Monday, May 31, 2010

Allergy Confessions

Since starting my Experiments with Truth, I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. When I explain my monthly challenge to friends and acquaintances, they open up about their own personal challenges with food, allergies, lifestyle habits or addictions. For example, one friend told me all about his history with stomach aches and fatigue. It turns out he is allergic to gluten and yeast. Many people live with undiagnosed cases of food allergies that cause all kinds of annoying and inconvenient symptoms. This friend said, "It (eating gluten free) has affected my life for the better, but it is a pain in the ass!!! I love to eat and now I have to plan out (my meals) in advance."  Some of his favorite foods include corn tacos, stir fry, pho', breakfast foods, steak chicken and pork.

At that same wedding last weekend, I saw a friend from college that I hadn't seen for years.  She is vibrant and glowing in a healthy way I had never seen.  It turns out that when I knew her in college, she was living with an undiagnosed food allergy.  Her body has a hard time processing the skins of most fruits and vegetables.  She told me that she never really felt like herself during the majority of college.  She gained weight and credited it to the "freshman 15," however the real culprit was a digestive allergy.  When her doctors finally figured out the problem, it seems like her whole life changed.  I was thrilled to tell her how healthy and alive she looks now!

My gluten-free co-experimenter, Maria, and I went back to Flying Apron Bakery this week for some filling and delicious treats.  Immediately, I noticed a change in her.  Her skin was glowing!  She normally suffers from mild acne, but that day her skin was clear and beautiful.  She and I were both happy to report more regular digestion and less bloating in these first couple weeks of the experiment.  We shared tips and meals that have been working for us.  She raved about her green breakfast smoothie and shared this recipe from the famous Dr. Oz.

This "green drink" is high in fiber, low-calorie and rich in vitamins.
2 cups spinach
2 cups cucumber
1 head of celery
1/2 inch or teaspoon ginger root
1 bunch parsley
2 apples
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a blender. This makes approximately 28-30 ounces, or 3-4 servings.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Sent to bed without dinner

I'm still getting the hang of this.  Apparently eating gluten-free sometimes means not eating what's offered.  At a friend's wedding this weekend, the combo of sun, not eating and cocktail hour equalled an early bedtime for me.  I woke up at 4:39am to realize in horror that I missed the majority of the wedding reception including most of dinner and the dancing.  My body needs more fuel and more sustenance.  By passing up the bready, pastry appetizers, I ended up consuming more champagne than actual food. 

Luckily a caring friend walked me back to my room and put me safely to bed before any embarrassing events occurred.  I thought I was being responsible by eating a big gluten-free meal before the wedding.  That same caring friend is allergic to dairy, so she has been trained to eat her own safe food before weddings.  Together, with our real and imagined allergies, we chowed down on big plates of brown rice and veggies minus the teriyaki sauce (contains soy sauce).  Apparently, that wasn't enough to counteract my enthusiastic drinking.

I want to learn from this experience.  Eliminating gluten from my diet changes how my body reacts to substances like alcohol.  I have to be careful as my own experiment specimen.  I am attending another wedding this Saturday, so I will use that opportunity as my own personal "re-do" and take proactive steps to stay healthy and thrive gluten-free.

I've been glutenized

Today was a gluten-full day.  I admit it.  I felt low on options and low on variety.  My favorite nutty, apricot dessert bread was offered at the lunch table.  When I found out that it had been lightly dusted with flour, for some reason I chose to eat it anyway.  My boring lunch of broiled asparagus and mixed nuts was just not enough.  I need to get cooking and preparing filling and satisfying meals.  Trying to slide by on less just isn't working.

Also today I ate two pieces of pizza at my monthly union dinner meeting.  I had all of the best intentions to eat the veggies and dips from the separate tray, but when those tempting and fragrant pizza boxes came rolling in, I succumbed to my hunger.  The truth is that it felt good.  A full, warm, cozy feeling spread through my body.  That feeling was accompanied by his friends, sleepy and sluggish.

Feeling full is a welcome relief.  The quest to feel full without eating gluten led me across town to a big gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan calzone at the Flying Apron Bakery.  It really did the trick.  The crunchy crust and warm melody of vegetables mingled in my stomach. That same day I bought the gluten-free girl cookbook and delved in, relishing every clever story and mouth-watering recipe.  I love the way Shauna looks on the cover, armed with two satsumas behind her back.  She's armed and ready to cook around that gluten allergy and create delicious meals that love her back.

After this temporary pitfall, I am ready to renew my gluten-free resolution.  Finding healthy ways to get full and feel nourished are my goals for the next 3 weeks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is THAT?

This weekend presented some interesting new gluten-free challenges.  Avoiding beer on a roof-top deck, passing up chips and pretzels on a boat and thowing a baby shower without cookies, cupcakes or pastries sparked a lot of social conversation about gluten.  At one point a friend pointed out that my challenge looks a lot like a complex-carb free diet (Not a terrible thing right before the summer season).  But today I'm going out in search of crunchy and satisfying gluten free treats.  I can not only munch on fruit and nuts for an entire month!

On Saturday I stopped at the gas station to pick up a few snacks before heading out on the water.  The only thing I could find was a small bag of almonds and a bottle of water.  Chips and crackers contain wheat.  The candy bars contained a strange, off-limits ingredient called soy lecithin.  It got me thinking....what the heck is that?

Soy lecithin a substance that is extracted from soybeans using a solvent such as hexane, and it’s a by-product of soybean oil.  It is an additive found in many everyday foods, but it’s normally used in such small amounts that it rarely exceeds more than 1 percent of the weight of any food product. It works as an emulsifier in candy bars, keeping the cocoa and cocoa butter from separating. Soy lecithin also can be used in baking to make the dough less sticky and help it rise. It works as a so-called wetting agent, too, making cake mixes easier to spread into a pan when liquid is added.

Despite this new information, I still don't know how wheat, barley nor rye fit into that answer.  What makes it contain gluten?

When a chocolate craving hit last night, I scanned at my chocolate stash and everything contained soy lecithin!  So I marched my butt to the store about bought a beautiful bar of organic dark chocolate.  My eyes feasted on the pure and simple ingredient list.  Chocolate has never tasted so good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where are you hiding, you little gluten you?

I knew that this month would be tricky.  Gluten is one of those sneaky ingredients that find its way into everything.  Knowing this, I started researching where this little trickster may be hiding.  I found out that mass-processed meats are often made with gluten, to fill out the salami or make the turkey seem plumper. Gross. 
The Gluten Free Girl also taught me that, "Anything packaged that comes in individual pieces--candy, frozen foods, corn tortillas; french fries; the cashews I ate the other night--could be dusted in flour just before being stuffed in the package. Why? Because we live in America, and we like everything to look pretty. Goodness forbid that two pieces of chocolate stick together."

Here are a few other things that contain gluten:
--modified food starch
--textured vegetable protein (think veggie burgers, or any fake meat)
--soy sauce (most of it contains wheat; you have to use wheat-free tamari instead)
--prescription and over-the-counter drugs, even some vitamins

With this new knowledge, I realized that my yummy little calcium and vitamin D chews are off limits.  They contain glycerin, corn starch and soy lecithin.  It makes me wonder why I started taking them in the first place.  If only it were more sunny in Seattle...then I could get my vitamin D the old fashioned way.
Even though I ate two of these chocolate calcium chews yesterday, I don't consider them a mistake nor or a cheat.  I know that my gluten learning curve will be steep these first few days.  I'm just happy to be sticking to my experiment this well.  It's been two days of wholesome oatmeal, fruits, delicious thai food with brown rice, colorful salads and nuts.  I even was able to eat some flan and chocolate at a work dessert party last night.  More discoveries yet to come!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Month Five: Gluten-Free

The inspiration is strong.  Before I write another word about my new gluten-free journey, I have to pay tribute to this writer.  Her name is Shauna James Ahern, and she is my gluten girl hero.  I expect that her blog (and probably cookbook) will be my bible this month.  To read about her diagnosis with celiac disease and resulting lifestyle inspires me to take this experiment seriously and really go for it!

To live gluten free means letting go of wheat, barley, rye and triticale.  That sounds innocent enough.  What that really means is no typical bread, pasta, pizza, crackers, cereal, pies, cakes, etc.  There are gluten free alternatives for most (if not all) of these foods.  I'm really lucky to live in Seattle.  We are so granola and crunchy, I know it will be easy to find baked goods and snacks that I love.  Immediately I think of Chaco Canyon Cafe and the Flying Apron Bakery.

I am feeling so optimistic and motivated.  This experiment is providing me an excuse to try a lifestyle that has always intrigued me.  I will get to sample delicious and strange new products, cook healthy recipes and most likely feel better.  I'm doing this for me, for my dad and for anyone that is stuck in a rut and wants to get out.  Here we go!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inspiration is Contagious

As I prepare to start my 5th experiment, it seems that my enthusiasm is contagious.  Two friends have decided to challenge themselves with experiments like mine.  It's pretty amazing to see how my efforts are inspiring others to try new things and rethink their lifestyles.

One friend gave up shopping for 30 days.  She picked an experiment that is most relevant for her since she often shops online purchasing make-up, shoes and clothes.  See my last blog entry for an example of her passion for clothes and designers.  Her perspective on this challenge has already been interesting and entertaining.  Her recent facebook status said, "Day 6 of the "No Shopping for 30 Days" challenge....Still no voice and cramps. All withdrawl symptoms!"  I'm curious to find out her biggest temptations and how she conquers them.

Another friend is getting ready to join me tomorrow during my gluten-free month.  She has had severe stomach problems for years and is using this opportunity to do something positive for her health.  She's already been sharing her tips.  She filled me in that corn tortillas are gluten free.  That sounds like a good start to me!

I'm eager to explore this new dietary challenge.  I'm hopeful that I will feel healthy and light and even more energetic.  My dad recently got diagnosed with a gluten allergy, so I'm also excited to support him in his experimentation with delicious wheat-free options.  It's going to be a good month.  Plus I'll look great in my heels as I do it!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"I want to marry these!"

This week I conducted my first in-depth investigative interview.  A friend in the fashion/beauty industry gave me her fascinating perspective on heels, height and Seattle fashion culture. 

My shoe education came in one phrase: Christian Louboutin.  She showed me her most treasured pair of shoes: 5-inch black Louboutins. 

"These are your babies then," I noted.  "I want to marry these!" she exclaimed.  The gorgeous pair of heels came with their own lush red carrying case, heel reinforcements and signature red bottoms.  I soon learned of the Louboutin phenomenon when she showed me all kinds of celebrities strutting these hot heels.  She went on to tell me how even in the Sex and the City 2 movie, Carrie Bradshaw has moved away from Manolo Blahniks and is embracing the glamorous and ultra-feminine Christian Louboutins.  Jennifer Lopez dedicated her new single, "Throwing on my Louboutins," to these red-bottomed glamour symbols.  Check out this live performance with huge Louboutin shoe/bed:

During our interview we mostly talked about the feeling of wearing heels.  To her, wearing flats is synonymous to shlepping around the house, scrubbed out and tired.  The second you put on a pair of sexy heels, posture changes, body lifts and tightens and that aura of sex appeal envelopes us.  From frumpy to fierce.

As mentioned in my last post, I've been exploring the idea of "height privilege."  The concept of a sexy shoe size also came up.  The ideal shoe size is 5.5 or 6.  Most stores display these small shoes sizes just like they display size 0 or size 2 clothing on their mannequins.  It looks dainty and feminine and often unattainable.  My friend often acts at the shoe preview for her girlfriends because she can grab any shoe off the display and give an instant fashion show.  Not having to call a salesperson, nor wait while they fetch your size nor worry about hiding large feet...these things may lead me to name a type of shoe size privilege.  As a 5'3'' woman with size 9 feet, I sometimes wonder where nature went wrong.  I will never be able to grab the shoe off the display except to dangle it off my big toe.

This interview inspired me to expand my blog research.  I'm eager to learn more and dive into the many resources available all around me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Height Privilege

My initial intention when starting this blog was to understand different perspectives.  This month I've learned a lot about my tall girlfriends and their experiences growing up.  As we grow into ourselves, we learn to accept and love the many aspects of our being.  For many tall girls, height is something they've come to embrace, but it hasn't always been easy.

For example, one girlfriend remembers dating a shorter guy.  She said, "I always felt huge and not very feminine when I was with him. I felt more self conscious about my weight and awkward when we were out in public. Not only did it make me uncomfortable, but other guys would comment that I should be with a taller guy and ask what was I doing with such a little guy. When I was dating a shorter guy, I noticed myself rarely wearing heels and always searching for cute flats. I don't like wearing flats when I get dressed up. There is just something about putting on a pair of heels that made me feel more sexy and like a woman. I would only date guys over 6' once I got a little older."  I can relate to this friend's experience.  I believe most women want to feel delicate and protected when with their man. If he is shorter or thinner, it can be difficult to accept.

She went on to say, "When I was younger I hated being so tall. I felt like every guy I met was 5'10 and below, and all I wanted was to be short and petite. I was so self-conscious of my body image. I hated my height because being so tall meant you weighed more than most of your friends. I wore bigger clothing sizes and I could never find jeans that were long enough for me. I have a 34.5 inch inseem and in high school that was non-existent. Sleeves were always too short, and they never had my shoe size at the department stores. It wasn't until my freshman year in college when my mom bought me my first pair of Sevens that I actually liked the way they looked on me. I didn't have to pull them down so low and wear the crouch of the jeans at mid-thigh because they actually touched the ground being around my waist."

A few friends mentioned that strangers will comment on their height.  Sometimes this interactions are welcome; other times they feel intrusive. 

Many friends mentioned wearing flats when they are around shorter people so that they don't come across as overbearing.  One friend wrote, I will take the height of who I'm going out with into consideration sometimes. Like when I would go out with the boys, they were all shorter than me to begin with, so I wouldn't wear heels. Mainly so I won't tower over them."  I've come to realize that as a shorter woman, I experience a type of social "height privilege."  I am almost never taller than the guys I want to date.  I never have to base my shoe decisions on the people around me.  I automatically wear a smaller clothing size because my proportions are more compact.  My absence of worry makes me lucky in this way.  I'd never realized that before and now appreciate some of the social benefits of being shorter.

However, height can have it's advantages.  One tall girlfriend said, "it (my height) is an advantage at work, I believe I am taken more seriously when in meetings with men and women who are older or more experienced than me."  Additionally, tall women stand out.  "At my age, now I love being tall! When I walk in to a room people always seem to notice you, and it sets you aside from other girls, There aren't a ton of tall girls out there. I think being tall has helped me in many ways, for instance getting a job, invited to parties, making friends, getting guys attention, playing sports."  One tall male friend told me that taller women are easier to talk to in many social situations like bars and clubs.  For him, being able to see eye to eye with a woman is comfortable.  He finds it easier to hear and relate to these woman, instead of bending down to chat with shorter girls.  So there you have it...the tall and the short of the matter.