Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So what am I eating now?

Clean and Lean

I'm still making the transition to a cleaner diet and have had a few slips here and there, for example Enjoy Life Foods sent me some cookies to review so of course I have to eat them! For the most part though, the transition is going smoothly and I'm feeling great. I've even lost a few pounds, but I'm keeping the number a secret since some of my co-workers read this blog and I don't want them to know how well I'm doing in the Biggest Loser competition. I'm not going to keep referring to it as Paleo because as I continue to research that specific diet, I've come across a lot of inconsistencies. Folks that are truly Paleo don't eat things like potatoes and squash but I'm not going that far. I don't actually want to lose a ton of weight and cutting out starchy veggies would definitely put me in the sickly category.

So what am I eating then? Lots of protein, veggies, healthy fats and a little bit of fruit. My daily menu looks something like this:

1 egg over easy
1/4 avocado
broccoli or a banana

Large salad with romaine, spinach, green pepper, carrots, grilled chicken, cucumber
salad dressing that I shouldn't have (gf/df but still full of junk, soybean oil, sugar, etc)
sometimes some cape cod chips.... I know.. I know. It's a transition!!

I've been trying to change it up at dinner. Tonight I ate chicken, butternut squash and broccoli. The squash was boiled and mashed with a little coconut milk, earth balance, cinnamon, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of honey
I've also eaten a chicken curry dish, beef stew, burgers wrapped in lettuce, lots of good stuff!
I plan to make a chicken stir fry tomorrow.

I am really feeling great on this cleaner, MUCH less processed diet. My stomach is feeling awesome and my skin is getting better. I don't need to eat as often as I used to, I've basically eliminated snacks between meals. I'm alert, strong and happy. I love this! Sometimes I do get a pang of sadness when I think about a piece of toast with my eggs or a gf cupcake, but truthfully, I don't have sugar cravings at all and I really don't crave bread or pasta. My body is getting exactly what it wants and needs so it's happy! I actually ate gf pancakes over the weekend and the syrup made me very sick. I know it was the sugar because I've had that reaction before, it was just way worse after NOT eating any sugar for two weeks. I encourage any of you that are considering cutting out grains altogether to just do it! It feels great. Don't let the naysayers get you down, you really don't need grains to be healthy. In fact, they kinda weigh you down.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When all else fails, eat pancakes!

My first week venturing into the world of the caveman has been good and bad. I'll break it down for you by meals of the day.

The best part, as far as I'm concerned, about eating Paleo is breakfast. I already make myself an egg every day so it was easy to transition from making an egg sandwich, to making an egg with broccoli and avocado. I even found that this breakfast holds me over longer than my egg sandwich did and I didn't need to eat a snack between breakfast and lunch today. I would ultimately like to change up the menu a little bit, but for now this works very well.

Lunch didn't change at all for me. I buy a salad from the salad bar at my office every single day. Lots of greens, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, grilled chicken. I did not give up the chickpeas, nor did I change the dressing that I use. Neither of these are considered Paleo. For now, I'm ok with that. I plan on changing that soon.

I have to admit, I didn't do a very good job of planning dinner. Which is ridiculous because I eat pretty close to Paleo at dinnertime usually anyway. The biggest issue I had with starting this transition right now is that I'm completely broke. I get paid once a month and this month I just didn't budget very well, so I didn't have a lot of money to buy my food. I planned to make two big meals that could be eaten as leftovers. The first was beef stew. This came out great, I planned to eat it two nights and then freeze the rest for later so I didn't get sick of it. Then I would make a chicken curry dish and do the same, eat it a couple of nights, freeze the rest. That should bring me up to the weekend, at which time I can plan a new menu and buy more food for next week. Well, I ended up eating beef stew three nights in a row. I froze the last portion. Tonight I made the chicken curry dish. It is not good. At all. I ate a bowl of it and then sat here annoyed and not satisfied. Then I remembered I had some leftover pancakes in the freezer. You know where this is going...

All in all I feel good about the week. It wasn't perfect but I knew it wouldn't be. This isn't something that's just going to happen overnight, I am working on it. I'm proud of myself for doing as well as I did! So, how do I feel? I feel great actually. I have good energy, my stomach is feeling awesome, and I really don't miss the grains that much at all. I have not had any sugar cravings. Occasionally I see a commercial for a beautiful dessert and I sigh a little bit, but it's not like I intend to never eat dessert again. Just not every night! Do I think I can sustain this diet for the long haul? I don't know, but I'm going to give it a solid effort.

I've found a ton of Paleo blogs to read for inspiration and information and that is awesome. Of course, in true Jen fashion, I cannot commit to the Paleo Diet without researching it to the fullest. Is this really the best way to eat? What other diets are out there that people think is the ultimate way to live an optimal healthy life? So, I'm also researching Veganism. I'll be totally honest with you, I do believe that we are meant to eat meat. I know there are plenty of people out there that are living a strong and healthy life with no animal products what-so-ever. I'll be the last person to say that they shouldn't be living this way. The truth is, we really don't know. No one does. There are people out there that think they do! I think the most responsible thing to do is keep learning, do your home work, know what you're putting into your body and how it functions. And most importantly, find what works for YOU and stick to it!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ready, Set, GO!

paleo 1

I have been researching the Paleo Diet all weekend. In typical Jen fashion, I started out guns blazing, ready to go. Then I went through the "do I really want to do this?" phase. And now here I am, Paleo Beef Stew on the stove, getting prepped for this new adventure. Now, before you start typing up your comments about how something in the photo above is not Paleo, save your typing! I don't want to hear it! I do not plan to give you a run down of what I eat everyday either. Knowing that everyone is analyzing my food intake every day will drive me back to the arms of chocolate and Udi's muffins faster than you can say turnips aren't allowed. I've read website after website and I've found conflicting information on each one, so you know what? I'm doing it MY way! The basics - eat whole foods, nothing processed, or as little processed as possible (and that doesn't mean only one slice of bread per day). Make sure to get in protein, carbs and healthy fat at every meal. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied.

I know that many of my posts are about the sweet stuff, but really my basic daily diet consists of 1 egg and gf toast in the morning, whole grain gf hot cereal for snack, salad with grilled chicken for lunch and dinner is usually a protein, veggies and starch. This isn't really going to be a huge shakeup of my current lifestyle, but the goal is to get rid of the bread and pasta and exchange that for more veggies. The challenge is to come up with exciting recipes so that I don't get bored! I also want to incorporate more seafood into my diet, I love it but never buy it. I think the key to this will be planning, including checking the sale folders to see what's cheap. This week I didn't really plan ahead, I knew what I wanted to make but I didn't know what was on sale. I was so excited to see that chicken was buy one get one free!! My total came to $48 and I didn't want to go over $50 so it was perfect, and this should get me through at least this whole week and probably part of next week too. Tonight I'm making beef stew which will yield me a bunch of servings and later this week the plan is coconut chicken curry. I have never made that before but I am excited to try! So wish me luck!! I'll definitely keep you posted on how it's going.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dermatitis Herpetiformis...

If you've read my story, you know that when I first learned about Celiac, I thought for sure that it's what I have. I've been tested by blood test multiple times, all negative, and of course as you know I have been diagnosed with Crohn's. My remarkable recovery with a gluten and dairy free diet alone has always hinted towards the fact that I probably do have Celiac despite the Crohn's diagnosis, and actually, many Crohn's patients do also have Celiac. The one thing that made me really think that I did have Celiac was the recurring rash I used to get. It's an intense rash, your skin starts to tingle before the rash breaks out, then once it does, the itch is insane. Clusters of little bumps appear, you scratch, the skin breaks, weeps, burns. It's awful. Sorry if this is TMI but hey, this website is full disclosure!

Well I have had multiple doctors check the rash but they always say they don't know what it is. It's clearly a reaction to something they just don't know what. The problem is, it comes and goes so quickly that by the time I get to the doctors office, it's barely there for the doc to check out. I've done extensive research regarding types or rashes, but the only one that matches my symptoms exactly is Dermatitis Herpetiformis - the Celiac rash.

When I was undergoing treatment for Crohn's, the medications I was on cleared up the rash and I didn't see it for over two years. I thought it was gone for good but once in a while I'd feel that familiar tingle again. Recently I shared with you all that last year was a bad one diet wise and that I had been cheating on the gf diet. After about 6 months of this, the rash started to re-appear. It was mild at first and back in November I fully recommitted to the GF diet. In general I started to feel better right away and still do, but the rash persisted and when I started taking birth control pills it went out of control. It was just within the last couple days, in the middle of a major flare, that I decided to stop taking the pills as I started researching DH again and found that oral contraceptives can definitely exacerbate the rash. I know it was the pills because it got better during the week off of them and then the first week back on again the rash went nuts after about 3 days. I have been strictly gluten free for a few months now but the rash doesn't necessarily clear up right away. Needless to say I'm enormously frustrated with myself for cheating.

While researching DH, I discovered that it's caused by deposits of IgA antibodies on the skin. This sparked my memory of my very first Celiac panel. I was also in a mild flare of the rash at the time. The numbers were all within normal ranges, but the doctor had made a note on the report that my IgA levels needed to be monitored. I believe that my levels were in the high end of the normal range but I can't remember exactly and I can't find the test results. If the doctor had been looking at this as a DH test rather than a Celiac test, in combination with the rash, I believe this would be a positive result. Of course, just like all other Celiac tests, these don't ever seem to be 100% accurate. So frustrating!

I have appointments with both my docs in March. The plan right now is to stick to the gf diet, move forward with the Paleo diet and stay off the pills. Hopefully it will get better, but if it doesn't, then I'll make an earlier appointment and see if I can get in to see a dermatologist. Seriously, autoimmunity never ends does it?! It's a struggle, but I'm not letting it get me down. I've still made major progress, despite a few steps back. I'm just so glad to have this support community. I reached out to others with DH this week, read forums, articles, anything I could find. There's no doubt in my mind that I have DH, which means I do in fact have Celiac. I'd go back for more testing, but will it make a difference? No. I'm already GF anyway and there's not much else they can do. Just keep pushing on!

If you have any experience with DH I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment here or email me - jen at alifeofsugarandspice dot com. And as always, THANKS for reading and for your support!!! The response to this site lately has been amazing and more and more people are spreading the word. I really appreciate it!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So Easy A Caveman Can Do It?

Caveman with Donuts

I'm sure you've heard about it, in fact I've probably written about it here before. Some people out there think that we should be eating like the cavemen ate. It's called the Paleo Diet and it's been getting more and more attention. Today I was talking with someone that has had his own share of digestive struggles and he mentioned that this diet has worked for many people with Crohn's. I have heard this too and have considered trying the diet myself many times. Why haven't I done it? Well truthfully, I love bread and sugar. The Paleo Diet is free of grains and added sugar. Basically, it's meat & fish, veggies, fruit, healthy fats and spices. In my head it sounds awesome and I know I'd feel amazing but somehow I just haven't been able to commit to it. You all know how much I love to bake!

Lately however I've been feeling frustrated that I am still having some minor issues like irritations, a little bit of constipation, extremely dry skin, redness and irritation on my face. Things that I feel could be helped with a few changes in diet. Today I had eggs and gf toast for breakfast, a baked potato and brussels sprouts for lunch, gf pasta with meatballs and marinara for dinner and I also made cornbread. I ate a good two or three pieces of the cornbread. All of a sudden this evening the rash became majorly inflamed! I don't know what's causing it, but it's driving me absolutely crazy. So I think I'm going to give this whole caveman diet a shot. Cut my diet down to the very basics. Hope for the best. Anyone else out there eating this way? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gluten Free Works

My story is featured on Gluten Free Works today!! You've probably already read it here, but you should definitely check out the site anyway. It's an awesome resource for all sorts of information related to Gluten, Celiac and other disorders linked to the GF diet.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Here we go again...

New Year's Resolutions...

I was looking for this picture in my Flickr feed and when I found it, I realized I had titled it New Year's Resolutions. This was from December 2008, not last New Year but the year before. So I went back to that post to see what I wrote and see how I've done:

I will get back into the shape I was in a year and a half ago, healthy and strong, lose the 20 pounds I gained this year.
- Still trying to lose those 20 lbs. Biggest Loser Challenge!!

I will do more volunteer work.
- Have done some, need to do more. This is always a goal of mine.

I will try to be less self centered and focus on others.
- Definitely have improved on this one, although I'll always be self centered, but not necessarily in a bad way.

I will take advantage of the opportunities that come my way.
- Done and done. I'm constantly repeating this in my mind "If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it."

I will be more tolerant.
- Another one I'm working on. I've definitely improved.

I will tell people how I feel instead of keeping it inside.
- Wait, I used to keep my feelings in? When was this??

I will pay off my credit cards!!!!
- Done, summer of 2010

I will not get new ones...
- Fail, summer of 2010... My unemployment ran out. Temporary setback. After this is paid off, NO MORE! For real.

I will fix my car window and air conditioner and take better care of it in general.
- Or just get a new one, 6/2010

I will be an advocate for Crohn's disease and other auto-immune diseases.
- Well I think this one's pretty obvious!

I've done a pretty good job of improving my life over the past two years and I'm even more excited to make this year the best yet. The reason I was looking for this photo is because I am looking for healthier recipes. Well, really I wanted to tell you that I'm going to start cooking healthier, and I don't like to post without photos, so there you go. In November I committed to cooking at home more often and I definitely kept up with that. However, the foods I ate throughout the rest of the year were mostly re-creations of old family comfort food recipes. Those dishes are NOT going to help me win The Biggest Loser. I have been a fan of Clean Eating for years, I have the books, I subscribe to the magazine, I tag recipes. I have never, not once, cooked any of the recipes. All of that is about to change! This blog is about to get a makeover. Less Sugar and a lot more SPICE! I'm looking forward to it. I'd even like to try to incorporate more raw and vegan foods into my diet. I am certainly not giving up meat, fish and eggs, I have always been a animal protein advocate. Having said that, I actually am curious about how my digestion would be with less animal protein. I love vegetables and although I eat salad almost every day, I still need to incorporate more veggies into my diet!

I know for sure that gluten and dairy cause major issues for me, but I still have some work to do as far as total and complete digestive health. The biggest devil on my shoulder? SUGAR. You know I love it. Baking makes me happy. Eating what I bake makes me happier. Sugar makes my belly ANGRY. Basically this year my goal is to eat less processed foods in general and eat a lot more of the good stuff.

While digging around the archives, I also came across this little nugget of wisdom that I found on my girl Farty Girl's website a long time ago. I love this:

"While I try to support my nutritional news with proof, it's hard to know what justifies as proof nowadays. Every day, journalists report different health trends. These trends all cancel each other out. Think back to the eighties, when nutritionists claimed that fat was causing Americans to become obese. Now, post-millenium nutritionists claim that fat is good, but bread is bad. We can argue anything and find proof for it.

A few posts ago, my IBS-BFF left a comment that has been reverberating in my guts. She said something along these lines: Listen to your body. Eat what makes you feel good. Don't diet. Work on making yourself feel better."

So, so true. Listen to your body, you'll be amazed what it tells you. Here's to your health in 2011!

Monday, January 3, 2011


I have nothing exciting to write about today. I weighed in and handed over my $20 as we kicked off our BL challenge today. I went to the gym even though I wanted to just cook dinner. I cooked dinner when I got home and I think it tasted better than if I had not gone. I turn incredibly pink when I workout. It's not embarrassing, I just hope people don't think I'm about to keel over. I can't help it! I realized that I'm going to really have to lose some weight if I want to win this competition. There are six of us competing and the other girls are short. We're going by percentage of weight loss so if all of us lose ten pounds, whoever weighed the least when we started wins. That kinda stinks since I definitely weigh the most out of everyone. I'm 6' tall!! Just means I have to work that much harder. I already have my head deep in the game, I just have to stay focused.

My strategy is simple, eat healthy, workout, lose weight. But I'm concerned that not counting calories will bite me in the butt. I am pretty sure the other girls are going to be tracking. I hate tracking. I've done it so many times, it actually makes me want to give up. It's frustrating and stressful. Well, it's a hundred and twenty bucks. If I wind up in kick ass shape on April 1st, but don't win the money? It won't matter. As long as I follow through and finish strong it will all be worth it.

Off to bed, hopefully I'll have a more exciting post this week!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


My favorite place in my city is the shore. Well, my favorite place anywhere is the shore. I love the ocean. Today felt like a spring day at 50 degrees so I had to take advantage of the beautiful weather. I planned a nice long walk at the shore but when I got there, something came over me and my walk turned into a jog.

A what?
A jog.

I'm sorry, say that one more time?

I ran. For an extended period of time. And I didn't die...
It felt amazing.

I've always hated running but lately I've been getting a little bit more into it. I realized when I was forced to run during bootcamp last fall that I actually can go further than I ever thought. It's pretty cool. I have every intention of getting back into fighting shape this year. It's going to be awesome. That's right co-workers that are reading this, I'm a force to be reckoned with for the next 15 weeks. I have every intention of winning the Biggest Loser challenge. Bring. It. On.

Eleven is my favorite number. Today is the best date ever. I'm so glad I started it off on such a good note. This year is going to be epic. I can't wait.