Trying too Hard

I was doing a seated twist in yoga the other night.  I’m really not good at these.  I like the laying down twists so much better – and not just because I’m laying down (although that’s a bonus) but because gravity does so much of the work for you.  This is helpful when you have not only a terribly inflexible spine, but also boobs that have a tendency to get in the way.  Anyway, I was pushing myself into the twist, trying to keep my left hip on the ground (really, this pose is so much harder than it looks) when I heard a little voice say:

“Stop. Trying. So. Hard.”

No, it wasn’t God.  And I don’t think it was my right kidney, although it was probably screaming something similar at this point.  It was that little part of me (ok BIG part of me) that is just tired.  Tired of me pushing so hard for everything ALL THE TIME.

I read all kinds of yoga blogs where the people writing them say how they learn all kinds things about themselves during yoga or because of yoga or whatever.  I never thought I’d be one of those people.  I love yoga, I love what it does for all of me, but I’m not one of those people who has revelations during yoga either.

I wouldn’t really call this a revelation.  My body was just tired.  I’m not one of those who goes crazy pushing myself in fitness, but I had been hitting the power yoga pretty hard lately.  And I was trying really hard to keep up with the people next to me who did inversions in between vinyasas.  (Nope, I didn’t get that far.)  I had to pull back, to let my body do the work.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.  Stop trying so hard.  Where else do I push to hard in my life?  Right.  Everywhere.  I pretty much go all or nothing on most things I do.  Sometimes this makes me really good at things – like my diet right now.  It also makes me a hard worker, a dedicated student, and a good friend.  It also means that I burn out.  Fast.

I’ve dealt with a lot of burn out in my life.  When I was in my early twenties, after working one too many 60 hour work weeks, I quit my job and moved back to Sacramento.  I was burnt out.  I was so burnt out that before I quit, I got strep throat so badly that I was out for nearly 2 weeks.  Back then I didn’t believe that my health was a reflection of what was going on in inside.

Now I know that it’s true, and as I deal with a different layer of burn out – not necessarily job related (although that’s part of it) – but health and life related I think about this a lot.  Stop trying so hard, Carmen.  Your body knows what’s best.

Try this – it’s really good with pork chops.  And while you peel the layers of artichoke you can take your mind off trying so hard.  These are pretty hard to screw up.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes with Garlic

1 lb. of baby artichokes (the fresh kind from the farmer’s market)

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 swig of olive oil

1 swig of chicken stock

Lemon (optional)


Have you ever prepared baby artichokes?  They’re really easy.  Peel off the bottom couple of layers of leaves until you get to a light green color.  Trip the bottom a bit, and chop off the top 1/2 inch or so with a sharp knife.  Cut in half.  Put cut artichoke halves in a bowl with water and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar.  This sounds labor intensive but really goes pretty fast.

Heat up a heavy bottom frying pan and add a swig of olive oil.  When the oil heats up add the garlic and pepper flake, and fry until it starts to smell good.  Add the artichoke halves and try to get them all cut side down.  Let them hang out for about 5 minutes or so, stirring a few times.  Add a swig of chicken stock (or white wine), stir a few times, and put on a lid.  Let them steam for a few minutes.  They’re ready when you can poke the bottom easily with a knife.  Serve with a squeeze of lemon, if you want, or a really big glass of white wine.  Or both.



Eggs I

Eggs I (Photo credit: Keith Marshall)

I had no idea that when I started this process that the 30 day dietary clean up would be the easy part.  In so many ways it is easier to be more restrictive than less.  For whatever reason if you give me a relatively short period of time and tell me this is what I have to do and then it’s over, I’m fine.  I did well with that challenge.

What doesn’t work for me is the adding back in part.  I just started with eggs. I love eggs.  I’ve really missed them and they’re so easy.  Here’s how the process works — you eat the one food for three days and judge how your body is feeling.  If you feel good, the food is in.  If you feel bad, the food is out.

And then it gets confusing.  What is feeling good?  What is feeling bad?  And there are so many variables that have nothing to do with what you are eating.  So, so many.  Too many to list.  And I’m either over sensitive or under sensitive to the way my body is feeling all the time.

Yesterday I did great after my breakfast of eggs.  Today, I’m not feeling so hot.  I’m tired.  I got super sleepy around 10am today.  But was it the eggs?  I was working on a rather boring spreadsheet all morning.  It was way too warm in my office.  It’s overcast, which gives me a bit of a headache.  It’s Friday and I’m tired from the week.

My immediate response was to freak out – EGGS ARE BAD! But I think it’s worth more exploring.  Was it really the eggs?

I’m feeling a little lost right now, and luckily other bloggers are out there coping with similar feelings.  Here are two great pieces about playing the waiting game while you heal and figuring out what is truly wrong (or right!) with you.  Both include excellent recipes that I can’t wait to try once more foods are back.

From the Living Kitchen Wellness Group: What to do in the waiting?  How to relax instead of judging why aren’t getting what you want right now.

From Gluten Free Girl and the Chef:  The Light, How it Dances “The celiac had so sensitized me to food issues that it never occurred to me it could be something else.”

I judge you by what you eat

English: Paul Draper thieving wine from a barr...

In my quest to use the most random pictures ever, here is another. I just like it because this dude is so excited to drink wine. I understand, man! Image via Wikipedia

You’re probably all wondering where I’ve been.  I mean, here I was, counting down to this momentous event, and now it’s come and gone and you haven’t heard a word.  Blame it on the trials of modern technology — i.e. my slow computer and using an internet connection that is not my own and therefore I have no control over it.

I survived.  I had a few glasses of wine (Friday AND Saturday), had a rather wicked headache over the weekend (which could be from the alcohol or from me throwing my neck out, probably a bit of both) and am back at work.  I still feel pretty good (well, to be honest, I’m a little sleepy today, but that’s from not sleeping well due to screwy neck.)  Life is good.  I’ve had a few things that I couldn’t eat before (yes, I know, that isn’t how I’m supposed to be proceeding) and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.

I’ve also learned a few things and have a few pieces of advice to pass on to you if you should ever decide to embark on a similar experiment:

(1) Be very clear when you are eating somewhere else about what your limitations are.  People don’t judge you by your food choices as much as you think.  I had a lunch meeting yesterday and ordered a salad and the catering company decided that I could eat dairy and I ended up with a lot of cheese and blue cheese dressing.  I ate around it very carefully and would normally feel weird about it, but since they knew about my allergies it wasn’t an issue.  If you can’t eat gluten, say so.  If you can’t have dairy, tell them.  But keep in mind…

(2) Don’t make a big deal out of your food.  Seriously, this will be the only subject you will talk about, so try to minimize the annoyance factor and don’t FREAK OUT if something has a little dairy on it.  Remove it as best you can and don’t comment too much.  It’s very annoying to those around you, and potentially yourself.

But also…

(3) Everyone and their mother (especially their mother) is going to comment on your food.  Seriously.  Everyone wants to know what you’re eating and then when you tell them they’ll say “Oh!  That looks good!” in that tone that implies that they are shocked that something can be delicious and good for you at the same time.  This will happen all the time.  You will be very grateful for your quiet meals at home without commentary.

My favorite story about this was the other day at work.  I eat some weird stuff for breakfast (as you know) and was enjoying my meat and squash when one of my students came into my office.  She says whatever she’s thinking and it usually isn’t socially acceptable.  “What’s that SMELL?” is what she said, and when I replied that it was my breakfast she said, “That sure doesn’t smell like breakfast!”  Yes, you are right.  But I swear it’s just food.  (My boss thought this was hilarious.  It was probably what he’d been thinking for weeks.)

I’m usually rather food judgey – but that’s mostly because I love food porn.  Yes, I judge you a little by what you eat (sorry) but that’s only if you’re eating all fast food or something.  Mostly I’m jealous.  But it’s amazing to me how many people feel it’s appropriate to comment on what I’m eating.  And actually, I think it’s a little sad.  Does that mean that we’re so used to “convenience” food for lunch that a real meal is that surprising to us?

So I guess the moral of this story is that you need to expect others to judge you by what you eat but no more than what you usually judge them.  Or, you can just stay at home all the time and not eat anywhere in public and then you’ll not only avoid accidental gluten/dairy/soy/high fructose corn syrup poisoning but also other people all together.

Clearly I’m still working a few things out.

I made it!

Today is officially 30 days.

I have gone 30 days without a lot.  But I’ve got to tell you, these past 30 days have FLOWN by.  Really.  It seemed like it was the fastest month ever.

And I feel fantastic.  FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!  There were two weeks in the middle there where I was really worried I was doing the wrong thing.  But I think it was my body expelling all the bad stuff and getting used to the good stuff.  Now I feel energetic, happy, ready to take on the world.  The other evening when I was driving home I actually thought about going for a walk — that I might even be able to run.  Run?  That hasn’t happened in a long time.  I did a rather sweaty power yoga workout at home instead.  It felt great.

I really like my new eating habits (I’m not saying “diet” knowing that usually means “this is the way I’m eating to lose weight”).  I know I bitched about it next week, and I will need a cheat day here and there, but for the most part eating this way really works for me.  Protein and veggies make my body run really, really well.

It’s been a good experience to take a step back and reconnect with my body.  To feel it from the inside out.  I know that sounds hokey, but really, try it.  Try right now to feel the inside of the your fingers, your toes.  How do they feel?

I didn’t think it was possible to do this before 30 days ago.  I knew I felt bad, that I was sick, but I didn’t really know what was happening to me.

I’ve had several friends tell me that they couldn’t ever so something like this for 30 days.  And if you’re thinking the same thing, I’m here to say the opposite.  Of course you can.  The only thing standing in your way is you.

I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight with a couple of friends.  I think it’s well deserved, don’t you?

The 15 Grossest Things You’re Eating | Rodale News

The 15 Grossest Things You’re Eating | Rodale News.

One of the best things I’ve done on this diet is give up processed food.  Even if you can’t do it all the way, please eat organically and pay attention to what you’re eating.  There are lots of reasons to give it up, and if you don’t believe me, please read this article from Rodale News.  Beaver anal gland juice, anyone?

I’m worth it

James Darren, William Shatner, and Heather Loc...

I swear this picture makes sense later. And all blog posts are made better with William Shatner. Image via Wikipedia

You may have noticed my rant from yesterday.  I think I need to put in a little context, because I have much more to say about the subject and it deserves more than just me being pissed off about someone telling me I can’t cook in olive oil.

It seems to me, as I browse through the sites like the Paleo diet sites I’ve been running across that they are the same as every other diet website out there.  Everyone of them is promising them the same thing.  Choose this diet and you’ll lose 10-20-30 pounds!  It will change your life!  You’ll be sexy, happy, successful, desirable!

Here’s something I’ve learned through this insane crazy illness.  Losing the weight will not change the way you feel about yourself.  Happiness doesn’t come from being skinny.

All the stories sound the same.  There is always a testimonial about a woman (90% of the time it’s a woman) who’ve tried everything to lose weight.  Nothing worked until this miracle product!  This product could be Weight Watchers, it could be the gym down the road, it could be the Shake Weight, and yes, it could be a Paleo diet.

One story in particular talks about a woman who was very obese who lost a lot of weight though exercise and limiting calories.  After losing the weight she gained much of it back.  Her trainer said she had “issues”.

Well, DUH.  You don’t get to be well over 300 pounds without having issues of some sort!  Of course she needed to sort those out.  Why on earth would you just focus on the outside without addressing what happens in her mind, and in her heart?  The donuts and candy didn’t just hop in her body.  She made the choice to eat them.  She knew.

After a lifetime of up-and-down weight, I was probably at my most unhappy when I weighed the least.  I still didn’t think I was skinny enough.  (And I was skinny.  My mom tells me that I scared her a little.)  And do you want to know why I was unhappy?  Because it had absolutely nothing to do with my weight.

I am the same person no matter what I weigh. I have the same heart, the same soul.  I still love to travel.  I can probably still make you laugh (hopefully, anyway).  I am still smart.  I still work hard.  I still like to take long walks on the beach.  I still have curly hair.  I still talk too loud.  I still love yoga.  I still cry at Hallmark commercials.  I am still me.

Of course, I know that much of my weight issues, my depression, my energy issues, etc. stem from Hashimoto’s.  It’s impossible to say what I would weigh if I didn’t have this disease.  It would be impossible to say lots of things about myself if I didn’t have this disease.  It has become a part of me.  And while I don’t identify as being Hashimoto’s, it still defines much of my life and my relationship with my body.  But I can’t blame my all my issues on this disease.  And I can’t blame my weight on the fact that I just wasn’t following the trendy diet at the time.

I was drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, under too much stress, watching too much television, worried too much about what people thought about me, and frankly ignoring what was good and healthy for me.  Because I didn’t care.

There.  I said it.  I didn’t care.

When you don’t think you’re worthy you just don’t care.  You don’t care what you put into your body.  You don’t care how your body reacts.  You just don’t care.

Until I made the decision that I was worth it — that I was worth feeling good, strong,  healthy, happy, centered — I could never make the decision to change my diet.  I could never, ever, put myself first.  I couldn’t say, “Yes, I am SICK” (yes, that word again) “and yes, I am putting myself first and  yes, I’m not going to eat crap because it isn’t good for me.”  This sounds simple.  But I know that 99% of you reading this will agree that it’s not.

Now, I’m not perfect.  The last 19 days haven’t changed me that much.  But I’m working more on loving me, all of me.  I’m owning up to what choices I made to get myself to this point.  And I’m also acknowledging that some of it isn’t my fault because I am sick.  But it is now up to me, and only me, to take the steps necessary to improve my health.  To show the world that yes, I am worth it.

(You are totally allowed to repeat that last sentence in your best Heather Locklear voice and do a hair flip.)

So when someone asks me why I’m doing this crazy diet, I’m going to tell them that no, it’s not because it’s the newest health trend.  (Hello, gluten free is not a trend, people!)  It’s because I am finally taking responsibility for myself, my choices, and my diet.

Roasting, or How I learned to Love the Squash

One thing is for sure.  To be on this crazy diet you have to like your vegetables.  Scratch that, you have to love your vegetables.  And believe me, you get pretty sick of the standard veggies after you’re eating them three times a day, every day.

I’m lucky.  I like most vegetables.  I’m also lucky to live in Northern California where we probably have the best produce year-round in the US.  One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is go to my local farmer’s market and get the best produce around.  And for cheap!  This isn’t an inexpensive diet to be on, and being able to buy directly from the farmers makes a HUGE difference as far as cost.  I also like that I’m able to support my local farmers, ensuring that they are able to make a living and continue to provide good produce for the masses.  There are lots of other benefits to buying local.  Many local farmers (at least in Nor Cal) are organic, ensuring that we don’t get any added pesticides in our diet.  This is really important for anyone, but especially for those of us coping with compromised digestive systems.  Buying local also puts much less stress on the environment.

You can get just about anything at my local farmer’s market — olive oil, dried fruit, almond butter, flowers, chicken, rabbit, lamb, beef, honey, and my new favorite purchase, oysters.  Last Sunday I came back with a TON of food for about $20.  I bought:






purple broccoli

navel oranges



collard greens

3 squash – delicata, acorn, and something that looks like the delicata and the acorn had a baby

1/2 dozen raw oysters

I’m pretty comfortable cooking all these vegetables, with the exception of the beets and the squash.  You see, for all my “I’ll eat anything” there are two things I really don’t want to eat… squash and beets.  And no, I don’t really know why.  Other than they’re icky.

But squash fills you up, is kind of sweet, and nicely rounds out a meal.  I had to overcome the squash.

For the past week or so I’ve been doing the standard thing that I think my mom (was it my mom?  I don’t even remember anymore.) taught me ages ago – cut the squash in half, scoop out the innards, put in a baking dish skin side up with some water in the bottom, throw in the oven.  This was working for me.  It was basic, but good.  Really made a good breakfast, and an edible bowl for things like my Garam Masala scented pork and apples (recipe to come).  But you know what annoyed me?  There was all kinds of squash stuck to the rind that I couldn’t get to!

And then my mom taught me something else brilliant.  You can eat the rinds!  WHA??

So, here’s my tip for you.  Don’t ditch the rind.  Here’s what I did: Wash the outside of the squash (I used the delicata).  Cut in half lengthwise (this obviously wouldn’t matter for round squash), scoop out the innards, and slice into about 1/2 inch pieces.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast.  I used a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Super, super delicious!  Nutty, savory, slightly sweet, and YUMMY!  My mom suggested doing this for the delicata, but according the Women’s Day magazine, you can do it for acorn as well.  I’m assuming it will work for the baby of these two also.

My life has changed forever.  I no longer fear the squash.

Next challenge… beets.  Wish me luck.

To learn more about eating local, check out my friend Amber’s blog Awake at the Whisk.

(There would be pictures, but my computer is not cooperating with me.  Maybe I can get them up tomorrow at work.)

So, what are you eating anyway?

It became apparent to me and my doc a few months ago that after several months of treatment (gluten/dairy free diet, several supplements) I wasn’t getting better.  At all.  I was feeling a bit better due to a change in diet and a little more energy from the supplements, but I still felt like crap a majority of the time.

The problem with Hashi’s is that you can’t really pinpoint what it is that feels like crap.  You know when you’re coming down with the flu and just feel off?  An overall feeling of exhaustion, grumpiness, fuzzy head, etc?  That’s what living with thyroid disease is like. Nothing is working right.  Sad to say, I was getting to the point where it didn’t seem like I could be normal again.

My doc, the amazing and wonderful Dr. Brian Jenkins, suggested that I do a 30 Day “Gut Repair Diet.”  You can do the diet for as little as 3 days and as many as 60 for the most progressed cases.  I needed something a bit more extreme – so 30 days for me.  In addition to the diet restrictions, I’m on several supplements to support my overall digestive health.  (I’ll talk more about those in a later post, but they’re not terribly appetizing and what I really want to talk about is food.  I don’t want to scare you off!)

And so here I am.  You could call what I’m on a restricted Paleo diet – as if Paleo isn’t restricted enough.  What I can’t eat – grains, potatoes, nightshades, mushrooms, dairy, soy, eggs, sugar (including honey), high glyemic fruit (mango, pineapple, grapes, raisins), beans, seeds, nuts, legumes of any kind, gluten “compounds” (i.e. the crap you find in processed food), alcohol, coffee, processed food in general, anything from a can.

Got that?

What I can eat – most veggies, poulty, fish, meat, low glycemic fruit (apples, pears, oranges, etc.), coconut, fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut yogurt, kombucha) olives and olive oil.

Yes, the list of what I can’t eat is much longer than the list of what I can eat.

But, I’m always up for a challenge!  The trick I have found is to always make more food than I’ll eat.  Leftovers are my friend – and usually my breakfast.

Here’s what I ate for breakfast this morning:


Looks yummy, right?  And probably not like the breakfast you’re used to at all!  That’s leftover kabocha squash and sauteed swiss chard from dinner last night with a cut up Applegate hot dog.  I microwaved the whole bit for about 2 minutes and voila!  Breakfast!

I know you’re probably wondering how I can eat hot dogs if I can’t eat all that other stuff.  Applegate meat products are AWESOME – they don’t have any fillers, gluten, casein, nitrates, etc.  Basically, this is just pre-cooked meat.  It’s good to have something that’s already cooked around when you have to cook everything else.

For lunch today I had a leftover hamburger from some I made the other day for dinner with the sauteed onions I made to go with it on top of red leaf butter lettuce and avocado dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.  Not too shabby, right?

And here’s what I had for dinner last night:

Broiled salmon steak, roasted kabocha squash, and sauteed swiss chard

Yep, that’s the squash and swiss chard that would become my breakfast!

I will say this about eating this way.  It’s work.  I love to cook, so that isn’t an issue, but it would be if you couldn’t find your way around a kitchen.  And it’s expensive.  But I’m frequenting my farmer’s market and I’m lucky to have two wonderful butcher shops (Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op and Taylor’s Market) close by.  And I’m not spending money on happy hours, cocktails, or dinners out.  In the long run, I’ll probably save money.

Also, after only 9 days I would do just about anything to have a glass of wine and not be cheating.  I miss my vino.

Have you done a crazy diet like this?  What are your favorite recipes?