Saturday, July 31, 2010

no starch diet staples

I grew up always having at least one dog around the house. Living on my own in the city I haven't been able to afford having a dog of my own. Therefore, I'm stoked to be dog sitting this weekend for a friend. I'm hanging out with a super cute one and a half year old German Shepherd puppy named Malu.

Before heading over to my friend's house I stopped by the local PCC for some staples. While I do like to make most of my foods from scratch these days, I have found a few pre-made/packaged items I really like. I hope these products will be helpful for any of you attempting a no starch diet. I'm adding pics so you'll know what to look for on the shelves (and because I like to photograph my food - it's fun).

-Applegate Farms herb turkey breast
-Hempler's natural uncured sundried tomato chicken sausage

-The Ojai cooks Latin Lemonnaise
-Organic Valley heavy cream

-Westbrae Naturals unsweetened ketchup
-Bare Fruit granny smith apple chips

-Ghirardelli unsweetened 100% cacao
-Vosges Haut Chocolat Sugar Free Barcelona bar

-Zevia ginger root beer
-Zevia black cherry soda

-Talking Rain sparkling mineral water
-Republic of Tea Coconut Cocoa Tea

And of course, some whole food staples:
-Unsweetened coconut
-Raw almonds
-Fresh seasonal berries

From these staples I made a breakfast of raspberries topped with a drizzle of heavy cream, unsweetened coconut, and some chopped almonds. For lunch I had a chicken sausage dog topped with homemade ranch using Latin Lemonnaise and unsweetened ketchup, with some bare fruit chips on the side. I drank a zevia soda and had some sugar free chocolate for dessert.

Now the sunshine is out and there are sailboats on Lake Union so Malu and I are off for a walk! Happy grocery shopping!

Friday, July 30, 2010

one step forward, two steps back

In spite of all of my good intentions, I am a flawed human being. Remember all the resolve of my last blog? Well that was undone by a lack of ingredients in my cupboard to craft something with and a Snicker's bar from before the diet buried deep in the recesses of my fridge. Walk to the grocery store, buy ingredients, and then cook? Or Snicker's bar? C'mon honestly, what would you do?

happy hour anyone? All of my willpower can go drain the drain when I'm offered sangria... sigh...

As I mentioned in my last blog, I do feel pretty crappy every time I cheat. (And by crappy I mean bloating and digestive issues, not just guilty.) I just haven't fully been able to make the connection in my mind between eating the sugar/starch and the consequence of feeling yucky that inevitably follows. A good friend of mine has food allergies. When she cheats on her diet she ends up with a painful rash on her hands and her head feels all foggy, like it's hard to concentrate. She told me it took her two years to finally get to the point where cheating isn't worth it. It's nice to know I'm not alone in struggling with this. I just hope it doesn't take me two years to master it.

On a more positive note, I am excited because a friend and I are starting a fitness challenge on Monday. We both have a little ways to go until our goal weight. Here's the scoop: everyone interested is each are putting in 50 bucks, and whoever has lost the highest percentage of body weight at the end of the 12 weeks wins the pot. We are in the process of gathering a few more ladies to raise the stakes. Let's face it- $500 is much more enticing than $100 (which is really only $50 since $50 is mine). We are up to four people, so the pot's at 200 bucks. Hello new skinny jeans! We met earlier this week to set goals. She is putting herself on a similar diet to me by avoiding refined sugar and flour. We are both trying to eat more veggies, eat a salad a day, and exercise an hour a day. Plus, my goal is to not cheat. That's right people- no cheating for 12 long weeks. I think if I can do that it will be a major step in finally kicking this sugar habit for good.

To help in this quest I called on an old friend for their family salad dressing. During summers I would hang out a lot at the Walker house, and my favorite summer dinner at their house was a big salad with BBQ chicken, avocado, cheese, tomatoes, and the Walker family's ranch dressing. Trust me, it's wayyyy better than anything in a bottle. My friend graciously shared her family's recipe with me.

Walker Family Ranch:
mix equal parts buttermilk and mayo
add a capful of apple cider vinegar, a dash of garlic powder, and a handful of chopped green onions
add salt and pepper to taste

A note on the ingredients: it's important to use full fat buttermilk, since all of the reduced fat versions I found had modified food starch in them. Also, it's pretty difficult to find unsweetened mayonnaise. I looked through literally every brand on my local grocery's stores shelf: Kraft, Best Foods, Miracle Whip, Smart Balance, Hollywood, Kroger, Nalley. I even looked at something called Baconnaise. (Since when do they make bacon mayo?) They all had either sugar or corn syrup added, and some had both! Finally though I stumbled on The Ojai Cooks Lemonnaise. It's unsweetened and comes in 4 fun flavors. I bought the Latin Lemonnaise since I was going for a southwest type of salad. It's totally delicious!

Here's my salad of greens, grilled chicken, diced bell pepper, chopped tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and chunks of avocado.

If salad isn't really your cup of tea, here's another summer menu I love:
-Mustard glazed chicken
-Lemon roasted asparagus
-Seasonal berries with cream cheese topping

Mustard glazed chicken:

Preheat oven to 350.
Place 5 frozen chicken breast tenders/pieces in a pan.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Coat the chicken with heaping spoonfuls of unsweetened gourmet mustard. I like Trader Joe's garlic aioli mustard sauce and AJ's all natural Walla Walla sweet onion mustard.

Top the chicken with 2 cups of chopped mushrooms and 1/2 of a medium onion, diced.

Cover the pan in foil and bake ~25 minutes, or until chicken is done when tested with a knife.

Lemon roasted asparagus:

Preheat oven to 450.
Wash and trim your asparagus.

Toss 1 bunch of trimmed asparagus with olive oil.
Add the juice and zest if 2 lemons.
Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Asparagus should be slightly crunchy when done.

You can also add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or a balsamic vinegar blend. I liked this recipe with Bistro Blends garlic balsamic bistro oil (available at Pike Place Market).

Seasonal berries with cream cheese topping:

Cream cheese topping:
1/2 cup neufchatel cheese
1.5 TB milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Truvia packets (or other stevia packet)
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

Blend ingredients with an electric mixer. Top your berries with this and voila! I like to serve mine in a martini glass because it feels fun and fancy. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

an attitude of gratitude

This weekend summer happened in Seattle. I awoke to sunshine streaming in my windows, and the air was warm enough for a tank top by 7:30 am. My pale, Vitamin D deprived self reveled in the feel of warmth on my bare skin.

After last week's emotional turmoil and the self reflection that followed, I was in need of a good dose of sunshine, good food, long walks, and great conversations with some amazing friends. And that is exactly what I got. I feel happy and content from my toes to my soul.

I kicked off Saturday with a walk and convo with a good friend. Summer has arrived at Greenlake.

When I got home, I feasted on a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese and avocado, and some fresh raspberries. I grew up in a small town in the country of northern Washington, and we had ample opportunities to pick fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and huckleberries. It doesn't feel like it's really summer to me until the seasonal berries arrive. The tart sweetness of the raspberries made me smile as I remembered picking them as a child (one for the bowl to make some jam, one in my mouth). I topped them with a drizzle of heavy cream and a pinch of unsweetened coconut. It was a party in my mouth.

After breakfast I headed north to Edmonds for lunch with my oldest and dearest friend, Emily. We found a cafe with a salad I could eat and the chance to dine outdoors, wandered down to the beach, poked around in cute little shops, and talked for hours. Conversation with this girl was like a comforting balm for my frazzled emotions.

I ended the evening with another walk around Greenlake with another awesome friend. (Did I mention that I really enjoy going for walks around Greenlake?) I really am fortunate in my friendships.

Today I again headed to Greenlake for another long walk and talk with a dear friend. The sunshine seems to call all Seattle-ites to Greenlake, myself included. The place was packed with couples, babies, friends, dogs, paddle boaters, and rollerbladers.

We dodged the crowds, savored iced Americanos, snuck a few blackberries from a bush (they weren't quite ripe yet - I should've known to wait 'til August), and stopped and smelled the neighborhood flowers.

This weekend of sunshine, fresh berries, new freckles, and soothing conversation made me swell with gratitude. I'm so grateful for having a group of amazing women to call friends. I'm grateful for my body, which is feeling stronger each day. I'm grateful for my doctors who kept running tests until they finally determined what was wrong with me, and that these doctors cared enough about me to give me tools and empowering advice to manage this disease. I'm grateful that I get to call a place as beautiful as Seattle my home. (Yes it is beautiful even in the rain, but I prefer Seattle in the sun.) I'm grateful that I managed to find parking near Greenlake on a sunny day. I'm grateful to have employment during this tough economic time. I'm grateful that I can afford to purchase food that is nourishing to my body, and the occasional pretty plate from Anthropologie to make eating that much more fun. And I am grateful that even this limited diet allows me to savor as many fresh raspberries as I can shove in my mouth. Here's hoping for many more gorgeous Seattle summer days!

Today's recipe was inspired by a summertime favorite: the Slurpee. For obvious reasons Slurpees are taboo right now. (Plus they are kind of gross after the age of 12.) So consider this a grown up, starch free version of an old summertime fave:

Blend 5 ice cubes and 2/3 cup of your favorite strong flavored juice. It's important to pick a juice with a strong flavor or it will taste all watered down once you blend it. I chose Genesis Organic's apple ginger juice. Not only did it look a little like beer once I blended it, it tasted amazing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

your cheating heart

As far as my personality goes, I could probably be (and have been) categorized as a "good girl." Generally speaking, I follow rules. I wear my seatbelt, drink 8 glasses of water a day, take a multivitamin, do my injections every two weeks, and turn in work on time. However, the temptation to bend the rules rises within me from time to time. I've found that the temptation to cheat rises in proportion to the likelihood of not getting caught. I was never a kid who'd go so far as to write conjugations of French verbs on her palm before a test or blatantly take a peek at my neighbor's quiz. But I would dabble in cheating from time to time. Take this story for example:

In driver's ed class we had these ridiculously boring assignments each week. We're talking pages upon pages of written Q&A about how to yield, what to do in a construction zone, etc. The goal was to prepare us for the quiz taken at the DMV, but the worksheets themselves were horrid, boring, and time consuming. Especially when we'd all rather be practicing picking up our friends and driving to the mall. A few weeks into the course some friends and I discovered that the teachers did not even read the answers! All they did was flip through and make sure you had an answer written down for each question. At first I tested the waters cautiously: I'd write a response with a few "driver" terms thrown in. "What should you do at a four way stop?" Yield the ice cream truck. "When can you pull a U turn?" Check to see if there is a cop, and then go. And guess what? It worked!

As the driver's ed weeks wore on, we got more courageous and adventurous in our responses. "What should you do in a construction zone?" Watch out for purple elephants wearing tutus. The thrill was exhilarating! And the free time allowed for more attempts to convince my parents to take me for test drives, although they never did want to go pick up my friends and head to the mall.

After I described my current diet to a friend she asked me if I have to be perfect with it. I answered truthfully: I had cheated a little. One time I was craving ice cream and ate some no sugar added Dreyer's, even though it contained maltodextrin and Splenda. The result: tummy cramping and digestive issues reared their ugly head. I tried again with Diet Coke, since it goes so nicely with Mexican food and I already gave up the tortillas and chips. Within 30 minutes I had a stomach ache. I also had 3 glasses of wine at a friend's wedding. And while it was fun to be a tipsy half of a "Night at the Roxbury" inspired mobbing of the bride, I woke up the next morning feeling bloated and gross. So in general, it is a good idea to try and stick to the diet.

When I first started the diet I think my body went through a carb detox period. At first I would crave sugar every day. Eventually the cravings lessened, and the concoctions I developed that were similar to desserts satisfied any cravings that would pop up sporadically. All of this is before last week, however.

Last week started with the stomach flu, followed by finding out something about my career, followed by a cold, dr's appointments, and having a bit of a quarter-life crisis. (Third life crisis? I probably won't live to be 108...) While I was sick to my stomach I didn't want to eat nuts or string cheese. I wanted 7-up and saltines. And when I was stressed and thinking big thoughts about my future, my natural tendencies to head to Molly Moon's for a hot fudge sundae overpowered my resolve. I fell off the wagon.

I have always been an emotional eater, and as a result have struggled a bit with my weight. I had lost about five pounds while being on the diet, but my week long foray into carb land resulted in a three pound weight gain! Not to mention all of my digestive issues returned, I felt fatigued, I was bloated, and was having trouble sleeping. It just wasn't worth it. Plus the foods I loved still tasted good, but not quite as good as I remembered or expected. The entire process was a bit depressing.

Needless to say, I am back on the plan. Sometimes being on a restrictive diet can feel unfair, or like too much work. Trust me, I know. It's really stinking hard to be perfect all of the time. Plus planning ahead was never my forte, and it's hard to be spontaneous when you can't eat most items on a menu. However, believe me when I say it really is better to stick to the plan. I learned this the hard way. With renewed resolve I went back in the kitchen and created some new recipes to get me through the next bout of life/work/family stress, whatever that may be.

Talking Rain 'Tini:
1 oz chilled vodka (I keep mine in the freezer so it's nice and cold)
5 oz of your favorite flavor of Talking Rain sparkling mineral water (my new fave is the Pomegranate Lime)
a twist of lime juice


Almond Coconut Bark
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup almonds
1.5 cups unsweetened coconut
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
8 Truvia packets
4 TB heavy cream
1 TB butter

Chop the chocolate:

Give the almonds a rough chop:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler:

When the chocolate is barely melted, remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream, stevia, vanilla, and coconut extract. Then stir in the almonds and coconut. Press onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Try to get the mixture as tightly packed together as possible, since it is a bit crumbly:

Let it harden, and enjoy! This was so good, I even licked the spoon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

a quickie

Sorry for the blog delay. I've had a bit of an emotional week and basically fell off the "no starch" wagon. Needless to say my guilt-ridden carb-loving self didn't feel much like blogging. (And describing shoving your face with Teddy Grahams and homemade cream cheese frosting is not that pretty or interesting. Although it was tasty...) All is well now though and I'm more committed than ever. I've been busy in the kitchen crafting some new recipes:

Here's some photos to keep you curious. Stay tuned for my story about cheating and coming out the other side, and the awesome recipes I developed as a result of my ongoing battle with carb and sugar addiction!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

a little bit of comfort

I'm mostly an upbeat, positive kind of gal. But every once in a while, I get a case of the funks. Take this morning for example: I woke up early with every intention of doing a kickboxing workout. I really love kickboxing because I'm kind of a wuss and it makes me feel like a bad ass tough girl. However, once I rolled out of bed and started moving around, I realized all was not well in Crystal land. My back is really hurting today. I'm due for my next injection tomorrow and sometimes I get really stiff and sore as my previous dose runs low in my body. I have some prescription pain meds to use in cases like these, but I try not to use them unless I'm in quite a bit of pain. (Sorry for the Debbie Downer intro. In trying to be honest through this blog process, I'm sharing my experiences on good days as well as not so great ones.)

When I'm feeling a little on the crappy side, I like to treat myself to something I enjoy to try to pick my spirits up. I usually like to lounge around a bit in some comfy sweats and an oversized sweatshirt I inherited from an ex-boyfriend. I also like to watch something fun on tv, such as reruns of Law and Order: SVU. For back pain I like to roll around on my therapeutic foam roller purchased from my physical therapist. And in my previous, carb-loving life, I would chow down on a piece of heavily buttered toast with extra jelly and some homemade hot cocoa.

A lot of the foods typically known as "comfort foods" contain high levels of starch and sugar. As I have mentioned before, I wasn't as much into the high fat, southern type of comfort foods like fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes. My comfort foods were things like brownies, ice cream, and hot cocoa. It's kind of difficult to concoct something resembling a homemade chocolate chip cookie without using any starch or sugar, but I have created a tasty sugar-free, starch-free hot cocoa:

Heat 1.5 cups of milk in a saucepan over medium heat
Microwave another 1/2 cup of milk for 20 seconds
Whisk 4 heaping teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder into the microwaved milk. I like to use Saco Premium Cocoa.

Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 3 packets of Truvia or other stevia sweetener
Combine the cocoa mix into the milk warming on the stove.
Whisk it all together and heat to desired warmth.

Pour into your favorite mug, snuggle on the couch, and enjoy! I savored my cocoa while watching some SVU and you know what? I think my day is looking up already.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the "D" word

Have you ever noticed how many social events are tied to food? When a friend wants to get together, it's usually something along the lines of "let's grab a drink," or "let's go get happy hour." We go out for lunch, grab a coffee, or meet for dinner/dessert/brunch. This didn't used to bother me, but now that I have so many dietary restrictions, eating out can be a tad complicated. When I first started the diet I was worried I wouldn't be able to eat out at all, and I wondered when I would get to feel normal again.

Walking into a restaurant and explaining I'm on a diet is definitely not my favorite thing, and it only gets worse if I say my doctor put me on a diet. Once you drop the "D" word people automatically look at you to see if you're the "F" word - fat. And if you're someone like me with, shall we say, a little extra junk in the trunk, this can be about as uncomfortable of a situation as walking into a beauty salon and announcing you need to have your upper lip waxed. Umm, about that. There's a chance I might be one of those women who wax their upper lip... Here's the deal: I have ever since high school when I was getting ready for prom and my dad asked if I needed a couple extra bucks so I could go "wax my mustache." True story. (Dad if you're reading this, while the delivery was a bit awkward I do appreciate your concern for my grooming habits. You've probably spared me some embarrassment.) Tangent aside, let's just say that the trepidation I felt about dining out when I was first put on the diet was almost as nerve racking as when I first tried waxing as an adolescent.

To try to explain my current eating regimen in simple ways, I found myself fudging the truth a bit. When dining out I've said I have food allergies, that I'm on an elimination diet, that I can't eat gluten, and that I'm avoiding foods that make me nauseous. Luckily Seattle is home to a wide array of restaurants, foodies, and sympathetic waitresses, so I've found that most people are willing to answer my questions and make substitutions when I ask. Also, the more I talk about my current diet, the more comfortable it gets.

Once again, planning ahead is usually a good idea if you're trying to keep your diet. A friend of mine who is in weight watchers will try to plan ahead where she wants to go out to eat, and look up the menus online. I've adopted this idea as well. Also I've found that some restaurants even have their ingredients posted online. For example, Thrive ( is a Seattle raw foods restaurant that lists all of the ingredients to their dishes both on their website and on their menus. They were also very accommodating in making substitutions when I asked.

In addition to looking up menus online and asking waitstaff at the restaurants about their products, I've found it's helpful when dining out with friends if you keep them in the loop with your dietary needs. My friends have been incredibly supportive and have helped me find places to eat that will accommodate my needs. Additionally, I've gone to a few weddings while being on this meal plan. I've talked to my friends in advance to figure out what foods would be safe for me to eat, so that I don't feel stressed the day of the event. I've also found that smaller restaurants typically know more about their products and even suggest substitutions for me. Additionally, when in doubt it's safer to stick with simple foods. For example, if you're eating a salad choose olive oil and vinegar rather than a premixed dressing. Choose whole foods whenever possible, such as sliced avocado over pre-made guacamole, and chicken breast over a patty made of "mechanically separated rib meat." Starch and sugar lurk in many surprising places, such as seasoning mixes, lunch meats, and crumbled cheeses. I've never read so many ingredient labels in my life, and it's been very enlightening.

Here's the good news: eating out while on a diet is definitely possible. Good restaurants care about their products and their customers, and they will be willing to help you out if you ask. While it can be a bit awkward and more time consuming to ask lots of questions and explain my current eating regimen, it's something I've had to get used to. And in a strange way, I feel a bit empowered now. Instead if feeling like a victim of a tricky diet and focusing on everything I can't eat, I've tried to rise to the challenge and be assertive, creative, and experimental. And you know what? It's been fun to try new foods and modify old favorites.

Here's some foods I've enjoyed while dining out:
-Mexican food is easy to modify by skipping the tortillas and making a fajita or taco salad. Usually the cheese, avocado, and pico de gallo all are starch and sugar free. Sour cream is typically free of starch if it is full fat, but not if it's reduced fat.
-Burgers and sandwiches are still delicious without the sauce and without the bun. I've had them wrapped in lettuce, and they taste great! Regular mayo and mustard are ok as far as condiments go. However, sugar and modified food starch often lurk in BBQ sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, ranch dressing, relish, tartar sauce, and soy sauce, so I typically avoid these.
-When eating Greek food I chose chicken souvlaki skewers with tzatziki sauce and salad with herb vinaigrette.
-Breakfast is an especially easy meal to do without starch and sugar. I had an omelette with mushrooms, onions, peppers,cheese, and green onion, topped with sliced avocado.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Man shall not live on bread alone

When people find out you're a Registered Dietitian, this weird kind of "food confessional" thing often transpires. I meet someone new and we do the small talk thing: where do you live, what are your hobbies, what do you do for a living, etc. But then once I say "I'm a Dietitian" they get this sheepish expression and say something along the lines of "I really like Doritos" or "sometimes I eat ice cream for breakfast." You know what? I do too! So now I have a confession: even though I'm an R.D., I don't eat super healthy. (Gasp!) In fact, entire days would go by where I wouldn't eat a single fruit or vegetable. This is practically blasphemous in the world of nutrition, but there you have it. I kind of love junk food.

Actually, I mostly love carbs. Carbs in all forms: cereal, granola bars, crackers, rainbow chip frosting, graham crackers, rainbow chip frosting on graham crackers, brownies, phad see-ew, tortillas, and bread. Oh, how I love bread. Just the thought of a warm, toasted slice of rosemary bread from Essential Baking Company makes me salivate. I think there have definitely been days when I lived on bread.

However, I now find myself in a carb-free zone. And although it's been somewhat easy to resist the donuts, scones, tortilla chips, and hamburger buns, I still miss my rosemary bread. Learning to not live on bread has been a bit of a rough transition, although I do eat quite a bit more fruits and veggies these days (but more on that later).

The recipe of the day was born of rosemary bread cravings. They taste kind of like crackers, and if you can find or make a dip from yogurt, chives, and green onion, it tastes pretty bomb. I use the yogurt chive dip from Trader Joe's.

Rosemary Cheese Crisps:

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a sheet pan with nonstick spray (I use canola spray). Top the sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with the nonstick spray. Combine 1/2 cup hard grated parmesan cheese (not the powder stuff in the green can) with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of rosemary. Make little piles of cheese mix on the sheet pan, about 1" in diameter. Press the cheese piles down so they flatten, and bake for about 7 minutes, or until they turn golden brown at the edges. Then use a spatula to transfer them to a plate. Let them cool a few minutes and they harden into a cracker-like consistency, perfect for dipping.

I think next time I make them I will mix them with a bit of chili powder and dip them in salsa. I think they would taste kind of like nachos that way. Happy snacking!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

the beginning

Meet me: I'm Crystal. I'm a Registered Dietitian by trade. I live in Seattle and love city life, food, exercise, music, chick flicks, cooking, travel, wine, and friends (though not necessarily in that order). I also have Ankylosing Spondylitis, better known as AS. For those of you who have never heard of AS, it's an autoimmune inflammatory disease in the same family as Rheumatoid Arthritis, though not as common. I hadn't heard of it either until I was diagnosed in November of 2008 after having a swollen ankle that wouldn't quit for 6 straight weeks. Essentially AS attacks the sacro-iliac region of the spine (think tailbone) and left untreated it can cause the spine to fuse and make you look like a hunchback- scary! It also causes inflammation of the joints, hence the swollen ankle. Since I had never heard of this disease and am a foodie/R.D., I researched dietary management of the disease and found: nada. Zero. I found one lone study conducted like 20 years ago that may suggest cutting out gluten and sugar could help manage my symptoms. Since bread (gluten) and ice cream (sugar) are like two of my most favorite things, I wasn't ready to jump on that bandwagon without some hardcore evidence.

Fast forward a year and a half: my Rheumatologist has me on medicine to suppress my immune system and prevent it from attacking itself and causing inflammation in my body. After being on Enbrel and then Humira, I was battling persistent yeast infections (yuck), nausea, digestive issues (double yuck), and feeling generally crummy. So I sought professional help in the form of a highly recommended gynecologist with a holistic perspective. We ran some tests and figured out that yeast was growing throughout my digestive system. Yeast is perfectly normal in the body (you have it too so don't think I'm gross), and a normally functioning immune system kills it off when it starts to overgrow. However, if your immune system is weakened or suppressed by medicine, yeast will take the opportunity to spread itself throughout the body. This yeast overgrowth in my body was impairing my digestion and causing the general feeling of icky-ness I had been experiencing.

So about a month ago my doctor figured all of this out and put me on a "kill the yeast and heal the gut" plan. She is also confident it will help manage some of my AS symptoms. Apparently the body goes into a mini state of inflammation when digesting carbs. Since my body is already in a state of inflammation, lessening this carb-induced inflammation should make my medicine more effective. I'm still researching this, but I'm intrigued.

So essentially I have been on a low starch/no sugar diet for the past month. I can't eat any wheat, corn, rice, oats, peas, beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, squash, sugar, syrup, jam, honey, or food starch. The only fruits I can eat are apples, pears, and berries. I also can't drink beer or wine, which sadly means no Pyramid Hef with lemon during these hot summer days. Frankly, I feel a bit like I'm on the Atkins diet. I can't even eat quinoa, and the only sweetener I'm allowed to use is stevia and it has a funky aftertaste. I've also realized that as little info as there was out there about using diet to manage AS, there's even less about this crazy diet I'm on. So I thought I would share this experience with you, world. I'm hoping my experiences will help some other clueless AS sufferers, or will at least be mildly interesting to some of my friends and family. :)

And now, a recipe.
Since I love me some sweets, I have been searching for some dessert replacements that don't taste like crappy health food. Three days ago I created this beautiful concoction, and it's quickly become my new favorite thing:

Chocolate Berry Blend
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup frozen strawberries (unsweetened)
1/2 cup frozen raspberries (unsweetened)
3 scoops Biggest Loser protein powder in Chocolate Deluxe
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stevia packet

Blend it in the blender and you're good to go! Savor something that tastes like chocolate raspberry mousse. Yum! I'm pretty confident this would be good frozen too, and served like a fudgesicle/very hard ice cream, though I haven't tried it yet. You could even made fudgesicles if you froze small amounts in paper cups and stuck a popsicle stick on plastic knife in them to use as a handle. Enjoy!