Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Rant January 16, 2012

I did a guest post over at Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy, in which I lay out my suggestions for my BFF Tara’s New Year’s Resolutions. I expected people to see me as bossy and arrogant while still witty and insightful.

Instead everyone’s all “You’re so sweet!” and “Wow you’re such a beautiful, loving person!” and “OMG you’re the funniest person I’ve ever encountered in my life!”

But the thing is, I really pride myself on being kind of grouchy and misanthropic – though I can’t argue with the perceptive people who recognize my comedic talent.

So I feel the need to balance my image with a post where I’m a complete asshole.

It’s all about Yin and Yang and managing expectations. So here’s my asshole rant. Feel free to chime in with your own major pet peeves – consider this an asshole safe space.

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I really don’t want to be that person.

You know the kind. One of those superior and self-righteous and “my way is the only good way to do things”people.

Because I’m not – at my core – one of those people. I don’t believe my way is the right way, about anything, but especially when it comes to my diet and specifically being gluten-free.

I’m not one of those extreme evangelical people shouting about how gluten and sugar are the new asbestos and no one is safe. If you can process gluten and sugar without any issues, then more power to you.

BUT.

(And there’s always a but, isn’t there?)

BUT. So many people complain of health problems that have a recognized connection to gluten sensitivity, and yet they refuse to even try a gluten-free lifestyle. These people drive me fucking crazy. In large part, I readily admit, because if they only have to go gluten-free, and not sugar-free as well (like me), they really have very little to bitch about.

It’s not like it was 15 years ago when my sister was trying to find gluten-free products for my nephew. That was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor which still yielded limited products of questionable taste and texture.

But now, you can walk into basically any grocery store, not even specialty grocery stores, just regular old Food Lion or Safeway and find at least a handful of gluten-free products. If you shop a higher end store, like Wegmans or Whole Foods, you will find a cornucopia of gluten-free products.  You can go online to Amazon.com or glutenfree.com and order just about any product you can think of for reasonable prices, and 95% of the time they are delicious and the other 5% of the time they are still fully edible once you get used to the texture.

Some restaurants are better than others (CPK I’m looking at you – I appreciate the special menu, but I miss my BBQ Chicken Pizza!), but pretty much every restaurant I’ve been to since going gluten-free offers at least a couple of options, if not a whole gluten-free menu.

Yes, you do have to be a little more aware of what you’re eating or what your access to food will be like at events like weddings and parties. Yes, occasionally you will need to carry your own food with you or go hungry at these types of things. But I always consider those times to be failures on my part to think ahead and be prepared. And for the people who have subtle or manageable reactions to gluten you can totally indulge in that wedding cake/Christmas cookie/grandma’s famous baked ziti. If I eat gluten I act like I’m drunk for several hours and then feel like I have the flu for 12 more hours. So almost nothing is worth that to me. But if your reaction is manageable to you, then you have even less to bitch about.

The bottom line here is that being gluten-free is just not a tragedy, and to those who act like it is I say “put your big girl/boy panties on and let’s find something real to get upset about. Like the fact that people exist who take Rick Santorum seriously.”

If I hear one more person say “Gee, I always feel kind of icky after I eat bread products,” or “Wow, your symptoms sound a lot like me… But I just don’t think I can live without pizza…” my head might explode.

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But as much as the gluten whiners bug me there’s one thing that actually drives me even more crazy.

I haven’t met any of these people personally, but I see their posts on gluten-free chats and Facebook pages ALL.THE.TIME.

They all go something like this: “I think I should go gluten-free, but I have no idea where to start?!?!?! HELP!”

Again, I really try not to pass judgement on stupid people. Maybe they’ve lived a really sheltered life. Maybe they are one of those people who grew up thinking “fast” and “frozen” are two of the major food groups, and have no idea that food comes without a bun or from a source other an a box.

Maybe they have been living in a cave or ashram in the desert for the last 5 years and have completely missed the fact that everyone and their grandmother is talking about gluten in one form or another and thus really have NO IDEA that gluten is in wheat. And that wheat is in flour. And that flour is used to make all bread and pasta products. It does, eventually, get more complicated than that, but as far as where to start?

STOP EATING BREAD AND PASTA.

How about we start there? That’s what I did. My doctor suggested trying a GF diet just for shits and giggles, just to see if it might affect some of my chronic health problems, and so the next day I had yogurt and fruit instead of cereal for breakfast, soup instead of sandwich for lunch, and chicken breast and veggies for dinner. Repeat. And when I started to feel better, then I started looking up more information about a gluten-free lifestyle and looking for recipes and trying out gluten-free products from the grocery store. But first? I just ate things without flour in them. Because getting started really is that easy.

Seriously, I want to find sympathy in my heart for these poor confused souls on these message boards. I want to believe that their story is more complicated than just the usual combination of stupid and lazy. Even as I write this I imagine offended and outraged people responding with explanations of lives spent in fallout shelters and deep-seated fears of foods that comes out of the ground. And to those people I imagine myself saying:

OK, but have you heard of GOOGLE? I know you have a computer, and I know you are familiar with the internet because you’re here posting on this message board on this website about being gluten-free. OH WAIT, or you could just read the f*&ing website you’re posting your “Where do I start?!?” question on. Hmmm? How about you just start with that?

And then I imagine the person crying and saying something like “You don’t have to be so mean!” before running off and being forever incapable of asking for help with their gluten-free lifestyle and then dying either of starvation or of a disease caused by gluten toxins.

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And then I think of Darwin and I stand by my position.

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I’ve held this rant in for a long time. Because I know sharing these feelings does kind of make me one of those people.

Maybe its the  sugar withdrawal, maybe it’s because I’m not watching enough reality TV and judging all those people all the time. But I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

Just don’t hate me because I’m judgmental.

Hate me because I’m mean.

Change out "Salmon" for Chicken and this just got that much easier. You're welcome.

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Sugar Fast. Again. January 6, 2012

I’m starting my new year with another 30 day sugar fast. Because I was a bad, bad girl during the last 2 weeks of 2011.

But in my defense, being gluten-free AND sugar-free, at Christmas, while traveling and relying on other people and rest stops to provide food is really hard. And another opportunity for frustration, disappointment and stress in a season already chock-a-block with those things.

Plus, I totally love sugar. Yes, I learned to live without it in a carefully constructed world where I allowed no temptation, but once I was out of work, out of my routine all bets were off.

At first it was a magical indulgence, and a chocolate stolen from a box of Godiva was a treat to be savored for hours.

Then, once I decided to just give up my ban on sugar until Jan 2, instead of being constantly conflicted and guilt ridden, it was like a race to see how many gluten free sugar products I could get into my body before the deadline.

The effects of this choice were not subtle:

  • Less energy.
  • More headaches.
  • Not sleeping as well.
  • Less appetite for “regular” food.
  • Being distracted by thoughts of desserts and sugary treats all. day. long.
  • Bloating.
  • Swollen ankles.
  • Mood swings usually involving tears.
  • I look like crap in most of my Christmas pictures, including really cute ones that Chris took with his new camera with a timer. My face is fuller, my eyes are dull and my skin is pale. Which means no festive holiday photo for my Facebook profile. This is a tragedy.

Somewhere around Jan 30 I accepted that I was completely powerless over the sugar. I didn’t even try to make up limits, knowing that any self-imposed sanctions applied as an afterthought would wilt against the original decree of a sugar and guilt fueled holiday.

I was honestly a little relieved to have the holidays end and be able to return to work and my carefully constructed sugarless universe. I actually came back to work half a day earlier than I needed to, and if that’s not rock bottom, I don’t know what is.

But even with all of this, it was still totally worth it.

Which I know is not a politically correct diet thing to say.

I’m supposed to follow a binge like this with loud lamentations, self-flagellation and heartfelt dramatic declarations of “AHH SUGAR, YOU CRUEL MISTRESS!! NEVER…. AGAIN….”

To which I say, “meh”.

I mean, do I love the effects of my binge? No, I’m avoiding mirrors and cameras like a vampire. Do I look forward to the sugar withdraws I’ll experience over the next two weeks? Not particularly.

But was it worth it? Um, kinda, yeah.

I mean sure, if I had it to do over again, I might not go quite as crazy. I might not shovel Santa imprinted Hershey bars and tree shaped peanut butter cups into my mouth like a drowning woman gasps for air. Maybe.

Part of my excess was due to wanting to try out all of the gluten-free sweets I’d previously avoided like cookies and muffins and chocolate dipped donuts and birthday cake.  That part was research, really, so that when a sugary treat is really needed – like a birthday, or a Christmas day brunch where I’m surrounded by bagels, coffee cake, and french toast, I can have something equivalently indulgent yet gluten-free for myself.

So were I to fall off the sugar-free wagon again, I’d probably eat those items in the same moderation I did before I went gluten and sugar-free, which is to say only on special occasions.

But here’s the real reason why I don’t regret my sugar binge:

1. I made the choice with a clear and sound mind fully aware of the likely outcomes. And as such, it feels a little hypocritical to now regret that choice. This is a good life philosophy as well. You’re welcome.

2. It was a learning experience. I saw the improved way my body processed sugar better (at the beginning) which reinforced the wisdom and benefits of a low/no sugar diet. This is only going to make this second sugar cleanse that much easier.

3. It really did make my whole holiday experience a lot less stressful and mopey. Mood swings from the sugar notwithstanding. And I know I’ve written about getting past using sweet treats as away of compensating for emotional or physical needs. But come on… I spent a total of 30 hours alone in a car over the span of about a week. I couldn’t have any of the normally fun road trip food that makes that much driving feel more like a treat than a punishment, like donuts and Big Macs and cookies the size of your head. So I had flavored coffee, french fries, and Ghirardelli peppermint bark instead. And it made the schlepping and the traffic and the butt cramps that much easier to take. Don’t judge me.

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But now I’m 3 days into my sugar fast, and so far so good. Since I broke so many routines and associations the first time it’s actually much easier mentally this time.

Physically it still has its challenges, but on the plus side, since I’m excited to be back into my healthy eating routines my creativity for lunch creations is refueled.

For example, today for lunch, I did an inventory of all the food I had on hand and ended up making a salad with beets, granny smith apples, feta cheese and walnuts. I know I’m not the first person to combine beets and green apples, but damn is that an insanely good taste combo.

what is also clear from this picture is that I will never have a career as a food photographer.

And then because I was feeling the need for something warm on this cold day, I took some frozen sugar snap peas, put them on the toaster oven tray, sprinkled some kosher salt on them, and popped them at 350 for about 10 minutes or so, moving them around once. Then I sprinkled a bit of feta on them and bam. Incredible taste explosion and satisfying lunch.

So much more satisfying than another peppermint bark or peanut butter cup… at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself until I forget the way that peppermint bark candy melted on my tongue…

*Sigh* only 27 more days to go…

 

Buddha’s Diet November 23, 2011

Filed under: Food — Meredith @ 10:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m a slave to protein.

That’s what this whole diet has basically boiled down to: Protein, and my endless need for it.

It’s the master of my schedule, the ruler of my moods, and the deity to which I regularly bow.

Because that’s pretty much all I can eat. And when you only eat protein, it burns up fast. See the nice thing about complex carbs like the one I typical ate – with lots of whole grain and fiber** –  is that they are slow burning. Slowly burning into sugar, yes. But slow burning nonetheless. This is an attribute of carbs I took for granted when they were a part of my life.

But when protein is king, I can go from not hungry, to starving in less than 3 seconds. Every choice I make in my day somehow relates to, or is influenced by an opportunity to intake protein.

.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because really, over all, this diet is the best thing that’s happened to me, health wise, in years.

Pounds and inches have been lost. (More inches than pounds actually, which seems impossible, but is apparently true and according to the doctor, not uncommon. But smaller is smaller, so I’m not complaining).

But more than anything, a lifestyle has emerged.

A lifestyle of mindfulness. Mindfulness about when I’m going to eat, what I’m going to eat, and of course, how much protein will be in the meal. I have to make daily decisions about whether and how much GF and sugar-free protein bars or apples, or cheese sticks, or nuts, I need to put in my purse.

Fast food is a thing of the past, we can’t eat anything out of a box, and very few restaurants offer us more than one or two options on the menu (although the few that do, like Mongolian BBQ, we patronize often.)

On Friday afternoon Chris and I start thinking through our weekend and what our schedule will be like, and before we can settle in for the evening, we have to make sure we at least have enough eggs, fruit and breakfast meat to make breakfast Saturday morning.

At breakfast we talk through our day in detail, thinking about where we’re going, what our food access will be, if we’ll need to bring food or come home to eat. If we’ll come home to eat, what will we eat, will we have time to cook or do we need something quicker.

Crock-pots are an invention of the gods.

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After a few weeks that all becomes second nature, especially to detail oriented planners like me and Chris.

But then there’s another level of mindfulness, having to do with correcting habitual eating and cravings.

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I realized that I used food as rewards- a diet sabotaging habit if ever there was one.

Several times a day I’d think, “I’ve made it through a hard day, I should get myself a cupcake,” or “I’ve had a great day! I should stop at Starbucks for a frap,” or “I just did the bare minimum amount of work I need to do to stay employed. Time for some M&M’s!” At first I just focused on not robotically steering into the Starbucks or bakery parking lot.

Then one day it hit me: “Why do I need a reward for every goddamn thing that happens in my life? Am I 4 years old? Should I get M&M’s for making a pee-pee in the potty?”

First I thought “Well, it wouldn’t hurt,” but then I thought “NO. This is no way for an adult to live!”Because, as an adult, I’m responsible for my life. I’m responsible for all of my choices and my actions. I shouldn’t need a reward to get through a day in a life that I created.

“But,” I asked myself, “what about when things go wrong, and you’re too sad to do anything but eat a cupcake one crumb at a time?”

That pulled me up short because, I mean, seriously, WHAT ABOUT THE CUPCAKES?

Well here’s the thing about the cupcakes:

They served as a pseudo solution for situations I didn’t want to resolve for real. Relationship trouble? Lets not look at the ways in which I’ve participated in letting him make me feel bad, that’s icky, I’ll just eat a cupcake instead. Pain from physical therapy after my car accident? Eh, getting perspective about healing time and the human body is hard, I think I’ll mope and eat a cupcake instead.

The sugar and the feeling of getting what I want would make me feel briefly better, but quickly disappear leaving me feeling lonely and sad again. A terrible cycle that has now ended.

I’m not saying I’ll never have another cupcake, but it will be when my sugar intake for the day has been low, when its GF, and when its only because I want a cupcake, not because I’m using it to hide behind. Because being mindful also means having choices. I can choose to have a peanut butter cup, or a slice of GF apple pie at Thanksgiving because I can make choices about other things I eat – skip the potatoes, go easy on the citrus fruit and pick carrots over corn so my sugar intake is as low as possible when I eat the pie.  I can pretty much do whatever I want as long as I’m always mindful of the big picture. Which makes me hate this diet a lot less.

Next, I realized that I mostly crave sugar and carbs when I’m dehydrated or just plain hungry. The body wants a quick fix, so it wants carbs and sugar. So I had to learn to ask myself what I was actually in need of – water? protein? just something in my mouth to chew?

What I didn’t expect to happen was that I eventually trained my body to crave what it actually wanted. When I’m dehydrated I crave water, when I need protein I crave cheese or meat, when I just want something to chew images of apples and carrots come to mind.

Swear to Protein, I’m telling the truth.

But it’s really easy to undo. One little slip – like eating rich chocolate desserts every night because you’re stuck in a hotel in the middle of the desert and you’ve only been able to eat like 20% of every meal and you’re sick of your protein bars and it’s not fair and a little bit of sugar isn’t going to hurt, and damnit why does everything have to be so effing hard all the time – and you kind of have to start the retraining all over again. But it is easier the second time around.

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I was explaining these details of this diet to my dad a few weeks ago, and he said “So its like a Buddha diet. It’s all about mindfulness.” Which is the first time I thought to put it into that context. Of course, if we wanted to be very literal, Buddha’s diet would be vegetarian, but I like to think he’s cool with my using his name this way. Mostly because Buddha is pretty much cool with everything.  But as soon as I re-contextualized this diet from a pain in the ass list of restrictions, to a lifestyle of mindfulness, everything got a lot easier.

For example, I’ve finally accepted that there were no short cuts anymore, that my idea of indulgent eating is adding kidney beans to my salad, and that I will spend an inappropriate amount of my life thinking about eggs.

And in exchange I have a clear mind, high energy levels, stabilized moods, a smaller waistline, and better functioning organs.

Seems a fair trade.

Except when I walk past a Starbucks and see a picture of their holiday drinks and wonder how many more times I can walk past before I run inside, order 12, and then sit in my car behind a dumpster pounding one after the other until I pass out in a pool of melted whip cream, chocolate curls and my dignity.

Those days suck. But mostly its, you know, the other way.

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**this is an after post edit for clarity. I realized that by just saying “carbs” as I did originally it was misleading and just plaing wrong. But I’d been eating complex carbs, and whole grain/fiber filled carbs instead of simple carbs like white rice, white pasta etc, for so long that I didn’t think about what I was saying.

 

I’ll Never Be Accused of Being A Foodie October 31, 2011

Today is the end of the formal 30 day sugar fast that was the kickoff to my new “eating lifestyle”.
Yay! Except that I’m so over (most) of my sugar cravings, and have adapted to my options so well over the past few weeks, I don’t really want to eat outside my diet.
Did. NOT. See that coming.

I’d planned to do a deep blog about all of the things I’ve learned over the past 30 days in terms of food, my body, my brain, Chris’s body, society, and American culture as a whole. I may also have some revelations about the state of the global economy and how to stop the polar ice caps from melting.

BUT.

Work and life is really busy this week, and I’m not going to have the time to write such a deep, informative, and dare I say it, life changing blog post for a while.

So since food is kind of the center of my life right now, I decided I’d just throw a blog together about what I’m eating.

For me and Chris the keys to success on this diet, is planning and creativity. I live in fear of getting totally sick of something, like say sliced deli ham, because if I take deli ham off my list, that’s like removing 25% of my options. Or something. I don’t know, I’m not a mathematician, but I do know it would be ugly.

Breakfast

Breakfasts are the most challenging meal of my day. At work I either eat some combination of hard boiled eggs, microwave sausage, fruit, or protein drinks.

On the weekends, we try to be more creative, because the idea that we could get sick of eggs keeps us both up at night. And yet… all of our breakfasts still include eggs…so there appear to be some kinks in our plan…

Moving on. You all remember the post about our Flower Power Eggs, right? Well, since then we’ve gone with more of a “throw a bunch of veggie’s into a pan with some eggs and meat and cook it up” approach.

Scrambled eggs with some tomatoes and cheese thrown in, some bacon and fruit on the side.

This was supposed to be a fritata, but then we realized we had way more filler than eggs, so we just scrambled it all together and called it a day. Sausage, tomato, broccoli and cheese.

Lunch

Lunch is a bigger issue when I’m at work than on the weekends, because typically on a weekend we don’t eat breakfast until around noon, so “lunch” is more a snack sometime before dinner. But at work, lunch is my personal challenge.

At first I made these big elaborate salads that required I spend at least 20 minutes chopping things up.

Then I started coming up with faster lunch options. This is Amy's Organic, gluten free Chunky Tomato Bisque, and a salad of: tiny shrimp, romain lettuce, feta cheese and a touch of vinegrette dressing. Not the most flavorful lunch I've ever had, but it got the job done.

I had a few bites of a flourless chocolate torte this morning (co-worker birthday) and the sugar nearly made my head explode, so I wanted a really basic lunch. Plain shrimp, frozen sugar snap peas thawed in microwave, then tossed in the toaster oven on 450 with sea salt for 2 minutes each side. Again, not the most exciting meal, but it hit the spot. And took me less than 10 minutes to make. Win.

I also made a couple of salads last week with either pear or apple on romain lettuce, with fetta cheese, walnuts, and vinegrette dressing, but forgot to take pictures because I was starving. But they were delicious.

Snacks

I like to think that snacks bring out my true creativity. Of course we have the standard apple/organge/banana/carrots/celery, with almonds, cheese or a peanut butter substitute like Sun Butter (made from sunflowers).

But then there’s the deli meat.

Chris started me into the habit of buying deli meat and then just eating it straight from the bag. But after a few occasions of standing in the kitchen at work self conciously shoving slices of ham or roast beef into my mouth, hoping no one would walk in and comment on my unorthadox eating habits, I got an idea.

I took a slice of cheese, and pilled two slices of roast beef on it, and then wrapped the cheese around the meat to eat it like a taco. I don't know why, but somehow I felt less self-conscious eating this way. Sometimes I put a second slice of cheese on top and pretend its a sandwich. Don't judge me.

The first couple of weeks of the diet/sugar fast were challenging because I was used to having granola bars or protein bars as easy portable snacks. But none of the bars I used to eat fit into my new diet. So I went on the hunt and eventually found a couple of options. This was one of them:

This sat in my drawer for more than two weeks before I was brave enough to try it. I think the "live" part scared me. But it was actually kinda good. And nothing bit back, so there's that.

But this my favorite power bar option at the moment. They are the perfect pre- workout snack:

It says its sugar free, but it does have sugar alcohols, which means...something. I don't really get it yet except that they are better/different than actual sugar...somehow...

This weekend we went out to run a quick errand and ended up at the outlets. About an hour into the outlet experience we realized we hadn’t packed a snack or lunch because we weren’t expecting to be gone so long. And one of the major challenges to this diet is that fast food is a thing of the past, and even places like Panera Bread offer few options because I don’t trust their salad dressings to be gluten free. But we wandered into the food court anyway, thinking at worst we could split some fries to hold us over until we got home. But we were actually surprised to find some diet friendly options. (I started to type “pleasantly surprised” but that would be a lie, because we were a little disappointing when we realized we couldn’t justify french fries). And then for another installment of “what the fuck happened to us?” we sat in the middle of the food court surrounded by pizza, burgers and fries, and ate apples slices,  cheddar cheese squares, melon squares and grapes, and tried to pretend we were enjoying it.

But you know what?

We would rather have had ANYTHING ELSE IN THAT FOOD COURT.

Seriously, if I could have eaten a slice of pizza or a burger and not felt like death for the next 24 hours, I would have. And I’m pretty sure that goes double for Chris.

But this is our life now, so the only thing to do is look on the bright side. Which for me is that I did not have to spend $200 on new clothes to go to this work conference next week because I’ve lost enough weight in the last month to fit back into my old, pre-gluten-allergy-making-my-body-go-insane clothes.

So at least there’s that.

OH, AND, today at the grocery store I found carrots cut into disc shapes! I don’t know why, but I find this extremely exciting.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat an apple with some Sun Butter for my snack.

Try not to be too jealous.

 

One Week Down and No One Has Died. Yet. October 10, 2011

I’ve been on my 4 week sugar fast for one week as of today.

It has been a long and interesting week.

There were very real withdrawals from the sugar, although it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, since I took High Fructose Corn Syrup out of my diet about a year ago, and had transitioned breads and pastas out of my diet over the past month. So now I had to cut out all refined sugar, flavored coffee, rice, and restrict my intake of certain fruits and vegetables.

I only had about two days of classic sugar withdrawal symptoms – headache, irritability, increased thirst, intense cravings etc. The rest of the week was sort of a series of minor withdrawal symptoms and revelations about my body and my relationship to food.

Last week was made much easier though by the solidarity of my friends  – the co-worker to ate an omelett “muffin” instead of birthday cake with me at a staff meeting, and the friend who cooked me a delicious carb free, and sugar free meal, introducing me to new food and new preparation methods.  The first week would have been much harder without them.

The first thing I noticed was that with the removal of all carbs from my diet, I’m rapidly burning through everything I eat.  As in,  within two hours of my last meal I’m seriously wondering if I’ve ever eaten food in my life.  That seems to be getting better as I enter my second week, but my body definitely didn’t know what to do without the slow burning carbs that were obviously a bigger centerpiece of my diet than I’d realized.

But the fact that feeling hungry at all is still a novelty has helped me deal with the need to daily prepare enough food to feed a small African village.  Between the build up of gluten toxins and my inability to digest food, I hadn’t felt an honest hunger pain in months. So that’s pretty cool.

Chris and I can’t stop talking about how differently we experience meals without carbs and starches. Like, after eating Mongolian BBQ without a starch, and Chipotle without the rice, we both felt like we tasted the other food in the dish much more clearly, enjoyed the meal more and didn’t feel ready to explode after we were done…

But at least I recognize the fact that this sounds like a fascinating topic of conversation to no one other than us.

We’re both seeing rapid changes to our physical shapes. His started about two weeks ago, mine is really just becoming obvious this week, but there is some serious slimming of our mid-sections and when I look down at myself my body looks familiar to me for the first time in many months.

So at this point I can say that cutting out carbs has been routinely positively reinforced, which has made it easier. But I’ve also really come to understand how, as a culture, we consume a shocking amount of grain products, from bread and breading, to tortilla chips and rice to pasta, and as a result, it’s really challenging to eat out and even grocery shop to some extent. I’m realizing I have to reeducate myself about food, nutrition, and cram information about things like glycemic index and carb conversion rates into my brain.

What was much harder for me last week than cutting out carbs was cutting out the actual sugar – chocolate, flavored coffee, random other types of candy that seemed suddenly to be EVERYWHERE I looked. By the end of the week, I was craving the crappiest, lowest grade of candy out there. Things I would previously have dismissed as not worth my time to unwrap, I was now ready to commit acts of larceny and violence to acquire. I’m talking about crap like Cow Tails and Circus Peanuts.

mmmmm, circus peanuts… OMG, seriously?? WHO AM I?

Clearly, we still have some withdrawals to get through.

Maybe in part because I cheated a little bit this weekend…

We went to the Renaissance Festival, which is really just an opportunity to people watch and eat deliciously disgusting foods that  are really bad for you. Except there were very few things we could eat.

Our lunch was steak on a stick and curly fries. (I know, potatoes are carbs, but within the confines and rules of this crazy new diet I’m supposed to follow, potatoes are considered “an occasional item”).

And the rest of the day we’d wandered around reading the signs for all the other food drooling and saying “Can’t have that. Can’t have that.” (Its more fun than it sounds. Seriously.)

And then Chris said “Frozen Bananas. Hey – you want that?”

And without thinking I said “YES!” thinking how a frozen banana would be the most perfect treat possible at that moment.

When we got closer we realized all of the frozen bananas were dipped in chocolate.

I stood crestfallen, both annoyed at myself for not having realizing that of course the bananas would be covered in chocolate, because what person in their right mind would want to eat a plain frozen banana, and because chocolate covered frozen bananas might be my most favorite festival food ever. Even over funnel cake.

Chris watched me pout for a few seconds before saying “Go ahead, get one.”

“Well… I don’t want to cheat less than a week into my fast…” I said with almost no conviction.

“Go ahead, it’s mostly banana anyway. Don’t deny yourself something you want this badly.”

Which was really all the encouragement I needed.

And I have to say, that first bite was something close to a religious experience.

The second bite was almost as good.

Around the third or fourth bite though, I started to get a little bit of a headache. “Probably from the freezing part, not the chocolate part,” I told Chris when he noticed I’d slowed my pace of consumption. I took another bite, but then, with no small amount of horror, realized I didn’t really want it anymore.

And that’s when it happened.

Something that, even an hour prior, I would never have believed myself capable of doing. I pulled all the chocolate off and just ate the banana. And loved it.

.

I’m telling you. It’s like I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

.

Some of the other things I’ve realized/noticed/been contemplating this week:

  • I’ve used sweets (chocolate, cupcakes, flavored coffee with whip cream) as a reward system for myself for most of my life. I’m shocked the number of times a day I find myself thinking “I’ve eaten really well today, I should treat myself to a frapiccino” or “finish this project and then you can have one of those chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen”, or “I’ve had a hard day, I should get myself that kit-kat bar.”

First, I’m 35 years old.  Should I really be moving myself through my life via a sugar based reward system? Probably not.

Second, if I shift the paradigm from behavior/reward, will I increase my intrinsic motivation and enjoy life more? I have no idea. But I think I’m going to find out.

Third, the whole “hard day = candy” is particularly interesting because often the cause of my discontent was dehydration,  sleep deprivation, or not having eaten enough that day. None of which will really be solved with sweets. But when sugar isn’t an available prop, I’m forced to actually get in touch with my body to identify the correct solution to whats ailing me. I find this a little bit annoying because it takes way more effort than just buying a candy bar in the check-out lane.

  • My childhood desire to always blend in comes out when I’m eating out. Intellectually, I know I should reveal my food allergy to protect myself from misguided ordering, or avail myself of unpublicized gluten-free menus (why a restaurant wouldn’t advertise their gluten-free menu, I have no idea… I’m looking at you Coastal Flats.) But so far I can’t make myself do it, unless directly asked. It’s like when I was in second grade and should have asked my teacher to help me unbutton my new pants with the impossible button so I could pee, but instead just sat through the test crossing my legs, bouncing, and praying so hard I wouldn’t have an accident that I failed my first test ever.
  • But maybe more than anything I’ve learned that every challenge is easier to conquer when you have a partner. As I’ve mentioned, Chris is following this diet with me, just to support me. It’s clearly above and beyond the standard boyfriend job description, but that’s kinda how he rolls. And yet I’ve been having a surprisingly hard time just letting him do this. I keep giving him permission to cheat on the diet because I feel bad that he’s depriving himself because of me…which I keep thinking means I’M depriving him. I mean, its one thing for me to suffer with these restrictions, I have the motivation of my immediate and long-term health at stake. He’s doing it just because. Well, he’s also got washboard abs emerging before our eyes, so it’s not like he isn’t getting anything out of it, but still, its no small sacrifice he’s making.  But as I enter this second week of my our sugar fast I’ve decided that I’m going to stop feeling guilty. Instead I’m just going to accept the support, and focus on seeing this as the shared adventure he sees it as, because the truth is, it’s going to be way easier that way.

Especially considering my other plan is to force feed him cupcake frosting and peanut butter cups and then try to get a contact high from kissing him.

And I just feel like that’s a dark place our relationship isn’t ready to go. Yet.

 

Its Gonna Be a Bright, Bright, Sun-shiney Day September 15, 2011

For the past several months, I haven’t been feeling myself. Maybe as long as a year, but its hard to say really.

A year ago this month I was in a car accident that had me in physical therapy and doctors offices for 6 months, and I was exhausted and cranky all the time because of the pain, and any odd things happening in my body were chalked up to the stress and trauma.

It wasn’t until April that I started noticing issues with my body that didn’t seem associated with the accident, and a new round of doctor’s visits ensued.

The majority of my complaints were anecdotal and subjective:

I’m tired all the time

I cry alot

I have cramps all the time

I’m irritable for no reason

As I mentioned in my birthday post, those symptoms along with a few other specific ones I won’t share here for the sake of my dad and brothers who read this blog, led my doctor to decide I had endometriosis. A scary diagnosis at 35 years old.

No blood work was done, no more investigation than a simple exam occurred, and I was handed a prescription for birth control and sent on my way.

But the pill didn’t help. I was still tired, moody, and having painful cramps all the time. And I was gaining weight at an alarming rate. I looked like someone had stuck an air hose in my butt.

When I went back to ask for a different pill, I was threatened with surgery, or chemical menopause if this new pill didn’t fix me.

Chemical menopause. At 35. For real.

Well, with that kind of incentive, I was determined to have the pill fix me.

And it did, sort of. My mood swings got a little better, my cramps went away, and the weight started to come off…

Mostly because my appetite largely disappeared.

But I was still exhausted all the time. I was still generally grumpy about most things and unmotivated.

My drive that had kept me going to the gym at 5 am the year before was gone, and sometimes it was all I could do to go on a walk with Chris.

I slept a lot, but not particularly well, in part because I was plagued with crazy dreams that had me waking up confused about the separation between reality and dream states.

At work, and when I was trying to write, my brain felt foggy, cloudy, like parts of it had been shut down with out my permission.

But I ignored all of it, because I was tired of doctors, tired of threats of major interventions, and I just wanted to be left alone.

But I spent a lot of time secretly worried.

I worried something was seriously wrong with me.

I worried that Chris was going to get tired of having a slug for a girlfriend.

I worried that I’d never be me again.

Then I decided to give it one more try. I found a new doctor. A holistic doctor.

We talked about my eating habits, and how I am rarely hungry and often remember to eat only when I’m light-headed or cranky, and how I eat soup for lunch every day because it’s the only thing appealing.

He told me I had to eat more, maybe a sandwich, and I made a face. “I don’t like sandwiches lately, I can’t get myself to eat one anymore.”

And he said words that I’ve come to think of as magic. “Maybe you have a gluten allergy and your body is trying to protect you.”

Huh, well that’s an idea. We did some tests for that and some other possibilities but while waiting for the results, I just decided to try a gluten-free diet and see what happened.

What happened was AMAZING.

I literally felt improvement within 24 hours. A little more energy, a little more cheerful.

It’s now been almost 4 days with only one slip on the first day, and HOL-Y CRAP! I’m almost afraid to trust it, but…

I’ve been reborn people!

My energy level has been steadily climbing and today its off the charts. Which for most people would probably be considered a normal energy level, but since I’m starting from such a low bar, this feels super charged.

And my mood! My god, my mood. I’m cheerful! Well, cheerful for me, I’m still don’t seem myself being nice to people on the phone or anything, I mean I haven’t had a brain transplant, but I’m not mopey and resentful at being anywhere other than a bed or couch.

I’m sleeping better. I still had some crazy dreams last night, but when I woke up my heart wasn’t racing, I wasn’t confused about what was real, and I didn’t fear going back to sleep. I actually thought “hmm, that was a weird dream,” and fell back to sleep. This has never happened before.

The fog has been blown out of my brain. I can apply problem solving skills, and abstract thinking and deductive reasoning to problems again. That was the hardest symptom of my unraveling that was hardest to explain or quantify. But now its back! I have my brain back!And the energy to use it.

I can’t help but think that part of the improvement is the result of shifting from feeling like a helpless victim of my body’s whims and malfunctions to feeling hopeful and back in control, but whatever. Who cares, because I’m back baby. I’m back!

.

And if you haven’t been keeping track, almost all of these symptoms are the same ones used to make my diagnosis of endometriosis. My new doctor has ordered extensive blood work to make sure there isn’t anything else going on that contributed to the symptoms or the sudden development of the allergy, but so far even money is on it just being a gluten allergy.

Chemical menopause indeed.

.

One of the more interesting changes I’m starting to observe though, is a type of emotional re-engagement with my friends. For the last few months any emotional energy I had went to Chris and worrying about what was wrong with me, and there wasn’t much left over for other people. I’d listen to their troubles, their drama, their challenges as if from a distance. I kept quiet when I might otherwise have intervened, or if I offered advice, I drop it quickly if I felt resistance where before I would have pushed through.

But now…the fire to tell other people how to live their lives is back. I’m once again freely and passionately offering opinions and advice on things that I may or may not know anything about.

I know right? I’m sooooo BACK!

And today specifically I find myself getting reacquainted with my traditionally fierce desire to cause harm to people who hurt my friends.

I can’t get this image out of my mind of going out and rounding up all the men who’ve hurt my friends in the past year while I’ve been “away” and forcing them with cattle prods into extended rituals of public ridicule, humiliation and penance.

The phrase “feminist jihad” may or may not be running on a loop in my head. (And the political scientist in me can’t help mentioning that I know that jihad technically refers to a religiously motivated attack, but I argue that feminism IS a religion…)

I’ve got a few logistics to work out yet on that, but that’s OK, because I have nothing but energy and mental acuity to burn right now.

I think shit’s about to get real y’all…

 

 
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