Monday, July 28, 2014

Update: Part 2

As I was saying in the first part of my update, after a cookie-filled Christmas and a home improvement project from hell that was fueled by sugar and caffeine, I had made myself extremely sick.  After I recovered, I decided it was time to cut out sugar and wheat completely, and really get serious about my low carb diet so I could lose the 10 pounds I'd put on (that put me at 195 pounds).  But after 60 days of no sugar or wheat, low carb eating, and even a week or two of low carb low calorie dieting (which left me feeling terrible, by the way, and Chad reminded me might not be good for my chances of getting pregnant), the weight didn't budge an inch. 

I was feeling terrible about myself.  It seemed like nothing I could do would make me lose the weight I'd put on.  I knew in my heart that low carb eating should make it come off pretty quickly, especially since it was all the carbs that made me put it on in the first place.  I wondered if it was the illness that made me hold onto the weight, that maybe I needed the extra weight to continue healing.  But all the weight I'd gained was sitting right on my stomach, and I'm certain that that's unhealthy fat that doesn't do you any good.  Maybe I wasn't low carb enough!  But I was fairly low carb, ranging between 50g and 80g a day, mostly from veggies and dairy.  I thought about doing a Fat Fast, the technique that Dr. Atkins would use to help his low carb patients get a jumpstart on weight loss; the problem with that is that it's 1000 calories a day of mostly fat, and as someone who has no gall bladder, eating large quantities of fat with nothing mixed with it makes my stomach pretty upset.  Plus, as I said before, Chad and I are still trying to conceive a baby, and I believe with all my heart that I shouldn't purposely cut calories (even though I did there for a short while; I was pretty desperate). 

I was pretty much giving up at that point the idea that I'd ever get back to 185, a weight that I was comfortable at.  I wasn't skinny in any sense, but I was healthy.  I had big round hips and thighs, giving me a pretty good pear shape, but I liked that about myself.  I looked feminine, robust, a daughter of the earth, a vessel of fertility.  But then I gained 10 pounds, and it went straight to my stomach, and now I feel truly fat.  Plus, when I got sick, I lost a lot of the muscle mass that I had gained when I started eating meat.  I felt weak, flabby, and fat, and I really hated it.  But still I ate low carb, because I was convinced that it was the only true way. 

By total chance, I decided to check out Tom Naughton's blog for the first time in a few months.  He's someone I really trust when it comes to nutrition.  He's smart but also sensible, and  his documentary Fat Head is actually what got us to go low carb in the first place.  So when Tom started writing about resistant starch, I paid attention.  Yes, I'd heard about RS before, and like everyone else I'd rejected it out of hand.  I mean, it was a starch, right?!  Everyone knows that starch is bad for you!  But Tom's post really made me think. 

I mean, at first I was very against it.  It seemed so against everything I'd been reading for, gosh, two years now on my low carb journey.  Suddenly it felt like everything I'd read was wrong.  It was almost like when I found out that sugar and wheat and carbs were what made me fat!  It was like my world turned upside down.  Which is funny, because RS isn't that big of a deal!  It's a small thing, but it's an important small thing.

As an experiment, Chad and I decided to start incorporating small amounts of real food RS into our diets.  Cooked and cooled potatoes and rice and occasionally beans, plus some green bananas here and there.  At first it was kind of awful.  My reaction was to get uncomfortably gassy, and Chad's was to get constipated.  I worried most about Chad, because that's a symptom I hadn't heard about in all the comments and talks about what to expect.  He was persistent, though; he wanted to make sure he gave it a good long trial before quitting. 

I think it was two or three weeks before we started feeling normal again.  Actually, I started feeling more than normal; I was feeling genuinely great.  When I was stuffing myself with sugar and caffeine, I felt terrible; when I started eating low carb again, I felt ok.  It wasn't until I got used to the RS that I started to actually feel great.  I was happy a lot, I had energy, I was motivated.  Some days I'd write in my journal that I couldn't believe how happy I was. The only genuine change we'd made at that point was the RS in the form of a potato or cup of rice a day plus a green banana every other day.

The story from here gets a little fuzzy because I started devouring information as much as I could.  I was very intrigued about RS, but suddenly I knew there must be more out there too.  I'd always had a nagging feeling that strictly cutting carbs long term might not be good for your health, especially for women.  So when the RS experiment went so well, it reawakened that thought and I began researching.  Tom Naughton interviewed Paul Jaminet on his blog about both his book Perfect Health Diet and also the whole RS topic; some of Paul's answers really surprised me.  For the most part in the past, I'd ignored Paul's ideas because it seemed to fly in the face of most of my low carb ideas, and try as I might to be open minded, I just didn't want to think about it.  Admittedly, it's really hard to digest so many food and nutrition ideas when no one is really sure about any of it and everyone has their own version of the truth.

The part of the interview that was most amazing to me was how Paul says on a low carb diet, you can become carb starved and that's when the cravings kick in hardcore.  That the reason your body can make glucose (through gluconeogenesis) is because you need it so much, and that maybe we should eat more starches to help our bodies out (in the same way that our bodies need cholesterol so much that it makes it, but we should still eat it so we don't overtax our bodies by having to make it all).  It made me wonder if that's why I was falling off the wagon so often in my years as a low carber.  I mean, I could certainly eat low carb and feel pretty happy, but eventually, once or twice a month, I'd eat something I knew I shouldn't and felt pretty powerless to stop myself.  Was I carb starved?  Did my body just crave glucose?  It certainly rang true with the nagging doubts I'd had about being low carb long term.

Then, kind of by the grace of God, I came across a book called Cure Tooth Decay just as I found a hole in my tooth, so I bought it that day.  And this book was largely inspired by Dr. Weston A. Price's book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (you can read the first edition for free at Project Gutenberg; however, his second edition, which has many additional chapters, isn't available free and must be purchased), which I then just had to read.  Both are very good reads, but I would suggest Nutrition and Physical Degeneration first because it's highly scientific and informative whereas Cure Tooth Decay, though a very good book, seems more emotionally based (at least to me). 

I ended up reading through Dr. Price's book in a few days because it just fascinated me enormously.  He traveled the world for ten years in the 1930s and 40s, searching for groups of people with naturally healthy teeth.  Specifically, he searched for societies where he could compare those people who were eating their traditional diets and those who were eating modern foods of civilization to act as a control.  What he found was amazing; not only did their traditional diets protect them from tooth decay, but also from disease and deformities, and it made them happier, less prone to crime, and they had easy fertility and women had very easy births.  Something in my heart knew this was the way for me.  I found the Weston A. Price Foundation's website, and started reading everything I could about their dietary recommendations. 

Now it's not like the principles of the WAPF diet are too different from how I was eating on a low carb diet.  It's still heavy on animal products, it believes that saturated fat is healthy, there's lots of veggies and some fruit, it doesn't like you using refined sugar, vegetable oil or white flour, and the way I'm eating it is still technically low carb (100g-150g carbs a day).  The biggest difference is their focus on nutrient density, which, honestly, was something I never thought about on a low carb diet.  If it was low in carbs, well, I ate it.  But now, I try very hard to make sure we eat the most nutrient dense foods first and fill the rest out with whatever low carb foods we like. 

The first thing we added was Fermented Cod Liver Oil and High Vitamin Butter Oil (yes, in all caps, because it's that important), which provides lots of natural vitamin A, D, and K2, which are fat soluble vitamins that are surprisingly hard to get enough of in our society.  The next thing we added was liver and marrow at least once every two weeks; marrow is pretty easy to eat in soups, but liver is an ongoing struggle for me being a super taster and general picky eater.  I'm working on it, though.  I wish I could add more organ meats, but unfortunately we don't have much access to anything else.  We also started eating as much organic as we could afford to. 

I started fermenting vegetables.  I just finished my second batch of sauerkraut yesterday.  It also takes some getting used to, but it's delicious and, along with the RS, I know it's helping to feed my gut.  I make lacto-fermented mayonnaise as well, and have even started a ginger bug to make lacto-fermented drinks soon.  After a lot of searching, I managed to find a source of raw milk relatively locally and we're drinking a large glass each every day, plus raw cheese whenever we can afford it.

There is one big change we made that will probably make low carbers and paleo folks both gasp in shock and horror; I started baking bread again.  Not just any bread, though.  Once a week or so, I mix up a batch of traditionally soured bread dough, either spelt, rye, or a low gluten whole wheat.  Then I make it into whatever we're feeling like that week, either bread, English muffins, or, Chad's favorite, pizza dough (you haven't lived until you've tried sourdough pizza!).  I didn't do this lightly; I've read Wheat Belly and I understand the problems with wheat and other gluten containing grains.  But I've also done my homework and understand that when you traditionally sour dough, you not only deactivate the phytates, you break down the gluten as well as some of the other nasty bits found in wheat.  There's even at least one study, although possibly more by now, that showed that celiacs can eat a sourdough bread without any damage to their intestines the way a conventional bread would.

I can attest to the difference between the two.  Conventional bread makes my heart pound, makes me feel all hot and uncomfortable, and riles up my IBS symptoms, whereas my sourdough bread doesn't do any of those things.  Plus, unlike most Americans, we're very careful not to eat too much of it; we generally eat only a small serving a day. 

This whole change in eating has been really interesting, exciting, and a lot of hard work.  Whereas I thought I worked pretty hard in the kitchen when I just ate low carb, now I literally make almost everything from scratch.  Bread, condiments, pickles, wraps, yogurt, jam, soup, bone broth -- you name it, I make it.  It's a labor of love, though.

So what's the result of all this hard work?  Well, the first thing that I noticed was a slow but steady reduction in weight.  Now, Chad's brother just came home for his yearly visit, which includes eating out as much as possible and as much junk food as you can get in your greasy pie hole.  Chad and I tried really hard to stay on track, with healthy low carb breakfasts and lunches most days, but it's hard to behave the whole time when you're in that environment for a week (especially because we spent four days in Pittsburgh during his visit and had to rely on restaurant food).  But before his brother came back, I was down to 190, a 5 pound weight loss in maybe a month and a half of WAPF style eating!  I gained a couple of pounds during the bro-in-law's visit, but it's already dropping steadily again, and I suspect by the end of this week I'll be back to 190.  The weight loss amazes me, because I'm higher carbs than I was before when I couldn't get the scale to budge an inch.  Add sourdough, potatoes and rice, and suddenly the weight is coming off. 

But other than weight loss, I have a deep feeling of being nourished for the first time in a long time.  I can't say I'm exactly happier or more energetic, at least not yet.  I feel like it's going to take a while to heal, not from the low carb diet but from years and years of being on a SAD vegetarian diet.  My nails, which were the first things to improve when I started eating meat, are suddenly even more awesome.  I actually look like I have a French manicure despite never wearing nail polish, because the nails are so smooth, and the tips are so thick and opaque. 

When I mentioned my nails before on my blog, people asked if I noticed my hair being different.  Back then, there wasn't any change at all, but now there's a true difference.  It's growing like weeds, for one thing; I managed to grow back three inches in just a couple of months, whereas wikipedia says hair usually grows at about half an inch a month.  I also lost about three white hairs.  Don't laugh!  I had five white hairs on the top right part of my head, and my hair being so dark, they were pretty visible.  Now, however, I seem to only have one or two up there, and I can't seem to find the others at all.  And although it could be the way I've been managing it, my hair seems curlier lately, too. 

Chad says he doesn't feel any different, but I can tell you for sure that he's happier, has more energy, he's more patient, and he's even managed to completely kick his caffeine habit.  And, yes, for those perverted people out there who must know, his libido seems to have increased.

I think the most important part about this whole change has been how connected it makes me feel to my food.  It's not just something I cook and eat; food is sacred, and you should be grateful for it every time you sit down to eat it.  Now I'm so much more involved in creating it, and truly understand that I'm feeding my body and not just my tongue.  I feel connected to the past, knowing that my grandma and her mother and all the mothers before her knew these exact principles and did everything they could to nourish their children with wholesome traditional foods.  I want to be a part of that tradition, and should Chad and I ever be blessed with children, I hope I can pass it along to them, too. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Much Needed Update!

So...  It's been a while since I last posted.  What's funny about that is that one of the last things I posted was a resolution to try to write and post more authentic stuff.  But I think the truth is that I just got bored of writing, and it was starting to feel like work rather than something I did because I enjoyed it.  I'm funny that way; I have many hobbies, because after a while the one I'm doing begins to bore me and I move on to something else.  I'm currently making earrings.  Last week I was sketching.  And next week I'm going to be quilting.  Who knows what August will bring.

I felt like I should write something though, because 2014 has brought a lot of change to our household as far as food goes.  I guess I'll start from the beginning, and hope I don't put you to sleep!

In November of 2013, I decided I should allow myself to make cookies.  Lots and lots of cookies.  For friends and family!  I'd make a batch of cookies every week and freeze them so I would have lots of cookies to give away at Christmas time.  I made everything.  I think I ended up making maybe 10 kinds of cookies, and had at least two gross of cookies in my freezer. 

Except I couldn't just make the cookies and put them away.  I started to eat them, secretly.  Every time I'd make cookies, I'd eat cookies.  And sometimes I'd sneak some out of the freezer.  I figured I had more than enough for all my friends and family, and I didn't think one or two cookies would hurt. 

Well, I'm here to tell you that two months of one or two cookies lead to 10 pounds of weight gain.  I was pretty upset at myself.  I swore that, come the new year, I'd get right back on the low carb wagon and lose that weight lickety-split. 

The only problem with this theory was that, shortly into January, Chad and I embarked on a pretty epic remodeling project.  I get overly excited about stuff, and started wanting to do everything and right now. It started as a project to fix the texture that was peeling off our 100 year old plaster walls, but quickly turned into repainting the whole downstairs and replacing the carpet while we're at it.  Like a fool, I ordered to have the carpet put in three weeks from when we started this thing, which means we had three weeks to scrape, retexture, and paint most of our downstairs.  Since Chad has to work, that meant that the majority of the work fell on me.  It was an intense three weeks. 

We managed to just pull it off in time.  I told Chad that the only thing keeping me going at the end was sugar, caffeine, and pain pills.  I was beat up pretty badly.  And two days after the new carpet was installed, I found out exactly how badly I'd hurt myself.

I started to develop a really curious problem.  When I sat down after being up and moving around for a while, the right side of my face would hurt.  At first it was mild and could be remedied by getting back up and  moving around some more.  The next day, the pain was worse and I had to get up and do really vigorous exercise to make the pain go away.  That night, when I had to lay down to go to sleep, was torture.  Eventually the pain went away, though, and I finally got to sleep. 

The next day was the worst day of my life.  The pain was endless.  If I moved around, the pain was bad, but if I sat down, it felt like my face was being stabbed by red hot knives.  The pain went down to my jaw and neck and ran up to my ear and eye.  I cried uncontrollably.  I had my mom take me to the urgent care place; unfortunately, I totally stumped everyone there.  The doctor finally told me that the only thing she could think it was was a condition where the nerve in the face is damaged and there's nothing that can be done for it.  I asked her if she could at least give me a strong pain medication, because ibuprofen and Tylenol weren't doing anything for me.  She sent me off with a prescription for a strong antibiotic and hydrocodone.  I hated taking both of them, but I was desperate. 

I kept crying and telling Chad that I just couldn't live like this.  I was terrified that the problem was what the doctor thought it was, though I really doubted it.  She told me to make an appointment with my regular doctor, but I decided to get into my dentist instead on the suspicion that it had something to do with my teeth.  At this point, I had realized that the pain was being caused by changes in temperature, and that's why sitting down after moving around made it hurt.  It's also why, at this point, I couldn't eat anything at all.  The hydrocodone seemed to help a little bit, but it took about an hour to kick in.

The next day, I started to feel a little tiny bit better, though I was still in a lot of pain, crying, and generally miserable.  I couldn't move without bringing on a wave of pain.  I knew I had to eat, but I couldn't eat anything cold or warm or anything I had to chew.  I ended up having Chad blend up room temperature soup so I could suck it through a straw, plus I drank room temperature milk.  I was just glad I could get something in my stomach.

The visit to the dentist was extremely interesting.  She took some x-rays and examined my mouth.  She said my teeth looked fine, though the gums were swollen.  The x-rays revealed something really curious.  I had a huge pocket of fluid right above one of my top molars (at this point it had even gone down a little).  There was nothing wrong with the tooth at all.  She asked me if I had sinusitis, but I wasn't having any issues with my sinuses.  She thought it was probably brought on by the flu or a bad cold and told me to just rest and continue taking the antibiotics the doctor had given me. 

It took me about a week to fully recover from the pain, and another week to start feeling normal again.  It actually took me a month or more to get my strength back.  And unfortunately, the infection had slightly damaged the sight in my right eye so now it's a little near sighted, and occasionally the difference between the vision in my two eyes makes me feel disoriented.  I got some glasses to help with the problem, but I'll never have my perfect vision back.

After that incidence, I was pretty sick with myself.  I knew the infection was caused by the sugar, caffeine, pain pills, and excessive amounts of hard physical work.  How could I have done that to myself?  I knew sugar was toxic, but I shoveled it in anyway because it gave me quick energy when I had nothing left to give.  I decided to go completely sugar and wheat free, for real.  No cheating.  No treats.  Just good low carb food.  I decided to give myself a reward if I made it to 30 days of being sugar and wheat free; I let myself buy $60 worth of spring bulbs to be planted in the fall.  I figured going back to being low carb, sugar free, wheat free would help me to drop those 10 pounds I'd gained, too.

And I made it to 30 days.  Then 60 days.  But the weight wasn't doing anything.  I may have even gained a couple of pounds.  I felt better, but not as good as I felt when I first switched to low carb.  I was feeling really desperate to move the scale and make myself feel better, to the point where I was starting to experiment with low carb calorie counting.  I tried to cut my calories back to 1600 a day, but that made me feel even worse.  At that point, Chad gently reminded me that it's probably not healthy to cut back on my intake if I'm trying to support a baby (which we're still trying to conceive). 

I think we'll stop this post there since it's already pretty long.  The rest of the story is much happier, and even though I can't say for sure that it ends well because life doesn't have neat little endings the way movies do, I can say that Chad and I are doing much better and feeling wonderful.  So then, see you next time!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Safe, Cheap, Effective Cleaners

I've never really liked cleaners that you buy in the store.  They smell yucky, you have to protect your hands, clothes and eyes from them, and there's just something about them that's always made me worry about using them.  My worries aren't unfounded.  It seems like every time I read the news (which isn't often, of course), I hear about something else in those cleaners being deemed unsafe.  From the fragrance to the chemicals used for the cleaning, they're just not safe to be used, especially not in a closed environment like a house.

That's why for almost as long as I've been cleaning, I've used simpler ingredients whenever possible.  Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, dish soap, and good old water are at the top of my list.  Here's what's in my cleaning arsinal.

From left to right:

Homemade orange vinegar cleaner
Distilled vinegar
Homemade shower cleaner
Original Dawn dish soap
Washing soda
Baking soda
Plus two scrubbers in the front, a homemade scrubby and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

The baking soda, borax and salt are used to scrub out tough spots and stains on the counter and sink, but usually the magic eraser is pretty good at getting everything out.  The vinegar is used to clean out lots of things around our house, including the floor, sink, tub, counter tops, and anything collecting mineral deposits from our hard water.  Washing soda is only used once in a long while because it is caustic and I don't like handling it, but it's useful for cleaning things like the dishwasher or the washing machine.

Now I don't make cleaning solutions very ofter because either vinegar or straight water work for cleaning almost everything.  However, I absolutely love the two cleaners I have in the picture, the orange vinegar cleaner and the shower cleaner.  They're both very easy to make, cheap, and quite effective.

The orange vinegar cleaner is something I've been using for a couple of months now and just love.  It's like using vinegar, except it leaves a nice spicy orange scent.  Here's the recipe.

Orange Vinegar Cleaner
2-3 cups vinegar
rinds of two oranges
2 tbsp either whole cloves or broken up cinnamon sticks

Cut up the orange rinds into one inch chunks.  Put into a quart mason jar or an old spaghetti jar; add the spices.  Pour in vinegar to fill the jar, put a lid on it, and shake vigorously.  Leave jar in a spot out of direct sunlight; let sit for one month, shaking every day.  At the end of the month, strain the liquid before putting into a spray bottle.  Solution may be diluted to your liking.  I use it straight, but it's quite intense and I'm considering diluting it half and half with water. This cleaner can be used as an all purpose cleaner all over the house. 

The shower cleaner is actually something that I just discovered, but I fell in love with after just one use.  We have incredibly hard water; it leaves lots of mineral deposits everywhere, in the sinks, toilet, tub, and shower walls.  My orange vinegar cleaner is usually enough to take care of it, but on the shower walls, it seems like nothing can clean them.  I thought I was stuck with a yucky white film on my glass doors forever.

But today I tried this cleaner out, and after just one use, they're perfectly clean!  I have some theories on how it cleans so well, but all I really care is that it does such a good job.  I'm going to try it on other places when I get the chance, like the kitchen sink and the toilet!

Shower Cleaner
1/2 cup original unconcentrated Dawn dishsoap
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Heat the vinegar in the microwave until just boiling.  Pour into a spray bottle, and then add the dish soap.  Shake gently to mix.  To use, spray onto your shower walls, scrub a little with a scrubby or rag, then spray off with water.  Soap scum and mineral deposits should be all gone!  For especially dirty spots, you can let the mixture sit for up to 24 hours.  I bet this would be a great way to clean out clogged shower heads, too, since it's thicker than plain vinegar.

I have an idea for an after shower spray to help fight the mineral build up in our shower, too.  If I can get it to work, I'll be sure to post it.

With a little know how and some elbow grease, you can avoid using harsh chemicals in your home and save not only your health but the health of the environment, not to mention your pocketbook. 

Friday, January 10, 2014


I know it's a little late for this, but I suppose I've always been a bit of a procrastinator.  I don't generally believe that New Year's resolutions are a good idea; I think most people make the wrong resolutions for the wrong reasons. As someone who's almost 30, I can say I can't honestly remember ever making a sincere resolution in my life. 

I do want to make a resolution of sorts this year, though.  It's not weight related, even though I did put on some holiday pounds.  It's not money related, despite the fact that I spent a little too much on new gadgets recently.  And believe it or not, it's not even love related (Chad and I are still quite happy).  No, my resolution this year is much simpler, though perhaps a little harder for me to achieve than any of those other ones.

I resolve to do what I believe is best for me no matter what others think; and if I come up against someone who's trying to sway my beliefs, I'm going to thank them for their time and move on.  This has always been a big problem with me.  When it comes to my health or happiness, I let people influence what I think.  I feel embarrassed to challenge them when they tell me that my way isn't the right way, and I begin to believe that I must be wrong.  But just because what they say is right for them doesn't mean it's right for me.  There's only one person in this world that knows what's right for me, and that's me.

And besides, if I don't stick up for myself, I'm never going to be able to trust my own instincts. 

Happy New Year, everyone!  I know 2014 is going to be great.  I've been so touched with the number of people leaving comments recently asking for me to start posting again or just making sure I'm ok...  what a great group of readers I have!  Now that Christmas is over and I can focus on my garden and my diet again, I hope to start really posting more frequently.