Adventures in Cooking

As my fellow singletons know, cooking is dubious business when you’re cooking for one.  Sure, there’s a hoard of recipes out there to cook for one person, but where do you get 1/4 of an onion?  Last time I checked, they are sold whole.  I know I can cook pre-diced frozen ones and use just a bit, but it’s much easier for me to justify my half-assed cooking attempts by saying it’s too hard to cook from scratch.  Fortunately, I’m not a super picky eater and don’t usually mind eating the same thing for a few days.  I also survive on Aidell’s chicken sausage sold in bulk at Costco and whatever random veggies I’ve picked up.  This is probably why I’m losing weight.

In an effort to find a substitute for that disgusting macaroni and cheese problem I’ve been having, I made spaghetti.  Spaghetti sauce is something I’ve always done well, and I make a kickass lasagna.  Since lasagna is now my nightmare food, full of delicious cheese, mushrooms, garlic and gluten, guess I’ll have to suffer through modified spaghetti. I browned up some organic, grass fed hamburger (thanks, Costco!) and added some roasted red and yellow peppers, two cans of artichokes and two glass jars of spaghetti sauce.  One is from Kroger, one is from Target, and they are both organic, relatively garlic free deliciousness.  One is actually pretty spicy, which was nice!  Plus I got to use my Le Creuset pot, which is gorgeous and always makes me smile.  Thanks, Mom!

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So, call me Sandra of the Semi-Homemade Cooking show fame, but whatever.  At least I didn’t jump warm it in the microwave and call it a day.  I got four lunches out of the leftovers, two servings for dinner because I have no salad stuff here and I’m feeling like a big fatty today, plus six cups for the freezer.  BOOM.  At least I’m still within my calorie threshold for the day and I got a lot of iron from the beef.  Take that, Anemia!  I will kick you in the pants.  Sure, it’s barely 6 pm and I can’t eat anything else today, but I’ll survive.  That’s why God blessed us with fizzy flavored water.

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I used the Ronzoni Gluten Free Penne Rigate.  It tastes pretty normal to me and I like the chunkier noodle with my chunky sauce.  Regular spaghetti noodles seem like they’ll make a mess.  OH!  That reminds me that I bought myself a spiralizer that should be here tomorrow, so along with my salad stuff I’m going to pick up a zucchini and see how that works.  I really like spaghetti squash with my pasta sauce, so hopefully I’ll like the zucchini just as much.  Less mess and chances for microwave explosions (coughMaryAnnecough.)  I’ll post pics of that this week, and I promise it’ll look like a Pinterest fail.

Speaking of Pinterest, my girlfriend Erin asked where I was finding recipes these days.  God bless her, she’s allergic to shellfish just like my Uncle Ray, who I hear willingly almost put himself in the hospital to bulldoze through a famous buffet in NYC back when I was a baby.  Crazy man.  Anyhoot – Paleo has been pretty popular for a few years now, and thank goodness, because anything Paleo normally has none of my allergens, aside from garlic, blueberries, spinach, and the other randomly good for everyone else that walks the planet foods that I can’t eat.  And some of the stuff I’ve been eating for years thanks to Weight Watchers is allergen free too, like my shredded chicken!

That, btw, is just a can of Rotel for every pound of chicken, taco seasoning and heat on low in your crock pot for about six hours, until the chicken shreds.  I normally eat it with black beans and avocado, but it makes great tacos too 🙂

All that said, I think I’m still allergic to tomatoes.  They apparently don’t screw up my blood and exacerbate my inflammatory issues, but I’m typing this blog with a tightened throat and my face feels like it is sunburnt.  Hmm.  Did this with Suzy’s awesome allergen free taco soup the other night too, so I think tomatoes will continue to be in my diet but VERY. SPARINGLY.  Tonight is good since I don’t have any big plans.  Hopefully I won’t wake up with hives tomorrow.  PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE.  Hives are the worst.  It could be the spices, though, especially since black pepper in on my naughty list.  Who the hell knows?  Again, just put me in a bubble.  I guess I need to live on protein shakes and oatmeal 🙂  Or just have permanently sunburnt cheeks and perpetually chapped lips.

Anyone got a great lip balm they love?  I’ve tried the Eos (no longer work for me and make my lips worse) and I’m concerned that my honey intolerance makes beeswax an issue, so that rules out Burt’s Bees.  Carmex doesn’t seem to make things worse, but it does burn when I first put it on.  Maybe I’ll save this question for my dermatologist post that I’ve been pondering for a few days now.

Cheers!

Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese is the Worst.

Seriously.  I can’t even.  CAN’T EVEN.  Not to be a basic bitch about things, but I give up.  Sure, I miss Pumpkin Spice Lattes because Starbucks only has soy as their crappy non-dairy alternative.  Boozy brunches just aren’t the same without an egg bennie because carbs don’t count on Sundays, okay?  The gluten thing is mostly fine, whatever.  It’s so common that it’s common and I didn’t need a damn bread basket at dinner anyway.

Dairy substitutes, though?  UGH.  So much fail.  I’ve mentioned Daiya cheese probably in every post I’ve made, and it does have its place.  It’s good on the Daiya pizza, because it gives the right texture (sort of) and it stretches.  You’re so distracted by the amazing pizza sauce that you don’t notice the cheese is all wrong.  At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.  Daiya even has an only to be found one time across eight grocery stores jalapeño jack block that even my (admittedly drunk) friends liked.  It’s disappeared.  Such a bummer.

I’ve tried three different kinds of dairy free macaroni and cheese now, and they are all disgusting.  And way more fattening than the real thing!  And by real thing, I mean something nasty and dirty like Velveeta shells and cheese, which I personally prefer to be made with Rotel or salsa and it’s so yummy.  You’d think all that processed yellow goodness wouldn’t actually be cheese, but it is.  I’ve checked.  Twice.  Just to be sure.

Tonight I tried the Gluten Free Say Cheez by Namaste Foods.  It has a super tragic rating of -4.7 on the MyNetDiary app.  -5 is the worst score they give.  For something that isn’t insanely delicious, so not worth it.  But I’m committed, and this is a very, very occasional treat.  Well, boo.  I so appreciate that these companies make the effort, I truly am, but I just need to find some sort of delicious pasta with sauce that isn’t mac and cheese for my grumpy Saturday comfort food.  Like the spaghetti I originally intended to have today, except I forgot to thaw out my hamburger.  Whoops.  Plus tomatoes still jack up my face.  They don’t give me inflammatory issues according to my 4000 blood tests, but there’s really no disputing the red rash I get all around my mouth and on my cheeks anytime I eat chili, spaghetti, or my friend Suzy’s amazing taco soup that she doctored so I could eat it.  (I have some of the best friends ever, insanely tolerant and way willing to deal with my bullshit.)  And I’m excited to eat the leftovers she gave me anyway, that’s how good it was.

So anyway, to this four serving package of dairy free yuckiness you have to add three tablespoons of oil, butter or margarine.  I’ve actually been pretty happy with all three of the Earth Balance buttery spreads I’ve tried (also a -4.5 rating), but let’s be honest.  It’s oil, hence the fat factor.  Because it ended up being kind of bland, I added some Daiya shreds to try to help it out, and then I gave up and dumped in a bunch of salsa.

Here’s the damage:

1530 calories

83 grams of fat (18 g is saturated)

168 carbs

Pretty bad for something that isn’t delicious.  There are probably a million things I could have for that same amount of calories.  Thanks to my super over-informative app, I’ve noticed my fat intake has been pretty high compared to the suggested fat/protein/carb ratio, and it’s all these substitutes that are doing it.  I love whole foods, I love just about any kind of veggie (tho some are better with bacon) and I love fruit.  No reason to put these chemicals and crap into my body when they don’t even taste good.  And bacon is technically a whole food anyway.

Ugh.  Time for some cereal.  Coconut milk is amazing and I’ve found some killer gluten free cereals, which btw?  I totally didn’t eat before this all happened.  I never wanted to waste the Points.  These days, though, sometimes it’s the only thing that will do.

Good Lord I’m grumpy today.  Must be because I’m taking down all the Christmas stuff.

Cheers!  At least I learned how to add a link, just in case someone needs a giggle about Ugg wearing, Pumpkin Spice Latte guzzling basic bitches that can’t even.

Surviving New Year’s – Boozy Treats, College Football, and Cooking

Happy New Year, everyone!

This might be the first year I haven’t made any resolutions – I made all the bad behavior changes I cared to make in October.  For 2015, I resolve to give up beer!  Lasagna!  Bubbles and cheese plates!  Oh wait…already did all of that.  I will keep working towards my goal of getting healthy and feeling better, though, and I definitely need to bank more time at the gym.  I’ll probably find myself at the complex gym by the end of the day, because it is way too nasty to venture outside.  I purposely dressed in gym clothes today, all the way down to my kicks and sports bra, so no excuse to not go.  And hey…no hangover!

It’s been ages since I went “out” for NYE.  I’ve spent the last few years hiding out from drunks and crazies with Jason and Ben or hanging out with friends at their annual house party.  The party skipped a year, thanks to an out of town wedding, but luckily for me, Jason and Ben extended their Dallas visit and were in town!  Yay!  And with the doggies too, which is such a treat!!!  Love them.  Anyhoot, if I’m remembering last year correctly, Jason made homemade alfredo sauce, oodles of pasta and ridiculously good rosemary bread, and we no doubt drank many bottles of wine and other boozy treats.  None of that for me this year, but fortunately the boys were totally on board with my plan for steak, brussels sprouts with bacon and potatoes.

I rarely cook meat unless it’s in a slow cooker or warming up pre-cooked chicken sausage  (Aidells!  I’m addicted. Thank you for selling in bulk at Costco.)   Maybe I’m just paranoid because of my overly sensitive stomach, but I’m always afraid I’ll poison myself.  Cooking classes definitely need to be added to my developing list of hobbies.  My knife skills are atrocious.  Ask anyone who has spent thirty seconds in the kitchen with me.  I’ve been playing around with a new cast iron skillet, though, and thanks to my growing adoration of The Pioneer Woman, I made perfectly done steaks!  SO GOOD!

Cooking shows, what?  I know, I know…why torture myself with food porn?  It’s a fun new game where I try to redo every single recipe with foods I can actually eat.  The jury is permanently out on macaroni and cheese.  I’ve found excellent gluten free pasta, and the Daiya cheese is okay for certain things, but it’s just not the same, will never be the same, and I remind myself that I always felt like hell after eating it anyway.  So there.

You know what doesn’t make me feel like hell?  Bacon grease, at least in moderation.  Have I mentioned that the foods I can eat aren’t necessarily healthy?  And I swear I’ve consumed more salt in the past two months than I did all year.  That’s why I’m using the food tracker too – I love that I can see every detail and track what I’m really taking in for the sneaky things like sodium, iron, calcium, cholesterol, etc.  Frying bacon was an excellent way to continue seasoning my skillet, and it made for even more delicious brussels sprouts.  Sure, I should have roasted them, and I normally would (thanks for teaching me how, J!!) but what a nice treat!  Set those aside, sear the steaks for 90 seconds on each side and toss that skillet in the oven to finish.  Thanks again, Pioneer Woman!  I can’t just read a recipe, apparently, I have to watch it happen too.

So that was my NYE meal, and I’ve had excellent leftovers for football watching today, but where do the boozy treats come in?  College football without beer?  Toasting the new year without champagne?  Madness!  As for as liquor goes, distilling supposedly removes all gluten.  The Celiac foundation doesn’t agree, though, and I just don’t want to risk it.  Reading other blogs about gluten intolerances over the past couple of months has made me very leery.  Surrendering my beautiful bottle of Grey Goose L’Orange was painful, but it’s good in the long run.  Besides, I’m sure I can stock up on potato vodka next time I’m in Idaho, and I can even support (sort of) local business and drink Tito’s Vodka and Deep Eddy Vodka.  Win!

I’ve been a fan of Deep Eddy Grapefruit for ages now, and though I had to quit Deep Eddy Cranberry thanks to my sensitivity issue, finding substitutes has been no problem.  I was even fortunate enough to find two 99% corn distilled bourbons when I went to Nickel and Rye last month.  Such a good treat!  That said…alcohol is a well known inflammatory aggravator.  It’s a stomach and intestine irritant and increases gastric acid.  I already have enough issues with bad belly, nausea and throwing up, so I have to be very cautious about my consumption level.  Club soda is a good friend, though, and alternating a vodka/soda with a soda/soda keeps it pretty level.

Beer wasn’t a major loss, though I will miss going to breweries and trying craft. Oh, that chocolate stout at Icicle Brewery in Leavenworth! And a Guinness beef stew! For every day boozing, though, I’ve always preferred hard cider – generally gluten free.  Yay!  It’s packed full of sugar and will murder some calories, though.  Woo.  Other than the occasional Summer Shandy or Blue Moon, though, I haven’t had much beer in ages.  All of the Seattle sports teams sold cider in their stadiums and most bars have at least one on tap.  Easy breezy.

Speaking of sports…tough day for my Baylor Bear friends and a beautiful day for my Michigan State fans, but what an exciting game of college football!   I love a good come back against all odds, except when Baylor did it to TCU.  Bah.  At any rate, I’ll admit that quilting and drinking water at home isn’t quite as fun as watching at Buffalo Wild Wings with friends, but I certainly feel pretty good.  (And by the way, at BWW, have the naked tenders with mild or medium sauce with fries.  Not a “healthy” choice but gluten, soy and dairy free!)

Signing off for now – over the next week I’ll check in on cooking shows and substitution games, madness at the gym, dating adventures and of course, any more progress towards getting into my grad school clothes.  They’re in my closet in a plastic tote, just waiting for me to fetch them!

(p.s. – made another lucky stars quilt square today!  Showed Jason how to paper piece last night and I can’t wait to get to Urban Spools and use the gift card they bought me for Christmas on a new project.  I was so spoiled for Christmas!!!)

Cheers!

Weight Watchers, Food Journals and Weight Issues

Good morning!  First, just have to say thank you for everyone that read my blog yesterday!  I think I had 125 views, and it even found some people that weren’t already my friends.  So cool!  Y’all know I love some statistical data and WordPress has all kinds of charts for me.

So, food journals. I’ve been on Weight Watchers on and off since I was 16, and heaven knows how many thousands of dollars I’ve spent.  That said, I think it was a good use of money.  Any time I’ve kept weight off for any period of time, it’s because I was doing WW. Having weekly accountability for my weight and food journaling really makes a huge difference, and I know I’ve learned a lot about nutrition through them.  (And a bunch of dietician, nutritionists, my BFF Colleen and countless other sources.)

I like the way the new PointsPlus is measured – it’s from fat, fiber, protein and carbohydrates.  What I didn’t get, though, is that there wasn’t any kind of data.  You bank all this interesting info, and then you can’t see the results.  Surely there’s an app for that, right?  And there is – MyNetDiary.

I tried the free app and cancelled my WW subscription within a couple of days.  This thing is awesome.  All the data this nerd could want, and then some more!  DATA!  YESSSSSSSSS!

All the normal stuff like meal tracking, workout tracking, measurements, weights, vitamin intake and a handy dandy analysis graph to let you know where you are totally f’ing it up. For me, it’s in sodium.  It’s never been a big issue for me, but water retention is a hateful snatch and it’s something I’m starting to keep my eyes on.

The best part, though?  You get a total nutrient count for the day, and you can select the things that mean the most to you.  Since I’m severely anemic (this is why I’m always covered in bruises and take a nasty iron supplement) it’s a way for me to check my food-based iron intake.  In this example, I totally screwed the pooch.  And wow, so much fat!  It was healthy fats from avocado, but I also managed to get 24 g from the chicken sausage I had for lunch. I just left the default for calorie ratios, but I imagine I could tinker with it if I were so inclined.  You’re not nearly as worried about carb intake when the majority of your carbs come from fruits and veggies, though.

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Coolest thing ever.  EVER!  There’s more data if you want it, but I just wanted to give a snapshot.

If you’re looking closely, you can add 40 pounds to my current weight and see that I had gotten to a very scary place.  My highest weight came after ten days of NYC market, where my biggest fears were breaking tiny plastic chairs and wondering where the hell I could get a salad.  Salt bloat is a killer when you eat out three times a day!  Well, or twice a day.  Lunch was usually a coffee and a handful of almonds.  #FashionProblems. When I was trying out for The Biggest Loser, some of my friends were baffled and didn’t think I was big enough to qualify.  That’s one of the beautiful things about being six feet tall, but at my heaviest weight, I would have been one of the largest women ever cast on the show.  EVER.  Seriously.

I think that’s a big part of why I didn’t get on there – for one, I don’t have a lot of the self-esteem issues most of the contestants have.  When you’re told you have such a pretty face enough times, you believe it 😉  I was 25 pounds away from a potential contract with Ford Model’s plus size division when I was in high school.  I have a lot of issues, but thinking I’m ugly isn’t one, at least not since I was a teenager.  I’m just extremely overweight, and fortunately lucky enough to have a “thin” face and not all crazy like Honey Boo Boo’s mom.

The second thing is that I’ve been over 200 pounds and near 300 for most of my life. I was a 174 pound sixth grader, and I’ll remember that weight always thanks to the nurse announcing it to the entire room.  Awful.  But I digress…the most successful stories on TBL are from people who were at a normal weight most of their lives, but gained the weight later.  I was at my thinnest adult weight when I started grad school in 2009, but I would still qualify for TBL then too.  I felt amazing, though, and I’m so excited to get another 45 pounds off and get back into my jeans from the Gap!  Shopping goes into another post, though 🙂

So again – this isn’t a weight loss blog.  I’ve been dieting my entire life, and there probably isn’t much new I can offer in that area.  My metabolism is shot, but my bigger issues are truly health related.  And not the normal overweight person health problems – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol.  I’ve never had any issues there, likely because I’ve always been so active and I’m already a pretty healthy eater.  I don’t want to be anemic anymore, and I don’t want this inflammation issue taking over and hurting me down the line.  And I’ll be honest, diabetes and high blood pressure will probably catch me too.  I’m not that far from 40, and getting older sucks!

Cheers and Happy New Year, everyone!

Adventures in Quilting

It occurred to me that I didn’t really have any hobbies.  Sure, I love to read and will read anything put in front of me (including fanfic.  That’s my dirty secret.  Surprise!) I love to travel, try new restaurants, try craft beer, local distilleries and I miss Washington wine like crazy.  I wish I could say that my hobby was working out, but it’s not.  That said, going to my friend Anna’s gym Equinox almost changed my mind there.

But I digress.  I needed a hobby.  I have a degree in fashion merchandising, a mom who is a wizard at home decor and sewing anything, and a fabulous new sewing machine.  Let’s get serious about quilting.  I haven’t done much in the last two years, but after watching Jason whip through some seriously amazing quilts this spring and summer, I found myself a class.

Urban Spools is a fantastic quilting shop just east of White Rock Lake on Buckner Blvd.  I took a refresher class for sewing and then tackled a paper piecing block of the month class.  I was a little intimidated, but I figured I was a confident beginner and I would be just fine.  I’ve taken to it like a duck to water!  I love it!  I’ve signed up for two more block of the month clubs and taking a speed quilting class as well.

I started with Moda’s 25th & Pine fabrics for my first star, then sought out all kinds of fabric from there.  I’ve set aside my first three stars and decided to go all in on Creative Tuesday’s precious holiday print.  Love those reindeer!

Star 1:

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Figuring out fabrics:

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All in with Creative Tuesday with a big assist from my Mom!  Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks for the win!

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My hands are busy and I’m actually making something! This quilt has 12 stars, but I’m probably going to add more so I can make it a larger size.  It’s also a great opportunity to re-do some of the stars I did early on that ended up being a little muddy.  So excited!!

A little before and after…

I didn’t really think 40 pounds meant much, until I compared these pics.

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Sure, charcoal is loads more flattering than white, but the camera doesn’t tell much of a lie here.  The pic on the left is in LA, March 2014.  The one on the right is in Springfield, MO, December 2014.  Yay.  I was able to go down one jeans size, if not two.  Damn you, junior fit.  (Also, thank you for the best fitting jeans ever!!  Torrid and Silvers FTW.)

Funny story about the LA trip – Holland from The Biggest Loser was casting for Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition and wanted to interview me.  She remembered me from 2011’s casting for TBL.  I needed a little R&R and Mom was able to come meet me.  I didn’t get the show, but I did resign from my job when I got back from that trip.  Thanks, Mom!  That trip changed my life 🙂

Pizza and Pasta

Eating at home is no problem, and I can generally find my way at restaurants (fyi, steakhouses and Mexican seem to be the easiest.)  When all else fails, like when you’re at Lambert’s in Missouri avoiding those thrown rolls, get a salad.  No dressing.  Because that mess always has soy.

Mom made a great discovery, and that’s gluten-free pizza crust!  I was thankful that tomatoes weren’t on my official “bad” list, even though they come with their own issues, so back to red sauce for me!  I found some pizza sauce that has garlic listed as one of the last ingredients, Daiya mozzarella style shreds, pepperoni and I’m good to go!  Fake cheese is weird stuff, I’ll admit, but when you want pizza you want pizza.

The sad thing is that gluten free, dairy free and soy free pizza still manages to have all the calories of regular pizza.  BOOOOO.  Here’s how it looked!

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Well, one of my pizzas anyway.  We used the Hodgson Mill gluten free pizza crust mix, Daiya mozzarella style shreds, delicious Harter House sausage and some roasted red peppers and hatch peppers.  Yum!

So where does the pasta part of this post come in?  My biggest fear is showing up to a dinner party with lasagna on the menu.  If the salad is already dressed, I’m probably toast, unless I’m at Becky’s house.  She always makes her own dressing with olive oil.  I keep trying to remember that the allergy doctor told me to focus on the biggies when it comes to black pepper and garlic, because they are almost as sneaky as soy.

It’s not a weight loss blog. Seriously.

Update on 1/30:  I’ve now moved my original post to it’s own page so it’s easy to find.

Seriously.  But with great change comes great reward, so I’m sure I will post about those changes too.  This all started in October, when I found out I had to cut gluten, soy and dairy from my diet.  Completely.  WHAT???  And don’t get me started about losing wine.

How did I even get here?  I’ve always been a fairly healthy eater, trying to eat organic when I can, smaller portions, all of that good stuff.  But I’ve had a rotten stomach since I was an infant – mom will happily tell you her shoulder smelled like vomit my entire first year.  Sorry, mom.

Two years ago, I was living in Seattle and just feeling sluggish, run down, exhausted.  My memory wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, I had constant headaches and just general blahs.  I just didn’t feel smart anymore.  It could have been the lack of sun, missing my friends and family, the stress of a new job, a mostly sedentary lifestyle…you name it.  Maybe it was that giant student loan on top of a giant downtown Seattle rent 🙂

Enter Dr. Vo.  I signed myself up for a primary care physician who was also a naturopath, figuring trying to fix my issues without popping a ton of chemicals couldn’t hurt.  I blame west coast living and too many chats about nutrition with my BFF.  After a zillion page questionnaire about my life and more than a few tissues full of tears as I walked through my concerns, I was sent on my way for blood tests.  Standard, right?

Let me preface – I’ve been overweight my entire life.  For a child who started her life continually throwing up, I’ve always managed to gain weight.  Fortunately, all of the normal things that happen to chronically overweight people never happened to me – my glucose, insulin, any diabetic factor was great.  Cholesterol is fantastic.  Even my liver is in fine shape, which is awesome considering how much it works.  What wasn’t fine was my cardiovascular risk.

When my blood tests came back, Dr. Vo was very concerned.  I’ll never forget the look on her face when she asked me, “Christina?  Have you been in a car accident?  Are you covered in bruises?”  If you’ve known me for more than five minutes you’ve probably seen me fall, run into a door, etc.  Bruises are my every day, thanks to anemia, piss poor depth perception and general clumsiness, but I didn’t have anything going on out of the ordinary for me.  One of the tests Dr. Vo ran is called hs CRP, which looks at cardiac risk and inflammation.  Clinical acceptable range for this is 0.00 – 3.00, and I registered at 20.55.  OFF THE CHARTS.  No wonder she was concerned.

So if I’m not recovering from a physical injury, what’s the issue?  Food.  My body is trying to heal itself from a car wreck of food.  Good grief.  No problem, I thought.  Dr. Vo gave me an anti-inflammatory elimination diet so we could get to the source.  And then reality set in – I travel constantly, and I’m supposed to give up gluten, coffee (I live in Seattle!!!), dairy, soy, nightshade vegetables, all alcohol, red meat, eggs and a handful of other things I can’t remember anymore.  I lasted two weeks.

Life goes on, and finally I hit my breaking point.  After hitting a particularly low point, I listened to my friends and family, hustled myself to a chemical prescribing doctor and got myself on an antidepressant.  With my family’s blessing, I was able to quit my job, take a few months of R&R, move back to Texas and take my time making a career change.  Amazing what a little pill and quitting a job can do for a girl’s psyche!

The fact remained that I had gained nearly 90 pounds since I started grad school in 2009, and I didn’t have that weight to gain.  The first 20 pounds came off pretty easily, thanks to daily walks, supportive roommates who like to cook and ramping down my restaurant time.  After all, this girl was on a budget.

Time goes by, and I started a new job in August.  I’m still not feeling like myself, but things are on the upsweep.  On my October visit to Seattle, I checked in with Dr. Brown and my numbers are ran again.  Guess what?  My inflammation is still off the charts.  Instead of doing an elimination diet, I signed myself up with an allergy doctor and also had an independent lab run an ALCAT.

Food sensitivities and food allergies are not the same, though they can have similar results.  You might know someone with an iGe allergy that has to carry an Epipen, avoiding shellfish or peanuts like the plague.  Or maybe it’s an allergy that causes rashes or hives.  I get those same reactions without an actual allergy.  Lucky me!  I won’t need a hospital trip if I’m exposed to shellfish, but chronic inflammation can lead to all sorts of nasty things like cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and heart issues.  And on a less serious note, I’m really bitter that my skin was better as a teenager than it is now.

Countless needles later (all over my back and giant patches on each arm – I should post pics) and all kinds of blood put into vials, I come back with a mesquite allergy and a whole host of food intolerances.  For the next six months, I need to immediately avoid the following:

  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Cow’s Milk
  • Blueberries
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Carob
  • Cottonseed
  • Cranberry (but it’s so good with champagne or vodka!)
  • Garlic
  • Grapes (WINE?????)
  • Plums
  • Spinach
  • Black Pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Cinnamon
  • Coffee
  • Ginger
  • Goat’s Milk
  • Honey

I won’t even get started on the mild intolerances, which I’m supposed to “avoid when possible.”  Seriously, all that’s left is meat, eggs and a handful of fruits and veggies.  Not my favorites, though.  Who has an intolerance to spinach??  This girl.

The same day I got my results back, I quit.  I went straight from the lab to Trader Joe’s, and started a new adventure of label reading.  I cleaned out my cupboards, took my wheat based vodka and Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches to friends in my building and called it a day.  I got to have one last splurge before I was tested for Celiac, since you have to have gluten in your system, but aside from a couple coffees and glasses of wine, I haven’t voluntarily touched this stuff in two months.  And thankfully, I don’t have Celiac disease.  I puff up and my blood hates me, but my intestines are functioning just fine.

The result?  My skin looks WAY better.  It’s still not perfect, but it’s on the way.  I’ve lost a few inches and I’ve lost a total of 45 pounds since leaving Nordstrom in March.  I still have 45 to get back to my grad school weight, but it doesn’t seem as out of touch as it once did.  It’s a whole ‘nother blog post and a handful of cocktails to talk about how I found myself there in the first place, but I’m glad I’m going in the right direction.

My allergy doctor told me that the ALCAT tests can be controversial, and to focus on the major allergens to see how I feel.  Dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts are such major allergens that food companies are required to clearly label if the food contains these ingredients, which is a major help.  Restaurants are really hard, because while it’s easy to avoid the obvious (bread, pasta, cheese plates) soy is EVERYWHERE. I hate being the girl that asks if chicken is seared with butter, vegetable oil or olive oil, but that’s just how I have to be.  This is why you haven’t seen me in restaurants for two months.

At any rate, who loses weight during the holidays?  This girl.  And it’s because I had to change the way I ate.  This time it finally clicked.