Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 43 - Home Straight

Well, turns out I hate onions, but they don't hate me. Oh the irony. Love garlic, hate onion. Intolerant, A-OK. *sigh* Life's just not fair, is it?

Also looks like I'm gluten intolerant. Durum wheat was already out, but now both oats and wheat are no-nos also. Boo. On the other hand, gluten intolerance is pretty well understood and accepted in restaurants these days. Unlike garlic intolerance!

A coeliac friend of mine (she knows about these things) suggested that I get the gluten intolerance confirmed with a doctor. I've already had a coeliac blood test though, which came back negative, so um, I don't really know what I can do, I guess it's just gluten intolerance but not coeliac. Although two little words spring into my head (false-negative) and make me think maybe I should be retested. I hate needles. But I hate being sick more, so um, maybe I should do that.

Anyway, on to yummier things! Last night, pondering the issue of not being able to cook with wheat flour, I turned to "Corn" in my favourite cook book - Stephanie Alexander's "A Cook's Companion". I spied a recipe for sweet potato corn bread. It looked yummy, but I went out on a limb to make it, because Steph was very evasive on the topic of whether it was a sweet or savoury, bready or cakey... Now I see why, it's a hard to describe thing, this corn bread... Sweet, but not really sweet, not bready, but not quite a cake. Moist and delicious is all I can really say. The only change I had to make to the recipe was to swap the sugar for honey. I'll put the recipe up when I get a chance.

I did scoff the corn bread pretty fast, but the recipe makes a lot (I actually only made a half batch and it was about an inch thick and 20cm x 20cm), so there was plenty of time for me to take a photo of some. :) And even some left to take to uni today. More Yum!

Thanks to all the lovelies who gave words of support after my last post, and indeed throughout this process. It is great to be feeling so great, and I'm so stoked that you're happy for me too. I don't have long left on this crazy diet, only a handful more foods to test. Life is certainly not going back to normal afterwards. This may be stating the obvious, but there's a mixed blessing in that. No gluten, no garlic, no cocoa. I'm also going to avoid as much as possible processed foods and refined sugars - they're just unnecessary shit really. Basically I've become a food hippie (and a soap-avoiding one too). Eating out is going to be a lot harder (more on that shortly). But then, if changing my normal food paradigm means a change to my "normal" (read fucked-up) health paradigm, then there are greater sacrifices I would make than this.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Open Letter

Dear Friends,

A number of your have asked me the same question lately: "Have you lost weight?". The answer, for those wondering but not asking, is: "No shit, Sherlock". My jeans don't fit. Nor do my shorts or skirts. Apart from being a royal pain in the arse clothing-wise it's not something I'm concerned about, and neither should you be (so shut up and stop asking). I'm not going to waste away into oblivion. Ask D: he sees me eat, hears me whinge when I'm hungry, sees me pat my tummy when I'm full. I eat a lot. Probably a lot more than I used to. But cutting out refined sugars and processed foods just means you lost fat reserves. I'm happy. All I was carrying around was shit that my body didn't need. I wasn't any healthier for being heavier. I haven't lost muscle tone, I've lost fat.

And you know what? I feel bloody amazing, thank you very much. It would be a lie to say I've never felt better, but the truth is that I haven't felt better for about 6 years now, and that's a bloody long time. Last weekend I went to two parties on Saturday night, and stayed out until 4am. On Sunday, hungover and sleep deprived, I packed for a week long trip (many thanks to D who did all my cooking for the trip!). Then I got up early on Monday, drove and worked all day, stayed up late, and did it all again for the next 4 days. On Saturday morning I cleaned the bathroom (I'm not sure what got into me there), I was social through the grand final BBQ, I slept for a couple of hours in the evening, got up and kicked on. Then I got up on Sunday and cleaned the kitchen (it's Spring, that's the only explanation I can think of). I have spent the week at uni, doing my thing, keeping normal hours. I went to a gig last night, stayed up til 1am and got plastered. Now I'm hungover at uni remembering what that feels like. Yeah, it doesn't feel great, but it was fun at the time!

The above sequence of events may not seem unusual to you. Maybe a little tiring, maybe less that you would do in a normal week, I don't know. But it's pretty incredible for me. I have chronic fatigue syndrome. The kind of behaviour I've been exhibiting for the last (nearly) 2 weeks would normally have put me in bed after 3 or 4 days. Touch wood. It may yet put me in bed, but it's astonishing that it hasn't already. Especially since I've been drinking like a trooper as well as all the staying up late and working hard. And when I say "put me in bed", I don't mean having an early night. I don't even mean having an early night and then a sleep-in the following day. I mean run-over-by-a-truck flu-like symptoms, deliriousness, muscle aches, racing-heart, can't get out of bed to feed myself for 2 days. Yup.

So please, stop looking at my loose jeans and start looking at the glimmer in my eye. It is the tiniest spark of hope that things might be changing for the better in my life. Smile with me and cross your fingers that it continues.

Love you lots,

Photo credit: Zara J

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Eating Out

One book I won't be buying anytime soon. Or ever.

"Hi, I can't eat garlic or anything with gluten, is there anything on your menu that I will be able to eat?"

This is how I envisage a lot of pre-dinner conversations starting in the future. You know, scenarios like this... I walk into a restaurant with friends, the food looks yum, I ask the above question, get a negative and decide that for the sake of friendship a liquid dinner will have to suffice, end up throwing up in a gutter later. Or I walk out, repeat said process a few more times then give up and go home to cook. Or I call ahead and don't even make it to the restaurant before getting a negative. Bleak picture I know. But think how many things have garlic in them.

D and I are going out for dinner tonight. It's super exciting. First meal out since all these shenanigans started. We're going to a little place that he has sussed out at being able to cope with my dietary requirements. Hooray for places like this. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 35 - I've been away too long

Sorry! I just dropped off the face of the blogosphere for a while there. I have an excuse. I was away on field camp taking students around Northern Victoria to do some water quality monitoring. It was great fun!

Not so fun, however, was having to cook my own meals after a long day in the field. I ate a lot of fried rice. In fact, looking back at my food diary, it seems I've been pretty much living on fried rice for about a week now. Can't be too healthy. On the other hand, all it has is lamb, rice, beans, egg, sunflower seeds, oil and salt. OK, so those last two not so good. But the others, health plus!

Anyway, I've been feeling super awesome, but I still can't quite figure out if wheat is a problem. Sometimes it seems so, sometimes not. Hm.

We introduced the nightshades last week. I don't expect you to know what they are, but isn't is such a great name for a plant family? There's even a deadly nightshade (belladonna), but I wouldn't go eating it. Anyway, the two most commonly eaten nightshades are potato and tomato. On Sunday we introduced tomato, and on Tuesday, potato. Tomato gets two thumbs up, plus an extra one for being so delicious and juicy! Potato gets another "hm" from me. I only tried it once and felt a bit yuck immediately afterwards for a couple of hours. I had, however been out all day in the field and was pretty tired etc, so that's why its a "hm". I haven't tried it again yet, but I suspect a second eating will resolve the hmmming.

And then, on Wednesday, D fell off the wagon. Oh dear. It started with a salad, then a gluten free rhubarb slice, and by dinner had progressed to a smorgasbord of Indian curries. But, luckily for him, he suffered no ill effects. This seriously dinted his commitment to the process. And then on Friday night when I said it didn't bother me, he decided to largely abandon the process. His main aim, it seems had been achieved. This was, of course, to get me to do the diet, and get me committed enough to finish it. I'm committed, although I did have a small tumble off the wagon myself on Saturday. My darling friend C is a ginger fiend and makes the most amazing ginger cake and ginger balls. On Sat we had an AFL grandfinal BBQ at our place and C made ginger balls. Oh, such a cruel temptress. I caved. And ate about 6. Possibly more. :) I was largely fine, although the amount of wine I had consumed would probably have masked any minor effects anyway. Oops. But I'm all back on the wagon now and gunning for the finish line, which is not too far off.

Still on my list of things to check are:
Red wine (we cracked this last night and seemed OK, but I'll give it another run tonight, just to be sure.
Yeast (supposed to be tried in bread, but as wheat is still iffy it might get bumped for a while)
Ginger (more ginger balls perhaps?)
Licorice (my chocolate substitute)
Gluten free pasta (I can't have durum wheat, so normal pasta is out. Some varieties of GF are fine because they're just rice or corn, but the one I like is a bit of a mix)
Beer (not a big priority because I don't like it that much anyway).

I also need to retest wheat (again), potato, and avocado. But I will probably sneak these in on off days between having tried the other things, or else exclude them until I've tried everything else and then avoid tack them on the end in quick succession.


That means I should be done by October 16. Phew. And old friend is getting married on the 16th, so I'll eat a bit of whatever at the wedding. I've already RSVPed as the most difficult wedding guest with a request for gluten free, lactose free (pre revelation), cocoa free and garlic free. I'll resume my more strict diet for a little while after that if I still have things to test. Wow, only a couple of weeks to go! How exciting!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day I-dunno-what - Corn

Oops! Too many corn chips. But they're so yum! I hope they don't give me a tummy ache. I guess I'll find out later tonight.

In other news, I have been field camp menu planning for the trip next week. I think fried rice with lamb, egg, beans, and sunflower seeds will cover a couple of dinners. Some chops with broccoli (yay, my fave vege is A-OK!) and mushrooms (double yay!) will probably make a showing. And the surprise runner, which brings in another challenge food - corn chips with sour cream, cheese, tomatoes and avocado. Mmm, how good does that sound? Throw in some poached fruit with maple syrup and some banana muffins and I'll be the envy of everyone else eating their mess hall slops. Suckers!

Image from Christaface

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 31 - Confounding factors

Since I last wrote, we have added a few things. Lately, broccoli, mushrooms. Before that wheat (and in D's case yeast too). I had two bananas in that blackened pungent state, so I decided to make them into banana muffins. Yum!

I slightly modified my Mum's banana cake recipe. I have to say, although I'm biased, it's a pretty bloody awesome recipe. It's in a recipe book Mum's had since we were kids. It's a hardcover book, and if you stand it on it's spine, it will fall open to the banana cake page. All be-smattered with old cake batter and butter and whatnot.

My modified version goes like this and it's just as good, I reckon.

125g butter
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup yoghurt/milk
2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
Pinch salt

Cream honey (melt it a bit), butter and bananas. Add eggs, beat. Add yoghurt, bi-carb, flour and salt. Mix. Bake in 180 degrees C oven for about 25 mins. Makes 12 bigish muffins. Or back for about 50 mins as one cake.

Anyway, onto the confounding factors. I've been doing some tutoring on environmental monitoring. My students have to design a monitoring program, and it's really important to reduce confounding factors. This diet is just like that too. That's why there are no spices allowed and things like that, even though we're not going to be explicitly testing them at any stage. If you just started eating them, then you wouldn't be able to tell if a reaction was due to those things, or to the food you are testing. So you exclude them to reduce confounding factors. But, just like environmental monitoring, you can't control for everything.

Take wheat as an example. It's hasn't given me a stomach ache (my classic intolerance response). However, I have been waking up with a stuffy nose and throat. Hmmm, says I. Is this the wheat? Or, perhaps I'm just getting a cold. Well, I haven't come down with a cold, but the level of tiredness I've been experiencing would suggest that I have been fighting off a cold. Or... perhaps that level of tiredness if a result of a reaction to wheat? Hm, who knows! See what I mean about confounding factors? I am well confounded on this one!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 29 - Now you're cooking with butter!

Wow, it's been a month and we're still going strong!

On Friday, we tried milk. As I've said here a number of times, and to my friends about 50 million times, I was already about 99% sure I was lactose/milk intolerant (you can be intolerant to the milk proteins also). Er... And now I'm about 80% sure I'm not milk intolerant. I was totally gearing up for a horrid experience. I didn't drink my milk until mid Friday arvo, just in case I needed to rush off and throw up or go home because I was feeling terrible. I started slowly - after the garlic experience I'm a bit cautious - with just about 75mL. Half an hour later and feeling fine I had another 75mL. An hour later and wondering what was going on I downed the rest of the 250mL bottle I had brought with me. Nothing. Nothing at all. Feeling braver on Saturday morning I started the day with a whole glass of milk and nothing else. I figured the combo of empty stomach + no other food was sure to get a reaction. Nope. Made it 2 and a half hours til lunch without so much as a rumble or pang. Hm. So it would seem that milk's not such an issue. How strange. a year and a half of total milk avoidance for nothing. Well, not for nothing - I actually don't like milk, so it was hardly a chore.

In other good news, while it's still on the suspicious list and needs further trialling tonight, it seems wheat might not be a problem either (durum wheat is still permanently off the menu, unfortunately). D and I ate pancakes until we were exploding last night and again, not so much as a dull ache resulted. D seems to have an iron stomach, although is beginning to suspect that avocados (one of our 'safe' foods, haha) might be a little problematic at times.