I celebrate my Migraine Miracle anniversary like I do my birthday and my wedding anniversary because the moment I chose to make the change is just as significant. Everything—and I mean everything—used to center around my stupid head. Not anymore. Now I can simply LIVE.
If you haven’t read my original post, go take a look. It will explain how this came to be and how I Slayed the Beast (a Dr. T phrase). On this two-year anniversary, I figured it was time to write an update on what life is like in Phase Four of the Migraine Miracle plan.
A nutshell summary of the start…
After thirty-six years suffering from chronic migraine—I’m talking more than twenty a month—I took what was initially a tough step and quit all sugar and wheat (in addition to some other steps). I wanted to once and for all kill this thing that had controlled my life. The decision came about because of a book by my hero, neurologist Dr. Josh Turknett… and his wife Jenny, who rocks the recipe world!.
The plan worked. Not only for me but for my non-headache-suffering-hubby as well. Brian has had maybe two minor headaches in his entire life. For him, changing to this way of eating made him more comfortable in his body. He lost forty pounds and said the bloating sense and tightness he always felt is gone. He too will never go back to eating wheat and sugar.
Man. I always feel like I’m doing a sales pitch when I talk about my success. I’m not. I gain nothing from writing about my experience. My hope is more people–even those without migraine–will give this a try.
A REAL TRY.
Not some half-assed attempt. The most common thing I hear when I share details is this:
Oh… I tried that and it didn’t work for me.
Even though I know where they’re coming from, I seriously want to shake them. Yeah, you’ve “tried everything”—so did I. No matter what you try the pain persists, so you convince yourself nothing will work. Been there, done that.
Get over it and put that mental obstacle aside.
I’ll ask again. Have you really tried this particular plan? For how long? Did you give up ALL medications? Because following all the steps is the key. This isn’t a fast fix. There’s a lot more to it than just the food. You aren’t going to be “cured” after a week without sugar and wheat. You aren’t even going to be cured after a month. It took a long time to screw up your system, so be patient, dang it! Put in the work and fix yourself. It took me a solid six months to get to phase four, with incremental changes to keep me motivated along the way.
Anyone can do this, but it takes dedication and the true desire to leave the pain behind and change your life. Keep in mind…
This is a LIFE-LONG way of eating, not a diet.
So if you think you’ve tried and failed, be honest with yourself. Did you really try? Did you give it at least three months without a single cheat? Wow, I’m going all tough love here, aren’t I!
Some tips to succeed:
- Don’t give yourself loopholes, the “oh but it’s a special occasion…” No. Just don’t.
- Don’t pick and choose what parts you want to do. It won’t work that way.
- Focus on a positive outcome.
- Remember, there is no deadline for when you’ll be done with the plan or “fixed.” You simply need to accept that this is your way of life now and DO IT.
- Do NOT weaken and take a Triptan.
Don’t get discouraged, though. Once you’re over the hump, things get better and better and better.
I know it’s hard to believe, but this lifestyle becomes EASY.
Really. It does.
You get to a point where you can’t imagine—nor want—to eat any other way, take it from a former sugar and wheat addict. Up until two years ago, I lived for pies, cakes, homemade bread, pasta, waffles—all high quality and homemade of course. I was never one for store bought treats. The joke was sugar is my only vice since I was fit, thin, didn’t drink nor do drugs. My mom’s nickname for me was Cakes because of my love of cake. So yeah, if I can kick the sugar/wheat habit, so can you, and you will never feel better in your life.
Migraine Miracle Phases
Like I said, this doesn’t happen fast. There are steps to healing yourself. You can read in detail about them on Dr. Turknett’s site by clicking on the linked phases below, but in general:
- PHASE ONE: Detox. Quit the sugar and wheat, yes, but also: STOP THE MEDICATIONS. Until you get out of rebound, nothing will truly work. Seriously. My biggest change came after getting off Sumatriptans. Also, cut high carb inflammatory foods and kick negative thoughts to the curb.
- In phase one (August-October 2016), I stripped my diet WAY down. No grains, no sugar, no dairy, no nuts, no fruit. Basically, I ate lots of eggs, avocados, green vegetables with loads of olive oil or butter, and a palm-sized portion of protein. I wanted to shock my body into change. I stayed in ketosis through all of phase one and phase two. (Pictured below, nitrate free ham and swiss omelet with avocado, great for dinner!)
- PHASE TWO: Reboot. Now that you’ve purged the bad, begin to build yourself back up with whole, healthy fats and REAL food. Learn to get through the pain without using medications.
- Phase two (October-December 2016) I added in things like sweet potatoes, some nuts, and berries, all in moderation. I upped my carbs from 20g to around 50g, and found my headache relief through ice packs to the head and neck, walking, drinking tons of water, fasting until the pain was gone, and Yoga for Migraine (this video does wonders for my pain level). My headaches weren’t gone at this point, but they were significantly different. Not as intense and a much shorter duration. (Pictured below, homemade chicken stock with chicken and veggies.)
- PHASE THREE: Refine. Figure out what carb level works best for you. Don’t fall into the “Oh! I feel cured! I can go back to eating the way I want!” trap, because you will undo all that great stuff you did. Now is the time to focus on mindset, determination, and staying the course
- .During phase three (December – March 2017), because I’d achieved metabolic flexibility, I rarely felt hunger and often ate just one meal a day. In fact, I dropped down to 105 pounds (too scrawny for my 5’7″ frame) so I began to eat a bit more—not because being that thin was unhealthy, but because I didn’t feel as strong, and I didn’t like the bones protruding from my body. (Pictured below, almond flour cheddar biscuits with ham and egg–something I occasionally make to satisfy a craving for a bready like thing.)
- PHASE FOUR: Optimize. Use fasting and ketosis as tools to help fight the occasional headaches, keep your mindset positive and your body fit.
- In phase four (March 2017 – Infinity…) everything kicked in like mad for me. I felt like I could rule the world. That’s when I wrote my first post on the Migraine Miracle. Once you reset your system, you become so incredibly in tune with your body, you know exactly how to correct imbalances. Life is amazing in Phase Four. (Pictured below, one of my daily lunch salads, with a green mix of brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale, topped with pistachio crusted goat cheese, tomato, and bacon.)
So do I ever get headaches in Phase Four?
Yes. But they’re different. Gone are the unrelenting five-day marathon bouts of pain where you just want someone to cut your head off. When I get a headache now, it’s mild and fixed with fasting, water, and walking, plus I can easily trace the source instead of chasing random triggers. Not to say I haven’t had any nasty ones this year. I have. And it’s always directly linked to me doing something stupid, like eating a few bites of a long-abandoned rum cake in the freezer when I was particularly stressed. But getting the occasional migraine is a great reminder of how fragile the migraine brain is, and how well the Migraine Miracle works.
The usual suspects that “get” me?
- Restaurant food. That’s the #1 source. If you eat out a lot, you will surely get headaches. You can’t control the ingredients, even when you think you are ordering clean, like veggies and a cut of meat. There may be hidden sugars, or msg in the seasonings, or who knows what. I never feel good after eating in a restaurant. Living Vagabond over the last ten months has certainly thrown some challenges my way in this regard since we don’t always have a kitchen, but I have my tools to help combat.
- Hair and facial products. One of the worst migraines I’ve had this year came from a hair product. There’s an additive in conditioners and sunscreen that gives me a near instant migraine. Problem is, it’s not always detectable just by smelling the bottle, it’s more of a reaction of the body to the product. Sadly, I had one of the old five day’ers from this, but as bad as the pain was, I refused to take even so much as an aspirin. I survived and will stick to known products from here on out.
- Eating too much or too late. Don’t eat until you’re stuffed, and try to eat at least three hours before going to bed.
Tools and How I Eat
My favorite ways to keep the beast from coming back:
- Eating Keto — I know Keto is super trendy right now, but dang. It seriously worked for me. Not the Keto BS you find on the web, full of substitute foods and fake sweeteners. I eat a simple Keto using simple foods. For the first six months, I rarely went over 50g carbs a day. Now I use Keto as a tool. When I know I have an event coming up that I want to feel great for, or I’ve had a couple of higher carb weeks or eaten in too many restaurants, or if I’m just not feeling as stupendous and full of energy as I like.
- Food Prep — Start the week out right. Clean and cut up the veggies. Precook your proteins. Make it easy to make good choices.
- Intermittent Fasting — As a rule, I eat two meals a day, not three. As much as I used to preach the importance of breakfast, I find I feel far better when I skip it. I do, however, drink Fat Coffee every morning (coffee, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and collagen). I LOVE this coffee.
My first actual meal of the day I eat after 11 am (usually a “Big Ass” salad as Mark Sisson calls them), and the second meal, preferably before 8 pm (usually veggies and a protein).
- Fasting — The absolute best tool for combating a migraine is to fast. My longest fast was thirty-six hours—which if you’re not fat adapted might sound impossible, but for me, wasn’t at all hard. Like I said earlier, you don’t feel hunger like you do when you’re carb addicted. This is my favorite perk. Not being a slave to food. I used to have to eat every couple of hours or I’d crash. The freedom from hunger is amazing.
It’s not all about food though…
- Mindfulness — Chronic pain makes you go to a dark place, I know that–both physically and mentally–but you have to pull yourself away from dwelling on the pain. There’s so much power in positive thinking. If you wake up telling yourself it’s going to be a terrible day, it’s going to be a terrible day. I try to do a daily meditation to get my brain in line. I like the Headspace App. Being happy is a fantastic thing and greatly contributes to health and well being. I often combine my meditation with gentle stretching.
- Exercise — When you’re in the throes of a migraine or even just a headache, it’s hard to think about moving. All you want to do is lay on the couch, but that’s not going to help. Put your darkest sunglasses on, get up, and go for a walk. Take long slow deep breaths as you walk and keep walking and downing the water until the pain begins to decrease. Dr. T runs… he’s crazy like that. In general, a body that moves feels better, so make exercise a daily habit, even if it’s just walking (right now I’m really loving Essentrics).
- And the biggest tool of all…
Never ever ever go back to eating wheat and sugar or taking medications.
And please trust me. You get to a point where you don’t miss any of it.
But what about treats or cheats???
This is probably the most common question I get asked. Do I treat or cheat? Not really. I mean I have what I consider treats now, ones that are in line with my way of eating. They truly satisfy me. Not to say I have been a 100% angel. I have had a few cheats, and regretted them.
As for alternate sweeteners? Nope. Don’t use them. It’s much better to adjust the palette. It’s amazing what begins to taste sweet when you get rid of sugar and sugar substitutes. Okay. So here they are. Things I eat now that I didn’t eat in the earlier phases.
My PHASE FOUR cheats and treats:
- Corn tortillas. My one and only regular off plan “cheat.” My hubby has the soul of a Mexican grandmother. He makes the best homemade corn tortillas, and I don’t seem to have a problem with them. Granted, I didn’t incorporate them back into my diet until I was phase four, and will never eat more than two at one sitting. Restaurant Mexican food, on the other hand, nearly always “gets me”, so I’ll stick with hubby’s stellar food, thank you very much.
- Fruit is the most amazing thing you’ve ever tasted in your life. That’s what happens when you quit eating sugar. I eat most fruits now (other than banana and pineapple which are too high sugar). I never eat fruit on an empty stomach and always couple fruit with fat, like strawberries and mascarpone. PEACHES…. omg. I love my peaches with cream. Apples and Cream Cheese or Gouda.
- My hubby also created a sweet potato pie made with no sweetener of any kind and a pecan crust. We top it with unsweetened whipped cream. Even sugar eaters like this pie. Brian never writes down recipes, but here’s the general idea.
- 90% dark chocolate with pecans or pistachios or walnuts. I had to work up to 90, but now, even an 85% tastes way too sweet for me.
- We also made a 3 ingredient brownie with no sweetener at all. Here’s a link to that recipe.
- Okay. Now for my tip to combat the real cheats: Traditional sweet temptations. First off, try to resist. When some sugary treat tries to lure you in, think of how terrible you used to feel. Picture the pain. That usually does the trick for me, but if you just have to try a bite of that amazing looking wedding cake, have just that. ONE BITE. All of the pleasure sensations happen in the first bite, so you really don’t need more. Do it mindfully, though, knowing you may provoke the beast, and accepting that fact. The few times I’ve done the one bite cheat, I get into a panic and counter it with high-intensity exercise and fasting. But here’s the thing: I’ve found I simply don’t have a taste for sweet things anymore, so why even do one bite?
I could go on and on and on.
But I’m sure you’re bored by now, so I’ll stop and give you some links to explore on your own.
- My Original Post about my early process through the program.
- The Book – Definitely where to start in order to truly understand the premise, although Dr. T is always refining the process, so keep up with his website as well.
- Loaded with the first step of knowledge, now the very best place to begin your journey. Do yourself a favor and go through Dr. T’s Beast Slayer Academy. Guarantee you will fully understand after that.
- The Website – Great support, resources, recipes, and ongoing informative articles from Dr. Turknett and his wife Jenny.
- Like listening instead? Dr. T now has a podcast.
- The Facebook Group – This group helps tremendously, not only with reinforcement from other people’s successes but to help in a crisis, like on a trip I took shortly after getting into Phase 4, when I got a beast of migraine in flight, just like the old days. Terrified of getting one on the flight home, I put out a plea, got some tips, and their advice totally worked.
- Primal Provisions – Baffled about what to eat? Jenny Turknett has put together a weekly dinner plan, complete with meal prep instructions to make the work week easier. The recipes are fantastic and well worth the subscription.
- Want to subscribe to everything, and have access to all of the resources?? Join the MigraiNeverland
- I’m going to convert my old Instagram fitness account to a Migraine Miracle account if you want to follow along and see my tactics for Slaying the Beast! If you’re on Insta and make Migraine Miracle posts, hashtag them #mmbeastslayer!
The biggest thank you I can possibly offer to Dr. T and Jenny for everything they do. I swear, every time I write something like this, I tear up, knowing how significantly the Migraine Miracle plan changed my life. Love you to the moon, Turknetts!
SLAY THE BEAST!
Until next time…