Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gluten Free, Fasting, Lent, and Beyond

So, some folks have asked how the whole "Gluten Free" for Lent is going.  Before I share that, I have some confessions to make.

First, I thought Gluten Free would help me lose weight.  And Lent is a good time (for me) to choose to sacrifice something that is supposed to make me healthier.  Last year, it was Facebook and I ended up believing there is nothing wrong with Facebook, so using it is healthy for me.  This year, I started by thinking this I could lose a few ellbees, see if it has any effect on me, and, really, to see what life is like for many of my gluten free friends.  In all honesty, except for those with celiac disease, I was not convinced that gluten free was all that healthy.  It seemed like a fad to me.  Wheat has been around for 6000 years, longer even than the beer and yogurt Dave and I are now making from scratch.

So the results, as we fast approach Easter.  No weight loss from gluten free.  But Holy Frijole, the other changes!!  Now remember, I'm going into this as a skeptic!  And while I do feel less tired, I'm not really sure I can attribute that to gluten free.  But my digestive system.  WOW!  N=1 design which provides a strong causal claim:  have a baseline, remove something, add it back, remove it again.  If you see consistent changes, you can make a decent causal claim that what you removed made the difference.

I've had over 40 some years of eating gluten, even though, in all honesty, I've really never eaten a lot of bread for health and caloric reasons (bread is not the bearer of great nutrients).  But once I stopped eating all the hidden sources of gluten, WOW.  I've been thinking of how to say this politely, so let's go with this:  without gluten, there are fewer rumblies in my tumbly. Which is akin to saying "the sun decided to sleep in this morning."  There is more, but let's just leave it at that and say that while I don't have celiac, I am now convinced I have gluten sensitivities.  In fact, one day when things went back to normal, I tried to figure out what I ate to cause this. That's when I realized that deli meats have lots of gluten and I'd eaten quite a bit of them the day before.  No more gluten, no more problems of that nature.

So am I going back to gluten after Lent?  I don't know.  I don't think I'm going to purposefully eat gluten willy nilly.  And Dave is BUMMED that he just started brewing delicious, yummy home brew and now I'm not going to drink it.  (Actually, more for him!)  But he'd like to try gluten free and see how it works for him.
But if I go to someone's house for dinner and they serve pasta, I will eat it.  I'd rather not, but I do not have an allergy, just a sensitivity (at most).  It's just amazing that I can see such a huge difference for something I didn't expect to have an effect.

So here's the other thing that has shocked the crap out of me.  (Except, not)  I've started this new fad diet called the 5:2.  I hate fad diets.  They are stupid and they don't last.  The cabbage soup diet, the bananas/hot dogs/some other food diet?  Bullshit.  So, this thing I'm doing now is also a fad diet.  Except 1)  I think this could very well be a lifestyle for me  and 2) I am FINALLY losing weight.  FINALLY!  After counting calories and getting nowhere since Christmas, I've been doing the 5:2 fast for the last 3 weeks, and I've lost 5 pounds.

The crazier part?  I'm *NOT* dieting and I'm *NOT* counting calories.  Every morning when I wake up and find out I've lost another ellbee, I spend 2 hours talking to Dave trying to figure out how I did it.  I still don't know how I'm doing it.  It doesn't make any sense to me based on 20 years of watching my calories.

So what is this magic elixir of weight loss?  It's called the 5:2 Fast Diet.  But "Fast" doesn't mean quickly.  Fast means you don't eat.  So 5 days a week, I eat everything I want.  And I mean everything:  potato chips, french fries, wine, whatever.  And on 2 nonconsecutive days a week, I eat 500 calories (200 for breakfast and 300 for dinner).  And I lose weight.

What. The. Truck.  Yes, I get hungry on the fasting days.  But I end up drinking a ton of herbal teas.  I also look at the food I really, really want and I say "I am going to eat the hell out of you tomorrow."  And after the first fasting day, I probably did eat quite a bit more.  But now, I just eat on my non-fasting days.  I'm supposed to eat 2100 calories on my non-fasting days which is so much food, I don't even keep track of what I eat.

Both the gluten free and the fasting have made me very aware of how frequently I snack on unhealthy tidbits off the children's plate or from the cupboard while I'm preparing dinner.  There's nothing quite like cooking while you're really hungry and NOT eating to teach you that you can do it.  Also, dinner on fasting days is some of the best food I've ever eaten.

So maybe I'm not eating as much as I used to on my non-fasting days?  I don't think so.  I'm eating everything I want although I do have in the back of  my mind that I don't want to blow all the hard work from my fasting day.  But I still eat.  Everything I want. So I don't know if that's it.  Maybe the fasting days quick change my metabolism?  I do know that there's some evidence for the health of fasting, but I don't know if intermittent fasting as this is called does the same thing. And when I've lost the weight I want, I apparently only fast one day a week for maintenance. (I can already tell that's going to be on Mondays after a weekend of indulgence)

All I know is that this is the craziest thing I've ever done and lost weight.  I honestly and truly do not know how this is happening, because I am NOT dieting.  And I know from my calorie counts that fasting on 500 calories a day two times a week and eating 2100 calories the rest should not be enough for me to lose 1 lb a week much less 2, but that is what is happening.  That is CRAZINESS!!

I'd love to hear if anyone else is doing this 5:2 thing and how they are responding to it.  I'd love to hear if other folks start it how it works for them.  (I'm fasting Monday and Thursday)  I bought the book and just started.

Truly, two shocking food changes for me this Lent.  It's throwing everything I thought I knew about eating up in the air.  And fortunately, not landing back on my butt.

Friday, April 04, 2014

It's fine. Really, it's fine.

I forgot to mention that BOTH kids were sick last year during this week.  More on that in a sec.

We called up Bridget's amazing pulmonologist yesterday to let him know that we put Bridget on steroids.  We wanted some approval from an authority that this seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  We told his nurse we didn't need to see him, we just wanted to keep him informed.  His nurse called us back in a few and said he wanted to see B.  I figured this was one of those BS calls where they don't want the liability of giving advice out without seeing anyone. Blahty blah.

However, the second he walked in to our waiting room, our doc said "I really wanted to see Bridget at the beginning of an illness. I only see her at the end and I want to see how she is at the beginning."  Wow.  We weren't there for liability.  We were there because he wanted to know more about our little squirrel and get better up to speed on her.  WOWZA.  Full on less than 3 for our doc.

Even better when he exclaimed "Oh, she sounds GREAT!" when he listened to her. Even better-est was the diagnosis of the persistent rash on her face as irritation from her treatment mask and a change in equipment as a solution.

So here's the scoop:  The pollen is so bad that people who do not have allergies (perhaps you?!) are walking around with water eyes, blowing their noses, and feeling pooped.  It's like working in a room full of sawdust.  The next day, you are sneezing and coughing out crap as your sinuses and lungs do their thing.  People who are already a but compromised have a bit more of a problem, like Squirrel.  But she's fine. Steroids for one more day (today) and then we're done.

Of course, last year, it started with Christopher and then Bridget stole the show.  At 5 am this morning, Christopher decided it was his turn and he had the worst asthma attack he's ever had.  I honestly thought we were going to have to get him to the hospital because puff after puff of albuterol could not calm his attack down.

If it rains, it pours, right?  Actually, our city could use some rain right now.  A big downpour to clean out all this pollen.  Blergh.  But really!?  Good news absolutely and overall.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Fudge Monkeys

I have had a potty mouth.  Certainly, in Conor's early years that didn't change.  He did not mimic my bad words.  The twins, however, are more open to saying everything.  So I've had to develop different ways of saying things.  And poopyhead, while quite naughty for children, has become part of what I say.  Truly better than the alternatives.

But "Fudge Monkeys" came at me from out of the blue and it's my favorite phrase when really bad things happen. What I love about it this faux curse is that it just pops out when I'm upset.  I have to think about "Cheese and rice" or "Shut the front door!"  This one is natural for me.  I have turned Fudge Monkeys into a very naughty phrase. And yes, the idea of Fudge Monkeys flying at me from out of the blue is wonderful.  Very Wicked Witch of the South.

And it's an appropriate one considering yesterday's "Oh, Poop."

So, um, yeah!  Bridget's got the same thing she had last year.  It's a horrible cough with oxygen numbers trending down.  We had some 89 to 91 readings last night, but got up and did a saline treatment and got them back up to 93.  We gave her a double dose of steroids this morning (and sent her to daycare!! GOOD LUCK WITH THE MONSTER FORMERLY KNOWN AS BRIDGET).  She needs to be active to get her lungs active and I need to work and the TV does not provide as much activity as playing in the classroom.  The teachers are all on board and know everything and have their own pulse ox.  I fully expect her to come home after lunch.

Our goal is to stay ahead of this downward spiral and keep her out of the hospital.  I don't think it's going to work. This is a shit ass cough.  (You're adults, right?  I still say that cuss word phrase.  And it's one of my milder ones)  This cough is worse than the one that sent her to the hospital over New Year's.  I think whatever molds have released their spores in this warm weather have exploded their reactions in her lungs.

That said, if I'm just playing the role of Debbie Doom and the steroids DO keep her out of the hospital....WOOHOOOHOOHOOO!!!  We have found the golden ticket.  Wouldn't that be exciting!?

I'm waiting for a down moment so I can blog about being gluten free and how much I am noticing about it.  AMAZE-BALLS.  Apparently, I have a gluten sensitivity.  Wow.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Oh, Poop.

Literally, exactly, and in any other way you can think of, PRECISELY, one year ago today, everything started to go downhill for Bridget.

AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW, guess who has a pretty bad cough today?  There are some differences though.

1)  Anyone who says she has pneumonia will get a thunk on the head and an out loud feedback of IDIOT.
2)  We know what she has and we have her on a preventative regimen of meds that work.
3)  I have my own meds to help when I hear her cough.
4)  We have a pulse oximeter that tells us that while her cough sounds crappy, she's moving all that stuff out of her lungs and we don't need to worry.

It's hard not to look back to a year ago and think, "wow!  I was really at the weight I wanted to be.  all those cute clothes I bought don't fit and I can't wear yoga pants everywhere" and "ugh, what a year of coughing and hospitalization and why is so easy to gain weight and so hard to lose it?!"

It's nice to tick off the one year anniversary of the beginning of shitdom.  I think the first year is the hardest and we know so much more now.  Also, knowing now of her mold allergies, I'm wondering if there is some sort of annual mold something or another that happens the first week of April in Charlotte.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

My Weird Food Beliefs

First of all, let's just get this out in the open.  YOU have weird food beliefs, too.  OK?  I'm sure I would think you are a nut with the food philosophy you have and I might not even give you the benefit of being an organic nut.  So let's just all agree that even more than parenting beliefs, our food beliefs are mostly our own, somewhat informed by research, somewhat informed by culture, and somewhat informed by your own freaky self.


So since I decided to go gluten free for Lent, I thought I ought to share with you some of the freaky things that inform what I prefer to eat and the nutrition goals I have for my family.  I also need to share that I was a vegetarian for 8 years during my first stint in grad school (at UNC Chapel Hill in Operations Research, wth?) and during my job out in the "real world."  I was a pretty strict veggie eating only soups from veggie broths and no fish, chicken or beef.  (I've always been confused by vegetarians who eat chicken.)  ANYHOO, I stopped my vegetarian ways at a Super Bowl party with Chicken Wings.  It was not too long after that I ate some bacon and I have not turned back since.

So when I became a veggie, I basically spent about two weeks eating nothing but American Cheese slices and white bread, and I thought to myself, "Myself, this is NOT healthier than eating meat."  We Southern folks like to wait until things are absolutely obvious until we make decisions.

So, I went to a health food store and bought Laurel's Kitchen.  That is when, in the mid 80s, I figured out that butter was healthier than margarine, that made from scratch is better than store bought, that it takes 8 lbs of grain to make one pound of meat, and that you could feed a lot more people off 8 lbs of grain than one pound of meat.  I still don't think I was eating all that healthily. So at my first job, I joined Weight Watchers at work and learned, mainly, that potatoes and corns are starches not vegetables.

Things were pretty stable until my boyfriend/(who I thought was my fiance) figured out he was gay and I basically stopped eating.  By "stopped eating," I mean that I could not put more than 3 bites of food in my mouth at one time.  I'd be hungry, try to eat, and just couldn't do it.  The good news is that weight slid off my body.  The bad news is that I didn't want an eating disorder and I knew I needed to make sure every bit counted. So that's when I made sure I at all the veggies and fruit I was supposed to, made sure my fiber intake was around 35 grams/day, I ate major protein for lunch, and yummy complex carbohydrates for dinner.  Little did I know at the time that complex carbs release serotonin and thus are WONDERFUL to eat at night when you're trying to wind down.  I lost weight.  I was thin.  I was strong. And I was healthy.

So there. Since then, I've seen all y'all's trendy diets come and go.  I've seen your low fat, your Atkins, your South Beach, your Paleo, your vegan, your omnivore, you're whatevers and I actually do have some thoughts.  So here is what I believe.  Your beliefs are different.  Your mileage obviously varies.

*All "diets" work because they restrict calories.  I don't want to diet. I want a healthy lifestyle.  I really don't care about my weight (so much) as long as I'm exercising and eating healthy.

*I am not going to convert to a high protein, low/no carb diet because of that whole deal of how many pounds of grains it takes to make one pound of meat.  It doesn't make sense to me to feed that grain to a cow and then eat its meat when I and my family could eat it for longer on 8 lbs of grain than we could eat a pound of meat.

*The Paleo diet.  ((((sigh))))  I think the Paleo diet does a good job of getting people off processed foods.  However, anthropologists are having a hissy fit about the claims that there was one set of food types in this world that people ate.  Also, really?  Beef is on Paleo but milk isn't?  You eat from cow a lot longer if you drink its milk than if you kill it and binge on its meat.  Same with the chicken and the egg--although I see eggs are on Paleo.  That said, a standing ovation for eating grass fed beef, pork, and free range chickens.  Abso-freakin'-lutely.  We're taking some of our tax refund and buying half a pig from a local farmer.  I think that's great for a zillion reasons.

*Grains, beans, and nuts are good for you.  Any food that can produce life on its own (like planting a whole grain, bean, or nut) is chock full of nutrients and you should eat them.  Period.  Eggs are the perfect protein for a reason.  ((That link maybe bullshit, so take it with a grain of salt.  Salt is good!))

*Dairy is probably better for you when it's cultured  than when it's in its plain (milk) form.  Yogurt is good for you.  I think it's up for debate whether cow's milk as "milk" is all that good for you.

*Fermented food is good for you.  Kimchi and sour kraut put healthy bacteria in your gut and you'll be healthier and thinner for eating it regularly.

*Processed food is bad, bad, bad.  I do think Paleo has turned a whole generation of folks against processed food.  YAY!!!! It's hard not to eat processed food, and my family does not do as good a job as I would like.  But we do make our own bread, yogurt, tortillas, and now beer, so, YAY.  I wish we could get and eat everything homemade.  Here's my nuttiest belief:  I think sugar and cookies and cake are ok as long as Dave and I and the kids make them at home completely from scratch.  I know sugar is evil on a stick.  But my policy is homemade is better than store bought.  So hang out, and I'll make you our homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups and you will be very happy.

*I think wheat is the least healthy of the grains out there.  It's nearly impossible to get in as whole a form as other grains and so I think there are problems with it.  It's one of the reasons I'm trying a gluten free life for Lent.  I'd like to see how my body reacts to getting off glutens for a long period of time.

OK.  So have I pissed you off/annoyed you with what I believe?  If I can sum it up in one sentence:

 I think humans are omnivores and we ought to eat most of our food from homemade, plant based sources.

I don't think our family lives up to that ideal.  We are Americans and eat more processed American food than we should.  But what I'd rather eat is homemade and plant based (fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains) with a sprinkling of meat and dairy here and there.  That would be my fantasy food life.

You are different.  That is ok.  I try very hard not to judge people who let their children cry it out (unless the children are less than 6 weeks old and then I do call them assholes out loud).  But I do not ever, in one second, judge people who eat differently than I do.  It's easy to point to our differences in child rearing, but holy frijole (literally) the differences across people, families, regions, nations, religions, and cultures in food eating?  Really????  How on earth could I say you're wrong and I'm right.  It's just right for us.

So now you know.  I'm finding the gluten free lifestyle really interesting thus far.  I'm hungrier more frequently than I thought I'd be.  But I can eat healthy legumes.  I was tired the first couple of days, but that is typical.  I am not tired today though, and that is nicely weird.  It's depressing how many foods have gluten in them.  But it makes me eat less processed food, so that's good, too.  We'll see.  So far, I can see the appeal of this, especially since my funky cool neighborhood fully expects the clientele to be gluten free and has menus to support us.

Also, I have friends and I have friends who have children who are very, VERY allergic to gluten.  I'm doing this for funsies.  They are not.  That's some serious stuff they have shared with me. I can only imagine the stress of going out or buying something new and worrying about the gluten that might be hidden in the food if you are seriously allergic to gluten.  I think wheat *ought* to be a normal grain as people have been making and eating bread for 30,000 years. Hello, Paleo!  But from what I'm hearing about how they have genetically modified and over-processed wheat that it's not what it used to be.  I don't know if that's true.  It's interesting.  I'd like to see if gluten-free is interesting for a person who doesn't know or doesn't believe she has allergies.  (That would be me)

Sound off in the comments and the Facebook, Twitter lives.  Be gentle.  Or not.  I can handle it.  

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fitbit and TMI

So, the Fitbit.  I received a new-to-me Fitbit from Carter (blog/Facebook friend from FOREVER ago) and I am addicted.  What I like about it is that not only does it tell me steps (like the pedometer I've worn for our school/work pedometer challenges over the last years), it tells me how many calories I've burned, how many stairs I've climbed, how many "active" minutes I've had, and how well I've slept (hint: NOT SO MUCH).  

So that may not sound so cool, but here is why I think it is.  It's the calorie counting.  And I think it's accurate.  So it tells me how many calories I'm burning while I write this blog entry.  (Not so many, because fingers moving across the keyboard isn't really aerobic exercise). It tells me how many calories I'm burning while I'm sleeping (about the same as writing this blog entry).  And for the first time ever, it's telling me ACCURATELY how many calories I'm burning while exercising.  So instead of the horrible estimate from Livestrong when I report that I've run for an hour (and it estimates that I've burned off 900 to 1300 calories), Fitbit makes a much more accurate estimate of 500 calories, a number I am convinced from the zillions of calorie burning charts I've consulted over the years is more accurate for my weight and my pace.  

And here's the other thing:  it may just be that Livestrong sucks.  Because MyFitnessPal  which is linked to Runkeeper is also very good at estimating how many calories I've actually burned.  I've also just joined DailyMile, so let's see how well that works, too. And also what it does.  I'm not quite sure.  

But WAIT!  There's more!!!  Fitbit doesn't just tell you what you've done--it tells you what you ought to be doing!!  It has daily goals not only for number of steps, but also how many minutes you SHOULD be exercising hard, and how many calories you OUGHT to be burning. That's the part that has been really good for me.  I've seen estimates that for my age, I generally should be burning about 1500 calories a day.  Fitbit's response to that is: isn't that sweet?  Get your butt out there and burn 2100 calories a day.  MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT!  That's a number of calories per day in which I can eat a good amount of food, enjoy some wine, occasionally enjoy some more wine, and still lose weight.  WOOHOO!  

So I feel very encouraged by this and I don't think they are blowing smoke at or around or up any body part.  The numbers and the goals all fit in with what I've been carrying around in my head for a long time.  

So why am I not shedding weight like I did last year when I lost all that weight and before I put it all back on?  A couple of reasons: 1) I am enjoying more wine than I should.  You want to know how much wine I'm drinking?  Look at my belly.  And then turn away!  Turn away quickly.  2)  I'm not exercising every day.  Cold weather.  Cold in my head.  Cold in my squirrels head.  I'm not exercising every day for an hour like I should be.  3)  My fat was tricked the first time when it left and now it knows my secret ways and is refusing to leave my body.  And finally.....


4)  Perimenopause.  I'm that age and this is that time.  And this morning when it finally occurred to me to check the Internets to see what they had to say about weight loss and perimenopause, Google laughed.   Google guffawed.  Google fell on the floor and said, "You think you're going to lose weight and keep it off  in the next couple of years?!"  Bwahahahahahahahahahah! I told Google to suck it.  Dave told me that I probably want to keep running.  I told Dave I'd rather take a nap.  

Honestly, what I think is happening is that recovery time is taking a lot longer than it used to.  I'm still exercising fine, when I can get out and do it.  And by that I mean, I'm still exercising 4 or 5 times a week for an hour each time.  My goal is 6 times a week and sometimes 7, so I'm really not slacking on exercise.  It's just that I am TIRED afterwards.  So much more TIRED than I've ever been.  And a bad night's sleep (like last night) just seems to do me in worse than before.  

So, um, yeah.  That's me and my butt/belly right now.  My goal is still to lose this weight.  And I'm being gentle on myself (not criticizing too much).  And I'm looking to take a nap.  So bring a pillow or some wine or some running shoes if you want to catch up.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hearing Impaired

My Dad is hearing impaired.  He started losing his hearing in his 40s and without his hearing aids, he cannot hear very much.

Two thoughts on hearing aids:

1) Did you know hearing aids are NOT covered by insurance?  Losing one of your 5 senses and being able to repair that damage with medical equipment is NOT, I mean NOT!!, covered by insurance.  That is my definition of a sin.

2) As a mother, I can certainly see the benefits of turning off and/or taking out one's hearing aids on occasion.

SPEAKING of which (ha! a pun!), my eardrum ruptured last Saturday night.  That means that I cannot hear much out of my left ear.  The last time this happened was in 2005 (I remember because it was right after my first miscarriage).  I only had one quiet child then, so I don't remember much about hearing problems at home.  I do, however, remember being incredibly frustrated during a grad class because I could not understand what my students were saying.  This is a real problem when the whole point of a grad class is discussing the readings and I couldn't understand what my students were discussing.

This latest loss of hearing occurred during Charlotte's worst snow storm in a decade.  So I haven't had class (yet) but I have more (and louder) children at home.  More than ever, I am wondering what it is like to be my Dad.  One of the most surprising things was how overwhelming all the background noise has become.  If I'm trying to talk with or listen to Dave, I cannot stand the kids' normal noises in the background.  It is too much muted stimulation and too much effort to try to understand what is being said around me.

I also have to repeatedly tell everyone around me that I cannot hear them.  I know they are talking at me, but I have NO IDEA what they are saying.  Sometimes I guess correctly.  And sometimes I guess wrong--as evidenced by the puzzled glance my way.  Sometimes I just pretend that I understood what they said and smile and nod my head figuring that if it's really important, they will try to communicate again.

All this gives me so much more empathy for my Dad. I don't ever recall my Dad telling anyone he has a hearing loss. I can't go three hours without repeatedly reminding folks I have no idea what they are saying. Dad has always done a good job of figuring out what we are saying, or coming back with some (purposefully) misinterpreted sentence sort of based on what we saying that has turned into Jokes of Family Lore.  That said, the improvement in hearing aids over 40 years has been AMAZING.  And I think some of the time, Dad has developed a real intuition for what is going on.

But I have to think that for at least some periods of my father's life, it's been pretty frustrating to have all of that muted background noise and not be able to hear us.  And yet, he did not scream at everyone to be quiet (ummm, maybe like I have) so he could hear.  He has been very generous to us in his loss.  And I'm not sure we've been as generous back to him.

I don't wish a perforated eardrum on anyone.  But it might help all of us to understand a disability we can't see or even imagine.

XOXO to you, Dad.