Archive | May, 2015

Coulda Woulda

28 May

I have been keeping a tally of all of the sugar indulgences I would have partook in, if only. Anytime I had a craving serious enough to notice or free sweets were available and I had to turn them down, I took note. Some of the days have dates, others don’t. Here’s what I’ve recorded so far…

January:

1 tsp sugar (coffee)

1 caramel + 4 Fruit Punch “Frooties” (leftover party candy at my house)

January 10th:

Brownie

January 15th:

Brownie

1 tsp sugar (coffee)

Large bucket of free M&Ms at work – would have eaten the equivalent of 1 regular bag of M&Ms each day they were available = 3 bags total

January 19th:

Free birthday dessert at a local restaurant (Doolittle’s): Slice of Mudslide Pie or something equally awful

Piece of chocolate cake from mom for birthday

Hard Cider at a friend’s birthday party (The bar only had sweetened, not dry, hard cider available)

Milk chocolate truffle at another friend’s birthday party + one piece of liquor infused chocolate candy

Cake at work for employee appreciation (Coulda but not sure if woulda. Cake isn’t my favorite, so even if I had been eating sugar at the time, I’m not sure I would have had any.)

Estimated imaginary sugar total: 1 + 2/3 cups

February:

Piece of chocolate cake at sister’s house

Cupcake at work

Cake at work for coworker’s birthday (Coulda but not sure if woulda)

Doughnut at work

Estimated imaginary sugar total: 1/4 cup

March:

Wild Berry Popsicle

Dessert bar of some sort from Co-op (My mom wanted to buy me a “treat”, so I got a La Croix soda instead)

Jam on local wheat bread during brunch at in-laws’

Dark chocolate “Mega Chunks” at cousin’s house

Cake at work for coworkers birthday (Coulda but not sure if woulda)

Chocolate chip cookie (store-bought) at friend’s BBQ

March 21st – I introduced dark chocolate back into my vice-less life

Estimated imaginary sugar total (including actual dark chocolate intake): 3/4 cups

April:

Homemade Easter brownies courtesy of my cousin (although they looked very/possibly too sweet)

Marshmallow eggs in a basket at my grandma’s house

Hollow Easter bunnies (Last year, I bought one of these everyday for a week or two after Easter when all of the candy was on sale.  I probably would have done the same thing this year if given the option.  I LOVE hollow Easter bun buns.  They are delicious and really satisfying to eat.  Russell Stover knows how to make some damn fine milk chocolate.  Ok, I’m done talking about it. I swear. But I’m clearly not over it…

Chippers at work (3-5 at least, because I am an asshole and would take more than my fair share)

Big ass carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting from a local doughnut shop (Sandy’s)

Estimated imaginary sugar total (including actual dark chocolate intake): 1 + 3/4 cups

May:

Cheesecake bar at work

Store-bought chocolate chip cookie at BBQ

Brownies with frosting (at least 2) – made for Derek’s birthday

Derek’s shared birthday dessert at Doolittle’s: Chocolate molten cake with coffee ice cream

Estimated imaginary sugar total (including actual dark chocolate intake): 1 cup

Grand estimated total of lost sugar opportunities (+ actual dark chocolate consumption) = 5.4 cups

I have spared myself from almost 5 + 1/2 cups of sugar over the past 5 months.  Sounds more menacing when put into absolute terms like that.  However, when you average it out, that’s less than 2 tsp per day.  Interesting.  I have to admit I was expecting way more drama. Two tsp per day is less than the most strict recommended daily amount: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/06/health/who-sugar-guidelines/index.html.

On the other hand, these amounts were mostly calculated from sweet dreams.  In reality, I probably would have eaten more sugar than that, especially considering the cumulative craving effects of multiple indulgences. In other words… eat sugar, crave sugar. Not to mention that eating too much fructose in one sitting causes health issues regardless of total sugar consumed over a longer time frame.

Still, it’s interesting.

I came very close to throwing in the towel on this sugar-free challenge this past weekend. While at a friend’s lake cabin, I came face to face with a dish so near and dear to my heart, I was ready to trade in my Methadone (dark chocolate) for the real thing…

Rhubarb Crisp

Add to list: Giant Slice of Rhubarb Crisp (x2)

I have a thing with rhubarb desserts. They scream summer like iced tea and Rainier cherries.  They turn a sour garden staple into an endorphin rush.

I decided that I must at least try it or I might lose my mind.  And so I did.  I challenged myself to 3 (reasonable) bites. I rationalized that I’ve gone almost half a year eating less than a tsp of added sugar per day and that now would be a great time to see how my taste buds would respond. You know, whatever I had to tell myself to get that rhubarb crisp in my face STAT & guilt-free  reduced.

It was overly sweet, but still something I would have gladly kept eating. As per tradition, the emotional connection obsession proved to be the biggest motivator. After those 3 small but potent bites, I saw how easy it would be to fall back into the “Fuck it, let’s do this” scenario.  That situation where I would shove several more pieces into my mouth until I had a proper sugar buzz. I’m an addict for life I guess.

I also drank 3 1/2 cans of Diet Coke over the holiday weekend. I had planned to cut out all natural and artificial sweeteners for the year but decided that “What happens at the lake, stays at the lake”…within reason. Sugar and sugar substitutes both have their downfalls.  I rarely drink Diet Coke, so I’m not worried about long-term adverse health effects. I am mostly concerned with keeping the sugar demons at bay, and sweet tastes tempt the beast.

Yesterday, after my oh so crazy weekend of 3 bites of rhubarb crisp and 3 1/2 Diet Cokes, I was craving a brownie in the worst way.  In general, after getting over the initial withdrawal, my cravings for sweets since the beginning of the experiment have largely been environmentally/emotionally based.  But that brownie craving was a biochemical demand that took every last shred of willpower for me to ignore.  Just as I suspected, I am very sensitive to sugar.

Essentially, sugar is an abusive ex-boyfriend whose manipulative powers seduce me into a state of nostalgia, allowing me to forget the damage that’s been done in the interest of momentary bliss. Distance is the safest course. Once I give an inch, he’s everywhere…calling my name…reminding me of the good times…promising things will be different this time around.

I sure do miss you, my beloved

Dammit sugar! If you liked it, then you should of put a ring on it! Oh, never mind. I was getting a little carried away with my analogy. I guess Beyonce doesn’t really apply here. Sorry, bae.

My So Called Diet: Dealing with the Ibbs and the Fibbs

6 May

Here’s what’s going on with me these days:

First, a quick rant.  I recently tried a personal training session at the gym that I go to.  The trainer was informed ahead of time that I have fibromyalgia and that I struggle with lifting weights because of chronic neck pain. He studied up a little before my session and told me that he had great news!  Exercise had the potential to eliminate all of my pain (bullshit). He speculated that my pain probably got worse after starting my desk job (the opposite, actually). The trainer informed me that coffee is bad for you (while drinking a Monster energy drink).  So many red flags and still I wanted to trust an expert in a field in which I am completely unfamiliar. I let him lead me through a short (yet brutal) routine that seemed suspiciously intense given the pep talk about taking things slow he had just spouted at me minutes prior. I felt good afterwords thanks to the immediate endorphin rush that exercise is known for.  I almost let him trick me into signing up for more sessions (my God, they’re relentless salesmen). Luckily, before making any rash decision to spend lots of money on a trainer who is not formally trained in rheumatic conditions, the session caught up with me by the next day.  I had terrible post-exertional malaise for OVER A WEEK afterwards. My insomnia spiked, my pain reared its ugly head after hibernation, and my energy took a serious nose-dive.  I had been feeling really good up until that point.  The diet changes I’ve been implementing had brought me to a good place. I felt betrayed but also validated.  I really am broken.  Moments like these remind me of just how vulnerable I am to unexpected set-backs and how necessary it is for me to be my own health advocate. They also make me more determined to figure out ways to regain what chronic illness has taken from me.

Coffee: I have mostly eliminated coffee (even decaf). It has made a tremendous difference in how I feel. When I drink it, it feels like my brain short-circuits and starts going haywire (similar to when I eat raw onions and get “onion brained”). My vision gets kind of wonky, my muscles ache and feel more vulnerable, my stomach gets gross, and my nose stuffs up. A few weeks ago, I decided to retest coffee as it had been several weeks since I had a cup. I felt like crap after a few sips, so I ended up dumping it out. On the plus side, I ordered it black and like it that way now, proving you can recalibrate your taste buds in a matter of months with sugar-free eating.  Luckily with the change in seasons, I do not feel too deprived without my beloved coffee.  I tend to steer clear of coffee in the summer and switch over to iced tea.

My saving grace? La Croix! For now, I have replaced my morning beverage indulgence to flavored carbonated water.  I like the Grapefruit flavored La Croix. Or more accurately, since my cousin/health ally introduced me to this product, I have become psychologically addicted, and generally drink about 1-2 per day. 🙂

Chocolate: I reintroduced dark chocolate at the end of March.  I have been eating some dark chocolate on a daily basis. I decided that if I was planning a strict gluten/dairy free diet in addition to all of my other dietary limitations (low FODMAP, no processed oils, etc.), I would need something fun to look forward to!  I choose 85% or 88% versions and eat anywhere from 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce per day.  That means that I eat 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of added sugar per day. I am fine with this. For perspective, the average American adult eats about 22 tsp of added sugar per day while the average American child eats about 32 tsp of added sugar per day. Yikes!

How could I introduce dark chocolate when I vowed to be 100% sugar free for 1 year? Easy. I feel no need to be a diet zealot on this go-around. I wanted to eliminate sugar for the challenge, the mindfulness, and to regain control of my taste buds and cravings. Eating dark chocolate does not seem to make me crave more sugar which means that it is not a threat to my experiment. Unfortunately, I suspect that the stimulant properties in chocolate are causing me to sleep less soundly lately.  As a result, I’m working up to phasing chocolate back out. If you love something let it go, right? Le sigh.

My saving grace? Summer = lots of delicious fruit in season. 

Being (mostly) sugar-free?: It’s been amazing.  I rarely crave sweets, and when I do, I get over it quickly. I have the healthiest relationship with food than I’ve ever had before thanks to forcing added sugar out of my life. I am afraid of losing sight of the progress I’ve made.  It’s nice to know I don’t have to worry about it for another 8 months though. 🙂

Mostly gluten-free: I was going to do one month on a very strict gluten and dairy free diet, but I changed course along the way.  I can’t afford to switch out my entire pantry on a hunch that gluten may not be my friend. If I had an official celiac disease diagnosis, it would be easy to go all in, but without it, it’s hard to take it too seriously.  Instead, I’ve decided to be as strict as possible at home.  When I buy new staples, I will do research beforehand to seek out certified gluten free products.  At some point, I’m going to have a very clean home diet.  If I am exposed to gluten at a restaurant or while eating at a friend’s house, the reaction should be pretty obvious if I turn out to have a very high sensitivity. I’m at the point where I have no reason not to aim for gluten free eating as much as possible anyway.  As mentioned before, I don’t digest wheat well. I also have celiac disease in my family, a chronic pain disorder, and genetic susceptibility for autoimmune disease, so my health can only go up by cutting it out.

Testing Dairy in Doses: I am testing different dairy products here and there.  For whatever weird reason that I can’t pinpoint, certain things are definitely problematic and other things are more illusive. For example, time and again when I eat greek yogurt, I get the most disgusting post-nasal drip, a sore throat, and fluid build-up in my ears.  I’ve never noticed such symptoms with hard cheeses, however.  I don’t really get it? The only theories I can come up with are that I have an allergy to one of the cultures used in the making of the yogurt or a strong sensitivity to lactose/whey.  Since hard cheeses are essentially all casein, the reaction is different.  Or maybe the reaction is just delayed, and I’m in denial…In any case, I shall continue to try things every once in awhile to see what I can learn from it.  Overall, however, my diet is dairy-free.

Going without gluten and dairy is less sad to me than going without chocolate and coffee.  I mostly like gluten for its baking properties and cheese for it’s ability to make a quick, tasty meal.  The worst part is that the more things I cut out, the less variety of foods I am able to work with.  For the most part, it’s not the end of the world not having these foods on my plate.

Low-moderate FODMAPs: for obvious reasons listed in numerous other posts.

Processed oil free: Cutting these out has been easier than expected.  Of course that’s because I make most meals from scratch. When I eat at restaurants, I let this rule go, mostly because I have no choice.  Even if the menu says “olive oil”, there’s a good chance you are getting diluted canola oil in your dish. I only eat at restaurants once or twice a month, so this minimal exposure is not much of a concern for me.

Let the record show that when I eat the cleanest diet possible, I feel like my best self.  This is no surprise really.  If sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol, caffeine, and processed oils are able to create inflammation and/or rev up the nervous system in a healthy person, it’s little surprise that my fibromyalgia symptoms would diminish while following a diet that excludes or greatly limits such components.

Am I cured? Sadly, no.  But I’ve come a long way, baby.

The quest for health continues…

Sources

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/08/30/how-much-sugar-are-americans-eating-infographic/