One week in!

When I was doing Project Real Food last year, I stopped eating wheat. It was right after I found Wheat Belly and I just felt so strongly that wheat was a big problem for me. I wrote about the problems with wheat here, here and here. And I was wheat-free for awhile. It was actually pretty great! I found that after a few weeks, it wasn't too difficult to maintain, and the results I got were pretty remarkable. Somewhere along the way (when we moved cross-country), I got off track. Way off track. Like, shoving gluten in my mouth for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack every single day.

As I've learned with my own sensitive children, when you remove a problem food from your diet that is causing your body distress, and then you try to reintroduce it as some point, you are going to have a much more severe reaction than you ever did before. I have no idea what the scientific reason behind this is, but I've heard the same story from enough people now to know that there is a lot of validity here. I can only assume it has something to do with your body having adjusted to the "bad" food well enough that it could somewhat tolerate it before. Once you clean your body out and it's functioning at its best, and then you put that problem substance back in, your body must go crazy trying to readjust.

For me, that meant that the mild and mostly tolerable joint pain I'd been dealing with went into overdrive when I took grains out of my diet and then reintroduced it. By the time I wrote my last blog post, I was in so much pain every day that I lived in fear of what the next few years of my life were going to look like. If I was only 30 and in this much pain, what was 40 going to look like for me? Or 50? And it wasn't just the joint pain. It was the crazy fatigue, the 13 pounds I'd packed on in a month and a half, the headaches, the eye twitching, the hair loss, the dry skin, the acne.

So last week I bit the bullet (I believe it was Tuesday, after gorging myself on pizza - WHAT?!). The first few days I felt zero percent better, and maybe even a little worse. I was dejected but I knew from my experience with the kids that it can take up to 6 months, so 2 days was nothing. By the third day, though, I was feeling much better. So much less pain when I stood up from sitting or laying down. By the fourth day, even better! Today is Monday, and I went to bed at 4:00 yesterday (yeah, that's 4:00 PM) and slept until 7:00 this morning and I was bracing myself for the pain I was going to feel when I stood up, after laying down for so long, but to my surprise, I had almost no pain at all!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is totally worthy of 18 exclamation points, however grammatically incorrect it is. I also lost three pounds, which I desperately needed to see on the scale!

I did succumb and refill my Armour prescription on Saturday and took my first dose yesterday morning. Eventually, I want to get to the point where I don't need meds for my hypothyroidism. I want to heal it on my own. And I know it's possible, because I joined several facebook pages that have thousands of members with thyroid disorders, and so many of these fellow sufferers have gotten completely well just by removing grains from their diet. So much better, in fact, that they can go off their meds. But since I'm still having so many thyroid symptoms, I decided I'd give my body a break and take the meds for a few months until I've really removed all traces of gluten and grains from my body, and then try to wean myself off and see if I'm one of the lucky ones who needs no medicine.

In the last year, after healing my kids by removing grains, and then watching a few friends remove grains and/or gluten from either their diet or the diet of their kids, and completely healing them of things that even modern medicine couldn't, and now my own little experiments, I have no doubt left in my little ole brain that we shouldn't be consuming this stuff. I know that in biblical times, grains were a huge portion of our diet. I can't say with any sort of certainty why we can no longer tolerate them, but I can say with certainty that we can't (I believe no one should eat this stuff anymore, but you could say I'm biased). There are several culprits here. One would be that historically, we know that grains (and legumes, for that matter, which we also no longer eat) were prepared by a process of soaking them for long periods of time. I don't know how traditional cultures knew to do this, but they did. What we now know is that when soaking grains or legumes for long periods of time, we remove a huge percentage of the phytic acid in these items. And the phytic acid, we now know, is what's so hard for our bodies to digest. The second culprit is what I learned about in Wheat Belly, and I believe may be a general cause of so much of our disease in general: changing the genetic makeup of our foods. The wheat we have on supermarket shelves doesn't at all resemble traditional wheat. If genetically, it looks nothing the same, then common sense tells us our body doesn't "read" it the same.

I've been on a quest to determine why my children are so sick, and a common idea that repeats itself over and over again is that, since food is our fuel, and our food has been changed so much in the last few decades, of course our "machine" (ahem, body), isn't running the way it should. If I suddenly decided to put something sort of like gasoline, but not really, it just looks like gasoline on the outside but is really nothing at all like gasoline inside, in my car, what would happen? I would imagine that chances are, the car will not run well for long. If I give my car some sort of mix of partial gasoline, partial looks-like-gasoline-but-really-isn't, it would probably continue to run, but over time, act up more and more, behaving strangely, breaking down more often, etc. Just like us. We're eating a mixture of some things that are good for us that we've eaten for most of time, that our bodies recognize as food, and some stuff that is brand new to our food system, not at all time-tested, not at all food, and suddenly we have spiking disorders and disease like heart disease, asthma, eczema, allergies, autoimmune disorders, developmental disorders like autism, diabetes, obesity, cancer...really, the list just goes on and on and on and on and on and on...and on.

I'm not pretending to be a scientist, or even a researcher. I'm just a mom who cannot possibly deny what my family has been through this year. We were sick, and we're getting well now. And it's not because of what modern medicine was able to do for us. The hydrocortisone and steroids weren't the answer. The thousands and thousands of dollars we spent last year did NOTHING for us. Well, I suppose it did shrink our savings. It was changing our diet. It was eating healthfully 100% of the time and figuring out what foods have been altered genetically and removing them from our diet.

Perhaps we could tolerate traditional grains that haven't been hybridized or genetically modified, that have been soaked and sprouted and properly prepared. It would make sense. I just don't know where or how we could get our hands on that sort of wheat anymore. I used to think the Ezekiel brand would be the answer for us, but it doesn't appear to be that way, judging from this blog post on Wheat Belly's blog:

"'People have asked about the “sprouted wheat” breads and I just wanted to relay some personal experience with them, my normal use of them and what happened after I just gave that form of wheat up.

I would periodically go on Dr. Gott”s Diet: No white flour and sugar. It would work and I felt good because it was higher protein and no sugar or white flour will do a pretty good job of moving weight off. Kind of normal slow though. I was eating Sprouted Wheat flourless bread though.

When Wheat Belly came onto my radar and I read the reviews on Amazon while waiting for the book to come to me from my library, I too thought of the sprouted wheat. It is really delicious and I would have at least 4 slices per day on Dr. Gott”s plan.

WELL–in late December after I read the book, I got rid of the sprouted bread and my shape changed faster than it ever has on a diet. My belly fat is disappearing. I had gotten rid of the sugar way before that, but after taking ALL the wheat out, the last in the form of the sprouted bread, I was on the fast track losing fat. THEN, my aches and pains went away. But only after the wheat in any form was gone.
Since that was the only change I made–my experience tells me most definitely the sprouted variety of breads is going to hinder you and put WHEAT into your system. Just thought folks here would like to get a real life experiment result.'"
Sprouted wheat bread is made by allowing the wheat seeds to sprout, thereby reducing carbohydrate content slightly and making some of the nutrients more bioavailable. The Ezekiel brand, for instance, claims to be adhering to the advice provided in the Bible in Ezekiel 4:9:
'Take also unto thee Wheat, and Barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and Spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it…'
But, as Janet’s experience illustrates, it’s still wheat. And it’s not the wheat of the Bible, i.e., 28-chromosome emmer or 14-chromosome einkorn; it’s the sprouted seeds from 42-chromosome modern wheat. And what a difference 14 chromosomes can make!
It is folly to believe that such a process as simply allowing the seed to germinate somehow disables all the bad potential of modern wheat. It still contains the gliadin protein that clouds your thinking and stimulates appetite. It still contains glutens that disrupt intestinal health. It still contains amylopectin A that sends your blood sugar through the roof. It still contains lectins that disable the normal intestinal barriers to foreign substances. It still contains apha amylase, peroxidases, lipid-transfer proteins, and thioredoxins responsible for a variety of allergic phenomena."
This is our reality, our world. There is so much wrong with our food system right now, but I really, really, really believe that things will get better. I don't think it will happen next year, or probably even in the next five. But I do believe that it's something that we simply won't be able to ignore any longer. I trust and believe in science, no matter how corrupt things are right now, and I know that someday, enough research articles will be published, and in combination with results of so many people just like me (and the thousands of people I've "met" in the last few months online, healing themselves with no medicine at all), that we will have no choice but to change or die off. We're killing off our society. With FOOD. So pathetically sad.

And sadder, still, is the fact that for so many families who don't make plenty of money, the choice is simply to eat crappy food or not eat at all. I had a breakdown in the Trader Joe's parking lot on the phone with my mom this weekend about how much money I spent on groceries. It's the same story every single week. I go shopping, I feel like I bankrupt our family, but I don't know what else to do. It was this diet that saved my kids' skin, yet it's this diet that has ballooned our grocery budget. What's a family to do? Knowingly feed their children food they know is actually harmful to their health or starve them?

Or probably, more importantly, what we need to learn to do as a culture is to reprioritize. At some point, having fancy clothes and a fancy house and fancy electronics became the norm. And with that, the expectation that our grocery budget should be a nominal part of our family's monthly expenses became the new reality. The advent of cell phones and Pinterest has taken all of that up a notch - almost no one doesn't have a smartphone in this country anymore, and with Pinterest came the expectation that our homes be immaculately decorated thrones reflective of our worthiness. In 1901, 40% of a family's income was spent on food. I don't know what the exact statistic is today, but in 2003, a family spent 13% of its income on food. Yikes, guys. No wonder we've lost our way. I am 150% guilty of this!

Someday, I just know that this won't be an issue. I believe it with every fiber of my being! I think I have to. I need to believe it for my children and their future.


Some honesty for once: being sick + in denial

So I'm a whole foods junkie. I think most people know that about me. What's funny, though, is that I'm a total poser. It's actually not funny at all.

It's really, really sad.

Last year I did the whole Project Real Food thing. We went on GAPS and my kids went from horribly afflicted with some of the most severe eczema to very mild eczema.

I've learned more about food in the last year than ever before and I've become more passionate than ever.

But...then we moved. Even before the craziness that was putting our house on the market in a short period of time and moving cross-country, I would indulge in a bag of peanut butter M&Ms, a Simply Lemonade and the occasional trip to McDonald's to fulfill my guilty pleasures. I was sort of a closet junk food eater. But it was pretty minimal and by going probably 85% paleo when my kids did, I had shed all my baby weight and was looking and feeling pretty good.

Then we went through the whole moving thing. Because of the intense physical labor involved in getting our house ready to put on the market, I didn't gain any weight despite eating like crap 3 or 4 days a week. But once we hit the road and headed to South Carolina, some really awful eating habits developed.

See, I love fast food. Like, a lot. In my pre-foodie days, I ate out almost every day. And when I wasn't eating out, I was at home eating pizza rolls and boxes of macaroni and cheese. It was bad.

Like, bad. 

I was young enough that the only side effect I suffered from that lifestyle was being overweight. I weighed as much at 23 years old as I did a few years later when I was 9 months pregnant with my first kiddo. That would be 170 pounds. Ahem. On a 5'5" frame at only 23 years old. And what's worse is that I had always been skinny with zero effort. I graduated from high school and BAM. I started packing on the pounds.

I went on Weight Watchers (or really, I just starved myself - I ate Lean Cuisines for lunch and whatever dinner I wanted) and was able to shed all that weight and get down to about 130/135 for my wedding at age 24, and from that point on, I yo-yo'd and mostly kept my weight in an okay range by starving myself periodically and eating only dinner most days. There was a brief stint where I exercised pretty regularly after Ben was born and even got tone (for me)! But that was short-lived.

Anyway, back to South Carolina. We ate out on the road a lot, and life was hectic and crazy with three kids, traveling back and forth from Greenville to Lexington to house shop, and then "moving" to Myrtle Beach for a month and now settling into our house, where we had no kitchen for days and I'm still sitting in the middle of a room full of boxes and a house completely messy and not anywhere close to being put together.

I've been saying, "Oh, it's just life. We're just surviving. We're doing what we need to do right now to get by, but once XYZ happens, we'll get back to our healthy eating ways."

Except, that's not really true.

I talk the talk so well. But I don't walk the walk at all. I ate McDonald's last night! Me! The little whole foods junkie.

Cough. Cough.

I ran out of my thyroid meds about a month and a half ago, right around the time I weaned Landon, and I've since gained...wait for it...thirteen pounds. THIRTEEN. POUNDS. In a month and a half.

But much worse than the thirteen pounds is my general health. I've been in such denial for years.

I don't have issues with gluten!

I'm healthy!

I don't need exercise!

I can afford to eat fast food here and there!

I'm young!

I am so not healthy. I'm 30 years old and:

-I'm so tired all day long that all I can do is count down the minutes until bed time.

-Yet when bed time comes, I'm wide awake.

-I have joint pain. Pretty badly. Like, I limp every single time I stand up. Most steps hurt these days.

-I have acne. ACNE! I didn't have zits at all in high school. Yet, as an adult?

-I'm overweight. I crave sugar and carbs like it's my full-time job.

-My eczema is getting much worse than normal.

-My asthma has even resurfaced lately.

-I have really intense dizzy spells almost every day.

-My hair is falling out by the handfuls.

-My skin is supa dry.

-I've suddenly had a really hard time driving at night. Like, anxiety attacks because it's so hard for me to focus on the road.

-My depression has also recently surfaced.

-I feel like I'm getting sick...a lot. At least once I week I declare I'm about to get the flu or a cold. Yet the next day I'm totally fine. I should be thankful I don't get full-blown sick much at all, I know! It's just weird how often I feel like I'm teetering on the edge of sick. This is totally new.

You get the point. I'm not healthy. I have hypothyroidism + adrenal fatigue. I'm a hot mess. And I know exactly why. And I know exactly what it would take to fix it.

Get back on Armour for my hypothyroidism, start the Autoimmune Protocol diet (basically strict Paleo, very similar to GAPS) and exercise every day. Yet...somehow...I just can't. I say I will every day. But every day it's the same thing. Well, just the one last time I'll go to McDonald's. Or Zaxby's. Or go get hibachi. Or, or, or.

There's always tomorrow!

Tomorrow is my worst enemy. I know better than most that the foods I'm putting in my mouth are killing me slowly. I know without a shadow of a doubt that my awful diet and lifestyle are completely to blame for my super fast declining health. More than most people, I actually have no one but myself to blame.

I've decided that the best chance I have of actually getting back on track and taking care of myself (and not just my family, which I'm so notorious for doing) is to put it out there. To own it. To make myself accountable to someone but myself.

I've been living this lie for awhile now, pretending to be so healthy and into whole foods. And I am...for my kids and my husband. But I'm lousy at taking my own advice and even lousier at forcing myself out of a lifestyle that has become a habit so very hard to break.

Tomorrow needs to be my best friend. Tomorrow needs to be the day I start over. For good.


Our house!

We bought a house.

I love this house. It has almost triple the space of our last home. Maybe closer to 2.5 times, but whatever. This is so perfect for our family of 5. Tim will be working from home now, so we need more elbow room. The kids are getting older, we'll have more guests now than ever, we just...felt like we should buy a larger home than our last.  We'll actually have a place for guests to sleep that doesn't involve a couch or a wood floor! 

We closed on it yesterday. I'm shocked by how painless the whole process was. I have to say, we've been insanely lucky to have nothing but positive, seamless experiences in the process of buying (and selling, though only one) the two homes we've owned. No delays, no hiccups. The inspection was awesome. 

I keep describing the situation as just "at peace." There has been zero giddy excitement. You'd think that would make me upset, but actually? Totally the opposite. Our first home, I felt all sorts of giddy excitement. Everything was shiny and new. Our house had been flipped (very poorly) and in the end, all that shiny new stuff blinded us to the quality issues and serious hidden problems the home had. 

It's why we were in love with the farmhouse, but walked away. The farmhouse made me feel all giddy and excited inside, but it had been flipped...and physically moved off its foundation and put on another. Insert scared face here.

This house just gives me peace. I know it's a really well built home. It feels solid and the inspection confirmed that gut feeling. It's huge. It'll fit our family so well. The only downside to this house is also an upside. It's all builder grade. Just very basic, bottom-of-the line, cheap finishings and materials. I say it's also an upside because it means I get to be the one to personalize it. It requires a huge element of patience because it's not like we can swoop in and make every change I want right outta the gate. But that's okay. I'm up for the waiting game. In the mean time, I get to brainstorm all the ways we'll make this house our home.  :)

Each kiddo gets his/her own room! What?! And we have a giant bonus room upstairs that will be a great kids playroom and function as a family room and guest room, too, since it's giant and has its own bathroom. 

It has a master downstairs, which I dig. And like a kids room sized closet! 

It has not one but two pantries, which is a massive step up from ZERO, which is what our last house had until we gave up the coat closet to turn into a makeshift pantry. And one of my favorite aspects of the house? The size of the kitchen! It puts my last kitchen to shame. Unfortunately the linoleum is, like, really bad. And the formica countertops are not in the best shape ever. So...that's step one after we get our stuff moved in and walls painted. Tim and I each had important must-haves when buying our house. His was location, proximity to things, bikeability and an office. Mine was a screened-in porch (hello, I am a mosquito magnet and this is the south) and a nice kitchen because I practically spend my entire day in that room. So many of the homes we saw in our price range had granite, wood floors, fancy appliances. This house has none of that. But it has SIZE. And it has a good neighborhood, a screened-in porch and all the things on Tim's checklist. And since it was also the cheapest house of all we were considering, we knew we could take some of the profit from our last house and use it to spruce up the kitchen. So we're currently in the planning stage and I am having WAY less fun than I ever could have imagined because I've changed my mind exactly 639 times in the last 7 days alone. 

The cabinets are getting painted white Monday and then the granite is going in...sometime. When I can decide on a color. And then Tim and I will tackle the floors and backsplash ourselves. Lots of blog posts to come, I'm sure! 'Cause that's how I do.

Now let's talk about my second favorite part of this home: the screened-in porch! Ah, swoon! 

We'll install a ceiling fan and then you can find me in the screened-in porch 98% of the spring, summer and early fall. 

Our living room is a decent size. Someday I fantasize about wood floors, because carpet is something I'm not at all used to anymore. I love the vaulted ceiling and the fact that the kitchen opens right into the living room. Last week I snagged a PB Basic sofa on Craigslist for $125 because the covers were all stained, so I replaced them with a $49 Erktorp slipcover because it fits the PB Basic PERFECTLY. What what?! I'm excited to put together my vision for this room. :)

And last but not least, we have the office, which we're turning into a joint office and I'm uber excited about that! 

And the dining room. Which I was totally griping about having, because we are not dining room peeps, but I scored a $150 solid wood dining room table and chairs on Craigslist that I'm refinishing and I am totally giddy about that. Now that I'm working out the logistics, it'll be sort of fun to have a fancy room.

That's a wrap! Welcome to our new house. Many, many decisions and blog posts to come. Probably over the next few years. ;)