Positive visualization and meditation to change habits

I'm excited about today's post.  Very excited because I've hit on something extraordinary.

As you may be able to tell if you've read any of my past posts, I love educating myself; reading and researching to find answers, and following myriad rabbit holes to see where they lead.  I believe that every discovery I come across just gets me closer and closer to the way of optimal health- and kicking addictions and habits.

Last week I found something called The Gabriel Method, through this article.  I was intrigued, and visited the website http://www.thegabrielmethod.com to learn more about this extraordinary story.  To give you a basic summary, the author, Jon Gabriel, found himself extremely overweight and frustrated that nothing he was doing was working.  He had a life-scare experience with the 9/11 tragedy, which changed his life and prompted him to find ways to release stress and convince his body to heal.

Now, I have always leaned on positive visualization for all sorts of things.  I visualize a procedure going well (when I perform veterinary surgery); visualize myself with abundance; getting the job I want, the apartment I want, the list goes on.  I don't just "believe" that it works, I know.  I have known for  many years. Why is it I never applied it to the subject of kicking sugar, or losing this extra 15 stress pounds I'm carrying around?  Wild.

I've read the book already (I devoured it in 2 days) and have used his nighttime meditation MP3 every night for 3 nights now.  I already feel incredible.  He isn't just using visualization to convince the body to drop excess weight, he also believes that life can be more positive and fulfilling.  I've got more energy, I feel happier when I wake up, my body feels alive.  The premise he bases his method on is that our bodies "want" to be fat, for many reasons- to protect us emotionally, or from perceived famine (which is how our primal brain interprets money woes and so forth), or from low self worth.  Convincing your body and mind that you're safe, you're awesome, successful, energetic and love healthy food is the way to go- not deprivation.

So how does this relate to kicking sugar, the entire point of this blog?  Well, if you convince your body to want and crave healthy foods, natural and whole foods, and to shun processed crap, you will eventually just not care for super sweetened things.  They will taste terrible in your mouth.  Even in the past 2 years I have trained my body to prefer dark chocolate that is not that sweet- I  no longer care for the intense sweet commercial candies that are everywhere available.  If you train your mind to prefer fruit, veggies and grassfed meats, eventually the other stuff will lose its pizazz.  Especially if you aren't making them "forbidden", just cutting out the desire to eat them.

Well that's revolutionary, isn't it!  For years I've been trying the denial method, only to fall off the wagon and go for it whole hog.  I'd feel bad about it, use logic on myself, to no avail.  A craving is a craving.  What I do know is that I particularly crave sugar when I am feeling very stressed out, lonely, sad, unheard and so on.  Perhaps this is my body's way of helping me make a layer of fat to insulate myself from the bad feelings or situations, who knows.  Either way, when I eliminate stress or retrain my mind and body to crave a run in the wood instead, I'm only picking a win-win situation.

I'll keep you all posted.  I'm still of course following the feminine 28 Days Lighter, as I want to feel my cycle calm down (another culprit in the sugar binging), tracking my energy and mood.  I am excited to see how the Gabriel Method will assist in this other idea, as well as in my desire to kick sugar for life.


Fructose malabsorption, an update

Although I have been searching for answers to heal my belly for a long, long time, I feel only in the past year have I really hit on what is finally working.  As I wrote last spring, I discovered after embarking on a cleanse with the Whole 30 that I have a pretty terrific intolerance to a lot of different foods- aka Fructose Malabsorption.  Great.  After much more reading and research I came upon the FODMAP diet, and have learned quite a bit since then.  I'll post some helpful links at the bottom, if you're curious to learn more.

So how am I feeling, nearly a year later?  Well, I've had my ups and downs and have experimented a little, but for the most part I'm pretty strict with the FODMAP protocol.  I have the protocol printed up and hanging on the fridge, and keep it bookmarked on my smarty phone so that if I have questions when I'm grocery shopping I can refer to it quickly.  Mostly I have to say my diet is pretty damn boring.  Being FM means you can't eat the things I love.  NO broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, GARLIC, onions, all stone fruits (be still my heart!!  No apple picking for me this past fall.  I died a little inside.) It's a big list, a really big list of "no".

Is it worth it?  YES.  I no longer bloat like I'm 6 months pregnant.  I no longer have to make sure I know how to exit a social situation quickly for fear I'm going to fart like a college boy and embarrass myself.  In fact- fart jokes in my presence are such a common thing that people are a little confused that I'm not farting a lot anymore.  I guess it was just a part of my existence.  Ugh.  Anyway, I feel a lot better.

In the times I've gone ahead and had a forbidden food, I'm quickly reminded why I chose this path in the first place.  It sucks to bloat, to not fit into your pants because your belly won't allow it.  It sucks to fart like a damn trumpet early in the morning (good morning, lover!). My hope is to test out some certain foods and see if I do actually react to them. I miss garlic, for example. I want to eat good, raw sauerkraut; probiotics are so necessary! I want to eat some cherries. I know some things may not be available to me, or that I will just suffer the consequences when I choose to eat them.

The agony is being invited over for dinner, or going to a potluck.  I hate the way it feels to tell a friend who invites me over, "Well you see, there's this long list…"  Thankfully most people are amenable to being emailed my favorite FODMAP list so they can see for themselves what I can and cannot have.  There have been some awkward moments however when I can tell the friend is put out.  That's a yucky feeling.  It makes me want to avoid social situations involving food, frankly.  Often I will eat before going out so that I'm safe; I can snack on something but not be starving and obligated to eat something that will make me sick.

Sometimes you get fooled, too; particularly in restaurants.  All restaurants except those in EBF know about the gluten issue and have foods to cater to those folks.  But, FM?  Forget it.  EVERYTHING has onions in it, did you know that?  Everything.  Particularly everything in the lunch bar at my local health food store.

It's worth it though, totally worth it.  I'm happy to be feeling better, despite my limited menu.  If I could afford it I'd go to a dietician or nutritionist to make sure it's all balanced appropriately, but I listen to my body.  If you suspect you have FM or other issues, definitely get checked out for allergies, fructose intolerance, celiacs or gluten sensitivity and let a nutritionist guide you.  It's much faster and safer than my fits and starts and experimentation.

Some helpful links:
Good FODMAP summary here
Excellent summary and list
IBS free website
FODMAP recipes

Sugar free life: consider your menstrual cycle

I'm back on the wagon, after a "cheat day" which turned into a "cheat week" which turned into a PMS eat-all-the-things disaster.  I felt bad about myself, felt angry and upset- why can't I just stick with it? I had such crazy hormonal shifts, and felt like only chocolate could make it all better.  Is this normal?  Do I have to go through this, month after month, so good at refraining from sugar for 2-3 weeks and then have it all come crashing down?

For this particular scenario, I'm on a Whole 30 support group on Facebook.  It's just a small group of friends who all made the commitment at the turn of the year to stay on the Whole 30 and see each other through.  The fascinating thing is, we made it to the end and then we all hit PMS time.  Each and every one of us "cheated", needing or wanting wine or sugar or carbs in some way.  We all had terrible things going on- mood swings, cramps, cravings, you name it.  We each then guiltily admitted to falling off the wagon, and having a hell of a time getting back on.

Someone then suggested a book, 28 Days Lighter Diet, which is written specifically for women.  I can't say enough good things about this book!  They address how our cycles work, they get into cravings and mood swings and pain, and why it happens.  They show you how to take control, by knowing when to exercise hard, what kinds of foods to go for, and when to retreat from the world and relax.  I think a big part of the craving cycle is, at least for me, a cry out for a break or a "treat" to soothe me when I'm overbooked, overworked and overstimulated.  They advocate avoiding gluten and minimizing sugar so they are in line with what I'm hoping to achieve.

I'm determined that this will help me to stay on the wagon the way I want to.  I also read a great article recently of a woman who has been sugar free for 3 years, found here, because she relies on coconut oil for her craving fixes.  Switch fat for sugar and viola.  I certainly have been leaning on the fat more and have found that the sugar craving is absolutely reduced.  Ha ha- until it isn't…

If you have cravings, find you're missing chocolate, try this on for size:
unsweetened chocolate fudge
This recipe has been saving my butt.

Cheers to a better, saner month!


Sugar allergy? Oh, mother nature you're so funny.

Well, kids!  Another step in this endless odyssey.

I remember that a few years ago, I said to myself- this kicking sugar business would all be so much easier if I were simply allergic, and couldn't eat it!  Of course, the scenario I imagined was something like breaking out into a rash, or anaphylaxis, you know- something immediate and definite.  That would do it!  No more falling off the wagon, then!

Oh, be careful what you wish for.  Yes, mother nature has a fantastic sense of humor.  It turns out that...


I am allergic.  No fooling!  How ridiculous is that?

A few months ago I was really feeling this logy energy, feeling depleted and not coping with life all that well.  Belly bloat, weakness, exhaustion, you name it.  In my last post I talked about Fructose Malabsorption (FM).  After that post I was good about sticking to the FODMAP diet, but threw the awesome Whole 30 program out the window and started eating sugar and rice crackers (simple sugars and carbs) all over again.  I thought, well, what the hell!  What can I eat!  I went into a place of 'poor me, I'm so deprived' and just went a little nutty.  That's how I roll, all or nothing.

Anyway I was really feeling crashed out so I finally went to see some doctors.  First, I went to see an MD and got a referral to a GI specialist.  That appointment was a few months out- our American diet is keeping those guys pretty busy!  Then I went to start some therapy (EMDR) to deal with anxiety and past childhood stuff; anxiety and IBS go hand in hand.  She had suggested the idea of something called Adrenal Burnout and gave me the names of a few NDs to see on this issue.

I went to see an ND.  She agreed with the FODMAP diet, and urged me to get tested for food allergies so I could stop driving myself crazy.  She had me stop the heavy weight lifting I was doing, and urged me to manage stress and pick lower stress exercise like yoga and dance, until I was healed.  I was to concentrate on sleep and managing my time better.  I began to take all sorts of adrenal support tinctures and teas, and really have started to feel better in some ways.

Incredibly enough, I went all bingey with sugar.  As summer set in I wanted ice cream and popsicles, fruit and smoothies.  Which are all foolish things to do with FM and IBS in general.  I felt like I couldn't stop.  It's an intense battle.  Sugar is what I turn to when I am stressed and need an escape; I love sitting with a book and a treat and finding solace there.  Since I was being asked to manage my stress, to get my stress level down, I retreated into this habit full bore.  Oh!  It is the last thing I should do!

Meanwhile I submitted blood for allergy testing.  I could just laugh and laugh at the results:
Moderate allergy:
*Baker's yeast
*Brewer's yeast
*Coffee (never have the stuff anyway)
*Sugar cane  (haaaahahaha!!!  See?  Hilarious)

Low allergy:
*Dairy products including yogurt and cheese

Well.  Isn't that a hilarious joke on me!  I am allergic after all, and two fold- not only having a fructose issue due to the IBS, but allergic to cane sugar after all.  Well doesn't that beat all.

Even with this information I was stuck, on the sugar train and feeling paralyzed.  Two days ago I really started thinking I have got to get off, I feel so awful and foggy all the time.  My weight has crept up- part of which is from the adrenal issue and the other is the sugar binging.

I began to look around for support and info on the internet.  Wow, things have changed since I first tackled this problem back in 2006!  Incredible!  I found some amazing articles and resources, and feel vindicated that this is a hard struggle and I am not alone.  It is hard to kick sugar because it is one of the most addictive and widely available substances out there.

This time, armed with all this new knowledge, I feel confident that I can kick it and stick.  I was good for over 2 years the first time I kicked it.  The website I Quit Sugar is helpful- she recommends eliminating fruit (aka all sugars) for 6 weeks to really break the body's habit of hankering for the stuff, and then being careful after to never go above 6 g per day.  Meaning, limit fruit to 1 to 2 pieces per day, and stick with the low glycemic index stuff.  Which with FM is something I need to do anyway; berries and that sort of thing are ok, apples can be a bit dicey.

Off I go... to try again.


Fructose Malabsorption

Another path on the road to discovery...

I have reached the end of the Whole 30 cleanse, with mixed results.  If you've never heard of the Whole 30, I urge you to check it out:

It is a fantastic program based on the Paleo diet designed to help you kick sugar and eat clean.

Anyway, I went into it whole hog.  Totally psyched, ready to go.  I bought a companion book called Well Fed to teach myself to do weekly batch cooking, to save time preparing meals (lunch and dinner) to ensure that I was eating optimally healthy food every single day.  It was lovely, and beautiful, this food- fresh, local, grass fed meats; organic fruits and veggies, local when available.  Oh, I was so excited!

However, within a few days of starting my poor guts were in complete dismay.  I was bloated, and had so much extreme embarrassing gas; I was miserable to be around my boyfriend.  Hell I was miserable to be around myself.  I was doing everything correctly- portion sizes, balanced plates, enough protein, carbs and fat.  What was I doing wrong?  I tried to pin point what I was reacting to, but it seemed like I was reacting to everything!  

As it turns out, I was.

I began to research coconut, as it seemed the worst offender.  I mean, there I was, almost 2 weeks in, clothes as tight as ever- when all the claims were that by week 2 people were feeling better, clothes looser, sleeping great, feeling awesome.  Me?  No sleep, I was in agony, bloated up and uncomfortable.  When I began to look around, I came upon Fructose Malabsorption.  I recalled reading about that backin '08, just before I discovered Paleo.  Remember- I've been at this a long time!  Back then I was experimenting with Raw, and really working hard to be at my healthiest.  I ran across FM, but was then so swept up into Paleo that I forgot all about it.

Well!  I began to read and discovered some very interesting things.
1.  People with IBS, as they age, become more likely to develop "leaky gut syndrome".
2.  People with leaky gut become more sensitive to different foods, leading the person to assume they have food sensitivities (i.e. "I can't eat gluten"- totally me)
3.  People with IBS, leaky gut- are extremely likely to also be suffering from FM and quite possibly SIBO- small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

I just sat there cringing.  Take a look at the typical FODMAP diet- the diet that helps you avoid the things you can't eat:
Well, the "NO" list pretty much sums up everything I love to eat.

Every night I would fry up some onions and garlic to season my meat... I often ate apples or mango for dessert... avocados were my main source of fat (along with coconut butter, which I blamed for all my symptoms)... and was pounding nuts like it was my job.

Shocking.  I was already on an elimination protocol, with the Whole 30- why not make life more interesting?  Wow- what a boring couple of weeks, but a DRASTIC improvement.  I followed the guideline strictly.  Within 2 or 3 days, I lost 5 inches off my belly because the bloat- both water and gas- went away.  I began to sleep better, finally.  I couldn't believe it.

So what the heck was I eating?

For breakfast, I would drink some home made bone broth.  It's delicious, and helps heal the gut lining and fortify the body.  Great.  Then some eggs (all local, free running) with a small amount of greens like baby bok choy or kale.  (I later found out those need to be eaten with caution, in small amounts.  Sigh.)  Maybe a 1/2 a banana to round it out.  Then for lunch, chicken, string beans and carrots.  To get enough fat, I just ate a spoonful of coconut oil; I was at a total loss on how to fulfill that part- I hate olives.  And for dinner, ground beef with tomatoes, a small amount of green peppers and some hot sauce (carefully chosen to not have "no" ingredients).  In all, not bad, tasty...

I invested in a book called "IBS-free, at last!" which is a more in-depth guide on how to get clear of symptoms.  I've read some conflicting things though.  Different sources argue about which foods will trigger; I've seen some foods listed as OK in one and NO on another.  It's very confusing.  The folks that really seem to know what's going on are out of Australia, Dr.Shepherd and co.  I guess I would trust them first, as they were the ones to pioneer research into this condition.  Either way, it seems to be trial and error for every patient.  The book advocates a strict trial for 2 weeks and then doing challenges on the body with foods to see what is tolerated and what is not.  That makes sense to me.  See, there are 3 categories that are avoided: foods with a lot of fructose, or fructans, or polyols.  For more info on that, read up on some other sites that provide lots of great resources etc.  I'm just stating what I  know here, based on what I've read over the past few weeks.  What I do know is that I am avoiding everything and feel great.

Want to know the kicker?  The safest sweet thing to eat if you have FM is SUGAR.  Yep, you read that right.  What a kick in the pants.  Ideally I guess it's best avoided altogether, but when sweets are wanted, you need to avoid honey, and even powdered Stevia.  No wonder I was reacting!  Powdered stevia is extremely processed and acts like a sugar alcohol (polyol) in the body.  Ppppffffrrrrttt!!!  Yep.

So.  I have been on the FODMAP diet for about a week now, with notable difference.  I'm bored as hell with all this restriction though, but that will improve now that the Whole 30 is over.  I will have to be careful about what I reintroduce, as I'm prone to going crazy over sweet things and I'd prefer not to be a sugar slave again.

I have also read some accounts that FM can be healed.  And that it cannot.  I know "leaky gut" can be healed, by decreasing inflammation.  This is done by strictly following an elimination diet to avoid introducing things which irritate the lining, and by taking herbs to soothe- like slippery elm, licorice herb tea (actually one of my favorites!), glucosamine, and omega fatty acids.  Supposedly following the FODMAP pretty strictly means that those foods can be reintroduced later, but not in large amounts.  The way it's laid out in the IBS book says that you can eat them, but not all together, and not too many of them in a single day.  So it's as if you have a daily allowance of FODMAP foods that you can consume in one day; once you reach your quota, you're done.  Any more than that, and it's Windy City for you!  Well, and pain, bloat, embarrassment...  Symptoms can linger as long as 2 weeks so it really isn't worth it.

If you think this is what you're suffering from, don't be a dolt like me and go it alone- find a dietician or a Dr who knows what IBS and FM really are about.  There is no need to suffer.  There are tests that can be done to determine which type of FM you have- breath tests to figure out which bacteria are prominent based on the type of gases you exhale.  I'm too impatient for that, so I'm doing it the hard way with the elimination (the "poor person's diagnosis"- or the Wise Woman's way, in my mind.)  Don't take my word for it.  Go without those foods for a few days and see what happens, you might bes shocked.  I was.

What does this mean for my future?  I'm going to have to be so careful.  No honey, no stevia.  Limited maple syrup and limited (organic, fair trade) sugar.  Yikes.  Limited apples!  I might die!  Seriously though, it's going to be a tough but rewarding journey if this is truly what is going on.


Almost a year?

Well!  This poor blog was lost in the weeds yet again for a long, long time.  I have come a long way on this journey of discovery to learn how to balance my own body chemistry and feel better.  On and off the sugar wagon, I have learned that it is a life long battle, not just a simple matter of kicking it and being done.  It is everywhere.   Sugar sneaks into our lives in insidious ways.

There are some gains in the battle... NYC is banning large sugar drinks, obesity is making bigger headlines (ha ha), Stevia is now legal as  a sugar substitute, and people are truly learning more and more every day about what the body needs.

For myself, sadly I can no longer eat Stevia.  I now react to it, in the pure distilled white powder form.  I can no longer eat the ice cream that folk adore on this blog.  I make ice cream, yes, but differently now.  My body will not tolerate "fake" sugars anymore!  I thought perhaps eating fermented foods for a year would heal me enough to go for Stevia again, and I tried- but alas, it is not to be.  So what am I doing to quench that sweet tooth?

Alas, I am jumping on and off the wagon, that's what I'm doing!  It is a strenuous battle.  Mostly I am trying to stick to honey, and home made maple syrup.  Oh, maple syrup!  It is that time of year!  Last year I learned how to make it, and helped boil down the syrup and even make maple candies to send to mom for mother's day.  This year I am learning about bee keeping, and enjoying raw organic honey from the source.

This may be the key.  Vowing to never eat commercially created sweet things, but only things created by your own hands.  Eating foods that are whole, made from whole ingredients- if you must have sweets, eat sweets you create with whole foods like maple syrup and honey.  The benefits of using these things are 1) they can be local, and 2) they are indeed a whole food with vitamins and minerals.   I will write another blog expounding on the beauty and benefits of honey, I think.

For now, it is enough to say that I am feeling vastly better in my body since eating fermented foods for almost a year now.  I have far less pain, and feel it acutely when I am not taking care of myself.  I am eating whole and healthy fats, fermented foods, honey, and mostly sticking to good local food.  Grass fed meats (local!), veggies and fruits (local!  local!), and grain free when I can be.  Since beginning to lift weights I cannot be as strict paleo as I was; I do eat rice crackers and bread made from rice/ tapioca/ potato starch.  Calories!  I need calories!

Still, I am healthier than I have ever been, and getting stronger.  I plan on writing more blogs on working with honey and maple syrup, in this ever winding road of discovery.

blessings on your health!


Fermented Foods and Kicking Sugar

Welcome back, voyagers!  It's been several months and I have traversed several sugar holidays, and am sad to report that I was firmly and truly off the wagon.  Sigh.  Sugar is an incredibly powerful force.

I have new discoveries to report, however.  About 6 weeks back, I suffered a major IBS attack like I have not experienced in a long, long time.  It was painful, embarrassing, and noisy to say the least.  My companions were very understanding but nevertheless, it is not something I care to repeat.  I believe I know what set me off- popcorn with nutritional yeast!  Yes, the hippie superfood.  I did some looking later and discovered that it is actually not good for you, not digestible, and not what the body wants.

It was suggested to me that I start to eat fermented foods.  I wrinkled my nose in distaste, automatically thinking of dirty socks kimchi, of the nasty relish on hot dogs (that I had mistaken for sauerkraut), and other such yucky treats.  Well, was I in for a surprise!

I wasn't going to let my palate get in the way of healing.  The very next day I went out and bought two very important books:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.


They are stuffed with information about healing, nutrition, about the bogus diets and bogus FDA and food pyramid that are making people so sick.  It jives with the paleo principles I've been following (despite the fact that I still sneak in chocolate- I am a bad monkey).  There is information about restoring the gut flora and the benefits of that- regulating mood, cravings, digestive issues, malnourishment and so on.  They are huge proponents for animal proteins- but not just any!  Animal proteins acquired from animals living in the most natural way possible (aka grass fed cattle, chickens eating bugs and grass) and from small farms.  I am learning more and more.

So, I did it.  I made some sauerkraut.  I thought I'd hate it.  It's a tough sell, I tell you, at first whiff.  Collective wisdom I've read says if you can get past that first whiff, you can fall madly in love with the stuff.  They were right.  I made garlic kraut, thinking it would make anything taste ok- and I LOVE IT.

I've been drinking kefir every single day (from grains acquired from a friend, I make my own); yogurt I make myself (way cheaper); garlic kraut; fermented ginger carrots; and- drumroll, please- sourdough bread!  I made my own starter and have made some bread and wow, it is amazing!  I am totally thrilled.  Life is opening up.

My sugar cravings are not gone, but are definitely less pressing.  I am trying to stick to honey when I crave it- raw, unprocessed cream honey.  Or to the maple syrup we made this year.  From sap!  From trees!  Amazing!  To keep myself focused on healthy food I have occupied my kitchen with little projects- kefir, kraut, violet infused honey, mead, dandelion vinegar, dandelion wine.  I am paying attention to the season, started a garden with my own cabbage for kraut, kale and broccoli too.

Of course I am adjusting my ice cream recipe once again, moving towards full fat milk and cream; even experimenting with raw milk from a local farm.  Using eggs from a local farm (critical, people- stay away from factory eggs!  Poison!), and local maple syrup or honey.  Or even dates.  Life is better with whole foods.

I will be the first to admit that kicking sugar is a total bear.  It's next to impossible.  Our health is getting worse, though, and we need to pay attention.  Consume less, consume less sugar.  I also have read sugar's dirty history, sugar slavery (which is still alive and well!) and am less than impressed.  I need to make the choice- do I want that sugar on my lips, on my conscience?  Or support local agriculture?  It all helps.