Foodie Firsts: Trying To Catch a Curveball

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!


I had a whole Foodie First column planned for today.  I also had a post about creativity and confidence planned for earlier this week.  Neither has happened as planned and I want to explain why.

Life threw me a curveball this week.  A super curvy-curveball that I’ve been fumbling around trying to manage (yes, I did just mix those sports metaphors).  For the past couple of years, I have experienced a variety of health problems that, while not dire or life-threatening, have been persistent, problematic, and caused quite a bit of pain and discomfort.  I’ve gone through a series of frustrating tests and medical consultations without any answers or much concern given by the professionals I’ve seen.  I sought out a new doctor recently (a doctor of Naturopathic medicine) and am starting to get some answers.  They just weren’t the ones I was expecting.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what might be the culprit and she agreed it was very possible.  In this vain, we decided to do some more tests and she also offered up another possibility that no one else had suggested in my medical visits: a food reactivity test.  I agreed, thinking it would be interesting and potentially helpful, but I didn’t really think it would be quite the game changer that it was.

The results came back on Saturday and they were pretty startling.  In a nutshell, I have been eating foods that my particular body is unable to handle properly, likely resulting in significant inflammation and a wide variety of painful and uncomfortable symptoms.  There are basically two categories that popped up that I have classified as:  The Super Big Bads that I will likely have to remove from my diet pretty much forever, and the Maybe-Possibly Big Bads that are causing reactions for sure (so they are off the table for a month or so) but may be able to be eaten occasionally once I’ve had a chance to get the current inflammatory damage under control.

So I have started an elimination diet.  All the Super Big Bads are gone for good, and the Possibly Big Bads are gone for the time being.  What are these foods?  Why did they completely derail my week and send me into a bit of a tailspin?  Here you go:

Category 1: The Super Big Bads

  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Wheat, Gliadin
  • Wheat, Gluten
  • Wheat, Whole
  • Yeast, Baker’s
  • Yeast, Brewer’s

(I’m still waiting for further tests to determine whether my gluten issue is in the category of gluten-sensitivity or Celiac’s Disease.  Either way, no more gluten for me.)

Category 2:  The Maybe-Possibly Big Bads

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas
  • Coffee Beans
  • Cranberries
  • Eggs
  • Green Peas
  • Milk (Dairy Variety)
  • Pecans
  • Pineapple
  • Sesame Seed
  • Sugar Cane
  • Whey
  • Yogurt (Dairy Variety)

It’s a grim list.  It’s very, very grim.

An example of how grim?

Most mornings this is my breakfast:

  • Two slices Dave’s 21 Grain Killer Bread
  • 1 tablespoon or so almond butter
  • 1 cup organic Greek yogurt
  • Coffee
  • Followed later by a mid-morning snack of a banana.

The rest of my day follows suit.

Since getting this information, I’ve been a bit of a mess.  I’ve had lots of emotions and am basically going through the stages of grief.  To some, this may sound over the top, but to me, it’s not.  As I’ve talked about on this blog, my love of healthy eating, cooking, and baking was only discovered in the last couple of years.  I’ve fallen in love with whole, real foods and finding new ways to prepare them.  I’ve discovered things I had never eaten before and was looking forward to eating lots more of.  Things like spelt muffins and scones (my absolute favorite flour to bake with these days), whole wheat grainy breads and cookies, almonds in just about every way you can imagine (almond butter, almond/fruit snack bars in the afternoons, almond flour, almonds in desserts, almond milk, almond yogurt), hummingbird cake with pineapples, and bananas eaten raw, used as sweetener in baked goods, and combined with dark chocolate.

Now these things are off limits and I don’t really know what to do.  Yes, it’s an opportunity to try more new things and yes, it’s a chance to get even more creative with my cooking, but right now I just want a slice of healthy, grainy toast with almond butter and a good, strong cup of coffee.

I don’t really think that’s too much to ask.

So my last few days have been spent purging my pantry and kitchen, carefully reading ingredient labels, spending hours (and lots of money) at the markets, and just figuring out what is safe and what is not.  Hence, the lack of blogging this week.  Do you have any idea how many foods contain gluten, yeast, and/or almonds?  Forget about the fact that cane sugar is on the list – it’s in nearly everything.

I realize that was a long explanation for my absence and I could have just said ‘sorry’ for dropping the ball this week, but I wanted to share some information about what’s going in.  I’ll be back next week with regular posts and I’ve no doubt that this new part of my life will be included, as it will surely impact those topics that near and dear to me here on this blog: healthy living, running, cooking, and overall brain and body wellness.

Also, in my absence this week, I failed to post that Monday marked my one-year anniversary with this blog.  I was sorry to have missed honoring that day and saying thank you to everyone who has stopped by, tried a recipe, took a running tip, left their own advice and input, and generally joined me in my little space on the Internet.  You all are fantastic and I have loved putting Move Eat Create together over this past year.  I have a lot more planned for year two!


Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Thoughtfully – Reason #1

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

I have a lot to say about food and I am looking forward to doing so in the next several weeks in this particular series of Why Wednesdays.  I thought it would be best to start by discussing why I think so much about food and why I feel it is such an important topic to explore (beyond the simple fact that I just love to eat, that is).

Food is fraught with implications and contradictions.  Food can be political or personal.  Utilitarian or indulgent.  Hot or cold.  Filling or meager.  Shared or eaten in solitude.  Bland or flavorful.  Nutritious or harmful.  You see what I mean?

photo credit: ilmungo via photopin cc

photo credit: ilmungo via photopin cc

Food is an enormously complex issue, but all too often that complexity is not given the consideration that it’s due.  What we eat and how we eat it has deep impacts on health, economics and the environment.  Plus, food is intricately connected to social status and political ideology.

But so very often we cook and eat without thinking about any of this.  We eat unconsciously –   in front of the television, at our desks, in our cars, running out the door, standing in the kitchen, etcetera.  You’ve done this, right?  I know I’ve certainly had my moments years of doing this.  You get so busy you can’t remember if you ate lunch or you finish off a box of Cheez-Its while in front your computer screen, not even noticing the flavor, the crunch, the point at which you reach fullness.

Even when we sit down to eat an honest to goodness planned meal at a table, it is still unconscious in many ways.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it’s probably pretty uncommon for people to consider how their food was prepared, how it is impacting their bodies, where it came from, if chemicals are on it or not, how it fits in to their budget, and so on.

Now, before you protest and begin to tell me how exhausting all that would be to consider all the time and that you just don’t have the time or that it doesn’t really make much of a difference anyway or whatever other arguments spring to your lips, just wait a minute, please.   Take note that I am not going to say you must know the answers to each and every one of these questions in great detail every time you take a bite of food.  But I will say that adopting a more conscious approach to these things in general will change the way you eat, the way you look at food, and will have huge impacts on your life (both short and long term).

I’m willing to bet that at some point or another, you’ve complained about your weight, lamented about the rising costs of groceries, been a bit confused about what it really means to be GMO or non-GMO, wondered why you didn’t feel full after eating a large meal, or been outraged when you’ve read an article about slave-like conditions of produce pickers.

These are just some of the issues that affect us all day in and day out.  And, we can understand them more fully and we can make changes to them to better our bodies, our health, our communities, our environment, and our lives in general.  We absolutely can.

But it takes thought.  It takes consideration.  It takes some education and some willingness to make some tough decisions about what and how you consume.

It also isn’t as difficult and time consuming as you may first think.  Once you start to consider these issues, do a bit of research, and keep your eyes open, you’ll start to develop a base of knowledge and understanding that easily informs your food choices.  You’ll know which stores you can (mostly) trust and which ones you can’t.  You’ll have brands that you can feel good about buying and others you’ll steer clear of.  You’ll know what foods nourish your body accordingly and which ones, well, just simply add to its volume.

Mediterranean Beans

I will write more specifically about these individual topics in the weeks to come, but to start, I am encouraging others to cook and eat with some thought and consideration.  Ask questions (even if it’s just to yourself or to Google) about the food you eat and the way it’s grown or prepared.   Ponder the flavors and feelings it gives you, rather than just consuming it, distracted by the goings on of life.  Talk about food (and recipes and food production and nutrition and grocery inflation and all of it) with others.

In fact, I propose this: treat it like those classic tenets of journalism. Consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of it.  Get conscious in your food choices and really experience the act of eating.  Try to consider it a little experiment.  And, if it helps, go ahead and practice this experiment on cookies.

Cookies make research better.

To read the previous series in this column, select the ‘Why Wednesdays’ tag in the right side column.  Prior series in this column include ‘Why I Run’ and ‘Why Creativity Counts’.

Health Truths That I Once Thought Were Shams (Until I Actually Educated Myself)!

I’m pretty sure that most of us recognize that the world of health and nutrition is at times brimming with such an abundance of information, much of it contradictory, that it can be a dizzying, overwhelming mess.  It can be very difficult to wade through this information and sort out what really is valuable.  Which articles are objective?  Which data is well-researched?  Which studies were funded by greedy gigantic industries only interested in pushing forth information that supports their continued financial success – whether it’s in the public’s best interest or not?

Yes, that is how I really feel.

Over the last year and a half or so, I have delved into the world of health and nutrition information.  I have a very, very strong desire to pursue a career in nutrition and wellness, but just can’t quite figure out how to make that transition happen yet.  In the meantime, in lieu of a ‘formal’ education in this area, I have sought out an abundance of information regarding nutrition and I have spent a great deal of time dissecting the validity of the information I consume.

Before I actually made this effort to educate myself, I wrote off many commonly cited nutritional facts as big fat shams.

Mostly, I didn’t want to change my behaviors, so I rejected any information that told me I should do so.  You know that trick, right?  It’s sort of the adult equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and shouting “I can’t hear you!  I can’t hear you!”

Now that I’ve moved beyond that, I thought I’d share a few of the most significant nutritional truths that I once rejected.  These are some guidelines that I wholeheartedly believe in and follow on a daily basis.  If you want any more information or recommendations for further reading regarding these topics, just leave me a comment below.


Truth #1:  Eating breakfast really is important.

For years I rarely ate breakfast.  I would scoff at breakfast-advocates, saying “I’m just not hungry in the morning.”  While it was true that I didn’t usually feel hungry in the morning, I didn’t realize how much of an impact skipping breakfast had on the functioning of my mind and body.  Because I hadn’t experienced what it was like to be a breakfast eater, I didn’t understand how much I was forsaking.  For instance, I didn’t realize the amount of overeating that skipping breakfast led to later in the day, the sub-par mental functioning that I worked with for at least half of my day, or the way in which it just all around messed up my metabolism.  Once I started eating breakfast, whether I felt hungry or not, I began to notice incredible changes.  I have more energy, fewer unhealthy cravings throughout the day, better cognitive functioning, and overall I just feel better.

Truth #2: It is not wise to eat (or at least not eat much) within about 1.5 – 2 hours of going to bed.

Given that I shunned breakfast, it is likely no surprise that I ate the bulk of my food at night.  My meal planning was sporadic at best and I often found myself hungry and full of cravings in the late hours before bed.  Basically, I figured it didn’t matter what time of day I ate, because I was still going to consume the food at some point.  What I have learned, however, is that our bodies do some pretty amazing things while we sleep – and having a full stomach to contend with during our bedtime hours can cause some major disruptions to very important biological processes.  For instance, sleep is prime time for our bodies to create natural growth hormones.  These hormones aid in building and repairing muscles and work in a myriad of ways to keep us healthy.  The development of these hormones can be crucial to helping your body heal, grow, and recover from exercise, stress and other activity.  However, if your body is so full that most of its energy is going towards digesting food while you sleep, your body won’t have the energy to create these vital hormones.

Truth #3:  Protein does not have to come from animal products.  Many high quality and healthier proteins exist all around us.

I have recently become a vegetarian for a variety of reasons.  One thing I have learned in this process – and one of the most concerning truths I have learned about nutrition overall – is how damaging animal food products can be to our health.  The scientific links made between the consumption of animal proteins to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and loads of other serious ailments are astounding.  Further, the plethora of research to support these findings and the amount of effort made to shut down the dissemination of this research by powerful, influential agencies (i.e. cattle and dairy companies and organizations) is infuriating.  It interferes in the ability of the average person to make informed decisions about their own health and wellness.  This is a huge topic, deserving of much more attention than I will give in this post, but for more information, I highly recommend checking out The China Study.  It’s amazing.  In the meantime, consider the plethora of non-animal based protein dense foods that surround us (lentils, quinoa, spinach, beans, et cetera).  (By the way, did you realize that consumption of milk actually leads to osteoporosis/weak bones?!)

Truth #4: Carbohydrates are not an enemy.  Neither is fat.  In fact, there are no actual, real foods that are the enemy.  (By real food I refer to pure, natural food, not, you know, stuff like Oreos.  Oreos may, in fact, be the enemy.  Oreos – delicious as they are – are wily little devils.)

We are constantly bombarded with ‘diet plans’ that claim to be the right answer for achieving optimal weight and health.  Only they never actually are, are they?  Two of the most pervasive over the last couple of decades have been plans associated with low-carb consumption and low-fat intake.  These plans are extremely problematic.  Refined, processed carbs (again – not ‘real’ food) are undoubtedly detrimental to our health.  However, unprocessed carbohydrates are vital to our systems and do a great deal to increase overall health.  A great deal of research exists that shows how diets high in unrefined carbohydrates are some of the healthiest in the world.  Regarding the low-fat craze, fat consumption does need to be moderated – this is for sure; however, the problem lies in the way this fact has manifested in our culture. A massive industry has grown around the development of ‘low-fat’ food.  Processed, refined incredibly unhealthy and sometimes toxic foods fill supermarket shelves, and because they are ‘low-fat’, they are considered health foods!  A low-fat diet is a good thing, but a low-fat label does not automatically equal a healthy option.

Truth #5:  Sometimes organic really is worth paying for.

Organic food is expensive – I know.  I live on a budget that drives the majority of my decisions around purchases; however, I am willing to scrimp in some places in order to buy certain organic food items.  The high amount of pesticides and toxic chemicals on many of the foods around me is terrifying.  I’m just not going to be convinced that eating an apple treated with chemicals made to de-ice planes and kill insects is inconsequential to my health.  Period.

Truth #6:  Sleep matters.

I really dislike sleep.  Seriously.  I’m always so disappointed at the amount of productive hours that are lost in any given day due to sleep.  Despite this, I have come to understand and respect the value of it.  Getting enough sleep has health impacts, both immediate and long-term.  And I can honestly say that while I still get angry about having to do it, I easily notice a difference in my brain and body when I don’t get enough sleep.  

Truth #7:  Water matters, too.

Drink water.  Enough said.  This one is easy.  Being well-hydrated keeps the body running smoothly and no amount of liquid from soda or other such beverages can replace the value that several cups of water has on our systems.

Truth #8:  Weight essentially is about calories in, calories out.  Health, wellness and nutrition are not. 

I could write for days regarding my feelings about weight versus health.  I am a firm believer that health comes in a vast variety of sizes and shapes.  I also stand firm that someone’s weight or size has absolutely nothing to do with their value, moral fortitude, or intelligence.  I also believe that sometimes advocacy for acceptance of all sizes and shapes can get all mixed up, sometimes losing sight of what it does mean to be healthy.  It’s a very, very complicated issue.  Ultimately, if you want to lose weight, you must have a calorie deficit.  This is a simple case of math meets biology.  You’re not going to lose weight without this deficit.  However, calories and weight loss do not necessarily equal health.  The nutritional value of those calories make all the difference in the world and is a key reason why plenty of size 12 people are a million times more healthy than any given size 6 person.  Know the difference between these concepts and know how they can work together to help each individual reach their own healthy weight and size.  This is a critical concept.

Truth #9:   Food really can be addictive.  Further, our tastes and preferences have likely adapted to those foods, which also means they can (and will) continue to adapt if you change up what you eat (In other words, it is not true that you naturally really hate all vegetables and can only enjoy eating cheeseburgers and fries).

I grew up on fast food, candy, and chemical-filled pre-packaged fare.  Because of this, I was convinced that this was all I liked and other foods were just too far away from my natural preferred palette.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  The truth is that my palate adapted to that type of diet.  As I began to cut that food out of my diet and introduce other foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains, my palate changed.  I started to become more sensitive to the variety of flavors that exist naturally in food and I have never looked back.

These are some guidelines for wellness that I believe in based on what I have learned to be true from research, education, and personal experience.  They obviously do not cover every aspect of nutrition, but I believe them to be good starting points for a healthy life!




A Healthy Reminder: There Is No Magic Answer

I came across this article this morning and I knew I had to share it here.  My personal beliefs about healthy eating (this includes, but is not limited to, being at a healthy weight) have been informed by loads of research, learning, and personal experience.  Ultimately, I firmly believe that there is no magic answer, so to speak, to creating a solid nutritional base and reaching your own personal healthy weight.

So often we are sold special diets as products, we are given partial truths from studies in order to push a new way of eating and thinking, causing consumers to run to the markets, filling their baskets and carts with the ‘healthy’ food of the moment and discarding what they are told is the new enemy (i.e. fat, carbs, sugar).

My approach to nutrition is firmly rooted in the understanding that our bodies need real (i.e. unprocessed or at least minimally processed) food and a balance of various nutrients from a variety of foods.  We need protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  This article presents a clear perspective on one recent ‘health’ trend and why eliminating one key nutrient in order to create an excess of another is not the way to go.

So if you have a moment, check out this article here and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Tuesday!