Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Healthy living, re-training your brain.

I've been "dieting" since I was in my early twenties. I started Weight Watchers when they offered it at my job. That was a great place to start, because they really do focus on more of a lifestyle change than any kind of diet. By 2007 I had really reached a good point where I was better at practicing a healthy lifestyle instead of that four letter word. I've had my issues over the years with falling off the wagon, binge eating, sneaky eating, etc, but last year was the worst. When you're sick, all you want to do is eat, even if it doesn't make your stomach feel better, there's something to be said for a serotonin boost. Now that I'm feeling so much better, it's a lot easier to eat healthier. I rarely binge because most of the junk food out there has ingredients in it that I can't eat. Spring and summer weather also helps, because I crave fresh fruits and veggies. But it's not just what you put in your mouth that makes a difference, it's how you think about food, how you eat it, when you eat it, where you eat it... I'm trying to re-train my brain. I'm working on that saying that we learned in WW. Eat to live, don't live to eat! Here are a few changes I've been making to get back to a healthy routine:

Eat small, balanced meals, all day long. I get up around 6:30 and take a shower and get ready for work and by the time I leave the house at 7:30 I'm starving. It's important to eat soon after you wake up to get that metabolism going! The past few mornings, I've just grabbed a banana. Around 9:30 I eat some oatmeal, or fruit and peanut butter. Lunch is around noon, another snack at 3, dinner at 6. I try to eat a balance of carbs/protein/healthy fat at each meal. It doesn't always work out perfectly that way but as long as I'm eating something that's nutrient rich and not full of sugar or sodium, I'm good to go. Eating all day like this is a great way to keep your metabolism going, keep your energy level up, you won't get those spikes and dips in blood sugar that can cause that craving for an afternoon nap, or cookies...

Eat this, not that. Instead of a sugary breakfast bar, opt for some fruit. The more nutrients, vitamins and minerals you get out of your food, the better. Plus, the more nutritious your food, the better it digests. A sugary breakfast bar will cause your blood sugar to spike, giving you a quick burst of energy, but what comes up must go down and very quickly you'll be tired and HUNGRY again. And you're likely to crave more of that sugar! An apple and peanut butter will digest more slowly, keep you fuller longer, and supply you with lots of vitamins and healthy fat.

Slow down, Sit down, Savor. These days we're all on the run, all the time, but try not to let yourself get in the habit of eating on the go. Take the extra 5 minutes to sit at a table and eat your food slowly, chew it thoroughly, and savor the taste. It takes around 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to register that you've eaten and then tell you that you're full. If you eat too fast, you're more likely to eat too much because you won't get that full signal. This is the one I need to work on the most! I have always been the one that has finished her dinner before anyone else even sits down at the table. My family calls it "The Hoover Maneuver"... how embarrassing! And of course, I always eat too much and over-stuff myself.

Don't forget to hydrate!! Our bodies are made of primarily of water. It's essential, so drink up! I always have a bottle of water close by and refill it often during the day. Aim for at least 8 glasses (8oz each) of water per day, or take half of your body weight and drink that many ounces. If you aren't a big fan of water, try clear, 100% juices, or other fluids that are low in calories and additives, try not to "drink your calories."

Indulge! Deprivation is not the answer. I'm sure you've heard it beofore, "everything in moderation." If you go crazy and cut out all the treats, you're setting yourself up for failure. Unless you've got an iron will... but who does? Honestly. Eat that treat you're craving now, before it turns into a full blown binge. It's not gonna kill you, or sabotage your efforts, if anything it will help you reach your goal.

These are probably the 5 most important "rules" I try to follow. They're the basics. Follow these and you'll succeed. I didn't mention exercise, that's another post entirely. What do you think? Do you like my health tips? I've been a fitness instructor for almost 4 years, so I'm not just making this stuff up, and I'd like to keep writing these kinds of posts, not only for myself but for others that could use them. I know it's a new direction for this blog so I'd love to know what you think. I plan on posting recipes, tips, product reviews, just like I always have, but with a healthy spin. I'll still be talking about my gf/cf adventures of course! And lots of photos, because you know how much I love to post them! Let me know what you think or if you have suggestions for future posts. Thanks! :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring is finally here!

Quincy Center

I love spring!!! This weekend was summer though, here in Boston. So hot! And wouldn't you know it, both my automatic windows AND my air conditioner are broken. Hopefully I'll have them fixed asap! I take the train to work and it's close enough to my house to walk, so I only drive on the weekends. That means, my car kinda sits and literally rots in my parking lot. But I own it outright and it's not a foreign car so it's not too expensive to fix. Ok, enough about that, back to the subject at hand.

I lost 3 pounds my first week back to "dieting." Admittedly, I didn't stick to it very closely. I had this idea in my mind that I hadn't actually gained that much weight and I could just kinda loosely focus on dieting and I'd be fine. Then I went to Old Navy and tried on a pair of cropped pants... I don't think "tried on" is the right word, they didn't get past my knees! I won't even tell you about the bathing suit. I'm just going to go with the theory that Old Navy clothes are geared more to teens and that is why nothing fit. I only went in there to pick up a pair of their cheap flip flops! I shouldn't have bothered with clothes, I did go home with one shirt though. It just made me realize that I have actually gained 20 pounds and that 20 pounds is not insignificant. But more than that, I need to get back to the gym! I still haven't gone, I was going to go yesterday but ended up watching Sex and the City instead. I just love that movie. Oops.

But I did want to talk about one thing that I am getting a solid grasp of, and that is my issues with binge eating that I talked about a while back. I've really made a lot of progress in this area. Being dairy free really helps though because one of the things that used to set off a binge was chocolate. Ice cream was also a big one. It's funny, eating a banana never sets off a binge, but eating a snickers could send me into a tailspin. The benefits to being dairy free are even more than I thought they'd be! It's still going strong. I feel great. I haven't had many recipes or products to post about because I haven't been doing a lot of cooking, spring is such a busy time. I'm really glad it's here though, I'm really looking forward to eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One Year Baby!!

I almost totally forgot!! Yesterday was my BLOGAVERSARY!!! I've been writing here at Sugar & Spice for one year, wow, and what a year it has been. Let's recap. I started writing because I had decided on my own to go gluten-free after years of fighting with doctors, trying to figure what was wrong with me. A month later I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. That started a long road of medications, and misery. Pain, fatigue, exhaustion, weight gain, and all around horribleness, almost worse than the past 27 years combined. I've never had such a miserable year, except for the year my boyfriend was cheating on me, but that's another blog entirely (I haven't started writing that one yet... don't hold your breath!). The days of bloodwork and pill popping all kind of blur together from the end of May until about a month ago when I finally woke up and discovered that dairy in fact was killing me. Day by day. Candy bar by candy bar. Here I am, a year later, completely dairy free, and feeling better than I have in years. I'm pain free, my digestive system is working like it's never worked before. Well, it has never worked before... so anything's an improvement at this point. I'm happier and healther than I've been in a long time and it's awesome. I'm going to keep blogging for as long as I feel the need and I love to do it, this community has been awesome. Thanks for all your support!!

Ben Affleck is Better than Cream Cheese

It's a play-on-words. You'll see...

Boston is getting a lot more action from the movie biz lately and this week is no exception. I noticed Tuesday night that there was filming going on in the area of Boston Common and the Public Garden and wondered who's in town this time. I found out yesterday morning that it's Ben Affleck. Nice! He's one of my favs, plus he comes from Boston which makes him that much cooler. Last night I'm walking from work to the train and I have to cut through Boston Common to get there and I see that they're filming right along my path!! And not only that, but they're not blocking it off, just letting us walk right through! So of course, the paparazzi in me came right out and I took this:

Ben Affleck

That pretty much made my day.... but the blog I had already planned was about this:

Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese

Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. I am not a huge cream cheese fan anyway, but I've been wanting to try as many dairy substitutes as I can. I probably wouldn't slather my bagel in this stuff, but a thin skim of it adds just enough flavor. I like it! I'd definitely substitute it for regular cream cheese in recipes like cakes, I've heard it's a good substitute in cheese cake... I just might have to try that out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free English Muffins

Trader Joe's GF/CF English Muffins

Allie was so nice to give me a pack of these GF/CF English muffins from Trader Joe's and I'm SO glad she did because I LOVE them! They are so good, it is really hard to tell that they're gluten-free. They have a very mild, English muffin flavor. The texture is soft and a little crumbly, the only true tell-tale sign that these are not the "real" thing. Otherwise they're perfect. I don't get to Trader Joe's very often but I'd make the trip for these.

Most people eat English muffins for breakfast, I am a fan of them for lunch, filled with tuna and topped with tomato. So yummy. I'm creating a new habit at lunch time. My entire life, I've eaten sandwiches with a side of something crunchy, potato chips, tortilla chips, crackers, etc. I'm trying to break that habit. Eat just the sandwich and then finish off with a piece of fruit or veggies. I would like to cut out as many non-nutritional foods as possible. I mean not completely, that's just a setup for failure, but yesterday I ate my sandwich without chips and today I did the same. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, let's see if I can do it! Now I'm going to have a few chocolate covered strawberries for desert... usually the fruit won't be dipped in chocolate, but this week, oh yes it will.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Marathon Monday.

Today is the Boston Marathon. Which for most people in Boston means a day off from work! Not me. We are closed every Monday holiday throughout the year. Columbus Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, President's Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.... but the one day that the whole city all but shuts down, we are open. Spring is a busy time of year for us and my Dad calls it a good catch-up day. Not to be confused with a good ketchup day, which is how I always think of it because I'd rather be at Fenway eating a hot dog.

Today is the day I've decided to start counting calories again... yup. AGAIN. I've been a member at Calorie King.com for almost 3 years, and when I logged in today and updated my stats, the website was kind enough to tell me that since joining in 2006 I have gained 13 pounds. Isn't the point of that website to lose weight?? Yeah. Well clearly I misread the rules. I can blame it on the steroids if I want to, but really, I wasn't on Prednisone, I was one Entocort. The one that doesn't cause weight gain. So really, it's all my fault that tons of food found it's way to my stomach. Clearly my body is absorbing nutrients again which is also why I've gained weight... right? Yeah. That's it. No more excuses. Fortunately, 3 of those delicious little chocolate covered strawberries is only 24 calories. Hell yes! I am not the kind of person that can cut out all of the bad stuff. I lost 25 pounds on weight watchers by eating whatever I wanted, just less of it. I know that's not the best way but you know what? I don't care! I eat a lot healthier than I used to and so I don't really mind eating chocolate covered strawberries. It's dairy free, it's dark chocolate, it's got anti-oxidants! I WIN! I'm on a mission to lose about 20 pounds. Easy. No problem. I can do it. Eat generally healthy, eat less, exercise more. I'll keep you posted on how it's going. Anyone else out there jumping in on the weight loss bandwagon? Summer is fast approaching! I don't so much care about wearing a bikini ever again, I've just noticed fatty areas on my body that have never been fat before... and that's just wrong.

Yesterday I took stock of what I had in my kitchen so I could plan my food for the week. The cool thing is that of everything I have stocked, 100% of it is casein free, and only 3 items (out of about 30) contain gluten. I've been eating gluten, like I've said, to see how the dairy free thing is working. It's going pretty well so far, but I'd still like to cut it out for the most part anyway. It's just healthier that way. Ok, I'm off to eat lunch, and then log it in. Ugh. ;-)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gluten Free, Casein Free Girls Night

Last night Allie, Sally and I had a gluten-free, casein-free girls night at Sally's house. Neither of them are casein-free, only gluten-free so I really appreciated the effort they made to figure out what I could eat! Sally made chicken and broccoli, Allie made delicious potato salad with dill, and I made hot dogs in grape jelly and mustard, and chocolate covered strawberries. Everything was so yummy! Especially those chocolate dipped strawberries... oh man, so good. I just melted some tropical source chocolate chips in the microwave, dipped the strawberries, put them in the fridge, and served after dinner. The simplest yet most delicious desert I've ever made. I took some quick photos:



Did I mention how awesome these were????

Tropical Source chocolate chips are awesome, and they are 100% gluten and dairy free.

Ok, so now it's Sunday, it's beautiful outside, and I'm lazing around watching Dirty Dancing. It's mid April and I am at the heaviest weight I've been in years. I really need to clean up my diet, get back into the gym, and get healthy again. Being dairy free is still making me feel great, so much better, but I've been over-glutening and I think it's starting to get to me. But really, this weekend I hate a lot of junk food so I'm not surprised that I don't feel great this morning.
Well I guess I should get to the grocery store and buy some fruits and veggies! :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Can't Believe It's Vegan!

I've been a googling fool lately trying to find out what's safe to eat on this casein free adventure and I stumbled across this PETA website that lists regular grocery store items that are vegan (no animal products = casein free). I read through some of the lists and discovered that Kraft Creamy Italian dressing is casein free! I don't know if it's gluten free, but I was so surprised to find out that it was vegan that I had to search further to check the ingredients list for myself. It's made with soybean oil and other things, but no dairy. I rarely buy salad dressing but this is good to know! I've extended the dairy free only experiment until my docs appointment in May. I really want to see how my body adjusts to eating gluten and cutting out all dairy. Two weeks wasn't enough. I also found out that Oreos are dairy free... and learned the hard way that too much of a good thing is still a bad thing, but delicious none-the-less. I am not by any means thinking of going vegan mind you, but this is a very helpful way to find products that are safe for me to eat.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Great Dairy Free Resource

Today I found the website I've been looking for! Go Dairy Free is an awesome resource for, well, going dairy free! I downloaded the e-book and it is totally worth it, plus the dairy free foods list. I'm so glad I did. The part that confuses me the most about going dairy free is interpreting labels. There are so many ingredients that sound like they could be dairy but are not, and then of course there are ones that don't sound at all like dairy but actually are. You all know how that goes, it's the same thing with gluten ingredients, but I've pretty much got that mastered. This book talks about all of that, plus so many other things like Kosher certification, vegan/vegetarian issues, milk substitutes in just about any situation, including powdered milk, buttermilk, etc. It's very comprehensive and I highly recommend it for anyone that's considering going dairy free.

I'm still feeling great, even after a holiday. Easter was the first holiday where I made it through the day without feeling sick at all. I even ate some chocolate. (Boom Choco Boom Rice Milk Chocolate!) My Mom announced at supper that I'm being my own doctor and doing a great job at it. It was nice to hear because sometimes I don't always know if she really "gets" what I'm going through. I brought some Earth Balance so I could have it on my baked potato and stuff at dinner and I put it on the table near my plate and I looked over and people are dunking their gluten/diary buttered knives into my spread!! I quickly put a stop to that!! Otherwise it was a great day and I'm so glad to be feeling so good.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's a cruel world.

No snack break for me.

One of my special projects right now is to design a candy bar wrapper for a customer who's son is graduating this spring. She dropped of this Nestle's Crunch bar for me to use as a template to mock up the sample. I'm still waiting for her to send me the rest of the text for the wrapper and she's in no hurry because graduation is still 2 months away. So here this little candy bar sits, day after day, taunting me... thanks lady, thanks a lot.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Remember my first post about The Doc?

I loved him when I first met him. He was so nice and he put me through all the tests right away and I was so excited that he was so proactive. And then he found the Crohn's and that was it. Done. You've got Crohn's, nothing you can do about it but take this medication and hope for the best. What's that? You think you might have food intolerances/allergies? Well, I don't know about that, do you need another refill on your prescription??

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my experience with The Doc over the past year. Today's visit was no different. How are you feeling? How's everything going? Well I'm feeling pretty good except I've had this dairy thing, and remember that rash? blah blah blah, told him the whole story and I flat out asked him if he thought my issues could at all be related to an allergy or intolerance and you know what his answer was? "I honestly don't know. Lactose and milk protein issues are typically childhood issues, you've been exposed to dairy for so long..." trails off... HELLOOOOO, HAVE YOU PAID ANY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE WORLD TODAY??? Allergies and intolerances are like an epidemic and most definitely NOT just in children! Good God, what do I have to do to get through to this guy? He absolutely does not have any concept of dietary issues what-so-ever. I didn't even bother asking him to order me some tests or refer me to an allergist. I have my appointment with the new doc in a month. I will seek her advice!

Being dairy free is great. I still feel great and am even 87% sure I'm going to get back to kickboxing sooner than I'd thought. A month ago I wasn't sure if I'd ever go back. Today I have thoughts in my head of going back... tomorrow. We'll see if I do, I'm intimidated, I'm afraid it's going to be like starting all over again. But if Diana can do it, then so can I! { :-) }

I'm glad I got through this appointment with The Doc and now I'm looking forward to the appointment with the NEW DOC on May 14th.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Well, well, well, what do you know...

I've been doing my homework on casein today and searching around for info and what have I been seeing? Most sites that talk about casein intolerance also talk about Crohn's Disease! Oh for crying out loud, why didn't I figure this out 3 years ago?? So frustrating, but I'm so grateful that I'm finding answers and feeling better!

On another note, as you can see I've updated my blog header, I used images that are not necessarily compatible with older web browsers, so if it looks funny, update your browser! Thanks for the compliments too! :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Casein Intolerance or Lactose Intolerance, what's the difference?

My friend Diana brought up a good question in the comments the other day, she was curious about the difference between lactose intolerance and casein intolerance. I thought that would be a perfect post, so here you go! Now there are a lot of facts, and this may not be 100% spot on, but you'll get the general idea and if you're curious to find out more, feel free to Google it!

Lactose is the sugar found in cows milk. People that experience symptoms after consuming dairy products (diarrhea, bloating, gas, etc.) may simply be lactose intolerant. This is when your body does not have the enzymes that are needed to break down the lactose sugar, and therefore you react to it. You might start by cutting out dairy until symptoms subside and then trying to re-introduce lactose free dairy products, or using a product like lactaid pills which help to break down the lactose sugars. Lactaid products are dairy products that do not contain the lactose sugar, even though they do come from cows. Also it should be noted that some all natural products like yogurt, sour cream, and hard cheeses are naturally lactose free and can often be tolerated.
Lactose intolerance can also show up when there are other food allergies or intolerance and sometimes when those other intolerances are dealt with, the lactose intolerance goes away. Wouldn't that be nice??

Casein is the protein found in cows milk. The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance but can also be more severe, some people even having anaphylactic reactions. Respiratory problems (coughing, wheezing, sneezing, runny nose) are also an issue here. The symptoms are also very similar to those of Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. If you are casein intolerant you must avoid all dairy products, including many additives that are in many processed foods. For a better idea of what this means, check out this link. Note that even products that are labeled "non-dairy" may in fact contain casein, know your products!

What about goats milk? Well, goats milk does contain both casein and lactose, however the structure of these are different than in cows milk and may or may not be tolerated well by those with lactose or casein intolerance. Safer alternatives to cows and goats milk would include rice milk, soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk and I'm sure there are others I don't even know about yet.

The most important thing is to read all your labels, even if the allergy list doesn't include milk, be safe and read through the ingredients anyway. Know the names of additives that milk hides under. Your best bet - eat as close to nature as possible. Avoid the foods with all the additives! But you already know that. I hope this has been helpful, I still have more to learn on this subject but this is an excellent start.

New and Improved, my Gluten AND Casein Free life!

What do you think? I'm still working on my web design skills, it's a slow process, and if I could just ignore the phones, I'd design all day. Alas, it's been a busy week, but can't complain about that! My two week experiment is not over yet, my doc's appointment isn't until next Tuesday, but I've already made my decision. I will most definitely be gluten and casein free from now on. There's absolutely no reason not to and a long list of reasons why I should. It's a no brainer. It's taken me almost an entire year to get here. My first post was on April 22, 2008 and here I am, April 2, 2009 and finally getting a grip of this lifestyle. So I learn a little more slowly than others, I always have.

I just read over some of the earlier posts and it's safe to say that I've learned a lot but as far as putting those lessons into practice, it's been baby steps. I would like to make some leaps and bounds! This casein experiment was a leap. A good one. I'm glad I did this. I'm ready to get my life back. Fully and completely. First things first, getting back into the gym. That is something that has been really frustrating lately. I've fallen so far off the exercise wagon that the dust has settled and I feel like if I even tried to workout I'd be the weakest of the weak. I hate that feeling after so many years of weight lifting and kickboxing. But I need to just suck it up and get back to it. I'm not weak, I'm feeling better, and once I start I know I'll fall right back into it. It's just the starting part that's go me stuck.