Thursday, July 7, 2011

Detox, day 2

I survived day one with minimal grumbling and only one small cheat. I went out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant and had ONE chip with salsa. Since chips and salsa are pretty much my most favorite snack ever, I felt pretty ok about it.

Here's to day two!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

17 day detox

I've been waffling back and forth between the merits of following the low starch diet. On the one hand, it's supposed to help relieve my symptoms. On the other hand, it's very restrictive, and kind of a pain in the butt to follow in real life. However, due to a recent change in my insurance and a rather large deductible that I haven't met yet, I can no longer afford my Humira injections. Therefore, I've decided to give low starch another go, in the hopes that it will help me manage symptoms until I can get injections again.

My friend Kristi and I have decided to do the 17 day diet. (Disclaimer: I'm not officially endorsing this as a dietitian, I just think it'll be helpful for me.) It's a meal plan with three phases, and very similar to the low starch diet I had been (somewhat) following. In phase one we are eating tons of veggies, some fruits, and lean protein. We are also not drinking alcohol or consuming sugar. I think it'll be a much needed kick-start to get me back on track with low starch.

I did notice that when I was following the low starch diet and cooking more meals from scratch, I felt better. I had more energy and vitality, and it also helped me maintain my weight loss. It didn't necessarily relieve any back or joint pain per se, but I know others have found great relief from AS symptoms when living the low starch lifestyle. Since dabbling with eating a more "normal" diet, I've felt more lethargic and squishy. My back and hips have also been hurting lately, and I'm thinking it's a combo of gaining ten-ish pounds and not being on the Humira. So, here I go again! (and I've made up my mind, I aint wasting no more time... yeah I pretty much love 80's music...)

I've attempted starting the 17 day diet three times, and every time I felt pissed that I had to restrict myself. It's like my body knew I was going on a diet, and I felt angry that I couldn't be normal (even though the typical American diet is far from what should be considered a healthy norm). A new friend has helped me gain perspective on taking better care of myself, through avoiding foods that "don't nourish [me] in a positive way." What a beautiful idea, and a much needed change in my perspective. So, here's to living a more nourishing life.

Be well, friends! And wish me luck! :)

ps- just cuz I like pictures, here's a recent one of me at the Grand Canyon :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Let the Danskin training commence! (Plus: yummy summer salad!)

The sunshine has finally returned to Seattle, hooray! We've had two weekends in a row of sunny days and I can finally feel my Vitamin D stores starting to replenish themselves. I couldn't be happier. I even have a few new freckles on my nose as evidence of sun!

Sunshine also means that it's time to start the biking portion of my Danskin training. (I'm not brave enough to start outdoor swimming yet though. It's the Pacific Northwest for Pete's sake! Swimming outside in 60 degree weather sounds like a recipe for hypothermia.) I'm kind of a fair weather rider, mostly due to the fact that I'm relatively new to street riding. I purchased my bike last year for Danskin training and I love it! I still mostly stick to bike paths and only venture into the street when absolutely necessary. I'm hoping to take the intro to biking class at REI soon so that I can learn how to patch a flat and all of those things that seem like they'd be good to know for longer solo rides.

This past Sunday I went all over West Seattle on a 13.5 mile ride and got in some long, gradual hill training. (For a great resource on tracking how long you ride, check out  Map My Ride. It's free to join and you can track your route to figure out the distance.) I biked a few routes with long gradual hills last year during training and realized I passed numerous riders on race day, so such training was really helpful. Hill training can also help increase endurance and improve leg strength, which are also good things.

In addition to my typical routine of cardio (running, step classes, kick boxing, and hill walks) and hot yoga, I've been lifting weights more as well. Now, I don't claim to be an exercise expert by any means, but I read a fitness article recently that said if you're in training mode it's best to do a 10 minute cardio warm up and then go straight to weight lifting for at least 30 minutes. This helps burn through your body's glycogen stores (stored carbohydrate in the body that fuels your muscles). Then, you should do at least 30 minutes of cardio. That way, once you start the cardio you've already burned through the glycogen and your body is ready to burn fat as fuel. If you only have 30 minutes to exercise, do weights rather than cardio, and try to get in a little cardio later in the day, even if it's just a walk. I'm just a recovering chocaholic trying to do the best I can with the resources available to me, but that article seemed pretty legit, so that's what I've been modeling my current exercise regimen after.

I'm not sure if it's exactly legal, but I find I pace myself much better with good music, so I've been known to bike with one earbud in (obviously one needs one free ear to listen out for cars, etc). This is my current biking mix. It's about an hour, and chock full of great upbeat tunes that are perfect for sunny day rides:

Joker And The Thief - Wolfmother
Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves) - The Wombats
Laid - Matt Nathanson
Hope For Us - The Jealous Sound
Wake Up - The Arcade Fire
What You Know - Two Door Cinema Club
Young Blood - The Naked and Famous
Electric Feel (Justice Remix) - MGMT
Whirring - The Joy Formidable
A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
New Low - Middle Class Rut
You've Got the Love - Florence and The Machine
Down In the Valley - The Head and the Heart
Love Today - Mika
Moth's Wings - Passion Pit
Fader - The Temper Trap
Vanished - Crystal Castles
Here it goes again - Ok Go
Ride - Cary Brothers

Another great thing about summer are the picnics and BBQs! My lovely friends/neighbors had me over for a backyard BBQ last weekend and this was the salad I made. It's perfect for sunny days.

Summer Spinach Salad:
1 package baby spinach, washed
1 pound strawberries, thinly sliced
1 cup glazed almonds (see recipe below)
1 small package goat cheese
cracked black pepper, to taste

This salad is delicious with fig balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Glazed Almonds:
Roughly chop 1.5 cups almonds
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium in a saucepan until melted
Add 1.5 tablespoons of agave nectar and the chopped almonds
Stir continuously until almonds have been coated and warmed, about 5-6 minutes
Spread almonds over parchment paper. Break into small pieces once cool.

Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette:
Combine equal parts extra virgin olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar (available at Pike Place Market). Shake vigorously to mix. Add cracked black pepper to taste.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

it's Danskin time!

As some of you may remember, last year I completed my first triathlon. Well, I loved it so much I've decided to do it again! I just signed up for this year's Danskin women's triathlon on Sunday, August 14th. Let the training begin!

everything but the kitchen sink stir fry

When I was growing up, my parents were firm believers in the clean your plate club. Essentially, I had to stay at the table until I cleaned my plate. One time my mom made stir fry and I mistakenly saturated it with Worcestershire sauce instead of soy sauce (hey, I was little and the bottles looked pretty stinking similar). I had to eat the. Entire. Thing. It was nasty. The thought of the cold, salty veggies still makes me a little queasy. Needless to say, I wasn't a major fan of stir fry for a while. It wasn't until college when I was short on cash and even shorter on time that I learned to love the stir fry.

I'm a big fan of one pot meals, and not just because I detest doing dishes. They are a quick and simple way to serve up some awesome food, and can be relatively economical if you're living on the cheap. Stir fries are an easy one pot meal and an excellent way to use up all your extra veggies. For example, you can make typical Asian stir fry with broccoli, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, edamame, and even a handful of peanuts. Or, you can make Mexican stir fry with peppers, onions, black beans, corn, cabbage, and top with avocado. You can even make Italian stir fry, like my Italian sausage stir fry. You can serve stir fry as is, or atop rice, noodles, or quinoa. The possibilities are endless!

One stir fry I made recently that was super easy contained literally all of the veggies I had laying around. It was made of everything but the kitchen sink, baby, and boy was it tasty!

I threw the following in a large skillet with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil:
-1 cup chopped asparagus
-1/2 cup diced bell peppers
-1/2 cup diced onion
-1/2 cup frozen cubed butternut squash
-1/2 cup frozen sweet potatoes (I used sweet potato fries and cut them into smaller chunks, about 1" long)

-3 gloves of garlic, minced
-1/3 cup frozen edamame
-1 cup fresh spinach

If you're using a combination of fresh and frozen ingredients, start with the frozen ones first so that they have time to thaw. Also, always add greens like spinach last, because they wilt rather quickly.

I topped the stir fry with a bit of sliced avocado and some coarse sea salt. It was so good it didn't even need any sauce. Also, my meal was entirely plant based (vegan) and I didn't feel the slightest bit deprived. I think one key to embracing a more plant based diet is to combine really flavorful foods with a variety of textures, so that your senses stay intrigued. It felt like there was a party in my mouth.

Enjoy, and don't be afraid to get creative!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

the best effing tuna salad EVER!

Happy Spring everyone! I'm so happy the sun is finally starting to make an appearance in Seattle. We've finally had 3 days above 60 (and I realize that sounds incredibly pathetic, but hey, I'm embracing the positive!) and I even was able to wear a t shirt and flip flops to the beach and not freeze! Speaking of beaches, as swimsuit season is nearing, I'm finding myself uber motivated to cook foods from scratch and steer clear of overly processed items.

At the insistence and nudging of some of my friends who are more fledgling cooks, I'll be posting some more basic recipes on here. One thing I make really well is tuna salad. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I recently made this for one of my best friends for lunch and he said it was pretty much the most amazing tuna salad he's ever tasted. So rest assured, folks, you're in good hands! (And a note to my gentlemen readers: even though there's some random ingredients in this thing, it has been dude approved.)

Amazing Tuna Salad:
Combine the following in a large bowl:
-1 can solid white albacore tuna, flaked with a fork. This is key folks. That chunk light crap looks and tastes like cat food. Solid white albacore is the key to amazing tuna salad!
-1/2 chopped crispy apple, such as a honeycrisp or pink lady
-2 diced celery ribs
-1 large or several small diced crispy dill pickles. If you can find garlic and/or spicy pickles, they taste even better!
-1/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (or regular craisins - I'm still avoiding sugar a bit)
-1.5-2 TB regular lemonnaise - the key to good tuna salad is not too much mayo. Just add enough to moisten and adhere all of the ingredients together. We don't want a goopy sloppy mess!
-2 TB minced fresh dill
-Cracked black pepper, to taste

The tuna salad works great either as is, served atop spinach or mixed spring greens, or served warm and gooey with havarti cheese as a tuna melt. (Note on gluten free breads: I made this as a tuna melt with Rudi's multigrain gluten free bread and it was pretty awesome. Even my friend Ryan said it was good.) It pairs well with sour cream and onion kettle chips, which incidentally, are also gluten free. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

starch and candida and inflammation, oh my!

As most of you know, I'm a dietitian. I spent the past three days at the Washington State Dietetic Association annual conference, and my head is swimming with new knowledge about vitamins, plant based diets, and dietary interventions to combat inflammation, amongst other things. Though several of the topics didn't exactly apply directly to someone suffering from say, A.S., it did set my mind a reeling.

You see, following the very low starch diet has been kind of mentally taxing for me over the past few months. Aside from the moral implications of eating so much animal product (though I try when I can afford it to buy meats that are locally and sustainably raised and humanely slaughtered - more on that to come), I've been wondering how all of this animal product is effecting my insides. As a dietitian we've read the studies about links between high levels of saturated fats in the diet and their correlations with elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular events. We've also recommended plant based diets for their health benefits, such as decreasing cholesterol, increasing insulin sensitivity, and decreasing body weight.

Therefore, I'm in a bit of a pickle following a diet where I can't even eat most fruits. It's fruit for Pete's sake! However, I did lose weight while on the low starch diet. But I also ate less packaged foods and possibly was consuming fewer calories overall. What a conundrum.

I was missing carbs something fierce, so I gradually started adding back in some starches over the past few months. I was missing legumes so much that I was literally dreaming about hummus. I've also had some delicious sweet potatoes, pineapple, watermelon, and split pea soup. It all tasted a-mazing!

I started this starch free quest to combat candida (i.e. yeast) and the thing is, the candida is still lingering, even with very low starch consumption. And some of my R.D. friends who struggle with candida say that while yeast does need sugar to thrive outside of the body, internally our bodies regulate our blood sugars so closely that decreasing sugar and starch intake may not be an effective way of combating candida overgrowth. Oy! Turns out it might be more related to stress and inadequate sleep!

I don't claim to have the answers here, but I think for now I'm sticking to eating fewer carbohydrates, and choosing gluten free starches when I do choose to eat carbs. I think it's also a good idea for me to steer away from packaged foods most of the time and try to either cook foods myself or order more whole foods when dining out. I also have heard research that supports adding Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants for decreasing inflammation, and with this autoimmune disease I'm living in a state of inflammation. (Another thing I learned at the convention: women with inflammatory diseases can have a more difficult time conceiving. I'm not ready for babies yet but sheesh! Time to get this stuff figured out.) Therefore I'm going to make an effort to eat more fish (Omega 3's) and brightly colored fruits and veggies (antioxidants).

One thing that is clear is that one should always try to get nutrients from foods rather than supplements, although some supplementation with probiotics, vitamin D, and even fish oil can be helpful. If you are taking a multivitamin, only take one kind and try one that only has 100% of the nutrients, in order to avoid toxicity.

I'm also going to make a solid effort to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and work on managing my stress levels. Plus one of my girlfriends who has battled candida issues has a supplement that has worked for her that she's going to email me about. I'll post on that once I've tried it out.

I guess the message here is that each person's individual situation is different from everyone else's, so what works for one person may be more or less effective in others. The body is truly a fascinating and mysterious thing. Therefore, I guess we have to be informed, hope for the best and tweak accordingly.

Best of luck, friends!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, mostly because I get tired/lazy/bored of my original idea and it is kind of a lot of work. My friend Kristi makes yearly "intentions" instead of resolutions. She writes her intentions down and sticks them on her fridge, so that she is mindful of them throughout the year. She said she has almost always accomplished most of her intentions since starting this process a few years ago.

I've been thinking about intentions for my year. I've been reading the book Women, Food, and God, and the author, Geneen Roth speaks a lot about intention as it comes to eating. Her book offers tips to eat mindfully, through eating what your body really wants when you are hungry, paying attention to the food and savoring it, and then stopping when you are full. This requires patience, curiosity, and thoughtfulness, since it is work to ask your body what it really wants and to be aware of when you are satisfied.

Geneen also talks about living purposefully, feeling all of your emotions fully, and fully occupying every inch of space you take up on this earth. I've been thinking about what that might look like.

Lately I've been feeling like sometimes I live life on autopilot. I think my intention for this year will be to live with more intention. I see this playing out in a variety of ways:

1) My body needs proper fuel. I've been thinking a lot about how foods make my body feel on the starch free diet. I know that starch makes me feel heavy, bloated, weighed down, groggy, itchy, and nauseated. However, I've been interpreting starch free as many nuts, meats, eggs, and dairy. My produce intake has been seriously lacking. For starters, I want to be intentional about eating more produce, trying new recipes especially for veggies, and trying new fruits and veggies that I haven't eaten before or haven't really liked in the past.

To help in this effort, I've been meeting with girlfriends every other Sunday to share recipes and plan out some dinner ideas. I'm also considering incorporating raw recipes into my diet a few times a week, mostly because every time I eat at Thrive, a raw restaurant in Seattle, I feel awesome. The problem is I've never cooked raw before and don't really know much about it, so I'll have to do some research and experimentation. I think more fruits and veggies is a good place to start.

2) My body needs exercise. I thought about which exercise my body enjoys the most and I really like high impact cardio, hot yoga, and the occasional weight lifting class. Therefore, I purchased a ten class package for my local hot yoga studio, have been hitting up weight lifting, step, and spinning classes at my gym, and have a goal to do at least one race (5k or more) per month from February to August. I have always wanted to be a better runner and I think having a competitive run each month will help keep me focused and motivated.

3) I need to work on fully experiencing my emotions. I have known I use food as therapy ever since my parents divorced when I was 17. That year I quit all of my after school activities. Instead, I would come home after school, camp out in front of the tv, and eat. Coincidentally, this is also when my struggle with weight first reared its ugly head. Until I figure out how to feel my emotions without blocking that emption through food, tv, shopping, drinking etc, I am not living a full life. I am also prone to weight cycling. Allowing myself to experience emotions for what they are is going to take a ton of effort and patience and is so much easier said than done, but it is something I realized I have to do if I want to experience my life to the fullest.

4) I need to be aware of my tendency to over-consume. This ties in so much to not fully feeling emotions. Basically, I shop too much and eat too much, usually when I am stressed/sad/annoyed/bored/wanting to prolong feeling good. I know that the excess shopping and excess eating stems from wanting some sort of rush, and I always think it will make me feel happy. These habits are toxic though. They're wreaking havoc on my wallet and my waistline. I'm saving for a new car and it's the first time I've really had to save for a big purchase. It is a good exercise in questioning if I really should be spending money, and I'm hoping this newfound awareness will be applied to multiple areas of my life.

Well, that's all I have for now. Here's hoping for a great 2011!

ps- apparently I'm not the only one with this idea. Read this blog for even more great ideas about eating with intention:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

beating the winter blahs

Right around mid January I start itching for the tropics. Visions of turquoise waters and white sandy beaches fill my mind (and are usually the background on my mac). I daydream about the feel of the warm sun on my skin and squiggling my toes in the sand.

This is probably because January in Seattle is about as far from the tropics as you can get. It's wet, drippy, cloudy, and windy. Every once in a while though, we get a few days of bright sunshine in mid January. It's the kind of sun that makes me long for summer. I roll down the windows of my crappy Nissan as far as I can stand, crank the heat up, and imagine the heat from my heater is actually from the sun. For a few minutes, it's pure bliss.

Here's a few recipes inspired by the tropics. Hopefully they'll warm you up on a particularly nasty winter day.

Blackberry coconut smoothie:
Blend 1 cup frozen blackberries, 1/2 cup nonfat milk, 1/4 cup unsweetened kefir, 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder sweetened with stevia (I like Aria women's protein), 2 tablespoons flaked unsweetened coconut, 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract, and 2-3 packets of stevia or erythritol sweetener to taste (I like Truvia or Organic Zero). Paper umbrella optional.

African peanut soup:
This is modified from a recipe from my friend's copy of Vegetarian Times.
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
4 medium cloves of garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons canola oil
One 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, chopped coarsely
2 boxes of Pacific branch mushroom broth
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2/3 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Zest of 1 lime

In a large soup pot, saute the onion, bell peppers and garlic until the onions start to brown. Add the tomatoes with juice, mushroom broth, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 40 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter and mix until soup is creamy. Add the coconut milk, ginger, cilantro, and lime zest, and stir until combined. Heat to a simmer and serve.

Tropical Chicken:
Drizzle a baking dish with a small amount of olive oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add 2 teaspoons coconut aminos, 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, 1 dash of garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
In a separate medium bowl, combine 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut and 1/4 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped.
Dip 8 chicken cutlets in the egg mixture, then in the coconut mixture, and place in the pan. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the chicken in the dish, and top with any remaining coconut mixture. Drizzle the juice of one fresh lime over the top and bake about 20 minutes, until the coconut starts to brown and the chicken is cooked through.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

oh, we jingled all right!

Here's the long overdue update to the Jingle Bell Run!

When I woke up the morning of the run, it wasn't just raining. It was POURING. It was the kind of stereotypical Seattle rain that non-Seattleites think happens all the time (it doesn't), where five minutes outside will leave you looking like you took a shower with your clothes on. Not to mention it was freaking cold and windy. Brrrr!

And yet, it was Jingle Bell day, and I had a team to lead.

Five of my fabulous friends joined team AS Kicker and there was no way I was going to wimp out on them because of some measly rain (and wind). No way, Jose. So I woke up at the crack of dawn, pulled on my red and green striped socks, red fleece, sequined Santa hat, and snowflake gloves. I tied jingle bells to my sneakers, and I headed out for one wet run.

I so wasn't kidding about the socks...

I gathered my team, and we headed out into the elements. There were people running in garbage bag ponchos, ski outfits, elf costumes, and every red/green combo imaginable. I even saw a group of girls dressed up with glowing snowflakes on their backs. Talk about feeling the Christmas spirit!

If you look really carefully, you can see the blue glow of snowflake girl.

Despite the rain, my wonderful friends and I all successfully completed the 5k and also managed to raise almost 500 bucks! (And then we promptly headed indoors for hot coffee and brunch.) All together, team AS Kicker raised $460 for arthritis research.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by amazing friends and family who have supported me in my efforts to combat AS. 

Thanks to all of you for reading my blog, for your kind words of encouragement, and for your support!

Happy (belated) holidays from team AS Kicker! :)