Absence.

Wow. It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. Three years almost. I had to hunt down the login and password for this blog because I was going to come in and delete it but now that I’m in again, I might just keep it. At least for now. I might change my mind though.

In the last three years, my job has changed, my health has gone up and down and up again, my kids have grown, the last of which will graduate in mid-May, and I’ve learned to live with the sometimes limitations of Hashimotos. But it’s been a good life. I really can’t complain.

I teach now. My degree is in Journalism but I don’t teach that. I teach photography and videography and graphic arts to high school students. Never in a bazillion years did I ever think I would land a teaching job. Nope. Never saw it coming. But now that I’ve been doing it for three years, I can honestly say I’ve never had a job I’ve loved more. Well, maybe the print shop jobs. Those were truly awesome. But this is incredible and exhilarating and tiring and heartbreaking and fun all at once. I can’t believe this is the end of my third year doing this. The best part is that I’ve had two of my three kids in my classes. THAT was a challenge. Right now my youngest is in three of my classes so that I get to see a side to her that I’ve never seen before–she is as smart as a whip and very well read and politically savvy. I didn’t know this about her. Crazy.

But teaching kicked my butt that first year. It exhausted me completely. I spent that first summer recovering physically and mentally and didn’t think I would be strong enough to return for a second year. Things started off shaky that second year but four months in I turned a corner with my health. My hair stopped falling out in bunches and the fog in my brain lifted. The second half of that year was incredible.

Year three started the same way and I even began lifting weights. And then winter hit and I lost my momentum and the fatigue took over. I feel like I’m on the tail end of the fatigue though. Cross your fingers for me.

So maybe this will be my last post. Maybe not. I don’t know yet.

Traveling While Gluten-Free, Low Sugar & Somewhat Paleo

I was gluten-free for a whole 2.5 months before I had to travel out of town to a ski resort with a group of teenagers. At that time, I was just getting the hang of which foods made me sick and which ones didn’t. I was also dealing with a lot of shakiness, which I later figured out was because I wasn’t getting enough calories. I really wasn’t up for this trip but my organization needed one more chaperone so I said, “As long as I can bring my cooler full of food, I can go.” They agreed.

I frantically googled everything I could about how to travel while on this demanding diet but didn’t find much besides your basic travel tips, such as “bring along your favorite gluten-free cookies and breads (neither of which I was eating at the time)” and “pack a cooler.” At least I knew I needed a cooler.

So here’s what I did: I narrowed down my “safest” foods–the ones I was 100% sure wouldn’t make me sick–and made a list of every meal I would need to eat and packed accordingly The final breakdown looked like this:

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 an avocado, grapes, salt.

Lunch: tuna fish in a pouch, half a head of chopped lettuce with added veggies (you’ll need a lot to fill up), lime wedge for flavoring or gluten-free mayo (I’ve never been a fan of tuna with no mayo) OR cheddar cheese squares, no-nitrite ham cold cuts, almond gluten-free crackers and grapes or strawberries (basically you’re own Lunchable).

Dinner: cooked hamburger patty or cooked boneless chicken thighs (I also bring along a Foreman grill to heat this up), gluten-free mustard, 1/2 an avocado, basic potato chips (the kind with with three ingredients, potatoes, salt and oil), and cheese.

Snacks: Lara Bars, grapes, strawberries and granola (this recipe here always goes with me when I travel).

Yes, I know some of this food isn’t Paleo but I’ve learned that when you travel, it’s more important to fuel your body than worry about whether or not a food is Paleo. As long as it’s the healthiest choice I can make, I don’t kick myself for it. 

The first time I traveled, I brought along plenty of those ice packs for my cooler. I used too many and ended up freezing my lettuce. Not good. I’ve since learned to adjust the number I bring and where I place them within the cooler to avoid freezing my foods.  

Although I made sure to pack enough food for our two day trip to the ski resort, I didn’t have enough food to cover all my meals when we got snowed in on the way back home. I should have packed more for such an emergency. I really had to scramble for dinner that night and I was feeling overwhelmed and shaky but, thankfully, we ended up in a small town with a Burger King. I explained my gluten allergy to the night manager and she made me the best bread-less meat patty ever. She was very kind. 

Do you have some favorite, go to foods you travel with? Let me know!

8 Things I Did to Kick the Sugar Habit

My sister and I were having a discussion the other day about how to break the refined sugar habit. She feels she struggles with getting off it and, like me, she seems to go back and forth with it. It’s a love/hate relationship, that’s for sure.

While I have less sugar cravings now–and they’re less intense than they originally were, too–I also struggle with sugar cravings. Oftentimes I feel like I former crack addict who has to watch what’s in the house and the company I keep so as not to fall back into my old habits, which I feel could happen all too easily. Here’s what I did to break the strong hold refined sugar had on me but you have to take it for what it’s worth because I feel this is a very individualized thing–what worked for me might not work for you. You have to do what’s best for you and when you fail at one thing, find another thing that works.

What I Did:

1. I went cold turkey on refined sugar. I had tried for years and years to cut it down and out but I always ended up back on it. Sugar has a way of creeping back into our lives when you least expect it. Cold turkey was the only way that worked for me but it did suck.

2. I cleaned out my pantry and my fridge. I gave away all the refined sugar stuff (along with the gluten filled stuff) because I felt strongly this was the only way I could handle not having sweet things in the house. If it’s there, I’m going to eat it. It was hard to give away my food but I knew it was a great big step in the right direction and I had to keep reminding myself of that.

3. Because I also had to go gluten-free, I quit buying packaged foods completely and started cooking meals from scratch. Yeah, it sucked, especially when I was bone tired and wanted nothing to do with the stove. At first I didn’t know what to eat but a few months into it, things got easier. Now my go to menu is as simple as: one protein, two veggies, one fruit. The only dairy I can tolerate is cheese so I’m good there. I also bought a Paleo cookbook which has helped me find different ways for cooking meat. Sometimes our meals are as simple as hamburger meat with a cut up potato and sliced onions added to it to make burritos for the rest of the family and a sort of stew for me. Sometimes I’ll add corn and zucchini to it for a chunkier stew.

4. I started up on probiotics–namely VSL#3 mixed into natural applesauce and Kombucha. My kid says Kombucha smells like dirty gym socks and she’s probably right but it helped clean me out of the sugar-craving bacteria. I’ve had to resort back to these probiotics a few times, especially when I start craving sweets again.

5. I replaced refined sugar with fruits I could tolerate. Before January of this year, I hardly ever ate fruits or vegetables. I wasn’t raised on processed foods but my mom wasn’t one to cook up a big variety of veggies. We basically just stuck to meats, beans, rice and sopas — Mexican soups using pastas. It was really tough for me to find fruits I liked. Even now, I have a small amount I cycle through–red seedless grapes, strawberries, blueberries and the occasional mangoes and jicamas and, once in awhile, watermelon. I find the grapes go a long way towards satisfying my sweet tooth and they’re available a good portion of the year so I mostly stick to those.

6. I learned to shop the perimeter of the store. Yeah, I’d heard that for years but I never bothered to do it until this year. The perimeter is the place with the least amount of packaged and processed stuff but not always…read below for more info.

7. I learned to read labels. I didn’t realize that sugar went by so many different names and companies will change the name to better hide it in the ingredients list. I’ve seen products who list sugar, caramel, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup in the same list. That’s all sugar. To top things off, sometimes you think you’re getting something healthy when you’re actually buying a sugared item. Case in point: turkey cold cuts. I love turkey and I got into the habit of buying the least processed, “most natural” of the lot until I read the ingredients list. Sugar was the second ingredient. Sugar! In turkey! I’d been buying it because it was marked “Gluten Free.” I was fooled into thinking it was safe to eat. Not.

8. I learned to plan every single meal so as to avoid giving in to sweets (and gluten). Every. Single. Meal. It’s tedious and frustrating at times but it’s what’s saved my butt and has kept me from going back to sugar and gluten. Our Bible Study group loves to get together around sweet foods. Everyone takes turns bringing something sweet to eat and I don’t expect them to cater to my dietary changes. In the beginning I had to completely avoid the group, especially on nights when I was feeling very vulnerable. In the middle, I started showing up when I knew the lesson would have already started so as to avoid the sweets table. Now, I’m okay with being around sweets that I can’t have. I eat something at home before showing up–a handful of grapes or just a bigger dinner.

There are a handful of companies that make very tasty, very natural packaged foods that keep well in the car or in my purse. Lara Bars are ones I always have on me because most are all natural with no added sugars (except for chocolate chips in some) and they’re also GF. They’re my go to food when on the road. They have often helped me get through those times when I wasn’t around friendly foods, like on an airplane or in a non-GF friendly home. They’re a bit pricey but sometimes you can find them 10 for $10. That’s when I stock up.

I hope these tips help someone out there. I gleaned an awful lot of tips from the internet on my road to where I am now that I feel compelled to pass along what I’ve learned. Now I’d like to hear from you–what have you tried to kick the sugar habit? Did it work? Leave me a comment below. 

 

Calabacitas con Queso – Paleo, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free

Calabacitas con Queso – Paleo, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free

I was down in Texas visiting family recently when my mom made this very simple dish–cooked zucchini with cheese, onions and tomatoes. This is possibly my most favorite meal that my mom cooks and, right now at our house, we’re having an … Continue reading

Bag of Bs

Bag of Bs

  Some days I really struggle with fatigue–a nice little gift from my broken thyroid and sluggish adrenal glands. Some days I’m fantastic and have the energy to do a 5-6 mile bike ride around my neighborhood but today wasn’t … Continue reading

Sugar and Spice and Everything Wheat

I’m not gonna lie to you—going gluten-free and low-sugar absolutely sucked. It sucked from the center of my sugar-laden marrow all the way down to my carb-lovin’ toes. It sucked so much that one morning, about three weeks in, I … Continue reading

Oy. Hashimoto’s is kicking my butt.

I completely fell off the face of the Earth. I didn’t mean to but I had to. Life kicked me square in the butt and I had to prioritize it for awhile. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in January after … Continue reading