Celiacs and the Pepto Bismol Dance

“So, like, what happens if you eat gluten?”  This is my new favorite question.  A week ago, I had no idea.  I had managed to live for 28 years without any indication that all my digestive problems were related to gluten.  So when I was told I had celiac’s disease, it was hard to take it seriously.  Sure, no gluten.  But all that cross-contamination stuff was for the really severe cases, not people like me.  Who cares if my chips were cooked in the same oil as wheat-containing products?

 >>cue laughter from seasoned celiacs<< 

…Last night I found out what happens if I eat gluten.  And more specifically, what happens when I partake of a product known for cross-contamination.  Other than the waves of nausea that have made me miserable all night last night and most of this morning, I do not care to discuss my symptoms here.  (And hopefully that is enough for you to guess what happens to a celiac who eats gluten).  Funny how familiar these symptoms are, and how long I lived with them without knowing I could stop them.  I’m not sure if the symptoms are worse now or if the contrast between relief and illness just makes them feel worse.  Whatever the case, I feel very very yucky today.

I have to wonder how many of the Pepto dancers are really just undiagnosed celiacs?

The best advice I could give anyone is to get tested if you have ANY recurring gastrointestinal problems.  I was previously [mis]diagnosed with IBS and stomach ulcers, and my symptoms do not match what seem to be the “classic” symptoms of celiac disease.  So I thought for sure I wasn’t a celiac.  My idea of a celiac was someone who seemed to suffer from dysentery all the time, can’t gain weight because of malabsorption, and appears weak and frail for no apparent reason.  But for me this has not been the case.  Let’s just say that my symptoms have been pretty much the opposite.

All of my excitement over “gluten free” products was short-lived, needless to say.  I did enough research to know that those poor hardcore celiacs can’t eat most things that carry the risk of cross-contamination.  But it didn’t occur to me that I could be one of them.  Live and learn, I guess.

Today’s recipe is for my first ever attempt at gluten-free baking: I went with a blueberry muffin recipe I found on a great gluten-free blog that you can access here.

As always, I made a few changes to the original, mostly because I didn’t have all of the ingredients and didn’t want to bake with sugar.  Here is my modified version.

1.5 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter (softened)
½ cup honey
½ cup coconut flakes*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large separate bowl:

1 cup brown rice flour***              
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

two eggs, beaten
1-2 cups blueberries

First, soak oats in milk and set aside.

Mix butter, honey, coconut, and vanilla in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Combine wet ingredients (including oat/milk mixture) with dry ingredients and mix just until combined; add egg.  Lightly fold in blueberries.  Fill greased muffin cups full (these don’t rise as much as “normal” muffins) and bake at 400 for 35 minutes.  Honey causes things to brown quickly in the oven, so cover with tinfoil to prevent over-browning.

*I used the coconut flakes to add a little texture to the honey in an attempt to make up for the missing texture of the sugar.

***In the future, I will probably use a mixture of almond meal, flax meal, and rice flour instead of using the full cup of rice flour.

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Unwrapped is Now Accidentally Gluten-Free!

Treatment for my thyroid is still going remarkably well!  Today marks one week since I started my treatment, and I have seen a full turnaround so far.  In fact, the very next day I was fully of energy and my body temperature was up!  Since that first day, I have lost about six of the alarming ten pounds I gained in the last month of thyroid hell.  My body temperature hasn’t gone below 98.0, though it hovers at 98.8 (up by about 1.5 degrees!), and the swelling in my face is completely gone.  Whew.  On my way to normal and so quickly!   Never question what a naturopath can do—these improvements are entirely without lifelong medications like Cytomel and Thyroxin.

This blog is now—unexpectedly—a gluten-free blog.  Just in case you missed it, I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and the only known treatment is to avoid gluten for the rest of my life.  Every now and then I think of something I really love that I will never eat again, but for the most part the future looks pretty darn bright.  I mean, pretty much everything I cook is gluten-free, so mostly the change will be to my baked goods.  My goal is to be completely sustained by local organic produce anyway, so it’s not as though this diagnosis came in the middle of a fast-food addiction.  And bodybuilding taught me how to carry meals with me and adapt recipes to meet my nutritional needs—this is nothing compared to a bodybuilding diet!  In fact, as I think back on it, it pretty much was a gluten-free diet.  Chicken, brown rice or sweet potato, and veggies, no condiments…maybe I was onto something.

If you are gluten-free, then I suspect you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.  So please bear with my rookie attempts at baking.  Try not to giggle as I get excited about some new product you’ve known about for years.  But also keep in mind that I did not bake from mixes before, and I have no intention of using them now, so we might just learn something together as I try to figure this out.  If you’re not gluten-free, don’t go away just yet!  I consider a recipe successful only when it passes my six-year-old daughter’s taste test, so odds are pretty good that you can still enjoy my recipes.

As an amusing side-note, I want to point out a recent observation I had while at the grocery store yesterday.  Despite the fact that I’m not terribly limited by this change to gluten-free living, suddenly I’m fascinated by any product that is gluten-free certified, even if it’s not something I would have normally eaten.  Such as crackers.  I purchased a box of gluten-free crackers just because I was so excited to see them.  What the hell, I don’t even EAT crackers!  I don’t even buy things in boxes!  But they are now sitting on my pantry shelf like a trophy.  And that’s not all.  Gigi’s cupcakes are gluten-free on Wednesday, and you’d have thought I was waiting on the arrival of Christmas, the way I was counting down the days until I could buy a cupcake!  What’s wrong with me?!  And then I realized that perhaps this is why junk food packaged in small portions, such as 100-calorie snack packs, are so popular: the very notion that one may be deprived in any way seems to jumpstart our inner need to hoard for the impending winter.  But gosh how embarrassing to now be one of the hoarders!  

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Tonight’s dinner was something we would have eaten anyway.  In fact, I had planned to make it before I found out I couldn’t eat gluten!  And while dinner was cooking I made my first attempt at gluten-free blueberry muffins that even passed the kid taste-test!  (I’ll post that recipe in the next one).

Dinner:  vegetable frittata with white cheddar grits

A frittata is probably the simplest quick fix there is!  It’s basically a quiche without a crust.  If you don’t like or can’t eat eggs, this is not for you.  For everyone else, you’ve GOT to add this to your go-to meal list.  It’s high in protein and the fat content can be adjusted to suit your needs.  For instance, someone on a low-carb diet might take full advantage of the egg yolks to keep the calories up, while someone trying to keep the fat down can easily reduce the yolks and add a few extra whites.  You can put anything in it, and it’s a one-dish meal that you can even make ahead and bake when needed.  Some people even eat it cold!  And, as I say about all of my recipes, you can’t mess this up!  I’ll tell you how I made mine tonight, but keep in mind that this recipe is easily adaptable and you should enjoy experimenting on your own. 

Frittata:

8 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 red bell pepper  (chopped)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp onion powder  (Mike hates onions, or I’d have used a fresh one instead!)
1/2 (ish) tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the eggs and milk together until it becomes a smooth mixture; add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into a greased glass baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and a fork inserted into the middle comes out clean.

White Cheddar Grits:

2 ½ cup water
½ cup uncooked grits (not instant! And if you’re GF, use grits that you’re confident              are GF, as not all are)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp butter (trust me, I find it necessary here.  Nothing worse than grits stuck to your pan)
½ tsp cayenne pepper
salt/pepper

Bring water to a boil; add butter and grits.  Turn heat to “low” and cover for 12 minutes.  Add cheese, salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir.  Remove from heat and cover until you’re ready to serve.

 

 

 

The Inspiration to Live, Learn, and Know

 

Writing a blog can be really creepy.  I write whatever is in my head, and then I send it into a vast, anonymous abyss.  I write to an invisible audience, and then wonder if it’s pretentious to even assume I have an audience.  So when people comment on it, subscribe, “like” it, or send me emails about it, I am reminded that people are indeed reading.  The feedback has been incredible, and I feel lucky for the reminder that my existence on earth can be inspiring to someone.

It’s easy to live our lives pretending that no one is watching—but someone always is, and that is a great reminder of the responsibility we have to each other.  Moods and outlooks on life can be contagious, so I am reminded to be careful of the kind of mood I’m projecting.  Anger begets anger, pessimism begets pessimism, but a smile and positive outlook are also really catchy.  My goal–and I humbly fail regularly–is to affect positive change in the world by simply living in it and contributing my talents and assets in a meaningful way.

The emails that I have received have served as reminders not of my own success but of the people who have been most influential in my life.  I wonder if they really know how many people they reach just by planting a seed in one person.  While my list of inspirational people is a mile long, the most inspirational people in my life are the women who taught me (and some are still teaching me) how to overcome anything life throws my way.  And in this post I want to honor them.  I don’t know if any of them read my blog, but if they do I hope they recognize themselves.  I hope I can do them justice with my words so that they can also inspire anyone who reads this blog.

I like to think that my life didn’t start until my daughter came along.  So I’ll start there, with a woman who showed me what a mother’s unconditional love looks like (five kids of her own and countless “adopted” children, and each with a uniquely headstrong personality!).  Fresh from a divorce and scared to death, I met her at a time when I really needed a mother; she became an amazing source of strength and nurturing that helped me through one of the toughest times of my life.  She taught me about what it meant to keep going even when you don’t think you can.  She encouraged me to finish college when I didn’t think I could, and helped me to find the resources to make it happen.  She taught me to slow down and enjoy the present while remaining open minded about where the future might take me.  I’m not sure I’d be here, in GA, finishing up my MA in Women’s Studies if it weren’t for her.  What’s truly remarkable is that she has a long trail of others who have been similarly influenced by her; she is someone who affects positive change in the world by her very existence.

The next one on my list is a woman who, according to my memory, taught me the word “empowerment.”  She was my boss at the worst job I’ve ever had in my entire life, and she actually fired me!  But during my time working for her, she shared with me a wisdom and a patience that I have rarely encountered since.  I was working three jobs and struggling to make ends meet as a young and terrified single parent.  Every day seemed to get worse and I wanted to just give up, but with a child I had no choice but to keep trying.  She taught me how to take control of my situation by sharing the story of how she put herself through school with two children and a severely limited income.  The story of her sacrifices and triumphs kept me humble and driven throughout my own struggles.  She gave me practical advice on how to get on my feet and she impressed upon me how important it was to get back in school.  But most of all, she taught me what it means to be a survivor.  There are many different kinds of victims, many different kinds of pain, but no excuse not to survive and seek fulfillment no matter what life throws at you.  To this day we are still in touch, and over the years we have watched each other struggle and win.  I am so lucky to call her a friend and mentor, and I am still inspired by her.

I could go on and on—there is no limit to the number of women who have inspired me over the past six years.  But there are two more who deserve mention in this blog.  I think we can all think back and remember a teacher who made an impression on us.  I am lucky because I have had a lot of great professors in college.  But there are two who deserve special mention.  The reason I list them together is actually the very reason they are so inspirational—they are best friends who many years ago started as student and advisor.  They value their students and each other so much that they learn as they teach, and they grow lifelong friends in the process.

 

The wisdom and understanding they impart on their students is above and beyond what can be expected of any professor. Their combined credentials are diverse and impressive, and they somehow find a way to bring them together even when teaching in totally separate classrooms.  If I ask a question of one, she reminds me to also consider asking the other.  They are well-read and are never at a loss for the kind of knowledge that the University expects them to share with their students, but their workdays are not limited to the classroom.  In fact, I think they do more teaching outside of the classroom than in it! The first time I asked for a book recommendation, I was invited to meet for coffee!  Soon after, I realized that my professor was going to become a lifelong mentor.  To this day, I turn to them both for wisdom and advice.  They teach many subjects at the university, but now that I have graduated they continue to teach me patience, understanding, compassion, appreciation, joyfulness, and the responsibility that we all have to each other.  And they have a great way of catching me red-handed when I’m not getting a very good grade in peaceful living!  They have taught me (and are still teaching me) two of life’s most important lessons: how to learn, and how to know.  Neither is easy, and I still haven’t mastered them yet, but I am humbled by each lesson I am taught.

For anyone who has been inspired by this blog, I wanted to share with you the women who deserve the credit.  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by intelligent, strong, and successful women.  Some have passed through to teach me the lessons I needed at the precise moment that I needed them, camping out in my heart but not making a permanent home in my life.  Some pitch a tent from time to time, coming and going as necessary and always with the unspoken invitation to return.  Others have laid down foundations and are beginning to build houses, and I look forward to being neighbors for quite some time.

Another strong single mother I was lucky enough to meet in college. 🙂

Gluten-Free Banana/Chocolate Chip Bread

Quick update, and then I’m going to skip to the food.  First, I have been diagnosed with celiac disease and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease.  In my last blog I described the totally helpless feeling of living with symptoms of hypothyroidism before treatment.  At the time, I was gaining weight so quickly and feeling so miserable that I felt totally hopeless and fearful that even with treatment it could take another month to see any kind of relief.  Faced with the choice between an endocrinologist (for what I thought would be a faster approach to treatment) and a naturopath (for a holistic approach to treatment), I chose the naturopath.  I wish I could say that I went in full confidence and without any panic over whether I had made the right choice—in reality, I was so terrified and so frustrated with the process that I almost walked out of her office in tears.

Given my strong feelings about what it means to be truly healthy, I'm glad I chose to seek a healthcare professional who shares my view!

I stuck through it, and I’m glad I did.  She recommended a mixture of herbal remedies (to help with the underlying contributors to my problems) and a couple of stronger agents for thyroid and pituitary relief.  I was pissed off and crying for the entire drive home from that appointment.  Herbs?  For my extreme symptoms?  No way.  What the hell was I thinking?!  As soon as I got home I made an appointment with an endocrinologist.

But that night before bed I reluctantly took my first doses of thytrophin pmd and pituitrophin pmd.  The very next morning when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m., I beat Mike out of bed and downstairs to let the dog out.  That NEVER happens.  I was fully awake for the rest of the day and with plenty of energy!  In addition, my temperature hovered right at 98.8 for the entire day—I had not seen a temperature over 97.0 in about three months!  My mood was also positively affected.  On Tuesday I felt completely hopeless and panicked, but on Wednesday I felt optimistic and ready to handle it.  And every day since then has been just as good!

I wish I could say that all ten pounds went away, but they didn’t.  However, I not only stopped gaining at that alarming rate, but since Tuesday I am already down by three of the ten.  And my pants fit again.  In a later post when I’m not still sensitive about it, I’ll tell you a funny story about my experience with that overnight weight gain…

Oh yeah, and we are now gluten-free due to the celiac disease.  It’s not bad at all so far, though there are frustrating moments like wondering if EVERYTHING is gluten-free, no matter how obvious (so um like, is this orange juice, like, GF?).  When I first found out, I thought that I would have to give up my one favorite cheat food: pad thai.  But since I found out that most pad thai can be made gluten-free (score one for rice noodles!!!), I decided I could handle this!   I immediately went to the health foods store and took note of which flours were gluten-free and what they are made out of, and what the gluten-free packaged foods were made of.  I discovered that it won’t be too much of a change to make gluten-free noodles, and I also discovered that I really could make the flours out of ingredients I keep in my home regularly, such as garbanzo beans, brown rice, and buckwheat.  But to experiment with my first few recipes, I decided to purchase a few different types of flours, as well as xantham gum (used as a binding agent to mimic the chewy texture of wheat-based flours).

I want to pause to point out how funny and challenging it is that just months after we took on this package-free project, we are now faced with the additional challenge of going package-free AND gluten-free!  But I love that I’m in the middle of my blog already as I embark on this new journey.  

So this was definitely not a quick update.  What can I say—I’m a writer.  But now I’ll skip to the food.  My first attempt at a gluten-free baked food was banana-chocolate chip bread.  It was an accident, actually—I had planned to make zucchini bread but I saw a bunch of really overripe organic bananas at the health foods store and I knew they’d go to waste if I didn’t buy them.  I got them for a fraction of the price, too!  All I can say about it is HOLY WOW this is good stuff!  I would make this even if I could eat gluten and load it up with sugar!  Mike and Isabella couldn’t tell the difference.  This recipe will not disappoint!

Totally baked this bread in heels. June Cleaver, eat your heart out.

Not knowing how to bake with gluten-free flours, I had to search around for the perfect recipe.  Not just any recipe will do though.  I usually stick with blogs because you know that at least one person can vouch for the recipe.  Also, I typically look for recipes that use few ingredients, use less butter and sugar, and especially those that manage to get good reviews without the butter and sugar!  I can usually look at a recipe and recognize from the ingredient list how it will probably turn out, so at the very least I can adapt it to suit my own needs and cooking style.

Today’s recipe is one that I found at:
http://pattycake.ca/recipes/easygfbananabread

I usually include the word “easy” in my search terms because it generally generates recipes that use fewer ingredients.  I always notice that when people cook to impress, they tend to go for the complicated recipes, thinking that it must be impressive.  But I think less is often more.  I chose this recipe because it had few ingredients and it didn’t call for butter, oil, or sugar.

Ingredients:

 2 cups brown rice flour
1 tsp salt (iodized!!!!) 
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder (I was pleasantly surprised to find that the powder I already had was gluten free)
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp cinnamon

 3 large, over-ripe bananas
2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ bag of Enjoy Life soy-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free chocolate chips. 

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another bowl.  Combine until mixed but do not over-beat.  I like the banana to still have some big chunks.  Fold in the chocolate chips and again, do not over-stir.  Pour into greased bread pan, glass dish, or muffin cups.  I chose the bread pan because I like it to have a soft center.  Bake at 350 for 55 minutes.  I took the advice at the bottom of the recipe page and covered it with foil, as I chose to use only honey and honey browns fast.

You’ll notice that my recipe differs slightly from the recipe on the blog.  I wanted a bread that would be soft in the center but without having to use fat (butter, etc).  So I exaggerated the amount of banana, added a little extra honey and vanilla, and changed the amount of soda and baking powder to accommodate the extra liquid.  I’m sure the original recipe was awesome, but mine came out to be perfect for our taste.

So far, gluten-free does not suck!

Hashimoto’s Hell and the Perfect Partner

This is not a weight loss blog.  In fact, to call it that would defeat the very purpose of what it is that I am ultimately trying to do here.  This blog is dedicated to the hope of reconsidering what it means to be healthy.  The idea is to reconsider the body from a non-aesthetic perspective, reconsider food from a perspective that is not focused on weight loss or an aesthetic goal, and to reconsider a definition of health that is not focused on appearance.

That said, I have to admit that I have been freaking the hell out about my body lately and I feel the need to share.  I guess it’s really easy to be comfortable with your body when it’s functioning properly.  But what if it’s not?  Remember my blog about “just eat the damn cookie?”  Well that was a lot easier to say when my body could metabolize the damn cookie.  I will be taking a slight (and hopefully temporary) detour to discuss my experience with a disease that, untreated, seriously f***s with the general health and appearance of the body.  In this case, my body.

It seems that I am suffering from some pretty serious symptoms of hypothyroidism.  This means that my thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to keep my body running efficiently.  Thyroid hormones control everything from appetite to energy level and metabolism.  My symptoms started with a serious case of fatigue and some mild, unexplained weight gain.  But every day since my suspicion began, it seems to be getting worse.  Now I’m up by almost ten pounds, I can hardly function between the hours of 10 and 4, my neck is incredibly swollen, I have no appetite whatsoever, my blood sugar drops dramatically between meals, my body temperature is over a degree low consistently, and every joint in my body is killing me.  And I cannot concentrate on my work.  And these symptoms are just the ones I care to mention.

Despite all of my pep talks about not caring about the weight on the scale, I have become scale-obsessed.  Mike took it away from me this morning.  I keep hoping I’ll wake up and it will all just go away.  I’ll pee a bunch and lose seven pounds of water, and I’ll have tons of energy.  But today I have to finally confront it and acknowledge that something is very wrong.

I have been to a specialist who has confirmed that I am most certainly suffering from hypothyroidism.  But before we can treat it we have to figure out the cause and how bad it is.  So now I am forced to wait for test results.  Which is the last thing this type-A chick wants to do.  Unfortunately, I have to be prepared for some bad news, because my symptoms and history are perfectly consistent with a disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  This means that my thyroid issue is not temporary, but is instead a disease I will have for the rest of my life.  The thought of this is terrifying, even though I know there is medication that can treat it.  In fact, in my bodybuilding days I’d have killed for a prescription of T3–bodybuilders often use thyroid hormones to cut bodyfat, but it comes at the risk of permanently harming your thyroid, so I was dead set against it.  How ironic is that?

Every day, I wake up to find my face a little more swollen, my pants a little bit tighter, and my body a little more fatigued.  The athlete in me is freaking out!  I train every day and sometimes twice a day, I get in several miles every week, and I eat a pretty clean and well-balanced diet.  I don’t know which is worse—to know you could take steps to feel better but not know where to start, or to know exactly how and do everything right but not be able to.  I never freaked out about weight gain because I always knew I had the choice.  But now, I can’t even manipulate water weight (which is shamefully unhealthy but I have to admit that in total desperation I did try it…).

Oh…and I forgot to mention the best  worst part.  They suspect celiac disease, which to my knowledge is the most serious form of gluten allergy.  Awesome.  If I have that, you can look forward to my gluten free recipes as I figure out how to adapt.  The good news is that almost everything I cook is gluten free, with the exception of my baked goods.  I’m secretly looking forward to buying a mill so that I can make my own gluten free flours out of beans, seeds, quinoa and nuts…maybe I’ll do it anyway for my gluten free friends.

For now I’m trying desperately to stay positive and keep my head above water, but you may have noticed some pretty negative undertones in this post.  I have to keep those in check and remind myself that it could be so much worse than a treatable condition.  But god help us all, this morning I started doing that thing where I lash out at the person closest to me…in this case, Mike.  Some of you may know what I’m talking about.  Don’t lie.  Tears and frustration and mortification all wrapped into one: “you don’t understand!” and “you’re not taking me seriously!” and my personal favorite, “you think I’m fat, don’t you!”  If you’ve never gone there, don’t.  It makes no sense.  This guy has put a perfect cup of coffee in my hands first thing every morning for the past four years of my life.  He woke up early in anticipation of my meltdown and hid the scale, made me a cup of detox tea, and cooked my breakfast so I wouldn’t try to get out of eating.  So yeah…mad props to the perfect partner.

But I had the meltdown anyway…and now here I am blogging about it.  Because it’s really easy to write about the strong moments, the positivity, the optimism.  It’s really easy to not care about what your body looks like when you’re in control.  But we’re not always in control, are we?  We are not always positive, not always optimistic.  And that’s ok sometimes, isn’t it?

Unwrapping my Anxiety

Blogging has its ups and downs.  Sometimes, it feels like a great way to encourage others.  And it’s a great platform for introducing my feminism in a meaningful way.  (If you have ever gotten the feeling that maybe I’m slipping in some of the political and theoretical sides of myself, then you’re absolutely right).  Other times, however, I feel a little silly—there is nothing worse than the self-important blogger who finds it necessary to post the most trivial details of her life (“today, I wore this blue dress to dinner ya’ll…”).  I don’t want to be one of them!  But the worst part about blogging is the realization that the only things worth blogging about are the really personal aspects of my life.  No one benefits from knowing what kind of gum I chew (see above comment on self-important trivial bloggers…), but I’d like to think that by sharing some of the more personal parts of my journey, I am giving company to other women who may sometimes feel alone or ashamed of their experiences.

Speaking of trivial posts, this stevia-sweetened soda almost got its own blog post! It's Virgil's cream soda, and they also make cola and black cherry. Sugar free, calorie free. Awesome!

So again, I am faced with the decision: to share, or not to share?  But as always, I am reminded that the parts I am tempted to censor are probably the most important parts to share.  After all, if I feel the need to hide something, then certainly there is a reader who could use my company. So in my journey to find a healthier existence, and in my discussion of health, I have to address the issue of antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications.  And the fact that until recently, I have been taking one.

As I have mentioned before, this entire journey was born from an attempt to eliminate the anxieties that were plaguing not only me but my entire household.  What I realized was that my anxiety was just a manifestation of a system designed to make us anxious.   Americans are in such a hurry.  Almost all food advertisements are addressed to busy people who don’t have time to cook.  Nearly every packaged food product is designed to save time in some way.  We are busy people.  And when we get too tired to be busy, we have coffee and energy drinks to facilitate our hurried lives.  Busybusbusy, rushrushrushrush, caffeine, repeat.  And I wondered why I felt like there was never enough time in one day to do all of the things required of me!

 

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who knows my perfectionistic, over-achieving tendencies that I ended up on anti-anxiety medication.  In fact, they were recommended by a doctor who is typically reluctant to consider medication an option.  I figured that if she thought I needed them, I must be really bad off.  So for nearly a year, I have been on the minimum dose of Prozac.  And let me tell you, it seems to do its job.  But in the back of my mind I have been left to wonder if any of my attempts to slow my life down and rid myself of anxiety could have been effective without the medication.

 

I looked up one day and realized: oh shit, I’m a suburban Prozac mom!!!

I tried, unsuccessfully, to stop taking it.  I loathed the idea that I couldn’t do it by myself.  I hated the idea that I was being altered in some way by medication.  And I hated wondering if I truly needed it.  But within three days of my last dose, I would feel so bad that I took it again just to avoid the catastrophe.  I felt like I could never be rid of it.   I bake my own bread and make my own pasta, for crying out loud!  I don’t eat packaged foods!  I have eliminated toxic meat from my diet!  And yet I subject my body to a toxic drug!?  I felt like such a hypocrite.

 

Add to my frustration the fact that I am now suffering from what appears to be hypothyroidism.  I am waiting on results of a blood test to determine whether or not I have hashimoto’s thyroid disease (more on that in a later post).  The worst part is, I will never know if Prozac could have had something to do with the onset of the disease, whose cause is still unknown.

 

Recently, Mike and I sat down and really talked about it.  It’s time to get past the withdrawals and actually see it through.  It’s time to stop the medication once and for all.  So we made a plan and decided to work together to make it happen.  It’s been exactly a week, and still no anxiety.  Still no attacks of doubt, or worry, or even negativity.  For the first time, I have approached this with a supportive partner, and it seems to be going well.  I have made it beyond my previous points of failure, and I am feeling pretty good about it.  Having a partner through it has been important—we are both mindful of the fact that a major change has occurred, and we are both on the lookout for any sign of negativity so that we can nip it in the bud.  And it’s going well.

I will write more about this in future posts.  Who knows where this one will lead?  I’ll be honest about it, whether it continues to go well or if it totally fails.  But what I think is important to point out is that I don’t mean to suggest that medications are totally bad and unnecessary.  They do what they are supposed to do, and some people may really need them.  Who knows, I may be one of those people.  But I feel strongly that there has to be a better way for me.  I also need to point out that I have my doctor’s support—she feels that the changes I have made to my lifestyle and environment should facilitate this decision.  Please don’t make any changes without considering all of the pieces and talking to your doctor about it first!

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Today’s recipe of the day is for oatmeal pancakes.  If you are looking for a quick, easy, and tasty way to get your eggs and oatmeal down in the morning, look no further!  These pancakes can also be made into muffins, and topped with any sort of fruit you have lying around the house.  I like to use berries, apples, or bananas.

 Basic pancake recipe for a single serving:

                                          ½ cup whole oats (NOT INSTANT!!!) 
                                          2 eggs, whole

                                          optional ingredients:
                                          cinnamon
                                          sweetener
                                          chopped nuts
                                          raisins
                                          shredded coconut

 Mix ingredients together in bowl, cook in frying pan over medium-high heat, about two minutes on each side.

                                          Fruit Topping: 

                                         One serving of fruit 
                                         1 tbsp honey
                                         ¼ cup water 

 Bring water and honey to a boil; add fruit and cook over medium heat until fruit becomes soft and mushy (about ten minutes).

Health, Classism, and Me

I don’t want my discussions of food and health to apply only to a certain community.  I want to point out the ways that healthy, whole foods can be accessible to everyone—and some of the reasons why they aren’t always.  I am prepared to meet mixed reactions to this post if I haven’t already offended or sparked disagreement from any of my readers already.  Also, I can’t address everything and I can’t spend a week editing my words here.  So understand that something will be left out and I will fail to fully develop all of my ideas.  This is a blog and a conversation starter.

Today I ate the best pasta dish I have ever had at a restaurant.  It was handmade pasta with eggplant, homemade tomato sauce, and spinach.  It was in an affluent side of town.  I paid $6.00 for it (lunch special!) and it came with the best bread I’ve ever had in my life.  Somewhere, someone paid more than that for lunch at Bojangles.  Healthy food is not a money issue, it’s an issue of class and access.  And I can’t help being painfully aware of that every time I shop at Whole Foods, eat near my home in East Cobb, or post about food on this blog.

 

This show is a hilarious caricature of the trendy suburban mom: she is fit, eats organic food, pretends to care about helping the world through charity, listens to gangster rap, and is way too caffeinated!

Link to Suburgatory scary mom clip–Super funny!!!!!!!!

Driving around a relatively affluent area of the town where I live, I am painfully aware of the extent to which fitness has become the newest trend among the middle class.  All of the coolest places to eat and shop revolve around things that are fresh, green, healthy, and fit.  Every time I experience this awareness, it’s like a good swift kick in the pants, and a reminder of how fine the line is between the latest suburban trend and what it is that I’m trying to accomplish.  And, everywhere I look I see evidence that fitness is expected of everyone, but marketed only to the middle class.  Everyone, it seems, should be fit and healthy (has anyone seen those disgusting anti-childhood obesity adds????) but it’s made to appear as though it’s only accessible to those who can afford it.  And I want to clear this up, dammit.

These adds guilt-trip fat people, hurt childhood self-esteem, and fail to offer a solution or address classism. Unacceptable.

 

I have made references in several of my previous posts about my fear of participating in a classist/elitist trend.  I have expressed that I don’t want to be read as another middle class suburban mom trying to save the world by buying expensive shit.  You know, the “my-expensive-organic-apple-is-better-than-your-grocery-store-apple” thing that seems to be going around.  In previous posts, I have acknowledged the role of access and privilege when it comes to food and fitness.

But what do I mean by all of it?  Let me back up a little bit and open up a discussion here.

I want to discuss the way that privilege and access work to move some parts of the community toward the healthy lifestyle bandwagon, while deliberately holding others back from it.  There is a common misconception among the economically disadvantaged that healthy foods are too expensive and out of reach.  And there is a common misconception among the middle class that poor people are overweight because they eat too much fast food when they should know better.  Really, what it comes down to is location and access to knowledge about food, health, and basic biology.

Let me share a few examples of common myths circulating in low-income circles:

1) I am very close to someone in the sports community with decades of competitive athletic experience who avoids spicy foods because he genuinely believes that spicy foods can eat through your intestines and weaken your abdominals.  I can’t convince him otherwise.

2)  I have worked closely with a coach who believes that drinking too much water can cause water weight gain, and so therefore to avoid gaining weight one should limit one’s water intake.  Again, I have been unable to undo decades of false education.

3)  I have met a diabetic who was taught that you can wash the starch off of rice so that it is no longer a carbohydrate.

4)  I have met many, many people who believe that fruit is not a carbohydrate.  Many also believe that fruit doesn’t contain sugar so it’s ok to eat in large, unlimited quantities.  Despite my best efforts, some have refused to listen to me tell them otherwise.

These myths persist because they are taught from childhood and continue to circulate among communities that typically lack access to the truth.  In some communities, the truth is regarded as suspect because many members of the poorest populations have been lied to by others in power for centuries.  Others (usually of an older generation) regard food science the same way they regard technology: moving too fast, unnecessary,  intimidating, or just another false money-making scheme.

So what you see now is a growing trend toward health and fitness in the affluent parts of town, a large concentration of fast food and inexpensive buffets in the poorer parts of town, and a lack of each in the other.  These geographic concentrations are compounded by transportation issues to further propel the belief that “healthy” foods are too expensive and out of reach for poor and working class people.  If Popeye’s chicken is within walking distance from home, and Whole Foods is outside of a reasonable bus route, then which is more realistically attainable to someone without a vehicle?

There is also the issue of time.  I don’t have to work 80 hours a week to provide for my daughter, so I have time to bake bread.  And I am thankful for that.  I have time (mostly) to cook dinner from fresh ingredients.  Again, I am very thankful.  I am thankful that I can prioritize my time to revolve around my family’s health and well-being.  However, I believe that anyone could make health a priority, if for no other reason than because preventative maintenance is less expensive than heart and diabetes medication.

Recognizing that class, access, and privilege play a major role in health and fitness just can’t be enough.  I struggle to find a way to participate in a more healthy lifestyle without feeding into the classist and elitist systems that make it inaccessible to others.  Any ideas?????????  What do you think?  Please don’t be afraid to comment.

Today, instead of a recipe I want to share my grocery list and talk about what it costs.  People often remark that it is more expensive to eat healthy foods.  And I am often asked about my grocery bills.  So I thought about it and decided to share my experience.

There are some basic staples that I always keep, and I usually buy enough for two weeks at a time.  Then, it works out so that they are staggered.  So one week I might stock up on dry beans, rice, and oats; then, the next week I stock up on flours and other baking staples.  In addition, each week I buy produce and dairy.  Because it’s winter and I started late, our meals aren’t as vegetable based as they would be the rest of the year.

Typically, I spend around $40 a week on the dry staples, and $40 a week on eggs, dairy, produce, and various extras like detergent and toothpaste.  I no longer buy things like barbeque sauce, ketchup, bread, deli meat, chicken, lunchables, chips, cookies, taco shells, seasoning packets, fruit snacks, etc.  With the exception of an occasional box of store-bought snacks for my daughter, which are rare but appreciated by a six year old, my trips to the grocery store really focus on the basics.

Here’s what two to three weeks’ worth of [organic!!!!] dried beans, rice, and oats looks like.  I’d also like to point out that this health foods store is located along the Cobb County Transportation bus route, and is within walking distance of several HUD-accepting apartment complexes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obligatory New Year Post!

This is a blog, and as such I am compelled to participate in the New Year’s Resolution blog post phenomenon.  For most people, THIS is the year to get healthy!  But this blog is focused on health all year long, so why not throw in my two cents on the topic in the form of resolutions?

What makes my input a little different is that A) I have been focused on health for a lot longer than the New Year’s Uh-Oh Window, B) I am not going to talk about food or exercise in this one, and C) I am not interested in temporary, poorly thought-out resolutions.

My goals for 2012 are focused not on my physical health, but on my mental and emotional well-being.  This is not because I don’t value my physical health, but because I have been so focused on my physical health that I have failed to recognize how much emotional well-being plays into my physical well-being.  And 2011 has given me plenty of time to think about it!  Funny how it’s taken me until right up to the new year to come to a few conclusions about what I would most like to change about my life.

I have come up with several goals:

  1. Stop being such a damn over-achiever.  Sometimes, it’s ok to just let things wait.  The work will still be there, but my family might not be.
  2. Identify and get rid of toxic people.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a close relative, a good friend, or someone I greatly admire: selfish people who only take and never give are never going to contribute any value to my life.
  3. Build, rebuild, or seek positive associations to replace the negative ones I remove from my life.  It’s not enough just to shed the negative people from my life.
  4. Stop being a gullible doormat.  I believe strongly in turning the other cheek.  I believe strongly that if I take care of others I will be taken care of.  These fundamental principles guide my life.  But there is a difference between giving freely and allowing myself to be taken advantage of when I know better.
  5. Stop thinking of my life in terms of where it’s going.  It’s time to stop and appreciate where I am now, or I’ll never recognize when I finally get where I keep trying to go.
  6. Start trusting in my own beliefs.  I can’t let other people’s morals guide me.  Who is really qualified to define the terms of right and wrong?
  7. Wear more t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants.  In public.  I need to learn to relax a little bit!
  8. MAKE MORE ART.

No recipe today.  Instead, I’d love to open it up to comments.  What are your new year resolutions?