Wednesday, May 8, 2013

before I go...

Is Diet the New Religion?

     Did that grab ya?  LOL, well, this thought grabbed me earlier this week as I skimmed through numerous food blogs for recipes, and a blog post began to unfold in my mind that I just haven't been able to shake.  People have become religious about diet.  People have even begun to categorize their friends and acquaintances according to how they eat:  "my vegan friend," "my gluten-free friend," "my paleo friend."  They seem to congregate with like-minded eaters nowadays, and I've even noticed like with a new religious convert, they want to convert you, am I right?  Obviously, like with religious converts, the intentions are golden:  they truly care about you, they've experienced firsthand the benefits  of said religion (diet), and feel that there is no other way to believe (eat).  That's all fine and dandy, until it moves into judgement or a superior attitude.  It can also be presumptuous, to think that people can afford to eat the way (you) do, even if the premise is that in the long run they are saving money on medical bills by eating healthy, but tell that to a struggling working single mom with hungry teenagers.  I have (and still do, admittedly, to some extent) bought into that line of thinking.  Certainly with overeating I feel that way.  That's a different topic altogether.  
     My husband works in the crop protection industry, among many brilliant minds in the fields of botany, chemistry, entomology, and a host of other branches of science.  He has had to do in-depth study of the science, as well as the business side of the industry, so we have a different perspective on all things organic/non-organic, GMO/non-GMO than the general public.  My husband is ethical and conscientious, yet I have been made to feel on more than one occasion that he works for the devil himself, and that it's best I keep that information to myself.  But I don't want to get off on that tangent, though it does make me feel like an "infidel."  Here's an interesting article for you, if you've not already seen it.
     Think about it, though:  food has become the new line by which we delineate ourselves.  Not only food, but shopping for food.  Now, I understand wanting to be informed about what we buy, about voting with our wallets, so I get that that is what's going on.  But judging people based on where they shop (or whether or not they use reusable bags) is where it gets religious.  What are Wal-mart shoppers, the untouchables?  I avoid Wal-mart, to some extent, it's not the most pleasant of shopping experiences, but I totally get why people shop there when other grocery store chains charge as much as triple for the same item, same brand.  Having said all that, I think that if public schools spent as much time educating kids on things like healthy diet and exercise as they do on sex education we'd be moving in the right direction.  Isn't it about balance?  There is always a yin to a yang, can you sustain that sustainability?
     In my family, we make food choices that will best benefit my diabetic son, who by no fault of his own inherited an autoimmune disease.  This is a huge balancing act, on my part, and I have to put a great deal of time, effort, and yes, money, into meals for my family.  Do I think it's a better way to eat than the average American diet?  I suspect so.  Do I sometimes move into judgement when I see people that have obviously made poor choices and are suffering the consequences physically?  I know so.  But our way of eating is not my religion, I am not going to show up at someone's house expecting them to cook in such a way that doesn't offend me.  Food is meant to be an occasion for fellowship, community, and celebration.  I don't think it's meant to be the divisive thing it's become, much like religion has (which, interestingly, the origin of the word ‘religion’ lies in the Latin word ligare, to bind).  Food and religion are meant to be something that bonds us with other people.  When you feel like something is figuratively being shoved down your throat by someone, do you feel a sense of kinship with that person, or better still, do you even want what it is that is being shoved down your throat?  A good friend of mine was telling me about having someone at her house that kept going on and on and on about gluten-free eating, and she said that by the time the person left she actually felt like eating an entire loaf of bread!  Or have you ever been around an especially pious and self-righteous religious person trying to sell you their brand of God only to want to shout, "I don't believe in God, I believe in science!!!"?  I can be a complete turd, I know.  Hopefully you've seen Nacho Libre, and if you haven't, well, I'm judging you based on that.  ;)
     Over and out.  Make love not war.  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

here I go again

I don't know if anybody is actually interested in this information, but I thought I'd give an update on the whole gluten-free thing...

So, I was doing very well at gluten-free until I visited my parents last month, and it was just too, well, difficult.  So I gradually started eating foods with gluten again, and seemed to be without all of the uncomfortable symptoms I'd previously reported on.  I thought to myself that maybe it had been a coincidence, or all in my head, until all of the symptoms came back.  Apparently, it takes time for the inflammatory process to kick in, because it was last week before I clued in that gluten was once again making my joints swollen and painful, making me feel groggy and irritable much of the time, and disrupting my sleep, even.  It was a culmination of things like pasta, angel food cake, cookies, cereal, and bread over a period of a couple of weeks that brought on a huge flare up in my right knee, right hand, and left elbow, which even Aleve and ibuprofen wouldn't touch.  I did get some relief with Tylenol, I must say.  Once I put my foot down and cut out all that gluten (a little cheat here and there, but maybe quantity is important) my symptoms subsided pretty quickly and my energy level improved greatly.

I did make some yummy Buffalo cauliflower bites last night (Skinnytaste) that are coated in flour, indulged in a few, and felt some stiffness in my left hand when I woke up this morning, but I'm back on track and being a good girl today.  I stocked up on Chobani and walnuts at Costco, my go-to gluten- free snack or lunch, and when I made out my grocery list/menu for the week on Monday it was all gluten-free recipes.  This is off the subject, but I love this weekly meal planner template, and this grocery list template.  When I'm feeling especially anal-retentive I color code with highlighters list items according to where I plan to buy them!  I sort of hide them from fellow shoppers, afraid they'll think I'm a weirdo.

What I really want to switch to, as much as I've enjoyed this blog, is a blog dedicated to type 1 diabetes, because that is what I feel truly passionate about right now.  Blogs on healthy eating are a dime a dozen, I don't feel like I have anything exciting or revolutionary to share on the topic, but I feel like I do have some valuable information for parents of or persons with type 1 diabetes. So, I will make it my last post when I launch my diabetes blog, I want it to be top notch so I'm going to take some time to plan it out, but I will post the link when it's ready.  Until then, I hope all my friends are having as beautiful spring as we're having here in North Carolina...dogwoods, baseball, and BBQ!

Monday, February 25, 2013

update on gluten-free

     Well, I say "gluten-free," but really I mean to compare/contrast eating gluten-free vs. when I had foods containing gluten, and there's no denying that I have a sensitivity.  I did almost a solid 2 weeks of sticking to gluten-free, and during that time I was absolutely without any arthritis, my energy level was at a constant throughout the day, and my skin was clear and non-itchy.  Then, about a week or so ago, I ordered us pizza (planned on getting myself the gluten-free crust but then decided to skip the added expense, plus I wanted to see what happened).  A couple of hours later when Jon and I were watching one of our shows I couldn't stop scratching.
     So, I was good the rest of the week, diligently making myself an omelet when the rest of the family had something containing gluten, making no-flour peanut butter cookies as my treat, feeling great.  Again, no joint pain, great energy level, clear and non-itchy skin, no bloating, etc., but then Saturday night Jon and I went to a tapas/wine bar for a date and I had some of the flatbread.  It was late in the day, and I really didn't notice feeling itchy or anything before going to bed, so I was thinking to myself maybe this had all been in my head.  Still, I was good at breakfast and lunch the next day, but then at dinner I had some cornbread and a piece of the apple pie I'd made, and by bedtime I had a very sore and stiff elbow.  One of my knees was feeling stiff and achy as I walked up and down the stairs, and I was so drowsy it was ridiculous.  Also, I slept terribly, and I have been sleeping great when doing gluten-free (another benefit I forgot to mention).
     It may be too early to say that there is a correlation between my eating and my symptoms, but to me it seems undeniable.  I am motivated once again to move back to a more paleo diet for my whole family (after agreeing to still make my waffle recipe once a week, which I won't eat, but Jon loves too much for me to paleo-ize it).  I made myself some paleo pancakes Saturday morning when I made waffles for my nephews and the rest of the family.  I put an egg, a banana, and 1 tbsp of almond flour in the food processor, then made a bunch of little pancakes.  First I did sugar-free syrup, then I decided they were better with a little honey.  I will continue to tweak that recipe a bit to make the pancakes turn out a little heartier, but there is potential.  I am fine with trying weird things, especially if I know it's healthier for me.  I think it depends on your relationship with food...if it's a huge source of pleasure for you and you have strong likes and dislikes, then making changes might come harder.  If you find eating healthy to be rewarding and enjoy experimenting then all of this is not only easy but fun!  My oldest has always given me the most resistance, been the least likely to be on board with trying out new and healthier variations on recipes, but just this morning he said he'd like to try gluten-free.  Ladies and gentlemen, I may have a convert!
     I'm not going to be 100% paleo, I can't afford it nor do I want to be back to being in the kitchen cooking three meals a day plus homemade snacks.  We'll be doing lots of Greek yogurt, and much more in the way of vegetables.  Not going to eliminate dairy as of yet, although I could easily switch to almond milk myself.  I would like to try to get everyone eating almond butter instead of peanut butter, need to find a crunchy version if it exists.  I just have to think that as good as I've felt doing gluten-free, maybe a few other changes will be all the better!
     Interestingly, since mentioning my experiment with eating gluten-free on Facebook, and consequently bringing up paleo again, I've had several friends ask about recipes.  I wanted to compile a list of my favorite recipes and/or websites, so here are a few:

  • Paleo Comfort Foods cookbook (find on Amazon)
  • (her banana bread is my fave)
  • (her chicken zoodle soup is a favorite around here)
  • (my favorite cookie recipe, I usually double)
I have already provided links to some different recipes in previous posts, please check them out.  There are so many fabulous paleo blogs now that you literally won't know where to begin, but have fun searching, I sure have!  Sometimes I've merely taken a family favorite recipe and tweaked it to make it lower carb, like substituting some sautéed cabbage instead of pasta or rice, or just skipping a starch altogether (except beans, we still do beans for now).  Add simple salad where you would have had rice or potatoes.  Do two vegetables instead.  Make vegetable-laden soups that are rich in flavor.  Anyway, I need to get to homeschooling this dreary Monday morning, I hope this has been helpful!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


     Well, it has been ages since I've posted, but I thought I'd share what's going on with me diet-wise lately.  A couple of months ago we'd had a friend over for dinner, and he mentioned that his sister had gone wheat-free to help with her arthritis.  He said she claimed to be arthritis-free as a result, and given that I've had flare-ups of my own for several years this got my attention.  I began to pay more attention to my body (not to any hypochondriac extreme, mind you) and started noticing some things.  Then, I recently Googled gluten sensitivity and found that I sort of fit into that category, though I'm not too quick to jump on that bandwagon.  Still, perhaps, even if I am not truly gluten sensitive, some of what I've been experiencing might be due to how my body reacts to gluten.

The symptoms:

  • bloating- it's always annoyed me that even though I've kept a healthy weight and done a good abdominal workout for as long as I can remember, I almost always look like I'm about 8-10 weeks pregnant, unless I fast a meal or two and suck in.  It's not so much a paunch as it is just, well, bloated.
  • joint aches and pains- often worse around the time my cycle begins, from the extra fluid, I'm assuming. Many times it has necessitated taking Aleve, and sometimes I've attributed improved symptoms to doing martial arts (more on that in a minute).  This includes knees, sometimes an elbow, and my finger joints.
  • mid-afternoon fatigue- it wouldn't matter if I'd slept 9 hours the night before, I would feel inexplicably sleepy, like I couldn't fully function, and caffeine did nothing for this kind of tired.
  • rashes- mainly on my abdomen and chest, this almost seemed like acne, but I don't suffer from acne at this point in my life.  Also, it's very itchy, which acne isn't normally itchy like this.  Hydrocortisone cream would relieve the itchiness, but the bumps remained.  I switched to free and clear detergent and dryer sheets with no improvement.

     So, for the past 2 weeks or so I've been almost completely gluten-free, save for a smidgeon of pasta I had the other night in some lasagna (I use the noodles very sparingly, the thin oven-ready kind), a casserole that had flour in it 2 nights ago (my itching cranked up again after that), and a couple of thin mint Girl Scout cookies.  For breakfast I've had either oatmeal (I realize oatmeal technically isn't gluten-free unless it says "gluten-free"), an omelet, fried eggs, or I made a pan of this gluten-free banana bread.  For lunch I've been eating Chobani with walnuts or almonds stirred in, and for dinner I've been using recipes without gluten (I need to compile a list here on this website).  Here's what I've observed relative to the above-mentioned symptoms:

  • bloating- took several days into this but here, day one of my period, I woke up with a flat stomach.
  • joint aches and pains- I have none, despite the fact that I haven't done martial arts for a month!
  • mid-afternoon fatigue- I also have none.
  • rashes- gradually fading, following the flare-up after the casserole with flour in it.

     My conclusion, based on my experiment on myself, is that I feel remarkably better when I don't consume gluten, or if I only consume it sparingly (which leads me to believe I don't have a true sensitivity, certainly not in the same league as celiac disease).  I have a child with type 1 diabetes that benefits when I steer clear of gluten-laden recipes, mainly because of the carbs, but I have to wonder if there isn't more to that.  I might add that I've not switched to expensive gluten-free breads and pastas, which can actually contain tons of processed and carb-heavy flours, albeit wheat-free.  I've simply eliminated that type of food from my diet (breads and pastas).  Now, I have been doing some potatoes and brown basmati rice, which isn't paleo, but listen to this:  since I've backed off on the paleo and found what feels like a balance for my family, Zach's hemoglobin A1c has actually dropped.  Three months ago he was 5.8, and last Tuesday he was 5.5 (he's not been out of the upper 6's or low 7's since his diagnosis almost six years ago).  That's considered normal, folks, more or less (might alert a physician to watch a non-diabetic as pre-diabetic, but still!).  And my child has been able to enjoy eating like a "normal" kid...not like his typical American peers, because we steer clear of that way of eating on principle (visit a Wal-mart and have a gander at your fellow shoppers and you'll understand why).  I think that one of the most helpful practices I've implemented in the last six months is to have Zach do the elliptical machine for 20-30 minutes a day, usually right after he's had a breakfast I wouldn't have allowed when we were eating strictly paleo (a half of a bagel with a fried egg, or chocolate Cheerios with a spoonful of peanut butter- I always throw in protein with carbs).  I don't let him eat like that every day, often I do bacon and scrambled eggs, but I have been trying to cut back on our bacon consumption.  Sounds like I'm a tiger mom when it comes to exercise?  Not hardly...the child does the elliptical while wearing a headset/microphone while playing his cousins online on the PS3, he's very talented.  You have to see it to believe it, but he truly does it, and his cousins know why he sounds out of breath when he's playing with them!
     I will be continuing this experiment with eating gluten-free, and will keep you posted on the ongoing results.  Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

simple chicken salad

    I surprised myself yesterday with this thrown-together recipe for lunch....


  • leftover garlic-lime chicken (or any grilled chicken)
  • fancy baby lettuce
  • sun-dried tomatoes (the dried kind, not in a jar with oil)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Basically, I made a dressing with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, which I then put over a salad made of lettuce, cut-up chicken, and some of the sun-dried tomatoes.  It was quite good, and I could even have eaten it without the chicken, the tomatoes made it for me!

Friday, August 17, 2012

a family affair

     Taking care of my family includes encouraging them to have exercise be an integral part of their lives.  We've acquired over the past few months some exercise equipment, the most recent being the tall thing in the picture (for doing pull-ups, dips, and push-ups), so I bought a rug to put it all on and give it a more organized feel.  Also, I started a logbook for everyone to record their progress in doing sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and dips, and I love how a little friendly competition can be a motivator.  Jordan did 30 sit-ups, so when I was approaching 30 when I was doing them she began to critique me, saying certain sit-ups should have been disqualified, or pointing out that I had paused and she never paused.  So funny!  Amazingly, I could not do more than 29 sit-ups, so she was feeling rather victorious.  ;)

     Mychael is quite the strong little man, he did 10 chin-ups and dips like nobody's business, then did 20 pushups.  I thought I had some arm strength, but do you know how many dips I can do?  One.  Apparently, I lack triceps.  I can, however, do 7 pull-ups, and I have managed to do 20 (guy) pushups.

     Since it may be awhile until my next post, knowing me, I want to share a paleo blog link which I stumbled upon while on, Stir It UP.  You will be amazed, it is a gold mine.  I think I like her chocolate chip cookie recipe better than the other one I posted about, so check it out.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


     O.K., that used to be more of a buzzword than it is lately, but it's still floating around out there.  Sustainability, that is.  I think that for me, it's what I'm shooting for when it comes to healthy eating, exercise and well, life in general.  Balance is another word that gets overused, but nevertheless, somewhere deep within my being balance is what I'm drawn to.  I was recently telling my husband, Jon, that since I've been studying meditation (as taught by Eknath Easwaran, a favorite author of mine) and being deliberate about temperance in all things, I've noticed that I seem to be more sensitive when I have an imbalance in any area in my life.  I even subconsciously go about trying to bring balance to that particular area, and don't feel right until I do.  My thing with any sort of diet or exercise craze is making sure that in the bigger picture of my life I have balance: enough sleep, exercise, intellectual stimulation, making serving others a part of my life, quality time with my husband and children, time spent meditating and connecting with God, making sure my family is eating nutritious and satisfying home- cooked meals, trying to keep on some semblance of a budget, and keeping order in my home as well as maintaining a sane schedule that allows for all of the aforementioned activities.
     Hopefully the length of this post hasn't already lost any potential readers, but if you're still with me, I will now get around to my point as it relates to the paleo diet (my non-purist version of said diet, for the record).  In all honesty, what I have found when I tried to be strict about eating paleo is that I am in the kitchen a LOT.  Like, more than usual.  More than I care to be.  I have other interests, other demands on my time other than cooking food and taking pictures of it, etc., etc., not that I don't have the utmost respect and appreciation for all of the people out there that do this, because I rely on them to do this!  But it became one of those imbalanced areas in my life, and so I am going about finding a sustainable way to keep to many of the paleo diet principles such that my family's health reaps the benefits, yet I am  not cooking three meals a day (or more!  if you count snacks!) from scratch, not to mention cleaning up after each meal.  I know that many people serious about the paleo diet cook in larger quantities, eat leftovers, etc., which it makes it more manageable.  Most days I feel like I'm doing well to make enough for one meal for us, especially since I'm not sure how some recipes will turn out (if we will even want to eat the leftovers!).
     I was thinking about what my life looks like when I feel like I'm in a place of balance, even just little things I do, and I thought that maybe I should do a post about that, in case I mention something that jumps out as really helpful to somebody.  So I will begin with nighttime, since that sets the stage for the following day, and if I've gotten the kids settled into their beds and am not too exhausted, I read something for pleasure (I read a broad selection, from zombie fiction to John Steinbeck).  If I get on the computer before bed I don't sleep as well, and there is apparently a scientific explanation for this, something about an area of your brain that becomes stimulated by screens, you can google it.  On an ideal night I only get up once to check Zach's blood sugar, and go right back to sleep.  I cannot overemphasize that I must have eight hours of sleep, nine feels even better, but I am probably making up for years of sleep deprivation when my children were younger! I set my alarm for around 6:00, or sometimes hear Jon leave for work sometime before 6:00 and just get up then.  The coffee is waiting for me in the carafe, so I have my first morning cup (with a little Splenda and half and half) while checking email, Facebook, and the news headlines.  Next, I read something inspirational, such as The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran, to begin the process of getting my focus for the day.  I will sometimes meditate for a bit, or just close my eyes and talk to God. Every other day I wrap this up by about 6:30 and head downstairs to do the elliptical machine for 30 minutes (this is when I let myself veg out and watch TV, I rarely sit and watch TV during the week).  After my 30 minutes of cardio I stretch for 5 or 10 minutes, and I LOVE to stretch, it's like a massage I'm giving myself.  I'm pretty sure something must be released in my brain and into my body when I'm doing this, because I feel so relaxed and yet energized.  Hey, I guess that's why yoga is so popular!  In the Bhagavad Gita yoga is defined as "perfect evenness of mind" (2:47-48).  After stretching I do a pilates type sit-up: lying flat on your back with feet together and arms extended completely over your head and resting on the ground, slowly bring your arms up and over your head and sit up slowly as you bring your hands all the way down to reach past your toes, all the while with your heels never leaving the ground and not bending your knees.  Work up to doing ten of these, and then do as many as you like, I do around twenty.  After that I do 50 bicycle crunches, hopefully you know what that means, and then another 25 or more regular crunches with knees up and bent at a 90 degree angle, nice and slow.  Basically, do them until you get a good burn going on!  After working my abdominals I do 40-50 girl push-ups, nice and slow.  If I miss a week it's amazing how quickly I lose strength, so this should be done no less than every other day to see results.  We just ordered a piece of equipment that will allow us to do pull-ups, which I try to do whenever the opportunity presents itself.
     Seeing how long this post already is and I've only gotten as far as the morning, I think I'll stop there for now, except to add a couple of quick tips for the rest of the day, and I'll continue to chronicle "a balanced day" in my next post!  I keep a big container of salted whole almonds in my house at all times.  When I'm feeling hungry during the day, it is amazing the effect a handful of almonds has on subduing and even satisfying hunger.  Test this out for yourself, and it's especially helpful while cooking.  A spoonful of some kind of nut butter is great for this, as well.  I know everybody says this, but you really should drink lots of water during the day.  It fills you up, it's great for your skin and even your bowels, and obviously it doesn't have any calories or artificial sweeteners (which can make you crave sugar, interestingly enough).  I make a point to fill my water bottle and take it with me wherever I go, so I'm drinking water all day long.  Oh, and it gives you energy, too.  Here's another: keep some dark chocolate candy on hand and have a piece of it for dessert rather than a bowl of ice cream, or instead of baking a pan of brownies because you need a little chocolate.  Or if you're like me, have a piece now and then during the day when a craving for something sweet hits you, it doesn't have to be for dessert, necessarily.  Another tip: just do it, just DECIDE that you are not going to put crap in your body, and by crap I'm talking about donuts, anything resembling what Ren and Stimpy referred to as "sugar-coated lumps", the stuff that they sell at your local Sheetz!  Avoid it like you've got type 1 diabetes, that's what I do.
     More later, folks, I've got to go, I'm craving some salty almonds!