Clarity and Consequence: Balancing the Diet Battle

So as I recently discussed, I attempted a water fast this past week. In that past I had gone more than 24 hours without food at all and I was feeling pretty good about it. I made it to 48 hours before I fell under the spell of the food sitting in my refrigerator. Truth be told I didn’t feel hungry but the desire to eat psychologically was stronger than expected. I had food sitting there and I just caved in.

But I was proud of the fasting period, however. Even after eating I felt less dense than I normally do after eating. It was Chinese food too, with rice no less! But eating felt good and comfortable. I ate just a bit too much, but I didn’t bloat terribly or feel sick. This let me feel a bit overconfident and the following day I splurged on McDonalds just because I felt I could handle it.

Honestly, it didn’t destroy me like I thought it would, but it wasn’t enjoyable either. After the first few bites, which were pretty fantastic, I soon began eating mindlessly even though it tasted bland and fake. My stomach immediately protested as well. I also grabbed a candy bar thinking I would treat myself. Literally 10 minutes later, while exploring plants and other building materials I realized I needed to go to the bathroom – right then!!

Soooo that was a learning experience. My body seemed to very clearly give its opinion on the subject and my personal preference was not taken into consideration. Apparently after giving my body two days to reset itself, it doesn’t appreciate whatever was in the McDonalds and especially the candy bar. I am guessing more the candy bar as since all sugary treats make me react the same way.

However, I have also noticed how foods impact me and how long the consequence lasts. It seems that whatever I eat today will last into tomorrow and then by the evening I feel better and can resume my eating style. So if I splurge on McDonalds, I feel nauseated soon after, bloated and heavy that evening and the next day my movements are not particularly enjoyable. By the evening though I feel normal again. ‘Normal’ now means I barely notice digestion at all and my stomach is flatter and calm.

My recovery seems predictable now which means if I do decide to eat food I do not prefer but feel socially obligated (friend’s dinner) or indulge an urge I know how long the consequences will last. Depending on the frequency this can also impact how it influences my weight and health. One poorly chosen meal is not likely to destroy everything.

I find cravings are easier too. They feel more like desires rather than immediate needs. I saw chocolate cupcakes in the breakroom today and wanted to eat one, but realized I didn’t need to and since I plan to workout after work, I would rather not be bloated and uncomfortable. I have to balance my immediate desire over my plans for the next two days.

Fortunately the trade off is becoming less and less worth it.

While before it was all about giving up what I love to eat and finding alternatives, now its about how those foods make me feel and for how long. I know that weight gain follows a trend in eating, not necessarily due to a single meal. Insulin spikes over and over every day cause sensitivity problems. High blood pressure day after day is what stresses your heart. You can eat what you want (outside of allergies) as long its not every day, multiple times a day.

Wheat is the exception. I find that anything with wheat makes me immediately sick and the effects do tend to last longer than two days.

The other side however, is figuring out why I eat what I eat. Sure I can eat a meal of not-so-good-foods and only suffer for two days at most, but why would I want to? The balance is not just negotiating the foods you aren’t supposed to eat, but filling your diet with such good options that any poor choices will have minimal impact.

When your body is satisfied in nutrients and can easily process them, it doesn’t have cravings for poor things. Eating them will likely not be as big of a deal in limited quantity. But why do I want to in the first place? What can I get from them that I cannot get from food I never have to worry about after I eat it?

My current challenge is filling in the gaps between fewer and fewer poor choices and fasting. I can fast well now. I can avoid foods better. But what am I nourishing my body with? That I have not balanced out yet. I can go 20+ hours without food without much trouble. I can avoid soda and pasta and bread fairly well too. I have fat stores to hold me over so I stop noticing hunger.

But…

I am not nourishing my body with new and better foods. I sort of eat randomly. My window is fairly short, so whatever I snack on tends to fill me up completely. So if I indulge myself at the store with chips to just snack on them, I am likely to feel full by the time I get home and not want to eat anything else. My entire meal was chips!

While I satisfy an immediate need for salty crunchiness, I manage to only feed my body potatoes and flavorings in the meantime. While I can use my fat stores, its probably not the healthiest option.

So balance is key.

I can choose not to eat to give my body a break.

I can choose not to eat foods that are terrible for me and if I do I know the consequence will only last a day or so.

I can choose not to eat foods that are terrible for me that I do not recover from as easily.

Now I just have to fill in the rest of my eating with *only* foods that will nourish me fully with the occasional treat here and there. Except chocolate which I apparently cannot handle at all!

I plan to start lifting weights this week which means my hunger demands and energy needs will change. It means I need to focus on what I eat far more than what I don’t eat.

Often diet and lifestyle change is about what you must cut out of your life. But for me I also need to put just as much focus on what I put back in. It doesn’t just default to any particular set of rules on its own.

It seems I have a new challenge.

Share

24 Hour Mental Breakthrough: Water Fasting

Water fasting was the first fasting concept I came upon while exploring ways to improve my health. I had been sick for awhile and I was reaching out to find anything I could. Fasting sounded like starving to me and in my experience I could barely go two hours without food. Any stretch of time between meals would leave me feeling dizzy and nauseated. My stomach hurt. My head hurt. I’d be irritable and easily frustrated. I would obsess about food and then eat ridiculous amounts of it until I was too bored or tired to continue.

Twas my life until this past summer.

When I had to fast before going to the doctor it would feel like torture to me and every year at Yom Kippur, where we fast for a solid 24 hours, I never made it. But water fasting seemed like something positive and I read everything I could about it.

Water fasting has the benefit of allowing your body to rest from digestion, something it likely has rarely ceased doing for any length of time since you were born. Most of us eat fairly steadily throughout the day and right before bed. When you cease digestion your body can focus on cleaning itself out and repairing damage. Your fat is used for energy and your cells begin releasing more of it thus releasing a lot of trapped toxins. Other nasty bits trapped in your inner-parts are also said to be released.

Apparently you can water fast for quite some time as well as people routinely do 40 day fasts. People have fasted for over a year drinking only water! Another example is of a 27 year old that fasted under supervision for 382 days. What is seen is that no negative results happen. People don’t starve to death. They don’t lose the ability to digest food. They don’t suffer either. You can live off of your fat stores, their purpose, for a long time.

Blog after blog on the topic shout praises for water fasting claiming it to be blissful, effortless and renewing. They boast of a calm mind and calm spirit and wax poetic over the many physical benefits that result. People call it a ‘reset’ button for your body. I decided it was just what I needed.

My first attempts were hilarious failures of course. I was working the night shift and figured I would just work all night, go home and sleep and then do it again. I would do a 3 day fast to start and then try a longer one after that. Easy Peasy. 4 hours into it I was searching in drawers for candy and nearly curled up in a ball from the sheer suffering of it all. The moment I got off work I grabbed the most absurd food item I could, 12 Taco Bell tacos, a Little Caesers pizza, and swallowed it whole. Sipping on my Pepsi I felt defeated and weak. ‘Maybe tomorrow I can try again.’

I tried a few times more but always with the same result. By the evening I was obsessively searching for food and feeling absolutely miserable. Then I discovered Intermittent Fasting and through trial and error have become comfortable going without anything but tea or water for most of the day. Apparently that helped a great deal. I still usually feel excitedly hungry during my eating window, but for the rest of the day I am fine usually.

Usually.

Well I think I found the breakthrough I was looking for. I am currently at 37 hours without any food and I am actually feeling pretty ok about it. I made the decision yesterday afternoon after feeling pretty good about my fasting for that day. I read about it and renewed my curiosity. Could I really do it? I figured I could always try.

By the time I left work I was mentally focused on keeping my calm and surprisingly the drive home was relaxing. I found myself in an upbeat and steady mood. I didn’t feel caffeinated-happy but I didn’t feel tired either. Just sort of inbetween and comfortable. My body was warm and I had a general sense of ok-ness. I bought some dirt and mulch and shopped around for flowers and my focus was getting home and getting some yard work done before sunset.

At home I did have that general habitual-feeling desire to grab something from the refrigerator but I shook it off and focused on work. I worked really hard too. Lifting densely compacted dirt is absurdly difficult. I mowed the lawn and didn’t get as much done as I wanted to. I did feel worn out. But surprisingly I didn’t feel hungry. I took a shower and watched some TV and fell asleep.

I noticed I felt a generalized steady sense of contentment the entire time. I didn’t have the sharp ups and downs I normally experience during the day. I normally feel fairly good for most of the day but by evening I spike needing food, enjoying food, feeling like I ate too much and then slumping into sleep. It was odd to just feel even the whole time.

I didn’t wake up hungry either. In fact I felt a sense of warm contentment every time I woke up to readjust my position. I was surprised at how nice it all was.

I woke up alert and feeling happy, got ready and ever since I have felt just, well, ok. I did notice a slight congested feeling in my head and my mouth feels a little dry and tacky. I am oddly craving salt. The amusing aspect has been my preoccupation with the fact that I am not going crazy or having a sudden meltdown. Ironically feeling absolutely nothing in particular is fairly disconcerting. I keep waiting for that line between feeling ok and sudden panic realizing I am starving to death.

Will I get a headache? Will my stomach start hurting? Will I feel so weak I won’t be able to move?

But so far I feel, again, just ok. Exactly like the bloggers promised. I suppose it is possible this is just what it is like. Maybe I am fat adapted now! That would be nice.

Now how long will I go? I am not sure. I am already fantasizing about my future food, but its not so overwhelming to be distracting. But I also can’t reasonably imagine doing this forever. How many days do I go? Certainly not 40!! But is 3 enough? Can I make it to 3? I have made it to 1 1/2 almost so far. But if I can do 3 days why not 4 or 5? Why not 7? I am just not sure yet.

I do know that next Friday, April 22nd 2016, is Passover which requires a big specific meal, so I should probably introduce food back before then. Nothing like breaking a fast with bitter herbs!

But I am optimistic and I don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. I am curious what the rest of today will be like and if I can continue on tomorrow. Even if I cave this evening I know I have done very well with the time so far which means I can always go just a little farther next time.

#WishMeLuck

Share

Potato – Po-tat-to | Favorite Food or Problem Food?

After months of trial and error I have come to believe that potatoes may not be a food I can tolerate well. This makes me remarkably sad.

sighs…

If you are familiar with low-carb and/or Paleo ideas you know that white potatoes are a big no-no generally. White potatoes are starchy, they are high carb, they have toxins and can cause inflammation. My grandmother used to tell me that eating potatoes makes you fat. It seems to be just generally understood that potatoes, if anything, are a luxury rather than a staple in a healthy diet.

From the PaleoDiet:

I believe that far more troubling than the toxicity of potato glycoalkaloids is their potential to increase intestinal permeability over the course of a lifetime, most particularly in people with diseases of chronic inflammation (cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and diseases of insulin resistance).  Many scientists now believe that a leaky gut may represent a nearly universal trigger for autoimmune diseases.

A final note on potatoes – to add insult to injury, this commonly consumed food is a major source of dietary lectins. On average potatoes contain 65 mg of potato lectin per kilogram. As is the case with most lectins, they have been poorly studied in humans, so we really don’t have conclusive information how potato lectin may impact human health. However, preliminary tissue studies indicate that potato lectin resists degradation by gut enzymes, bypasses the intestinal barrier and can then bind various tissues in our bodies. Potato lectins have been found to irritate the immune system and produce symptoms of food hypersensitivity in allergenic and non-allergenic patients.

For every negative, however, there seems to be a positive as well. One positive of the white potato is resistant starch.

Resistant starch is touted as assisting with weight loss, improving our gut microbiome, insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation. If you cook and then cool potatoes, much of the starch becomes resistant.

From Authority Nutrition:

Type 3 is formed when certain starchy foods, including potatoes and rice, are cooked and then cooled. The cooling turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches via a process called retrogradation (3).

Mark’s Daily apple provides an in-depth look at resistant starch here.

The typical paleo-response is to use sweet potatoes instead which are more nutritious. Here is a comparison between the two. But I simply do not like sweet potatoes. I never have. I find them so disgusting the very thought of experiencing their mushy texture and sourish taste makes me nauseated. Very few foods make me respond like that. I don’t know why. I just hate them.

Up until this point I have just decided to eat white potatoes despite the warnings because I enjoy them so much. I figured that since I removed wheat, other grains, processed food and soda from my diet I could have the innocent potato. I like my potato chips and I saw no reason to stop.

One of my very favorite comfort meals is called ‘hash’ where I cook hamburger and potato cubes together and then slather it all with ketchup. I have eaten it since I was a kid and I love it. It is wonderful hot and wonderful cold and I can eat a ridiculous quantity of it in one sitting. It is also stupidly easy and quick to fix. Potato chips of many flavors, but especially just plain, are my go-to evening snack. French fries are my go-to side whenever possible and a bowl of tator-tots fills my soul with joy.

I like potatoes.

But I have noticed that after eating any kind of potato treat I feel sluggish, heavy and tired. I noticed that after losing a lot of weight, my fat storage changed. Previously I had a firm round stomach with very little fat under my skin. Much of that fat disappeared but was replaced with fat directly under my skin. The kind you can pinch. Mostly around my stomach.

From Robb Wolf:

So does that mean everyone should be out there chowing down on potatoes? Unfortunately, no. Not because there is anything unhealthy about potatoes, but a lot of people cannot process dense carb sources in a healthy way. It ultimately depends on your activity level and metabolic status. Basically those carbs fuel your activity level. If you’re living a desk to couch lifestyle then either up your activity level or keep the intake low. You have to earn your carbs. If you have metabolic issues (read: abdominal fat) then you need to get that sorted out first since you are not processing carbs correctly. It ends up being shuttled to the fat tissue instead of being available as energy.

I replaced one high carb with another it seems. I realized the other day that I eat a lot of potatoes too. I mean a lot. I would guess I eat potatoes every single day with multiple meals. I snack on potato chips or fries or tator-tots and I include potatoes as a solid portion of any meal I cook. Besides my month of shame, I am guessing this just isn’t helping me with my general weight-loss and health goals.

I would say that relying on any one food is not the best idea, but in this case I am relying on a heavy starchy carb and my body just might not be able to handle it right now. From what Wolf says, I might be able to enjoy potatoes eventually, but my body isn’t prepared to manage the carbs right now. It is also possible that I am too sensitive to them and just never realized it until recently. I have always felt terrible so I don’t have anything to compare it to.

I probably need to remove them completely for a month to see how I feel. This will mean redefining how I eat, but since I am getting back on track this will be a good way to test it out. Can I go a month without eating a single potato? I never have. But a month is the perfect amount of time to try something out.

As with everything, you just have to try and see what happens. In the meantime, man do I miss potato chips! But I am slowly but surely moving away from what I want to want I need and I believe in the end it will be worth it.

I can still have my hash btw. I just use broccoli slaw (slivers of broccoli and carrots) and cook them with the hamburger. It tastes more like cabbage stew, but its still very good.

Share

Falling down. Getting back up.

*sighs…

Welp.

I wandered off the reservation and found myself lost in the land of Little Caesars, Taco Bell and sheet cake rolling in utter miserable bliss in my own sugar-coated filth. Imagine every drug relapse you’ve ever seen portrayed in a movie where the person ends up on a mattress in an abandoned building sobbing. Yeah. Just like that.

It was a long month. Filled with greedy bindge-eating followed by tummy aches, sleepless nights and so…so very much…regret. But I may have come to a resolution, final and complete, in this journey.

It all began with an unfinished blog post about my wonderful office mate deciding she would not rest until I ate like a normal human being again. One day after seeing me not eat she triumphantly danced in the room and plopped a styrofoam box on my desk filled with deep fried fishy goodness. She had seen me eat it all before and so she knew I liked it. But could I reject fresh paid-for food? I reasoned that one time eating earlier than expected wouldn’t be so bad. I had, in fact, eaten this meal previously. I just usually waited a bit later.

In my previous experiences, even though I was past my 16 hour mark, I still felt overwhelmed with nausea before even finishing. As in my old eating days this did not deter me one bit and I compulsively finished the meal even when biting down felt like more work than loading that final bag of 50lb rock into my car. I would lay back in my chair, spread my legs far in front of me and groan as my stomach ached and my head spun. Barely able to grip the mouse I took phone calls and did my job functioning just well enough but sleepy and cranky.

By quitin’ time I would waddle out to my car, groan as I fell into the seat and fantasize about taking a nap when I got home. I live an hour from work so it’d be 6:30PM to 7:00PM by the time I walked through the door and crashed on my bed next to my computer. With a bag of chips by my side I would feel compelled to snack and snack until the roof of my mouth hurt and I was too sleepy to stay awake.

Just like the good ol days.

‘Never again!‘ I would say to myself but then the next day she would chirp ‘What are we having for lunch today?? And don’t say nothing because I’ll force feed you if I have to!!’ Before long I just started rationalizing it all. ‘Its not so bad I guess, I am still doing ok. It does taste good!’ But every day it would be the same thing. By week’s end I had a pile of household chores to complete but so little energy all I wanted to do was lay and watch TV. My sole motivation to move was to obtain more snacks.

I got sick three times this month which made it harder. When I am sick my impulse to snack on highly palatable and carb-intense salty treats exaggerates. Before long I even found myself opting for another Pepsi, even though it tasted absolutely terrible for the first few sips. Candy and sweets became more enticing. I would run off to the dollar store and buy $20 worth of pure sugar to share with my roommate. By the last 1/3rd of my day I would be miserable but it began to feel normal again.

My cravings intensified even though I found very little satisfaction in the actual eating or drinking of any of it. My immediate reaction always ‘Oh god that’s awful’ before taking another bite. I’d be reaching for one more confused and disgusted and finally just choking it all down in defeat. I found myself depressed more and more and avoiding looking at the weight gain I knew was coming back. The scale at the doctor began climbing back into the mid-180’s and I felt helpless.

I hate feeling helpless.

The headaches, sleeplessness, moodiness, depression, anxiety and general self-frustration made motivation to do anything more than crash and mindlessly watch Netflix futile. I didn’t even feel like cooking. No cooking meant no buying food in advance which meant impulse-buying. My head was cloudy and my mind distracted and my bathroom a place of annoyance and discomfort.

Once again it felt as though this was just how it would always be.

I felt this way for years and I always thought it was just poor health from some outside source. Turns out its all just me.

Me and brilliant food scientists. The reality is that these foods are addictive for a reason and more processed you go the worse it gets. Wheat is addictive. Sugar is addictive. Every McDonald’s hamburger or peanut butter cup I ate made it harder to avoid the next one. There were plenty of days when I decided I was going to start over, but by lunch time the cravings were so overwhelming and my rationalizations so strong I just gave in.

There is a sense of reward from giving into a craving and the moment right before you bite into that forbidden food you experience a high. The first bite is filled with anticipation. The joy is tangible. But it fades quickly and you end up just mindlessly eating even though you just don’t want to anymore. Self-control is a myth. Yesterday when I went to get Chinese food I decided to be very selective and just get a few things I knew I would eat. I felt like it was a sensible amount of food. But by the time I finished half of it my stomach was bloated and I felt nauseated and depressed.

There is no moderation with these kinds of foods.

Even talking about this right now makes me imagine how good it would taste and feel to dive into my office mate’s stash of candy and chocolate and cookies. It is occupying my thoughts and I can feel that pesky negotiator starting: ‘Its already 3PM. You’re going to eat anyway. Why not just one Twix bar? Come on. Its not that big of a deal!’ But it is a big deal. Its no longer just about holding to this timeframe of eating, it is also about what I am eating. I don’t think I can just eat this stuff anymore thinking its a treat.

I am falling asleep. I am moody. I have a headache. My skin has broken out and I am pink all over.  My stomach feels bloated and heavy. I just want to take a nap. I have not eaten today. I stopped eating at about 8PM last night. I don’t feel hungry, but I know if I started eating now I won’t stop mindlessly eating until I go to bed. I just have to get through today and I know in a week I will feel much better.

Right now I am skeptical.

I don’t even want to eat to be honest. But I will see how I feel later this evening. The point for me, however, is that I must act on purpose rather than impulse. I have fallen off too many times. This month I jumped into the deep end and relived my old eating days. I ate just as I wanted to, indulging every whim and impulse. I suffered every single time and every day was utterly, ridiculously, laughably awful.

I can do better.

I must do better.

I will do better.

Share

Food Journal: Low-Carb Pizza Casserole

So I successfully completed my first recipe last night! Don’t laugh, I know I am 33 but this is a big deal. I have been very anxious about learning how to cook properly and I tend to get in over my head! I often get overwhelmed by the details, amount of food, cost, storage and so on. I tend to get stuck on the following snags:

  • Mimicking bad food/substituting
  • Too much work/detail/ingredients
  • Unfamiliar foods

Mimicking is the first thing everyone seems to do when they decide to cut out grains or carbs or processed foods. We like our food for a reason so if you can’t have pizza anymore then its time to look for paleo-friendly pizza instead! But in my experience paleo versions do not satisfy the way I want them to. You can make things out of cauliflower, for example, but so far it always tastes like cooked cauliflower and I do not appreciate the taste or texture of cooked cauliflower. Other grain substitutes have very different textures and aftertastes and they just cannot compete with decades of food scientists perfecting the products we see all around the grocery store.

I am still deciding if it is even worth it to try.

Mimicking also requires a fairly savvy cooker. You have to be good at normal cooking before you can substitute ingredients. You have to know how food stuffs interact, how cooking changes the food, how spices impact the flavor and so on. You need to know How to Boil Water first! So a novice like me looking at the sometimes complicated substitution recipes can feel intimidating.

Making cauliflower pizza crust seems easy, until you realize that cooked cauliflower has the same consistency as mushy oatmeal! So you buy a head of cauliflower, get it into a tiny rice-like texture and then cook it and then get all the moisture out and then form it…lots of work! Lots of work means a lot of opportunity for things to fall apart and that means wasted food and time and it is just so much easier to buy a real pizza.

Lots of wonderful looking recipes like this Low-Carb Sausage and Roasted Peppers Mock Lasagna Casserole or this Low-Carb Mock Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Casserole just have too many steps and ingredients for my current comfort level. Also, while I find spaghetti squash is a common spaghetti replacement, it is ridiculous to actually manufacture.

The final mistake is I tend to shop recipes like I am in an ethnic food store where I find myself fascinated by the variety and new possibilities but ultimately have no idea if I will actually like any of it. I gravitate toward exotic recipes because I love the idea of having great diversity and excitement in my diet. The reality is my diet has long been very limited and routine and I eat the same family of foods all of the time. Exotic recipes are just a bad choice at this level.

I decided that to avoid another giving-up-and-eating-fast-food meltdown I would need to figure out not only how to cook some basic things but also what categories of food I really prefer. I am all about expanding my food horizons but I am still a baby paleo and need to build a solid base first. I live alone so I have to be careful about single-food meals that expect several side dishes as I don’t need that much food. I need easy food that is fairly self-contained.

Casseroles.

I love casseroles. I have never eaten a casserole I did not like. There is just something so warm and homey and delicious and filling about a casserole. They also have the allure of being fairly simple to make and they last a few days and/or can be easily frozen for later eating. The only limitation in my mind has always been that casseroles required pasta.

Well yesterday I decided to search for ‘low-carb’ casseroles thinking that it would weed out any carby-paleo options and still keep it fairly paleo in spirit. No cream-of-anything soup options allowed! I found this article titled: 20+ Deliciously healthy Low-Carb Casserole Recipes by Kalyn’s Kitchen. I chose several options to print out, but the one I tried out last night was the Low-Carb Deconstructed Pizza Casserole. The recipe has limited ingredients and they are all fairly easy to obtain and work with:

  • Sausage/Beef
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Pepperoni slices
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Pepper, olive oil and oregano

That’s it! Easy peasy. I followed the directions exactly and I even set a timer on my phone while it baked. I was so proud of myself and it was actually fairly effortless. I think I can easily repeat the process now.

Did I like it? It wasn’t fantastic or bad. It doesn’t contain sauce so it was a little bland in that area. Pizza needs sauce in my opinion. I used hamburger and turkey pepperoni. The cheesy hamburger part was pretty tasty, but the hamburger with the pepperoni didn’t blend as well together.

It was very filling however and quickly satisfied my hunger to the point where I had food left over but no interest in eating any more. That was pretty interesting for me because I bored eat a lot and I just played my game and relaxed for an hour without thinking of food again. I only ate 1/4th of the whole thing! I potentially could eat this for three more days! It was cost effective, easy and tasty. I think if I added tomato sauce to it before baking it would add to it.

What I love is that I didn’t just throw together what I always have before (ie: fry a hamburger, make a salmon patty, toss hamburger and spaghetti sauce together), it didn’t turn out to be something I didn’t enjoy eating and it is something I can reproduce! I think the things that matter to me are:

  • Familiar style of food and ingredients
  • Fewer ingredients
  • Simple instructions
  • Cost effective
  • Filling and long lasting

So now I shall be searching for low-carb and possibly Paleo casserole ideas that fit the above criteria. I might experiment some, but I think the more predictable the outcome the more comforting it will be until I get a few recipes under my belt. The point is to eat well and feel like it is part of my daily routine without a lot of stress. I need to feel confident in what I eat without sacrificing enjoyment.

I think I have found a very good option!

Success!

Share

Intermittent Fasting Survival Guide: Worried Coworkers with Candy

There is a tiny pink and silver-wrapped piece of utter brilliant joy sitting on my printer right now. Mocking me. Tempting me. Calling me.

The reasonable thing to do would be throw it away, give it away or otherwise dispose of it so it is no longer a temptation. But I have decided that I am using this as a gift in disguise. You see, every time I see it I remember why I am fasting. I will use it to remind myself that not only can I choose not to eat during my fasting period, I can also choose not to eat things I know will negatively impact me. One piece of chocolate will not be enough.

How did I come to possess this little demon of joy? Well, my cover has been blown and my office mate has decided that it is her duty to feed me daily now. Being as I am surrounded by sweet, tradition country folk, not eating is a sign of utter despair. Where I live people give you food to say hello. This is a wonderful quality, unless you are intentionally avoiding food for a designated reason or period of time.

Here people bring potluck goodies of every comfort food you can imagine on a weekly basis. Everything I deeply love I might add. None of which I can eat I might add to that. They think something must be seriously wrong with me. The fact that I have lost 40 pounds is a concern for them. They think I am too skinny already (naturally I disagree!).

I was caught when my office mate became offended and then suspicious every time she asked if I wanted some of the extra food she brought and I would politely decline. She also noticed I never went to the potlucks. Together with the others they conspired to determine why I was, in their view, being antisocial, even rude! They considered that maybe it was a Jewish thing that I wasn’t eating. Maybe I was sick. Something was obviously wrong!

After ganging up on me and threatening to hold me down and stuff food in my mouth I carefully explained that I fast for most of the day and I do my best to hold to a Paleo/Natural/Grain Free diet and I am still retraining myself to be compliant. This just set the alarm bar even higher. I don’t eat all day AND I am avoiding good heart-healthy perfectly wonderful food for a fad??

Sighs.

Now they bug me daily about eating, bring me food, candy and other treats and continually remind me that I have-too eaten at lunch time before and so I need to cut out this BS right now. It seems that once you break the diet and/or fast it seems ridiculous you would consider it important later. It is not a fun situation.

But I know they care and they are going by what they believe is standard common sense medical/nutrition/health advice. I work in a medical-focused environment as well which strongly advocates the 2015 Dietary Guidelines and programs like Dr. Ornish.

I probably should have found a better excuse, although I am not sure what that might be. In an ideal world if curious coworkers asked about your odd eating habits and you gave a vague ‘Oh, I just don’t eat during the day’ or ‘I am watching my weight’ they would politely leave it at that. Perhaps a closer relationship might involve asking some details, but not imposing their concerns or standards afterwards. But the reality is, when it comes to diet, our culture is typically intolerant of food fads. Especially ones considered dangerous.

When people think you might be misguided, behaving irrationally or chasing an unrealistic goal they want to speak up! I don’t blame them really, I am the outsider among a fairly homogenous eating group. When I go to my synagogue I am surrounded by a diverse eating population that ranges from medically gluten-free to politically vegan to religiously kosher! My little diet is nothing to cause concern. But in the rest of my daily experience most people eat exactly the same way.

I am not really politically motivated in my diet, I am mostly interested in my own health and body composition. I don’t have a reason to convert others, although I am happy to give details when asked politely. I find it to be so controversial that it is often not worth it to try and advocate in person. The entire medical establishment is against the concept in general so you really are fighting a wall of water, regardless of how much evidence you have to the contrary.

Need a handy guide to this evidence that is easy to digest, entertaining and exceptionally convincing? Read:The What When Wine Diet: Paleo and Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss

It doesn’t help that sometimes Ifing is actually difficult and not every day is peachy, especially if you have a cheat day…or weekend. If you don’t eat well the night before you might be hungrier the following day. I know when I eat nothing but a bag of chips the next day is harder than the previous! It is a personal journey and after less than a year of trying I am just barely getting a consistent month! But I am always getting better. The problem is when I fail I tend to do so with an audience.

Unlike most dieting, you cannot really enjoy the ritual complaining normally associated with a diet as everyone thinks you are crazy already and deserve it! Instead of ‘Don’t worry! I will get easier!’ or ‘Skinny is sooo much better than that cupcake! Stay strong!’ you get ‘Well…just eat something. Stop being ridiculous!’

Equally annoying is when you get great results you can’t exactly share them with everyone either. I made that mistake by announcing I had lost 40 pounds in less than a year to which I only received worried looks and demands I needed to eat more. Much to my eye-rolling chagrin.

But not all is negative! I know what impact my diet has and after enough time the concerned coworkers and friends will hopefully notice I am not starving to death or dying at my desk. And that is why I shall keep my little treasure. It is a symbol of my choice and my environment. I can choose not to participate and its ok. I can be tempted and its ok. I can be strong and no one else has to give me permission!

This little piece of candy will remain in full view because I appreciate what it means to me.

Although it is not popular, I think it is worth it. I just have to remember that although I appreciate the perspective, not everyone can or will. They don’t have to. But now that I see more of the response, I might choose to not reveal so much.

For now I might just have to deal with the daily barrage of inquiries and frustrated grumbles by those with good intentions but not so great boundaries!

Share

My First Garden: Building the Foundation

I have always wanted a vegetable garden. And a flower garden. And fruit trees! Since I was a kid I have loved the wonder that surrounds growing things and watching them thrive. My grandmother planted flowers each year which I loved helping her with and my dad tried to grow a garden once but didn’t have much luck.

As an adult I have tried multiple times but I have never lived in a place with a large yardenough yard or anything with enough sun exposure to grow anything. I am going to see if I can track down pictures of my previous attempts and if I do I will update this post! The picture here is of my current yard! Yay!

So now I have this massive southern-facing backyard with no large objects blocking the glorious sun…and I have no idea what to do with it all! In my previous homes I have too many plants and not enough space. Now I have too much space and not enough plants!!

Fortunately it is a good problem and something I can continue to develop over time. But I want it to be full and beautiful now. With so much to work with I am spinning with the possibilities. Unfortunately when I am faced with tons of options I tend to become overwhelmed. I am currently overwhelmed.

I like to read every detail and marinate in every possible bit of information around any topic I find myself interested in. I am now in a state of paralysis where I know so much about the perfect garden that I don’t know where to start. It feels like I need to have all of the pieces at once so I can put them together. The problem is the organization is complex.

I need to have all the seeds for the plants I want to grow. I need to start some of them 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost indoors. I need to have ground tilled and prepared with compost and other materials to prepare the dirt. If you have an raised bed garden you can control the dirt more easily, it is warmer sooner and you don’t have to dig into the ground. This requires you to build the raised bed and fill it with dirt.

You have to watch the seedlings each week, some need more heat and some need cold and then you have to set them outside slowly (hardening) until the frost date and then plant them. You have to plant them in relation to the other plants to ensure you don’t out-shade anything. Then there is companion planting where you plant certain plants together. You also need to start new seedlings so you have continuous new plants and rotate them.

Plus fertilizing, composting, trimming, weeding, covering and on and on.

I look at my giant blank yard and think, ‘Ok, Its about 10 weeks from my frost date so I need to go get peat pods and pick out my seeds and then plant and label each one and keep them in a warm and sunny place. But I also need to get the wood and dirt to build the beds and that might be expensive and I have no compost so I need to start one but its too cold out. I need to create a calendar schedule of the seedling rotation and…’

I haven’t even figured out what plants I want yet!

To make matters worse, I tend to be too creative and I am not satisfied with a beautiful tomato plant. No. I want that rare purple and pink kind next to a bright orange yellow one with about 15 other kinds in a perfect magazine-cover display with the 57 other plants gloriously overflowing around it all. Nevermind I don’t even know if I can grow a regular tomato plant to begin with.

Gardening advice is always about this year and preparing for next year. I am impatient and I don’t want to wait until next year! I want blueberries now but I need 2 kinds and it takes 3 years to get berries?! I want to just have everything ready now.

I actually get fairly anxious about continuous schedule cycles because I don’t know where to jump in and begin. Usually I wait too late. This year I hope to be ready! But that means acting in the next week or so!

To make things more stressful there is a ton I want to do to my back yard. I want to build a deck, widen the sidewalk and create a pebble mosaic, build an above ground pond for my turtle, create a fire pit and seating area, build a wooden shed and get rid of the ugly metal thing, create a stable compost pile and a dozen other things. All of which will only made sense when the rest is complete. All time consuming and expensive!

I feel so behind because I feel I need to know everything about each plant I want to grow and I want to create the perfect habitat for all the back yard critters as well. I ordered milkweed for the Monarchs and I want to build an insect hotel and of course lots of places for birds. I want a back yard that is full of life!

But just like everything big you start, you must begin one step at a time. Most people do not have a TV home renovation-style makeover to their backyard with a huge reveal the next day. I have to start slowly and build as I go. Maybe I can build a raised bed this year or maybe I just dig out a plot and plant this year and work on the raised beds next year.

I am all about reclaiming things, especially wood. I hate buying wood from a store. It is so expensive and usually treated with tons of chemicals. I like the look of weathered wood personally. I just have to find it. Finding it means delays!! I also am unsure about how I will fill it with good dirt. Good dirt is expensive too! My dirt is actually on the clay side so I am not sure how things will grow honestly.

My dream yard is eclectic with whimsical and colorful areas involving bright flowers, bushy plants, lots of critters, Buddha-Garden-Statues-1024x732comfortable seating and privacy.

My reality is a long fairly narrow blank slate with a chain-link fence on either side connected to two other yards. Privacy fences are expensive too!

Home ownership is full of possibility and full of anxiety! Everything. Is. So. Expensive!!

But I have a blank slate which means I can build from scratch, I just worry I need to have the perfect layout ready before I start! Maybe I will just organically build as I go, but I don’t want to look at my dirt-filled raised beds and wish they were 6 inches to the left. Sighs.

This is why people pay other people to design their yards for them.

But I have hope. It is exciting and I just need winter to go away to really begin. In all the years previously I was faced with endless beauty at the garden store and nowhere to enjoy any of it at home. Now I can! I just have to be prepared. There is a video series I found and I am going to follow it I think:

Tonight I will venture into the garden center and do my very best to select a reasonable variety of seeds and see if I can start this! I will keep you updated!

Share

HIV Doctor’s Appointment Follow up: Life Lessons

So it wasn’t so bad.

This is a follow up post to: Why My HIV Doctor Appointments are Stressful

I went to my doctor’s appointment and it was overall a positive experience. I told you I love my doctors, even if I was nervous about being outed as a Paleo/Ifer! But I may have found a working solution to this concern. More on that in a bit.

First the not-so-great news. When I first went these doctors in 2013 my CD-4 count was about 443. Now to give a reference, normal levels are 1,200 to 1,500. If you fall below 200 then you are classified as having AIDS. CD-4 count measures the current function of your immune system. The higher the number, the better your immune system is working. My numbers steadily progressed into the 500’s and then in 2015 jumped to 910. For some reason though, when I was tested in November 2015 my CD-4 count was 558. The newest test taken yesterday hasn’t been posted yet so I will update then.

*Update 2/08/2016 new blood work. My CD-4 count went down to 517.

Capture

I have experienced more routine illnesses this year than has been usual, but I didn’t think too much of it. Apparently my immune system has been struggling more to fight it all off than previously. They are not sure why yet, but sometimes this happens. It just means I have to be more careful for now until a plan is decided on. Maybe increase my medication dosage or try a new medication. So that was a little disappointing.

But there is a lot of better news! I recorded my routine numbers from 2014/2015 and the most recent numbers from my visit.

End of 2014/2015:

  • Age: 32
  • Weight: 210
  • Body fat: 20%
  • Triglycerides: 600
  • Blood Pressure: 142/104

2016:

  • Age: 33
  • Weight: 175
  • Body fat: 15%
  • Triglycerides: 190
  • Blood Pressure: 118/89

In 2014/2015 I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and as pre-diabetic. My glucose was in the high range. Now it is in the normal/low range. They were significantly worried about my heart, prescribed me blood pressure medicine and planned to prescribe me cholesterol medicine if the other numbers didn’t improve.  My cholesterol then was 253 and yesterday it was 222. Overall Cholesterol ranges:

  • Undesirable  <200
  • Borderline 200 – 239
  • Desirable  >240

My HDL cholesterol was 29 and yesterday it was 59.

HDL Ranges:

  • Undesirable <40
  • Borderline 40 – 59
  • Desirable >60

My LDL Cholesterol is 125. They didn’t measure this last time.

LDL Ranges:

  • Optimal <100
  • Near Optimal <130
  • Borderline High 130 – 159
  • High 160 – 189
  • Very High >=190

Read a fascinating looking into Cholesterol from Gary Taubes from 2008 in the New Your Times.

As I referenced in my previous post on doctor’s visits, Gary Taubes goes into great detail as to why worrying about Cholesterol might not be so important for men and certainly not for women. But fortunately my numbers look good by the approved standards. My doctor did discuss my overall cholesterol though and wants me to take a statin drug.

My blood pressure was the primary concern after managing my viral load and CD4 count. According to Heart.org I was in ‘High Blood Pressure/Hypertension Stage 2’ in 2015. Now I am in Prehypertension because the bottom number is over 80 but under 90. My doctors, however, said it was very good and I shouldn’t worry about it right now. They no longer think I need to be on medications.

My triglycerides were ‘impressively high’ as my doctor put it when I first came to them at 600. This, according to Mark from Mark’s Daily Apple, is pretty bad:

High triglycerides correlate strongly with low HDL and smaller, denser LDL. High triglycerides, then, could indicate more oxidized (or oxidizable) LDL. The triglycerides of most Primal eaters, especially those on the lower carb side of things, usually hover well below 100 mg/dl.

It seems like on this, my doctor and Mark agree. High triglycerides mean trouble. They just differ in cause and effect.

Mark: Are your triglycerides going down over time? That’s great. Is your HDL trending up? Also good.

The Mayo Clinic:

Cut back on calories. Remember that extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Reducing your calories will reduce triglycerides.

Choose healthier fats. Trade saturated fat found in meats for healthier monounsaturated fat found in plants, such as olive, peanut and canola oils. Substitute fish high in omega-3 fatty acids — such as mackerel and salmon — for red meat.

My triglycerides have since lowered from 325 in Nov 2015 to 190 yesterday. Under 150 is the best, but I am no longer in the danger zone! My HDL is also increasing as my triglycerides decrease so I on the right path Mark describes! Both Mark and Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health indicate carbohydrates increase triglycerides.

So far I have working on intermittent fasting and trying to eat paleo/natural/less processed. I haven’t really focused on carb/protein/fat ratios so far. So if I eat nothing but gluten-free foods for example, I might keep my triglycerides too high and counter the good the other options are creating. I need to think of how the foods I choose affect my overall health as well as my weight loss goals and immediate sense of hunger satisfaction.

So what happened when I told them about my diet? Well…I only sort of told them. They were shocked by the improvement of my numbers, especially my blood pressure and naturally asked me what I was doing differently since they figured out I hadn’t requested a refill on my blood pressure medication. I sort of let them lead the conversation:

Doctor: ‘Sooo, what have you been doing differently?’

Me: ‘…well I have been changing my diet for a few months trying too…’

Doctor: ‘Lower calories, salt? Eat more veggies?’

Me: ‘…uh huh. *paused…cautiously, and you know, trying to limit my bread and sugars, cutting out soda…’

Doctor: ‘*nodding with approval…yes yes, see! Cut out all that fat and sugar and it has a positive impact! Just make sure to get enough good whole grains!’

Me: ‘*forced smile…sure. Ok. Uh huh.’

I did, however, approach the idea that I might be gluten-sensitive and to my surprise my doctor was receptive. I explained that after removing a lot of bread I felt a lot better and when I ate any bread I felt terrible. She nodded with concern and mentioned I might have an allergy. So we did a test. I am unsure of the result though. I just says my score is a 219 with a range of 40-600. I think you have to be outside those numbers. I will just wait till next checkup to see.

It seems that the results mattered more than the details. Although they still think I should keep medications in mind to really push me over the winning line, but didn’t push too hard when I redirected the conversation back to diet and exercise. I think if I showed up with troubling numbers it would matter a lot more what I was eating. Perhaps the positive outcomes of paleo/natural/IFing etc will eventually speak for themselves. We don’t have to nudge things. They just happen.

As always, I look at blood results as a snapshot of my body at that moment. You can only gauge progress or improvement through routine and predictable intervals with measurements you can follow. I think I need to consider this more carefully. I cannot remember how I ate, when I cheated or how often I ate any particular food type in the last month. How can I see a connection between my actions with my blood results?

I need to commit to recording my eating habits, exercise and other factors and see a routine doctor for routine work in-between my 3 to 6 month HIV appointments. While it is interesting to see the difference in a year, it would be better to see what changed in the last 3 months with a record of why.

I am also not too nervous or upset over my CD4 count either. Unless it remains low, I can always work to better my immune system through diet, sleep, stress and other methods. The medication I take to keep HIV in check can be adjusted and I will adjust to those changes. It is all something I can with as long as I have the drive to better tomorrow than I am today.

I call this a success overall.

Although many of the books I link to on the side column and discuss in my posts are extremely educational and helpful, one book and one author in particular significantly guided me in a way that I believe allowed me to get to this place today. Of course that would be Miss Melanie Avalon. I have praised her book The What When Wine Diet: Paleo and Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss, blog, youtube channel and personal guidance previously, but its because all of those things have significantly helped me. I am convinced intermittent fasting is the foundation of my improvement in terms of blood pressure with reducing breads and soda to thank for lowering my other numbers.

I recommend her so highly because her efforts empowered me to try something I thought was just too difficult. Now that I see such positive results from very spotty and inconsistent work, I am far more motivated to straight the lines and get on a permanent track.

Enough experimenting! I know what works now. Its time to get serious about this for my health and my future!

Share

Why My HIV Doctor Appointments are Stressful

I have wonderful doctors. I really do. I travel over an hour from home to see HIV specialists in a dedicated office and they take the time to take care of me. My doctors are friendly and enjoyable and I feel I can be completely open with them. Well…mostly.

The truth is I cannot tell them about my eating choices and it is driving me nuts.

When I began this journey with them I was in a precarious state of health. I had been avoiding all doctors because I was not taking my HIV medications and no one appreciated why. Among many reasons, the severe and debilitating side effects made my life nearly impossible to enjoy. I could barely function. However, refusing to take HIV medications is a serious issue in the medical community and it becomes difficult to access any care at all.

Eventually I got sick and had no choice but to seek available options and fortunately medications improved and I found that I could live on them without very many side effects. But I arrived with very high blood pressure, extremely high triglycerides and I was on the short path to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. I wasn’t obese, but I had gained a lot of weight at close to 210 pounds with 20% body fat.

My doctor put me on blood pressure medicine immediately on my first visit and with great chagrin I took it. I did so for a few months and the side effects of that medication compounded with the others and so a few visits later I approached them about changing it or taking me off completely. Well my blood pressure had worsened by then and so they instead doubled the dosage.

About a year later as I discovered low carb and paleo and after reading  Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It and Wheat Belly Total Health: The Ultimate Grain-Free Health and Weight-Loss Life Plan I decided that maybe I could impact my health and my weight through diet. So being as I am, I decided ‘whatever, I do what I want’ and I just didn’t refill my prescription figuring I could play dumb at my next appointment. My plan was to lower my blood pressure naturally and they would never know the difference.

Well, I didn’t have any consistent plan and with a lot of trial and error my vitals didn’t improve very much. Fortunately my appointments are three to six months apart. The last appointment in the fall happened while I was in the middle of figuring out intermittent fasting so I am curious to see how my blood results came out (normal things everyone is tested for).

Recently I had a cold/virus/fever thing and when I went to the urgent care to get a doctor’s excuse for work they reported my blood pressure was really good. I don’t remember the number because I was delirious at the time, but I will get my blood pressure from months ago when it was a concern and see what it is now to compare.

Blood pressure is tricky and it can be affected by your mood at the time.

I always get nervous when they take my blood pressure because I want it to be better than before so I don’t raise any suspicions. The reality is that when a doctor prescribes a medication for a common concern they tend to be uninterested in why you believe your alternative method is superior. Nearly all of modern medicine revolves around taking a drug to fix it.

It has been low for the last few times it has been taken so I am hopeful. But the conflict here is if my blood pressure looks fantastic and they believe I am on medications, it will confirm their belief in the medication. The medication may be very helpful for lots of people and I am not a doctor. But will they accept that I lowered my blood pressure with diet alone? They have already told me it is not possible when I proposed the idea.

So if it is a very good reading then I have to lie about taking the medication or I have to confess my lifestyle/eating habits. The diet they want me on is typical:

  • Low-Fat
  • High-Carb
  • Reduce red meat
  • Eat mostly whole grains
  • Consider vegetarianism

So basically the opposite of my actual diet goals. If I tell them that I, someone prone to heart disease, is refusing to eat heart-healthy whole grains they will decide I must be refusing to follow their guidelines. Refusing to follow a doctor’s guidelines means they become far less likely to accommodate you, provide doctors excuses or documentation, consider new medications or medication replacement, consider or authorize new therapy options etc etc.

Once your doctor thinks you are not following their direction they believe anything that goes wrong is a direct result of doing so and will refuse to consider other options. This is just typical. In my case, these are the only doctors I can see in my entire state for HIV.

HIV medications are extremely expensive and even after my insurance pays it can be difficult to manage on my current income. Fortunately I participate in a program that helps pay for these medications and other medical-related situations, provided that I am compliant. “Complaint” means following my doctor’s instructions.

I am not just being dramatic here. During my first experience with HIV care the doctor was far less friendly and open and when I began questioning the extreme side effects of my medication he simply dismissed it as ‘well that is living with HIV. You will have to learn to live with the side effects.’ When I stopped taking the medications altogether I was listed as non-compliant and my attempts to see doctors at the same hospital resulted in lectures that if I didn’t take the medication there was no point in prescribing an antibiotic or discussing any other medical issue. It became frustratingly difficult to just see a doctor about non-HIV related concerns. The HIV doctor refused to see me at all without taking the medications first. I could not receive financial assistance to purchase the $3,000 a month medication without his sign off and so on.

So making sure my doctors feel I am making good choices under their care is important. My new doctors are much nicer so I imagine it wouldn’t be as dramatic. But I also don’t want to have an adversarial relationship with them. Fortunately all they care about are the numbers. I don’t really have to go into detail. It just also means I can never discuss with them my decisions, discuss allergy testing or cause and effect analysis of any food option I choose. No matter what I say, if it isn’t ‘low-fat, whole grains, less meat’ it is going to be rejected as quackery.

I once curiously asked about Paleo when I was first exploring it and the doctor rolled her eyes, waved her hand dismissively and said ‘Don’t read that nonsense. Its unhealthy, dangerous and just plain stupid!’ The worst part is
that with this attitude they will likely never consider changing said opinion since none of their patients will ever admit to the diet when their numbers are good. The intimidation factor continues the cycle of belief that the current system works.

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health
describes in detail, the history of the medical view on diet and disease has been unmoving towards counter evidence. All of our doctors study the same approved sources and cannot possibly view all opposing data. Their seniors mock, dismiss or demonize dissent and as far as they are concerned, maintenance medications are just that: maintenance.

Doctor after doctor will tell you blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and so on are simply a reality of life and you must always treat them with medication. Medication can be extremely helpful but it is also imperfect, especially when diet and lifestyle can change things. Diet and lifestyle are always prescribed in tangent with medication.

So despite losing 40 pounds and 5% bodyfat over the last 6 months and hopefully improving my numbers, especially my blood pressure, with diet and lifestyle alone, I am unlikely to convince my doctors of that. And I honestly do not want to fight them over it. Now imagine trying to explain that I don’t eat for 16 hours each day…

HIV is just another disease that must be maintained and watched. Anyone with a similar chronic disease with interests in Paleo and/or IF will experience the same attitudes and push-back. You will likely feel the same intimidation and anxiety too. It is just so much easier to not bring it up even if you genuinely want to share your journey with your doctor and monitor your vitals from a perspective of health rather than decline or maintenance.

I would love to collect my own data and watch how I progress. But it is just not currently an option for most of it.

But not all is lost. Everything has a positive side. Even if I cannot share my experience with my doctors I still know through my own research and daily experience why I am making the best choice for myself. My blood-work, blood pressure and so on should validate my experience as well.

I will do my best and remember that it is still my healthcare. I have doctors who just want the best for me, even if their idea of how to get their and mine disagree.

Share

Gluten-Free Processed Foods | Paleo Follow Up

In a recent post, Gluten-Free Cheerios: Processed Food Replacement, I talked about my mixed feelings towards gluten-free food options. At my local mall there is a nice health food store that contains a fairly large gluten-free section. It includes breads, pasta, dessert mixes, cookies, frozen meals and so on. I concluded that when I eat gluten-free items I tend to over-indulge just like I used to on wheaty nibbles.

My reasoning is that the taste and texture are similar but the foods themselves do not produce the opiate-like effects that wheat-based food does and so I continue eating trying to reach that goal. My body remembers how good bread felt to eat and it is very confused when I consume bread-like food that doesn’t induce the same sensation. As a result I seem to find a lot of gluten-free foods disappointing.

This is a follow up post as I have since tried a few more gluten-free options in an effort to test out their viability in my future diet.

“Gluten-free” has become a synonym for “health food” on grocery store shelves, but gluten is far from the only reason for avoiding grains.

Paleo-Leap tackles this topic very well in a post titled: Less Bad but Not Good: Pseudograins and Non-Gluten Grains. Most gluten-free foods contain mixtures of pseudograins or non-gluten grains like corn or rice. When you browse the isle and look at the labels you will find a lot of the same nutrition advertising you see on mainstream commercial products such as ‘Low-fat! High-Fiber! Whole Grains!’ and so on.

Gluten-free is in a strange situation as the target audience is not consistent. In my view the products are meant for:

  • Wealthy Trendy People
  • People with Medical Concerns
  • Hippie Natural People
  • Paleo Testers

When you talk about ‘gluten-free’ it conjures up images of people in California sipping liquefied grass and complaining that the grass used was sourced three blocks from their house and isn’t ‘local’ enough. The hipster slash trendy-health nut image is hard to break. When I even say ‘gluten-free’ everyone I know rolls their eyes and either dismiss the idea of a gluten-sensitivity at all or compare ‘those people’ to anti-vaxxers.

Just looking at some of the high-priced items at a Whole Foods helps you understand why average people raise an eyebrow and discount the health-opinions of this particular group. Even buying gluten-free foods or requesting it at a restaurant feels embarrassing for me. Except when I am in the hippie-health food store where the sense of self-righteous superiority is always free with purchase. 😉

People with medical concerns related to gluten seem to just want to eat the normal American diet, but without gluten. Interestingly all gluten-free products originally were designed to mimic normal foods for this particular group for health reasons.

Hippies and Natural-foodies are similar to trendy people but have a strong belief system behind their demands. They want to save the planet and stop people from eating meat and so on. No judgment here, but it is a core demographic of these stores. How else do you explain ‘cruelty-free’ chocolate bars? Some are spiritual, others are attracted to the phrase ‘all-natural’ with trance-like wonder.

Paleo testers are people like me who are curious about Paleo or have decided it makes sense but have no idea what they are doing and gluten-free seems like a good bridge-food.

I fully admit that I have fallen into both the trendy and hippie categories many times and I still have an instinctive positive association regarding ‘all natural’ and ‘organic.’ The problem with both is they tend to have a weak foundation. When I was more trendy I jumped on any health-food fad I glanced at in a magazine. I tried being totally fat-free once. I tried eating only cheese. I tried eating only bread thinking it was healthy.

People who feel a strong sense of ethical obligation towards their eating are not doing anything negative, but they are dependent solely on the ingredient list which can be misleading.

Being trendy means you may not be consistent which means you won’t find any solid path. Being idealistic means you may follow ideas but not a solid nutritional foundation. If you only care about gluten, you will still eat grains and a lot of carbs.

So what about food-bridges, temporary fixes, replacements, substitutions and so on? Well that is where I am finding myself today. The health food store is on my way home, so the other day I stopped in and decided to try one of the gluten-free sandwich wraps and another bread. I was going to make some turkey-BLTs. One of my favorite meals previously was the BLT.

In my head I imagined that although I wouldn’t eat it every day, it might be nice to recreate some of my favorite foods so I didn’t feel deprived of them. I am sorry but wrapping bacon with mayo and tomatoes in a lettuce leaf just isn’t working for me. Plus it is so messy! So I looked and they had one option which is an ‘ancient grain’ called Ivory Teff.

Mark at Mark’s Daily Apple says:

Teff appears to be one of the “better” grains. It contains no gluten (which is the most problematic anti-nutrient), is lower than most grains in phytic acid (which binds to minerals, making them essentially useless when eaten), and its most common incarnation – injera – is always fermented (which breaks down any residual phytic acid load). A quick look around the celiac community finds that teff is pretty popular there. If full-blown celiacs are using it, you can probably get away with some every now and again.

So it isn’t a bad ingredient per se, but I didn’t really like the taste or texture. So far flat bready things made from gluten-free ingredients have the same flat taste to me. The texture is stiff and papery. I didn’t like the aftertaste either. It was very cardboardy.

I do not have the name of the bread with me, but the main ingredient was brown rice and buckwheat. Buckwheat is the seed from a broadleaf plant categorized as a dicot. The packaging made sure to emphasize ‘whole grain’ and ‘brown rice.’ I toasted it in the oil from the turkey bacon and it took on a grilled cheese-bread texture which I enjoyed but the flavor was still a little too dry and bitter.

So far my two bread experiences have been dry and bitter.

As I wrapped my remaining bacon and tomato pieces in lettuce, I sighed with disappointment yet again and thought ‘I am never going to find a good replacement for real bread!’ It occurred to me that perhaps that might be the best possible outcome. I keep trying to find something that will be just like what I used to love but won’t have the negative health impact. But the truth is I love them because of their chemical makeup just as they were designed.

Brilliant food manufacturers have spent millions trying to create the perfect taste, texture, rush of pleasure and desire for more in their products for decades. I love their foods because of this effort. It just isn’t possible for natural foods to compete with this. Natural foods do not impact our brain chemistry like processed foods do.

I am trying to win and unwinnable battle.

But there is a very relevant bright side to all of this. I may never be able to recreate the joy I experience eating a traditional BLT with gluten-free options, but I can also create new joy in new foods I don’t have to substitute anything for. My job now is to find what other foods exist out there that align with my nutritional goals and discover the new possibilities.

I mourn the loss of my favorite foods; but with every loss is a new beginning. Perhaps my journey is not in the gluten-free isle but is to my back yard where I plan to grow foods I hope to use in delicious new ways and retrain my body and my brain to appreciate the difference.

I will likely still try a gluten-free option here or there and it is still the best option when my friends want to order Pizza or the Olive Garden, but I don’t need it to fill the void processed foods left when I gave them up.

Journey still in progress!

Share