I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there probably hasn’t been a whole lot of “me” showing up in the blog lately. Sure, I’ve been sharing recipes, might have talked about the weather or the Farmer’s Market a few times, but I’ve been pretty guarded about what I share. Yes, I’ve mentioned the divorce, and all the moving I’ve done in the past year, but there’s been something else going on with me lately.
Don’t worry, it’s a good thing.
I’ve changed my diet pretty drastically in the last few months while trying to get some health issues ironed out; it turns out that getting healthy can take a lot of time and focus. I’ve been going through the motions of posting recipes and keeping the blog updated, but I don’t feel like I’ve been present in my writing (or photography, for that matter). It’s time to change that. I’m feeling fantastic, eating better meals than ever, and as an added bonus, steadily losing weight. I’m ready to share it all with you. I’ll be writing a more in-depth post soon about what changes I’ve made and why, but I thought I’d give you a brief overview of what I’m eating and not eating right now.
IN: meat and poultry (organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc, when I can find and afford it), seafood, eggs (almost always free-range from the farmer’s market), lots of fresh local organic veggies, cherries, berries, and a few other fruits, nuts and seeds, butter (I’ve been using Kerrygold), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, natural cheeses, heavy cream, whole milk yogurt (usually FAGE Total), organic tofu and some other soy products, almond milk (only a partial list, of course!)
OUT: Sugar and pretty much ALL sweeteners, even the natural ones (I use Stevia for tea and occasionally to sweeten whipped cream for berries), extra-sweet fruit like bananas and mangoes, all grains, all legumes, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine (still struggling with this one, but almost there)
The main problem I’ve been trying to correct (and now have, quite successfully) is reactive hypoglycemia. While most people experience low blood sugar occasionally, I’ve been struggling for several years with a much more extreme case. Crazy (really crazy) mood swings, shakiness, trembling, confusion, and sometimes slurred speech a couple hours after eating, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, extreme sensitivity to noises and smells, problems sleeping, and the list goes on and on. Basically, I’ve been a basket case for the last 6 or 7 years, although have managed to hide it fairly well from anyone not living with me or spending long periods of time with me.
Over the last few years, I read a bunch of books, talked to my doctor (who wasn’t much help other than to say, “yep, sounds like hypoglycemia”) and tried different hypoglycemia diets. Although I always noticed an improvement in the more drastic symptoms when I was careful about what I ate, exercised regularly, and made sure to snack every couple of hours, I never got back to what felt like “normal.” To keep symptoms under control I had to literally time my meals and snacks (I had alarms set on my phone for every 2 hours) to keep from going more than two hours without eating. It sucked.
Long story short, a few months back I stumbled onto some reading about low carb dieting. The more I read about the different diets and learned about insulin control, the more I realized that in my previous attempts at a hypoglycemia diet, I had been doing it all wrong. I had never focused on cutting out carbohydrates, I had only focused on eliminating the refined ones. I just couldn’t believe that my beloved whole grains, beans, and fruits could in any way be causing these horrendous problems. Caffeine and alcohol were also culprits, but that’s a whole other story for another day.
I finally ended up at The Atkins Diet. I had always been one of those people who wholeheartedly believed that there was NO WAY Atkins could be a healthy diet. The truth is, I knew nothing about it. Nothing. I had never bothered to read about it or even listen to anyone who believed in it. All I knew is what I had heard repeated from other non-believers: a diet that lets you eat unlimited bacon but restricts fruit must be unhealthy! But once I opened my mind to the idea that cutting almost all carbohydrates out of my diet would eliminate the blood sugar spikes and the subsequent abnormal lows that were ruining my life, I knew I had to seriously rethink my diet.
I spent a few weeks reading more about the low carb thing and learning about all the different diets out there: Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Primal, the list goes on and on. They are all variations on the same general theme, but with varying allowances of carbohydrate intake. Most of them have tried to somewhat distance themselves from Atkins since that diet had such a bad rap for so long, but really, it’s all the same thing. And believe it or not, Atkins was right about a lot of things. I’ll talk about that more later as well.
After all my research, I was back to Atkins. It really did sound like it could be the answer to my problems. So the next step was to accept the fact that I would have to give up bread. Not only bread, but pretty much ALL baked goods, all traditional desserts, potatoes (french fries!)… did I mention bread? It was hard to wrap my head around it all. I guess I have probably been wrestling with all of this in the back of my head for a while, because I’m sure I must have conveniently skipped over much of this information in my past research about hypoglycemia. It’s amazing how your mind will let you believe what you really want to believe, even when faced with facts that contradict what it is you’re holding on to.
I’m a baker. I’ve always been a baker. My mom was a baker. It’s in my blood! I’m a food blogger. How am I supposed to keep blogging without talking about desserts or baked goods? That’s what people expect from me! How on earth am I supposed to just let all of it go? What about birthday cake? Can I not celebrate birthdays now? What about Christmas? Thanksgiving!? All of these thoughts raced through my head over and over. Then one day, it stopped. I realized something.
I am so much more than a baker and a blogger. Holidays and birthdays are more than just cookies and cake and ice cream.
There are so many things I want to do in this life. I want to feel good again. I want to enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I want to feel good again. I want to travel, take pictures, write, explore this city, this state, this incredible world we live in.
I want to feel good again.
It was all so clear. I could say goodbye to sugar, to bread, to my pantry overflowing with grains and beans and baking supplies. I could say goodbye to all of that if it meant that I could have one day, one week, one year of feeling good again.
So I did it.
I actually eased into it pretty slow. I started eliminating things slowly, beginning with sweets. Just like before, I noticed an improvement as I eliminated the bad carbs, but I was still hungry all the time and needing to eat every two hours to control my blood sugar. I got to the point where I had eliminated pretty much everything but a single slice of homemade whole wheat toast and coffee in the morning. I felt much better, but was still having problems of feeling shaky and hungry every two hours. The bread and coffee had to go, too.
Finally, on Mardi Gras, I started Atkins. Like the real deal Atkins induction – no more than 20 grams of net carbs a day. From the first day, I felt like a new person. No hunger, no shaking, no mood swings. It was like a miracle. My only carbohydrate intake was from vegetables, which I made sure I was eating. I stopped worrying about fat and and gave myself permission to eat as much as I wanted of whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I realized I no longer had to eat on a regimented schedule because I wasn’t getting hungry and shaky every two hours. I had plenty of energy. I was finishing up the Couch-to-5K program with my friend Ruby at the time and noticed absolutely no change in my ability to jog even though I wasn’t eating many carbohydrates. Again, It felt like a miracle.
And then I started losing weight.
I lost 9 pounds the first month and now that I’ve been eating this way for 3 months, I’m down nearly 20 pounds. This has all been through diet. Although I was jogging a bit at the beginning with the couch-to-5K program, I stopped jogging within a couple weeks. Why? I don’t enjoy it! As much as I wanted to love it, jogging isn’t fun for me. I’m feeling so good right now, I refuse to do things that aren’t fun. I ride my bike, I walk, I lift weights sometimes, but I’m no longer exercising with the intent of losing weight (that was never fun for me). I’m exercising to feel good, and only when I feel like doing it. And yes, I actually do feel like exercising now.
So now I’m 3 months in. I’m no longer following the strict Atkins plan because I don’t like counting carbohydrates. I worked my way out of induction and slowly started adding things like nuts and berries. I did it long enough to learn what my body can tolerate (not much, at this point) and now I just eat the foods that make me feel good and stay away from the ones that don’t. Now that my main goal (feeling good) has been attained, I’ve moved on to the next goal, which is to continue losing weight. I’d like to eventually lose 25-30 more pounds, but I’m not in a big hurry. The way I’m eating right now is allowing me to lose about 4-5 pounds a month and that seems good to me. I could be stricter with calories (yes, calories do count, even with low carb diets) and lose faster, but just like jogging, I decided that I hate counting calories. I’m eating in a way that’s extremely satisfying and makes my body feel good. And since I’m now eating the right things, my body is dropping the excess fat that I’ve slowly accumulated over years of eating the wrong things. Now that I know what I can eat, it’s effortless and pretty amazing.
So that’s where I am. I am a baker who doesn’t bake (much), a food blogger who won’t be writing about cupcakes, a coffee fiend who has (almost) given up coffee, a beer drinker who doesn’t drink alcohol at all. A pasta fanatic who hasn’t touched pasta in 3 months. And I am the happiest I’ve ever been.
Has all of this been easy? Of course not. But I mean it when I say that I feel better than I have ever felt. I will be eating this way for the rest of my life – adding certain things back in, if and when I can (I’d love to eventually eat some grains and beans, we’ll see). It’s a process. I’m learning my body as I go. Of course I will occasionally eat things that are bad for me, but I won’t ever go back to the way I was eating before. Sugar makes me feel awful now. It should, it does terrible things to our bodies. I’ll be talking much more about that in the future.
As I learn more, I will be sharing more with you. My recipes are changing, but not too much. I have always believed in eating whole foods, and that’s exactly how I am eating now. I think you’ll like the way I’m eating – I love it. There are plenty of fantastic blogs out there that will provide you with the things that I’ll be leaving out. And I’m hoping that by sharing my story, I’ll inspire a few of you to find a way of eating that works best for your body – we’re all different. It feels so good to feel good.
As I sat down to write this, I wasn’t planning on sharing as much as I know have. I am still planning on writing a more in-depth post about why this way of eating is working for me and why it works so well for so many people. I hope you’ll stay tuned.
But for now I really just want to share these crunchy and delicious cheese crisps! I think most of you have probably made Parmesan crisps before, but these are something new and exciting for me – the one person in the world who didn’t know how simple it was to make a cracker out of cheese. Of course I used my favorite Parmigiano Reggiano for these crisps – I use it in everything! I buy big blocks of the stuff at Costco, so I never run out.
I decided to add some extra flavor to my crisps by sprinkling in some McCormick Gourmet Italian Seasoning. I like to put it in my hands and crush it with my palms before adding it to anything. The herbs blend in better and my hands smell terrific afterward.
Although most Parmesan Crisps are made with just Parmesan, I decided to experiment with some extra ingredients. I added ground flax seed to add some texture and a nutty flavor and shredded sharp yellow cheddar for color and flavor.
This recipe is so simple. You just stir up the four ingredients and make sure the flax seed is evenly distributed throughout the cheese mixture.
Next you just drop little piles of the cheese mixture on a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Pat the piles down like little pancakes.
Then bake them for about 10 minutes.
After cooling on the pan for a few minutes, slide the crisps onto a cooling rack. They will be ready to eat as soon as they cool.
These are fantastic eaten as crackers or they can garnish soups and salads. They are absolutely packed with flavor!
I have been chosen by McCormick to participate in the McCormick Real Gourmets program. I have been paid by them and I received a big box full of McCormick Gourmet spices. I have been using McCormick Gourmet for years, and am thrilled for the opportunity to explore more of their spices and blends. I used McCormick Gourmet Italian Seasoning to create these Herbed Cheddar Parmesan Crips.
Herbed Cheddar Parmesan Crisps
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
A few grinds of black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Using a tablespoon, drop 8 small piles of the mixture onto a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they are evenly spaced. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 -10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool on pan for 5 – 10 minutes then slide the crisps onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely. Enjoy!
Makes 8 Parmesan Crisps.
Thanks to those of you who took the time to read my story – I’m sure it’s come as quite a shock to most of you! I’ll be sharing much more about this in the future and look forward to creating and sharing lots of new recipes that should appeal to a wide range of tastes – not just those of us who are watching our carbohydrate intake. For those who are interested in what my current meals look like, I’ve recently started sharing photos and descriptions of most meals on Facebook. I’d also be happy to answer any questions here, there, or on twitter.