Thanks again for giving me some much needed clarity on this! Kevin

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! It really is hard these days to know what is right. And the hardest part is that it is so individual. You have to figure out what works for your body. For me, that means plenty of grains. I don’t feel full or have energy if I don’t eat grains at almost every meal. I know some people do really well with no grains. Personally I don’t recommend keto. I think it’s way too restrictive, especially if you have adrenal issues. Just like I don’t recommend intermittent fasting. Adrenals need rest and fuel.

      There really isn’t one thing to treat first. They all stem from the same problem. So anything you do to improve your health will help. I would definitely do HTMA to find out where things are lacking or out of balance in your body. Fixing mineral imbalances can have a profound impact.

      I would say start with getting more sleep if you can. Re-feed your body – no calorie restriction. Eat as much as you want. Excess calories can actually help the healing process. And don’t restrict carbs. They can come from grains, starchy veggies, fruits, etc. Move your body gently each day. Nothing strenuous. Just easy walking or yoga. Simply move throughout your day. Don’t sit for long periods of time. So neither extreme (sitting all day vs. pushing yourself hard). Just stay gently active. Do that for a bit to see how you feel.

      Check your body temp. If it’s low you definitely need more starch/carb and more salt.

      Restrictive diets often have short term gain and long term bad consequences. I’d avoid them. Just give your body what it needs – rest, fuel, movement. And short term targeted supplements based on HTMA. Then watch your body heal itself 🙂 No “gut healing diet” necessary!

      I’m digging into some new stuff right now that could really help you and so many others and hope to be sharing more about it on the blog soon. So stay tuned.

  10. Kevin says:

    Mary – Thanks so much for your thoughts and suggestions! I think your recommendation of rest (adequate sleep), fuel with food, and gentle movement make so much sense for healing and rebuilding good health. After thinking about this, I really think these are the things I should be doing on a regular, consistent basis, and then see how I feel after a while. Re low/no grains or low-carbs diets like Keto, I see now where my thinking went in the wrong direction: I thought that Keto (mainly the diet that got my attention) represents what to eat for overall good health, period, so that was more fundamental, so that if I went on and adhered to Keto eating, in time that alone would take care of my various chronic problems (like my severe adrenal fatigue) because, well, I got healthier in general. My problem was I didn’t know how important – and fundamental – the adrenals and the whole HPA axis was. So I kept focusing on other aspects (like healing my gut with some diet) instead of on what my adrenals need to recover from this exhaustion that I’m in.

    I’m taking your “more sleep” recommendation to heart. In recent years, when I’ve been taking care of my bedridden mother, I slept an average of 2 hours a night because that’s how long it took and I made sure she had everything she needed before I got some sleep. Then more recently I’ve been sleeping anywhere from 2 to 5 hours each night intentionally because I really want to make up for the loss in daytime productivity from my adrenal fatigue. It really frustrates me because I used to get so much more done when I didn’t have the adrenal exhaustion. But in recent months things have gotten worse and worse – I keep getting more tired. By 6 or 7 pm most days I can barely stay awake and alert. I will now try to get 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

    In my eating, I won’t refrain from eating grains or carbs, except simple, refined, or added sugar. I haven’t cut out carbs yet, so now I won’t do that – now I know my adrenals need this macronutrient to heal. I’m more or less doing gentle movement (I also have asthma, so I actually can’t do strenuous exercises even if I don’t have fatigue).

    I will get to your other suggestions (HTMA, body temp). Thanks so much again for your caring suggestions! There’s so much to learn (even though there’s so much info out there). Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

    • Sounds like you’ve got a good plan! When you really need healing sometimes even 9-10 hours a night is needed. Or take a nap during the day. I know it’s not always possible. But even doing that for a short time should give you good results. Best of luck!

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