Saturday, September 4, 2010
I have a confession to make... I haven't been feeling very good lately. Truthfully, I haven't been 100% in a looooooong time - and frankly, I'm fed up. After years of random but consistent "ailments", it was relief to find out that gluten was the cause. At least now I could get to the root of the problem and go in a positive/healing direction and feel better. Right? Well, sort of.
Listen, I've done the research and I'm aware that it can take years to heal the damage celiac has caused, and now studies are suggesting that some adults may never heal completely (I choose to ignore that one). Of course, the first year of being gluten-free has been a bit of a roller coaster... but you learn from your mistakes very quickly. Overall, my health has seen HUGE improvements in the last year... but lately - well, something is just off.
Turns out I now have a bit of a thyroid issue... it's underactive, which explains why I'm so ridiculously tired all the time! Not to mention the brain fog, poor concentration/memory and just plain feeling blue. I've heard this is fairly common in us gluten-free folk, so if anyone has any advice to offer, I will gladly take it! But for now, enough of my whining...
Given my recent state, I was in desperate need of some FUN! I wanted to forget about my stupid thyroid and how I was going to afford to take care of it - and just let loose. I found just what the doctor ordered... an exercise class with Richard Simmons!!! The man did not disappoint - he is everything you want him to be and more. I have never laughed so hard, for so long, as I did in his class. I was not only entertained, but totally inspired by his dedication and passion for what he does - Richard Simmons is the real deal. His class reminded me of what it feels like to feel really good, and it lit a fire under my bum to get it over this new hurdle.
It also reminded me how important things other than just eating gluten-free are to my health and happiness - and I'm not just talking about exercise. If you will permit me to get a wee bit sappy for a moment...
I'm talking about friendship.
I went to Richard's class with my long time best friend and partner-in-crime, Ashley - who happens to be a fellow Celiac as well. Life has just gotten in the way lately, and we haven't had a "girl day" in forever - I forgot not only how fun it can be, but therapeutic as well! I'm sorry I cannot quote this exact source, it was an email Ashley forwarded to me, but I want to share!
An evening class at Stanford.
The last lecture was on the mind-body connection--the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality "girlfriend time" helps us to create more seratonin--a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings?--rarely. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged--not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very very lucky. So let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Evidently it's very good for our health."
So while we were hanging out at Slimmons Studio (cuz Richard Simmons bought us a gluten-free lunch after class from the fabulous French Lavender Bakery!!!), we hatched an idea that would not only give us an excuse to get together and have more fun, but will hopefully inspire other people to grab a friend and go try something healthy, fun and new. Drum roll please... may I introduce... lasweatshop.com! A yogi (me) and a cardio queen (Ashley) are on a mission to find the best (and most entertaining) classes in Los Angeles. Did I fail to mention that Ashley is a badass Hollywood personal trainer? And that I like yoga (ok, I'm not a teacher, but I know a little thing or two)? Please check us out!
Thanks again to my gal pal Ashley, Richard Simmons and the French Lavender Bakery!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I've found gold! At least I feel like I've found it. Actually, what I have discovered is more like a magical, sacred elixir. Allow me to explain...
Earlier this week, I had the unfortunate experience of getting "glutened". Like most people, I have different degrees of symptoms, depending on just how much gluten was ingested. If it's a good amount, I basically turn into the Exorcist - possessed by that evil devil gluten - and it ain't pretty. I will spare you the gory details.
Luckily, that phase usually only lasts a day, but what moves in next is like a snake in the grass - you don't see it coming, but once it's upon you, good luck getting out of the weeds. Brain fog. Oh and let's put a scoop of fatigue on top of that for some more flavor and fun. This lovely duo usually lasts anywhere from one week, to several.
In a desperate attempt to chase the fog away sooner than later, I put out the gluten bat signal on twitter asking for tips to deal with this. And bless every little heart that wrote me back, I got some great suggestions: lots of water, fresh OJ, fruits & veggies, nuts, salt baths & saunas for detoxing, walking, time, and good ol' rest. Granted, each glutening experience is unique in it's own special way (insert sarcastic tone here, or I guess back there), but I've done most of these things, and I sort of felt that at the end of the day, I just had to wait it out.
But I am not satisfied with this and am making it my quest to put together a gluten emergency plan. Please let me know what has/has not worked for you - I'm not kidding, I want to make a step by step plan of action to get the stuff out of my body as quickly as possible and support the healing asap!
The bright side of this dark tale is that I stumbled upon this gem of a drink on Day 2 of my glutening, because I couldn't find a Kombucha (thanks very much Lindsay Lohan - read why HERE). There were a few key words that caught my eye; probiotics, living greens, superfoods - and oh yes, did I mention I was desperate to try ANYTHING?! I just started reading David Wolfe's book Superfoods (which is fantastic by the way), so my interest was peaked and I went in for a closer look. There they were like little gluten busting beacons of light... marine phytoplankton, phytoalgaes, and chlorella vulgaris! A much more official explanation:
living greens™ contains chlorophyll and carotenoids for combined antioxidant synergy. The detoxifying effect of these nutrient-dense superfoods prevent absorption of toxins in the intestines. Super delicious, living greens™ supports cellular defenses, integrity, and metabolism. Rich in biologically active plant enzymes, proteins, b vitamins, amino acids, neuropeptide precursors, lipids, minerals and trace minerals, essential growth factors, and efas, living greens™ builds muscle tone, increases energy, supports brain function, normalizes appetite, and increases stamina.
It was still a tough day, but I started to see a few breaks in the fog which is HUGE for only being on Day 2. I rushed back in the afternoon of Day 3 for another KeVita Living Greens - and felt so good I was able to plow through the stack of chores that had piled up. Day 4, I feel pretty much back to normal... hooray!!!
Now, I do not dispute that this could also be a bit of mind over matter and placing all my faith in this one little drink - but I swear, I've never kicked gluten brain fog to the curb so fast - that's why I felt compelled to share. It may not work for everyone, but it's a pretty powerful nutrient dense drink I think is worth a try.
Thank you KeVita, I'm a new but loyal fan, please don't let Lindsay Lohan take you away too.
Until next time, may the gluten-free force be with you!
Friday, July 9, 2010
A few weeks ago, I had the distinct honor of receiving an invitation to the BabycakesNYC frosting party. I've made it pretty clear in previous posts, that I worship all things Babycakes - so you can imagine how excited I was. I had no idea what exactly a "frosting party" entailed, but if it's Babycakes, you know you are in for a serious treat.
I've had the amazing opportunity to fill in at the bakery from time to time, and even had a frosting lesson from Erin McKenna herself! Sadly, I am still a terrible froster. I tried to explain my frosting woes to my friend Stephen (from the awesome blog Gluten Freeways) - but he didn't believe just how bad I am until he saw it for himself. Unfortunately, I have proof on film.
Monday, April 26, 2010
I don't want to live in a world without toast.
I love toast! I mean, I REALLY love it! To me, it's the ultimate comfort food. It was the first thing my Mom would give me after a bout with the flu to ease my stomach back into the world of solid food. When I was a young and wild bachelorette, my roommate and I would both get home from our glamourous cocktail waitressing jobs in the wee hours of the morning and have a toast party (I told you we were wild). I became completely smitten with actress Juliana Margulies when I read an interview and they asked her what her favorite snack was, and she simply replied "toast". (She even named her production company Toast Productions - I love her)
There was a time when I had an inkling that gluten was at the root of my issues, so I would try to go gluten-free to see if I felt a difference, and failed every time - why? Not because of beer, cookies or cake, but because I couldn't give up toast. What was I supposed to eat with my eggs? What was I supposed to slather with butter and jam? (Rice cakes were NOT cutting it). I even convinced myself sprouted grain bread would be OK because it had a lower level of gluten...I know, what an idiot.
And then there was the issue of what the hell to eat at lunch, because I don't know about you, but a salad only fills me up for so long. I'm with Larry David on this one - I believe lunch is something you pick up and eat with your hands. A sandwich is easily packed, doesn't take too long to eat and there is no end to the variety - the perfect lunch!
So my first year of being 100% gluten free has been pretty challenging. I eventually found some gluten-free breads that were OK... but only if toasted. That meant packing sandwiches was out of the question. And yes, I tried the brown rice tortillas for wraps, but they're a complete disaster - I don't know how anyone eats those things.
Then, like a ray of sunshine bursting through a dark and cloudy sky, I received an email from Udi's asking if I would like to try their products. "Um, yes, yes and yes!" I'd heard the buzz about Udi's from Twitter, and was anxious to see if they would live up to the hype. I know this sounds dramatic, but the day my box of goodies from Udi's arrived, my life instantly got not only better, but so much easier.
We've established in my previous post that I'm a bit inept at writing food reviews - which is why I invented the caveman rating system (see here) - but Udi's is special and I will do my best!
Of course the first thing I zeroed in on was the bread. They sent me a loaf of their White Sandwich Bread, and one of the Whole Grain. First thing you should know: these aren't like bread - they are bread. Second thing, you don't have to toast them - you can actually make a sandwich, pack it up, eat it hours later and it won't dry up and fall apart on you. But to toast them... ahhhhhhhhh heaven!!! I finally had French toast for the first time in over a year and nearly cried it was so good (don't judge me people).
I also quickly learned that I have no talent whatsoever as a food photographer!
But there was more! They sent me Blueberry Muffins and Lemon Streusel Muffins that were amazing as well. I actually refroze some of them and they were still incredible. I even got super fancy and made icing from scratch to drizzle over the Lemon Streusel. I can't get over how great the texture of their products are - so light without being crumbly. The pizza crusts did not disappoint either... if thin and crispy is your thing, you will love these! This is a no-brainer... five cavemen across the board!
Thank you Udi's once again, for not only your generousity, but for reuniting me with my long lost love - toast. So I would like for you all to rush out and buy yourself some Udi's gluten-free products (or order online here) - and join me in raising a glass of gluten-free champagne in a toast for Udi's!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
First of all, let's start this off right:
Now we can get right to the meat of the matter: I was back in Milwaukee last week and as I've mentioned before, I cannot get over how gluten free friendly it is! Now, I live in Los Angeles which is a very health conscious city, but I still really have to seek things out. Just the other day, I struck up a conversation with a woman behind me in line at Whole Foods whose basket was packed with gluten free treats. She was on vacation from Colorado and couldn't believe what a hard time she was having eating gluten free in L.A. I immediately pointed her in the direction of L.A. based Gluten Freeways blog, without who, I swear I would starve!
So what gives? I sent an email and was fortunate enough to hear back from Nancy Linneman who with Bev Lieven founded the Milwaukee Celiac-Sprue Crew in 1982, and here is what she said, "I think it is just that celiac is not easily diagnosed, and Milwaukee is a big city, so many people demanding gluten free food makes store owners and restaurants have to have it available".
Um, that's it? I don't know what I was expecting, maybe giant statistics of celiacs living in Milwaukee or a crazy spike in the rate of autism in the area - but it's pretty simple - you just need to let people know what you want. I've only lived 100% gluten free for about a year now, and already I find myself just shrugging my shoulders and happy to find one item on a menu I can eat - instead of putting forth the extra effort to talk to a manager, or sending an email to let them know how much I would like to see more gluten free options on their menu. Why am I suddenly so afraid to be a pain in the ass? That has never been an issue for me before - so why now?
I'm grateful that some of the larger more "corporate" restaurants are offering gluten free menus - it's given us a lot more options for dining out. But personally, I would rather support a local business. I was really inspired to see this take shape in Milwaukee; now it's glaringly apparent what an organized community not afraid to speak up can bring about.
So let's be honest, I was already sold on this place. And then there was the pizza. Oh dear God, it was so good! I wish I was more of a prolific food writer so I could give you a better sense of how tasty this pizza was, but I'm afraid I'm a little more caveman-like in my descriptions. It's either food good, or food bad with me. I will devise my own rating system - I give it five out of five cavemen - food good!
The next day, it was off to Stack'd, a groovy neighborhood burger bar. Stack'd sources everything locally, from grass feed beef, to Wisconsin artisinal cheeses, to Miller bakery gluten free buns... hold up! that's right - gluten free buns!!! Ok, so the bun fell apart a bit - but it was a bun on a burger! Frankly, this was best hamburger I have ever had. I was really taken aback at the difference in the quality of the meat since it was grass fed – a topic covered in the great movie Food Inc. - if you haven't seen it yet - do it!
Next stop was Saz's. They are famous for their ribs and their very own gluten free BBQ sauce - which I am now kicking myself for not buying a bottle to bring home. Another amazing gluten free dinner was had in Milwaukee. I was also pleasantly surprised by my server's knowledge of what was gluten free on the menu - I really felt like I was in good hands here and didn't have to worry. That alone is priceless. Plus, it was $5 Ketel One martini night... woohooooo! Five drunken cavemen!
And no trip home would be complete without a trip to my favorite - Eddie Martini's.
A gluten free friend on Twitter recommended I try Marchese's Olive Pit, but I wasn't able to go - next time! Also on my gluten free to do list is a visit to Tess, which is an almost entirely gluten free restaurant, and supposedly they bring gluten free bread to the table - in the words of my friend Micah, "shut up, I know!"
I also found this great article on eating gluten free in Milwaukee with a list of restaurants - click here.
It wasn't just the restaurants that were rocking my world, it was also the grocery stores. I could not believe how many gfree items were available at regular stores that I can't even get here at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. And then there was the glory that is the Gluten Free Trading Company. If you haven't heard, it is a store where EVERYTHING is gluten free - no label reading required! They also have an online store, be sure to check them out.
I gained more than a few pounds on this trip, I obtained a new awareness that simply asking for what you want and need can generate a significant amount of change, and that there is true power in numbers. I'm learning it's ok to be a bit of a pain in the ass, as long as you are a polite one. And I love that each time I go home, I discover more and more reasons to love Milwaukee!
Until next time... may the gluten free force be with you!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I've gone coo coo for coconuts! Literally.
I don't know how it happened or where it all began, but suddenly I am obsessed with all things coconut! I realized this the other day as I was checking out at Whole Foods, and I noticed every item in my basket was a coconut product - no joke. I couldn't resist taking a "glamour shot" of my basket just in case you think I'm kidding.
It must have started a few years back when coconut water started popping up on the store shelves. I did a bit of research, and soon learned that it is known as "nature's Gatorade". I would like to say my first thought was "this will be great after a workout", sadly, it was more along the lines of "I bet this will be a great hangover remedy"! Being the type of person that enjoys a cocktail (or three) from time to time, I had to give it a try. Long story short, I can't live without this stuff, it's that simple. I've tried a few different brands, but my favorite is O.N.E.
(from their website)
O.N.E.™ Coconut Water is 100% natural, and has five essential electrolytes (calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and sodium), more potassium than a banana (15 times the amount of potassium as most sports drinks, without the artificial chemicals found in sports drinks.), no added sugars, no fat, no cholesterol, and no preservatives.
Along with trying to avoid a hangover, I now have another reason to celebrate the coconut - it's great for digestive issues. Some key points:
• Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
• Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
• Improves digestion and bowel function.
• Reduces inflammation.
• Supports tissue healing and repair.
• Functions as a protective antioxidant.
• Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
That is just the tip of the coconut iceberg! To check out the mile long list of it's other benefits, go here.
As you may have noticed, there is now a bevy of other coconut products available. A few that I love are made by So Delicious:
Coconut Milk and Coconut Creamer for coffee!
Coconut Milk Yogurt and Coconut Kefir!
• the yogurt contains Pre- and Probiotics for Enhanced Intestinal Health
• the kefir contains 10 Active and Live Cultures
and the ultimate...
So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream!
I recommend the Mint Chocolate Chip, so yummy it's ridiculous!
oh yeah, all of these are:
• Dairy Free / Lactose Free
• Soy Free
• Gluten Free
• Rich in Medium Chain Fatty Acids
• Excellent Source of Vitamin B12 (vegetarian friendly)
• Formulated for Maximum Calcium Absorption
• Cholesterol Free
• No Trans Fats
• Certified Vegan
I am also a big fan of coconut oil, not just for cooking and baking, but also used topically! Widely used in Ayurveda to nourish the skin and hair - coconut oil is a cooling oil that is great for pitta types like myself that need to cool and soothe inflammation - or as my Mom used to tell me, "cool your jets". Ayurvedic skin care begins with abhyanga, a therapeutic self-applied oil massage that is traditionally done before bathing. Here is a great article that explains the benefits of abhyanga and how to do it.
On vacation a few years ago, I quickly learned the benefits of coconut oil on hair after the ocean turned mine into straw and someone mistook me for Cousin Itt. I simply used it as a leave-in conditioner, and the love affair began. I've gotten a little more fancy since then and now make a Hair Lustre Oil from one of my fav books, Simply Ayurveda by Bharti Byas.
Hair Lustre Oil - Pour two teaspoonfuls of coconut oil into a saucepan, heat gently and add rosewater or a handful of real rose-petals. Then add a little massala spice powder, cover with a lid and simmer for three minutes. When cool, coat your hair in this beautifully fragrant concoction for an hour. Then shampoo and wash in the usual way. Your hair will have a wonderful lustre and scent!
And don't fear the fat, people... coconut fat is your friend! My Twitter peeps already know I am a huge fan of BabyCakes (a vegan, gluten-free and mostly sugar-free bakery in New York and now L.A.!) and I think the creator/proprietress, Erin McKenna, is a gluten-free genius - but I especially love that she uses coconut oil. Taken from the BabyCakes website:
Toddler's Health - Toddlers need enough fat in their diets to grow. They, however, don't need the highly processed oils found in the average baked good. Dr Mary Enig ("Know Your Fats") assembled a scientific study that shows virgin (unrefined and non-hydrogenated) coconut oil to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-protozoal properties, which leads to many identified health benefits. Dr Enig has also hypothesized that lactating women who use coconut oil may further increase their monolauric milk content, which benefits nursing babies.
Health Conscious - Virgin cold pressed coconut oil, a medium chain fatty acid, is often used by athletes because it promotes healthy thyroid and metabolic function and is used as storage for quick energy sources.
A recent article in Women's World highlighted the propensity of these fatty acids to stimulate the thyroid gland and, thus, engage the metabolic rate. (Most other oils block this rate). When substituted for other oils, test subjects achieved substantial weight loss.
Heart Patients - Patients recovering from heart attacks who were fed coconut oil as 7% of their energy experienced greater recovery rates than controls. No difference was documented between these patients and those treated with corn or safflower oils. Further, populations who consume coconut oil report lower rates of heart disease. Coconut oil may also be one of the most useful oils to prevent heart disease because of its antiviral and antimicrobial characteristics. (JAMA 1967 202:1119-1123; Am J Clin Nutr 1981 34:1552)
I'm always on the hunt for new and creative ways to use my beloved coconut - please share your favorites!
Until next time... may the gluten-free force be with you!