My Paleo Diet and Why I Do It

Me In Vegas for My 40th Birthday

It’s been a while since I blogged about a dessert.  Honestly, I don’t make them much anymore.  I’ve been on a low carb version of a paleo diet for the last year.  In a nut shell that means: meat, fish, chicken, all non-starchy veggies, some nuts and seeds, berries, some fruit, no dairy, no gluten, no grains, no industrial seed oils (corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower etc), no sugar and nothing processed.  Only real food is allowed.  If you can’t grow it or kill it you probably shouldn’t eat it.  If it comes with a label professing its health benefits you should probably steer clear.  If it contains non-food ingredients, run the other way.  If you can’t pronounce it, it isn’t food.  The focus is on nutrient dense, fresh, high quality foods.  Where I get my food is important.  Organic is always preferred if economically possible.  I know it sounds like a lot.  It really isn’t.  It’s just like the steep learning curve we were on when we first went gluten free in January of 2007.  This way of eating has become second nature.  It’s no big deal.  Yes, it certainly requires more time than a drive through or opening packages and microwaving them at home but everything tastes better and the benefits of eating this way are life changing.  I started eating this way because just over a year ago I was 38 years old and I felt like crap.  I had a host of issues that were altering the quality of my life.  I had so many tests with my doctor and neurologist and even an MRI.  The tests showed that nothing was wrong.  But still I felt like crap.  The worst of the symptoms was fatigue.  It was an overwhelming fatigue that went far beyond just feeling tired.  Some days it was hard to remain upright.  On those days when the kids asked me for something I wanted to cry.  The effort it took to do something so small felt monumental.  There were a long list of other complaints but it was the fatigue – both mental and physical, that were the most disturbing to me.  I would rather have a migraine than have that fatigue.  It occurred to  me one day that if that is what my life was going to be like for the rest of my life then I didn’t really want to live it.  No if that thought isn’t a wake up call – nothing is.  I don’t know if this was chronic fatigue as I never got a diagnosis but I suspect that is what it was.  Since changing the only thing I had the power to change, my diet, life has become mine to live again.  I am 99% better now a year later.  All of the little issues have vanished.  The headaches that I have had since I was 13 are infrequent and mild.  The bouts of fatigue are thankfully rare.  How do I know it was my diet that helped me?  Two reasons.  1) I changed nothing else.  I still do not excercise and my stress levels are the same.  Yes, these are the next two areas I need to focus on. 2) Every time I get flexible with my diet every single symptom comes back in the matter of a few days.  When I started this diet – which really isn’t a diet but a lifestyle as it is something I will happily follow for the rest of my life – I didn’t start with the intent of losing weight.  I have a very small frame and I don’t think anyone would have looked at me and said I was obese.  Yes, I had extra weight on me and I deplored the way I looked but I didn’t think I was obese.  The last 8 months is when I fell into a groove with my diet and I had worked out the kinks and found out what works best for me.  In that time I have lost 30 lbs.  I did this without effort to lose weight.  I have never counted calories and I always eat when I am hungry.  I eat until I am full.   I DO NOT starve myself.  I am now at a weight that I haven’t seen since I was in junior high.  I weigh less than when I got married 17 years ago and less than I did when I graduated high school.  That’s been a pretty nice side effect.  Clothes shopping has become fun for the first time.  I feel happy, relaxed, calm, clear-headed and energetic most of the time.  I don’t fear Type II Diabetes anymore.  I know I am super sensitive to carbs probably more than most people and I am careful.  One of the best side effects of the way I eat is the freedom it has given me.  It may be hard for you to imagine that I feel freedom in a diet with so many restrictions.  I used to be a slave to food.  I was ALWAYS thinking about the next meal.  If I went more than a couple of hours without eating I turned into a volatile, anxious bitch.  I was probably hypoglycemic – yet another sign of my sensitivity to carbs.   When I was hungry I was ravenous.  It was not a sensation that could be ignored.  It consumed me.  Now that I limit my carb intake and have removed all grains and sugar in my diet, food does not have that power over me anymore.  When I feel hungry it is like a quiet reminder from my body that I need to eat.  But if it so happens that I am not in a place that I can eat, it isn’t a big deal to wait a few hours.  Nothing bad will happen.  I won’t implode from hunger.  I can still carry on.   I’ve discovered that there is NOTHING in the world that tastes as good as feeling this way feels.  The longer I eat this way the less and less I crave foods that make me feel badly.  I have found that I have a pretty powerful negative feedback system that will help to prevent me from getting too far off track.  I’ve learned to listen to my body which I think is something of enormous value that is not valued in our society.  I am not 100% of the way there and I am still learning.  I have learned so much in the last year.  I will not profess to be an expert and I will not try to teach the details of all that I have learned.  There are lots of great resources on the web that are more knowledgable than I and can say it and explain it better than I ever could.  I can however try to share with you what I am eating and enjoying.  This post started out to be a recipe for lemon bars.  Yes, Paleo Lemon Bars.  Not low carb but not a cheat either.  Treat – yes.  Cheat – no.   I will get to that post soon.  Until then here was my story that I did not plan to share.  My hope for anyone who has actually gotten to the bottom of this loooong post is that you take your own health into your own hands.  Change what you have the power to change.  Educate yourself and take control. Ugh!  Did that sound preachy?  If you have a similar story I would love to hear about it.  Leave a comment and tell me about your journey to health.

***I decided to post a picture of myself which I normally would not do but I always wonder what the writers of the blogs I read look like.  So here I am.   I am soooo not photogenic.  This picture was taken on a friends phone when I met my high school girlfriends in Las Vegas this past October to celebrate our 40th birthdays.  The picture quality isn’t great but it’s one picture of myself that I don’t hate.

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Changes Coming to GfRealFood

Crickets…crickets… It’s been real quiet here at gfrealfood.  I’ve had a lot to think about lately.  Last December my husband and I went grain free.  We have been gluten free for more than 4 years and I personally have been dairy free for most of that time too.  I had been having some weird symptoms that my PCP and neurologist couldn’t find a cause for.  Within about 2 weeks of eliminating grain, dairy, all forms of sugar other than small amounts of honey or coconut sugar and all processed foods, I felt like the old me.  Every single symptom vanished.  I had energy, I felt happy and calm and had no physical complaints.  Life was good.  We even made it through Christmas following the plan.  Then in February we decided to have a blow it day.  Bad idea.  That day became a week.  And that week became….You get the idea.  It’s a very, very slippery slope.  Within days of going back to our old ways (although we were still gluten free and I remained dairy free) every single last symptom came back – with a vengeance.  I felt sure that my issues were food related.  I started seeing an allergist in March.  Turns out I was right.  I didn’t think I had allergies or intolerances beyond gluten and dairy.  I was stunned to find out I have a lot.  Finding out that I am allergic to corn put me into a serious funk.  I knew corn was in everything.  I read labels.  What I didn’t know was that it is in EVERYTHING.  I have come to believe that if it comes from a food manufacturer (i.e. in a box, bag, can, jar, bottle etc) and has more than 2 ingredients in it – it has corn in it.  Even my beloved bacon has corn in it in the form of sodium erythrobate.  Xanthan gum is corn based and it is used in a lot of gf baking and in many things as a thickener.  When we initially went gluten free I thought that was rough.  In hind site it was a piece of cake compared to eliminating corn.  The list of things that corn can be found in is FOUR pages long.   I am told that corn is, hands down, the most difficult single ingredient to eliminate.  It’s even in toothpaste, toilet paper, plastic cutlery, plastic bags and the list goes on and on.  What makes it even more difficult is that because corn is not on the FDA’s list of top allergens it doesn’t have to be listed on an ingredient label.  Thanks to the fact that our government subsidizes the corn industry it has found its way into nearly every product.  I wasn’t done feeling sorry for myself when I found out on my next visit to the allergist that I am also allergic to soy, coffee (ok, just shoot me now), citric acid (just try finding canned tomatoes without citric acid), dairy and brewers yeast (which is found in all vinegars and all alcohol – extracts included.)  Along with these there is a considerable list of things that I showed a slight reaction to that I am supposed to eat only once every four days.  Things on that list included: eggs, chocolate, almonds, cashews, peanuts, onion, bakers yeast…you get the idea.  So this all would explain my lack of posts here.  I have been completely stumped for ideas on what I can eat.  On the plus side of all this: it’s a great weight loss plan.  😉 

So what’s my plan?  Starve to death?  Resign myself to feeling like garbage for the rest of my miserable life?  No.  It’s GAPS to the rescue.  If you haven’t heard of GAPS please click on the link.  I could not do it justice to explain it here.  Anyway, I have hope and I am going to give it everything I have got to make it work.  I bought the book and as I was reading through it and was feeling totally overwhelmed, my favorite food blogger announces that she will be offering a GAPS cooking class.  Surely it was a sign.  I enrolled.  The first class (all are online) was released yesterday.  I can not believe the amount of work and information that went into this.  I feel like the cost of enrollment was a steal. 

So back to the changes to my blog.  From now on all recipes will be free of grain, corn (technically a grain), soy, dairy, gluten, brewers yeast and sugar.  All will be “full GAPS legal”.  If I am able to reverse some or all of these food allergies then this list will shrink in time.  For now though I am going to have to stick with these limitations.  Will this blog still be something that interests you?  I hope so. 

Anyone else have multiple food allergies?  Does anyone here have success with reversing them?  If you have any experience with this or with GAPS I would really love to hear from you.

Our McDonald’s Experiment

i'm not lovin' it

To some it may be hard to believe that our 3 kids have no McDonald’s memories.  Our oldest was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when she was 2 so she doesn’t ever remember eating there.  We don’t have cable or satellite TV so they don’t see the commercials either.  Since the diagnosis of both my daughter and my husband we never eat there so the kids have no idea what it’s all about.  We have nicknamed the restaurant McGluten’s.  I am aware that they do have a couple of items on their menu that are gluten free but it is things like salad and yogurt.  Ummm, no thanks.   So when I found  myself out doing errands a couple of days after Christmas with my 4 year old (who has never shown any reaction to the limited amount of gluten she has eaten in her life) I decided to do a little experiment.  My daughter was complaining of being hungry.  No problem.  I never leave home without something to eat in my purse.  Well never except for that day.  I had been sick so I guess maybe I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Maybe that was why I took the easiest option and took her to McDonald’s.  Millions of other parents do it so why not?  As we got into line I asked her what she wanted.  She said “What do they have here?”  The guy in front of us looked back at us, laughed and said something about being surprised that she didn’t already know what she wanted.  I told her what the choices were.  I had to explain what a McNugget was.  She finally decided on those with fries and an apple juice.  We took the kid’s meal to the table and sat down.  She was so excited to get her lunch in a colorful box.  She immediately asked if she could take the box home.  You can imagine her reaction when she opened the box to find not only her lunch but a toy.  She shrieked loudly that “Someone put a toy in here!”  The two tables near us giggled over her excitement.  I told them that it was her first time there.  They  looked at me like they couldn’t decide if I was joking or not.   I wondered for a moment if she would now be begging to come back regularly.  Had I just opened a huge Pandora’s box?   Once the excitement of the toy subsided she remembered she was hungry.  She dug in.  She ate a grand total of one and a half nuggets, one taste of the sauce, one solitary french fry and all of her apple juice.  I asked her why she didn’t want to eat anymore and her response was one that made me proud.  She said, “I don’t like it.”   Yay!  Score for REAL FOOD!  Since that day she has asked to go back once.  She wanted another toy but not the food.  

I have said it before and I will say it again.  Celiac disease has been a good thing for our family.  Prior to CD I never once considered what I put in my mouth.  I assumed that all those things that I couldn’t pronounce on the ingredient list were food and were safe and benign.   I loved McDonald’s.  We ate out every day, sometimes more than once a day.  I had absolutely no idea of the close relationship between food and health, both physical and mental health.  While CD does in fact make life far more complicated at times and it certainly would be better not to have it, those are things that I can not change.  I choose to focus on the many positive things that have come of it.

I’m Famous For My Bread, AGAIN!

Okay, that may be overstating the case a tad.  I wrote a while ago about how a friend of mine, Stephanie, entered my bread recipe in a gluten free baking contest.  She has CD as does 2 of her 3 kids.  Her only sibling and her father also have it.  Stephanie’s  sister, Kristen, is a dietician.  She was on TV this morning on a local morning news program in Nebraska.  She spoke about CD, symptoms, diagnosis, testing and it’s impact if it goes undiagnosed.  I thought she did an amazing job.  It’s hard to do those kind of interviews and say everything you would like to get said.  I think she did a great job at explaining it and why it is important to get tested.  Here are the links to the clips.  Right at the very beginning she talks about my bread recipe and how it came to be.  In the second clip she shares the bread she made and brought with her to the set.  It of course got great reviews from the hosts.  (The program also left a link to the recipe.  Unfortunately, they called it gluten free whole wheat bread instead of whole grain bread.  I am sure they will fix that since there is no such thing as gluten free wheat.)  There was also a link to my blog at the end.  Pretty cool, hey?!  As I have said before. I am not trying to make money from my blog or my recipe.  I just think it is a great thing to be able to share something with people who need it.  Mostly though, I am incredibly happy to see that Celiac Disease is getting more and more press.  One in 100-133 people have CD.  97% of those people don’t know they have it.  Only 1 in 6 people with CD have symptoms even though their small intestine is being destroyed.  If you have a blood relative with CD there is a 1 in 22 chance you have it.  (I think that statistic is WAY off.  I would bet the number is closer to 1 in 2)  If you have any auto immune disease, such as CD, you are more likely to have another, especially if you continue to eat gluten.  Many doctors still think that it is a rare childhood disorder.  Getting screened is as easy as one little poke!  CD often goes hand in hand with ASD (autism spectrum disorders), Type I Diabetes, IBS, depression to name a few. 

Thanks again to Stephanie and Kristen (and their mom for starting this whole TV thing) for doing such a great job of bringing awareness to CD and to my bread recipe.   You guys are awesome!

 Once again here is the original recipe.   And here is the simplified version.

Translation Please

A big part of my day is trying to decipher my 2 year old’s speech. I swear she is working with about half of the alphabet, at best. She gets so frustrated in repeating everything she says, that she says it louder and louder until she is screaming it. I think she thinks I am deaf. Sometimes I repeat back to her what I have heard and she will say “YA!” (Ya, you dummy, that’s what I said!) We often have to get Sage to be our interpreter. So let’s play a little game. How many of these can you figure out?

1. Huck Me!

2. ho -e hane handus

3. me hus me heef

4. me poopeen now!

5. haucat heok

6. no hypa, me hig now

7. husus honan eeteen hurdpoop

8. hinasore

9. heepitoo?


10. hiya heepeen hit me.


11. heer mommy, hoogy



Okay, can you figure any of these out? I would love to see your comments with some guesses. I’ll post the translations in a day or two.

It’s Mother’s Day today and as my gift Ron took the girls out of the house so I could have some quiet time (Justus is napping). This is the absolute best gift I could receive. There is NO gift that could be better than some time to myself. Before I had kids I hated being alone and had to fill in those times with phone conversations or TV or something like that but now since having kids I just can’t get enough time alone. (Honestly it is a rare thing.) I used to look at those people who went to movies or restaurants alone and think they were pathetic loners who couldn’t even come up with one friend or family member to go with them. I now know that those people are parents and they are loving that time alone. So Happy Mother’s Day to all you tireless moms. Here’s wishing you some peace and quiet all by yourself!

Ditching TV Among Other Things

In the last week of December Ron and I made a decision to discontinue our satellite service. This is something that I have been wanting to do for some time and I had suggested it more than once. But like most North Amercians, we are a teeny bit addicted to TV so Ron nixed the idea. I let it go. Then in the beginning of December it became his idea. Then of course it turned into a great idea. I was fully supportive of “his” idea but really didn’t think he would do it. First he started with the TVs. We had an embarrassing 6 flat screen TVs. One in nearly every room and even in the kids rooms (which we had always said we wouldn’t do). He started selling them off on Craigslist. I love Craigslist. Soon enough we had just one left. The he cancelled the satellite service. I was stunned and more than a little impressed. First he kicks gluten without even a flinch, then dairy, then aspartame, then TV and now he is working on soda in general. Since he has no other “real” vices he is on a fast track to becoming perfect. So you might be asking yourself, why would we do this? No, we’re not starving or having trouble paying the bills. This is really all just a part of a bigger picture. There is a lot to gain by ditching TV. First, the most obvious, is the cash you dish out every month for 7000 stations (and none of them are worth your time). Then there are the countless hours you can reclaim that can go to important things, like your family. We find we are spending more time as a family. We are playing games together, reading, making things, building things, going for walks, cooking, hanging out outside etc. Ron and I are talking more. Ron has started reading again. Him and I are both getting more sleep. Both of us had the habit of turning on the TV when we are tired to “just watch a couple of minutes.” Hours later we are still staring blankly at the TV. Then we wake up tired the next day and our patience is short with the kids and sometimes with each other. Then we’d miserable and lazy and only want to, guess what’s coming… watch TV. The TV was on in the background all the time whether or not anyone was watching. Since it has been off there is a beautiful calm in the house. I am enjoying the lack of the constant din. The girls are more often playing with each other. They are pretending, creating, learning and running. None of those things are done in front of the TV. We are spending more time outside and our attention is more fully on the present moment. How many times have I wished that the kids would just be quiet for a bit so I could hear or see something on the TV… TV is an escape, a drug, a diversion. I don’t want to be diverted from my life. I want to live it. At the end of our lives, will we look back and think “wow, I remeber that one TV show….”? We want our kids to have great memories of the time we spent together. Memories aren’t made waching TV. Life is so short and I want to be present for all of it. I don’t want to waste my precious time being told how I should look or what I should want (also why I don’t buy magazines anymore). I really don’t care what the Hollywood stars are doing, saying or wearing. I love the fact that my kids have no idea what a BRATZ doll is or who Hannah Montana is or what High School Musical is. I love that they adored the castle that Ron made for them at Christmas and that it wasn’t MADE IN CHINA or made from plastic. As I get older I find myself deploring the consumerism that defines American life. Everything is disposable, everything is about appearances and having the right car, handbag, hairstyle, jewelry, cell phone, clothing, body shape and bra size. I think that we have all lost sight of what really matters. Have have have get get get buy buy buy does not make us happier. Maybe it feels good for a minute but why? Because we have one upped the Jones’, or because we are one step closer to looking just so? In the last few months we have tried to reverse our years of that mindset of having and getting. We are constantly selling stuff we don’t use or need. Our entire focus is probably the exact opposite of most people here in Scottsdale. And you know what? It feels good. Really really good. We aren’t just selling stuff but we are giving stuff away too. I have discovered freecycle. This is an online group (probably one near you) that is all about the giving and receiving of free stuff in an effort to keep things out of the landfills a while longer. Right before Christmas we went through the kids toys and gave away everything that they didn’t use regularly. The whole lot of it went to a foster mom of 3 girls for their Christmas gifts. Even Sage felt good about that. So, to those of our friends and family who know about us ditching our TVs and selling all of our stuff: No, we are not starving or even having financial difficulties we are just trying to make the most of our lives.

Okay, I will step down from my soap box now.

For My Mom

Sometimes I am amazed at just how busy I am. My mom left more than a week ago and this is the first time that I have had to sit down and write. She arrived here on the 23rd for Christmas and left a week later. This was an unusually short stay for her. Unfortunately for all of us she has a life back in Alberta and she can’t just come and stay for as long as we would like her to.

We had a great Christmas this year. It is so fun to have kids this age. They get so excited about Santa. And for me it was extra special because my mom was here. My mom is the queen of Christmas. She loves it and everything that goes with it. She always has an amazing tree which she puts up in November and doesn’t take down until mid January. She wraps her gifts with perfection and a bow. All the gifts that she gives are chosen with such unbelievable thoughtfulness. I’m sure she must think about the perfect gift for each loved one all year long to ensure she nails it. Every year she used to do a ton of baking. Her shortbread cookies can not be compared with any other. And there were the millionaire squares, haystacks, uncooked cookies, naniamo bars to name a few. She was always so sure to make the number of gifts given to my sister and I were the same and the amount of money spent was the same. She always wrapped every gift in our stockings and made sure that it was unique Santa wrapping paper we had never seen before. The stockings were always our favorite and she (I mean Santa) packed them tightly and they often overflowed onto the floor. Just the act of setting up the Christmas tree was a special night. We would have a fire in the fireplace, eggnog and a big array of her baking. We would get to stay up late to set up the tree. My mom single handedly made Christmas the best day of the year. No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to do such an amazing job. Once again my mom made my Christmas for me. I can not even put into words how much her being here made this the best Christmas I have had in a long time. She has always been an amazing mom and now she is an amazing grandmother too. She has the patience to play with the girls for hours which is something I have trouble doing. One of my favorite pictures of her is of her sitting in our laundry basket playing with the kids. Always the mother, she is forever trying to take care of me by watching the kids or taking them out for a walk so I can nap in a quiet house or cleaning my house while she is supposed to be here visiting and relaxing. For all of my mom’s life she has focused on taking care of everyone around her and often at the expense of her own happiness. I know of no one else who is so completely unselfish and giving. She has a heart bigger than she is. Things between her and I have not always been so rosy. But I grew up and finally was able to see things as they are. She is my best friend. When something great happens I want to call her first. When something funny or horrible happens it is my mom I call. I can always count on her to lend an ear or a shoulder when I need it. If there were only one thing I could give my mom, it would be to give her the happiness that she has given to everyone around her for so many years.

Thank you mom for being you and helping to give us all a wonderful Christmas. Can we book your flight for next year??
I love you mom!
Here are some pics taken over the holidays.

Here she is, my beautiful mom.

Justus’ first Christmas.

Here is Rori in front of the gift her daddy made her. Ron made the girls a castle. The girls asked for knights, horses and other creatures that I can’t remember the names of right now. We are so happy about the girls asking for this kind of stuff rather than Dora stuff or Hannah Montanna stuff or princess stuff. I won’t get started on that right now… This view of the castle doesn’t show how amazing this thing is. Oh and Ron really was there for Christmas. That’s him in the background with no head. Other than that he seems to have escaped the camera, again.

Grandma and the girls.
Me and the girls. Sage had clearly had enough of the picture taking and Rori was only laughing because I was squeezing her knee.

Grandma feeding her only grandson.