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…


1 tsp sugar (coffee)

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

January 10th:


January 15th:


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


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


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


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


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:

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…


Sugar Impact Diet Finale (The Abridged Version)

28 Feb

Weeks II & III on the Sugar Impact Diet

Week II was not a good time.  I cut out all fruit (for 5 days…that’s all I could commit to). I felt very deprived and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t cut out for this challenge after all. I would have been allowed to eat my beloved 85% dark chocolate during this time if not for my prior commitment to shun all sugar. My foods were further restricted by my decision to keep dairy off my plate for awhile.  My week II menu ended up looking like what Week III was supposed to look like.  I decided that I would not go back and redo the week correctly as even the altered version I followed made me feel like a crazy person on the verge of a binge on damn near anything just to spite the limitations.  That’s when I know it’s gone too far.  So, I decided to cut my losses and go on with my life.

Week III didn’t happen.  This diet is not sustainable given my current limitations and inability to follow anything longer than a set period of time before I’m bored half to death with rules.

What I gained from the experiment was another reminder of how much sugar (even from healthy sources such as fruit) has the ability to drive hunger and cravings to a whole new level.

What am I doing now?

Still no sugar or processed oils.  Mostly, it’s going well.  Every once in awhile, I feel as if I could murder someone for a doughnut.  But let’s be honest, that’s just life.

I have reintroduced dairy (and oh man, how I love it!) Does my body love it? The jury’s still out.

I’ve been drinking mostly decaf coffee (except for when I was with family this past weekend as high octane is what the masses tend to prefer & prepare). I seem to feel better overall when I choose decaf over regular coffee.  Quite honestly, I won’t be able to reach optimum health by continuing to drink coffee of any kind. My body gives me clues that it would prefer we left the Cup Cups O’ Joe behind. On the other hand, it’s my new vice in place of brownies. It gives me a certain quality of life that only an addictive “got have it” substance can provide.  I could do worse.

What am I doing later?

I am putting off my super duper strict gluten-free challenge for the time being for financial reasons.  The experiment with all of its proper bells and whistles will cost me a pretty penny. I plan to upgrade my cat’s food & litter & purchase new jars of staples (such as ghee) to avoid possible cross-contamination. Not to mention, more often than not, gluten free foods are more expensive than their gluten filled counterparts. It adds up fast!

What kind of naughty shenanigans have I been up to recently?

I had some processed oils at a restaurant recently.  I was eating sushi and had some sweet potato tempura (deep fried num nums) & one sample of a tuna roll with spicy mayo.  I didn’t stress out about it too much as that would defeat the purpose of the experiment.  I wish to make non-processed options the norm in my life.  One sushi outing isn’t going to change this. I rarely go out to eat anyway.  At home I avoid chips, at bars I avoid popcorn with “butter flavor”, and at restaurants, I do my best without making the experience depressing/mentally unhealthy for myself. Works for me!

You’re a girl.  You must want to lose weight.

Where my weight goals are concerned, I dare not say any of it out loud as it tends to jinx the process. I started entering my foods into a daily calorie counter to assess where I am at these days.  The good news is that I don’t eat that many calories overall.  The bad news is that I now lead a very sedentary life thanks to my desk job, winter’s ability to force me into a cocoon, and unpredictable pain flares.  If I were eating this many calories at my old job, weight would have melted off by now.  But alas, the saga continues. Immediate quality of life (drinking too much coffee with too much cream while watching too many episodes of Roseanne) trumps the insurmountable task of “eat less, move more” for the sake of a smaller waist by the fourth of July.

What’s the plan, Stan?

For now, I think I’ll go on a planned diet hiatus.  I shall continue to shun sugar and processed oils, but that seems to be all I can handle as long as winter keeps hanging around.

Burning in Eternal Hellfire(ball) for my Sins + Sugar Impact Diet Specifics

9 Feb

I absentmindedly took a shot of Fireball Whisky last night.  A few minutes later it occurred to me that there was a reason it went down so smoothly…sugar!  For the past half hour or so, I have been scouring the internet to investigate possible infidelities in relation to my sugar-free goals. I wanted to confirm that Fireball Whisky had added sugar so that I could feel proper guilt. Mission accomplished.

I also drank one of these bad boys: I aspire to enjoy beer, so I consider a hoppy hard cider to be my training wheels. I really liked it. However, interestingly enough, it seemed quite sweet to me. The ingredients read as follows: hard cider, less than 1% of : natural flavor (I hate this suspicious catch-all idiom), sulfites to protect flavor. I started to get paranoid about the term “hard cider”, so I questioned my husband who has been making homemade hard cider for the past 6 years. He assured me that sugar would likely be added at the end of the fermentation process, not during, and therefore would show up on the list of ingredients. I wasn’t able to come up with any definitive answers through online searches. Basically, the best I could come up with was evidence that pointed toward a conclusion of no added sugar.  Twelve ounces of apple juice has 40 grams of sugar. (Yikes! That’s more sugar than a can of Coke has. No wonder Steve Jobs ended up with pancreatic cancer – . By the way, I am referring to the fact that he was a fruititarian, not that he created the APPLE brand.  Although, that is clever, so you are allowed to take it however you wish as long as it makes me sound smart. 😉 )

I found information that Angry Orchard’s dry cider is made without adding any juice at the end to sweeten it up. Twelve ounces of Angry Orchard’s dry cider has 19 grams of sugar.  Each bottle of Hopsation only has 10 grams of sugar per serving.  Therefore, I can safely assume I am in the clear.  This is really exciting.  Possibly even more exciting is the fact that a dry cider with only the equivalent of about 2.5 tsp of sugar in it seems really sweet to me.  My taste buds are growing up.  I’m so proud!!! (Eyes welling up with tears)

Anyway, to make a long story short: no more Fireball, but most dry hard ciders seem to be okay in moderation (and do not contain added sugar).  Hooray!

Now, for the Sugar Impact Diet Specifics

Normally, diet gurus with shiny books that are wielded by Dr. Oz make me weary.  In fact, every time I see J.J. Virgin’s arms, I get a little scared.  However, if you can get past all of the disgusting over-promotion & sensationalism, you’d probably come to the conclusion that she does know her shit.  I have, and so I trust in the merit of her diet plans.  I also like the 3 week approach.  There’s something less sad about 3 weeks without something than having to go a whole MONTH.

Here’s the gist of the program:

Week 1 – “Taper” – This is the week I just completed. During week 1, you are allowed 2 pieces of fruit per day max.  In addition, you substitute higher impact carb choices, such as potato chips, with medium impact carb choices, such as baked sweet potatoes.  The book lays out several categories of food: grains, fruits, vegetables, beverages, etc. with low, medium, and high impact choices spelled out for reference.  There is also a Sugar Impact Plate to follow that allows a person to visualize how much protein, how many vegetables, etc. should make up what percentage of your plate at meals. She recommends drinking a daily Sugar Impact Shake which is basically a protein shake with added fiber, fat, and greens. I loosely adhered to the plate concept but did have a daily smoothie for breakfast (along with coffee and coconut milk). I used non-offensive tasting collagen powder for additional protein instead of any of that stevia flavored garbage that others magically choke down on a daily basis in the name of health.

Overall, the week went well.  Somewhere along the way, the energy that disappeared when I first went low-carb magically resurfaced.  I think my body adjusted, because I still haven’t been eating very many carbohydrates relatively speaking.  I have been making an effort to make sure I get at least 50-75 grams of carbs/day, however.  Going lower than that can ravage your adrenals. For reference, here is some info about how many carbohydrates the average American eats: and some more information about how to figure out your ideal carbohydrate number,

I lost 2 pounds this week.  I suspect some of this may have something to do with the fact that I removed dairy again.  I am currently at 136 pounds, which is right where I was before reintroducing cream in my daily coffee.  After a week of that, I had gained 2 pounds.  This week, I’ve continued to have daily coffee with fatty coconut milk but have lost weight.  Hmm.  Seems ‘spicious.  I’m still not comfortable blaming dairy for the weight gain as there are other confounding factors, such as reduced fruit intake, to consider.  In any case, it’s something to keep in mind and monitor when I reintroduce dairy in the future.

Week 2 – “Transition” – I start this phase tomorrow.  Basically, you follow the same general guidelines, except you exclude all fruit (except avocados, olives, tomatoes, lemons, and limes) and swap medium impact carb choices with low impact carb choices.  Instead of sweet potatoes, now it would be pumpkin, etc.  I’m a little sad about cutting out fruit entirely, but overall, I think it’ll be a really great thing (not to mention it’s only for 1 measly week which is child’s play in my ongoing book of denials).  My blood sugar maintenance will probably be improved and my FODMAP load will likely reduce.  These changes point to potentials: feeling better and losing more weight.  I tend to carry extra weight in my belly.  It’s uncomfortable and unhealthy, so even though I am only borderline overweight, I feel compelled to figure out a way to lose some of my blubber. I have to work harder than your average Joe, because fibromyalgia decreases one’s metabolism by 25%. :/ (

Week 3 – “Transformed” – During this week, you test out your tolerance for foods that are higher impact to determine an appropriate maintenance plan.

There is a Sugar Impact Quiz you are supposed to take at the beginning and end of every phase.  You are also supposed to weigh and measure yourself at the beginning and end of every phase.  The quiz measures your cravings and other signs of sugar sensitivity.  This is meant to help a person gauge where progress is being made & whether or not introducing higher impact items on an occasional basis is halting your desired results.

There are exercise guidelines in the book that I have decided to more or less ignore for the time being… but not because I want to.  I was actually working out for awhile there and really enjoying it, but post-exertional malaise ( is an ongoing battle for me.  This is a common trait of fibromyalgia and one that I hate a lot.  Basically, I do 30 minutes of Tae Bo, and I’m down and out for the next few days with increased brain fog, exhaustion, and/or pain.  Sometimes, there’s the added excitement of a neck migraine.  I can get away with exercise sometimes, but I never know before I start a session whether I will get away with it on that specific occasion. I’m starting to suspect that the reason I do better with exercise in the summer is because I am more active in general and the warm weather & increased humidity help relax my muscles. I am hoping to get to a place with my health where I am able to shun exercise solely on the basis of my own personal laziness (like your average human) rather than out of the fear of painful consequences.  It’s all very ludicrous, isn’t it?  Onions and exercise make me sick while both are endorsed by almost every health expert you can find.  Cruel world.

I am looking forward to Week 2.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Born Again Virgin + Sugar Impact Diet

2 Feb

My Virgin Plus Diet (as per usual) has not gone as planned. I started to reintroduce things willy nilly (and 4 days early), because I am inpatient and was feeling a bit deprived. Here is what my reintroduction schedule turned into…

Day 17: Coffee

Day 19: Cocoa Powder

Day 21: Egg Yolks

Day 22: Butter & Sourdough Millet Bread (with traces of gluten)

Day 23: Cream & Alcohol (Hard Cider)

Day 24: Peanut Butter

New symptoms that have presented themselves since adding in foods include reflux, back/neck pain, & my famous neck migraine. The guiltiest suspects I have are the coffee (tension), the cream (suspected sensitivity), & the peanut butter (reflux). I am fairly confident the eggs yolks went over okay.  Of course, I can’t be sure, because I didn’t follow the correct reintroduction protocol. On the plus side, I still have not introduced soy or corn and have not faltered on my sugar + processed-oil free quest, so it’s not a total bust.

Here is what I learned:

My fancy mold-free coffee didn’t make me feel less terrible than other coffees. Officially caffeine is the problem, and my denial can go on no longer. Does that mean I’m going to stop drinking coffee? Well, knowing and doing are 2 different things. Without sugar, I feel like coffee has become my new daily “treat”. I hate to go without it. I like the bitter flavor & morning ritual. I will try to get a handle on it…eventually. I guess decaf is an option, but decaf doesn’t always make me feel stellar either (there’s still caffeine in it).

Peanut butter gives me reflux. This hadn’t been an issue during the entire month until I reintroduced peanuts. I have since stopped eating peanut butter and no longer have problems with reflux (even while continuing to drink coffee and eat dairy). If you remember from my previous post about why peanuts are often problematic, they are less than happy to digest, which is no picnic in a finicky digestive system. I shall continue using tree nut butters, such as almond & walnut, for my nut butter needs.

Too low carb too fast makes me crash. I was eating fairly low carb towards the second half of the month without really trying to. I just found myself wanting to eat more Paleo, rather than vegetarian, meals…which is unlike me. I used to crave hummus but lately I’d rather eat beef tacos on romaine lettuce leaf “tortillas”. As a result, my energy took a serious nose dive and has yet to recover. For a couple of solid weeks, I felt like I was losing my mind. I couldn’t remember anything, and paying attention was way more work than usual. I felt like I was high all the time, and my brain mishaps were making me an idiot at work. Brain fog and loss of energy are common while adjusting to a low-carb diet, but I don’t have the luxury of time to adjust. I’ve been making more of an effort to get in more carbs since figuring out why I felt so exhausted all of a sudden. My brain is feeling more normal, but my energy is still nowhere to be found. I consistently sleep for 10 hours when given the option (not awoken by an alarm clock) and feel like I have to drag myself out of bed after 7 or 8 hours of sleep. NEED MORE!

My sinuses do not make any goddamn sense. I didn’t have to cut out spices, because my sinuses calmed down during a time in which I was still using a lot of the things I assumed were problematic. Again, I think the dry weather was a bigger contributor. Like the rest of my health conditions, nobody really knows what causes vasomotor rhinitis ( Ugh!

Dairy is still a question mark. Shortly after reintroducing dairy, I got a neck migraine. I need to investigate further to confirm this correlation.

Plans for February:

JJ Virgin (the Virgin diet chick) recently wrote a book called “The Sugar Impact Diet”. I have decided to try that next. The premise of the book is to eat foods that are lower glycemic, higher fiber, & lower fructose. The program is designed to lower one’s reliance on sugar. I can tell by looking at the approach that it is one that is well-suited for someone such as meself. I will post more specific details about this plan later.

Ever since giving up sugar, I have been eating too much fruit. I haven’t been solving my sugar obsession so much as weaning it. I’d like to take things a step further. My belly’s comfort & physique can only stand to benefit from a lower-fructose approach.

I will be making more of an effort to increase my non-fructose carbs through squash, grains, & beans to see if it helps my current energy crisis I’ve got going on. I plan to restart my Virgin Diet efforts as well. I will be having occassional coffee & alcohol but will be cutting out gluten, dairy, and peanuts again. I suspect the dairy and coffee are my worst offenders, so I’m starting with dairy to see how it goes. I may use ghee, however. It’s a clarified butter that has minimal trace proteins of dairy in it. In the Virgin Diet book, she allows the use of ghee during the elimination trial. That’s good enough for me!

Plans for Later:

I have recently been given access to the contents of my genome. I bought a kit from this company:

You send in a tube of your spit and…voila! They send you a report with ALL of your raw genetic data. It’s pretty much amazing.

I was looking for a few things in particular:

MTHFR gene mutations

These are common in fibromyagia and have specific treatment implications where they exist. I was surprised to learn that I don’t have any. It’s one less thing to think about as I get more creative in trying to solve this mess of a puzzle that is my body.

I also wanted to find out if I had the genetic vulnerability for developing celiac disease. And oh boy do I.

I have both of the most common celiac disease genes, HLA-DQ2 & HLA-DQ8. A good chunk of the population, about 40%, has one or both of these genes. Having them doesn’t mean you have or will ever develop celiac disease, BUT it does mean that you can develop celiac disease at any time. I also have a second degree family member who has been diagnosed putting me in a higher risk group. On top of these vulnerabilities (and all of my suspcious “we don’t know” syndromes), I have also discovered that there are several other genes commonly associated with celiac disease. These genes involve the predisposition for developing an autoimmune response.

I have ALL but one of the genes mentioned in the studies I read. Hmmm…

I don’t want to become strict gluten-free if it’s unnecessary. Eating gluten-free at home is fine, but being truly strict is not easy! There is gluten hidden everywhere (like in toothpaste and on envelope seals). I don’t…have….to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugeeeee) if I don’t have celiac disease, so what’s a well-informed person to do? Getting tested regularly wouldn’t necessarily tell me whether or not I have it. The tests are only accurate if you consume ample amounts of gluten for several weeks before being tested. I don’t eat a lot of gluten anyway, so standard tests would not tell me anything about where I stand unless I want to gorge on gluten for several weeks a year and then spend an arm & a leg getting tested. No thanks.

I asked my ally (who is a psychology professional) for advice as to what I should do with this information. I wanted to know how she thought the mental health implications would weigh against the possible physical benefits of being strictly gluten-free without an official diagnosis & just a whole lotta suspicion. Her advice was to do a strict 1 month gluten-free trial and see how it goes. Now, I know what you are all thinking….YOU’VE ALREADY DONE THAT! But here’s the thing…not exactly. I was never as strict as one is instructed to be when they’ve been diagnosed. Here’s what I mean: my cat uses wheat litter (that needs to go), I never even thought about my toothpaste, soap, or shampoo (trace amounts are all that’s needed to provoke a response), I was less educated about how inaccurate “gluten-free” labels often are, etc. SO even though I’m not looking forward to it, and I’m not sure it will make much of a difference…I’m going to give it another shot. I’m not sure when…maybe in March? I will keep you posted.

Okay, I’m exhausted just typing this. I apologize for this lazy post. I am usually a grammar Nazi who spends as much time editing posts as writing them, but I just don’t have the energy to care right now. 🙂 Also, I have Season 5 of Downton Abbey waiting for me and frankly, that show is more interesting than my health problems. That’s all (for now) folks.


Virgin Plus Diet: Halfway Report

13 Jan

Technically, I only started 12 days ago, but it’s close enough to the halfway point that I feel safe labeling it as such. Not to mention I have to write posts when the inspiration strikes or they may never happen. So here’s a quick summary of how it’s going so far…

Withdrawal: the first day of the diet, I was depressed. Depressed because coffee and sugar were no longer in my immediate future as they had been for so long. I also had unidentified cravings. I didn’t specifically crave sugar, but I felt weird, restless, and munchy for nothing in particular. I wasn’t hungry, because actual meals didn’t appeal to me. My mood was better by the second day, but the weird craving stuck around for day 2. After that, it was mostly smooth sailing UNTIL…

Day 10: I like to reference this list: from time to time to see how well it matches up with what I am feeling when I follow a restrictive whole foods diet. It was spot on for day 10. I remember struggling with day 10 on one of my previous diets as well (though I can’t remember which one). My point is day 10 sucked. Here’s why: I woke up feeling fine and not particularly deprived…until I got a terrible idea. I remembered coming across a brownie recipe awhile back that replaced sugar with dates. It gave me hope for my future, so I thought it would be a good idea to look it up on the interwebs, so I could jot down the recipe. Well, I got sucked into online (dessert) porn, and it made me feel very deprived. I tried eating the craving away with dates and almond butter, but it wasn’t going to suffice. I wanted chocolate in the worst way. I was cranky, so I just buried myself in a book for most of the day. Day 11 I was back to smooth sailing. Lesson learned.

My main objective in following this diet was to see if it would make a difference in my fibromyalgia symptoms.  Even though I’ve also got the Ibbs (I like to sound it out, because IBS is too medical sounding & embarrassing. It’s far more hilarious to be dramatic & say “I’ve got the Ibbs…Help, the Ibbs got me”…you get the idea. It’s also why I usually refer to fibromyalgia as “fibromealgae”. Way more fun to say… Anyway…) I don’t generally have grand digestion expectations when I do diet experiments anymore. I am fairly confident that the low FODMAPS approach is my most useful tool. I generally eat a low-moderate FODMAP diet no matter what experiment I may be doing at the time. I follow it more strictly when things get out of hand, and I need to get back on track. In general, my digestion is touchy but not disabling or all that distressing most of the time (anymore! Thank God). As a result, I will eat high FODMAP foods on occasion when my desire for variety or taste supercedes my wish for normal intestines with the ability to handle such indulgences. In short, I’ve got my shit (hehe) under control, but my pain is a fabric of my being that I’m still trying to unravel. (Need a quick refresher on FODMAPS?:

In case you don’t know what a day in the life of a person with fibromyalgia feels like, here’s a link to a brief fact sheet: One of the symptoms is “balance problems”.  When I worked at the library, I went through a stint of running carts into things all the time. Now don’t you feel guilty, ex-coworker, for nicknaming me “Crash”? 😉 Don’t, it was hilarious. Humor gets a trump card where illness is concerned. It has to for sanity’s sake. I complain a lot, so if you read this blog often, chances are you’ve got at least some idea what fibromyalgia is. 😉 On the plus side, I deserve to complain (as evidenced by the info in the fact sheet), so it’s all good.

Here are my improvements & set-backs so far:

Pain: my pain occurs more rarely and less severely (similar to Perfect Health Diet results…win!) I did have a couple days where I got my weird neck migraine icky feeling that I’m so eloquent at explaining. I was able to ward them off with massage, light activity, and hot showers. Normally, my only saving grace is going immediately to bed and sleeping for 12 hours straight.

Sleep: my sleep has been pretty great overall ever since I bought those black-out curtains for my bedroom windows. I have had just one or two nights of waking up in the middle of the night, but I’ve been able to fall back asleep with ease.

Fatigue: Fatigue is not as big of an issue for me as pain.  It will pop up from time to time if my alarm goes off before I finish a sleep cycle, I skimp on sleep, or when I overdo it physically. Not much change in this category. Perhaps a bit more now that my sinuses are being assholes again (see below).

Brain Fog: Unfortunately, my brain is foggier (or at the very least not as sharp) than it was before beginning the experiment. I am pretty sure this is the result of giving up ALL caffeine. I used to have daily dark chocolate and/or coffee. Caffeine would stimulate my nervous system & my brain power. Sometimes, this stimulation would cause a pain flare up, but sometimes…it worked like the magical elixir that it can be, and I felt productive as hell. I am hoping to reintroduce caffeine sooner rather than later. I’m going to have to be strategic about finding a balance that allows me to restrain my pain while keeping my brain power at a maximum.

Dry Eyes: It wasn’t mentioned on the fact sheet, but dry eyes and mouth are common symptoms in fibromyalgia. A few days after starting the diet, my eyes were burning so bad that they felt as if I was squirting lemon juice into them…constantly. They also are more red lately. At first, I thought it was possibly just a strange detox symptom, but now I’m wondering if the dry January air isn’t the more guilty culprit. As is the case in a hyperactive nervous system, what normal people experience as a nuisance turns into a big fucking deal for a person with fibromyalgia. Annoying!

Sinuses: Well I guess I jinxed myself when I proclaimed how happy I was that my sinuses were finally under control. They are back to being their usual stuffy selves. This makes me breathe shallowly…which makes me feel like I’m not getting much air…which makes me feel unusually fatigued. I believe that the harsh January weather is also responsible for this woe. Plus, I’ve been doing more adventurous cooking, including certain ingredients (such as smoked paprika) that get my nose running. Again, hypersensitivity, blah blah blah. The short version of my theory is that the combination of dry air and sinus irritating foods (such as vinegar, cumin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, etc.) is causing my nose to flare up. My second theory is that I’m overdosing on histamine again or reacting to yeasts/mold found in old spices, ground nut butters, &/or vinegar (which again, have become a bigger part of my diet lately). Bugga.


Corn: I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour that had xanthan gum in it. It sort of slipped my mind that xanthan gum is dervied from corn. Doy! Won’t make that mistake again.

Sugar: I bought some buffalo salami (yes, you should be jealous, but not too jealous, because it cost $16 for 12 oz). The salami does have some cane sugar in it. However, it’s listed as the second to the last ingredient between white pepper & coriander. Therefore, even though my inner neurotic OCD child prompted me to put it back, because it had a speck of sugar in it, my rational brain came to the rescue. Ultimately, I am giving up sugar, because I want to eat less junk, reduce my inflammatory load & get my sugar addiction under control. A speck of sugar in an overall wholesome food is a far cry from a slice of pie. And so, I forgive myself.

My plan for next week is to cut out spices & acidic foods to see if my sinuses will calm down. Goodbye, exotic new flavors. Hurrumph! If that doesn’t work. I’ll have to dig deeper. Meanwhile, I will keep following my Virgin Plus Diet. I am going to start reintroducing foods @ 3 weeks, because I feel as if 21 days is a good baseline (it’s actually the timeline J.J. Virgin suggests for her Virgin Diet). Also, it’s going to take FOREVER to do it right! Slowly reintroducing foods & gauging symptoms is something I usually fail at. It’s hard! I either don’t experience enough symptom improvement to really learn anything or I just miss eating certain foods too much to muster up the patience. After a month of restrictions, it’s usually “Ok, I’ll eat everything now… I feel terrible. It must have been the gluten in the pizza…or the histamine in the tomatoes…or the casein in the cheese?…Shit.”

Here is a reintroduction schedule I made up for myself. I may change some of the foods around, but it will at least give you some idea what I am talking about…

Day 21 – Egg Yolks
Day 25 – Egg white (w/yolks)
Day 29 – Butter
Day 33 – Cheese (Grass fed, organic, raw)
Day 37 – Cream
Day 41 – Kefir/yogurt
Day 45 – Cocoa powder
Day 49 – Bulletproof coffee (this is a fancy coffee that is processed to be low in mold toxins…I’ll explain later, or you could watch this video for more info: )
Day 53 – Miso/tempeh
Day 57 – Tofu
Day 61 – Yogurt/Milk
Day 65 – Peanut Butter (within FODMAPS limit)
Day 69 – Alcohol
Day 73 – Spelt bread
Day 81 – Wheat (maybe…I might just try and keep this out my diet from now on, but it’s everywhere, so I’m trying to be reasonable with myself)
Day 85 – Corn
Ugh, see? FOREVER! Well, I’ll try to do it right this time, but I can’t make any promises.

What I Ate My 1st 12th Day on the Virgin Plus Diet (It took me awhile to get into the swing of things, so I didn’t even record what I ate my first day)

Breakfast: Banana ice cream (2 frozen bananas blended with coconut butter, a handful of macadamia nuts, Tbsp chia & hemp seeds, & vanilla powder) Best. Breakfast. Ever. Ok, maybe not ever. But quite the treat when you’ve vowed to give up sugar for a year!)

Lunch: Bison burger with avocado & spinach on a lettuce “bun”.  I used large butter lettuce leaves to wrap er up. On the side, Asian coleslaw: coleslaw veggie mix, toasted sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, & coconut aminos.

Snack: Paleo naan – If you’ve never tried the traditional Indian bread known as naan, you’re missing out. The version I made uses tapioca starch, coconut milk, & almond flour for the batter. I can’t say that it was as good as the real thing, but it wasn’t a shabby replacement for being grain-free.

Supper: Chicken tenders (I rolled chicken pieces in coconut milk mixed with a bit of potato starch as my egg replacement, coated each piece with a mix of almond flour & potato starch, & fried them in palm shortening). I made a giant salad, because I have learned that eating light foods with insanely heavy foods makes the experience less coma-inducing. The salad was made up of: butter lettuce leaves, baby spinach, carrots, radishes, black olives, pickled jalapeneos & banana peppers, & cucumbers. I added a mustard dressing (which was just spicy mustard mixed with apple cider vinegar). I also had fresh raspberries.

Dessert: 3 dates with some ground almonds

Sorry I refuse to get with the times and buy a smart phone. I could take pictures which would make these descriptions way more fun. Maybe someday…

Finally, I’ve decided to expand my list of “Never Have I Ever”s for 2015. I am going to be cutting out processed seed & vegetable oils for the entire year too. Processed oils are just as nutritionally useless & inflammatory as refined sugar, so I want to cut them out long-term along with sugar. This means buying avocado & coconut oil based chips when I need a junky indulgence and being even more careful when I order food at restaurants. I’m inclined to say that processed oils are even harder to avoid than sugar…and that’s saying somethin’!

Stay tuned for reintroduction updates (or my confession of failure). Either way, I’ll be letting you know. 🙂

Virgin Plus Diet

1 Jan

Here are the nitty gritty details of the whats, hows, and whys for my January plan, the Virgin Plus Diet:

(If you are like “Virgin? What the hell?” you must have missed my last post. Read this: )

1) Sugar/sugar substitutes

The why:

Sugar: I have done my fair share of sugar bashing on this blog, but here is the short version: overindulgence in sugar may cause hormone disregulation, GI distress (for people who are sensitive to fructose – AKA me), sugar depletes vitamins and offers a spare tire around your waist in their place (bum deal), sugar encourages inflammation in the body contributing directly to the top U.S. killers such as heart disease and cancer, excess fructose consumption inspires intestinal permeability potentially making autoimmune disease more likely. Sugar may even be more addictive than cocaine. See? Short and sweet (pun intended)!

Sugar subs: Artificial sweeteners have been linked to numerous health conditions, including fibromyalgia, preterm birth, metabolic abnormalities that may actually contribute to weight gain, & gut dysbiosis (bad bugs taking up residence in the intestines – read: bad news, Bears)

The how:

On the Virgin diet, she encourages the use of natural non-nutritive sweeteners such as Stevia and Xylitol. I have tried numerous brands of Stevia and never developed a taste for it. Xylitol can work for some people in small doses, but it’s a FODMAP and not the best choice for someone such as meself. Not that any of this matters, because I won’t be using any sweeteteners at all in the new year as I attempt to recalibrate my tastes buds and get a handle on my sugar obsession.

2) Dairy

The why:

Dairy is the third most common food allergen. Lactose intolerance is very common, affecting up to 75% of the population. Drinking milk causes a large spike in blood insulin levels, potentially contributing to insulin resistance (the first step in Type II diabetes development). Milk contains various hormones which seem to have negative effects. One hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) has been linked to various cancers. Sex hormones in dairy contribute to the development of acne and infertility (low-fat milk products).  Milk contains protease inhibitors which may contribute to the development of a leaky gut. Yikes! Dairy is worse than I remember the last time I vowed to forget and go eat cheese. 😉

The how:

Swap coconut milk for regular milk & nutritional yeast flakes for cheese.

3) Gluten

The why:

As discussed in previous blog posts, eating gluten causes increased intestinal permeability directly by triggering the release of zonulin, a compound that loosens the tight junctions that keep shit in place (like my scientific description?) A leaky gut may lead to escaper particles that leech through and inspire an immune response and inflammation.

The how:

Gluten free options abound at most chain grocery stores. This will be my nth gluten-free adventure since becoming a guinea pig. The challenge this time around will be to find gluten-free products that are egg, dairy, soy, processed oil, & sugar-free. There are not going to be a lot of processed items to choose from with this list of criteria! Most products use one or all of these ingredients to buff up their structure. Here is one item I have tried in the past that will work for this diet: Other than the occasional outlier, I expect I will be eating mostly unprocessed options, such as quinoa, rice, and plain buckwheat noodles.

4) Eggs

The why:

Eggs are a common allergy/food sensitivity issue.  Egg whites can be particularly problematic for those with allergies or autoimmune diseases. (I don’t have either, but I suspect a sensitivity based on previous experiments). Eggs have an unfavorable omega 6: omega 3 ratio which may encourage inflammation.

The how:

Egg-free baking swaps: (Canned pumpkin, flax seeds mixed with water, applesauce, etc. will work for this particular diet). I will be using collagen powder instead of egg yolks (which I used during my Perfect Health Diet experiment) in my morning smoothies. Collagen powder is the best protein option I have found to replace traditional protein powders. (I like this kind: Processed protein powders makes me gag. The least offensive type I have found is plain pea protein (this brand: ). However, I still prefer the collagen powder as it is tasteless and may offer other benefits.

5) Soy

The why:

Soy may interfere with thyroid function (if iodine status is insufficient). Soy has an unfavorable omega 6: omega 3 ratio (inflammation). Soy has trypsin inhibitors, anti-nutrients that make soy protein difficult to digest and utilize. (Fermentation helps release more nutrients). Soy contains specific lectins (agglutinins) that are very resistant to degradation. These lectins encourage the growth of unfavorable gut microbes & can damage the gut lining.

The how:

Sub coconut milk for soy milk & coconut aminos for soy sauce.

6) Corn

The why:

Most corn (unless organic) is genetically modified. GMO crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides as they are specifically altered to withstand such exposure. Corn is also high glycemic.

The how:

Cutting out corn is easy…but only if you avoid processed foods. Then it’s damn near impossible, because it’s EVERYWHERE.

7) Peanuts

The why:

Peanuts are highly allergenic. They have an unfavorable fatty acid profile (inflammatory) and are often contaminated with carcinogenic mold toxins (aflatoxins). Peanuts, like soy, contain digestive-resistant agglutinins.

The how:

Eat actual nuts (peanuts are legumes) instead. Almond butter is really tasty (but damn expensive).

Plus Components –

1) Caffeine

The why:

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and may interfere with circadian rhythms = not the best idea for a person with fibromyalgia whose nervous system and sleep patterns are already out of whack.

The how:

White-knuckle approach. I love the taste of coffee and the way it makes me feel (when it doesn’t make me feel like shit). I don’t like herbal teas enough to bother replacing coffee with anything else.  Cold turkey starting today. 😦

2) Alcohol

The why:

Alcohol is a gastric irritant, feeds bad bugs in the intestines, causes leaky gut, and if consumed in excess (who has ever done that?!) causes inflammation.

The how:

I have a newfound love of hard cider these days. I wasn’t drinking much alcohol for a long time, and then I decided it would be nice to have something to sip on on a Friday night. I am not a fan of mixed drinks and was bored with taking shots alone while my friends drank beer (I hate beer). Hard cider was my solution. However, cider is really high in fructose, so I have been managing my subsequent stomach pains by taking peppermint pills. I may revisit dry berry ciders after awhile to see what I can get away with (no added sugar + lower fructose in berries vs apples). Also, drinking makes me sleep like a baby, and I am a fan of sleeping like a baby. For the time being, I will go back to drinking water at the bar.

3) Processed oils

The why:

Most oils are highly inflammatory, processed with hexane (neurotoxin), & easily oxidized while cooking. (Antioxidants = good, oxidants/free radicals = bad)

The how:

Avoid processed foods. Use coconut, palm, and avocado oil for cooking (higher smoke points with more favorable fatty acid profiles). Use extra-virgin olive oil for salads (best not to cook with it as its lower smoke point means oxidation occurs at lower temperatures). Unfortunately, most olive oil that you buy in the grocery store is not 100% olive oil. Just another way the food industry gets to trick us:

Here is the list the article suggests consulting to get the real deal:

Let’s do this!