*Or, How About a Dickens Reference Other Than A Christmas Carol for a Change?
["Happy New Year, Mum! A saner approach to 2012 sounds good to me, too. Oh, and kudos on that atypical Dickens reference!"]
Happy 2012, everyone! Hope you all had a great time ringing in the new year. I’m incredibly excited to see what 2012 will bring! But before we get to that. . . . [Warning: long post ahead. Hopefully, it will still be 2012 by the time we're finished. To skip to the giveaway info, just go to the last section of this entry.]
I had actually intended this post to be part of Cheryl’s December Sanity Challenge, her blog event that exhorted us to “post on what you plan to do to make your holidays sane, happy and healthy.” (First pledge for 2012: get things done on time.). Clearly, I’m a little behind the curve on this one (sorry, Cheryl!). Well, since the holiday festivities have already passed and I haven’t quite achieved that elusive sanity as yet, I thought this would be as good a time as any to take stock of the past year, reflect on what worked or what didn’t, and formulate a plan to help increase the sanity quotient throughout the upcoming 365 days.
One of my proudest health victories in 2011 was reversing the previous year’s diagnosis of near-osteoporosis (with a T-score of -2.2, I landed at the top of the “osteopenia” spectrum). Although my (allopathic) family doctor assured me that there was no way to reverse osteopenia and warned that I would need to start taking prescription drugs to avert disaster, I convinced her to let me try a holistic approach for a year. My recent bone density test indicated that my numbers improved dramatically–up to -1.3–which means less than a 10% chance of fracture after a fall! Yippee!
Many of you asked how I did it. While I’m loath to provide specific details about supplements because (a) each of us is an individual, and should, therefore, acquire an individualized program from a certified health care provider; and (b) I am not qualified to provide this type of information to anyone else–this is my personal story only–I am happy to share what I did because it worked for me. However, I can’t stress enough that this is the plan I followed, but it may not work for you. Please contact your own health care provider before embarking on any kind of bone-building regimen, or any health-promoting regimen, period.
My year-long plan (which I’m still following, for the time being) involved increasing bone-building minerals and foods in my diet, and boosting the amount of weight-bearing exercise. Here’s what I did:
Based on my naturopath’s plan for me, I took all these daily supplements in addition to my other regular supplements (such as probiotics, Omega 3s, CoQ10, B12 and whatever else I’m on for candida and general health):
Apart from my “regular” diet (lots of veggies and fruits, nuts and seeds, soy about once every 2 weeks, whole gluten-free grains, and a daily slurry of one teaspoon/5 ml spirulina (or other green food) combined with some almond, rice or soy milk and a tablespoon of ground flax seeds and chia seeds every single morning), I added a few more foods. Although I had been consuming a good amount of leafy greens (I adore kale and pretty much love all green leafys), I decided to amp up the green quotient nonetheless. I ate 2 servings of leafy greens at least 4 times a week, with a minimum of one serving on the other days.
I also increased my intake of beans and legumes, which offer a great array of minerals necessary for a healthy bone matrix. Seaweed contains a similarly broad range of nutrients, so I attempted to increase my intake of those as well. I ended up eating beans and legumes 5-6 times a week, with seaweeds (such as nori sheets, arame, wakame, etc.) just under once a week. My goal this year is to augment that amount as well.
Again, this past year was about building on established routines. (And please note, I am by NO MEANS what I’d call a “fitness buff”; exercise to me is mostly necessity, never something I love doing. I’m definitely moderate in my approach and don’t really care whether or not I build muscle as long as I’m within a healthy range.)
My pattern before 2011 had been to walk every day (30-40 minutes with The Girls, with an additional short walk on the treadmill most days) and to use weights 3-4 times a week. I determined to increase my walking time by at least 30 minutes a day and amp up my weight-based workouts to every second day (ie, 4 times a week), adding in a few muscle groups I hadn’t been targeting specifically with weights before that (such as the abductors and adductors). Overall, I ended up walking about 70 minutes total each day, and used the weight machines at my local gym daily, alternating between upper and lower body, six days a week.
I certainly understand that an hour’s walk each day may seem a tad much for some folks. . . at least, those who don’t own dogs. As for the alimentary changes, it’s not as difficult as you’d imagine to incorporate more greens and legumes: smoothies and salads are two obvious ways; I also tend to add chopped greens to soups and stews without thinking these days. As for beans, there are endless recipes to incorporate more of them in one’s diet. All it takes is a little determination, and remembering to include them in your menus!
Candida Update: Symptoms Holding Steady in 2011.
March of this year will mark 3 years since I began the ACD (holy jeepers! That’s 36 months. 156 weeks. Three seasons of American Idol. . . all without sugar or mold!). After some great progress in 2010, my symptoms continued to hold steady in 2011, spurring a shift from Stage 2 to Stage 3 (and even some maintenance) foods in 2011.
At this point, I’ve grown fairly accustomed to eating this way, and have managed to welcome back a few previously eschewed ingredients into my diet, such as the occasional drizzle of vinegar (if I’m in a restaurant and the dressing contains regular vinegar, I no longer ask them to serve the salad without) or apple cider vinegar (either permitted or not, depending on which version of the diet you follow); the occasional sweeter or dried fruit, particularly if I’m eating at a raw food restaurant; and low glycemic sweeteners other than stevia (coconut sugar, coconut nectar, agave). If I’m moderate in my intake of these newer foods, they pose no problems and there are no symptom flare-ups. I can live with that.
II. The Worst of Times: What Didn’t Work, and Where I’m Going this Year
Weight Loss: Not Holding Steady in 2011.
If you’ve been a DDD reader since I first embarked on the ACD in March, 2009, you’ll recall that I lost a considerable amount of weight on the regimen, without a single day of “dieting.” Still, as someone who strives to be an “intuitive” eater, I’ve come to believe that intuition, shall we say, is not my forte.
["Mum, it's easy to be an intuitive eater! Just do what I do: eat anything that isn't moving--and that includes Elsie's ear!"]
Let me be clear: I haven’t veered at all from what is permitted on the diet. Nevertheless, I’ve seen my weight creep slowly back up as the past year unfolded.
Sure, the foods I consume are über-healthy and my diet would be considered draconian by the standards of many; but for me, one extra (sugar-free, gluten-free, ACD-friendly) cookie can easily morph into four cookies; in true Libra fashion, I tend to vacillate between feast and famine (figuratively speaking, of course, having never approached true famine in my life).
Recently I came across a fascinating article about why those of us who’ve lost (and gained, and lost, and gained, and lost) considerable amounts of weight find it so excruciatingly difficult to permanently inhabit the realm of “slim.”
According to a study undertaken at Columbia University in New York, the cellular makeup and chemistry of formerly zaftig bodies have been permanently changed, so that former dieters ”showed a bigger response in the parts of the brain associated with reward and a lower response in the areas associated with control. This suggests that the body, in order to get back to its pre-diet weight, induces cravings by making the person feel more excited about food and giving him or her less willpower to resist a high-calorie treat.” At the same time, “After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” [the study's author] says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.”
As someone who experiences this biochemical Catch-22 fairly frequently, it makes total sense to me that, once a dieter has achieved a desired weight, s/he will thereafter crave food more than a naturally slim person–while simultaneously possessing less willpower to limit the food eaten. The upshot, then, as David Kessler instructs us in The End of Overeating, is to be vigilant about planning and organizing what one will eat in order to steer clear of ”trigger” foods. Which leads me to. . . .
III. The Outlook for 2012: A Cleanse, Multiple Giveaways, and Other Events:
I’m kicking off the year with a whole-foods cleanse that will serve not only to further stymie the remaining dregs of candida in my system, but also reset my sweets cravings to a level somewhat below an elephant’s trumpet, which is where they’ve been residing lately. As those of you who’ve ditched sugar in the past undoubtedly know, once you eliminate the sweet stuff for long enough, the constant desire to seek it out abates as well. For me, that shift took a little longer than the norm (sugar cravings usually disappear within 10 days or so of cutting out sugar; in my case, they held their grip until somewhere around the six-month point on the ACD). [NOTE: while this is NOT specifically a sugar detox (that one, which I'll be offering with Andrea Nakayama, is coming up in March!), as a general, all-purpose healthy-eating plan, it will of course help to detox sugar--as well as other toxins in the body.]
There’s be nothing extreme about this detox, which is being offered online by my nutritionista friend Meghan Telpner: there are no special pills or potions–just real, whole, healthy foods that will help to chase away the ghosts of Christmas (and the rest of the year) past (okay, so I couldn’t resist that Christmas Carol reference, after all).
And guess what? For those who’d like to play along, Meghan is offering a free spot in the 16-day detox, which begins on January 6th. You’ll get an ebook filled with information and recipes, online coaching, a group tweetchat, live videos and more (check out all the details here). I’m going to be following along as well, so keep an eye out for more raw recipes on the blog!
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me why you’d like to participate. The contest is open until NOON my time this Thursday, January 5th. I’ll announce a winner in my Wellness Weekend post on Thursday evening (January 5th), leaving plenty of time for you to receive your materials and join in the pre-cleanse conference call Friday at 4:00 PM.
[Full disclosure: I received a free spot in the detox in exchange for holding this giveaway. I was not required to say anything positive about the cleanse in this post--or anything at all, actually. I'm endorsing it based on the materials in the cleanse and my knowledge of Meghan's approach to healthy eating.]
The Balanced Platter Launches!
Yesterday marked the launch of The Balanced Platter, the new website founded by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake. TBP promises to be your “one-stop site for balanced, healthy gluten-free living. . . . .we’ll help you navigate the gluten-free, whole foods lifestyle. You’ll also learn easy and effective ways to give yourself and your family wholesome, allergy friendly food and tips for bringing balance to your life through food and lifestyle.” Well, how great does that sound?! They’re kicking off the site with a month-long event called “Balanced, Healthy and Gluten-Free,” with daily posts and a giveaway. Check their site for more info.
I’m thrilled to share that I’ll be one of the regular contributors to The Balanced Platter. Visit again tomorrow to see my first post!
I’ll share events in the days to come, but I think this post is already quite long enough, thank you! (In fact, it may just have taken first place as ”Longest Post of 2012″–yes, I know that already). ;) I’ll be taking one more glance backward with my next recipe (from our 2011 Christmas dinner) before springing full force into the new year.
Yep, I’d say there are definitely some Great Expectations ahead! (oops, there I go again. . . groan).
Grrrr! This beast will gorge itself on just about anything! [Source]
The Ugly: The Monster Returns
Here it is, 2011, and it’s already time for a confession (don’t worry, it doesn’t involve criminal activity). Once again, it appears the dreaded beast has reared its ugly little head. If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you likely already know that I’ve been dealing with “the beast that is yeast” (ie, candida) since around December, 2008 (and following the anti candida diet, or ACD, since March 2009). And while candida is, indeed, beastly, it’s not the particular monster to which I’m referring. No, the beast I mention here is one with which I’ve struggled my whole life: the Binge Monster.
I’ve both been wanting to write about this issue and also avoiding it for a few weeks now. You see, over the past couple of months or so, after more than a year watching the numbers on my scale move steadily in a downward direction, they have once again begun to creep up–five pounds up, at last count. And while my weight has fluctuated by one or two pounds quite often over the last year, with a couple of days of “clean” and “green” eating, it tends to stabilize again.
But not this time.
Five pounds is real. Five pounds is substantial. Five pounds is a button on your shirt that’s now too tight. It’s one more hole on your belt (which, up until four months ago, you couldn’t wear at all). It’s a little less definition under your cheekbones, a bit more girth around the middle, a pinch around the elastic of your underwear. Five pounds is half a dress size. Like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, the scale seems to admonish you: ”I will not be ignored,” it screams, tacitly threatening the established routine.
I worried about posting this on the blog because I didn’t want to disappoint so many readers who’ve followed my progress up until now. After all the accolades, all the encouragement, I was mortified to have to admit that old habits have wormed their way back into my life (and let me be clear on this: I have not veered from the diet. Not a grain of white sugar or refined flour or mushrooms or alcohol or other forbidden foods have passed my lips; I am still eating ACD-friendly foods, and my candida symptoms, overall, miraculously still continue to improve. It’s just that the re-introduction of certain ingredients and foods—like flours, cocoa and baked goods–have generated more desserts hanging around the house, which led to eating more desserts, which led to. . . five pounds).
Would my readers see this slip up as a failure (as I did)? Would they think less of me? How could I let them down after all this time? How could I let myself down?
[It may be ACD-friendly, but too much of a good thing is still too much.]
The Bad: How Old Habits Are Revived
When I first began the anti-candida diet 22 months ago, I felt so ill and was so desperate that, honestly, I would have followed any regimen that could help alleviate the symptoms (the worst of which was an angry, painful and constantly itchy rash across my chest and most of my torso).
At first, I put no restrictions on how much I ate. The diet was easy: my old nemesis, the Binge Beast, lurked in the shadows but never dared venture into the light. The notion of bingeing simply wasn’t in the realm of possibility back then (seriously, who binges on zucchini or broccoli?). Even when I experienced a fleeting desire to “cheat” on the diet and eat something with sugar or gluten, the lingering raw, pink rash was enough to dissuade me. Like a photographic afterimage or the barely discernible outline of a house blown away in a hurricane, that pale, freshly scarred skin was a visible reminder of why I needed to persist.
But then I began to feel better. Baking, and desserts (of a sort) and chocolate returned to my life. Sure, they were ACD-friendly, but they still triggered that buried, recidivist impulse when I ate a chocolate cookie, a piece of brownie, a bowl of ice cream. And before I knew it, I was eating not one, not two, but four brownies at a time.
For most people, sugar cravings are supposedly eradicated after 5-10 days on the ACD, but that has never been the case with me. Instead, my cravings continue to cling more ferociously than the toddler at Mama’s knee on the first day of school. One day, I suppose, I’ll get used to it.
As with other addictions, the binge mechanism requires a constant ratcheting up of the stimulus–in this case, certain foods–before satiation is reached. You may be pumping food in at one end, but your stomach doesn’t register it the way a “normal” digestive system would. And so, someone who binges is able to consume perhaps twice as much–three times?–as a healthy eater before the “fullness” switch is flicked. And even then, it sometimes takes nausea for the breaker to finally trip, the “overload” signal to get through.
I already knew that the feedback mechanism, in those of us who binge, is damaged. It’s like filling a bucket with an old leaky hose: for the bucket to be filled, you’d have to turn the faucet on full blast, expending more and more water with more and more waste that never reaches the target, until the container is finally replete. In the same way, my own fullness circuits require more and more alimentary input to finally register “enough.” But how does one fix this damaged circuitry?
Geneen Roth advises us to honor the true source of the hunger–be it physical, psychological or emotional. Each time you listen to these messages, it’s like fixing one tiny leak, filling the hole that allows the nourishing foods to escape without your notice. Eventually, the sequence is completely restored to its original condition, and your body and mind both register the full impact of the food you eat. I know I was waylaid from that journey over the holidays–it’s so easy to become sidetracked by old habits. I am still waiting for that day when I am effortlessly aware of my body’s signals and, like the HH, can pass up even one last pea on the plate because “I’ve had enough.”
Bingers never have enough.
In her latest book, Women Food and God, Geneen Roth talks about emotional (or compulsive) eating with the same accessibility, insight and sagacity as always. And food, she points out, is a fallback position when we seek nurturing. She writes:
The bottom line, whether you weigh 340 pounds or 150 pounds, is that when you eat when you are not hungry, you are using food as a drug, grappling with boredom or illness or loss or grief or emptiness or loneliness or rejection. Food is only the middleman, the means to the end. Of altering your emotions. Of making yourself numb. Of creating a secondary problem when the original problem becomes too uncomfortable.
After 22 months (and before this latest turn of events), it appeared that both my health and my weight had more or less stabilized, yet I found myself still dissatisfied. Yes, my health has vastly improved, but I’m still not 100% better. I had grown tired of writing “no progress” or “status quo” on my Progress Tracker page.
Is it because my recovery has plateaued and I’m bored? Is it because my health is not where I’d like it to be, my symptoms (albeit drastically reduced) still lingering? Is it because, despite major strides with candida, other health issues persist, and I’m simply frustrated? Is it because The Ellen Showhasn’t called me yet?
When I think of the progress I’ve made, I can’t help but notice there’s a little voice in the back of my head,the child’s voice that begins to whine, “Twenty-two months, and still not all better?” Sure, there are many worse things than a candida rash that just won’t disappear, and I am thankful my illness is no more serious than this. But the part of me that connects to that little voice still wonders, ”why can’t you just disappear already? When will you leave me alone and let me live my life without having to think about you every. single. day? When will I be able to return to my old life?”
The answer, I now realize, is perhaps, “never.” I can’t return to my “old life.” And then, rather than accept that this diet will likely be my new, and perhaps permanent, way of life, there comes the whining toddler again, pouting and complaining, ”Well, if I can’t eat what I really want–sugar and chocolate and frosting and layer cake and fudge–well, then, when I concoct something that’s at least moderately tasty, I will eat more than I should–heck, I’ll eat it all–because I need something that’s at least a little bit sweet in my life.”
Do I capitulate and repeat old behaviors, because that’s the easiest, the most comfortable plan of action? Or is there another solution?
The Good: Renewed Commitment and Determination
When it comes to matters of karma and fate and previous lives, the HH is more of a devotee than I; yet I do believe that events, circumstances, people and personal issues come into our lives for a reason. In this case, I was delivered a mini-epiphany by none other than Nietzsche himself, in the form of a book written by author and psychiatrist Irvin Yalom.
In discussing a patient who relapsed and manifested psychological problems that had already been vanquished years before, Yalom cites the great philosopher, who theorized: ”when we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” In other words, we regress to earlier behaviors after trauma or too much stress or overwork. Well, that made total sense to me: over the past two years, I’ve made huge strides in the battle of the binge and combating candida. Slowly, but certainly, I’m beginning to tap into what my body craves as compared to what my psyche craves. But when one’s reaction to chocolate harks back more than 45 years, a mere 22 month-timespan on an anti-candida diet isn’t enough, on its own, to vanquish that impulse.
Well, duh. Of course food isn’t the solution. Food is never the solution, unless you’re the lone survivor on a desert island with no chance of rescue, like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Rather than abandon the ACD, I’ve decided to recommit with renewed vigor; a renewal of our vows, so to speak. For a while, at least, I’ll be stepping back to an earlier stage of the diet that removes some of the foods I’ve recently re-introduced (such as chocolate or agave nectar–sniff, boo hoo). I’ll begin a candida-focused cleanse and return to some of the best principles of the NAG diet.
I recently read through a copy of Meghan Telpner’s latest ebook, 21 Days to Health, and found it a great refresher course for me: these are all steps I’ve either taken before or still maintain, but having them written out in logical succession will be a wonderful motivator as I work through this renewed challenge. Rather than extend an already too-long post even more, I’ll save the details about what, exactly, I’ll be eating (and not eating) for another time. (I plan to post an entire “ACD Diet” page in the next month or so.)
I hope you’ll continue to stick around for the journey, bumpy as it may be (I promise I’ll still serve you yummy food along the way).
As I’ve said before, I see this blog as a chronicle not just of weight loss (or gain), but also a journey toward wellness and learning to eat like a “normal” person, making peace with sweets and cravings and emotional eating. I feel a bit like the novice tightrope performer whose step has faltered and now sees clearly what the next moves must be to regain balance; I’m determined to forge ahead on that journey. With that approach in mind, I’m confident that, eventually, the ever-elusive goal, wellness, will be revealed.
[The main course table from my recent holiday potluck with nutritionist friends, clockwise from top left: [out of the photo--Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts]; Southwest Brown Rice Casserole with Beans [white bowl behind cutlery]; Tempeh-Brown Rice Curry and Vegetables; Baby Spinach Salad; Rutabaga Gratin; Cinque Pizza with olives, green pepper, faux meat and onion; and (in red casserole in center) Carrot and Sweet Potato Latkes. The latkes were fried–I have no idea what kind of oil she used. Yes, I ate one.]
In recent years, it seems, we’ve all become hyper aware of the connection between food and health; it’s one of the hottest topics on the internet, twitter, blogs, or in magazines; you can’t read anything, flick on the television or listen to the radio without someone discussing a new study or mentioning a specific food and how it is or is not good for us. Goji berries? Superfood. Kale? Will save your eyes. Sugar? The devil. Trans fats? Avoid at all costs. Refined flours? Shortcut to a heart attack. And so on. How do you decide what to eat?
Well, I had originally planned to tackle this rather amorphous topic in the new year, once we’d all recovered a bit from the holidays and I had more time to craft a thoughtful post about it (since I’ll be on vacation then–whoo hoo!). Instead, I’m going to leap right in today after receiving the following comment on the Simply Bar giveaway post (the first part in quotation marks is what I wrote in the original post itself):
“In addition, the company has prided itself on using real, natural ingredients, without any added fillers in their bars. For example, the “Cocoa with Raspberry” flavor contains soy crisps (like rice crisps in texture and taste), organic agave nectar, organic brown rice syrup, organic cocoa, raspberries, organic canola oil.” Six ingredients–that’s it!”
SOY CRISPS! has the world gone mad? I appreciate that these bars only have a few ingredients in them, but they are a few, highly processed ingredients.
Soy crisps – a bean that is only truly digestible when fermented, is processed into a crisp?
Canola oil – oil that is high in inflammation promoting omega 6, processed from rapeseeds and should only be eaten raw.
Agave syrup – the sugars of the agave cactus without the natural brake of fibre, controversy rages about whether it is low or high GI.
Brown Rice syrup – sugars inherent in rice – highly processed, super high GI, even though it’s brown rice!
Only six ingredients? Whatever happened to the good old nut and fruit bars of my childhood made entirely from nuts and dried fruit? I’d rather have a bar of dark chocolate than one of these!
Since I not only promoted the bar on my blog but actually eat them, I felt a response was in order (and I will respond to the email itself toward the end of the post).
First, let me outline how I decide what to eat and what not to eat; here, then, are the principles I follow and firmly believe in when it comes to “eating healthfully.” (This is not a post about how to keep to a healthy diet over the holidays; I dealt with that subject here. )
[African Sweet Potato Stew--pretty darned good for you.]
I. Aim for a Diet That’s 100% “Good-for-You”. . . .
More than anything else about food, I believe that we are, literally, made up of what we put into our mouths, whether food, drink, or breath. Whether fresh or rancid, pesticide-laden or organic, whole grain or refined, local or imported, dirt-still-clinging-to-its-roots or packed in a BPA-lined bag inside a box, food will contribute to the makeup of every cell in your body.
In nutrition school, we learned about a diet called NAG–Natural, Alive, and Good Quality. I wrote more about it in this post. Basically, the diet aims to include only real, whole, unprocessed and organic ingredients, with most (if not all) nutrition coming from plant sources. Lucky for me, I love healthy foods (I also happen to love unhealthy foods–but that’s a topic for another post).
My own tweaks to the NAG foundation were made because of the anti-candida diet I now follow (about which I wrote more here and here), and include, for the most part: no sugar (and most other sweeteners), no sweet fruits; nothing fermented (with a few exceptions); nothing moldy or yeasty (mushrooms, nutritional yeast, alcoholic beverages, many nuts and some fruits, etc); nothing highly processed (packaged or most canned goods); no gluten; very few legumes; no eggs or dairy. (The ACD typcially allows organic chicken, beef and fish, but I don’t eat those.) I include tofu occasionally, which is considered “acceptable” in about half the anti-candida diets out there (there is quite a bit of variation about what is included in the diet).
With the ACD, you will ideally re-introduce many of the banned foods after you’ve been following it for a while and are feeling better. For instance, now that I’ve been on the diet for over two years and am 90% better, I am eating some fruits, using (gluten free) flours, and consuming the very occasional treat with agave nectar or coconut sugar.
About my own eating habits, let me be clear: during the first couple of phases of the ACD, I followed the diet one hundred percent, 100% of the time–I never “cheated.” That’s because I was in great distress about my poor health and wanted to heal as quickly as possible. However, as one of our teachers at nutrition school remarked, even following the ACD “most of the time” will, eventually, lead to diminished yeast in the body and better health; it will just take longer.
Just as highschool graduates might send their first applications to Ivy League schools; as aspiring editors aim to nab a spot at a ”big house” like Farrar, Straus and Giroux; or as newly-graduated life coaches dreams of being on Oprah, when it comes to eating, I believe we should endeavor to eat only the best quality, healthiest foods. But what happens when the grad isn’t accepted by Harvard or Yale; if the young editor is offered a job at Harlequin; or the life coach lands a local radio spot instead? Do they decline the lesser offer, or worse–give up entirely? Of course not.
In an ideal universe, I’d be eating a top-notch, 100% “perfect” diet all the time. My meals would be 70% raw, all organic, as close as possible to the condition they’re in when they’re plucked from the ground, and entirely unprocessed–things like this, or this, or this. While I may have lofty ideals when it comes to food and eating, I understand that reality doesn’t always comply. Consequently, I try not to beat myself up if I can’t achieve that ideal. If I can remain compliant 90% of the time, I’m okay with having something less than perfect the other 10%. (Certainly, there are otherfoodbloggers out there who manage such menus far more often–and more consistently–than I).
For example, I’ve mentioned before that the HH enjoys eating in restaurants, and we still frequent them occasionally. I’ve found a couple of places that actually serve ACD-friendly food (at one, ”Israeli Salad” consisting of fresh cucumber, tomato and onion with olive oil and lemon juice alongside hummus; at the other, gluten free pizza crust with toppings of my choice, usually roasted garlic, baked tomato, red onion, spinach and black olives). As a result, we tend to patronize either of those most of the time.
Once a month, though, we head to a Malaysian restaurant I adore. They’re willing to provide vegan options and also hold the sugar at my request. Great! But I am fairly certain that they don’t grease their woks with organic coconut oil (or anything organic, for that matter); and I am not willing to stress about this. If I consume a small quantity of less-than-healthy oil once a month, I rely on the remaining 90% of my uber-healthy diet to compensate; it’s worth it to me to be able to enjoy the rest of the meal.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been rediscovering books by Geneen Roth and am devoted to her intuitive approach to eating–letting your body determine when, what and how much you eat. The woman has effectively peeked into my psyche (and my pantry), and I relate to her ideas on food as psychological comfort, how food serves many other purposes besides nourishment, and how we can learn to enjoy eating in the most natural and instinctive fashion. I’m not entirely “there” yet when it comes to attending to my body’s messages, but I’m learning.
I had my first epiphany about listening to my body only about a month ago, when I first began to experiment with coconut sugar. Having baked only with stevia (and a miniscule amount of yacon or agave) until then, being able to use a one-for-one sugar replacement was thrilling. I went a little crazy in the kitchen, baking cookies, brownies, bars, muffins and whatever else I could think of. I also tasted them all. . . and then some. I probably ate more baked goods in that week than I had in the previous six months. If that episode had occurred two years ago, it would likely have spiralled into an endless round of sweet binges, fuelled by sugar and guilt and the rationalization that “it’s the holidays.”
Instead, something odd occurred: I suddenly didn’t feel like eating so many sweets any more. My body said, “Give me kale! Give me black bean soup! Give me cinque e’ cinque!” (somehow, my body managed to pick up Italian while I was sleeping). I averted a crisis simply by listening to the physical signals I routinely ignored in the past. It felt great, and I’m striving to improve my skills in that area, and practise it more often. Your body intuitively knows what’s good for you. Listen to it.
Earlier yesterday on twitter, a famous vegan cookbook author asked, “Q: how much oil in a recipe before you won’t make it? Does mention of 1/2 c olive oil freak anyone out? 1/3 cup better? What is OK?”. Well, I think the answer depends on several factors. What kind of oil is it? How many servings does the recipe make? How much of it will I be eating at one sitting? How often will I eat it? Half cup (the amount in the recipe) is 8 tablespoons (120 ml) or 24 teaspoons (24 x 5 ml). If the dish yields 20 servings (a baked dessert), that’s less than 2 teaspoons per serving. If it’s a main course that makes 8-10 servings, it’s still 1 tablespoon or less per serving–less than most people use on one salad. Mostly, I wouldn’t think twice if the dish were a special occasion recipe–it’s only once in a while, anyway.
What struck me about the exchange was the idea that based on the amount of oil alone, people would eschew the entire recipe. I know people who eat raw coconut oil by the tablespoon, yet the idea of 1/2 cup in an entire recipe is anathema.
A while back, I was asked in a comment on this post about whether roasting nuts renders them less healthy–and, of course, the short answer is “yes.” But do I want to eat raw nut butter all of the time? No. I like the taste of toasted nuts better than the taste of raw nuts. Nuts still contain healthy fats. They are still a real food. So I eat them toasted sometimes, and I don’t worry about it.
My point is that you can be so focused on the health-related characteristics of your food that you overlook the fact that food is supposed to taste good and confer pleasure. As Andrew Weil notes in his book, Eating Well for Optimum Health, a rigid adherence to eating only “healthy” foods can negate the pleasure we get from sharing our meals with others–and sometimes the social contact is more important to our health than the absolute quality of the food we’re eating.
Which brings me back to the comment that started it all. Here’s my response to each of the points made by the commenter:
Soy crisps – a bean that is only truly digestible when fermented, is processed into a crisp?Yes, soy crisps are processed (they contain non-GMO soy protein, tapioca starch and salt); see my comments above about 90%/10%. As I’ve mentioned before, even though fermented soy is more easily digestible than non-fermented (eg, tofu), I do not avoid tofu or other non-fermented soy (eg, soymilk) in moderation. It is a great source of protein and contains isoflavones that are advantageous in myriad ways, plus many other health benefits. While it’s not for everyone (you can read about the pros and cons yourself), for me, soy’s numerous health benefits–and the fact that it’s been a staple food in many Asian cultures for centuries–makes it a desirable food.
Canola oil – oil that is high in inflammation promoting omega 6, processed from rapeseeds and should only be eaten raw. As far as I know (or can find information in my nutrition texts and online), canola oil is considered a “monounsaturated fat” because it contains mostly (about 55%) monounsaturated fatty acids. Like any oil, canola is made up of mono-, poly- and saturated fats in different ratios. It does contain Omega 6 oil, but it also contains a larger percent of Omega 3. In any case, unless the canola is organic and cold pressed, I wouldn’t want to consume it at all. Like any oil that is liquid at room temperature, canola is best when unheated. It might not be my first choice for baking or cooking (I don’t ever use it at home); however, I am not too concerned about eating a snack with it on occasion (see point II, above).
Agave syrup – the sugars of the agave cactus without the natural brake of fibre, controversy rages about whether it is low or high GI. I know that some people think agave is evil. I am not one of those people. The glycemic index (GI) of agave, when organic and processed without excess heat or chemicals, is relatively low (38 or so). Like any other natural sweetener, agave is harmful in large quantities. However, having readseveralarticles about it, I’ve decided that, for me, agave is a good sweetener as long as it’s organic and not overly processed. Like maple syrup, it requires some processing to convert the raw sap into what we buy in the store. It is still a delicious, low glycemic sweetener–but like any sweetener, should be eaten in small quantities and as a treat.
Brown Rice syrup – sugars inherent in rice – highly processed, super high GI, even though it’s brown rice! Again, brown rice syrup is a traditional natural sweetener that’s been used for ages. The sugars inherent in rice are no worse, as far as I can tell, than the sugars inherent in wheat, spelt, millet, or any other grain. And while some processing is, of course, required to convert rice to a sweetener, I have been able to find absolutely no corroboration that brown rice syrup is high GI. Most of the articles I’ve come across list its glycemic index as around 25-35–rather low.
Given my own approach to healthy eating, I am comfortable consuming snacks such as The Simply Bar on occasion. If the bars’ ingredients don’t jibe with what you think is healthy, please, don’t eat them. I’m grateful to the commenter for prompting me to examine my viewpoint on these ingredients and articulate my eating philosophy in general.
["Does this mean we get to listen to our bodies, too, Mum? Because my body is telling me that it's time you gave me a treat."]
Perhaps most importantly when it comes to our diets, however, is that I believe each of us must make our own informed choices about the food we put in our mouths. If my approach doesn’t resonate with you, that’s fine; there are many other approaches out there to pursue. With so many sources of illness in our world–toxins, pollution, carcinogens, molds, bacteria, germs, viruses, electromagnetic pollution–I could go on–I think it’s essential that we don’t allow ourselves to become bogged down in the negative impact of them all. It’s still possible to eat well and enjoy your food while keeping an eye open to the possible drawbacks.
Whew! And if you made it this far in the post, well, I think you deserve a reward. Go get yourself a huge piece of chocolate, or maybe a (thin) slice of cake–made with real, organic ingredients, of course.
I’d love to hear what you think about the issue–what constitutes a “healthy” diet in your mind?
I rarely post non-recipe entries these days, but with the holiday carousel already well underway (the HH and I will be attending our first party of the festive season this weekend), I wanted to share some thoughts about the holidays, anti-candida style.
My friend The Architect and his wife have thrown an annual Christmas bash for the past decade or so, and the HH and I have been lucky enough to attend each year. (Like a Same Time, Next Yearremake–without the sex, that is–we meet up repeatedly with the selfsame dozen or so guests and always look forward to catching up on the previous 12 months). This time, though, I’ll be dealing with the scourge on my skin, the infestation of my intestines, that plague on my psyche: the Cursed Candida!
It can be incredibly difficult for anyone on a special diet (and by “special diet,” I mean anything that’s not the Standard American Diet–ie, anyone reading this blog) to navigate the holidays. Like it or not, you become keenly aware of the restrictions imposed on you, and the shaky line between friendship and maintaining your health; between wondering, “What would make a good hostess gift?” and, “will there be anything I can eat?”. Sometimes, you might even wonder if it’s worth attending the event at all, when you are (mostly) relegated to outside observer while everyone else indulges in supersized portions of flaky hors d’oeuvres, cheesy bites, holiday meats, chocolate truffles with Grand Marnier ganache, or big, sloppy slices of trifle and bread puddings. Waaaa!
So how do you enduresurvive traverse the barrage of sugar-laden, cream-laden, chocolate-laden, booze-laden, lard-laden buffets, holiday tables, restaurant menus and dinner parties that will be crossing your path until, oh, mid-February?
[Stevia-Sweetened, ACD-Friendly Chocolate Pots de Crème]
Well, folks, I won’t stevia-coat it; this diet can be a huge challenge, and at times is very, very tough. And make no mistake: even as I enter month Number Ten on this regime, I still find it a constant battle to ensure I don’t fall off the wagon and plummet headlong into the vortex of overeating, bingeing and regretting my transgressions (the gastronomic kind–not to be confused with those other, more famous, transgressions). As a sweets addict, I can relapse with the least provocation; thankfully, I made only a half-batch (10) of those ACD-friendly Matcha Chocolate Truffles, as I consumed them all within two days. (Hmm. Good thing I’m not back on sugar, isn’t it?)
This year, I’ll be following a fairly rigid version of the ACD, even through the holidays. What that means is no alcohol, vinegar, moldy foods (ie, mushrooms, citrus except for lemon/lime, melons, peanuts), sweet fruits (goodbye, dear mango! Sayonara, persimmon! Auf wiedersein, medjool dates!), and no conventional chocolate (ie, with sugar). I’ve only recently begun to incorporate unsweetened chocolate and some non-sweet fruits (apples, berries, pears) into the mix.
As a result, I thought it might be useful to outline some of the strategies I’ve used in the past and plan to use this season to keep the holidays a happy time, even on an anti-candida regime. For those of you new to the diet, I hope this offers some help!
[ACD-Friendly, Stevia Sweetened Mini Spice Cupcakes with Choco-Carob Frosting]
Invitations to Parties and Others’ Homes:
Over the years, I’ve finally set aside any initial fear of offending my host(ess), and always bring at least one dish I can eat (raw kale salad is usually a huge hit with everyone, and it can be whipped up in minutes before you leave). I bring enough for everyone, so that it doesn’t appear I’m simply feeding myself. Yes, this creates a bit of an inconvenience and extra expense, but it’s worth it to be able to eat something. Most parties will serve veggies and dip, so you can munch on the veggies, at least.
I also always eat something before I go, even if it’s just some (wheat-free) crackers and almond butter. That way, if my own salad is truly the only ACD-friendly food in the place, I won’t starve.
It can be difficult to stand around chatting with people as they imbibe champagne, wine, or whatever and eat all manner of yummy, rich and savory foods–but try to keep your mind on the real reason behind the party: to socialize, to meet people, to get together with friends and family. They really are better than a piece of pumpkin pie, aren’t they?
If you’re cooking up your own holiday meal at home, the best thing to do is find an ACD-friendly recipe that the rest of your family can enjoy, too. I’ve found that most vegetabledishes, salads, appetizers, and even main courses are perfectly acceptable to just about anyone as long as they’re tasty.
Desserts are a little more complicated, as stevia is not for everyone. If you can, cook up a dessert that can be divided in two, with one half for you (stevia-sweetened) and the other sweetened with “regular” sweeteners. I’ve accomplished such schizophrenic sweets in my recent Matcha Truffle recipe, the Faux Chocolate, Carob-Coconut Sweeties, and even Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Pudding. All of the desserts on this page can be made that way, too.
Get creative with the ingredients you are permitted to eat, or find yourself some good recipes to use. I’ve been working on these holiday-worthy ACD-friendly desserts (pictured) that I’m compiling for a Holiday E-Book, too. It should be ready in the next week or so, so I hope I can provide some great options for holiday menus to many of you!
Despite what the experts have promised, my sugar cravings didn’t go away in a week, or two weeks after being on the diet, or–well, ever. Sorry to admit this, but even after 10 months with NO CHEATING on the diet, even after losing 43 of the 45 pounds to my goal weight (whoo-hoooo!), I still have them, and have them almost daily. For those of us with sugar addictions–much like any addiction–they may never go away.
And when I’m hit with a massive craving for chocolate, or cake with frosting (okay, sometimes even minus the cake), or chocolate chip cookie dough, I still go prowling through the kitchen, opening and closing the refrigerator repeatedly in the hopes that I might suddenly, miraculously spy something sweet that I am “allowed” to eat. (Sadly, no, healthy Twinkies do not magically appear). Then what?
Well, friends, in those times when I’m desperate for something sweet, I must admit that I succumb to the urge. No, no–I don’t mean that I eat something sugary! But I do eat as much as I like of any ACD-friendly sweets. This may mean consuming six squares of my faux chocolate in quick succession, or an entire recipe of Carob-Coconut Sweeties, or even some avocado-carob pudding (use stevia instead of dates). True, I may be eating more than I should in one sitting, but if it prevents me from hooking up with my old sweetheart, Sugar, then I’m okay with it. The moment usually passes by the time I reach the fourth square of “chocolate,” and I return to my regularly scheduled menus, crisis averted.
Feeling Blue without Favorite Foods
Despite your best efforts, despite being motivated, and despite really, really wanting to get healthy, there will still be times when these food restrictions and the havoc they play with your “normal” life will feel like a huge burden, and you may wonder why you are sticking with the diet when results are often slow to manifest. At times like those, I try to resuscitate my drive by getting in touch with positive energy, either from people that are close to me, or other reliable sources of optimism. Call a friend, your sister, your cousin, your sponsor–whoever will be able to support you in a moment of weakness. Barring that, here are some resources I’ve relied upon to keep the momentum going:
Whole Approach. This is the website that I turn to when I need a reminder about the anti candida diet (I’m following their plan), or when I want to read what others in a similar situation may be experiencing and solicit feedback from them (the forums on the site are great).
Yeast and Your Health site. This is a personal site maintained by Lisa Geary, B.Ed, MA. Lisa has experienced systemic candida herself and has compiled an amazing array of information about what it is, how to deal with it, and how to overcome candida.
Jeffrey McCombs’ website. While I don’t follow this exact plan, the site was recommended to me by a reader whose candida was cleared up by following McCombs’ candida protocol. Much of what he writes also jibes with the treatment I’m receiving from my naturopath here as well (such as saunas to detoxify).
Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook by Jeanne Marie Martin and Zoltan Rona. The Mother of All Candida Guidebooks! This is the tome I used the first time I followed the candida diet, and I refer to it frequently. It also includes some good recipes, such as the Veggie Burgers I posted.
The Candida Cure by Ann Boroch. A recent (2009) addition to the literature on candida, this is a pared-down version of Martin and Rona’s book, with very similar advice. Good as an introduction for those just starting the diet.
The Glass Castleby Jeannette Walls. Another memoir not strictly related to candida. But even living through the most dire of childhoods, Walls manages to incorporate daily doses of fun, love, and humor. With riveting story-telling skills that never dwell on self-pity, Walls moves ahead with zest and joie de vivre, getting on with it when necessary and offering readers hope and inspiration. And isn’t that what living with candida should be, too?
This holiday season, I plan to focus as much as possible on the intentions behind the gatherings rather than the foods on serving dishes. Being “fully nourished” means feeding not only our bellies, but also our emotions, our psychological needs, our friendships and our relationships with loved ones. As Meghan Telpner says in her ebook,
“Feeling well involves being in good humour, genuinely cheerful, optimistic and positive. Health is the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for our own actions. When our health is good we carry less fear inside and therefore can lead our lives more honestly and with more integrity. We can see the good in our lives and know that the bad will pass. We feel gratitude for what we are blessed with. Perhaps most importantly, when we feel well, we can feel, live and spread love. Wellness breeds happiness and true happiness can ensure sustained wellness.”
Remember that you can recover from candida, and it doesn’t have to rule your life. Here’s to a happy, healthy and naturally sweet holiday season!
What are your strategies for getting through the holidays when you don’t eat the same foods as everyone else? Please share in the comments!
Although I consider myself a late bloomer in most areas of my life, there’s one event I experienced long before anyone else in my circle of family and friends: the mid-life crisis. In fact, I got mine over with in my early 20s.
I can remember many hours of beer-addled conversation with my beloved mentor in those days, asking the kinds of questions you’d expect from a jaded middle manager in his late 50s rather than a 20-something Master’s student: What is my true calling? Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life? Why are we even here? What is the sound of one hand clapping? And will I ever achieve thinner thighs?
As it turned out, dunno, no, who knows, nothing, and not likely.
Then, when I discovered holistic nutrition and began teaching it and offering cooking classes, I thought I’d solved the crisis. Until this round of the ACD, that is.
But wait! Before I continue, let me pause to issue a heartfelt “thank you” to all of you who read this blog. Thank you for tagging along on this bumpy anti-candida ride. Thank you for your supportive and helpful comments as I traverse the circuitous path toward better health. And thank you for sticking with me, even though this blog seems to have morphed from “Diet, Dessert and Dogs” to “ACD, Stevia and Dogs”–it really doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? (“Well, Mum, at least we are a consistent presence. We hate to break it to you, but most of them are actually here for us, anyway.“) I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all.
The more I learn about candidiasis and the more I read about the condition, the more I am coming to accept that I will have to follow this diet for a much longer time than first anticipated–a year, at least, perhaps longer. While most people on the program see results and find relief within 3-6 months, there are a few of us who require longer-term dedication (I’m just lucky that way, I guess).
You see, I am what could be termed a “hard case.” A lifelong chocolate/ sugar addict, I am the gastronomic equivalent of a recidivist criminal, one requiring tough, long-term rehabilitation. A culinary kleptomaniac, a pathological liar in the larder, a cereal killer. Until I am better able to handle my confections, you need to lock up the chocolate and throw away the key.
Which brings me to my current mid-life crisis: Will I ever be able to bake again without worrying about consuming the entire recipe? Will I ever get permanent control of this horrid candida? Will I ever have thinner thighs?
For now, I suppose, it’s a moot point, as I am steadfastly following the diet as long as I still exhibit any symptoms. But it’s clear that my love for baking and desserts hasn’t abated in the least; I still crave sweets, even after all this time; and after baking up a batch of this blueberry oatmeal breakfast pudding, I was tempted to eat the entire thing in one sitting.
This is a luxuriously creamy, rich-tasting pudding, the warm berries inside baked to near-bursting. Not too sweet, it fits perfectly at the breakfast table, and would be wonderful topped with some Coconut Whipped Cream or a splash of maple syrup for dessert. Even the HH, who can eat chocolate and sugar with impunity, thoroughly enjoyed two servings after dinner the other night.
As to the Quest for Control Over Sweets, I suppose I’ll just have to keep working on it and hope that, with time, I can grow indifferent to (or, at least, in control of) sugary foods and resolve this crisis as well. For now, I’ll keep seeking healthier desserts and bake as much as I can within the restrictions of the ACD.
Oh, and keep listening for that sound of one oven mitt, clapping against the rack as it removes a hot pan of Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding from the oven.
Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding
This dish is the result of my playing with Celine’s amazing Baked Apple Pudding recipe, which I made a couple of times and enjoyed immensely. I decided to take Celine’s suggestion and experiment with variations; because I like a slightly lighter, less dense pudding, I added more milk, subbed hazelnuts and cashews for the walnuts and threw in some blueberries.
1/2 cup (75 g) lightly toasted hazelnuts (filberts), with skin
1/2 cup (75 g) lightly toasted cashews
1/2 cup (60 g) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) agave nectar or maple syrup; or 10 drops stevia liquid
2 tsp (10 ml) cinnamon
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) unsweetened, plain or vanilla soy or almond milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw first if frozen)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease a 4-6 cup (1-1.5 L) casserole dish.
In the bowl of a high-speed blender*, place the nuts, oats, applesauce, vanilla, agave, cinnamon and salt. Pour the milk over all and blend for about a minute, until perfectly smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into the casserole dish, then gently fold in the blueberries (scatter a few extra blueberries over the top if you like, as they won’t sink).
Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, rotating the casserole about halfway through, until the edges begin to puff and crack and the top appears dry. Allow to cool somewhat before serving; may be served warm or cold. Makes 4-6 servings. Store, covered, up to 4 days in the refrigerator. May be frozen.
*To make with a regular blender: Pour in the milk first, then add the remaining ingredients (except blueberries). You may need to blend in batches to achieve an equally smooth consistency.
It’s now been approximately five months since I began this round of the ACD, and, over this time, I’ve slowly been coming to the realization that, well, it’s not likely to end any time soon.
As I may have mentioned before, the last time I pursued this regimen, it took two years to eradicate the yeastie beasties. Why so long, when for most people, six months is more than adequate? I’m just lucky, I guess. (Either that, or those childhood PB and chocolate milk breakfasts, teenaged May West and coffee-with-Coffee Mate breakfasts, 20s-era birthday cake and oatmeal cookie breakfasts, and 30s-decade Weight Watchers mousse and Diet Pepsi breakfasts really weren’t that healthy, after all. Seriously, I couldn’t have done worse had I walked into a pesticide factory and started downing beakers of random chemicals). When it comes to eating foods that nourish and strengthen my body, it seems I still hadn’t quite learned my lesson.
While I was able, eventually, to reintroduce gluten and sweeteners to my diet last time (and my naturopath assues me that will happen again, even this time), I fear that eventually, as with any addict reintroduced to a source of the addiction, I began to abuse the privilege. When I last went off the diet, rather than enjoy an abundance of fresh-fruit based desserts or an occasional (ie, less often than 5 times a day) sweet indulgence, I went the whole tofu and chowed down on a daily injection of chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate (in fact, I even considered changing the name of this blog to reflect that fact). And while I still dearly love desserts, even healthy ones (heck, I just wrote a whole cookbook devoted to them!), like any addict, I really have no self control when it comes to my trigger foods.
I mean, have you ever heard of an alcoholic who can stop at just one drink? I think Denis Leary’s character, Tommy Gavin, a firefighter who can’t seem to avoid getting sauced, is a prime example of the principle:
Week One: “I’m handling it. It’s just one drink.”
Week Two: “I’m handling it. I’m only having one a night.”
Week Three: “I’m handling it. I only drink when I feel like it, but so what if that’s all day? I can stop any time.”
Week Four: “Muh habble it. Dwnn tuh meh naw drkkeng drurving!” (Please do not adjust your set. Comprehensible dialogue will return once he sleeps off the inevitable hangover).
And so, dear readers, I’ve finally decided to just accept my own shorcomings as well as my current situation (after all, self acceptance is the first part of healing, right?). I’m determined to embrace the ACD, limitations and all. If I have to stay on it for a year, so be it. If I have to stay on it for life, well–I won’t be happy, but I can live with it (and I wasn’t living too well without it, come to think of it). It’s not as if I’m malnourished, or even that I dislike the foods I’m consuming; and I’d never share a recipe on the blog that I didn’t think was appealing to anyone’s taste buds, special diet or not. It’s just that I miss baking. I really, really miss baking. And I miss eating what I bake.
Still, given the choice, I’d rather continue to see my health improve (about 85% there at the moment) and continue to see my weight decrease, than eat chocolate every day. Besides, I’m learning to think of the ACD as just another culinary challenge: it’s time to begin creating delicious gluten-free, maybe even grain-free, stevia-sweetened desserts for a while. Let the kitchen games resume!
As I mused about the situation, I was reminded of two experts whom I admire and respect, albeit from two completely divergent fields.
The first is Geneen Roth, acclaimed author of When Food is Loveand a regular columnist in Good Housekeeping magazine. When the HH and I relaxed up north this past weekend, I brought a slew of magazines to peruse by the pool, and came across Roth’s latest column, entitled, “Reality Bites.” She wrote about how she’d recently been diagnosed with allergies to both milk and chocolate–two of her very favorite foods.
At first, Roth rebelled against the diagnosis, thinking, “I refuse to give up the foods I love.” Eventually, she came round to the reality of the situation, stating, “It’s hard enough to have. . . allergies. But when you can’t stop thinking about how much you hate the fact that you have to spend your time doing what you need to do, you double the difficulty.” Well, I reasoned, I have quite enough difficulties in all the other areas of my life at the moment, thank you very much; I’d hate to convert eating into yet anohter hardship as well.
The second expert I thought about was Jon Kabat Zinn, who penned Wherever You Go, There You Areand Full Catastrophe Living. To Zinn, a champion of, and pioneer in, stress reduction and mindfulness meditation, living in the moment and appreciating the here and now is paramount to a happy life. Again, I couldn’t help but think, “Look at all the other wonderful things in my life right now–a secure job in these crazy economic times; a (rather appealing) roof over my head; a loving HH; long-term, close friendships; and two of the most adorable canine kids I’ve ever encountered (okay, I may be a tad biased on the canine thing).
["What do you mean, 'a tad biased,' Mum? We're crushed."]
The point is, I decided it’s time to focus on the positives in my life rather than the deficiencies. I may even resume the practise of keeping a gratitude journal (in which you enumerate at least 5 good things that occurred each day, every day. Over time, believe it or not, your mood is elevated just by focusing on such things.). It’s much more productive, and healthy, to maintain a focus on what’s good in life instead of the list of foods I have to give up for a while.
Roth said it beautifully when she wrote, “Giving up certain foods doesn’t mean giving up what you want to feel when you eat them. Staying away from sweets doesn’t mean that you need to deprive yourself of sweetness or comfort or joy.”
And so, I will continue to forge ahead with the blog in this new direction and hope all of you who’ve been reading for a while will stick with me, even though my recipes will be geared toward more gluten-free and low sweetener recipes for a time. And to all the new readers who’ve found my blog by searching for anti-candida recipes or allergen free foods, welcome! The gluten and natural sweeteners will return eventually.
But for now, I hope you’ll all join me on this often challenging, necessarily innovative, and naturally sweetened healing path.
“Mum, don’t worry about not eating sweeteners–we do it all the time, and our food still tastes great! Then again, we eat poo.”
First of all: Wow. I am truly bowled over by the enthusiastic response to the giveaway, and thrilled that so many of you would like my cookbook! Thanks, all, for your entries and your comments. I have been slow in responding to comments, but have read them all and will respond to any questions later today. (Oh, and the contest continues until May 15th, so if you haven’t entered yet, you still can!)
I did want to clarify one point about the recipes, though: while there ARE some gluten-free recipes in it (about 25%), the book does not include gluten free recipes exclusively. Spelt does contain some gluten–though about 30% less than wheat–and it is often suitable for people with gluten sensitivity such as myself. Most of my recipes employ spelt, barley, or oat flours (much like any of the desserts on this blog). I thought it important to mention this, in case some of you are expecting a gluten-free cookbook (that will have to be next time!)
[My typical dinner these days: raw collard rolls with bean spread; fresh tomato; green beans. No wonder there are no new recipes!]
I’m afraid I don’t have a new recipe for you all today, as much as I’d intended to post one a few days ago. After a whirlwind high school reunion last weekend in Niagara Falls, I came home to discover that the charming candida in my system was being its opportunistic self and took advantage of my slightly altered diet and shift in regular routine while away from home. Ever since I got back, I’ve been feeling sapped of energy and spending more hours in bed than Sleeping Beauty (no prince for me, though. . . unless you count Chaser licking my ear as a magical “kiss”).
(“But Mum, I have to keep licking your ear! All beauty aside, how else am I supposed to let you know it’s time for a walk?”)
My (conventional) doctor has now prescribed an oral anti-fungal medication for me, something about which I’m not at all pleased (even though it does confirm candida as a culprit), but which, it seems, is entirely necessary since virtually none of the other methods I’ve tried have worked. On the ACD site where I found my current diet, they do caution that a candida problem can never be entirely eradicated with diet alone; so I’m okay with the pills. I will see my naturopathic doctor next week, so perhaps he’ll have a new idea.
In the meantime, I am determined to continue with the regime, and have faith that it will take effect eventually, bringing about a healthy change–as it did the last time I followed this diet (for a duration of two years!! Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long this time round). The only bright spot so far is that the weight-loss lull has finally been shattered: as of this morning, I’ve lost 17 pounds (7.7 kilos) since I began the diet on March 9th (just about 8 weeks). My weight hasn’t been this low since 2003. Yowza!
[Butterscotch blondies with chocolate chips and dried cherries]
I did bake some goodies from Sweet Freedomfor the gang at the reunion, though (still can’t resist baking something for any gathering!). There were about 60 of us. And while I’m still in regular contact with my own (female) friends from that era, such as Sterlin (who flew in from England to room with me!), the Geminis, Phil, Babe, and so on, I haven’t seen any of the guys since grade eleven (the highest year of high school in Montreal). And when I did finally see them–Quel Surprise!
[Miniature orange-cranberry scones]
There were a few blank stares as I first spied some of the men, but once they introduced themselves, it was easy to spot the sixteen year-old in the forty-something faces and there were hugs all around. Within minutes, we all assumed our old, familiar camaraderie and went on to enjoy a raucous weekend with tours of the Falls, karaoke (I didn’t sing, but Sterlin and I did hop on stage as backup “dancers” for a pair who sang “Addicted to Love”), and a goodbye brunch complete with awards for everything from “Guy you’re most surprised is a parent” to “Person who brought the most photos of family” (that was Sterlin).
[Easiest Almond Cookies--grain free and gluten free]
Am I glad I went? Absolutely. I reconnected with a couple of people with whom I’d been very close in high school, and with whom I’m sure I’ll be in touch once again. And it was terrific to hear, “You haven’t changed a bit! I’d recognize you anywhere!” repeatedly, despite my own sense that I’d changed dramatically in the past 30 or so years. There’s already chatter on Facebook about the next reunion!
[Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies]
For the next little while, my posts may be a bit less regular or more infrequent than usual, as I feel I need to concentrate a bit more diligently on regaining my physical health and equilibrium. I will still be cooking, though, and will post recipes whenever I have them! And I’ll continue to read all your blogs and comment whenever I can.
As always, I am deeply grateful for all of you out there who read this blog and continue to provide support and comments. Because of all of you, these health issues have been made to seem manageable. Now it’s time to really kick that candida’s butt once and for all!
[Soy-Free, Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from Sweet Freedom]
Okay, let’s get to the dessert first (really, we should all eat a meal that way at least once): I received my cookbook’s (paper) proof in the mail today (the sample that I must approve before production can begin) and I’m thrilled! Now that the publisher has the approval, they can swing into action and the book should be ready by May 25th (the date by which they’ve promised it will be available). On that date, you’ll be able to purchase it directly from the publisher or (for those in the Toronto area) from me! The book will be available through amazon.com about a month after that. I’m also hoping to offer an e-book version at a lower price, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you need a reminder of what types of goodies will be represented, take a peek at the cookbook blog.
As always, thanks for your patience–and thanks for indulging me by allowing me to blather on about this on DDD! I’ll be providing all the specifics about how to order, cost, etc. as soon as I know them.
And next, our “diet” update: This week marks the end of Phase I (six weeks!) of my anti-candida diet.
Having spent the last six weeks without the company of any fruit, baked goods, desserts, sweeteners of any kind (save stevia) or any other foods that could feed candida, I’m happy to say that I do feel I’ve made progress. In a nutshell, over the past six weeks:
The overweening lethargy and muscle heaviness I’d been experiencing has lifted; I now find it easier to walk around, easier to walk up the stairs, easier to complete my workouts at the club (hey, septuagenarian couple with the matching T-shirts! Howdy, punky chick with the spiky hair! Nice to see ya, burly guy with the black ankle socks!), and have even extended my time on the treadmill a bit.
Many of my sinus problems and much of my nasal congestion have evaporated. I’d estimate that my sinuses are about 70% better than when I began the cleanse.
I’ve lost about 12 pounds. I say “about” because I wasn’t certain of my exact weight the day I started the cleanse–but I do know it was an all-time high. I’m now at the lowest weight I’ve been since I started this blog in October, 2007 (yikes! Has it been that long?)
On the other hand:
Many of my original symptoms remain. I’m still experiencing other rather unpleasant side effects of excessive yeast, such as absentmindedness, “foggy thinking,” rashes and absentmindedness (oh, wait, did I say that one already?–ah, you see what I mean).
And so, what’s next?
Well, according to most ACD sites and experts, one should remain on the diet until all symptoms have abated, or at least six months, whichever is shorter. Six months?? Honestly, as much as I may be keen on quinoa, think tofu is tops, am enamoured of arame, or even cherish chia, I can’t see living without fruit or most whole grains for that long. On the other hand (seems I’ve got several hands, here), it’s become abundantly clear to me that I feel better physically, have more energy, and am able to lose weight when I follow a very “clean” and healthy diet such as this. As long as my system is overrun with that scourge, candida, I’ll be drawn back again and again to unhealthy eating.
And believe me, the irony of the situation isn’t lost on me: I’m about to publish a desserts cookbook, yet I suffer from an overabundance of candida–typically caused by too many desserts. And while the bulk of my diet is composed of incredibly healthy foods–ones I truly enjoy–that’s not to say that those wholesome, healthful foods are the only ones I eat. My weakness is chocolate, and more than once I’ve been hoist by my own Lindt 70%. (I’ve probably ingested enough of it over the past year, in fact, to supply all of Switzerland on Valentine’s Day). Add to that my own baked goods and treats–albeit healthy–and you’ve got too much of a good thing, as they say.
And so, I’ve decided to forge ahead with the next phase of the cleanse (which allows a wee bit more variety in the diet) and keep at it as long as I can. The basic approach on the blog will remain the same, and I’m going to attempt to include desserts in moderation (even if I won’t be eating them as much). I’m still determined to achieve that elusive ”normalcy” I wrote about way back when the major focus of the blog was the “Diet” in “Diet, Dessert and Dogs”–to be able to eat like a “normal” eater , consuming a wide variety of foods and courses (including dessert) in moderation–to kick this sweets addiction once and for all! (Or, at least, keep trying).
And when I do reach that goal, promoting a dessert cookbook–even baking all the samples that will go along with it–will be not only possible, but enjoyable.
Because really, never having dessert again would surely suck all the sweetness out of life.
“Um, Mum, while we understand that your book and your diet are important to you and everything, forget about blog updates–how about dog updates? We have some exciting developments going on, too, you know. What about my new white hairs on my muzzle–or how Chaser managed to catch that Frisbee over the fence yesterday? ”
I’m going to be dashing around town for the next couple of days, doing cooking classes (short notice, but if you’re in the Toronto area, I’ll be at the Bayview/Sheppard Loblaws tonight at 7:00–would love to meet you!), and then my friend Babe is coming to town tomorrow, so I won’t have much time for cooking (except for other people, that is).
When we were undergraduates, my friend Babe had a roster of what she called “permadates.” These were straight guys who were no more than friends, but were willing to stand in whenever a male presence was required–at a work function, say, a family wedding or bar mitzvah, a school reunion, etc. She’d call up the permadate and he was always happy to receive a free meal, free booze, and maybe some dancing in exchange for allowing Babe hang on to his rippled bicep and elbow for the evening. A win-win!
I think the same concept extends to foods as well. Don’t we all have our own favored dishes, the go-to recipes that we whip up when we need something that will impress, will look good and taste good–and which won’t expect any “favors” at the end of the evening? These are the “permadishes,” the old standbys that never disappoint.
I’ve been relying a lot on “candida standbys”–simple foods that are compatible with the ACD–this week. A lettuce wrap here, some baked tofu (without soy sauce, of course) there, here a roasted veggie, there a baked sweet potato, raw almonds and pumpkin seeds everywhere.
Then I realized I’ve already got quite a few candida-friendly dishes right here on this blog–dishes that are already in my repertoire, but happen to be suitable for the ACD. These are great for anyone who’s battling candida, but even more, for anyone who’s seeking a cleaner, less toxic, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting diet as well.
Until I cook again, I’ll leave you with some of these reliable favorites. Nothing like a good permadish to get you through a busy week!
[Thanks to everyone who left such sweet comments and encouragement for the hellish week of marking! (And I know I still owe some of you emails. . . coming soon!) Some of you who are students noted that you'd be doing as much work on the other side of the red pen. Whether students, parents, teachers or the lucky few whose only connection to academia is reading about it in the newspapers--hope you all survived the past crunch week or so of midterms, study week, or finals. Now get ready, 'cause there's a lengthy return post ahead--on to the food!]
[Base of rice and buckwheat; sautéed rapini and chard with onions and garlic; tahini-miso sauce; sprinkled with hemp seeds.]
I’m sure we’ve all met her (or perhaps we are her?): that woman who’s incredibly competent at dispensing affection, comfort, nurturing or support–yet seems to ignore her own emotional needs and physical well-being.
Well, I admit it, I’m as guilty as the next gal. Ten days away from the DDD home base had me reflecting often on this whole notion of self-love. Actually, that was only one among a plethora of topics on which I mused during the hiatus, which included (but was not limited to) the following:
how much I miss blogging when I’m away. I was struck by a true sense of void during this time, and it astounded me. Honestly, who are “they” who post studies about the Internet and prophecies of doom regarding how it diminishes social skills or limits interactions with other people? Seriously. In some cases, I’m in contact with blog buddies more often than my “in-person” friends (some of whom live only five minutes away). Don’t let anyone tell you that the society of bloggers isn’t a bona fide community of lively, vibrant, and very much interactive people–all of you!
how to create a tasty, grain-free breakfast pancake. I wanted something that didn’t require refined, or even whole-grain, flour–and I found it! (more on that anon).
how this &%$!!?* winter refuses to retreat, even though it’s March already and why are you still hanging around, Mr. Jack Frost, can’t you tell you’re not welcome anymore and nobody wants you here, so just go away and don’t come back, ya big bully!
how, with the economy as bad as it is, I’m hoping the HH and I might still save for our dream home (okay, I’d be willing to cut some of the frills and just be happy with a daydream home). And while we’re both incredibly lucky to still be gainfully employed, on the topic of saving money and stretching a dollar, I’ve been mightily inspired by the frugal and fantastic Melody over at MeloMeals.
why, once again, I have been willing to risk my health, well-being and future for the evil (and truly, ephemeral) charms of that sepia seductress, chocolate.
[Oat groats and amaranth base; grilled eggplant and grilled marinated tofu; broccoli, avocado and green onion; orange-fig sauce.]
Yes, folks, it’s time to focus on the “diet” portion of this blog yet again.
When I first began to ponder how I’d spend my break from the college, I considered traveling to a new locale, attending a retreat, picking up old hobbies like sewing or knitting–but it never occurred to me I’d get sick instead. Then, at my annual checkup last week, I discovered that my old candida afflction has reared its yeasty head yet again, and this time, with a potency that could rival the combined superpowers of the X-Men.
I’ve decided that in order to rid myself of this recurring problem once and for all, I’ll need to return to the anti-candida diet (ACD). I’ll be facing a highly restrictive diet and a few detoxes or cleanses along the way (no wonder I’ve been avoiding it). But I’ve had it with the persistent cycle of diet, dessert and destruction (you thought I was going to say “dogs,” didn’t you? heh heh!). To paraphrase that seminal queen of weight loss, Susan Powter, “the insanity must stop!” (And what the heck ever happened to her, anyway?).
I’m going on an anti-candida diet so I can be healthy. So I can move more easily, and feel comfortable in my own body. So I can express a little more self-love and self-care through my diet and lifestyle. (Anyone familiar with Sally’s fabulous blog already knows what I mean by this: treating my body, mind and spirit with the kindness, reverence, and care it deserves.) So I can enjoy a social life without being fixated on food. Oh, and so I can lose 40 pounds by my highschool reunion this May. **
My last “true” candida cleanse occurred nine years ago, and in the interim, my eating habits have slowly reverted to those that got me in trouble in the first place (chocolate too often; sweets too often; wine too often). After reading the diet on this site (which is slightly less ascetic than the regimen I followed before), I think it’s doable (the only recommendation with which I disagree is to use aspartame or aseulfame, so I’ll just omit those).
To those of you who’ve been reading for a while, I understand if you’re skeptical, and I apologize. After all, I’ve tried more than a few times to cut chocolate and sugar from my life. Well, I’ve learned it’s never a great idea to publicly declare such a complete lifestyle overhaul on the blog, because later on, if you don’t meet your lofty goal, your initial vow is indelibly there for all the internet to see. With that in mind, I’ll restrict my candida commentary to the Progress Tracker page (may as well give it a new use, as I long ago stopped recording my weight over there).
And since I’ve already done a bit of baking over the past couple of weeks, I can intersperse the spartan dishes with more interesting fare. If I play my screens right, you folks will barely notice a difference.
[Rice and brown lentil base; spinach leaves and steamed sweet potato wedges with chopped green onions; topped with almond-curry sauce.]
The first step is to prepare the system with a week or two of clean, whole-foods eating that doesn’t worry about yeast or fermentation (yeast and fermented foods will be cleared out next). Rice or noodle bowls are a great place to start.
[Barley and amaranth base; grilled red pepper strips and onions; steamed broccoli; sprinkling of cashews and sunflower seeds; topped with tahini-miso sauce.]
Meals-in-a-bowl like these have become very popular at health-food restaurants and stores around North America. There’s a local haunt that serves an amazing bowl called, appropriately, “The Mish-Mash Bowl.” Every meal contains either brown rice or quinoa, topped with your choice of four toppings from three categories (protein, veggies, or good fats), then drizzled with your choice of one or two dressings.
My own variation on the Mish Mash is a quartet of at least one healthy grain plus a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate (ie, veggies). I was amazed at how satisfying–and how filling–a clean, healthy bowl can be. The marriage of fresh, colorful veggies with chewy grains and the crunch of nuts or seeds is entirely enchanting (almost as enchanting as that vixen, chocolate–though in a different way, of course).
In putting these together, what I discovered rather quickly is that “the sauce makes the bowl.” A grain bowl sans effective topping is sort of like a perfect outfit without the right shoes or accessories–it may be good quality, it may be tailored , it may even sport a designer label, but without the proper accoutrements, it’s just a length of beige, beige, beige.
With a winning sauce, however, these bowls are stellar; they’re delectable; they evoke impatient yearning; they’re Zagat-worthy. And, much like those lines of toddlers’ clothing that allow the kids to dress themselves by choosing one top and one pre-coordinated bottom, they’re fun to mix and match, just to see what comes up.
The combinations here are simply starting points to get you going; play around with different grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and sauces. Use these sauces with any combination you please, or go with my mixes–either way, you’ll be treating yourself with love.
**I asked this question entirely tongue in cheek–so please, no need to send me emails detailing how unhealthy a 40-pound weight loss in 8 weeks would be! I have no intention of actually losing that much. Besides, at the rate I’ve been going this past year, a FOUR pound loss by May would be nothing short of miraculous.
Light and tangy, this sauce would also be perfect with raw veggies or in a sandwich.
2 tsp (10 ml) freshly grated ginger root
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
1 Tbsp 915 ml) light miso
2 Tbsp (30 ml) water
Combine all ingredients in a blender and whir until smooth. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls.
Almond and Curry Sauce
Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, this substantial sauce goes well with cooked root vegetables and adds a protein punch to your bowl. I used a food processor for this batch, which was chunky; I think I’d use a blender next time (or even use almond butter instead of fresh almonds).
6-10 dried dates, roughly chopped, to taste
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 ml) boiling water
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 ml) natural almonds, with skin
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated ginger root
1/2 tsp (5 ml) mild curry powder
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari or soy sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced
pinch chili flakes
Place dates in a blender and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and blend until you have a smooth sauce. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls.
Orange Fig Sauce
Delicious over bowls when a higher protein content is provided by the ingredients in the bowl. This also works beautifully on a tofu omelet.
1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
one 2″ (5 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp (5 ml) light miso
2 tsp (10 ml) tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) agave nectar
2 large dried figs, stems removed, chopped
Whir all ingredients in a blender until perfectly smooth. Drizzle over your bowl as desired. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls.