We have a saying in Lyme Disease: “You don’t get it til you get it.” This is true of all of life’s situations – chronic illness, addiction, parenthood, grief, socio-economic status, race, religion, everything, really. You don’t understand the far-reaching consequences of a person’s circumstances until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
With Lyme-MSIDS there is a strange sort of phenomenon that almost everyone knows someone with the disease, yet so few people “get it.” And the consequences are very dire: doctors and hospitals dismissing patients as mentally ill, insurance companies refusing to pay for treatment, people losing their jobs, losing their families, extreme isolation and depression, and ultimately, suicide.
When you’re sick and need the most assistance, no one knows how to help. When you recover, no one understands your new lifestyle, fears, slow progress, or PTSD triggers from basic medical care. When you try to appreciate the disease as a learning experience and turn it around to help others, you have no money to dig them out of this horribly unjust system, so you can only tell them to “hang in there,” the exact words that rang hollow in your own ears just a short time ago. The entire journey, from beginning to end, is lonely.
The horrors of Lyme-MSIDS are so inhumane, patients often say, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.” But in their pain, grief, and raging isolation, they’ll also say, “I wish everyone would get this disease. Then they’d know what it’s like.”
The #Lyme4Lent Challenge (L4L) was conceived as a way to reconcile both objectives: give people the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the challenges and suffering brought on by Lyme Disease, while also giving them an incredible health tool to prevent systemic chronic illness from taking hold of their bodies.
Lyme in a (Coco)Nut Shell
To participate in the Lyme4Lent challenge, you will follow a Whole30* eating plan. Read the book, “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and commit to it for at least 30 days during the Lenten season, NO cheats, NO exceptions, NO excuses, NO days off. While you are encouraged to use this opportunity to tune into your own health issues and lifestyle, the ultimate goal isn’t really about you; it’s about empathizing with and learning to help Lyme Disease sufferers. It is first and foremost an act of love and awareness for the Lyme Disease community.
Along the way, I will be highlighting the issues that “average” people face on this diet: the challenging of conventional beliefs, a paradigm shift, getting lost in a confusing and contradictory health system, social consequences, emotional turbulence, workplace tension, etc, and comparing them to the Lyme Disease experience. It is meant to build a bridge between Lyme patients and society. Ultimately, my goal is to alleviate some of the isolation and judgment that too often drives the chronically ill to despair, and stoke conversation and social action between our communities.
Quite simply, because I found the book, read it, and loved its direct no-nonsense style. I had already done years of reading and research on diets to reduce inflammation and help heal my Lyme-MSIDS and MCAS. I’d gone through months of confusion, pulling all the best and worst from GAPS, AIP, SIGHI, Paleo, Mediterranean, and all the gut-healing, immune-boosting protocols, trying to find what worked best for me. In the process, I ended up healing 19 years of clinical depression and getting Lyme and MCAS under control. In short, changing my diet changed my life. But it was hard.
“It Starts With Food”* is an excellent resource that puts basic nutritional information together in a science-backed volume that explains in rather simple terms why food is considered more healthy or less healthy, and how it all affects every aspect of your life. It is to-the-point, filled with real-life examples, and I think can resonate with everyone from the chronically ill to the gym rat. It’s a bit of harsh reality and tough love at times – which I like. Lyme shows no pity, no gentle nudging, no sympathy, and neither will this diet!
While technically you can do Whole30* by gleaning resources from the internet, reading the book is pretty essential to the L4L Challenge. It’s part of the learning process, taking the initiative to challenge your thoughts, and boost your confidence in the nutritional value of what you’re eating. The book is older, so used copies are widely available and inexpensive. There are no programs to buy, no cookbooks necessary, no other obligations. There is nothing to count or calculate, no weights or measurements, only reading the ingredients label (not "nutrition" label!) on your food. The internet is full of free resources and helpful guides. But it starts with the book!
*The L4L Challenge is not affiliated with the Whole30 program or its authors
Lent is a season when many people give up something, either in religious observance, or in secular self-empowerment. It is the perfect time to come together as human beings and sacrifice a little bit of ourselves and lives so that we may better help our fellow man.
It is also a wonderfully strategic period right at the beginning of prime tick season. Most cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed in spring and summer, when the tiny invisible nymph ticks hatch, and humans flood the outdoors for some fresh springtime air. The L4L will better prepare you for Lyme Disease Awareness Month in May, give you life-saving knowledge when you are most at risk for contracting Lyme Disease yourself, and put your immune system at its best for fighting off the insect bites of the season.
LYME 4 LENT CHALLENGE RULES:
1. You must read the book "It Starts with Food" by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.
2. Complete a Whole30 protocol during the Lenten season - between Ash Wednesday (Feb 26) and Easter (April 12).
3. NO cheats, NO days off, NO excuses! If you mess up, you have to start back at day 1.
4. Follow Lyme4Lent Challenge on Facebook or check out www.joyclam.com for essential information that ties the experience to Lyme Disease.
5. Share your journey with the hashtags #Lyme4Lent and #Lyme4LentChallenge
6. Take some time to learn about Lyme Disease and other chronic illnesses, preferably by connecting with someone you know.
7. If you fail to complete the challenge, donate $30 to a Lyme-related charity!
You have one month to order your book, start reading, and prepare your kitchen! The Lyme4Lent Challenge begins February 26, 2020!
The tiny print disclaimer section:
The Lyme4Lent Challenge is run by Joyclam.com
The Lyme4Lent Challenge and Joyclam.com are in no way affiliated with the Whole30, Whole9, any book, author, contributor, sponsor, organization, charity, or entity. Think of it as a fan page with a mission.
I am not a medical professional and this website, challenge, and affiliated content are personal opinion only. They are not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. You read, share, and participate at your own risk. Please consult your doctor before beginning any dietary regimen and monitor your health appropriately.
My work is largely spiritual in nature, and material shared from Joyclam.com may include religious content. However, the L4L Challenge is meant to welcome and inspire all people. Feel free to work around or re-interpret any religious content you are uncomfortable with in order to complete this challenge!