Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Photos make blog posts so much better.

There is one thing I miss about my old job. The ability to upload my photos! Working on a network here, I really can't put all my photos on this computer. And I never have three seconds at home to do it either. Actually I haven't even been taking photos! I have no problem whipping out my camera at a restaurant but here at the cafe? Not so much. I am not ready to show my new co-workers my blog-persona. Plus I really can't be uploading pics and writing blog posts at work anymore. That was one of the perks of working for my Dad before. This place does offer a lot of flexibility as far as interneting is concerned. I can pretty much do whatever I want as long as my work is getting done. But photos, that's taking it a step too far. At least at this point. It's only the second week so maybe that will change. It's really frustrating because I do not like to put up posts without photos! Oh well. Anyway, enough about that.

I'm getting much better at planning food and eating the right things. I did start to feel my carelessness take a toll so I quickly reeled it in and am back on track. I am loving my new job, I haven't been doing much work, mostly just training but I still love it. The people I work with are awesome and the building I work in is great too. I'm very happy here so far. I'm looking forward to my training being over (not until May) so I can start doing actual work with sites. I don't have much else to report right now, everything's just going great! You know what I love the best about this job? Being able to dress cute! I could've dressed cute at my old job but really, I worked in a dirty office where not a lot of people came in and so I mostly wore jeans and sneakers. Business casual is much more fun. I finally have been able to wear shoes that have been sitting in my closet for years! I'm such a girl...

I still have about 170 blog posts to read in my reader so sorry for lack of comments and tweets and stuff. I've been out of the loop! Hope you are all doing well!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Revelation

So here's the thing. This week I stared my new job and I met all these new people and they met me and they didn't know a thing about me. They don't know that I have Crohn's Disease. They don't know that I'm uber-health conscious. That I'm ridiculously concerned about the quality of my food now after years of being ridiculously unhealthy. They don't know that I'm gluten free and dairy free and trying to keep the sugar to a serious minimum. They welcomed me by giving me a bucket of candy. They have no idea that it was the worst gift they could've given me. And you know what? I ate it all. I realized tonight that for one week I was just a regular person. I didn't have to explain my food choices to anyone. I didn't ask questions. I didn't read labels. I just ate the best I could throughout the week and didn't worry about it... too much. And do you want to know something? I didn't like it.

The old me would've slowly fallen off the wagon and stayed off of it until I was horribly sick again. But this me? This "new" me... she kinda doesn't like eating chocolate and drinking soda and wondering whether or not her pad thai sauce contains any bad ingredients. WHO AM I????? On my way home from work I stopped at the health food store and started stocking up for next week. I don't even feel sick or anything, I just feel wrong, bad, not right. I enjoy eating the right foods for my body. Oh my goodness, did I actually just say that? Yeah. I did. It's insane.

Progress

Things are getting better, I ate breakfast before I left for work and then this morning I scoped out the situation in the cafe to see what will help me get through my days. There's hot water for oatmeal, a toaster (shared) for bread if I need it but with Udi's I usually don't! And there's a microwave and fridge/freezer right next to my cube. Now it's just all about the planning and prepping so that I don't find myself stuck. There's a Whole Foods not far from here too which is great. It's closer to than the one that I usually go to from my house so I can go there after work. I technically only have a half hour for lunch which makes it difficult to leave the office, but occassionally as long as I have the extra time in my day I can go out if I need to. We do also have scheduled group lunches for birthdays and such where we go out, for those I just find out where we're going and check menus online. Monday is b.good where I know I can get a nice salad or something. There's a PF Chang's close too so maybe that's where we'll go for my birthday!

This week has been a huge adjustment for my body and mind but today I'm feeling good about it all and ready to get my head back in the gf/df game. I didn't stray too far away so it shouldn't be an issue. Speaking of which... I'm hungry!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Workin' 9-5, What a Way to Make a Living!

Remember that song? Nothing like a little Dolly Parton to get you going. I did a dance to that song in dancing school back in the day.. circa 1987. Anyway... I started my new job this week! Hence the lack in postings/tweets. So far it's going very well. I had orientation on Monday and Tuesday and today was my first full day in the office. The next few months will be filled with meetings and trainings and lots of learning so I'll be all over the place. Monday and Tuesday nights I also worked at the Y so I'm exhausted at this point. I couldn't wait to get home tonight so I could just relax. But my body is so tight from sitting in desk chairs for 3 days that I feel like I need to go to the gym and work it out. We'll see if I get there. I also need to go grocery shopping. Which brings me back to the topic of this blog.

I was very nervous about going back to work. For the past 6 years I've worked at a small office with my family, so doctors appointments, and bathroom breaks were never an issue. Not only that, I was afraid that the change in my schedule and the nerves of going back to work again would throw me head first into a flare. I've only been med free for 3 and a half months, the last thing I need is a flare right now! Plus, due to my random schedule of training classes and different offices I have to admit I have not planned my food very well. For the most part I've done well but I have had a few slips. Especially today. Our office is an open workspace which means our cubicles don't have high walls. I can see everyone around me and we all interact regularly. Also, my cube is right in a central location, directly beside the kitchen/bathrooms. The good news is I get to see everyone, the bad news is, they leave a bag of bagels and a box o' joe at the far end of my desk for everyone to share. AND my group gave me a welcome gift of various chocolate candy. Milk chocolate candy. Double wammy. I have not explained to everyone yet about my Crohn's and my special diet. I didn't want to get into all that on the first day. I also didn't plan my meals well enough so I was starving. I ate half a bagel and some of the chocolates. Ooops!!! I feel fine but I still shouldn't have done that! The rest of my meals have been safe.

There are 6 buildings and I have to go to most of them for various trainings and each one has a cafe so I've been allowing myself to just buy my lunch and pick safe options. I have had pretty good luck, although I'm not checking with the chefs to be sure everything is 100% safe. I know, I know, not smart. It's a bit of an adjustment period but I'll get the hang of it. I've always been terrible at planning meals for the week, shopping and cooking. Working Monday and Tuesday nights doesn't help at all.

So anyway, aside from all that, the job is awesome. I guess I should explain what exactly I'm doing. I work for a medical software company and I am basically a tech support specialist for a particular software package (admissions), in a very small nutshell. It's going to take a while to learn it and start taking on hospitals to support but that's ok. The environment is awesome, the people are great, it's flexible. That means that my doc's appt in two weeks won't be a problem and I can use flex time to leave early that day and make up the time throughout the week so I don't lose any pay or use any vacation time. The benefits are phenomenal too. My supervisor is awesome, really nice and totally flexible. The people in my group are great as well. Many of them are close to my age which is really cool. I was hoping for that! My office is situated on a golf course and there are tons of windows all around so I can look out to the beautiful scenery all day. In Boston my view was a brick wall and I smelled truck fumes all day. No more!! I definitely made the right choice. I am loving it so far even though there's not much to do right now. The training process is kinda slow, but I'll take advantage of this down time before it's time to take on sites and go out of my mind because I'm so busy! Well, that's about it for now. I don't know when I'll get back to regular posting but hopefully not too long. I haven't been reading blogs either, my reader is totally backlogged. I'll get to it someday!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

Yesterday I asked for help, and people responded. It's incredible, the kind souls out there that would help a perfect stranger. I am forever grateful!!! You might notice that I removed the post from yesterday, and it's honestly because I still felt funny about it. But I left the donate button in the sidebar. From now on, if people want to donate money to this site in support of Autoimmune Disease awareness, not only will I donate that money to foundations such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, I will also match each donation. That means, if you send me $50 I will send $100 to either of these foundations. How will you know that I've done it? Well usually you get some sort of confirmation email or something and I will post about it. THANK YOU to those of you that have faith in me and care about the mission of this website. I cannot say to you how much it means to me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sugar - Know the Facts

Sugar Packet

Here we are, the third installment of the Sugar series of Know the Facts. Today I'm talking about good old table sugar. I began writing this series because I wanted to know the facts about the science of sugars, meaning glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and so forth. Table sugar has become the black sheep of the sugar family and I wanted to try to understand why people feel that other sweeteners are better. I'm starting to get it, although I have to say I don't necessarily agree. When I'm done with this series I will share with you my thoughts about sugars, but for now, onto the facts. In the meantime, you might find this post, and the linked article interesting.

Table sugar, made from either sugar cane or sugar beets is made up of sucrose which is a disaccharide - a combination of glucose and fructose. Originally, people chewed sugar cane raw to extract the sweetness. Around the year 350 AD, Indians discovered how to crystallize sugar by grinding or pounding the cane to extract the juice and boiling it down or drying it in the sun to yield sugary solids. Sugar in the beet root was not discovered until 1747. It wasn't until the 1400's that sugar made it's way into Europe and began to really gain popularity. By the 1700's sugar surpassed grain as the most valuable commodity in European trade. This is when Europeans began consuming jams, candies, tea, coffee, cocoa, processed foods and other sweets. So you see, it's only been about 300 years. Think about that...

Let's talk about the types of cane sugar that we have. Up until recently I only knew about white sugar and brown sugar (light or dark). Then, I learned that there are other, less refined forms. Here's what happens. The first crystallization of the sugar cane produces raw sugar, naturally brown sugar, free of dyes and chemicals. The brown color comes from the naturally occurring molasses. At this stage, sugar also contains all of its natural vitamins, minerals and mineral salts. This includes phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. Raw sugar should not be confused with Turbinado sugar, although some Turbinado sugar is being advertised as raw.

Turbinado sugar comes from the crushing of the cane to obtain the juice. The juice is then heated and evaporated to syrup and then crystallized. The crystals are then spun to remove excess juice.

Muscovado sugar is when the sugar cane extract is heated to thicken it and then pan evaporated in the sun and pounded to yield unprocessed, damp sugar that retains all natural minerals.

Demerara sugar is heated and then dehydrated to form crystals and still contains some molasses.

Evaporated Cane Juice is a more refined version of Turbinado sugar.

There are many forms of cane sugar and some are being sold as "healthier" than white sugar. White sugar is the most refined of them all, it is processed to the max including chemically washed to remove all of the color and stripped of any and all nutrients. Brown sugar (light or dark) that you typically find in the grocery store is just white sugar with molasses added back in. Don't be fooled into thinking it's a less refined product than white sugar. Turbinado, Muscovado, Demerara and ECJ are all less processed than white sugar but honestly, from what I've read, even if they do contain vitamins and minerals, they are only in trace amounts.

I'm finding a lot of conflicting information and opinions on sugars in general and it's quite frustrating. But the majority of my research leads me back to this: we shouldn't be eating added sugars. Whether refined or unrefined, it doesn't matter. We get more than enough natural sugar from the whole foods that we should be eating. Added sugar means all forms - white, brown, agave, syrups, honey, etc. An interesting little tidbit I came across really struck me and I think all of you autoimmune folks out there might find it interesting as well:

Sugar may temporarily deactivate white blood cells, lowering the body's ability to fight infectious diseases for approximately 24 hours. One may be more susceptible to colds and other infections after eating large amounts of sugar.

So if we're eating added sugar on a daily basis, that would mean that our immune systems are never functioning normally. Interesting? I think so. I also came across some research by Kathleen DesMaisons, noting that dependence on sugar followed the same track outlined in the DSM IV for other drugs of abuse. Sugar and the taste of sweet stimulate the brain by activating beta endorphin receptor sites. The same chemicals activated by heroin and morphine.

This post was quite difficult to write. I found a TON of information about sugar out there and almost all of it was conflicting. You also have to be careful of the sources because some research may be sponsored by sugar companies that want the information to be favorable. But the more I read about sugar, the less I like it. I am curious to know, if the entire country eliminated added sugars from their diets and changed NOTHING else, what would happen? I think it would show a major increase in health in all of us.

Having said that, baking cookies, or brownies, or cake once in a while is not going to kill you. But let's be honest here, we are eating this stuff all of the time. Myself included. And not only that, it's the packaged foods, the sauces, the drinks, the breads, the crackers, almost everything we eat contains added sugars. And I mean ALL forms of added sugars, honey, agave, evaporated cane juice, fruit juices and so on. It's something to seriously think about and pay attention to.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject, and where you think I should go next with this series?

Blog Love

First, I'm still working on the sugar post. Hold your horses!! It's a long one and quite involved so it's taking some time to write it.

Now, I just want to take a moment here to gush a little bit about how much I LOVE the gluten free blogging community. Seriously, if it weren't for all of you, I'd still be eating gluten with reckless abandon. The other day, my buddy Heidi wrote an awesome post about me on her website Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. She writes the craziest posts about how she tries to re-create "normal" kid food for her kids, especially Sam so he can feel normal at school. She created a gluten free Lunchable for him!!! Heidi also writes a lot other awesome posts about foods, recipes, tips... she's pretty awesome.



Last week I received a blogger award from Maggie over at She Let Them Eat Cake! Maggie's blog is relatively new to me and I love it so far. She has been baking gluten free ever since her husband was diagnosed with Celiac 7 years ago. I'm a new reader of her blog but so far I love it, so I'm sending this award right back to her!! I'd love to share this award with some other bloggers that I love. I imagine that some of these people have already received this award but that's ok! I'm just going to make a quick little list of people that am a big fan of.

Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom
Gluten-free is Life
Farty Girl
Gluten Free for Good
Gluten Hates Me, But I'm Surviving

There are TONS of blogs I love but it would take me a month. See my blogroll for more! (it needs to be updated, leave a comment if you're not on it!)

Comcast FAIL

I'm having trouble with my internet. AGAIN. I hate Comcast. Sorry for the lack in posts. Hopefully I'll be back asap.

Friday, March 5, 2010

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Sorry folks, the sugar post is going to have to wait. I'm working on it but it's going to take longer to finish it and there's something else I want to write about today. I just came across an article (via runningaroundnormal.com) about Lincoln University implementing a fitness requirement for those students with a BMI of 30 or more. The article is from last fall and one of the comments suggests that the policy has either been revoked or changed, but I'm still on FIRE over this topic. Recently there have been talks of elementary schools weighing and measuring children to calculate BMI and then sending letters home to the parents to alert them of their childrens' weight statuses. The government has eliminated health and fitness classes from our schools and subsidized our food supply so that the majority or our nourishment comes from refined, unhealthy sources. We are an overweight, sick population and it's easy to point the fingers and say it's our fault. We let ourselves get that way. They didn't force us to eat all the crap that they're slinging! But guess what. THEY DID. Our food supply is deadly and most of us don't even know it. We trust the packages that say they're higher in fiber and contain vitamins and minerals to be safe. We believe that the foods in the perimeter of the supermarket are natural and healthy. We believe that the ingredients in our packaged foods are harmless. The crackers are made from whole grain, the bread doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup, the salad dressing is sugar free, low sodium, lite...

Well, let me tell you something. You can argue with me until you're blue in the face that our bodies have "evolved" to tolerate the crap we eat now but take a look around you. We are a mess. We have diabetes, crohn's, celiac, lupus, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporisis, poly-cystic ovary syndrome, cancer, multiple food allergies and intolerances, (should I go on?) and we are GIGANTICALLY overweight. It's no longer a matter of will-power. Our bodies are breaking because we are not feeding it properly. Once you start to study the way the body functions, you realize that we are like computers or even better, like a car. We are designed to run on a certain fuel and when we constantly feed it with econo-grade instead of premium, the engine shuts down.

I hear this line time and time again - Obesity can lead to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, etc etc. That sentence needs to be changed. Being overweight should be one of those diseases and it should read something like this - not taking care of your body by eating properly and exercising can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Obesity is not a symptom, it's a disease. Having said that, Americans need to be taught exactly what "eating properly and exercising" means. Eating properly does not mean stocking up on frozen Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones. We need education and not just in school, but for adults of all ages. People these days just don't know what good health means and it's a tragedy.

A young girl approached me at the gym this morning and asked a few exercise and nutrition questions. Of course I told her that I am not a registered dietitian but that I'd give her advice from my own personal experience and research. I asked her to think about how we evolved and how our bodies are designed to eat. I said that if it is edible in nature than we should be eating it. It was like a light dawning and she said "oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense!" It's not exactly that simple anymore with the introduction of genetically modified foods, but it's a start. My wish is for a food revolution in this country. Maybe I can help get it started. Who's with me???

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crazy Day!

I know I promised the sugar post today but I had an interview this morning, got called in to work this afternoon and am volunteering tonight. Busy day! I also had my first emergency situation at the gym in all the 4.5 years I've worked there. I am a Red Cross Certified Professional Rescuer. Fortunately I didn't have to administer CPR or anything, a kid fell in the gym and gave himself a good gash on his head. I had to fill out the incident report as the aquatics supervisor administered first aid until EMS arrived. Crazy! My hands were shaking, poor kid, he was alert and acting like he was fine but I know he was shaken up and in pain. Hopefully he didn't have any more damage, head injuries are dangerous. I hope he'll be ok! I fell in the gym when I was 10 and had to have stitches on my chin. Basketball is rough!

Ok I'm off to have dinner and head to Healthworks at Codman for my volunteer shift!

I'll tell you all about sugar tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Food for Thought

Hey Everyone! I need your help. One of the biggest concerns about eating healthy these days is the cost. Many people believe that eating healthy and organic is more expensive and therefore impossible. I know that's not true and I know many of you know this too. So here's what I'm hoping - I want to know how you do it? How do you shop to meet your needs but keep within your budget? Where do you shop? What do you buy? I'd like to be able to use your "testimonies" for future projects in my health & wellness career to help others learn how to shop. Please either leave your comments here, or email me: jen [at] alifeofsugarandspice [dot] com. Thanks!!!

Tomorrow I hope to put up my next post in my Know the Facts series and it's going to be all about the white stuff. Plain old sugar!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Honey - Know the Facts

IMG_9728

Welcome to the next installment of my new series Know the Facts. This month I am talking all about sweeteners, including both natural and artificial. Today's post is about Honey! This is part two of the sweetener series, following my post about Agave.

Honey is one of the few, if not the only, natural sweeteners that can be consumed without any processing what-so-ever. In fact, you may even find chunks of honeycomb being sold right out of the hive. Bees create honey using nectar from flowers. It is made through a process of regurgitation and digestion and is stored to be used as a food source for them during cold weather or when fresh food sources are scarce. The prominent sugars in honey are fructose and glucose, the ratio varies depending on processing, and there are also small amounts of sucrose and maltose.

Honey is classified by floral sources. In North America you'll find varieties such as clover, orange blossom, sage, tupelo, buckwheat and sourwood. Most commercial honey is blended, that is a mix of two or more honeys. Polyfloral, aka Wildflower Honey is made from many different floral sources. As you may have noticed, my Whole Foods Organic Honey is of the Wildflower variety.

From my point of view, the most important thing to consider when choosing a sweetener is the processing. That includes whether or not the product is organic. Honey that is certified organic is highly regulated and free of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and created in the most natural ways. Honey farmers that are non-organic routinely use sulfa compounds and antibiotics to control bee diseases, carbolic acid to remove honey from the hive and calcium cyanide to kill colonies before extracting the honey. Also, bees collect the nectar from plants that have been sprayed with pesticides.

There are a variety of ways to process honey including crystalization, pasteurization, straining, ultrafiltering, ultrasonicating, whipping, drying and then of course, there is raw honey. The honey that you find in the supermarket is typically pasteurized or ultrafiltered. These are both high heat processes that kill yeast cells, liquefy, and remove extraneous solids and pollen grains. This kills the live enzymes and may decrease the nutrient quality that is found in pure, raw honey, which is a great source of vitamins and minerals and also contains antioxidants. Honey naturally contains niacin, riboflavin, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc!

One point that is irrelevant to me, but you might find interesting, is that honey is not a vegan food. True veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom. According to this, honeybees are included in the animal kingdom and therefore honey is an animal product. Any "vegans" out there that eat honey? Thoughts?

So what are my thoughts on honey? Well, of course, first and foremost it's a sugar and like I always say, sugar, is sugar, is sugar and moderation is key. Having said that, I feel that honey is actually a great option as a sweetener as long as it's organic and even raw if you can afford/find it. From what I've read, non-organic honey farming practices have really gone downhill. I haven't looked into this far enough to say much about it, but I don't recommend buying non-organic honey at all. If you're curious, I encourage you to do some of your own research! I'd love to hear what you come up with. I hope this article has been helpful, and if you have any questions or comments I'd love to hear them!

Resources include: naturalnews.com, honey.com, wikipedia and vegetus.org