Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I am Gluten Free

I've heard of many people lately who call living gluten-free a "fad". While it does seem that there are an enormous number of people discovering the gluten-free lifestyle every day, I don't believe that they're doing it to lose weight or jump on the bandwagon. I truly believe that most people go through their lives feeling terrible - they have chronic headaches, indigestion, acne, depression, fatigue and any number of auto-immune disorders. Once you realize that feeling terrible shouldn't be your norm, you start to look for ways to change the way you feel.

I was one of those people - I was the healthiest sick person you had ever met. I got TONS of exercise every week, I slept 8 to 9 hours every night, drank a ton of water, and ate all the things that were good for me - including whole wheat products. I was a wheat and carbohydrate JUNKIE. And still, over the course of eleven years I had progressively violent physical problems: migraines, lactose intolerance, cystic acne, chronic fatigue, severe depression and then finally, a circulatory auto-immune disorder called Raynaud's Syndrome. My mom had read some research pointing to Gluten-Intolerance and Celiac as the reason for all of my health problems. For a year and a half I ignored her - who wants to give up Pastries and Pizza? One day I was finally sick enough that I read as much research on gluten intolerance as I could get my hands on. Everything I read came right back to Celiac Disease and my symptoms. I decided to give it a try, starting immediately - there would be no "final piece of pizza" or "last croissant". If the research was correct, then those were the very things that had gotten me to that point.

I went off of gluten cold-turkey that very day. Those first days were HARD. Really hard. I was re-learning how to eat. 48 hours later, I woke up before my alarm feeling refreshed - the exhaustion was gone, my brain felt clear and the depression that I struggled so hard to mask was nowhere to be found. I hadn't felt that good in longer than I could remember. I felt like I could take on the world! Since that day in August, 2009, I am proud to say that I have not willingly consumed gluten. There have been a few accidents along the way, and as time has progressed my reactions have become more and more violent. Now, if I get even a little bit of gluten my digestive system goes into meltdown for two days (I am glued to the toilet during that time), I get a migraine for 24 hours that medications can't touch, and scariest of all - I lose the eyesight in my left eye for a few hours. I call it getting "glutened", and it is my own personal version of hell!

To think that I used to regularly consume foods that my body hated THAT much - and I had become immune to any reaction. My body was screaming for my attention - and I ignored it for more than ten years!

I have a lot of healing still to do. Here's how my body has changed in the last sixteen months:
*I no longer struggle with cystic acne - it's gone.
*My lactose intolerance is gone. I can have dairy again!
*I wake up in the morning with energy for the day. No more chronic fatigue.
*I rarely get migraines - the only exceptions are the times I get accidentally "glutened"
*The depression is gone. I still have high highs and low lows, but I am not in a constant depressive state, always pretending to be "okay".
*My circulation is improving. It's a slow battle - I still have Raynaud's Syndrome, and while I have hopes that I will one day be Raynaud's free, I have come to accept that this damage may be permanent - a sort of cross that I will carry for the rest of my life.
*Then, as a bonus, those 15 pounds that I could never get rid of have totally melted off. I went from a size 8 to a size 4 and 6, and I didn't have to diet. I probably eat MORE calories now than I ever did before!

I have been blessed to be surrounded by loving friends and family who are supportive and understanding of my Gluten-Free (GF) Lifestyle. Their support enables me to get through the challenges of eating at others homes' and in restaurants. One expert says that when you shake a Celiac's family tree, other Celiacs start to fall out. That has certainly happened - my mother and my sister are both gluten free. We think my Aunt is definitely Celiac. Plus, in keeping a GF kitchen and home, we've discovered that my husband also has a gluten sensitivity (although he still chooses to eat gluten with friends or on vacation).

So... is Gluten Free a fad? Not for me. I can happily live without Gluten for the rest of my life. And when I see a particularly delectable pastry? I don't even feel tempted. I remember how good it used to taste, and I know exactly what a nibble of that pastry would do to my body today. It's okay to say "no".

And you know what? I'm okay. In fact, I'm better than before.

The next time someone tells you that they are gluten free, don't roll your eyes and shove a cookie in your face in front of them. Be supportive, ask how you can help, and know that this person is making a change in their life for the better.

End of November Wrap Up!

PHEW! I can't believe how long it has been since I've written on here! My apologies to those of you who actually read this!

Here are some highlights of the second half of November:

*Thanksgiving this year was so special - my favorite Thanksgiving (at least that I remember). Spending the day cooking with Jason, Mom, Kelli, Dad, Jeff, Indy, Sierra and Maddie (the last three are dogs). Visit from Nik, Solange and the Caity Monkey. Auntie Ann, Uncle Joe, Kevin, Jill, Cousin Kelli (not my sister) and the surprise arrival of Grandma Joan and Papa Phil! (My grandmother is on hospice and hasn't left her house for anything but a doctor's appointment since June) Then, a smoked turkey (courtesy of my grill master husband - it was beautiful and delicious) and an entire gluten free Thanksgiving dinner, and no one seemed to know the difference. It was a beautiful day, and another reminder of all the things i have to be thankful for!

My sister Kelli with Grandma Joan!

*The advent of Caroling Season! YES - this is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas Caroling - being able to sing and bring so much joy to so many people, and then for it to be my JOB! I wish I could Carol all year long! I'm blessed with another wonderful quartet this season, wonderful people whose company I truly enjoy. We've just begun, and have MANY days of singing to go still!!!!!!

Our first day at Knott's this season. Thanks Jen, for the photos!

*Adventures with Jason. We've committed to getting out of town once a month - even if it's just for a day and we can only afford one tank of gas. Fortunately this month we were able to afford a night's stay in a dog friendly motel and several tanks of gas. We left early on Saturday morning and headed up to Bishop and Mammoth so Jason could shoot some photos and try out his new snow shoes. We drove straight into a blizzard in Mammoth, and had a great time in the snow. We were able to get back to Bishop for the night to stay at our little motel (cheap, basic, clean and allows dogs), and woke up on Sunday to cold temperatures, bright sun and the Sierra Nevada Mountains covered in fresh snow. Perfect for a landscape photographer with snow shoes. The best part, though, was spending quality time with my husband before craziness of caroling season.

The Sierra Nevadas after the snow.

Jason and Indy go snow shoe-ing before the snow really starts to come down.

*Picking out our first Christmas tree together. We had to do it early because of my holiday schedule, and hope we're able to keep it from drying out too much before Christmas. We'll decorate it later in the week, but for now at least we HAVE it!

Our un-decorated Christmas tree with a cheesy tree skirt and a PRESENT underneath it!

I hope you had a wonderful November full of things to be thankful for! Hello, December!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Month Number One

We're finally ready to start sharing our wedding photos. Here's one of my absolute favorites!

Last Tuesday marked one month of marriage. Neither Jason or I realized it until the next day - we're both terrible at anniversaries I think. I worked ALL DAY - literally - I left the house at 7:30am and returned at 10pm to find Jason asleep in bed. So did we celebrate? No. Did we find some time for us this past weekend? Yes.

A quick recap on our first month of marriage:

-Finances suck. Money is tight right now, and my car broke down two weeks ago. So... with the benefits of a lower interest rate and dealers trying to unload new cars, we are now the owners of our first big joint purchase - a 2010 Jeep Patriot. Charcoal Gray. The payments are manageable, but still.... It's amazing to drive something that I'm not concerned will break down on me on the freeway (which I drive ALL THE TIME), and that has heating and air conditioning that actually WORK. But what couple really hopes to buy a new car in the first month of their marriage?

-Having opposing schedules is hard. It's almost caroling season, but we're in full-blown rehearsals right now. Caroling Season means three things: Happy Erin because she gets to do what she loves and make good money at it, happy bank accounts in December and January, and less time together because I work a lot of nights and weekends (with rehearsals now and with gigs starting at Thanksgiving). I find myself becoming more selfish with my Jason time.

-Our first hiking day. We've committed to getting out of town to hike and so Jason can shoot some photos at least one day each month. So, one rainy Sunday in October found us up in Sequoia, bundled up with Indy in the car. The weather was so stinky we weren't able to really hike, but it was beautiful and SOOOO relaxing to just drop everything for the day and get out of Dodge. We have another day planned in two weeks - where will we go? I don't know!

-Starting to talk about our serious plans for the future. What do we really want to DO - Or really... what do I really want to do that will make me happy. Because the truth is, I HATE my day job. I don't want to teach anymore. So what DO I want do? And how can we make that happen financially?

-Thank you notes. I'll be honest. I've avoided starting them. I was really good about sending out all my thank you's for the pre-wedding festivities before the wedding. But the gift list is daunting, and I'm being selfish with my time. I really need to get going on those. How does Jason fit into this? He may not know it yet, but he's helping. :)

-Food. We've really made an effort to cook more on the weekends. This is my FAVORITE part of our downtime. It really is a joint effort, and together we've been cooking up a storm. This weekend we made gluten free pasta with homemade pesto - delicious -, beef stew a la Julia Child (modified to be GF), and I tried out a crustless, gluten-free pumpkin pie recipe from Gluten Free Goddess that was DELICIOUS. Seriously. Some of the best pumpkin pie I have EVER had. Jason loved it too - and he will not eat bad gluten free baked goods. :) Want the recipe? (and seriously, you should try it) I've reposted it below.

So that's our first month! Phew!

Crustless, Gluten-Free, Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie
(Adapted from Gluten-Free Goddess)

I made this pie in a food processor. It helps to thoroughly process the ingredients. If you don't have a food processor, a macho stand mixer will work.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch glass pie plate.

In a food processor bowl add:

1 14.5-oz can pumpkin

1 1/2 cups plain coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons light olive oil

3 Eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup Gluten Free Pancake Mix

2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon or pie spice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cover and process until smooth and creamy. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl, if necessary to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared pie plate and smooth evenly. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for about an hour until done. The pie should be firm- but still give a little when lightly touched. The center should not be wet. It will fall a bit as it cools.

Cool the pie on a wire rack completely. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Makes 8 slices.