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Friday, April 18, 2014

A spring that just can't get going and food I CAN eat.

For those of you who don't know we are having the worst winter ever in Maine (in my personal experience).

I was hoping by April to not need to write such things.  I mean,  here we are nearly a month into "spring" and we still have some snow on the ground and the wood stove is going.  We have fleetingly nice days where we think we are out of the snowy woods and... then 2 days ago it happened.  April snow- 2 inches of that stuff that has begun to ruin everyone's good mood, and certainly my floundering spring buzz, ON TOP of the old dirty snow banks we still have remaining.  

Sandi and I were up before dawn and when she turned the outside light on to leave she said, "Have you looked outside?"

I said, "If there is snow I don't want to know about it."

She said, "No really.  You need to go look outside."

I said, "No.  Really I don't."

Just 4 days ago I went for a bike ride in SHORTS.  Remember those guys?

As if my extensive, expensive and very painful dental appointment wasn't enough, I had just cleaned out our cars and gotten Sandi's snow tires off.  I had put away the snow shovels for rakes, was nearly out of pellets and had already worn open toed shoes for an afternoon.   There are at least 3 shoots of green grass on the lawn and my tulips are showing me that they survived the brutal winter.

On Saturday it was so nice we went with Ange and Emilie to Field's Pond (now a well-established spring tradition) and Maya was mad that Sandi wouldn't let her pack her swimsuit.  

I tell you, we Mainers are READY FOR SPRING.

I mean, we are out on bikes with snow still on the ground.

The increased intensity of the April sun means lots more  playing outside even if you do still need mittens and request hot cocoa when you come in.  Our girls are having a blast with the neighbor kids, moving as a pack to and from each other's yards and driveways to play.  It is the cutest thing ever.  We always wondered how old our kids would need to be to do this.  I guess now we know.  
The kids made a "city" out of chalk.

Reese, age 1, displaying her brilliance.

Our field's pond trip had the kids climbing the same tree they always climb and tolerating the moms taking their picture.  Except Reed kept tossing his baseball into my frame.

It actually turned into kind of a cool picture.

In other news, I want to report that I am handing the food thing with more grace and patience than I knew I was capable of.   Thank goodness that there are so many vegan foodies out there!  I have found ideas for methods and combinations I would never have conceived of.   I am so grateful for the many food blogs and Pinterest so I am actually having fun finding new things to eat.  Man, I did not realize what a major food rut I was in.

How can you complain when lunch is this beautiful?

Perhaps one of my more amazing finds is the whole banana ice cream thing.  If you look for this on Pinterest you will see the options are rather endless.  In short, you slice up ripe bananas and freeze them. Then you put them in a food processor and puree them until smooth.  This is your "ice cream" base.  You now add any combination of ingredients to get the flavor you want.  I found one for chunky monkey that has you put in chopped chocolate and walnuts with either peanut butter or Nutella.  There is pumpkin pie with pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and a little almond butter.

I went with the chocolate/peanut butter theme since it is likely my favorite combination of all time.  Except since I can't have peanuts, I used almond butter.

So simple: about 6 or 7 chopped bananas (frozen and then semi-softened), almond butter and cocoa powder. I also added some maple syrup for some extra kick.
I must say that while there has been little to no pity- partying happening over here, it was nice to sit down with a small bowl of "ice cream" when my family all did.  I even warmed up a little almond butter and drizzled it over the top.  It was so delicious.

Here is a link for 29 different dairy free ice cream recipes!  There is vegan summer fun to be had.

I am also finding a deep and abiding love of the chia seed.  I made chia seed pudding and a chia breakfast bowl  both of which were actually delicious. 

I also felt like push was coming to shove in not being able to find one energy/granola bar that did not have either oats or dairy in it (except Lara bars and they get so smooshy in any sort of bag) so I made up my own.  I basically combined all the things I COULD eat (Rice Krispies, chia seeds, ground flax, cranberries, chopped vegan chocolate, cocoa powder, almond butter and brown rice syrup) rolled the mixture into cute little balls that taste rather amazing.  Once they had hardened in the fridge I put them in the freezer in a Ziploc and can grab a couple when I head out on my bike.  

But what I really have to tell you is that my body just feels so GOOD.  It feels light and humming and I am totally free of any sort of cravings.  The perpetual bags under my eyes have reduced dramatically (to me anyway) and it makes me look, if not younger, than at least less old.  Balanced thyroid or not, that has to account for something.

Happy, hopeful spring everybody!  Here's to Easter dresses and not Easter snowsuits!

Friday, April 4, 2014 thanks. I can't eat that. Or that. Or that.

Remember how a little while ago I told you I was putting my health first?  Remember how I said that I wasn't going to apologize for taking care of myself and that I was going to do whatever it took to get myself healthy?

Yeah, I was hoping maybe you didn't.

A month ago I had an appointment with a naturopathic doctor.  I wanted to know what I could be doing, in addition to yoga, meditation and a rather dramatic de-stressing makeover of my life, to balance my body and, specifically to save my thyroid.  I wanted her expertise to understand what might be happening in my body that I continue to have significant auto-immunity and, most importantly, how to fix it.

She ran some tests to get a read on where my body systems are.  I found out some fascinating things. Did you know that your entire immune system is in your gut?  Nope, neither did I.  So the GI issues I was having were connected to my ramped up immune system which ties into my overactive thyroid.  It is like chasing the problem to its roots.  I need more of the high test probiotics which will help restore the normal function of my GI track and also calm my immune system.  I believe this is what is called a twofer.

But it was when we went over the food allergy test that I understood the degree to which the Universe was putting my willingness to the test.

The idea behind testing for food allergies is that when you ingest something that you are allergic to it creates inflammation.  My autoimmunity and hyperthyroidism is already an inflamed state (immune system attacking the thyroid causing it to defend and make too many antibodies and thyroid hormone- or at least this is how I understand it) and adding allergens to the mix increases my already inflamed immune system.

The allergen scale is 0-3 with 3 being the most severe.  The naturopath said she usually sees a profile where someone is a 2 or 3 for just a few foods.  My results were somewhat shocking in that I rated a 1 on the allergic scale, but to 41 foods!  From what I understand this means that I basically have a sensitivity to these foods rather than a true allergy, but that elimination of them for now is the course to take if I am serious about decreasing the hostile environment in my body.

But wait until I tell you what the foods are!  For now I cannot (I am trying to reframe it as "will not") eat: oats, corn, yeast- brewer's or baker's, blueberries, salmon, all dairy products, garlic, onions, basil, peanuts, cashews, sunflower (and the associated butters), safflower, egg yolks, spinach, broccoli, barley, lobster, squash and lots of others things.  In other words, I am allergic/sensitive to the foods I LIVE on, which of course is probably why I have built up an inflammatory response to them.

It is kind of a vegetarian's nightmare, though.  Not only have I become an overnight, and somewhat reluctant vegan, but I also can't eat any yeasted bread (even gluten free bread has yeast), no wine (!),  no store-bought veggie burgers, very few types of crackers and, in case you haven't done any label reading lately, there is corn in everything!!

Thank goodness for small favors I can still drink tea and coffee (although not with the cream or milk I like) and eat sweet potatoes.  I can have almond butter and Ange did some quick thinking and realized I can make biscuits (which I have...twice) since they don't need yeast.  Soy cheese can make an egg white omelet palatable but without onion it sort of seems like why bother?  When I realized I couldn't have hummus (another vegetarian staple) because I can't have garlic, tahini or lemon, Ange once again came to my rescue and suggested the shallot.  Brilliant.  Who would have thought salvation would have come from a shallot?  Not I.

And then I happened to be glancing through the list again and onions are in fact on the NO list.  And an shallot is, you guessed it, an onion.  I momentarily felt that the loss of eating an onion might be the things that pushed me over the edge and driving to the nearest Dunkin' for a Boston cream.

It's like the clean food cleanse (which you can read about here and here) but even more restrictive.  I have to pack food wherever I go because the spectrum of what I can eat is so narrow.  I can eat almost nothing that comes in a package and, to be honest, that isn't a bad thing.  The plan is for me to do this for 3 months as an elimination diet and then reintroduce foods one at a time to see how I tolerate them.

The truth is, I am on day 9 and I actually feel awesome. This is my mentality:  I am choosing this.  I could choose the Western medicine route, have my thyroid taken, be hypothyroid for the rest of my life and forever dependent on a the associated pharmaceuticals.  I could do that and sit and wait for another expression of my imbalanced immune system to target another area of my body.  Or I can do this path, the path less travelled and certainly very challenging, and try to actually heal my body at the root cause.

The choice is mine and I am choosing this, even though I can only eat about 15% of the foods I usually eat.  Even though I am often hungry and grocery shopping and meal planning has become a new form of torture that takes well over an hour as I scour labels.

I was not planning on this.   I have worked for the past year to not have forbidden foods as a way to stop the craziness and fear around food.  I have learned moderation and peace around food.  It was initially very alarming to me to have such an extensive list of forbidden foods.  But, as is my new approach to almost everything in life,  I breathed and settled into myself and felt to my core that I could do this and it would all be fine.  Not a fight, not a muscle through, not a battle of will power, but a surrender, a choice to act on my own healthy behalf.

There need not be a resounding sense of deprivation here.  I am nourished in countless ways other than food.  What a concrete way to really drive this point home.

Plus, I realized I could have food beyond soybeans and salad without my favorite dressing.  I can eat Newman's Oreo cookies.  And some chocolate depending on the presence of milk.  I can eat my homemade banana bread and pasta and biscuits.  Oh, I already mentioned the biscuits.  I'm really, really happy about the biscuits.

I can do this.  I want to do this.  I deserve to do this for me, for my health, for the knowing that I have done all in my power to transform my health.  The truth is, even if the end result is the loss of my thyroid, I will not have lost anything from this process.

A year ago I wanted, needed to be stripped bare and have worked toward that end.  This is where that journey has taken me.  I accept the gift and opportunity graciously, albeit it with a slightly rumbling tummy.

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