Archive for January, 2013

RecipeWhore: Protein packed Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies!

Not the prettiest things, but definitely yummy!

Not the prettiest things, but definitely yummy!

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies? Now that I’ve been without wheat for over a week, I’m even more committed to a gluten-free lifestyle. I do, however, find myself craving sweets occasionally. So when I purchased gluten-free oats from Trader Joe’s, I jumped at the opportunity to try the gluten-free oatmeal cookie recipe on the back. I decided to improve the recipe’s over all glycemic index by substituting refined white sugar with coconut sugar AND by reducing the sugar added.

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 cup butter

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 coconut sugar (TJ’s called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar!)

3 cups rolled oats

6 oz dark semi-sweet cocolate chips

2 eggs

1/2 cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts (I used walnuts!)

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup peanut butter (yay for extra protein!)

Fresh from the oven, gluten-free goodness.

Fresh from the oven, gluten-free goodness.

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter and beat until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and nuts. Place a teaspoon full of dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet about two inches apart (I grease with coconut oil). Bake 10-14 minutes depending on your oven or until lightly brown around the edges. This recipe makes around 30 cookies! Four cookies later, these are absolutely DELICIOUS!

 

Fertility Journey – Part 5 (Endometriosis sucks!)

Picturing this will help me let go of fertility stress!

Picturing this will help me let go of fertility stress!

It’s been a little over a month since my laparoscopy.

The first hardest part of the surgery wasn’t the days after or the tiny little incision wounds (modern surgery is art), but the harsh “coming out” of anesthesia. For me, it was similar to how I imagine being thawed out after a thousand years frozen might feel. Jolting awake to pain and intense nausea were no fun at all, but the Cedars Sinai staff were incredible. A nurse stayed by my bed to regulate pain medication,  bring me water, and assure me that no, I wasn’t dying (even though it felt like I was).

The second hardest part of it all, however, was getting the confirmation that I indeed have severe endometriosis. While I was in my drug induced coma, Dr. Collins was nice enough to visit my mom in the Cedars waiting room to give her an update. She brought pictures of the black grey growths that polluted my uterus and infiltrated my right ovary.  The growths resembled “Little cigarette burns,” my mom said. Awesome, I basically have black lung in my womb. She also had pictures of the two cysts that were blocking my left tub. Contrary to previous lab results, BOTH tubes are healthy! (Finally SOME good news).

Though I was almost 100% sure that years of suffering and an elevated blood test made an endometriosis diagnosis likely, the truth still hurt. Would I have to take Lupron to conceive? How much worse or better were my chances of natural conception after surgery? Should I pursue invitro fertilization immediately? As usual, I was determined to find the answers, but wasn’t exactly prepared for what I uncovered. You can’t always get what you want, unfortunately. Finding out that my tubes are healthy is the only silver lining I’ve seen in a long time.

Next Steps

Both Dr. Collins and Dr. Chang informed me that my best course of action would be to try naturally for the next two months (January and February). According to Dr. Chang the surgery “optimized” my chances of conceiving without the help of reproductive science (imagine that, a baby growing inside me, not put there by Dr. Chang!). But, the window is small. Though no one knows exactly how fast endometeriosis grows back, it usually does. It’s re-growth would interfere with my uterus’ ability to provide the optimum environment for a fetus. If February isn’t our lucky month, then our first (and hopefully our last) cycle of IVF begins in March.

With that said, hubby and I have been getting busy. I’ve learned how to check my cervical position for signs of fertility (high and wet). I’ve learned how to read my mucous like I’m a gosh darn fortune-teller (you will live a long and prosperous life full of babies!). I’ve gone through more ovulation predictor kits than is probably necessary (testing three times a day so I don’t miss the precious and very telling lutenizing hormone surge). January’s cycle is almost over and I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant (unfortunately), but here’s what I learned THIS month about the baby making process, endometriosis, and how to stay sane through it all.

1. Statistics DO improve with surgery.

IVF.com has an interesting article on the pregnancy success rates for women. Yet they’re only kind of encouraging.

“Pregnancy rates following surgery generally range between 35-40% for severe endometriosis to 55-65% with milder disease. Of those who become pregnant, 30 percent conceive within three months, 50 percent within six months, and 86 percent within fifteen months. There appears to be no difference in pregnancy rates with laparoscopy or laparotomy with laser or electrosurgical techniques. While long-term pregnancy rates may approach 65%, surgical studies that look at fecundity show monthly pregnancy rates as low as 3-6% per month following surgical treatment of this disease (versus 20% per month in fertile women).”

I say kind of encouraging because the last sentence of that quote is the one that disturbs me most. “3-6%” chance of getting pregnant in each cycle! I have a higher chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime than I do getting prego each month. Ugh. And waaaaah!

2. Changing diet may improve long-term prognosis for endometriosis.

One study draws a hypothetical link between endometriosis, the environment, and genetically modified foods.

“Although the pathophysiology of endometriosis remains unclear, a growing body of evidence points to the implication of environmental toxicants. Over the last decade, an increase in the incidence of endometriosis has been reported and coincides with the introduction of genetically modified foods in our diet.”

You mean all that fake genetically modified soy-meat really could have been contributing to the problem? What about all that healthy whole wheat bread? Just as bad, according to Dr. Collins and the bestselling book Wheat Belly. Dr. Collins strongly encouraged me to cut out all wheat containing products [they cause inflammation], other genetically modified grains, and any low quality, highly processed foods. A follow-up to my blog A Week Without Wheat is coming soon! Eating healthy is hard work!

3. Treating your husband like a stallion on a stud farm is counter-productive.

So this one is probably a no brainer. Picture me standing in my bathrobe mid afternoon with an ovulation predictor strip in hand, shaking it wildly in hubby’s face, while he wraps up a business call (I forced him to work from home for the entire fertility window so he was easily accessible). Awkward and a little bit scary. There are some things that respond to pressure, but male anatomy and baby dancing aren’t among them.  Next month I’m bringing sexy back ;).

4. Patience is the most important virtue.

This one is difficult, especially when you have a small 60 day window in which to conceive naturally. But, alas, inner-peace and Buddha and zen and stress-free might as well all be rolled into one word – patience. When you’re patient, you’re relaxed. You’re okay that things don’t always happen on your schedule. They happen when they’re supposed to happen, on a bed or on a fertility doctor’s table. Patience and babies belong together, now and when mini the Brooker finally arrives.

5. Mindset matters.

One of my favorite quotes is: “The highest fences we need to climb, are those we have built within our minds.” In that case, I’ve got several fences being erected at any given time. There might even be a moat with alligators in it, swimming around, gobbling up my most positive thoughts.

A British study of over 200 women reports that those with the highest levels of stress hormones in their system conceived 12% less than those with lower levels. While it’s pretty hard not to stress a little when the clock is ticking, I’m making a pact with you now to just let go. We’re doing all we can. I’m nurturing my body with healthy food. I’m getting the blood flowing every day at The Dailey Method. Hubby is taking his Proxceed religiously. So starting now, I’m letting go of the stress, the pressure, the doubts, and the angst. I will picture my friend the Skin Owl’s recent campaign, where she’s releasing a bunch of balloons into the sky, anytime I grip that which I cannot control too tightly. I will remember my most happy place, the Lanikai Pill Box hike on Oahu (pictured above). Goodbye balloons! Hello most beautiful beach in the world!

What have you learned on your fertility journey? How have you replaced stress with patience? To let go? I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet – Amanda’s Story #2

Amanda shares more about her journey with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet here! She’s on a roll, ladies and gents, check out how she’s doing it.

SCD Day 7:

I actually downloaded a new app just to make my grocery list (I usually make a list in a mini-notebook). Today, I was determined to go grocery shopping. The SCD diet is so much like the bodybuilding diet I used to follow, in that it requires PLANNING. You have to grocery shop and prepare food (and do dishes), and it is tedious if you are used to eating out or buying food that is already cooked and assembled. I have become used to eating convenience foods, since straying from the “bodybuilding lifestyle”. While struggling to get my footing with the SCD diet, I still have to shop and prepare meals for my husband, and he supports me but he is not even close to interested in the SCD diet for himself. Fine by me, that means I don’t have to share my food.

Before launching my mission, I needed to eat something. Ugh. I settled on 1/2 a chicken breast with a couple small pieces of parmesean cheese and some sun dried tomatoes, heated it in the microwave and wolfed it down. I also had 1/2 an orange. Good enough.

I proceeded to hit up Trader Joe’s for the bulk of my groceries, because they are economical (cheap) and close by. Using the list on my phone was great, so I didn’t go in circles. I wanted to get more cheese, so I looked at the aged “SCD Legal” cheeses. I saw Vermont Cheddar is aged 3 years, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong and grabbed a hunk. I then proceeded to Whole foods for a couple of items I couldn’t get at TJ’s: almond flour, coconut flour, and yogurt starter culture. I love to bake and I sure as hell miss bread, so I’m ready to experiment. Unfortunately, a bag of almond flour is $9.99! The same sized bag of coconut flour is $6.99, still expensive (it’s a small bag) but I decide I will just get the coconut and not the almond. I also found freeze-dried yogurt starter.

So I came home, put away groceries, made dinner for my husband, and decided to take a stab at making SCD Yogurt.

 

yogurt pic

Homemade SCD Yogurt

1 Gallon Organic 1% milk
Yogurt starter
thermometer

I followed the directions for how to make yogurt in the oven (without a yogurt maker). My oven is bad ass and has a “bread proofing” setting that keeps the oven at 100 degrees (right where it needs to be). Since it is supposed to…um…ferment, for 24 hours, I haven’t tried it yet. I really hope it doesn’t disappoint.

You can find the original recipe here.

Coconut Flour Drop Biscuits

I also decided to make some coconut flour biscuits. Yum!

1/3 c. coconut flour
1/4 c. melted butter (or coconut oil, I used butter)
4 eggs
1/4 c. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
**blend ingredients, drop biscuits onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes

I had already made a new batch of baked apples, so when these biscuits were done I ripped a couple off the pan, topped with apples, drizzled with honey and dug in. This was quite delicious and very satisfying. However, the biscuits by themselves are not awesome. The coconut flour has A LOT of fiber and so they are meal-y, and the flavor is just kind of weird. Since I was starving (as usual) when I ate these, I porked out and now my tummy is too full, since I haven’t eaten any voluminous or highly fibrous meals in a week and I think my stomach has shrunk. So I would caution: don’t pork out on these biscuits. I also think, that if one is determined to make the SCD diet their lifestyle, it would be smart to find someplace (online?) to buy almond flour–I cannot imagine eating a slice of cake made entirely out of coconut flour.

 

A Week Without Wheat

Wheat Bread

Today I started eliminating wheat from my diet.

I am so inspired by Dr. William Davis’ book Wheat Belly, by the advice of my OBGYN Dr. Christine Collins, and by Amanda Palmer who’s following SCD (a wheat free diet) that I’m really truly going to try to stick to it for the next 7-days. I’ve tried this before, after my last pre-surgery appointment with Dr. Collins, but I wasn’t strict. Interestingly, Dr. Collins and I discussed a possible connect between endometriosis and wheat and soy consumption. I explained that when I cut out processed soy products (veggie sausage lunch + veggie burger dinner = body poison) I experienced less pain during my period and less PMS before. She further theorized that wheat’s insulin spikes and inflammatory properties cause inflammation in the body, like the endometriomas she found inside me. She then pointed me to the current bestseller Wheat Belly.

I’m only halfway through the book, but here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Modern wheat is Bad!

The wheat we eat today is markedly different from the wheat our grandparent’s used fifty years ago. Beginning in 1943 a man named Dr. Norman Bourlaug developed an exceptionally high-yielding dwarf wheat. This new wheat was easier to grow and harvest and by the 1980s this dwarf wheat, along with the information gained in producing it, lead to thousands of new strains of wheat, “the most high yielding of which have been adopted worldwide.”

As a result of bringing more food to the world, Dr. Bourlaug received the Novel Peace Prize in 1970. While he did help the globe respond to spikes in population in places like China, none of this new wheat was examined for safety or for long-term effects on humans. After all, it wasn’t nature’s carefully orchestrated natural selection process that gave birth to this new breed, but a sped up, scientific hybridization approach.  Finally, around 1999, the FDA imposed restrictions on genetically modified foods, requiring tests and studies before these foods can be introduced for human consumption.

With that said, there are things in modern wheat (strains developed long before the FDA stepped in), that we just don’t understand.  While “95 percent of the proteins expressed are the same,” there are compounds found in hybrid wheat that can not be traced back to either parent. Some differences include “fourteen new gluten proteins” and ” a higher quantity…that are associated with celiac disease.” Great. Modern wheat is just bursting with irritating proteins and mysterious molecules.

And all that is just the tip of the wheat kernel. Dr. Williams provides all sorts of interesting, peer reviewed research, on why genetically modified and/or hybrid strains of wheat (among other things) may be wreaking havoc on our country’s weight loss efforts.

A piece of wheat bread has a higher Glycemic Index than a tablespoon of sugar!

Thought you made the smart choice when you reached for that extra fiber extra whole grain bread, didn’t you? I sure did. Dr. Williams explains that various studies demonstrate that bread is a belly fat fighter’s nightmare.

“The GI [Glycemic Index] of white bread was 69, while the GI of whole grain bread was 72 and Shredded Wheat cereal was 67, while that of [table sugar] was 56. Yes, the GI of whole grain bread is higher than that of [sugar]. Incidentally, the GI of a Mars bar – nougat, chocolate, sugar, caramel, and all – is 68. That’s better than whole grain bread. The GI of a Snickers bar is 41 – far better than whole grain bread.”

So why does the Glycemic Index matter? It represents the ability of a food, relative to that of glucose, to increase the level of glucose in the blood. The Whole Foods website explains that, “An awareness of foods’ Glycemic Index can help you control your blood sugar levels, and by doing so, may help you prevent heart disease, improve cholesterol levels, prevent insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, prevent certain cancers, and achieve or maintain a healthy weight.” So, in other words, it’s important to pay attention to how much glucose the food you eat creates in your body.

Wheat will get you high!

According to Dr. Williams extensive research on the subject:

“Common wheat, upon digestion, yields polypeptides that possess the ability to cross into the brain and bind to opiate receptors.”

He further explains that the same opiate-blocking drugs given to heroin addicts to make them “come down” can be used in normal people who consume wheat. The effects of these drugs reduce appetite, cravings, and calorie intake because they are blocking the effects of wheat.What does this reveal? Wheat lights up the same regions of the brain as do some narcotics, therefore creating a “high.” This can potentially makes us behave similar to an addict, thereby consuming more calories while seeking those calories in insulin spiking foods. Holy loaf of bread! No wonder I’m still starving after that piece of whole wheat toast in the morning! I’m like an addict that’s craving MORE insulin.

My week without wheat starts TODAY!

While I have the rest of Wheat Belly to finish, I’ve already skipped ahead to some of the delicious wheat free recipes. Think egg and pesto flaxseed wrap and coconut berry-smoothy. Mmmmmmm! I’ll also be pulling from Amanda’s SCD journey for inspiration and other meal ideas since her diet follows similar guidelines.

Next week I’ll report on  my progress, but in the meantime I highly recommend you check out Wheat Belly yourself. Dr. Williams manages to make science easy and even pleasant to read and understand. As a cardiologist who’s treated 2,000 patients with diabetes, obesity, and heart problems, he provides insight you might not want to miss.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet – Amanda’s Story #1

Who is Amanda Palmer?

Amanda Palmer

Amanda is a friend from my college days in Hawaii. There she astounded us all when she transformed her body for fitness competitions. Around the same time, while dieting and exercising to the extreme, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Crohn’s disease is a related condition. Ouch!

Since then, having put fitness competitions on the back burner, she’s tried various diets and nutrition plans to stabilize her weight. In the process, she’s struggled with issues that arise because of ulcerative colitis. So, after extensive research, she’s now decided that enough is enough. She is determined to get her health and weight back on track. She hopes to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the disease by sticking to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). We’ll be following her progress here.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

 Here’s what SCDLifestyle.com has to say about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet:

”The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a group of foods which are grain-free, sugar-free, starch-free, and unprocessed.  While removing many foods that are toxic and digestively harmful the diet remains natural, extremely nourishing and representative of what our ancestors ate.

Eating SCD is a way to “re-boot” your digestion and give you an overall health boost.  The diet will probably have you feeling better than ever even if you don’t have any intestinal damage.  But if you are one of the lucky few who needs a bit of digestive support this diet was created especially for you.”

Interestingly, my doctor just recommended the book Wheat Belly. She is a major proponent of a grain free, especially wheat free, diet. In fact, based on what she outlined, it sounds like she’s already following SCD’s principles herself. And believe me she is one hot doctor! I’m sure if Amanda visited her, this is exactly what she would prescribe.

 Amanda’s story, Amanda’s words – SCD Day 1

I started chronicling my SCD experience yesterday. Figured I’d share it with you, get your feedback, and give you an idea of how I’m approaching it.

Yesterday:

Meal 1:
2 egg/2 eggwhites
3 low fat turkey sausage links
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(omelet)

Meal 2:
Packet of organic, no sugar added blueberry oatmeal
**2 c. Coffee, minus the usual soy milk, only one packet of splenda

Today:

Meal 1:
Amy’s Organic Black Bean Soup w/a handful of Trader Joe’s corn/veggie chips

Meal 2:
Large Honey Crisp Apple with (a lot) of almond butter
**2 or 3 c. Coffee w/one splenda (each)

If you’ve read the “legal” and “illegal” foods list, and the list of rules, for the SCD diet, then you’ll notice that I have broken a lot of those rules. I didn’t even discover the SCD diet until about 3:00am this morning–yesterday was my feeble attempt to kick off the New Year by kicking refined carbohydrates out of my diet. Today, I woke up starving and wanted to start the SCD diet, but I was unprepared and had no plan of action. Black beans are on the list and I really needed some kind of starch to make my stomach stop growling, so I chose the lesser of many evils and went with Amy’s Organic southwest black bean soup. But I added a few chips. I wasn’t really planning on writing about this and, at the time, I was comfortable lying to myself about the chips.

I noticed today, that my mouth and teeth already feel better, although it’s hard to explain how. I think my saliva has been thick and probably riddled with candida (yeast) and it would leave a film on my lips every time I licked my lips–which are constantly chapped and peeling. But today seemed better! Also, I noticed that I was peeing a lot, which is normal given the fact that I gorged on pizza, chicken wings, cake and wine a couple nights ago (ringing in the New Year!) and since I haven’t eaten very many carbohydrates in the last couple of days, so I’m dropping a lot of water. It feels good, I can feel my lower abs again–contract them! My stomach has been feeling mushy for quite some time, to the point where I prefer not to look at myself in the mirror naked and start comparing my “now” with my “best”, because they are night and day.

My Ulcerative Colitis has been “flaring” more the last couple of days (I will not go into detail), and the symptoms are worse today than they have been–I hope the SCD diet makes it stop.
I went shopping today at Trader Joe’s and picked up a bunch of produce. I was particularly excited to make this “detox water” I saw on Pinterest, which has nothing to do with the SCD diet, but since all the ingredients are “legal” and detoxing is a goal of mine, I picked up the stuff to make it.

 

Try this to soothe your tummy and your soul!

Try this to soothe your tummy and your soul!

Recipe:
Lemon
Cucumber
Mint
Filtered Water
**The picture on the recipe showed Mason jars, and I’ve been wanting to buy some anyway for myriad hipster-ish pinterest projects, so I made 4 big ‘ole jars. It’s easy. Slice up the lemon and 1/2 (or more) of the cucumber, add mint leaves and water, and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. The recipe says it lasts a couple of days in the fridge. I just tried it, and my husband is laughing at me for being so giddy about it–delish!

I have to figure out what to eat tomorrow. Maybe some sort of beef stew? A chicken salad with almonds? Definitely eggs for breakfast. Okay, so tomorrow is first official day of my SCD diet….

 

2013 – The Year of The Butt

My goal: To make this butt better in 2013!

I did it. I’m signed up for The Dailey Method Venice’s January Challenge because I’ve deemed 2013 the year of the Butt! What better way to get my butt in the best shape possible than at the barre? Not to mention that every other part of my body and mind will also benefit.

Here are my goals for the The Daily Method Venice’s (TDMV) January Challenge.

Goal #1: To complete as many classes as I can in 30 days! This will be the 3rd year that my barre obsession continues. I still believe that it, along with moderate to intense cardio a few days a week, is the BEST way to sculpt a strong, but feminine physique.

Goal #2: To get back to the barre (and stay back at it) after almost a month away from attending any barre class. Taking it easy after surgery has been great and all, but the long walks and DVDs will only take you so far. Nothing beats the hands on instruction I’ll get at TDMV!

Goal #3: To lose 2 lbs. While my dream weight might be 140 lbs., I’ve learned that setting realistic goals is the KEY to success. With that said, I weighed in today at 147 lbs. My realistic goal weight is 145 lbs.  I’d like to get there and stay there. You can burn up to 500 calories in a barre class, so I’m sure that doing it Dailey will help me reach this goal.

Goal #4: To get my booty in the best shape possible and to reduce cellulite! Eh gawd. Cellulite. With lunges and barre squats and isolated isometric bun exercises, I’m hoping that The Dailey Method Venice’s January Challenge will help smooth my saddle bags and wake my butt up for 2013. I was tempted to post a close up picture of my cellulite here, but no one is ready for that. Trust me.

While these are my physical goals, I also have personal goals (make a baby), professional goals (finish my novel!), and spiritual goals (continue to create and maintain HEALTHY relationships). What are your body and mind goals for 2013?