day #14: smoked salmon salad

*been getting really bored with this elimination diet and it’s only day #14. i’ve been trying to find some new recipes to spruce up my otherwise boring days of roasted veggies, chicken, crispy rice with coconut milk, and fruit.


*i was trying to find a smoked salmon i could eat, but i haven’t been able to find one that doesn’t contain sugar. finally landed on one at Trader Joe’s that didn’t have any. score!

*today’s lunch recipe is rockin’–ingredients list below.


Smoked Salmon Salad
*smoked salmon pieces, torn/cut
*half a fennel bulb, chopped
*half a cucumber, chopped
*half a granny apple, chopped
*1 tbls fresh dill, chopped
*half an avocado or use 2 tbls of avocado oil
*1/3 lemon, squeezed on top
*salt and pepper

combine all of the above ingredients and toss with a couple of handfuls of salad greens and spinach



that’ll be 9 vials of blood, please

this morning i went to get the blood work done that my functional wellness doctor had ordered for me two weeks ago. while i was sitting in the waiting room, one of the medical techs went into the front office and had a very long and loud conversion about my paperwork: my doctor had ordered so much blood testing that the techs were concerned they were going to mess it up trying to keep all the vials straight.

there were 3 other people in the waiting room, so i pretended the loud conversation they were having was not about me.

unlike most of the labs i’ve been to, this lab does not close doors. while sitting in the waiting room, i heard the entire conversation between the two techs and the patient before me. (hey there hipaa laws.) granted, they weren’t talking in much detail, but i still found it a bit odd.

when the tech called me back (the same one having the loud conversation about my medical forms), she was friendly and chatty and asked me to sit down while they triple checked my paper work. she told me that because of all the tests my doctor had ordered, they were concerned the chances for any sort of error on their part would require me to come back and do the process all over again. i appreciated this triple check, which involved three techs, including the receptionist (who is also a med tech), going through every inch of my form and laying out the vials in perfect order. they had to go to a storage room to get additional vials because of what i was being tested for. the entire process had three steps: one tech drew my blood, one tech tipped the vials (not exactly sure what this is about but i’m sure my nurse friends can fill me in), and one tech labeled every vial as it was handed to her. in order. one of the vials had to be wrapped in tin foil because the blood could not be exposed to light. not sure what that was testing for.

9 vials of blood later, and i was finished.


then we had a funny conversation about how many vials they just filled and how i wanted to take a picture of them for my blog, which none of them had ever experienced before. no surprise there: who actually takes pictures of their blood before it’s shipped to the lab? this girl.

soon, i’ll find out if i have any additional food intolerances/allergies (such as nuts, eggs, legumes, etc), if my thyroid is normal, and how many vitamin deficiencies i have. (my guess is that vitamin B will show up again as seriously lacking.)

who knew having blood drawn could be so entertaining?



restore diet: take 2!

It’s back: the restore diet. Aka: the comprehensive elimination diet. Aka: eat nothing but veggies, fruits, rice, chicken, turkey, fish, coconut milk, olive oil, and tea diet.

Turns out my last bout of gluten contamination over 3 weeks ago wasn’t contamination. It lasted for about 2 and a half weeks and was some of the most intense pain I’ve experienced in my life. I actually mistook the pain for a kidney stone last Sunday when I was laying in bed, realizing I couldn’t stand up straight and everything felt like it did the month leading up to my last kidney stone surgery. Thankfully, the intense pain subsided after 48 hours, but I spent the better part of a solid week laying in bed with a heating pad on my abdomen and sleeping 14 hours a night, plus naps. I’m amazed I slept that much. If you see me and I look tired, it’s because I am.

So, I met with my functional wellness doctor  last Tuesday and I have a host of blood work ahead of me to test for additional food sensitivities and intolerances. The good news is I’m in less pain now and I didn’t have to have surgery again. Yippee! I do have to go back on the restore diet I was on 2 years ago (read all about that here) for 6-9 weeks (minimum) and start drinking powders labeled “medical food” and completely avoid my favorite things (like coffee, booze, almond milk, eggs, and honey). But I’m on day 3 and feeling positive. Although my first time back at the gym this morning was brutal. (Haven’t been in 3 weeks.)

Other awesome restore diet things:

*I get to drink smoothies with unsweetened coconut milk, which is always yummy. I’m using this supplement to boost my protein, since I can’t have my main protein sources (nuts, eggs) and have to start eating chicken, fish, and turkey again. I’d highly recommend it. It’s vegan and it’s yummy.

*Turns out coconut milk on rice crispy cereal and in tea lattes is quite tasty. Matcha in banana coconut smoothies is also awesome.


*My amazing sister and her husband are being ultra supportive and doing the restore diet with me for at least 6 weeks. We all plan on loosing our love-handles in the process and constantly text each other pictures of the recipes we make up to get through the massive amount of veggies we eat all day. This level of support is amazing.

*My mother called to tell me she went grocery shopping and is currently cooking me a bunch of things off the restore diet list and driving it all out to me tomorrow. Seriously: I have an amazing family.

*Again, I can’t express enough how happy I am that I’m not: in the hospital and/or getting another endoscopy and/or colonoscopy. I’ll take the restore diet over any of those things.

*I also have a possible new diagnosis: leaky gut. I’ve had numerous doctors and natural health practitioners suggest this to me in the last year but I haven’t done much research on the science behind it. My doctor explained it to me on Tuesday and I’m still in the process of learning what it actually means for my body. (You can read a general synopsis here and here.) It would make sense, given my chronic digestive issues, food sensitivities/intolerances, and the chronic pain I’ve been having, which my doctors think is caused by inflammation in my digestive track. So, I’m feeling hopeful that doing the restore diet for a while will help me reset things and begin to build me back up in time to enjoy the summer months.

*I leave for a week in San Francisco in 14 days and I’m slightly worried that traveling on the restore diet is going to be frustrating for the first 5 days when I’m in a hotel and don’t have access to a kitchen.  I need to find a place that will make me smoothies with coconut milk in the Union Square area. Suggestions for any places that make smoothies and a mean salad would be awesome!





gluten-ated: how to survive contamination

a lot of people have asked me what it feels like when i get gluten-ated (contaminated with gluten). here it is in a nut shell: 2-3 days of extremely painful stomach aches, followed by a minimum of 1-2 days with extremely sharp stabbing intestinal pain. so, when people ask me if i ever “cheat” and eat gluten, i always look at them like they are 1. slightly crazy or 2. misinformed. given how trendy it is to be “gluten-free,” i’ve been confronted multiple times in the last few months with skeptical comments about why i am gluten-free from people who haven’t known me more than a year or two. C’s response when this happens is to look at them and say “you have no idea what it was like before the diagnosis. no idea.” (thank you C for sticking with me all these years.)

today is tuesday and i’m trying to determine what i ate in the last 5 days that trigged 4 days of brutal stomach aches and 1 very long day of intense intestinal pain. after 5 years of this, i know it’s gluten because everything else that i struggle with (diary, soy, beans, etc) usually just ends with a stomach ache and throwing up (to put it bluntly), not days and days laying in bed with a heating pad pressed into my torso, waiting for it to end.

the second question i get a lot is: how do i deal with it when it happens?
in order:
1. spend 2 days going over everything that’s gone into my body, trying to isolate the source
2. lay in bed with a heat pad on high
3. drink lots of detox tea
4. eat very little (eating some times makes it worse for me.)
5. up my probiotic intake and chinese herbals
6. get acupuncture
7. repeat 2-3 over and over and over and over


i’ve been meaning to write some posts on acupuncture and chinese herbals for a while now because i was never a believer until i started using both in my life every week. i’m astonished how much i depend on them now. my intestinal pain was so intense yesterday, i was having a hard time functioning. i had acupuncture at 8 last night and this morning: no more pain. the skeptics would just argue that it finally ran it’s course, but i’m not so sure…


one of the things that’s an absolute when i’m gluten-ated is eating right. i pretty much have to go into lock-down mode to keep things from getting worse, which is hard because i often feel both hungry and sick at the same time. sticking to warm, soft, easy to digest food is a must. avoiding coffee and alcohol for a few days after it’s over is also a must. nothing that causes inflammation.


this time around i stuck with a kale, fennel, quinoa dish and pumpkin muffins like these ones, made with honey, almond milk and almond flour (minus the walnuts). they are soft and taste like pumpkin pie but aren’t too sweet. (kale, fennel and honey are great aids for digestive tracks, as well as anti-inflammatory. pumpkin is easy to digest.) the trick is to eat warm, digestible foods without eating things that cause bloating (beans and too many veggies all at once) but also get enough protein to keep yourself going (hence, the quinoa).


i’m happy to say that i’m on day 6 and on the mend.
i’ll admit that every time this happens, i cease wanting to ever eat out again or even eat at people’s houses out of fear. that part is hard. but i know it could be much worse. many people with gluten allergies have to be hospitalized when they are gluten-ated. i’m one of the lucky ones who can push through it with a few bad days and a lot of detox tea.
also, it helps to talk to someone with the same issues. my younger sister has the same digestive drama i do, so when i’m suffering and annoyed and grumpy about it, i call her and she reminds me that it won’t last forever.

i’m curious what everyone else does when they are gluten-ated. feel free to share your own ideas!

21 days of breaking habits

Yesterday was the 21st day of my breaking/making new habits with sugar challenge. I would like to be able to say that I went a complete 21 days without refined sugar, but I’d be lying: I had a piece of chocolate cake at a family party on day 13. And I had a glass of wine on day 19. So, I almost went 21 days without refined sugar or wine.

Here’s what I learned about myself and my habit loops:

#1. If I can’t see it, I won’t eat it. As long as there is no sugar in my house, I’m golden. In fact, after 8-9 days without sugar, I forgot to keep track of my post-its. Half of them are still stuck to my computer screen:


I’ve been so busy with school over the last few weeks that it hasn’t even occurred to me to find sugar to eat. There’s no time. Given how little I can eat out, there’s little temptation to have sugar because so many sweets contain gluten, dairy and/or soy. However, I’ve realized if I can eat it, I will. If C buys chocolate I can eat, I want to eat it. All of it. I want to eat the entire bar in one night. If I make myself chocolate, I want to eat it. Every meal. Including breakfast. If there’s wine in the house, I want a glass or two every night.

Interestingly enough, this is also true with non-sugary foods: I have a hard time not eating an entire container of hummus and bag of carrots over the course of one day. Or lemon Larabars: if I buy an entire box, it’s likely that during a busy day, I’ll eat 3 of them and call that breakfast, lunch, and snack. I realize that’s not ideal, which is why I have stopped buying boxes of Larabars and large containers of hummus. It is also why I haven’t made chocolate in a month. This is the current state of the side door pocket in my car: there’s about 5 Larabar wrappers in there from eating on the go for the last 2 weeks.


#2. The most common cue for my habitual consumption of sugar and wine is social: I want to eat sugar and drink wine the most when I’m with people. I’m happy to have realized this about myself. I ate chocolate cake on day 13 for many social reasons: it was specially made and ordered so my sister and I could eat it; we were at a family gathering and celebrating a special family event; we were drinking coffee; it looked amazing. I don’t regret eating it. However, when I got a stomach ache later, I did regret eating 2 pieces and the frosting off the side of the cake plate. This made me realize how little control I force myself to have when sugar is in front of me. Clearly, more work needs to be done in the control-yourself arena.

Avoiding refined sugar was much easier than avoiding wine. We live in the city and are very social people. I’ve been to 3 birthday bashes in the last 10 days and out with friends a few times. I enjoy drinking wine when I’m with my friends. It was a bit hard to not indulge, but I found that I slept much better nights I only had a little bit of whiskey instead of a glass or two of wine and better yet when I had nothing but water and herbal teas. My body was really happy about this.

My second most common cue was my emotions: When I ate the cake, I felt like I didn’t really care that I was trying to avoid sugar. I justified it by thinking: Well, I’m not going to have this again for a long time, so whatever. I’ll eat a lot of it. Even though while I was eating it, I was thinking about how I might get a stomach ache, I just convinced myself I wouldn’t regret it later. But then I did. You would think I would learn from these stomach ache lessons…

I’ve decided to continue to avoid refined sugar and wine. My body feels better with out it. I think the last 21 days have made me realize that the less I’m around it, the less I think about it and the less I crave it. I haven’t felt like eating sugar at all lately, which is a new feeling. And I think that the less I consume it on a regular basis, the more I’ll enjoy the few times I actually do eat sugar.

I do miss wine, but not having it in the house has made it easier to avoid and not letting myself order it when out has gotten easier. I think that if I continued to limit wine to dinner with friends, I’ll have more consistent sleep patterns. I think the challenge with wine will be when spring finally comes and we are outside more because I love rosé, which is loaded with sugar. My next challenge will be attempting moderation.

mmmmmmm mustard

I’m a mustard addict. Hardcore. It’s odd if I don’t consume mustard at some point, everyday. I’ll eat it on anything. I’m not against ketchup, but I only like it mixed in with other condiments, like mayonnaise. And more mustard. Growing up, I used to eat a lot of mustard and cheese sandwiches. While everyone was pouring ketchup all over their eggs and hash browns, I was using spicy mustard.


I still eat mustard on my eggs, but now that I have to avoid most diary products and gluten, I’ve had to research the best gluten and dairy free mustards because a lot of spicy flavored mustards have hidden ingredients and a LOT of sugar. One of my absolute favorites happens to be a local mustard made in Pittsford, NY by the Karma Sauce Co. My first brush with their garlic mustard happened while eating sausage at Swans Market last summer. I bought them out of every jar that week.

The Karma Sauce Co makes three kinds of mustard: garlic (my fav), chipolte (my second fav), cold process (my third fav). What’s awesome about their mustards is they are made with very few ingredients and no refined sugar. (When sweetener is added, they use maple syrup or raw honey.) My rule of thumb with condiments and processed foods is the shorter the ingredient list is, the better. I aim for 5 ingredients or less. The garlic mustard has water, apple cider vinegar, whole grain brown mustard seed, granulated garlic, salt, and black pepper. The only down side of mustard is it is often high in sodium, although given how little processed foods I eat, I rarely worry about sodium. Still, something to keep in mind.

A quick online search on the benefits of mustard was a enlightening–mustard aids in digestion (much needed!), is anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, speeds up metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and can be beneficial in reducing the frequency of migraines (which I have had at least twice a month since I was 11.)

They also have amazing sauces with different heat indexes and I love how much they use butternut squash in all of them. I’m thinking I need to try their kats’up. Maybe it will convert me to a ketchup lover.



the habit loop: research on changing your habits

I’ve become very curious about how we develop habits–the good kinds and the bad kinds. My good friend Meredith researches nutrition and pregnancy at Cornell University, and after reading my blog post yesterday,  she sent me a few research articles on developing habits. I’m in the process of reading through them, and I’m learning a lot about what habits are and how we form them. So, I thought I’d share a wee bit of what I’m learning about the science of habit formation and the practical things we can do to develop new habits, particularly in relation to food.

In a nutshell: A habit is a pattern of behavior that we engage in without thinking about it. Habits allow our brains to save mental energy, thereby reserving more energy for performing more complicated tasks. Research has demonstrated that our brain helps us determine when to let a habit kick in rather than letting decision-making guide our behaviors. Research out of Duke University suggests that 40% of the actions we take every day are not “decisions” but habits. 40%! I thought I had far less habits than that but I guess when I think about what I do every day, most of the routine stuff happens on automatic pilot.

One of the articles explores Charles Duhigg’s New York Times best seller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe gist of the book is that if we can understand our habits, we can break old ones and make new ones. Duhigg’s says this requires that we understand the three-step habit loop. I made this little diagram for y’all to keep in mind when you’re thinking about the habits you have:


The habit loop has 3 steps:
Step 1: the cue
*The cue is that “trigger” that tells your brian to go into automatic mode: to use a habit (rather than a decision-making process) in response to the situation you are in.

Step 2: routine
*The routine is the physical behavior, mental reaction/way of thinking, or the emotional response that is performed in response to the cue.

Step 3: reward
*The reward “helps the brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering” for future situations.

The argument goes that loops become even more automatic with time; the cue and reward “become increasingly linked to create a powerful sense of anticipation” so that a craving is created. The result: a habit is formed. Once something becomes a habit, your brain no longer fully participates in the decision-making. Unless you fight the habit, an automatic response will occur. Duhigg argues that the goal of changing habits is changing these automatic response patterns we’ve developed.

Soooooo, how exactly do we do this? Duhigg argues that we can alter our habits if we take specific steps to mess with our automatic responses. He suggests the following 4 steps, which I’ll explain here in relation to my own habits eating sugar:

Step 1: Identify the routine or behavior you want to change
I want to stop eating refined sugar when I am craving it. I want to stop drinking wine 4-5 nights a week. 

Step 2: Experiment with rewards: Try different rewards when you have a craving and write down your feelings after you have rewarded yourself.
I haven’t listed out my possible rewards for refined sugar, but avoiding wine at night: I’ve been “rewarding” myself with cups of herbal tea and sweet oranges.

Step 3: Isolate the cue.
Research suggests that common cues for habitual behavior are: location, time, emotional state, who else is around, and the action immediately preceding the cue. Paying attention to these cues is key.
Taking Duhigg’s suggestion, I’m going to write down what these 5 cues are for me every time I have a craving for sugar for a week, starting today. This might help me develop a better understanding of what cues my habitual behavior. 

Step 4: Have a plan.
Duhigg suggests that plans are important, and I couldn’t agree more. Planning meals ahead when you have food intolerances is key. If you know you have a craving or a habit at the same time every day, plan to reward yourself by doing something different at that same time. (i.e. I want to drink wine in the evening. Instead, I reach for tea instead of wine at that time.) Over time, you’ll begin to forget about the old habits and begin to develop new routines and better habits.
My current plan: Keep up with the fruit and herbal tea routine at the same time in the evening when I would rather drink a glass of wine. 

I’m really excited to see if I go about being very deliberate about breaking my sugar habit, what other habits I will discover in the process and what new habits I will create. Trying Duhigg’s approach feels more structured to me, which I need right now in my life, given how hectic my semester is. What I’m most curious about is how I justify having sugar when I want it. I think paying attention to 2 & 3 will be key for me.

If you join me in this endeavor, let me know what kind of success you have!


making and breaking habits

i’ve been thinking a lot about habits: how we form them, how we make them and keep them. the 30-day challenge i did with my gym in january made me realize how much i love having sugar in my life. it was really hard to avoid it completely, especially when i was stressed out. it was relatively easy to drink less alcohol and coffee, but sugar kept sucking me back in; when i was sick, when i was drained, when i was feeling like i “deserved” something. it was almost creepy how i justified it, despite trying to keep less sugar as my goal.


i saw this idea on pinterest the other day: the idea that it takes 21 days for form a habit. i’m a bit skeptical that it only takes 21 days to make something a habit. (a quick online search: the 21 day thing is considered a myth.) however, it didn’t take very long for me to form the habit of starting my day with green tea instead of coffee. plus, i love neon colored post-it notes, so i’m gonna give it a go with sugar again.

these are my first 21 days without sugar:


my goal is to remove one post-it every day until i’ve managed to not eat sugar for 21 days. i haven’t gone that long without sugar in over 2 years. i want to be able to get to day 22 and want to keep going. i realize this completely conflicts with my desire to make the perfect brownie in 2013, so maybe on day 22, i can try making a perfect brownie without refined sugar and take a bite and give the rest away.

in other news, i’m visiting a slaughter house tomorrow as part of my work with high school girls and food. i was told we could see the kill floor. i’m prepared to return from the experience convinced i need to return to being a vegetarian.

i’m bringing my camera because we have permission to take pictures and film. check back later this week for the highlights. er, maybe the low-lights.

throw it all in


*i’ve been making stews on sunday to eat during my busy week

*yesterday, i decided to just throw whatever i found into the pot and see what happened

*i think it turned out pretty tasty

*recipe below: feel free to adjust to whatever you have in your kitchen. i usually use quinoa but decided to use a black rice i bought that comes from canada–nutty and high and protein.


throw it all in stew

1 tbl olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
*heat olive oil and add onion and fennel. stir till onion softens

1 tbls curry powder
1 tbls cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 small can tomato paste
*add spices and paste to onion and fennel. mix and stir for 1 minute

1 pint stewed tomatoes (i use my mom’s canned tomatoes, but any will do)
14 ounces broth (chicken or veggie)
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
1 cup black or brown rice (i cook the rice before i make the stew, only because the black rice i use takes a while to cook.)
*combine rest, stir and simmer until potatoes soften. season with salt and pepper to taste.





paleo fried chicken


*one aspect of my amazing job is that i have the privilege of working with amazing middle and high school kids from the inner city. we are currently in the process of making a documentary film about meat: where it comes from, how it impacts our health, who gets to access grass-fed meat and who only has access to conventionally-raised factory-farmed meat, and what the health benefits are  to eating one over the other. we spent a lot of time talking about what we eat, why we eat it, where it comes from. i’ve learned so much about my girls–what they love to eat, their community connections to food, why they love the food they do, why the are frustrated with what they are given in their school cafeteria (and how it’s not real food).

*they get really excited when i tell them i’m going to bring in food for them to try that they’ve never had before. over the last 4 weeks, i’ve brought in: 7 different types of oranges (i was giddy so many of them loved my favorite blood oranges); alternative milks (they loved coconut, almond and rice milks–hated soy and hemp milk); nut butters (loved peanut and almond butter–hated sun butter–cashew butter was kinda iffy); 4 different kinds of pears (they loved asian pears–one of my favs).

*when we talk about foods they love to eat, they always talk about fried chicken. these ladies love fried chicken. if i could eat their moms’ cooking, i swear i would be in for a treat because each girl swears her mom makes the best fried chicken in the city.

*i’ve had fried chicken maybe 1-2 times in my life. i had KFC once when i was in middle school. i don’t recall a single time my mother made fried chicken. my dad likes to grill chicken, but it was never breaded. i feel like i really missed out on something here.

*when i found this recipe, i was really excited: here’s my chance to try fried chicken!  i can’t wait to tell my girls about this recipe this week. i’m actually hoping i find a way to make it for them. they all know about my digestive issues and ask me a lot of questions about what i can and can’t eat and why. when we watched Soul Food Junkies last week, they were super excited when i made them air popped popcorn with olive oil. they could not get over how much they liked it more than microwave buttery popcorn. given my food journey and my commitment to food justice (more on that some time), this was an awesome moment for me: talking with teenagers about butter verses olive oil and what’s healthier and why was a highlight of my week. (one of the main reasons i love my job!)


*what i loved about this recipe is that even though the chicken is fried in coconut oil, there was nothing coconutty about the flavor: with all the spices (i went heavy on those) and the almond flour, i didn’t even taste any coconut, which kinda gave me some perspective–because some times i think that cooking with so much coconut oil will mean only tasting coconut in everything i make, which isn’t really what i’m aiming for. (had a summer when i cooked everything, including eggs, with coconut oil. couldn’t take it anymore.)

*i think i might be sold on fried chicken. paleo style.