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December 24, 2012 · 4:00 am

Holiday Survival Strategies

Holiday lights

I had a really trying Thanksgiving.

My husband, Chris, and I traveled back to Pennsylvania to celebrate it with our families. Both sets of parents live there and we haven’t been back for the turkey day festivities for over 10 years. It should’ve been wonderful… and most of it was, except that I was dealing with some major gut issues. I was suffering from my old nemesis, fructose malabsorption AND was having major problems with the rest of the FODMAPs, too.

We ate Thanksgiving dinner at his parent’s house, at my sister’s house, then at my parent’s house. You know what was on my Thanksgiving plates at all 3 of those places? Slabs of turkey. No cranberry sauce, no green beans, no nut butter-thickened turkey gravy. Turkey. That is it. My body simply wouldn’t stand for anything else.

Since then I’ve been doing much, MUCH better. I’ve really incorporated the low-FODMAP diet into SCD and have seen WONDERFUL results. Really, it is amazing.

What I’m trying to tell you is that I’ve navigated the holidays waters and have come out the other side without too many scrapes.

The following are my strategies to remain sane during digestive-problem-flares (to be utilized during any time of the year):

1.  Take care of yourself

First and foremost, make sure that you have plenty of your feel-good food. For those of us who suffer from malnutrition or have lost weight during the introduction phase, get enough calories. If you need a few extra portions of frozen chicken soup, make it and stick it in the freezer. If you believe that bone broth will help heal you, by all means, buy those stewing bones, drop them in a pot and let it simmer away on the stove!!

It is also critical to get enough sleep. I’ve borrowed this next part from the Paleo folks; make your bedroom dark and get to bed early! Bow out of those get togethers before your normal bedtime. Sometimes we all must draw those boundaries and guard your “recharge” time. For goodness sake, it will help you ward off colds and leave you feeling ready to face any holiday gatherings that you’ll attend. Best of all, sleep will give your body a chance to heal.

2. Pamper yourself

Over Thanksgiving, I had a few cups of tea everyday. I really enjoy a steaming mug of green tea or peppermint tea, but what you drink is your choice. It always makes me feel better.

I also love to sit by the fire with a good book. Or snuggle up with a cozy blanket around your shoulders and watch a great movie. For the men out there, watch a good football game.

For the women out there, other ideas include getting a manicure/pedicure or paint your nails yourself! A hair cut and weave always leave me feeling good and well taken care of, with little energy expended (but my wallet is a bit lighter when I leave the salon). Buy some special lotion or facial scrub, whatever will make you feel happiest.

3. Do NOT watch the Food Network or Cooking Channel

This one is self-explanatory.

4. Steer clear of bakeries and eateries with incredible (SCD-illegal) food/beer

When my health is poor, I often feel wistful about the food that I used to eat. And what I enjoyed A LOT was baked goods and fantastic restaurants. Damn those inventive bakers and chefs.

This category includes microbreweries with awesome ales (ah hem… this one is for the men) and wine/beer stores. If you must go into a store like this, steer clear of the dangerous aisles that are stocked with lots of craft beers. Stick to the aisles of dry wines (wines with low residual sugar) and buy something that you’re dying to try.

5. Focus on anything other than the kitchen and food

It really helps to keep my mind and body occupied with other thoughts and activities.

Wrap presents. Run errands for your mother. Get that last minute holiday gift (but avoid the mall’s food court).

Those ideas work during the holiday season, but what about during the festivities? These are my strategies to employ during holiday meals or parties:

1. Only help with the food preparation if you must

It is difficult to cook/bake food that you can’t eat, depending on how you feel.

2. Don’t look at the food on the table (if it is filled with stuff that you can’t eat)

Seriously, at Thanksgiving, I focused on my plate and on other people’s faces at the table. I didn’t let myself look below their faces. I kept my gaze fixed on them from the neck up and pretended that the table was just blurred out and fuzzy.

3. Focus on others by asking them questions

This useful strategy is a great mind-distracter. I used this one while at a Christmas luncheon at work. My colleagues ordered a few amazing appetizers that weren’t SCD-legal. While they began eating, the discussion lagged. I took this opportunity to lead the small talk. Not only did I learn more about my co-workers through my questions, but it also gave me a chance to tell them about things that interest me, which I usually don’t mention.

At the very least, employ one of these lines (depending on who you’re talking to):

Are you ready for Christmas?

What are you going to do for New Year’s Eve?

How was your Hanukkah?

4. After the meal, get away from the table ASAP

It is better not to linger at the table, especially when there are serving dishes with a few pieces left of delectable-looking fill-in-the-blank left on them. Do the dishes while coffee and dessert is being served. The hostess will thank you for it! If you must, go watch football with Uncle Billy and your 2 brother-in-laws. Get your nieces to show you what their favorite presents were. I’m not kidding, just get outta’ there!

I hope that you, dear Reader, are in good health and don’t need these strategies, but if you do, then good luck.

You will get through the holiday season. If I can do it, you can do it.

Happy Holidays and XO,

Theresa ~SCD Griddle

 

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How I Drink Coffee (When I Drink Coffee)

Do you like coffee? I am mad for it.

In my daydreams, I sip on a mug-full of the rich, creamy elixir. Sadly, the good old days when I could drink the stuff are over.  I haven’t been able to stomach it for awhile now, even if it’s watered down.

That’s sad, right? I think many people with IBS / IBD have had a similar experience.

Recently, I’ve noticed that coffee is a popular topic. There’s an article about special coffee here, a post about it there. I’ve heard that the type of roast is important, or the way it is dried may make a difference in its palatability. But I have a hard time believing that I can’t drink coffee anymore because of some mycotoxin that is introduced during the drying process. So instead of wasting money on a pound of the artisanal expensive stuff (which will probably give me an aching belly, too) I thought I’d try something else first; a cold-brew technique.

Paleo in PDX has mentioned cold-brew coffee every now and then, in fact, in this post, she wrote about making a coffee ice cream out of it. She also wrote that the cold-brew technique yields coffee that is about 70% less acidic than normal coffee. Paleo in PDX talked about how good it is.

I decided to try it. I deeply missed a yummy cup of coffee.

Whether it is lukewarm or piping hot doesn’t make a difference, I wanted to enjoy a simple pleasure again.

I searched around a little and found an incredible How-To post which explains the steps to the cold-brewing process. It was written by an editor named Dan Souza at America’s Test Kitchen. You know, they are the folks who write Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Oh how I used to love that magazine. Anyway, I digress. Dan has described and illustrated the process so well, that I’m going to link to it here.

I followed his instructions and brewed a batch of coffee concentrate. After I strained it and added a bit of water (not too much, I like it strong) , I sampled it next to the normal hot-brewed stuff that my husband drinks. The verdict: the cold-brew version produced a superior cup of coffee. It is delicious. It is smoother and more complex, less bitter, noticeably less acidic and all-around tastier. I don’t drink it everyday, or even a few times a week, but for the first time since I’ve began my diet modification journey, I can drink a small cup of joe without stomach pains.

And I don’t miss the cream and sugar that I used to dump into my coffee cup! It is that good.

Thanks to Paleo in PDX and Dan Souza at America’s Test Kitchen, I can enjoy one of my favorite beverages again – every now and then!

It may seem like a small thing, but it has made me extremely happy.

Thanks!

Theresa ~SCD Griddle

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The Double-Edged Sword

I’m on a journey to heal myself through diet modification.

When I first learned of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), I immediately read Breaking the Vicious Cycle. Elaine’s book gave me the rules; for one to adhere to SCD, all you have to do is go through an introductory period, then the diet consists of meat, specific fruits and veggies, yogurt (and certain cheeses) and nuts. Simple, right? Really, that’s it.

I didn’t give it much thought. The science made sense to me. The rules were straightforward and in I jumped! (Of course, there are other great approaches like Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) for example.)

But I’ve come to realize that this simplicity is a double-edged sword.

Let me explain.

My journey on SCD has led me to a place where my health has drastically improved. I feel great, have tons of energy, my weight is normal again (thank the Lord) and have returned to a semi-normal workout schedule. Yogurt or nut butter (alone, or on bananas, or with almond flour pancakes) used to be my go-to snacks. They were yummy. I was happy. But while my body has been healing, my gut has informed me that it does not want to digest certain foods, like eggs, anything dairy, and large amounts of nuts (nut butters and nut flours). And I can’t rely on fruit when I want to grub because I’ve gotten fructose malabsorption and I don’t want it again!

The diet is a double-egded sword for me because – I flourish when I consume meat, specific veggies and small portions of fruit – but I can only eat meat, specific veggies and fruit. No more yogurt as my easy snack choice. And I certainly need to limit my consumption of nuts.

So, these goodies are off my list of acceptable food items and these mini-meals have become my downfall. I struggle with it everyday. Instead of noshing on yogurt, I must quiet the cravings for something, anything. Darn, it is hard, especially when I have time in my schedule (and I am not overly focused on something, like I was while studying for some licensing exams).

In battling the urge to snack, I realized something;

I devour treats in response to emotional triggers.

Some people believe that food is love. Others eat goodies as reward. My biggest emotional trigger is boredom. “Hmmm…” I say to myself, “do I want to escape my doldrums?”

My answer is always a resounding, “YES!!!” and I walk to the fridge to swipe a snack. And that bit of tastiness actually takes away that feeling for a few seconds.

Another reason I grab a bite is to buffer the transition from one activity to another. Do you understand what I mean? Like, I’ll be watching television, but it is time to take the dogs out. So I get up to walk them, but first I go by the kitchen and grab a muffin, stuff it in my mouth, then leave with the pooches. This is the pinnacle of mindless eating.

The only way to modify why I eat is to actually feel my emotions and then respond in ways other than eating.

UGH. It is tough. I don’t like feeling bored and I certainly enjoy a little bite of something when I get home from work. (Why do I feel like I’m on The Oprah Show?)

These are my strategies for dealing with the urge to snack (whatever the reason).

When I want a treat because of an emotional trigger, I stop a second. I try to identify the feeling. Then I acknowledge it and tell myself that I don’t need to put food into my mouth based on x, y or z emotion. I literally say to myself, “I am bored. That doesn’t mean I have to snack.”

It is hard to face the cold truth. It even harder to turn around and leave the kitchen without a decadent bite.

Another way I’ve dealt with the urge to nosh to ask myself, “Am I hungry enough to eat leftovers?” If the answer is yes, then sure, I’ll warm something up. Sometimes I find myself standing in my kitchen contemplating the leftovers are available for my consumption. A lot of times I leave empty-handed after this question, too.

I have also found that if I stay in the present and focus on the activity that I’m doing (or need to do), it will sometimes stop the incessant chatter in my brain, but only if I’m super-focused like a laser beam. This one doesn’t work very well for me most of the time, my urges are too basic, too built-in, too established.

My last strategy for dealing with actual hunger during non-meal times is to have savory snacks on hand, like beef jerky. This is a no-brainer. It quiets the urge and is substantial enough to take away any hunger-pangs. My only problem here is that I go through it too quickly.

These are my anti-snacking strategies and they have helped me confront my emotional triggers. They aren’t pretty. Diet modification requires a change in behavior and mindset. But you know, I’d rather grit my teeth and slug through personal choices and routines than be sick all of the time.  And if I can deal with the double-edged sword, you can too.

xo, Theresa SCD Griddle

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Essential Fats!

Sometimes I hear about good fats.

I usually don’t pay attention.

I haven’t worried much about my fat intake because I’m active and have digestive issues, so I always figured any fat is probably okay for me. But now that I’m trying to heal myself through diet modification with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I want to make sure that I am eating enough of these good fats.

Good fats are monunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like essential fatty acids. At the molecular level, unsaturated fats have a double bond, which makes the molecule easy to break. Molecules termed mono- have only one double bond, but those called poly- have multiple double bonds. (If you want more information about “good” fats vs “bad” fats, go here.)

Do you know how important essential fatty acids are?

When I refer to good fats, I am talking about essential fatty acids. These are polyunsaturated oil molecules known as omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid). They are necessary for good health, but the body cannot synthesize these, so we must ingest foods rich in essential fatty acids.

There are other fatty acids that aren’t known as “essential” because humans possess all of the enzymes required for their synthesis. These are incredibly important, like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), (these are found in fish), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), (these last three are derived from omega-6 linoleic acid).

Essential fatty acids serve many functions such as:

  • mediate inflammation (extremely important for those of us with IBD)
  • play roles in cellular functions
  • make healthy, flexible cell membranes
  • affect mood and behavior
  • protect us from cell damage by neutralizing free radicals

Really, these fatty acids affect our whole bodies. If you want to learn about them, go here and here.

People can be deficient in their essential fatty acids. It is most obvious in the skin; dry skin (who doesn’t have dry skin?), scaly or flaky skin, cracking/peeling fingertips or heels, lackluster skin, and small bumps on back of upper arms. There are many more symptoms. In order to see a more complete list, visit this link.

Is easy to be deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids because alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is tough to get. It is such an important micronutrient that I have begun to specifically search it out. It is found in these food sources:

  • Flaxseed oil and ground Flaxseeds (the oil is legal, but the seeds are SCD-illegal)
  • English Walnuts (higher concentrations), Walnut oil, Black Walnuts (lower concentrations
  • Canola oil (SCD legal but not recommended)
  • Soybean oil and firm Tofu (both SCD-illegal)
  • Kiwi fruit seeds
  • Purslane (an herbaceous weed that grows almost everywhere in the U.S. – unsure if this is SCD legal)

ALA easily oxidizes, which is why producers partially hydrogenate oils that contain it. According to The Green Kitchen Handbook, by Annie Berthold-Bond, “manufacturers removed essential fatty acids from oils in the interest of preserving their shelf life.”

The omega-6, Linoleic acid (LA) is much easier to acquire. It is in various oils, seeds and nuts like:

  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower seeds and oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil (SCD-illegal)
  • Pecans
  • Sesame oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Other sources include almonds, chicken fat, egg yolks, lard and butter.

The oils containing LA also have saturated fats. These are fat molecules with structures of single bonds are more difficult to break. They are stable and have longer shelf lives. This has led to their widespread distribution and thus, are much easier to incorporate into your diet.

These good fats are so important, but don’t take my word for it. Here is an excellent article that explains much of this information in greater depth and also gives intake recommendations.

See you later, I’m going to run out and pick up a bottle of flaxseed oil!

Theresa ~ SCD Griddle

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Bad Food Advice

This past weekend, I went to the library.

I had some free time. See, for the past couple of month I’d been studying like crazy in order to pass a few exams (they went well, by the way). I’m on the road to licensure in landscape architecture- well, I think I am. I don’t receive the results for a few more weeks.

Anyway, my exams are over for now and I wanted to find a book at the library, something light. I walked through the stacks,  perusing the titles, hoping one would catch my eye since I didn’t have any particular book in mind. I had to stop when I realized I was in the middle of their ‘food and diet’ section. They had a ton of books on the subject, of course. I noticed the book called Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel. I pulled it off the shelf and briefly paged through it.

On page 219, one sentence caught my eye. It said, “This one’s for all you low-carb people.”

Hmmm, I thought, Bethenny is giving advice to low-carb people. This is going to be good (she didn’t disappoint).  A side note: I am one of these said Low-Carb People because I follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which doesn’t exclude all carbohydrates, but a lot of them.

She writes, “I love a few choice bites of steak, but I also know that too much red meat isn’t good for anybody.”

How does Bethenny Frankel know that too much red meat isn’t good for people?  Did she conduct a few nutritional studies?  Did she ever read research papers about it? Does she know that so-called “studies” are often skewed and full of misinformation? And how much is “too much” anyway?

This is more of her advice: “Give your body a rest: don’t eat red meat more than twice a week, and never eat more than a piece the size of a small sponge in one meal. You don’t need it, and after a while, you won’t want it, either.”

Ha! Never eat more than a piece the size of a “small sponge”- ha ha, how big is a small sponge?

She concludes this paragraph by writing, “But eating pounds and pounds of red meat every day is no way to be healthy or naturally thin.”

Right.

What if I told her that I eat about a pound of red meat everyday and have done so for over 6 months? That my gastroenterologist advised me to go on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet? And I am the healthiest that I’ve been in over 15 years.

It is advice like this that has sent the American diet in the wrong direction. Way to lie to readers who don’t know better, Bethenny. What rubbish.

 

Snarkily yours,

Theresa ~SCD Griddle

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Skinny Bitch

I am a skinny bitch.

I’ve been thin my whole life. There have been times when I’ve hated this title and instances that being called a skinny bitch gave me a little jolt of confidence, too. But these days, I loathe it.

During almost any point in my childhood, while trying on clothes for my mother (to see what I’d outgrown or what items I may need), she’d invariably say, “Theresa, you are so slight.”

My mother never said this to make me feel bad and I truly didn’t mind. She was right, I was thin. I didn’t care very much about it. I was how I was. I just wanted to stop trying on clothes so I could go out and play.

In middle school I became more self-conscious about my weight. The girls would say out of meanness, “Theresa, you’re so skinny.”

I understood that I was not a good skinny. I felt bad about my body. I was a toothpick, not a curve in sight. All bones and no meat. That growth spurt was difficult to live through. I would have given anything for a little heft. I was embarrassed about how I looked, but wasn’t everyone at that age?

Well, of course when I stopped growing so quickly, I gained some weight. I survived high school and college, and managed to feel pretty good about myself.

In my twenties, being a skinny bitch became an inside joke between a few friends and I. They were a little on the heavy side and liked to sarcastically call me that… at least I think it was sarcasm. I thought it was a funny joke and I liked the title. I liked my body and how I looked, never mind that eating at restaurants always upset my stomach. I tried to keep the fact that my digestive tract wasn’t working properly a secret. I looked thin and normal, but was totally unhealthy.

I had a great body image (and practically non-functioning guts) from then until…. I started SCD. (If you don’t know what SCD is, check this out). I made a HUGE MISTAKE and remained on the intro diet for almost a month. I lost more than ten pounds. The weight melted away. I looked more angular and bony and didn’t know what to do. I lost it so fast that it scared me.

My activity level also took a hit. I’ve always been an active person, but when I began SCD, I had no energy. I quit pilates. I stopped biking to work and began driving. In fact, I barely had enough energy to go to work.

Skeletal with zero energy.

I tried to hide my weight loss. I started dressing differently for work. I wore layers and baggy clothes, but my coworkers still noticed (even my face got thinner). They started commenting about my weight and asking me how SCD was going. They were suspicious of this medical diet. They wondered if I’d developed an eating disorder (which really pissed me off).

My ‘Intro Diet Fiasco’ was seven months ago, but lately, one of my neighbors has brought it upon himself to tell me that I’m getting too skinny. Good lord. As if I needed his opinion. And I thought that I haven’t looked better in months!

Thankfully my husband, family and friends were and are supportive. This has been a huge help to me on my SCD journey.

Now I find myself in the opposite position from where I was in my twenties; these days I’m getting healthy on the inside, but am too skinny on the outside. People don’t understand this concept. They think if you look good, then you are good. Those of us on SCD know that this is not true.

Currently, I am building momentum. I’m not in such a bad place anymore. My energy level has been great for months. Occasionally I go on walks or hikes. I have more variety in my diet with each passing week. I’m slowly gaining weight as I’m getting healthier.  And about my clothes; most of my pants are still a bit too large, but I wear a belt (I refuse to buy a whole new set of business-appropriate work attire because I will gain the weight back some day. Besides, I like my current wardrobe, or at least I did when it fit…). And hey, my shoe size didn’t change. I can still wear all of the cute shoes and boots that I want!

Insults from jerks are difficult to deal with; comments from well-meaning people are often really hard to take, but I can deal with both types. You may think I’m not healthy, that I’m too skinny, but looks can be deceiving.

You have no idea what is really happening; it is called healing.

 

 

Let me know if you have had a similar experience while on SCD. I’d love to hear about it.

XO

Theresa, SCD Griddle

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