Tag Archives: gluten free

If you are what you eat…

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As part of my redemption from unfulfilled contractual obligations, I wanted to talk a little bit more about my diet, how I’m doing, and how I see it affecting my RA.  For those of you who don’t know, I’m trying my hardest to follow the Paleo diet which means eating only lean meats and proteins and fresh fruits and veggies.  No glutens, no processed foods, no dairies, and no sugars other than natural sugars.  Oh yeah…and also no alcohol. In all honesty, it’s been an easier diet to follow than anything I’ve ever tried before.  I think partly it’s because I’ve bought several books but also because I have a friend who’s doing it with me. But I’m not going to say that I’m perfect at it.  I think I’ve developed a new phrase for our joint Paleo dieting: those who EAT together, CHEAT together. Yep, we’re FAR from perfect!

One of the biggest challenges is that I really don’t cook so to say that I’ve learned a lot is an understatement!

  1. I actually don’t like things cooked with lots of ingredients.  I tried making several things that were “fancy” and did a fairly good job of it…but they didn’t taste good to me.  As soon as I scaled back my ambitions from triple roasted broccoli braised with virgin gorgonzola made by elves to just plain old steamed broccoli, I began to like most of what I made! And SCORE because that is so much easier!
  2. And yeah, I have no frigging clue what triple roasted broccoli braised with virgin gorgonzola made by elves is.  Nor do I understand what the hell smart chicken is. I do not care about the IQ of my fowl. In my world, chicken is grilled, fried, or baked.   Also while I’m on the subject, I do not care about the sexual habits of any of my food…I will eat it virgin or not.  Whatever that means.
  3. I do not like brussel sprouts.  Not raw, not boiled, not roasted, not grilled, not spiced, not un-spiced.  I just do not like them.  SEE WHAT ALL THOSE HOURS SITTING AT THE DINING ROOM TABLE FOR REFUSING TO EAT BRUSSEL SPROUTS DID TO ME, MOM!!!!! It’s just not going to happen.
  4. I have a tendency to overcook things…ever so slightly.  My kale “chips” that were supposedly done according to the recipe when they turned bright green…were more like little black kale brickettes.
  5. I have got to learn how to eat fish.  Except that I hate it and have no idea how to cook it.  I attempted seared tuna the other day and my dinner guest said it smelled like cat food.  And he was correct.

BUT I’m starting to have more successes than fails! Some of my favorites so far:

Steak seasoned only with garlic powder and pepper, plain zuccchini squash.

Chopped apples cooked on the stove for two hours with a little bit of water and a lot of cinnamon (no sugar).

My all time favorite- chopping up a bunch of fresh veggies and a red onion, wrapping them in foil, and tossing them either on the grill or in the oven.  No spices whatsoever required because of the red onion!

How I’m handling lunches…pictured with veggies roasted with rosemary and potatoes.  Ignore the booze.

I have noticed a difference in my symptoms, not so much when I’m hardcore on the diet but more so when I’m cheating if that makes sense.  What I have noticed healthwise is how much more “even” I feel.  I sleep better, I have more energy, I’m not hungry all the time.  And yes, my wrists feel better.

I’m no Emeril…nor do I aspire to be…but I’ve got to admit that this has been a little bit fun!

Wellness Contract Update

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Alternate title:  The post where my writing makes my lawyer friends cringe.

(Address withheld)

23 February, 2011

(Address withheld)

Dear Amanda:

You are hereby put on notice that as of 23, February 2011, you are in breach of our contract dated 13 January, 2011. The nature of said breach is:

-Consumption of more than 3 glasses of wine per seven day period beginning on a Sunday during the period of 13 January- 23 February, 2011 bordering on perceived mocking of said contractual clause.

-Consumption of three jars of Tostitos medium queso WITHIN A THREE DAY PERIOD.  Also, over consumption of “comfort foods” during a cold.  Contract to be modified to allow some comfort foods but never again will daily meals consist of pancakes, grilled cheese, and baked spaghetti.  Boo hoo hoo…you didn’t feel good…NONE OF THESE ARE GLUTEN FREE.

-Blatant disregard for physical activity or cleaning provision of contract.  BLATANT disregard.

It is our desire to inform you of the foregoing and demand that you cease and desist the above behaviors to cure said breach. You are already being held responsible for all damages arising from said breach in the form of increased joint pain due to the introduction of gluten and alcohol into your body, increased fatigue due to glutens and lack of physical activity, loss of favorite clothing due to inability to put up laundry leading to you not being able to find a damn thing, and lost opportunities to regain strength and increase mobility through responsible exercise.  You may be held responsible for additional damages arising from said breach.

You have until 23 March, 2011 to cure said breach, after which we will be forced to further recognize that your own decisions are in no way helping your health.

Regards,

Amanda

2011 Wellness Contract

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So, in a long overdue blog update, I thought I’d post the contract that I typed and posted on my fridge. After posting and thinking about how I do so well with goals at work, I completely dorked out and wrote something similar to what I work with all day, everyday.

Initially, it was to begin on Jan 1st but I spent the first two weeks of the year cheating and tweaking and learning how to cook.  Yes, you read that last part right.  I can now make the following paleo style: chicken marsala, roasted veggies, braised cabbage, greek chicken, stewed apples, and fajitas served on lettuce rather than a flour tortilla.  And you know…the first time I made roasted veggies, I went back for SECONDS because they were GOOD.  Any of you who have ever fell victim to my culinary inexperience would know that this is a definite first!

So, I tried and am learning and thought I’d restart the contract on a date more meaningful to me: January 15th, my diagnosis anniversary date.

2011 Wellness Contract also known as

Operation Get Your Sh*t Together

This contract is made between yourself (an individual, referred to as AJ) and yourself (an individual referred to as AJ) and will commence on January 15, 2011 for a period of thirty (30) days and can be renewed with negotiation on both parties after each thirty (30) day period.  Neither individual can hold the other liable for any results or lack thereof resulting from actions defined in this contract.

The purpose of this contract is to establish certain desirable behaviors that may or may not directly influence AJ’s health or well-being and overall standard of living.  Behaviors include the following:

Medications: AJ must take all medications as prescribed for the next thirty (30) days.  It is not acceptable for AJ to skip medication for the following reasons: desiring alcoholic beverages, sheer laziness, or not wanting to have an upset stomach.

    1. Medications, specifically methotrexate, may be skipped if AJ is battling a cold or other illness or has been exposed to communicable diseases.
    2. AJ is granted an exception to methotrexate for a week involving any air travel but must resume methotrexate as soon as air travel is complete.
    3. If medication is forgotten and not missed because AJ doesn’t feel like getting her lazy self out of bed, it must be taken as soon as remembered.

Diet: AJ must try to eat in accordance with Paleo Diet guidelines.  This includes avoiding the following: Starbucks, Jason’s Deli, and any sort of buffet/meat and three dining preferred by AJ.

  1. Exceptions may be made for work functions where there are no other options AFTER AJ has attempted to find something that falls within Paleo guidelines.
    1. Starbucks may be substituted with coffee from a coffeemaker and rice or almond milk may be added for flavoring purposes.

Alcohol: AJ is allowed three (3) glasses of red wine per week.  Each glass of red wine must be accompanied by healthy food and a full glass of water.

  1. A glass of wine is defined as a NORMAL wine glass around 4-6 ounces, not a big gulp, big nasty, or anything with the words big, super sized, or fishbowl attached to it.
  2. No, seriously.  4-6 ounces.
  3. Topping off a normal wine glass continuously DOES NOT constitute one glass of wine, even if AJ may typically consider it one continuous glass.  Each top off constitutes a new serving.

Exercise and Cleanliness: Each night, AJ must either go to the gym for 30 minutes of light impact cardio, a yoga class, or, if neither option is available or if AJ is unable to go, something at home must be cleaned.

  1. Light impact cardio is defined as thirty (30) minutes on a machine, walking in the neighborhood, or taking a class.
  2. Light cardio is NOT spending thirty (30) minutes watching hot guys playing basketball at the gym while “waiting” on a machine to become available no matter how much this affects AJ’s heart rate.
  3. Yoga classes must be completed.  Also, it is unacceptable to attend a yoga class after consuming one (1) or more glasses of weekly red wine.
  4. AJ is not to be that creepy girl in yoga class who reeks of alcohol ever again!
  5. If neither yoga nor gym attendance are options, AJ must clean something at her place of residence (address omitted).
  6. AJ must clean whatever is most pressing.
  7. It is unacceptable to stall on a chore while waiting for another chore to be done.  IE AJ will never, ever, ever again put off folding two (2) weeks worth of laundry because she was waiting on herself to make her own bed…for two (2) days.

Miscellaneous, also related to cleanliness: AJ will put things up in their proper places at the proper time.

    1.     Coats: are hung in the closet by the door, not on chairs or floors.

    2.     Laundry: belongs in the hamper, not on the floor next to the hamper.

    3.     Toilet paper rolls: are deposited in the trashcan and new rolls are placed in the holder, not on the floor next to empty rolls.

    4.     You get the picture: clean up your crap!!!!

     

    At the conclusion of each thirty (30) period, contract will be reviewed and, if determined that AJ is TRYING (not perfect), AJ will be rewarded with a manicure and pedicure at salon of choice as long as price does not exceed thirty (30) dollars.

    Contract may also be modified if necessary and renewed for consecutive thirty (30) day periods.

    If it is determined that AJ is not trying, AJ will have to publicly acknowledge not trying on blog and to friends and coworkers.

    Off to dream about pretty fingers and toes in a month…

    You. Better. Work.

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    Mad props if you can identify the song and artist. :)

    I’ve been really focusing in this week on eating better and exercising.  More specifically, eating gluten free again and trying to develop an exercise routine that I can do when I’m feeling good and when I’m not feeling so good.

    I’ve been to the gym every night this week (I know…I keep waiting for the walls of the YMCA to collapse inward at the shock).   Sunday afternoon, I did a good 45 minutes on the elliptical.  I continue to kick myself for not inventing and patenting the concept of mounting a television on a piece of workout equipment. 45 minutes of cardio FLIES when you have Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom in front of you.

    Feeling motivated still on Monday but with a sore left ankle and knee, I decided to swim laps. Let me back up a bit to tell you that part of what I’ve struggled with is that I am super competitive and that I don’t consider a workout to be a workout if there is no burn.  Admittedly, I tried water aerobics several years ago on a whim with a friend.  It was called “aquacize”  and that title alone was a running joke for several weeks.  Because doesn’t the word “aquacize” have to be said with spirit fingers? :)  Anyways, tried the class and while I was surprisingly sore the next day, “aquacize” was not my cup of tea.

    So on Monday, I just started swimming laps.  I forgot goggles so I grabbed a kickboard and swam two laps with breast stroke kick at a moderate pace.  Yawn. I swam two more.  Still no action in the burn department. No hot guys to look at like when I’m on the elliptical. And I was getting bored.

    I don’t know when it hit me but I started thinking about elementary school swim team and the “drills” they had us do. (Note: are they really truly considered drills if you’re 9 years old?  Just curious.) From what I remember, they were really hard.

    So, I began channeling my inner 9 year old swim team self.  I swam two more moderate speed laps with breast stroke kick.  And then I told myself I was going to do two freestyle kick laps but that I was going to kick as hard as I possibly could.

    I was completely winded midway through that first lap.

    YES! Although I probably should be upset that my 9 year old self could totally kick my 31 year old self’s ass…

    I did a couple more laps, alternating between kicking as hard as I could and a moderate pace, and then I decided I was going to do pool ‘wind sprints’ using the different colors on the lane ropes.  Within just a few of these, I could feel my heart rate increase, could feel the burn in my legs, and could actually see improvement in how far I could swim without absolutely feeling like I was going to die.

    When I got out of the water, I was tired but I didn’t hurt.  When I was sore the next day, it was muscular sore and not joint pain sore.

    And now….I’m off to continue trying to kick off some of that Thanksgiving chub I indulged in.  And to continue trying to make up a whole workout that I can do continue to do no matter how I feel.

    372 Month Update

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    Dear Amanda:

    Yes, you are writing yourself a letter in third person.  Why? Well, for one thing, Facebook has ruined you.  You and your friends tend to state things as Facebook status updates.  Why, I am not sure. Damn you, Facebook!  For another, you spend an awful lot of time reading the blogs of all of your friends who have children.  And so, in honor of your 372 month of life, you thought you’d be funny and mock the monthly updates that a lot of them do.

    Yes, my dear, you are 372 months old today.  Let’s see what you’ve been up to!

    Height: 5’6…you get very defensive if anyone says 5’5 because your goal in life was to be taller than your mother…who is 5’5.

    Weight: 110 is the weight on your old SC drivers license.  For the record, it also says you’re 5’8.

    Hair: Yes, you’ve had a full head of it for approximately 370 months.

    Eyes: Still blue.

    Motor skills/development: You’re working on being able to grip things. The actual gripping is fine but you have a hard time with ‘grip and twist.’  Hey, doesn’t that sound like a dance  move? And speaking of dance moves, you’re going to be taking a dance class soon.  You learned another lesson while searching for a dance class.  Never google ‘adult dance class.’  The results will not be what you are searching for.  A better query would be ‘your town name AND dance class.’  You can search through specific studios pretty quickly this way and not have to worry about people seeing the results in your search history.

    Language Skills: Some problems here.  Nothing that a well placed bar of soap couldn’t fix.

    Diet: You are SUCH a cheater this week.  But tomorrow starts a new week and a new commitment to being truly caffeine, gluten, dairy, and anything that tastes good free.  You really can tell a difference when you stay true to the diet.

    Milestones: You are officially off of Prednisone.  YEAH!  Your wrists are really sore today- maybe because of this or maybe because of excessive red wine consumption. Who knows.  But you’re off of it and you’re still functioning which was not the case a few months ago.  Also, you attempted riding your friends bike the other night and while it wasn’t pretty, you didn’t fall on your ass!  YAY!  And when your friend offered to run after you holding the seat like you’re a baby with training wheels, you didn’t say anything incredibly rude!  MIRACLE!  Nope, you just cut your eyes, took another swig of wine, and wobbled down the driveway on the bike (which I may add is WAY too short for you) looking quite mature for your 372 years of life if I do say so myself.

    What’s next for you: another glass of wine and some cake.  Duh.  Then some building back of strength/stamina that you lost over the summer, some losing of weight that you gained over the summer, and hopefully some attempting of antibiotic protocol after you finish your study.

    Elimination Diet

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    Or the post that should be titled “I really want a freaking cupcake for dinner but instead I’m going to begrudgingly eat brussel sprouts.”

    Awhile back, I tried to go gluten free and did see a pleasant decrease in inflammation.  And then I got swamped with work, my flare got even worse, and everything completely overwhelmed me to the point that I was reduced to a grubby sweatsuit on my couch watching DVR’d episodes of Chelsea Lately and True Blood whilst stuffing my face with takeout.  And I wonder how in the world I gained weight…

    I am slowly starting to decompress and return to a state of whelmed vs overwhelmed and am ready to take a stab at better nutrition again.  Ok, ok, ok, I’ll be completely honest that in addition to the better diet and benefits I saw while doing gluten free that I also want to jump-start the process of turning my flab back into fab.

    I’ve never done an elimination diet mainly because I like eating and dislike being uncomfortable. :) But after reading and talking to a couple of people who have, I thought it was worth trying.  I was more sold when I found out I could supplement with medical food so that I wasn’t as hungry and so that I could make sure I was getting all the nutrients that I need to get.

    Step One: Eliminate refined sugars, caffeine, artificial colors & flavorings, and flesh foods. UGH.  All my favorites.

    I love caffeine.  No, I NEED caffeine.  It makes me nicer.  Same goes for sugars.  It is common knowledge with my coworkers that I am bribeable and my currency is chocolate.

    Hey Amanda, will you call our client who is mad at us right now because they don’t like xyz? When I talked to him earlier, he was cursing and spitting.  Please?  While you’re doing it, I’ll run get you Ben & Jerry’s!

    Consider it done.

    Step Two: Eliminate dairy.

    No problems here.  I switched to soy years ago and eggs creep me out thanks to a college dining hall experience.

    Step Three: Eliminate gluten grains.

    Done.

    Step Four: Eliminate remaining grains, nuts and seeds.

    This sucks.  I always have a bag of pistachios on me.  Always!  And I found out the hard way that soy products were considered part of this too.  Boo!

    Step Five: Eliminate legumes and nightshade vegetables.

    Ok, I thought I’d have a harder time with this than I did but I made a lentil dish the day before that was so bad, it tasted like dirty feet smell.  And the smell lingered.  Au revoir legumes- good riddance!

    I did have a little bit of trouble giving up nightshade vegetables…after I determined what they were.  I thought nightshades went on lamps.  Apparently, I was wrong.

    Step Six: Also known as where I am now.  With not many options for food. I will slowly start adding different foods back in next week.

    It’s not much fun right now.  But I will admit that if nothing else, I am sleeping like a champ which is something I don’t do when I’m flaring.  That was actually part of my strategy of getting through last weekend- you can’t cheat on a diet if you’re unconscious. :) I also stopped having crazy cravings this week too.  I feel ‘empty’ but ‘even’ if that makes sense at all.

    So far, I can’t tell if there’s been a difference in my joints due to this or not.  I have had less inflammation this week but I don’t want to attribute it to this quite yet.

    I should know more when I’m able to start adding back.

    To be continued…..

    Tequila is gluten free.

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    So yes, that’s pretty much my big take away from the weekend that started early Saturday morning with a shot of Toradol in my ass.  We’ll get to that in a moment….

    Have you seen the movie Mean Girls?  It’s one of my favorite movies- snarky, hilarious and very well written (in my opinion).  If you haven’t seen it, in one of the plot lines, Cady is trying to sabotage Regina by telling her she should go on an all carb diet to lose weight.  Regina, not the brightest crayon in the box, keeps holding up items of food and asking “is butter a carb?” or “is bread a carb?”

    So yes, that’s kind of how I feel right now grocery shopping.  It’s taking me forever and I literally read every package to see if it’s gluten free or not.  If I can’t tell by packaging, I whip out my trusty Blackberry and google “is rice gluten free?” I’m sure it’s pretty funny if you see it in action- me staring with a vacant, blank, confused stare intently at what is for most people a very simple package of food.  I’m sure it’s even funnier if you know much about my cooking style which I’m pretty sure I’ve alluded to here on multiple occasions.

    Welcome to my home.  Allow me to heat you a wonderfully fresh gourmet Lean Cuisine.

    But I’m slowly getting there.  I’m still cheating…but not as much…and have found a couple of things I really like.  I’ve found some items that are gluten free that really surprised me- TEQUILA and rice.  I even made a delicious Lentil casserole tonight.  And with that statement, somewhere, somehow, an angel got its wings.

    I was being overly ambitious thinking I could go gluten and dairy free at the same time.  In fact, that’s what I was cheating with most often (I sprinkle a little bit of cheese everywhere- feta on eggs, cheddar on salads etc- and the soy cheese was awful.)  So I’m going back to baby steps- gluten free first.

    So, about that shot in the ass….

    I’ve give you the short version for now.

    -  I went to a friend’s 30th birthday party on Friday night.  I rested all week for it, bought a new dress, and was really excited.

    - Friday am, in true RA form, after a few days of feeling a little bit better, RA decided to make things more interesting.

    - Things were so interesting Friday night midway through dinner that I left early.  I am still embarrassed- I tried to leave quietly but everyone asked why I was leaving and I had to give a bit more info than I wanted to at that time, especially to people who for the most part I don’t know.

    - Saturday morning I woke up and things RA wise felt curiously differently.  By curiously different I mean REALLY EFFING AWFUL.  I wound up going to Urgent Care in tears, getting a shot of Toradol and prescriptions for another Medrol pack and Vicodin.

    If I ever have children, they will be named Toradol and Vicodin.  For real.

    That afternoon my neighbor, who witnessed my early morning emotional breakdown in the parking lot, came over to check on me.

    Neighbor: So, how ya feeling Rockstar?

    Me: A little better. Tired.  Sore.

    Neighbor:  (chuckling) You must’ve had quite a night.

    Me: (annoyed stare)

    Neighbor: Ok, if you don’t want to talk about it…was it that bad?  Was he old or was he just not hot?

    Me: (finally getting what she thought had happened) No, I was not drunk.  No, I was not walk of shaming home in tears.

    I appreciate that though.  That’s awesome.

    I would really like for my insurance company to hurry the heck up and approve this new medication.  Like immediately.

    Embarking on a new adventure

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    And one I’m not terribly excited about nonetheless.

    After much reading of books and blogs and much discussion with several friends who’ve made the leap, I am going gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free.   

    Immediately.

    I am waiting another month, for the good of all mankind, to go caffeine free.

    I am in considerable grief about saying goodbye to my favorite food group- processed- and full of confusion as I dropped all the Cokes off at the communal office kitchenette.  I may have to go back in and, with a sharpie, write on all the  bottles “NOT FOR YOU AMANDA.”  And then, most tragically, I ended my quite lengthy relationship with the best, most dependable, tastiest men on the planet (except for you James Franco)- Ben & Jerry.  SOB.

    There are several reasons why I’m making this switch- first, there have been studies showing significant improvements in RA patients who follow gluten free diets.  Since I’m not doing well right now, going gluten free definitely can’t make things worse.  So, why not? Second, if the phrase “you are what you eat” is really true, then I am a Chocolate-Caramel-Macchiato-Lean Cuisine-Calzone-Coke-Easy Cheese-Angel Hair Pasta-Bottle of Red Wine-Chicken Wing rather than an actual person. Third, I’ve always had food sensitivities and allergies.  I’m allergic to shellfish and avocadoes- allergic to the point that when I accidentally get these in my system, I immediately develop huge sexy Angelina lips that are so NOT sexy because they are accompanied by some pretty impressive wheezing and (wait for….wait for it) EAR SWELLING.  Let’s just say that I was the complete life of a Superbowl party one year without intending to be.  Cringe. I’m also lactose intolerant.  It would make sense to me that if 3 known foods lead to some very violent reactions in my body, it is possible that another type of food could lead to a less pronounced and immediate reaction.

    I’m at the point where something’s got to give and I need to make sure I have all my bases covered.  This is something I’ve been considering for awhile and something that at this moment I feel like I can’t put off any longer.  I’m also dropping the last remnant of dairy in my life (cheeses) and eliminating sugar (at least in a refined form- I’m still eating natural sugars.)

    So yes, back to the events of this week.

    I have no idea what I’m doing.

    My weekly trip to the grocery store yesterday took me over an hour.  I’m usually in and out in 15 minutes- I walk in, grab some oranges, and then head for the freezer section.  But yesterday, I walked in with a list and had to read the ingredients on all of the packaging before I put it in my cart.  I also switched grocery stores- from Harris Teeter to Trader Joe’s because TJ has a more extensive gluten free/ organic selection- so I had NO CLUE where anything was.

    I am happy to report that I can eat corn tortillas and found gluten free refried beans and soy cheese.  That is my favorite meal, as disgusting as it sounds.  So, suffice it to say that I shall not starve although I am about as excited at the prospect of “soy cheese” as I usually am about dental work.

    My immediate goal for now, besides that whole “I have no freaking clue how to cook thing” or that irritating “so I’ve read the book, now how do I really do it” is to find replacements for the things that I crave and/or eat frequently.  There’s just no way I’m going to succeed at this if I don’t.  And quickly!

    To do this, I have emailed our local culinary school to see if they offer continuing ed classes that would help me to better understand what I can eat and how I can prepare it.  And maybe, just maybe, they can include a quick little seminar on Water: Tips For Boiling.  LOL.  

    This could be interesting.

    I feel like such a dirty hippie. :)

    Does Trader Joe’s sell patchouli? 

    Note: give me a day or so and I will have my reading materials posted for those who may be interested.  If you’d like to start where I started, do a Google search on “wheat gluten mechanism AND rheumatoid arthritis.”