Saturday, October 3, 2015

Let's talk about "healthy eating," diets, and mental health

It took two weeks for the hefty restrictions of this candida cleanse to wear me down into the beginnings of a full-on breakdown, stalled only by me recognizing what was happening because it's not my first rodeo. The details of it are personal and largely irrelevant, but the big-picture effects are not.

There's no chance I will say this better than others have before me. So-called healthy eating, clean eating, cleanses, dieting, and the like are not accessible to everyone. There are hundreds of essays available across the internet about the privileges of healthy eating, and the lack of access to fresh foods in poverty-stricken areas, communities of color, and by people with disabilities. We know for an unmitigated fact that dieting is bad for us, and leads to malnutrition, unhealthy eating patterns, and can trigger mildly disordered eating into full-blown dysphoria and eating disorders.

It is a mark of privilege, of which I'm aware, that I even had the opportunity to try this cleanse. I can read, I can cook and beyond that I'm greatly confident in the kitchen with another pair of willing hands to help, I have a better than average understanding of medical science, internet access and great comprehension skills to understand what I was reading and apply it to my life, and I'm unemployed (albeit due to disability) so I have plenty of time to do research and cook at home, when I have the energy to do it.

What I do not have is infinite amounts of energy, or sound mental health, nor do I have access to the mental health treatment that I need. I have an untreated eating disorder, a temperamental stomach that makes meal planning difficult at best, and I'm surrounded by a world that is actively hostile to women, fat people, disabled people, the mentally ill, the list goes on but those are the relevant ones here. In trying to find recipes for this highly restrictive diet, I'm bombarded with imagery and messages that tell me that my fatness is a personal failing (even though I know it's not), that my worth as a woman is based on my thinness and attractiveness (still not), that because I'm a woman I'm necessarily forcing and manipulating my partner into trying this cleanse with me, that eating today's understanding of healthy foods that isn't even based in science is a status symbol and I'm failing as a person if my food choices aren't up to unreasonable and ever-changing standards, that if I'm not proving myself to be the Good Fattie by heavily restricting my food options to an unhealthy level then I deserve to suffer for my sins.

It's enough to make your head spin. And mine did.

Yesterday, I found myself panicking trying to keep track of the restrictions of this diet, come up with menu ideas, make the food flavorful and exciting or even just appetizing, keep up with the necessary activity levels which my health issues don't allow, fight back the guilt I'm told I'm supposed to feel over my partner's choice to do this, and stay sane in the process. Instead, I'm exhausted, hungry, nauseated, still completely forgetting to eat, and constantly reminded that I'm Not Good Enough. Seriously, no amount of improvement to my health is attainable if the effort to achieve it ends up sending me into a spiral of depression and killing me.

Add all that to the phone call I got this afternoon with my blood test results from Wednesday, when I discovered it appears I'm suffering multiple vitamin deficiencies, even of vitamins I'm taking supplements for. So my doctor has recommended that I add dairy and whole grains back to my diet immediately, slowly return to an unrestricted but balanced diet over the next couple weeks, doing whatever I need to make sure I'm eating 3-5 balanced meals a day (depending on size, based on appetite issues).

So I guess two weeks is as long as this candida cleanse experiment lasts. I can't say it doesn't work, but I can say it wasn't the right treatment for me. One more thing to try, checked off the list of ideas.

31 days: Power Balls (No-Bake, candida-diet friendly)

Power Balls

a white plate with a brown, speckled ball made of nut butter, with one visible pumpkin seed.

One of the hardest parts of the candida diet is the sudden Hangries. Especially the first three days. Having something flavorful and filling to hand is a must. This recipe also helps sweep out the candida that's been starved & killed with supplements.

I feel like the original recipe started with this one, but it's been perfected for our tastes since then. I had to double it, and it didn't work well. So, here's ours.
Power Balls (No-Bake)
The Formula:
2 cups nut butter
4 cups binder
1/2 cup sweetener syrup
3/4 to 1 cup fun chunky bits

coconut flour
flax seed meal
nut meal
grain bran

dried fruits
candy chips (chocolate, butterscotch, etc.)

Mix nut butter, binder, and syrup in a mixing bowl, or using the dough hook of your stand mixer. Stir in chunky bits. Refrigerate 15 minutes, then roll into balls of preferred size.

Candida-Cleanse friendly version!
2 cups almond butter (mine was the end of the jar, a little short of 2 cups and a bit dry, so I added a 1/4 cup coconut oil with great results. If your nut butter is dry, try that. They do get a bit loose when un-chilled though.)
1 1/2 cups coconut flour
1/2 cup nut meal (I used hazelnut)
1 cup flax seed meal
1 cup oat bran
1/3 cup agave syrup*
1/4 cup bee pollen (optional; I just had some to use up)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup walnut bits

* Agave syrup is not allowed in all versions of the diet, in part I think because of refined understanding of how agave syrup works in the body since some were written. You can make a xylitol syrup, or there are stevia syrups without alcohol in them, or you can use them dry, and in any of those cases you will need to adjust your proportions accordingly--maybe add some coconut or avocado oil to increase the wet portion a bit. Because of how big of a batch this makes, I decided the small amount of a very low-glycemic sweetener was worth the risk. I'd also venture to say, the 1/3 cup I used was almost too sweet for me.

Friday, October 2, 2015

31 days: Spicy Shrimp Salad

Spicy Shrimp Salad

A fresh green salad with visible cucumbers, tomatoes, and orange bell peppers, topped with spicy shrimp salad and roasted pumpkin seeds.

We like a lot of spice anyway, and I'm finding this cleanse has really made us crave spicy foods. So you'll see a lot of spicier dishes in this series. I'm not surprised by this; when I was super low carb before, my spice tolerance was at ghost pepper levels. Since I started eating sweets again, I noticed I have a much lower heat tolerance, and I wasn't sure if they were related. It's nice to get some more correlating data for my theory that the more sweets I eat, the less spice I can tolerate. I'd rather do spice.

This as pictured, however, is surprisingly low on the spice despite the name. I've got tips for spicing it up as we go, what I'll do differently next time.

Tip: Trader Joe's Mayo is candida diet friendly! It has no sugar, and the vinegar used in it is apple cider vinegar. Stock up, if you don't want to spend time making your own. 

Spicy Shrimp Salad
Candida Cleanse friendly!

Salad greens
Orange or red bell pepper
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Salad shrimp, thawed/cooked & chilled

Additional (unpictured) salad ingredients I was out of but love to include: 
Sprouts, avocado, scallions

TRADER JOE'S or homemade mayo
Chili Paste*
Fresh pressed garlic (or minced, just don't ever tell me that you use the jarred stuff like my mother)

Optional additions, to mix in with the shrimp:
Dried chipotle pepper, a fine dusting with your nutmeg grater/zester
JalapeƱo or hot pepper of choice, small diced

Your portions, of course, will change according to how many people you're serving and your own preferences. Put the salad stuff in the bowl first, tossed or layered as to your preference.

Mix the dressing ingredients with the shrimp, and add anything you plan to include in that portion. The idea is to have spicy shrimp over cooling salad, and have the shrimp salad a little over-dressed so there's some for the salad. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds, or something to add a little crunch--sprouts and scallions are great on top.

* The chili paste I used has white vinegar. You'll see a few recipes that have small amounts of condiments which in turn have small amounts of white vinegar. It's a compromise we made for our sanity, because some versions of this diet weren't as prohibitive of the white vinegar and I have a hard time believing it's a problem. If you're super concerned, chili paste is easy to make and I encourage you to do so. It's on my list after I finish this jar!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

31 days of Blogging: Challenge Accepted

In 2012, I did a 31 Days of Dinner blogging challenge where you pick a topic and write about it for 31 days. I enjoyed the idea, and while the original challenger isn't doing it this year, I'm going to do it again!

With this Candida Cleanse, I spent a lot of time looking for recipes. So. MANY. of the recipes labeled anti-candida-diet-friendly on Pinterest are decidedly NOT (seriously, orange-maple candied carrots anyone? Every single ingredient was banned). And as a result I've struggled to find menu ideas that are both appealing and on this cleanse. I'll also be linking to these posts on Pinterest so hopefully it can infuse some helpfulness into those search results.
Day One:

This cleanse is killing my counter space. But it makes me smile to see so many fresh veggies waiting to be used! Avocados, tomatoes, rutabagas, bell peppers, and a couple green apples sitting there too.

Green apples are a quibbling point on this diet; some versions allow some fruits, some versions allow apples and a few other low-glycemic fruits, some don't allow any fruits at all. But apples have a magical anti-nausea quality (or what looks like magic if you don't know the biology and chemicals involved) and I make sure to eat them with almond butter to keep the blood sugar response low.

That bag of avocados was $7 for 15 at my local restaurant supply (Cash & Carry). Even if we only use half of them, I'm no worse off than having bought them at the regular grocery store at $1 apiece, but the last two bags we've had, we've managed to use all of them or just a couple shy. So I'm definitely getting my money's worth.

Costco changed their tomato packaging so that it's this cardboard flat in a permeable plastic wrap, but after I stewed about it and went back to check to see if the old version came back, I realized that it also doesn't have the plastic liner that was cupping each individual tomato. So I decided, reluctantly, that it was a wash and just bought them. I can't get these half-flats of tomatoes anywhere else, and the next size up is a small CASE at Cash & Carry, and they're cheaper this way than elsewhere.

I do need to figure out a better way of storing all these veggies. I hate having the counter space on either side of the stove cluttered like this. I find it visually stressful, if I need to stage items for cooking I don't have the room, and it's a fire hazard. So that's one of my challenges for next week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fun with Food! Condiments

I have a TON of baby food jars, freecycled and left over from a former project. I use them to make small batches of all sorts of things, like my little tub of coconut oil that lives with my cosmetics or the overflow pain cream from a batch that was made too big for the squeeze bottle it lives in. 

One of the things I want to play with is condiments. Right now we can't eat mustard, of all things, because the vinegar in it us usually white vinegar, and only Apple Cider Vinegar is approved. Lucky for us, Trader Joe's mayo is both sugar free (why I started buying it) and made with ACV, as well as other approved ingredients. Whole Foods sells some mayos that don't have sugar, but TJ's was the only SF one that didn't taste like rotten fish to me. And I can't speak to their vinegars. By the time places like Safeway jumped on the fancy mayo bandwagon, I was already a convert and not looking to change. 

So now I'm looking for tiny-batch recipes of condiments, so that I don't have to make like 2 cups at a time when fridge space is at such a premium and we eat maybe an ounce of ketchup between us in a meal. Half that of mustard!

I'm a smart cookie and saved some old bottles of hot sauce too, so we have some slightly larger bottles with shaker lids. I use those for cooking-sized bottles of things which we buy in bulk so they don't come in convenient shaker bottles, like vinegars and amino acids.

So far, I'm really liking these recipes made for the Paleo diet. 

Don't you worry, I am sure I will post recipes when I get them worked out! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Candida Cleanse: Week one in review

For starters, I can't get my printer to work, so I can't print off the motivational sheet I made, nor the food list & cleanse plan. Frustrating.

We did not, by sheer happenstance, do the CandidaGo! pills or detox tea or ACV baths for the first three days. We just plum forgot, but I imagine the die-off associated with those extra steps would have made it even harder to deal with. 

In accordance with the prophecy, the first three days were the worst. We started Monday morning bright and early, and spent until Wednesday afternoon with what seemed a constant, gnawing, hungry ache in our bellies. Despite plenty of food along the way. By Wednesday dinnertime, however, it started to ease up and the rest of the week has been, if not a breeze, easier to handle. 

Mr. Moon managed not to absently eat an oatmeal cookie that was sitting right in front of him for the duration of a conversation at work, and I successfully navigated a surprise party for our neighbor's birthday full of people I didn't know with a growing sense of hunger and one of my favorite foods sitting right in front of me. Admittedly, I only stayed for an hour before I went home to cook dinner and eat a huge bowl of broccoli. But still. I did it. And I'm SO stinking proud of us both. 

Thursday night I was craving pizza so badly I buried my face in Mr. Moon's work shirt to smell the lingering aroma of an entire shift in an Italian restaurant. While he was still wearing it. One of my silliest, if not shining, moments. 

This week we're trying something a little different than we've been. Saturdays are his double-shift day, a full 7 hours at the retail job and then a full 6-ish at the restaurant. The last couple shifts he's worked, we accidentally skipped breakfast. And I'm pretty bad at remembering to eat when I'm alone that long. So aside from remembering breakfast today, when he packed his lunch, he portioned one out for me as well. It's not in a cute lunch bag or anything, tempting though that would be, but it's ready for me at least. The fact that he's not taking sandwiches right now helps immensely. 

Still working on food prep, avoiding the hangries, and having a variety of foods on hand for both snacking and meal plans. 

We got a squishy kitchen mat, to help with the additional hours of food prep, cooking, and dishes that this cleanse involves. I'm glad for the opportunity for a mindful break from the last couple months of way more takeout than I'd like. It started with Boy Scout camp in late July, then 5 weeks of brutal 6- and 7-day work weeks including multiple double shifts, during which we were actively trying to whittle down our fridge contents, eating up cleanse-banned foods, and not doing much grocery shopping. Then two weeks on vacation in my home state, visiting my old haunts and favorite restaurants. After all that, being basically forced into full-time home-cooked food again is actually a relief. I KNOW that relief makes this cleanse easier to deal with. 

Though I'm admittedly worried about December. Usually Thanksgiving through New Year's is a mad dash, and the only predictability to the scheduling is that it will be longer days and more of them. No promises of starting at 3:30 at the earliest, due to daytime holiday parties. I'm hoping by then we're well enough to be reintroducing some more foods and sufficiently in the groove of menu planning & food prepping to manage without the excessive levels of takeout we've relied upon the last couple years. Of course, if I'm not seeing any great improvement by then, we may have scrapped this project altogether. 

I was so excited to get the menu plan up this week and it SO never happened. Sorry about that folks. I'll try to do better tomorrow!
Edited to add: I'll spare you the details of the non-hunger-related physical symptoms, except to say: My dandruff is going absolutely bonkers right now, and I hope that's a good sign!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Back to reality

It's been... a minute or two since I last posted. As I was telling my family on vacation, there's a lot going on, but none of it is terribly exciting to talk about and even less exciting to hear about.

I got into coloring in like actual legit adult coloring books. It's a lot of fun, and definitely some nice stress relief.

After June's failed attempt at the candida cleanse, we left it until after our vacation. And then I decided I needed a few days to recuperate before risking too much shock to my body. So, we're getting back at it tomorrow.

In reviewing the rules, I discovered that it's a little less restrictive than I'd previously understood it to be. As in, it's not NO NUTS, it's no peanuts, cashews or pistachios but almonds, pecans, and walnuts are fine. It's not quite NO GRAINS, buckwheat and quinoa are still okay in moderation. That makes it quite a bit easier to manage, all things considered.

Though what I did discover is that the respiratory I had before may well have been candida die-off symptoms. I'd understood die-off to be an expected and even desired response, not one to go slowly and avoid as The Candida Diet website indicates. On the one hand, I'd like to go fast, suffer a little more short-term and be done with the cleanse portion of things sooner; on the other hand, if I'm risking serious medical complications like pneumonia that make the cleanse physically impossible to continue, then obviously that's not an appropriate way of managing this.

Starting back at square one, we have the opportunity for taking things a little slower, and giving ourselves the time and space to succeed. The holidays will probably be especially problematic this year, but we can do our best. Even if the end result is discovering that candida is not a problem, it's one more thing to cross off the list and that's progress in itself.

In other news, I've been keeping up on my physical therapy this summer! Not quite hitting my 5 days per week goal every week, but not doing too badly either. Vacation was the big test; I walked quite a bit in general, but we made it to the first lookout point past the main one for the lower Tahquamenon Falls, which if I'm looking at the right trail map means one mile--each way. And I got bit by a horse fly, which elicited many swear words, but kept walking the few hundred feet to the riverside access point we'd been looking for when it happened. Cool water really helped. As did slobbering all over the bite, which is apparently an appropriate response according to the results I got goggling how to treat a horsefly bite. Anyway there was a lot of walking; not a small amount of inhaler use, resting mid-walk and definite over-doing it; unsustainable levels of pain killers; and dangerous levels of water retention in the first week. But I'm proud that I managed to walk as much as I did at all.

I seem to be recovering from the trip well enough. I'm five days home, and already down to one nap a day. I didn't do too great on quitting caffeine entirely upon returning home, if my two lattes this morning are any indication. But, all in good time.

What are you proud of yourself for accomplishing this summer?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Candida Cleanse part four: On Pause

The five days of progress that we made at the beginning of this are proof enough to me that it's a good thing to be done. But for now, I'm afraid it will have to be on hold. My doctor who was supportive of the effort, isn't comfortable with me proceeding with this cold, since it's not clearing up as quickly as it probably should. I'm to redouble my efforts to kick it in the butt, without stressing my body further with any significant dietary changes and a cleanse. As most of the candida diet sites will (or should) tell you, doing a cleanse when your body is otherwise fighting a major illness is not wise, and can be downright dangerous. My focus right now is Not Getting Pneumonia (again). And that will have to do.

With this revelation, it became apparent just how good a sport Mr. Moon was being about the "no alcohol" portion of this endeavor occurring over his birthday. As that's now been cancelled, he's pretty excited to go out for a drink and some karaoke after working a double shift that day. Can't say I blame him!

We'll pick up this series again as soon as it's safe and reasonable to do so, but at this point it might be late September. I've already proven that it's impossible to travel with this diet, so there's no reason to make our trip to Michigan harder on ourselves than necessary--especially because this time we're not just going and staying in one place/at someone's home, we're actually making several smaller trips within the vacation itself. So yeah. Too hard. Too much stress. We'll pick this up again later.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What do you do when you get sick?

This cold is really throwing me for a loop. I keep feeling better then worse again.

My mom asked me today what I'm doing for it, and I told her I'm throwing everything I've got at it. "Like what?" she asked. I'm not sure I understand why she asked with such incredulity, but I started listing things:

  • Antibiotics (since I ended up with a sinus and lower respiratory infection, awesome)
  • Sudafed
  • Mucinex
  • Robitussin
  • Codeine cough syrup at night
  • Vitamin C cough drops
  • Tylonel (for fever & both the headache and muscle aches from fever & coughing)
  • FloVent (steroids for asthma)
  • FloNase (steroids for allergies)
  • Zyrtec (because it's allergy season anyway)
  • Albuterol (yay asthma!)
And besides the pharmaceuticals, of course I'm doing home remedy things too:
  • Tea
  • Pineapple (supposed to be a cough suppressant)
  • Coconut water
  • Soup, broth, whatever warm liquids with nutrients I can stand
  • Honey (though I had to toss my jar of lemon ginger honey and haven't made more)
  • Eucalyptus steam, in bath, shower, and sink form
  • Vick's (which you're right I consider a home remedy, have you seen the ingredients? You can make it yourself)
  • All the naps. So many naps. Considering another one here soon. 
  • One thing I haven't done but usually do: Bourbon. And I gotta say, I'm missing out. 
What do you do when you have a cold? What about if it's one of those that you just can't kick, that you start to feel better but backslide again the next day?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Candida Cleanse part three: Adding insult to injury

[In case you're just jumping in, Parts One & Two are available at their respective links.]

Today, or more accurately last night, the nasty cold I had turned into not JUST bronchitis, but an upper AND lower respiratory infection. Besides the antibiotics, the doctor at the urgent care clinic reminded me that dairy increases mucus production and thickness, and so should be avoided while this clears up (and if I'm entirely honest, all the time because asthma). How convenient that the candida diet doesn't allow much dairy anyway.

I just can't catch a break. This really is going to get worse before it gets better. And I'm going to have to throw every ounce of creative energy at the problem to solve it. I'm surprised at how fired-up I am though, rather than feeling overwhelmed like I did two weeks ago. I'm ready to knuckle down and DO THIS.
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