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Generally, if you choose and seek out good health, it takes a lot of work. Bad health is easy – you don’t care what you put in your body, you eat what you want. It is very passive. But living that way has consequences, causes all sorts of health problems…and the usual solution to those health problems is to pop a pill or five. (Take this to lower your blood pressure, take this to lower your cholesterol, maybe take this magic pill to lose weight, take this pill for joint pain).

But if you choose good health, it is something you are always thinking about, always working on. And if you have food allergies, and are trying to control health issues through changes in your diet, it takes even more work. However, the payoff is awesome. But there is no such thing as just popping something into your mouth.

That doesn’t mean you don’t get to have awesomely yummy things though, even if you are trying to get rid of all processed sugar from your diet.

I’ve been on a pumpkin kick lately (yay fall). A few mornings this week, I made up some slow-cooking oatmeal, threw in some pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, some walnuts and maybe a teaspoon of agave syrup — super yummy, super healthy, keeps you full for a long time, and did I mention yummy?

Then I still had some pumpkin puree left but didn’t want to cook oatmeal. Solution, smoothie! Ice, almond milk, pumpkin puree, maybe a teaspoon of Oregon Chai concentrate, maybe a teaspoon of agave syrup, soy protein powder (no added sugar), ohmydogggg that is seriously good stuff. Liquid, kind of frozen, pumpkin pie. Yes please!

I’ve recently started reading Pumpkin and Pomegranate’s awesome blog, who eats very similar to how I am eating these days and she always has these fabulous sounding recipes. She has mentioned several times this raw vegan chocolate pudding that she made up, and I just had to make some. I had to adapt it slightly as I didn’t have dates on hand, so I used some agave syrup, but ohwowow, so very yummy. And you would never know the base was avocado. (yes, really).

I made up some of that pudding last night, and topped it off with some pomegranate arils, and felt like I was eating the dessert of the gods.

This morning, I was making up a smoothie, and threw in the last of the pumpkin puree, the last of the chocolate pudding I made last night, some ice, vanilla almond milk, soy protein powder and a bit of Oregon Chai for flavor and entered the land of smoothie happiness. Between the protein, the good-for-you fat from the avocado, the vitamins from the pumpkin, the potassium from the banana…it was serious health food and has kept me full from 8 am. till just after noon.

Who says healthy eating has to be boring?! And bonus…I went to the dermatologist for a follow up appt yesterday, and they checked my blood pressure. My blood pressure is always very good, but yesterday it was 98/66 – and since I’ve just started exercising again this week, the only big change has been working to remove all refined sugar from my diet. I’d say it is fixing and improving me in all sorts of ways!

 

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My whole life, I’ve had skin problems, mostly eczema, and food allergies. When I was very little, I couldn’t eat chocolate, dairy, among other things. Those are the ones I remember the most. I always had to sleep with a humidifier in the winter and an AC in the summer to keep my skin from getting dry. Humidity or cold dry weather would trigger my eczema. I would have to sleep with socks, take oatmeal baths, coat my skin in Eucerin (especially if I wanted to go in my beloved ocean – the water would burn my skin horribly, but if I was heavily coated with Eucerin, I could stand to be in the water. Not being in the water was not an option for this mermaid girl). But it never really mattered…once the eczema would wake up, I would tear at my skin, because it was the only thing that would feel better.

I got older, I outgrew the original food allergies, I seemed like I was getting somewhat better at keeping the eczema under control.

But everything was just lying dormant, waiting. I think of it all now like a dragon, sleeping. Sometimes, it will be months, maybe years before the dragon wakes up, but you are always aware that it is there. And then you just start to feel just the slightest twinge, and you know that if you look at it too hard, or scratch just a little, the dragon, the very angry dragon, will wake up and devour you whole.

Lots of changes started happening in my life – I moved in with my first boyfriend (who was a dragon in his own right, but I didn’t see it at first). My life became very stressful, with my work like and home life. I began having health problems – stomach pains, weird back pain, headaches (I had a migraine for a week straight).

I left him, and began dating Tim (with whom I am still good friends with and I’m thankful for that). I wanted to lose a little weight, so I started the South Beach diet and began eating everything whole grain. High-fiber everything. Most of what I ate at the time was whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cereal, and cheeses. I lost weight but my stomach was always bloated. I began having more stomach pain, weird digestive issues, weird back pain.

And my skin exploded.

Tests, more tests, doctors, more doctors. Nothing helped. No real answers were given, until I went to a naturopath and learned that I have celiac disease.

Gluten left my life, my health improved. But I continued to have breakouts. I continued using the high-intensity steroid cream whenever I would breakout. I would think it was from eating out, where I would accidentally get glutened.

I finally decided to give up dairy (casein – milk protein- to be specific) as well, and again, my skin really improved and cleared up. My energy improved. I would go for a month, two, maybe more with my skin clear. I started to feel whole, I started to feel like maybe my dragon had finally moved on and I was free.

But the dragon was just in a deeper sleep than I realized. It woke up again.

In the past year, I started to have more breakouts again. I thought it was from eating out, that no matter how carefully I checked, I had eaten something that had gluten or dairy in it (I’ve gone to the same restaurant and told them very specifically about my allergies, have them say that the dish didn’t have anything in it, only to get sick, go back at a later date, ask again, and be told that yes in fact it did have something in it. Duh, and also, Not helpful). My stomach started bothering me again.

But I was getting married in May. I wanted to be healthy, I wanted my skin to be healthy, my stomach to be healthy. I worked really hard at it. And I told my body it had to get through the wedding. And it listened. And then after the wedding, it was no longer able to keep everything at bay.

I began breaking out maybe every other week. My food habits hadn’t changed and I wasn’t eating out much.

I continued to use the steroid cream, and it was helping less and less.

When I say I broke out, I don’t mean that I had pimples or acne or a few select spots of eczema. I mean I had this incredibly itchy, painful rash EVERYWHERE. When it was flared up, it hurt to shower. It hurt to wear clothes. I couldn’t exercise because sweat hurt too much. I felt ugly. I cried a lot.

And then it got even worse.

My hand had the worst of it. Everytime I would wash my hands, my hands would dry out. When my hand was dry, it would get itchy. I would try to scratch it just a little, but remember the dragon? Yeah, then the dragon would wake up and the itch would drive me mad and I would scratch my hand until it was bleeding, because it would give me a minute of relief.

And then it got worse again. For most of September and all of October, my hand barely looked like a hand. It never healed no matter what I put on it, and I tried, I tried so hard to not scratch it, not touch it, but I was no match for this dragon. It hurt, oh god it hurt. I am right handed, and I began brushing my teeth and eating with my left hand, because I couldn’t bend my fingers. My fingers began weeping. Just running them under water could get them bleeding.

My entire body, head to toe, was covered. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I had a cough and a weird shallow breathing thing that lasted for a month and would make it difficult for me to talk because I would be unable to breathe properly.  I had no energy at all. Just walking my dog around the corner exhausted me. I was trapped in my body, falling further and further away from myself, not able to do anything I love to do, and not knowing how to beat the dragon that had taken over my entire world.

I went to an acupuncturist. She said my liver, large intestine, stomach, spleen were all too “hot” and that was affecting everything else. Something that acupuncturists, and naturopaths, recognize that dermatologists don’t – all skin problems are actually the result of an internal problem. The body uses the skin to try to remove toxins…and of course the steroid cream that I was using nearly constantly doesn’t solve the problem, it just pushes the inflammation back inside.

I went to acupuncture for two weeks, and in those two weeks, I got so much worse. I don’t believe, and my acupuncturist doesn’t believe, that the acupuncture was making it worse necessarily, but it seemed that my system was so overloaded it couldn’t handle anything.

I had to go to the emergency room, to get seen by a dermatologist. They put me on a higher intensity cream, gave me antibiotics for the superinfection they found in my skin…and my skin finally started to clear up. I was able to start sleeping again. My energy started coming back. I don’t believe for a minute that it has fixed me, just given me a temporary solution that allowed me to live in my body again. But to be able to live in my body again is wonderful, joyous, cause for celebration.

I was able to start taking my dog for walks again. I was able to run yesterday. Huge celebrations.

The acupuncturist told me to get off sugar, because I have Candidia (yeast overgrowth). I am working very hard on that. I have eliminated almost all processed sugar at this point, and I am going to continue working at that. She also told me to get off soy milk and soy yogurt, as it is too damp, and she said what I had in acupuncture terms is damp heat. I’ve made good progress in that area as well.

In a lot of ways, right now I am feelign better than I have for a long, long time. My energy is high. I’m sleeping. No stomach pain or weird back pain.

But the dragon is still there. I can still feel it. There is the beginning of itching on my scalp, on my hand. I am not at full health yet, and I haven’t slain the dragon once and for all..but for the first time in a long time, I am fighting back.

And this time, I am going to win. I will find out how to control it and not be controlled BY it anymore.

 

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B and I went looking at more houses today, and the first one we looked at, we really loved. It’s in a nice, safe, quiet neighborhood that is six miles from my work and close to a big lake. The house backs up to a golf course (so no one could build behind the house! And B loves golf). It is really bright and open, and has rooms for a library, B’s office, my art space, a guest room, and a master bedroom of course (with a HUGE garden tub. I could happily live in that tub). (our grand total of furniture at the moment is a couch, two desks, a bed and a bureau, so we will need to buy some furniture). The kitchen is updated, with lots of cabinets and good counter space, with an island built in, and a huge pantry. All of the appliances come with the house — dishwasher, side-by-side fridge with ice dispenser, washer/dryer. The house was built in 2004 and is in immaculate shape.

It was pretty much everything we were looking for (although it will require paint, everything is beige, and we want COLOR!). So, we grabbed each other’s hands, and jumped excitedly off the ledge and sent in our offer to our realtor. We are dropping off the good faith check tomorrow morning, and then negotiations (hopefully) begin.

I wanted chocolate chip pancakes for dinner to celebrate. I thought I had some gluten-free pancake mix at home, but I just some GF all purpose flour, and various other GF flours. I tried to make my own pancake batter, and it wasn’t so much batter as pancake soup. No matter how much flour I added, it continued to defy cooking logic and it remained soup-like. And no matter how many chocolate chips I added, they wouldn’t scoop out with the batter. We cooked them anyways, and they ended up cooking like kind of thick, chewy, kind of flour-y crepes (much thinner than normal pancakes but not thin enough to be crepes). Some with three chocolate chips, some with more chocolate chips than pancake batter. They were certainly not the best pancakes I have made, but they were very entertaining. And covered with strawberries and syrup, they were at least mostly edible.

A good day by all counts 🙂

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Friday Question

Hello!

I do realize I have pretty much fallen off the blog world lately. I am sorry — there has been lots of running around, some feelings of having my words locked up and not free flowing (which only gets worse the longer I go without writing), along with some normal, and not unexpected, mostly minor ups and downs that just haven’t made it anywhere outside of my head yet. But mostly, it’s been a time thing. I miss blogging, so it is something I have to be better about finding and making time for.

To get me started and get some words flowing again, a question from Friday Questions: When you were in high school did you eat dinner with your family or on your own?

Growing up, I almost always ate dinner with my parents, unless I was babysitting or at theater practice. We would sit at the table, and have dinner that my mom cooked and we would just talk. I never minded it, and actually liked that we sat down to eat as a family when my Dad got home from work. But now, knowing that a lot of families don’t do that, I think of it as a gift, and a contributor to the nice, normal, safe upbringing that I had. I don’t say that lightly. I know that having a happy, safe childhood, where you know without question that you belong and are loved in your family is a huge gift and good life-building block.

Now, I didn’t always like what we had to eat, but I knew if I didn’t eat what was prepared, I wouldn’t be presented with other options that I liked better. This isn’t because my mom doesn’t cook well, in fact, she is a very good cook. But she grew up eating, and thus cooked this way herself, very typically Irish meals — meat, potato, one vegetable, maybe a salad. There were variations of course — homemade spaghetti sauce (still my favorite anywhere), breakfast for dinner nights, take-out nights where we would get pizza or subs, substituting rice for potato, but the staple was Meat-and-Potatoes.

I am not a meat girl, I never have been. I actively hated the taste of red meat. I loathed pork chops. Just the smell of ham would make me feel less hungry. I could manage chicken, but I never really enjoyed it all that much. But, I had to eat what was cooked. Thus began my love affair with ketchup. I would often put ketchup on just about any meat that made it to the dinner table, because I hated the taste of the meat and needed to disguise it in order to get it down. I have always eaten just one thing at a time, and never mixed my food, so I would always leave my meat for last, hoping that somehow it would either magically disappear from my plate or turn into more potatoes and veggies by the time I made my way to that side of the plate. Unfortunately, that never seemed to happen. I would try eating the smallest bites possible that I could get away with and then say I was full (wasn’t very successful with that). I would try eating it fast to get it over with faster. If it was something with a bone or fat (gag), I could manage to leave half of it uneaten, because I wouldn’t eat that stuff or eat anything near it. (Side note, this was also true, even when it wasn’t meals made at my house. During family holidays, when I would sit at the kids’ table with my younger cousins while the adults usually ate in another room, I would trade my meat for my cousins’ vegetables). Is it any wonder that I became a vegetarian? The only reason I eat chicken now is because of my food allergies — I needed some kind of option for when I’m dining out.

Now, family dinners are few and far between, since I live in North Carolina, and my parents are in Massachusetts, but I still look forward to sitting down with my parents over dinner. And my mom continues to adapt to my changing diet. When I was a strict vegetarian, she learned to make vegetarian meals for me. She would buy more vegetables and make bigger salads, even though she wouldn’t eat most of the vegetables herself. She would make sure at holidays that I had stuffing that hadn’t touched the meat, gravy that wasn’t made from meat fat. With my food allergies, she continues to learn new recipes, including modifying her world-famous Swedish Apple Pie (my favorite pie in the world) so I can still eat it.

Food has always been a big part of family for me. And it has always been a way to show and express love — something I do now when I cook at home for B.


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Most of the time, I’m ok with my food allergies.

It means I don’t eat out very often, but I can usually find fun stuff to make at home. I don’t actively miss the stuff I can’t have — mostly.

But I think I am learning that summertime makes me miss food more, maybe because summer food is fun, and because it is great weather to eat things outside.

For example, right now, I am really missing ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, soft serve ice cream, etc. Now, if I’m home, or near a grocery store, I can usually find decent soy ice cream, but when I’m walking past a fresh ice cream store or see people licking ice cream meltings off their fingers as they eat their ice cream cones…not a whole lot of Kelly options in those scenarios.

And I’m really missing burgers. Good veggie burgers, on a good roll. Gluten-free rolls, when I can find them – not that good really. They tend to be really dry and crumbly. And finding good veggie burgers? Not an easy task, as most have wheat protein in them. Dr. Praeger’s makes a veggie burger I can eat, it’s not very good (and it is very, very GREEN), but I can eat it. I just can’t usually find them.

And pizza. Oh, how I miss pizza. Real pizza, and even nasty Domino’s pizza. And yes, I can make pizza at home without cheese, but sometimes, you walk by someone eating a piece of fresh cheese pizza and your mouth just starts to water. At least mine does.

Sigh. Of course, at the moment, this is all compounded because my oven at home blew up a few days ago and we are waiting for the landlord to fix it, so I can’t cook. And eating out isn’t really fun anymore, so I’m just missing what I can’t have even more.

I apologize for the whining. Your non-whining Flying Mermaid will return to her regularly scheduled programming shortly.

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Like many, many people out there, I have food allergies, so I always have to think about what I eat. It doesn’t define me, but it does mean I have to check the ingredient labels, and then double-check, for everything I eat. It means I often have to say no to food that people offer me — at work, when I’m out in the grocery store and meet someone handing out samples, at people’s houses. Food that most people might usually say, “Oh I really shouldn’t,” but then they have one anyway. Food that is fun, but generally bad for you.

And it brings up a lot of questions from people. What do you mean you can’t eat this? (I mean, I will get sick for days) Well, what exactly are you allergic to? (gluten and casein — milk protein) Does that mean you can’t have x or y? (usually, yes) And the one that I get probably the most often, and the one that people see as really limiting, and one that has had me thinking a lot lately. Well, what can you eat?

Despite having two big food allergies, there is still a whole food world out there that is available to me. One that is healthy, full of flavor, color and lots of good things. It’s the food that we should be eating, the food our bodies actually want.

The more processed something is, the less likely I am to be able to eat it. But, really, is that a bad thing? Someday, take a good look at what you eat in a day. Look at how much sugar, sodium, dairy in all of its forms, fat, and scary chemical words are in the stuff you eat. That’s the stuff you are fueling your body with, the stuff that is sitting inside of you, the stuff that your body is using for everything it does.

My food allergies have made me eat healthier than I ever have in my life, and I was always considered a healthy eater. And it has changed my relationship with food. Now, because of my allergies, I can’t just eat whatever I see that looks good — pizza, donuts, cake, candy, whatever. I can’t just go to any restaurant and get what I want. I have to think about my food, I have to really consider what I put in my body. And I like what I’m feeding my body now. And when I don’t accidentally eat something I shouldn’t, or get cross-contaminated, I feel better than I probably ever have.

My dinners this week will include:

salad with green lettuce, mandarin oranges, almonds, dried cranberries, chicken and a pomegranate/mango dressing

Gluten-free rice pasta with yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes with white balsamic vinegar dressing

A casserole with brown rice, chicken, diced tomatoes and peas

Gluten-free pizza crust with an artichoke, roasted-red pepper, garlic sauce with sliced tomatoes and broccoli

Breakfasts include smoothies with fruit and soy milk, leftover brown rice cooked in soy milk with vanilla and some fruit on top, flax cereal mixed into soy yogurt, maybe a tomato/broccoli omelet.

When I buy frozen food (because I still like convenience), I buy stuff from the Amy’s product line. Because she believes that if you can’t pronounce it or recognize an ingredient, than it probably isn’t food and doesn’t belong in your food. And that makes sense to me.

Doesn’t what I can eat sound good? And it is all good-for-me stuff, stuff that hasn’t been over-processed, isn’t just dressed up fat, sugar and chemicals. It’s food.

Another question I get asked all the time is, why don’t they just make a pill so that people with food allergies can just eat “normally”? I could never claim to speak for all people with food allergies, but for me, that is a really repulsive idea. Take a pill to allow me to eat things that my body really doesn’t like, take a pill that masks what those things do to my body, but not actually stop it from damaging my body. To me, that is just treating the symptom, not addressing the problem. I would rather watch what I eat, and eat what my body really wants, eat food that makes my body happy, and HONESTLY feel good, really good, than take a pill and eat like I used to and probably only feel half as bad as I do when I do eat gluten or casein.

Food allergies don’t have to mean that you can’t have food you like, it just means you have to think about it more. And I believe thinking about what you are really feeding yourself is a good thing.

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Mikki and I went to the state farmers’ market yesterday, what a neat place. The first building we were in had all sorts of antiques and furniture and home decorations and lawn decorations.

If you look closely, you can see me reflected in the ball

Large ornaments for really large christmas trees?

A really big watering can, for really big lawns, perhaps? Oh, and a metal alligator

A really large, and really happy, lawn turtle. I want him.

The biggest c*ck Mikki has seen….

Swoon. I love bottles.

Sad little cherubs

*****

The next building had vendors selling homemade goat cheese, preserves, pies, all sorts of cool things

Mmm coffee

“If it ain’t caffeinated, it ain’t coffee.” Damn straight!

Lovely farm-fresh eggs

Pickled eggs. Don’t know why they are pink…

Acres of fresh strawberries, the kind where the juice just dribbles over your fingers when you take a bite

Gourd art

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