Thursday, April 28, 2011

GFCF Yummyness, #1

P.S. I am committed to blogging often, so I will blog, even with wrist/hand/forearm pain. Ick. 
Today, I wish I had a computer that would type by voice recognition.  THAT would make things easier for me.

P. P. S. Forearm pain.....really????? I mean, who ever heard of a forearm injury?  That's almost as weak as "Oh, I'd love to come out and help you prevent baby seals from being beaten, but I have this horrible hangnail-I know, I think it's beginning to spread....".  I mean, seriously.  I think I am about as irritated with my health issues today, as I was when they began in the first place!  Humph.

P. P. P. S. On to bigger and better things....

Ok, today, I am addressing wonderful options for Gluten Free and Dairy (or casein) Free (GFCF) people.  And, as a recovering Ben and Jerry's addict, I will tell you that I am picky.  I like yummmmy things that spread creamy goodness all over my palate.  If they are served in small portions by waiters that spend more on shoes than I do, all the better.  So, when I reccommend something, it ain't no joke.  And, none of my opinions are garbled by free swag (not that I would say "no" to swag from, say, Turtle Mountain, Coconut Bliss, Trader Joe's, Udi's, or Whole Foods....hint...hint...)

I have sacrificed my slowly shrinking butt-cheeks to this quest for yum.  THAT is how committed I am. You're welcome.

In no particular order:
  • Turtle Mountain's Purely Decadent Dairy Free Coconut Milk Ice Cream-I am partial to Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl, Cherry Amaretto and Turtle Trails, but only because I haven't tried the other 15 flavors
  • Coconut Bliss Ice Cream-Once again, Chocolate Peanut Butter (I STILL miss the Haagen Dazs Deep Chocolate Peanut Butter from the late 80's-not that mamby pamby Chocolate Peanut Butter they try to pass off these days, I'm no sucker!)
  • Udi's frozen pizza crusts-they are thin and quite tasty, especially compared to the yeast-y thick, spongy mess I fed to my family first, made from scratch
  • Top that Udi's crust with a SMALL amount of Daiya vegan cheese shreds-really, just a pinch for cheese-like utterance.  This AIN'T CHEESE.  I honestly think they use people who have never eaten cheese to test cheese alternatives.  But, it melts, and has a cheese-like texture, and not-unpleasant taste.  I do mean that in the best possible way.  Make sure to top the pizza with a great sauce and lots of flavorful toppings-caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, etc. and then just a smackerel of Daiya. I passed it off to another GFCF, but two people that eat all those good things-and everyone had seconds!
  • Trader Joe's 100 calorie dark chocolate bars.  Perfect with a glass of red wine (once again, still NEVER gonna allergy test the wine-still not a sucker...)
  • Rice paper wrappers from an Asian market-use these to fill with tons of sauteed veggies and shrimp or chicken, dip in a sauce you can make with sweet chili sauce and wheat-free tamari!
  • Use romaine or butter lettuce leaves to wrap up tuna or chicken salad
  • Udi's white sandwich bread-I would recommend it be used in a toasted fashion-as garlic bread, french toast.  Straight, it feels a bit like the consistency of sourdough in terms of dryness
  • Sofella Chocolate Cake Mix-Moist, and oh so decadent
  • Namaste Chocolate brownie mix-I served this to a crowd of about 40 seniors at a birthday party-many of them Republicans-and they all raved about how great the brownies were! HA!  Little did they know, the brownies were gluten-free, but FULL of socialist propaganda...
  • Cherrybrook Pancake mix-I can't recall the directions, but I know I strayed out of laziness, and use just vanilla rice milk until a thickish batter forms. Follow the directions, they don't bubble like traditional pancakes, you really need a slow heat for these, or else they can be gummy inside.  Add some fresh blueberries-they are great this way!
  • Gluten-free Bisquick-these, along with the Cherrybrook above, pass the 7- and 12-year old kid loving test. However, I haven't tried these without adding the egg and oil.  I like it easier than that-I will keep you posted!
I will keep adding to this list, but my wrist is ACHING. 

Comment with a wonderful GFCF find!  I love referrals.

Peace out, my homies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dairy, Gluten, and Dog-Kicking Bad Boys

When I first went to my acupuncturist, Gerald, he asked if I just wanted to do treatments with him, or was I open to other things that may also give me relief.  I responded with, "I will try almost anything to get rid of this pain!"  He said that often, the food we eat tends to cause problems as well, and I made some snotty comment about not wanting to give up gluten, or something else equally crazy.  We moved forward with our chat...
So, we talked about food, and how I eat.  I had just rejoined Weight Watchers (I go back and forth with the program, which was very successful the one time I followed the program, not so successful the 9 times I didn't quite follow it) so I had a house full of my food-frozen meals, the new Greek yogurt, diet sodas, you know the drill (or you don't, 'cause you're a skinny bitch, and I don't care if you relate). so, we talked about my severe addiction to Diet Coke. 

I love Diet Coke enough to drink it, flat and warm, teeming with bacteria, Monday morning after it sat on my desk for the weekend.  Don't judge, you do gross stuff too.

Gerald says, "ya know, artificial sweeteners are especially bad for people with Fibromyalgia because (insert technical jargon here). I nod like I understood what he said, and wistfully looked at my overflowing purse, which has the last of my Diet Cherry Coke in it (20 oz, about 5 ounces remaining).  And I did it.  I quit cold turkey. I even went home and chucked all my Yo-plait Lights, and gave away PILES of little Crystal Light Packets-bagged up to give to the gals at work (who happily accepted them, thankful of my loss and their gain).

Then, over the course of the new few sessions, he begins to talk about a CLEANSE.  Having just given up Diet Coke, I am not amused.  In fact, in my aspartame-craving hallucinations, I even entertain the thought of killing the next person drinking a soda at a stop light.....wait, what?  Something about a Cleanse.  That's right. 

So, I need to cleanse for 21 days. During this time, I eat from a small list of foods, while also drinking a cleansing protein shake up to 3 times per day. Then, when my body is all happy, clear of toxins, and deprived of everything yummy, I get to "reintroduce" possible allergens, one at a time, watching for a reaction.  Sounds like a blast, no?
I leave, thinking, this guy is HIGH.  Never gonna happen.  Denial is strong in me, my friend.

I think some more, talk it over with the poor patient man I married, and look at the social calendar.  Now, I'm not popular, but I AM certifiable when it comes to controlling EVERYTHING. This means that my calendar is booked out several months.  Then, Summer will arrive, along with droves of in-laws for massive amounts of pool parties, BBQ's and children running crazy.  Summer has BAD TIME TO BE ON A DIET written all over it. So, I decide I can squeeze this cleanse crap in between 2 crab feeds and a weekend in the Wine Country with some friends of ours that have elevated wine drinking to Olympic status. IF I pretend I am definitely NOT allergic to shellfish, and begin after the first crab feed, but before the second.  I'm in it to win it, people! Because, remember, I don't like change AT ALL, but my overwhelming urge to control everything is making me search the internet for creative ways to not die from food boredom over the next 21 days. Serious internal conflict, but the controlling instinct usually wins out.  All hail, Control Freaks.

Shopping opportunities abound in all new ventures, right? So I stock the house with stuff from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, and tell the family the craziness I plan to embark upon.  And so it begins. I got the food, check. I got the awesomely cool water bottles that my sis-in-law introduced my to-it;s the Thermos Intak, available at Target for $10, and the thing is amazing-I love it so much, people think I work for Thermos when I wax poetic on it's qualities that make it superior. Check. I got the blender, check. And so it begins. A shake in the mornings, then a small range of other foods throughout the day.  Between that, and the Cymbalta (the side effects I got stuck with for the long haul are dry mouth, and decreased appetite---JACKPOT!), I lost 5 pounds the first week, and I'm thinking, a brand new pair of celebration boots are in my near future!

So then, I begin the reintroductions:
  • Corn, fine
  • Tomatoes, fine
  • Soy, fine
  • Peanuts, fine
  • Cured meats, fine
  • Shellfish, fine
  • Eggs, fine
  • Alcohol, fine (phew!!!)
  • Beef, fine
  • Pork, fine
  • Dairy.     Not so fine.  Severe joint pain, all night long.  And, I have to wait a few days, and retest.  Or, I could give up dairy FOREVER, just to avoid retesting.  Damn. Not so fine, again.  Double Damn. 
I love cheese.  I mean, LOVE.  Stinky cheeses, aged, marbled, full of fennel seeds,  mushrooms, holes, fruits.  I love brie, camembert, stilton, bleu. I even like an occasional foray into the ez-melting American. I'm a total cheese SLUT.   And, I haven't even begun to talk about my issues with ice cream.  What the hell am I going to do? 
But.  If my body hurts after eating it, it ain't that hard to say goodbye.  I imagine it is a little like breaking up with the bad boy you love but know he's no good for you, and then watch him kick your dog on the way out.  For the best, and not as sad as you thought it would be. 

At this point, I am still going to see Gerald almost every week.  And, he highly suspects I have a gluten intolerance as well.  I don't want to test that, too, because I am finally reaping some of the amazing pain-blocking properties of the Cymbalta. After Gerald tells me it could take up to 6 months to get gluten out of my system, I suck it up, so to speak.
I eat a PB & J-complete with Skippy, strawberry fruit spread, and butter-topped wheat.  It was SO GOOD.  I was bummed I could not finish it all off with a cold glass of milk, but I moved on.  Then, at a kid's birthday party, I ate 3 pizza crusts. Yummm.  they were so good.
And I hurt for 5 days.  not 3, like with the dairy.  5. 

I am now dairy free, gluten free, bad-boy free (okay, honey, I have been bad-boy free for 18 years, I promise, it was a literary tool to expl.....nevermind....), aspartame free, eating mostly organic, and even am steering away from plastic food containers.  Wow.  What a life change!

From here on out, I will be sharing recipes, tips, and yummy food finds with you.  You're welcome.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fun with Fibro!

So.  A bit about my history with my health. 

About a year and 4ish months ago, I was on a work trip that required note taking. So, I brought my laptop, and used it the first day to take notes, but had so much pain, I thought, "Geez, I better not do that, I feel like I'm getting carpal tunnel (like I even know what that feels like, but I LOVE to diagnose my own problems....)". Fast forward to June-ish.  I am doing this challenge with a group of ladies at the gym, and my knees are aching a lot, and my feet go numb sometimes on the treadmill-which is odd, because I have never had knee problems.
By mid-summer, I tried to make an appointment-which is a whole new blog post in itself-and finally got in to see my doctor in October of '10.  At this point, I was making notes on my smartphone, all the things that bug me throughout the days, and if I notice a possible cause or correlation.  Blood work, follow up, positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis, sent to Rheumatologist, who has an opening in Jan (of THIS YEAR.  Grrr.)

 Here is a laundry list of the problems I was having:
  • Joint pain in hands, feet, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, neck
  • A strange whitening of my fingertips, especially when they get extremely cold.
  • A knot in my neck that has been my bestie for several months. Yes, MONTHS.
  • The inability to take any changes in plans in stride.  (I am a control freak, but still together enough to roll with the punches when things went screwy-but now, I lose it completely when one teeny thing changes-which probably thrilled my easy-going husband to no end)
  • Weird pain that would seem to be between bones and muscles. Sometimes in the bones themselves.  At this point, I figure some of it is in my head, and some guy in a white coat will tell me so, and I will feel better.   Seriously, I ACTUALLY thought that would happen.  Talk about your denial...)
  • A couple times in the year when I didn't want to be around people, at work, with my family, or even awake.  Which is odd because I am very social, bubbly, positive, etc.
  • Burning pain in some fingers
So, I finally get in to see the Rhematologist (Dr. Wise-fitting, dontcha think?)-------bask in his understanding wonderfulness-no sarcasm here, he really listened, spent 45 minutes with my husband and me, and actually acted like what I was describing totally sucked!
He orders bloodwork, sends me on my way with a diagnosis.  Fibromylagia, which I expected, knew a lot about, and knew pretty sure in my heart was my problem. Also, Reynaud's Phenomenon, which is the whitening of the fingertips (and toes)-nothing serious, but I now have to watch for extended bouts, and keep extremities warm. But.  He also said I was suffering from depression, and needed to see a therapist and get some serious drugs ASAP.  I was completely dumbfounded.  Because, you know, medications are evil-we can solve all our problems through better nutrition and maybe some supplements, right?  Right????  :::crickets chirping:::
Oh, and people with depression actually seem depressed instead of happy, busy and accomplished like me, and are really just negative people, that are weak.  Once again, I know all the answers, and am right.  In fact, it has been said that what I lack in actual fact, I make up for with certainty.

He sent me on my merry way (or not so merry, cuz this shit was a-hurtin', AND he has just thrown me off my carefully-controlled course of being completely prepared for everything, with some crazy diagnosis about being loca en la cabeza)
Anyways.So, I come home, and do what I always do.  I research, I read, I digest, I talk it to DEATH.  You know, the normal things people do. Or, at least people with severe control issues do. 
Then, I head on over to my primary care Dr. and tell her I am sick and tired of hurting, and feeling overwhelmed, and feeling like I would like to sleep for several days until the feeling passes. I skip on out with a get-out-of-crazytown scrip for Cymbalta.  I know that I will only take it for a while, to get over the "hump", because I can manage just fine on my own, in a little while. 

Then, I go on the website for my health insurance, and I find out (cue Jesus-loving gospel sounds straight from the clouds) that I entitled to up to 20 visits to an Acupuncturist!!!!!!! Woohooo! I had done acupuncture when I was pregnant with my daughter, for severe sciatic pain (which I was still living with after 12 years). I was geared up to do it again, because, A. I don't fear needles and, 2. I will try anything to not be in pain and lastly, I feel that a natural method of controlling my problems are better for my long-term health.  Kay? Kay.

Fast forward to now.
I will spare some of the details, but I have gotten over my problems with depression and anxiety, I got over the hump of getting used to Cymbalta (it took 3 weeks to actually be okay with the medication but now it works WONDERS, helping my brain and heart, and well as working on that pesky joint pain I could SOOOO do without), I am seeing a therapist weekly (who is helping me to deal with my "new normal" and adjusting to a life of not taking too much on), and I see my acupuncturist about every week and a half. 
My pain is significantly reduced, my mood is more steady, I am more relaxed than I have been in YEARS, and I have learned to delegate, and say no.  NOnononononononononononononono.  See? very skilled in the "no" department. 

So.  What has Fibromyalgia given me? What is the rosy Aesop's Fables moral to this story?

Just when you think ya got your shit together, life likes to throw things in your path.  You can either stumble, fall, roll around and get covered in foul muck that will seep into your very existence and tarnish all that is good in life, or you can stumble, take a graceful bow, and continue on your path, more cognizant of the perils each path may bring. And, you may learn some new things about yourself, and what you are capable of. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Me. My fight, my battle, my new normal.

Welcome.  Welcome to me.  My name is Aimee, I have recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Here I am.  I kick ass.  In fact, I imagine myself a little like this:

Only, I am fatter than this, the boots are even more fabulous (more about boots later...) I have freckles and shorter arms and legs.  And, my boobs are bigger. But really, The rest is all me.  I am a warrior, seeking truth, pain relief, and yummy desserts (more about the dessert quest later.  LOTS more.)

I like to write.  In fact, a wonderful lady, Jane Juska, (read her books, Unaccompanied Women and A Round-Heeled Woman) was once my creative writing teacher, far far away in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, and she was instrumental in helping me to love writing.  My mom helped me to love reading, and Jane brought out the writer in me.  The quest for attention, glory and chuckles is all mine.

Anyhoooo.  (fibro fog does this, but don't be fooled, I was a scatter-brained nutjob before diagnosis, the shit is just supersonic now...) I am working through all the issues that come with a life-changing diagnosis, and the journey it has taken me on (I know, ending with a preposition, Jane taught me better...). Because, a diagnosis is not the end.  It is a beginning.  Here are all the things that have begun for me:
  • New foods (I have discovered some food allergies
  • New thoughts about myself
  • New friends
  • New journeys
  • New hobbies
  • New goals, hopes, desires, dreams
All this has become my "new normal", a term my therapist says ALL THE TIME. Well, at least several times each Thursday between noon ans 12:50pm.

I am going to go through my journey with you, for me.  I need to vent, I need to spew some creative juices and lord knows, I don't have room for any more crap, and I just want to write, finally.  This fibro crap has given me some surprisingly wonderful things, like free time. more on this later.In the meantime, imagine the fabulous superhero figure above.  Except, she is a massive blur because she is constantly on the go, she has a furrowed brow, she is carrying an overwhelmingly full plate of crap, tasks, to-do's, and other things, and there is chaotic music playing in the background-either that crazy do-do-do-do-do-do- circus music you hear when jugglers are about, or that song from the 80's, by Matthew Wilder, Break My Stride.  (You know, "Ain't nothin' gonna break-a my stride, Ain't nothin' gonna slow me down, oh-no, I got ta keep on movin'.) This is my fab artistic interpretation:

I think that is enough for now-I have a habit of overwhelming people. Sorry 'bout that.