eat to live & diet fatigue

DietI'm currently in the middle of a huge case of diet fatigue.  

I hate to say that I'm on a diet, because truly the way I eat is the way I intend to eat for the rest of my life.  It's more of a lifestyle than a short-term weight loss endeavor, and I always feel the need to clarify that.

But y'all, I want a cookie.

Any cookie.

One that has gluten and preservatives and ingredients I can't pronounce.  A cookie I don't have to make or go to Whole Foods to buy.  

I don't know where this came from.  I've been rolling along, eating what I should, feeling great and – BAM!  These crazy cravings hit me a few days ago.  

Maybe it's Easter?  And the Cadbury eggs in all of the stores…and jelly beans…and malt eggs that I can't even eat because malt has gluten.  The next few days are crazy – a BBQ fundraiser, parties, Easter…but I know I can persevere through it with a little planning and prayer.

Part of that planning is looking towards next Monday and challenging myself to eat Eat to Live style for at least a week.  I read the book a few weeks ago, and there is so much I agree with in it:

  • Eat nutrient dense foods.  Vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains – that should be the basis of our diet.
  • Eat less meat products – less than 10% of your total caloric intake.
  • Eat lots of those nutrient dense foods.  Lots.  Especially greens.  Make salad your main dish at both lunch and dinner.
  • What we eat has more to do with the development of diseases like cancer and heart disease  than anything else.  This is so, so huge…and it's never too late to change the way we eat for our health and future's sake.
  • Refined sugar is evil.  Okay, maybe it wasn't quite put that way in the book…but the USDA estimates the typical American now eats the equivalent of 30 teaspoons of refined sugar every day.  Yikes.
  • Natural fiber is good.  And we need to eat more of it.
  • Stay away from processed or enriched anything.  

In a lot of ways, it seemed like Eat to Live was almost a companion book to The China Study… sort of the "here's how to do it" that I felt The China Study was missing.  The initial six week plan includes no dairy or meat products, and while I'm close…I just haven't quite gone that far.  Right now, when I'm a bit bored and frustrated, seems like the perfect time to give something else a try.  I'm hoping to take photos – so we can all see what I'm eating and what a diet like this looks like.  

I do have to add, though, that there are a few issues I have with the book.  I worry that it's too low fat, though it's naturally low fat and not counting on foods that have processed the fats out.  I don't like that the author downplays snacks…mainly because I like snacks.  I also worry that it could be simply too low calorie, but at the same time I know that if you're actually following what the book says and eating up to 2 pounds of greens a day (a day!), you're not going to be hungry.

How do you deal with diet fatigue?  I know in the past, it's been something that can send me into a bad spiral and I'm determined not to let it happen this time.

baking class reflections

IMG_5960
Yesterday was a huge, huge step for me.

I said no to fear and yes to growing.  

Tom and I left for Santa Cruz early, enjoyed a beautiful drive through the foothills to the coast and had a little brunch at the Harbor Cafe.  It was delicious and funky and all of the servers sort of looked like they just rolled out of bed (the joys of a coastal college community).  I had a lovely frittata and am going to be obsessed with learning how to make them – especially since our layers are finally starting to lay and we're going to be inundated with eggs in the next few months.  We also hit a Farmer's Market on the way to the school, which helped calm my jangly nerves a little bit more.

Y'all, I could live at that Farmer's Market.  Baby artichokes, bloomsdale spinach, leeks and tulips – oh, the tulips!  Stunning.

But I didn't drive two hours to buy tulips (though I would!).  I drove to take the gluten-free baking community class at Bauman College.  I've been researching holistic nutrition schools that offer distance learning, and Bauman has quickly risen to the top of my list.  When I found the gluten-free class, I knew it would be a perfect way to learn something new and check out the school a little closer at the same time.

I did learn a few things – I'll definitely no longer be buying almond meal for $11.99 a bag when I can make my own in the food processor in about a minute for a quarter of the cost.  Underneath all of that whipped cream and whipped coconut cream (oh.my.heck.amazing) up there, is an almond cake that I adore and intend to make a few spice adjustments to and share soon.  It's also going to make a great base for strawberry shortcake once they're in season.  Best of all – no wheat or gluten and no refined sugars!  We also made a butternut squash tort that I can't wait to play with…as soon as I get some small tart pans.  It would be perfect with banana pudding (one of the chef's mentioned a raw banana pudding made with soaked cashews that I can't wait to try) or pumpkin for Thanksgiving.  Nor more having to eat around the crust for me!

It was a fairly basic class, with most of the students barely knowing their way around a kitchen, so I don't think I came home with too much new information.  I did learn some basic ratios for baking with gluten free flours that I want to work with.  And I got to test out some ingredients I've never used before – agar agar, coconut sugar (which I could eat with a spoon and is a very low glycemic sweetener), and coconut cream.  We also had a lunch that the chef's prepared for us that included a miso and takame (seaweed) soup that I'm anxious to try on my own.

And I learned that I need to look into Bauman further.  Their philosophy is so on with mine – that we honor our bodies and our Creator when we eat in ways that promote health, that what is naturally in the foods we  eat is more important that what is processed out, whole foods are vital, low gluten diets for everyone (easier on digestion), and that creating and serving healthful food for others is one of the greatest things we can do.  We even see eye to eye on soy (organic only, fermented or sprouted).  Their vision of working with individuals, families and communities toward wellness mirrors my own, and I think this might be the place to make it happen.  

 I was surprised how much I loved working with the chefs.  Chef Rebecca was our main instructor and hugged me three times before I left.  I've been most interested in Bauman for their distance learning nutrition, but I think perhaps after that I'd love to figure out a way to take the natural chef program also.  I will definitely be taking all of the community courses I can!

Next month is Indian food.  Anyone want to join me?

one week – a few thoughts

Fruits_and_vegetables2

Last week, I gave myself the challenge to to an entire week without consuming meat, for quite a few different reasons that can be found in that previous post. 

One week later, after an almost totally meat free 7 days (I did have one bite of the steak that came in my pho yesterday), I have a few thoughts…

  • eating vegeterian was far easier than I thought it would be…I think perhaps because I'm so used to eating a restricted diet.  I'm already used to preparing the vast majority of everything I eat and even with cooking for a large family at the moment, I just plan a little bit more carefully than I already do.  One more reason meal planning sooo important.
  • for the most part, I just added an extra vegetable to dinner since the rest of what I eat tends to be meat free during the day.  I never went hungry or felt deprived.  I also never felt weak or head-achy or cranky (all concerns I had going in).  On the plus side,  the jaw pain I've had for as long as I can remember is less and I haven't had any stomach aches this week.  And I think I've been sleeping better, but that's always a little hard to tell.
  • I worked out even harder this week than I have been, but I can't tell you if that's because it was my fifth week at the gym or the dietary changes.  I do know I've always felt in the past like I have a high need for protein (animal in particular), but the fact that I was able to increase my workout while drastically decreasing my meat intake gives makes me think it made some sort of difference.   
  • I did eat more dairy than I normal, and I'd like to cut back on that a little more.  I really only use milk to get my cereal wet when I eat it, and that could easily be replaced by almond milk.  I do eat greek yogurt or cottage cheese at least once a day and a bit of cheese, too.   My afternoon string cheese could easily be an afternoon handful of almonds or walnuts instead.

The research is so divided – there are some nutrients our bodies need that I've read can only come from animal protein.  And then there is research that says perhaps we weren't ever supposed to eat meat, and that our bodies heal themselves and stave off disease better if we forego it.  For every point, I've had no problem finding a counter-point, though I do still find the evidence against it a bit more overwhelming as I noted in my earlier post.  My personal experience of this week has been positive enough that I intend to continue.

Honestly, I can't really say I miss eating meat but I also don't see myself never eating it again.  I have no problem with a few bites of a good rib eye or the occasional piece of bacon, but just a bit.  And I do intend to make fish a more regular part of what I eat, so I see learning to properly cook it in my very near future. 

One week.  Big changes.  Good results.

one week

Fruits_and_vegetables2 
Photo source: unknown

 This past weekend marks just about six months since I made the decision to eat a gluten-free diet.

Well, almost gluten-free.  There have been a few bobbles where I've convinced myself that my body can handle a tiny bit…and have been proven wrong each and every time by muscle pain, mental fogginess and misery.  I don't recommend doing that, but each time has strengthened my resolve and my commitment to the necessity of a gluten-free diet for me.

And I truly can't believe the drastic way my life has changed.  Everything I lived with on a daily basis for nearly two years?  It's all gone.  All of it.  No more pain, no more fogginess (unless I eat too much sugar), almost no more stomach issues and my energy levels are great.  All because I removed a little protein found in wheat, barley, rye and malts from my diet for one week…just to see what would happen.  One week easily turned into two…then to a month…and even though it doesn't seem possible, nearly half a year. 

It's not always easy, but it is always worth it.  I don't ever remember feeling this good.  Even before the more severe symptoms started, I'd lived with stomach issues since I was a child and chronic headaches since I was in middle school.  Once in a while, I get a headache…but I can usually pinpoint the cause (sugar or stress).  And my stomach hurts every so often…but that's usually only when I've eaten too much sugar (again with the sugar!) or meat.

Speaking of meat…

A little goal I set for myself this year was to slowly move towards a more vegetarian diet, partly because of the stomach issues but also because of The China Study.  A friend recommended I read it several months ago, and I have to say – the science that most of the diseases of affluence (cancer, dementia, heart disease, etc) can be avoided and/or cured by a careful plant-based, low to no animal protein diet is overwhelming.  As I've grown increasingly more passionate about nutrition and begun to study it over the past five years, I've come to believe  that whole foods, plant based diets are best, without a doubt.  After finishing The China Study, not only do I believe that even more strongly, but I'm ready to finally start making those next steps towards really living it. 

My first goal?  One week without meat.  That's all.  When I originally decided to cut out the gluten, I told myself I'd only try it for one week.  If there weren't any noticable changes in the ways I'd felt, I'd be free to go back to breads and pastas and vanilla malts.  Within three days, the changes were so evident I couldn't deny them.  I want to see if I feel any difference next week – if I notice any changes in my workout, the way I feel, the way I sleep.   And I'll make a decision about where I want to go from there.

How about you?  What can you change in your diet for one week?  What would it do to the way you feel if you were to cut out gluten for a week?  How about refined sugar?  Or maybe it's not about what you cut out, but what you add in.  Could you add in one more serving of vegetables a day?  What about whole grains?  

Are you up for it? 

Gluten-free – 2 months in

3212494944_41ea7c98a0 

I hit my two month gluten-free anniversary sometime a little over a week ago, and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what exactly this change has meant for me.

I am completely off the fibromyalgia medication, after a very deliberate weaning period.  I do have a bit of very minor muscle pain, but nothing like I was previously experiencing.  I've had a bit of mental fogginess, but again – not even in the same universe as what I was living with 10 weeks ago.  I've had a bit of occasional swelling in my feet, but it's been minimal.  My energy levels have been great and I've had no return of numbness or tingling. 

All in all, I'm not willing to say I'm cured, but I am willing to say that I am able to live life again without any restrictions…other than the gluten.   And I'm finding that the longer I stay away from gluten, the continuously better I feel.   It's an amazing thing to not crave bread and other baked treats, or to have that hangover feeling I've always associated with most grain based foods.

I will admit, quite readily, that eating gluten-free isn't always easy.  There are days it would just be soooo much easier to throw together a sandwich.  Fast food is really difficult (though not something I do often anyway) and so is eating at restaurants.  Once in a while, I have a bit of a pity party that I can't just grab a cinnamon graham cracker for a snack or catch myself unconsciouly putting a pretzel in my mouth as I pack the kid's lunches.  

It's a learning curve and it's work, but it's worth it.

In fact, my biggest concern has been that as I'm learning to bake and replace favorite foods with gluten-free versions…I'm struggling to stay on a diet that leads to weight loss.   But I am learning to create meals and baked goods that are gluten-free, and I'm generally pretty happy with the results. 

And just as I believe the healthiest diet is the one that is least processed and eaten in the state closest to it's natural state, I'm finding the best tasting (and cheapest) gluten-free diet is the same way.  I've used a few gluten-free baking mixes but haven't always been terribly impressed with the final result, especially after factoring in the price.  Naturally gluten-free – basic, simple, whole foods – are best for my body and my wallet.

My next big challenge – taking the refined sugar back out of my diet.  Somehow, as I've learned to embrace gluten-free baking, the white stuff has crept back into my diet.  When I eat sugar, I can feel it surging through my body and I can feel the crash that follows.  It's not pleasant.  And while sugar has slipped back in, my exercise program has bit the dust.  There's always something to tweak and continue working on.

I'm also working hard to put too many expecatations on myself.  We've got three rounds of guests coming between Thanksgiving and the new year – it's going to be crazy.  We are also facing some big changes and decisions over the next few months financially as Tom goes from full time ministry to part time with a massive cut in pay and no more benefits.  Balance is going to be more difficult than ever to find and stress to manage, but  I know that the dietary changes I've already made over the past two months are actually going to help with all of that.

 

Cream of Tomato Soup

Cream of Tomato 

Much like chili, I don't remember eating tomato soup as a kid. 

Chicken noodle?  Sure. 

Split pea?  Of course. 

ABC vegetable?  Yes, please. 

But tomato soup?  No, ma'am.  That was something people who didn't have the common sense to get the chicken noodle ate.

Which is kind of a shame, because I've really grown to love it now.  Up until a few weeks ago, I'd never made it myself – just from the red and white Campbell's can.  And that old red and white can contains wheat flour…plus high fructose corn syrup, seemingly random oils and flavoring

I don't know why, but that random flavoring term kind of scares me.

So the search was on for an easy cream of tomato soup…preferable one that could be put together fairly quickly and cheaply.  Also, it had to taste good with a grilled cheese sandwich made on Udi's bread.   After hitting up my usual recipe searches, I pulled together a stack of recipes and unded up with this.  

It passed the Udi's grilled cheese test, which was a little more important after I had a woe-is-gluten-free lunch earlier that day, and passed the family taste test.  I've made it twice in the past 10 days and look forward to it more this winter.  And it passed the budget test – if I were really watching sales on the canned tomatoes and cream cheese, I could probably make this entire batch for about $3…but even without I think it cost me just over $5, which served four with leftovers.  

Cream of Tomato Soup
Makes approx 2 quarts, or 8 servings.
Based on this recipe by Elizabeth Foss

1 medium, chopped sweet onion
3 cloves chopped of garlic
2 TBSP butter or olive oil
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained – 14 1/2 oz cans
2 large cans tomato puree
1 c. milk
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
8 oz cubed cream cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • In a large soup pot, saute onions in butter or olive oil until nearly tender over medium heat.
    You really don't want color on your onions or garlic here – just sweat them until they're just about translucent.
  • Add the garlic and saute a few more minutes until fragrant, being careful not to scorch the garlic.
  • Stir in everything else EXCEPT the cream cheese.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Puree the entire mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender.
    I've been using my blender and am completely convinced an immersion blender would be 1)easier and 2) make less mess.
  • Add cream cheese, stirring until melted.
    This step can take a while – that cream cheese does not like to melt too quickly!
  • Season with pepper and serve immediately.

Notes:
This is a great, basic cream of tomato soup.  It would be easy to add in pasta or gnocchi for a little more bite (maybe with a sprinkling of parmesean), and next time I think I might add a cup or so of pre-cooked brown rice.  Husband dear also suggested that a little heat might be nice  – but then, he suggests that with pretty much every meal.  Next time, I'll make sure I have a bottle of pepper sauce so can each add our own level of spicyness.

This recipe is linked to:

Meltdown – Week 8

Meltdown 

Eight weeks of the Meltdown are done, with five more weigh-ins to go before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an important day for me, and not just because it's my favorite holiday.  Last year, I started my weight loss journey once again the day after Thanksgiving.  At the urging of my doctor, I cut out all refined sugar and flour, and finally began to lose the weight that had piled on when I'd become ill the previous spring.  It has lead to many more changes – including determining that I can't eat gluten – but it was an important beginning.  Thanksgiving has become a landmark for me, a sort of reminder so that I won't ever go back to how horrible I felt for those months leading up to it.

This past Monday was an important day for me too.  Finally, after over 45 weeks of hard work, I reached the 40 pounds lost mark.  40 pounds has been a huge goal for me – it's the amount of weight I gained in less than two months when I first became ill.  And while it took me about 7 weeks to gain that amount, it's taken me far, far more to get rid of it.   I'm not even averaging a pound a week and there have been many weeks when I haven't seen any loss or even a bit of a gain.   Quite simply, it's been very frustrating at times.

We hear quite often that it's reasonable and healthy to lose two pounds a week, but I don't think our weight loss goals tend to be that realistic.  Last night, I happened to be flipping through the channels and caught a few moments of The Biggest Loser.  One of the male contestants had lost 20 pounds in one week, and 50 pounds in the course of the show.  I'm not sure how many weeks they're into – maybe two or three – but that is an absolutely immense amount of weight in such a short time.  There was also a female contestant sobbing because she'd only lost two and another in a panic because she'd only lost 7. 

I would hope that we'd all realize that the Biggest Loser contestants are in a very controlled, very unusual weight loss situation.  The contestants all tend to be morbidly obese, work out insane amounts of time and are medically supervised.  But it puts in our heads the idea that we could be – maybe even should be – losing weight more quickly.   It can lead us to unhealthy attempts to speed up our own weight loss.  It can also lead us to lies about who we are and what we're capable of. 

Weight loss isn't a race.  Sure, it's fun and helps with accountability to make it a competition and it feels great to hit those goals…but weight doesn't equal happiness or even necessarily health.  Some of the skinniest people I know are also probably some of the most unhealthy.   So many factors go into weight loss – what we're eating, how much we're exercising, what sort of exercise we're doing, stress levels, hormones – and it's difficult finding the right balance that works for us as individuals.  It's a continual learning process, with constant adjustments to be made.  Doctors may tells us two pounds a week is reasonable and possible, but that's in general and might not apply to us personally.

I've come to believe that the ultimate goal of any weight loss and exercise program should be improved and continued health.   For me, that means what I eat is so important.  Exercise is too, of course, but I tend to think we get more hung up on food.  And it's not just the calories in that food, but the taste, the texture, the natural nutrients, and the way it satisfies my body and my brain. 

Low-fat and non-fat don't have any place in my diet because they just don't satisfy…and lead to me eating more and more.   I've always loved those Snackwell's Devils Food cookies – but stopped buying them years ago because I'd eat the entire box before I could stop myself (and then feel horrible about my lack of self-control).  Compare that to a piece of good dark chocolate, which satisfies my sweet cravings with one small piece and even adds in a few heart healthy flavonoids, antioxidants and amino acids.  

Those rich foods we've been taught to avoid for the past 30 years in favor of low-fat ones?  Because they're so rich, our bodies and brains are usually happier with just a little bit.  More and more studies are showing that low-fat, non-fat and fake sugared foods trigger our brains to want more and more.  And let's not forget that what they replace that sugar and fat with is generally far worse for us than what it's replacing!  

Real foods - foods the way God made them – are more filling and contain so much more nutritional value than the processed stuff that makes up the majority of the grocery store.  They keep our blood sugar more level, so that we can avoid the physical crashing that leads to more cravings and out of control eating.  They're also cheaper, even if they take a bit more prep work.   Take a great big salad with some good protein, healthy fats and a variety of toppings…and contrast that with a diet shake.  Which one's going to keep you full and going longer?   Which one's going to taste better and will your body find more satisfying?  Which one is adding true nutritional value to your diet, improving your immune system and your overall health?  

Hint: it's not the diet shake.  If it were, we wouldn't have had the last 25 years of watching Oprah gain and lose weight to learn from and for comedians to make jokes about.

Finding that balance and choosing to make changes, not just for immediate weight-loss but for a healthier life, is a lifelong battle.  I know there are ways I could lose weight more quickly than I am – diet drinks, pills, skipping meals, longer exercise sessions – but I know those aren't health encouraging choices.  They're also not choices that are going to last, and they're choices that will come back to cause me harm and more frustration in the future.  

This week, I want to know:

What is a realistic goal for you?  Do you have any landmarks in your weight-loss journey?   And with five weeks to go, what is one lasting change you're hoping to gain from this Meltdown? 

An October Challenge

October-unprocessed-500x100-white-background 

I woke up to find a link to this blog post on Facebook this morning, and got a little excited.  Eating Rules isn't a blog I'd heard of before but after a little reading and digging…I really like it.  I think the Start Here section in particular is a great jumping off point for anyone looking to make changes in their diet for any reasons at all – be they personal weight loss, health improvement, or even environmental.   With simple rules and encouraging whole foods, Eating Rules seems to be realistic in the lifestyle and time commitment that most people can give to their food. 

But what really got interested me is the October: Unprocessed challenge.  I'll be honest – we don't eat a lot of processed foods around our house.  The one big processed culprit in our house is breakfast cereal, and even that tends to be on the better end of the nutritional scale.  But there is always room for improvement and as we continue to find out way in a new gluten-free way of eating, I'm finding it's necessary to keep checking my boundaries. 

In particular, I really love the definition of unprocessed food and the kitchen test that's being used for this challenge:

Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.

It doesn’t mean that you have to be able to make the food — but that the food could be made in a home kitchen by someone who knows what they’re doing.  If it needs high-powered, industrial equipment, or could only be made in a laboratory, then it’s out.

I expecially like that who knows what they're doing part.  It gives you a lot more flexibility and means you're off the hook for baking your own bread.  Just keep an eye on the ingredients list and you're going to be okay.

What do you think?  Could you go totally unprocessed for an entire month?  Could you do it for a week?  What about a couple of weekends?  One meal a day?   Maybe you want to replace unprocessed with gluten-free?  I say go right ahead.

Again, being totally honest – it is a little more time consuming and takes a little more planning to eat an unprocessed diet, but the results are worth it.  There are lots of encouraging posts and even a forum at Eating Rules to help.   And, as with all things, I believe there's a lot of grace to be found too.  Personally, I'm aiming for change…not perfection.

Are you in?

Me? Gluten Free?

3212494944_41ea7c98a0 

I believe that food has the power to heal our bodies, just as I believe it has the power to harm our bodies.  It's something I've been interested in for the past few years, and it's something I've even considered pursuing as a career at some point. 

I don't think we can deny any longer the fact that so many of the health epidemics we face as a nation could be avoided with better nutrition.  Obesity comes to mind first and foremost, simply for the diabetes, heart-disease and cancer it brings with it.  I think it goes even further, though.  A doctor  I saw a few years ago told me that she was fairly certain that over half of her patients on depression medication could be cured with dietary changes and 15 minutes of exercise a day.   The physician I saw until this past year tried to put me on a reflux medication that would have cost me over $100 a month and has serious side effects, never suggesting that all of my symptoms could and would disappear when I started eating smaller, whole foods based meals.   I even decided I liked Dr. Oz a little more after reading an article about him in the AARP magazine with this quote:

 "But it became progressively more frustrating to take people into the operating room when I knew they had created their own problems," Oz recalls. "If they'd known what to do differently, even a year or two earlier, they wouldn't have needed the operation."

While I certainly believe Dr. Oz is referring to more than just diet, I think he'd agree with me that it is a huge part of the problems he's talking about.

And I truly believe that my fibromyalgia symptoms can be exacerbated predominantly by two things: food and stress.  Dealing with stress in a healthy manner is something that I'm going to be working on for a long time, but I've known for the last year that refined sugar and flour can't be part of my diet if I want to live with minimal symptoms and pain.  I've also known that when I slip and eat that slice of bread, bowl of pasta or pile of cookies, my symptoms – all of the pain, swelling, fogginess, random fevers, abdominal pain, lack of energy, numbness, tingling - they all get worse.  And continue to get worse as I continue to eat those foods.

After the pain of last week, I had to take an honest look at what I was eating (already well aware that the stress of the first week of school and new schedules was a contributing factor).  I was eating a lot of breads and pastas and even though they were whole grain, I was still feeling horrible and getting worse each day.   It was definitely more bread and pastas than I've been eating for the last nine months which I knew was a problem, but I just had this sense that there was more to it. 

Last Monday, I finally made the decision to cut gluten out of my diet. 

Gluten sensitivity been on my radar for at least the last two years, and it's been something I've considered for nearly as long.  What has been my reluctance to even try it?  Honestly, it just seems so darn trendy!  I know – silly, but I tend to rebel against diseases that everyone has or diets that everyone tries.  I have no idea why…must be some latent teenage rebellion I never fully got out of my system.

But Monday, I woke up with gluten on my mind and I did some more research, specifically looking at fibromyalgia and gluten senstivity.  I was shocked to find so many symptoms in common.  Not only that, I found so many blogs of women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia but have found either relief or healing in eating a gluten-free diet that I couldn't even count them all or keep track of them.   So many, in fact, that I became rather annoyed that none of the doctors I have seen over the last year and a half have ever suggested I try removing gluten from my diet, much less have me tested for gluten sensitivity or Celiac in the myriad blood tests I've had done. 

My decision was made, and since last Monday I've been completely gluten-free.

Monday and Tuesday, I was still tired but was at least able to do a short workout.  I still fell asleep early and felt like I was in a coma by the time 7 pm rolled around.

Wednesday, I had energy.  Not a lot, but enough to get me through a very busy day and keep me off the couch.  The pain and tingling in my legs and feet were noticably less, but I was afraid to get my hopes up.

Thursday, I woke up and bounded out of bed.  My feet didn't have that pins and needles feeling or the pain I wake up with every day.  My head felt clear.  I had energy and focus.

By Friday, nearly all of the pain was gone…and not just from the previous week's flare-up.  Normally, I can tell if I've taken my fibromyalgia medication because certain pains near my knees and elbows come back daily.  I forgot to take my morning pill and didn't realize it until bedtime.  That pain never showed up!  I had to count my pills to make sure, but I confirmed I had never taken the morning one.

I know it's not an overnight process to remove all of the gluten from my system, but with the results I've seen in just a few days I'm more than happy to continue.  I will ask my doctor to be tested for gluten sensitivity at my next appointment but if I continue to feel better without it, I'm not sure how much a diagnosis either way would actually change things. 

This is all anecdotal evidence, both my own and what I based my decision on.  It's been difficult to find many, if any, real scientific studies on gluten intolerance and fibromyalgia.  I find that surprising. 

Right now, I feel like I'm in this insane learning phase.  Trying to discover what I can eat and what I can't.  Reading everything I can get my hands on.  Realizing that a lot of what I eat is naturally gluten-free.  Understanding that this is going to cause me to put the cooking and planning skills I've developed over the last few years to very good use.  Knowing that my choices to live a more intentional life and eat a more whole foods based diet are decisions that will serve me well, now more than ever.

There are a lot of people that have been living gluten-free much longer than I have and have it figured out quite a bit more.  I'm going to start a list of blogs in the sidebar with some of my favorites. 

Is it going to be difficult to live gluten-free?  Undoubtedly.  It's a whole new level of conscious living and eating.  Rather than focus on that question, I'm asking myself the following one:

Will it be worth the difficulties to live gluten-free?

If I continue to feel as well as I do today, and if I even begin to feel better than this – undoubtedly.  I don't ever want to go back to the way I felt last week.  I couldn't function as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker.  I don't want to simply survive this life…I want to live it with vitality.   If learning how to cook, eat and live gluten-free can give me that opportunity, how could it not be worth it?

Meltdown – Week 4

Meltdown 

Today begins the fourth week of the FUMC Staff Meltdown.

Wow.

And really, this is where the hard part of sticking with those diet and exercise changes gets a little more difficult.

The first week?  You're pumped up and self-discipline is high. 

The second week?  You've probably seen some movement on the scale, which is encouraging and inspiring.

The third week?  Well…maybe things didn't go as well as you'd hoped.  That self-discipline slipped as life got a little crazier.  The food you swore you'd never eat again for the rest of your life somehow found it's way back on your plate. 

The fourth week?  It's a struggle.  It's so easy to let those changes slip away.  What you're hoping would be habit still isn't.  Exercise is a struggle.  Making those healthier food choices isn't getting that much easier.   You start to question whether or not you really want to make those food sacrifices you know you need to…and you're pretty sure 15 extra minutes in bed is worth way more than a little exercise.

Sound familiar?

It certainly does to me! 

Which is why I'm re-examining my goals and my purpose this week.  I do believe taking a few moments to do just that is something we should all be doing on a regular basis on a life-level, but I find it to be so helpful when I'm working to lose weight as well.

I started on this newest weight-loss journey the day after Thanksgiving last year.  I wanted to lose 70 pounds before the next Turkey Day rolled around, which seemed fairly reasonable at the time.  I gained a significant amount of weight in a very short amount of time when I developed fibromyalgia a year and a half ago…a significant amount of weight that I'd just lost over the two previous years.

Nine months later, it's been frustrating.  There are weeks I lose two or three pounds but more often than not, it's been a few ounces here and there…with lots of weeks of small gains.  Overall, I'm 35 pounds lighter than I was nine months ago, but I'd hoped to be at least 55 lighter by now. 

So I'm re-evaluating…

How much weight do I want to lose?
 It's always important to have a goal whether it's a certain weight or size, but it's also important to be realistic about that goal.  Doctors tell us that losing 2 pounds a week is a healthy rate of weight loss and, boy, would that be amazing!   That's not going to happen for me and I don't think I can realistically and healthfully reach my goal by Thanksgiving.  Slow loss is still loss, and that's okay.

My new goal?  I'd still like to hit that 70 pounds, but I think I'll give myself this school year to do it in.   If I can do it sooner, that's great – but I also don't want to set myself up for feelings of failure and discouragement.

And I also have to ask myself…

What is my purpose for losing weight?
   *for my health - because I know my fibromyalgia symptoms are generally lessened as I get more fit
   *for my future – because there are so many forms of cancer and heart disease in my family, and I'm doing everything I can to break that hereditary line
   *to bring honor and glory to God - because I know that in making these changes I am breaking down the strongholds I have built in my life

That last one has been a huge motivator for me lately.  I know it's one of those pieces of Scripture that tends to be pulled out of context for everything from ear piercing to smoking to weight loss and beyond, but this passage in First Corinthians has really been speaking to me lately:

19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
~1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

If I truly do believe that, as a follower of Christ and Child of God, I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit then I need to be doing everything I can to take care of this body He's given me.  Perhaps more than anything else right now, this truth has been speaking to me and giving me the strength to carry on through this journey.

What's speaking to you this week?  Are you taking a few moments to re-examine why you're taking part in this or what your ultimate goals are?