Labelling Ourselves

I had a really great talk a few days ago with Vanessa, who was my trainer in London and now lives in Toronto starting up her coaching business, about labelling how we eat. I explained to her that recently I’ve been spending time thinking about my relationship with food and really trying to work on building a healthier mentality. For example, finding a long-term approach to eating that is healthy but isn’t overly restrictive or involve being “on” a program. In the past, I’ve really struggled to find balance when I’m not following “rules”. If you’ve read this blog, you are probably very aware of this fact.

I mentioned to her that I’m starting to feel more optimistic and pretty happy with following a mostly paleo template. I explained that in the past, I was reluctant to: a) use the term paleo, and b) adopt a style of eating that is less flexible. Both were related to my identity and how I wanted to be perceived by others. I didn’t want to be seen as “difficult” or following some questionable “fad diet”. But recently, I’ve been listening to my body, and I realize that my insides aren’t angry when I eat this way. And, frankly, I don’t really care if someone believes I’m trying to eat live a caveman – I’m not. Since my mindset has shifted about how I perceive paleo, it has been freeing.

This discussion led us to talk about labels. As in vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, ketogenic, flexitarian, etc. I think I’ve been caught up with them in the past because having a label helped define my approach. And there is nothing wrong with identifying with a label, but Vanessa pointed out that labels really aren’t necessary. As she listened to me define how I’d prefer to eat long term, she said, “it sounds like you want to eat foods that taste good AND make you feel good”, and a lightbulb went off. That’s exactly what I want.

It’s so simple, and it’s better than me trying to find a label that defines my approach to eating. It also acts as a good guideline for the long-term*. It’s a healthy way to think about food. It’s also very appealing – I want my food to taste good and be exciting, and I want to feel good after eating it.

Vanessa also mentioned that occasionally, I’ll choose to eat food that tastes good but doesn’t make me feel good. And that’s alright, but instead of feeling guilt, shame, and throwing in the towel (might as well eat ALL THE THINGS!), just recognize that that choice didn’t work well for my body and return back to my standard for the next meal.

As for choosing foods that neither taste good nor make me feel good, I’d like to think I would have the good sense to avoid doing that. However, I can recall eating a few desserts that weren’t as good as I hoped but that I finished anyway.

My talk with Vanessa was really well timed as shortly after, my copy of Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig (co-creator of the Whole30) arrived in the mail. As an aside, I found it incredibly exciting that my pre-order book arrived a full 4 days before the official release – a book nerd’s dream. Melissa’s messages echo Vanessa’s, and I think the term food freedom is a really good one. Though I haven’t finished the book yet, I think it’s a really valuable tool for anyone that wants a healthier relationship with food.


*Note: While the guideline “I eat food that tastes good and makes me feel good” is great for me when making choices, it’s not all that useful for making restaurant plans with others. When asked where I’d like to eat, I described my newly-adopted mantra with pride – then quickly realized this information is completely useless without context. Useful lesson for future restaurant planning.


Change of Plans

When I started my latest “plan” of doing the Whole45, I envisioned a similar process to past experiences – rough first week or so then feeling pretty good afterwards with plenty of energy. However, my medical complications, well, complicated things.

I really haven’t felt my best these past few weeks, and I decided to make the conscious decision to start reintroducing some foods after 34 days instead of 45. Though a small part of me was disappointed to not follow-through on the original idea, I made a choice that I felt was best for me given the circumstances. I haven’t reintroduced much – I’m basically eating paleo but not getting bent out of shape about products with some added sugar (e.g. ketchup or a marinade), and I’ve had some rice and a corn tortilla. I also had some wine on the weekend.

The thing I’ve been thinking about the most over the past week or so is what’s next. I pointed out in an earlier post that I don’t want to treat this process like an accidental diet where there is some kind of end date. I truly want to learn what makes me feel best inside and figure out a personalized template to do so.

In an ideal world, I would find a nice 80/20 style approach, eating this way most of the time and having some room for exceptions. The tricky part is that I’m not sure that is my nature. When reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, she talks about knowing yourself and goes on to detail some different types, including moderators and abstainers. Moderators would be the type of person who can, say, have one square of chocolate a day, or only a few chips. Abstainers would be the type of person who cannot compute how one can eat only one square of chocolate or who can polish off a bag of chips in one sitting. In other words, abstainers would do well to never bring the bag of chips or bar of chocolate into the house in the first place.

I think the reason I do so well when I’m “on a program” is because I am an abstainer. It’s why two years ago, I described how I love not having a grey area. And, I think it’s because I find it easier to follow clear guidelines. Because I’m not naturally a moderator.

But, life is long, and food will always be a part of life. I do not think it’s realistic to live the rest of my life (hopefully many more decades) adhering to extremely rigid rules. So, I’m trying to spend some time thinking about how I can work on changing my mindset and making some room in my life for moderation in a way that still helps me feel my best.

A New Favourite 

This weekend I stumbled upon a recipe posted on social media that looked so good I made it within a few hours. It helped that I had the ingredients, although I did make a couple of adjustments. 

It was Buffalo Chicken Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. Mine did not look as good as the ones online but they tasted AMAZING.

The only changes I made were omitting the carrots in exchange for more celery, and I didn’t have dill handy. I also used the Instant Pot to bake the potatoes more quickly than using the oven. Also, the recipe called for chipotle mayo, which we technically don’t have but made by combining my homemade mayo with chipotle hot sauce.  

If you are looking for a new, satisfying recipe with a little spice, this is worth a try. It’s also easy to half like we did. 

Hating Graves’ Right Now

When I started to post about my Whole45, I imagined sharing details about the experience, like dealing with dining out, trying new foods and recipes, and how I’m feeling overall. Having done two prior Whole30’s, I knew what to expect, and after the initial week or two, the positive benefits.

This time around has been so completely different because of my recent diagnosis. Graves’ disease is really cramping my style.

Earlier this week was a struggle with dropping energy levels. On Thursday, I finally had a good day without feeling an energy crash. I was pleased. Then Friday, my energy levels still doing alright, my heart decided it wanted to try something different. Around 3:30pm, I started noticing brief intervals of heart palpitations.

My Samsung phone has a heart rate monitor on the back and allows me to track measure my heart rate on demand. So, I checked, and yes, it was high (~150). Within a minute, it was back down (~50). This has happened before, so I wasn’t all that thrown off. However, this continued on and off for a couple of hours. This was all while working at my desk. I wasn’t moving, walking, or getting up and down. Just working on my computer.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful, and I had enough energy to go for a walk later. I know heart palpitations are a symptom of Graves’, so I’m not worried. I’m mostly just irritated. I know the medication I’m taking takes a few weeks to make changes, so I’m trying to be patient. I get my blood work done in a few weeks and that will inform how I’m reacting.

I’ve been pretty positive since being diagnosed in June, and as much as I want to continue that sentiment and keep perspective, it would be insincere to pretend I’m not frustrated. So, I’ve decided to let myself feel frustrated and express this frustration. In the meantime, I am trying to treat myself with grace. I won’t beat myself up if I’m not as productive as I would like. If I need to nap, I’ll nap. However, I am still choosing to make good food decisions. Something I can say with confidence is that my insides have not been angry for the past few weeks. And that is something I can feel good about.

Fruit Gummies

This weekend my much-anticipated amazon delivery arrived: gelatin and a candy mold.

I had wanted to try making homemade gummies after seeing some straight-forward recipes online. I had also been wanting to find another way to get collagen into my diet aside from making broth. 

My first attempt was easy, just raspberries, lemon juice and gelatin, but I didn’t remove the seeds and I didn’t love the flavour. They did look good, though.

So yesterday I tried a different recipe that involves simmering the berries (this time both raspberry and strawberry) with a little lemon juice then mixing the gelatin in some boiled water and combining the fruit and dissolved gelatin.

I had wanted to strain the seeds first but forgot so I strained it with the gelatin, which was tricky, and I hope to never make that mistake again. It made a lot more so I had to use a mini muffin tray as well as the candy mold. After a few hours in the fridge,  they came out great!

So now I have homemade “candy” as a way to get some collagen proteins in my diet. 

Thyroid Update

After discussing with my doctor last week, we decided to start a very low dose of medication. The main issue is my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels are non-existent,  so while my thyroid hormones being in range is technically good, they are being driven by antibodies pretending to be TSH. 

So now I’m a week in. The drugs take a few weeks to work, apparently, so I won’t know much until my lab work in 3 more weeks. While I don’t feel worse, I don’t feel much better. Just a different type of “off”. Before I felt car sick and now I feel drops in my energy and a reduced appetite. It is definitely frustrating and a challenge, but once again I want to keep perspective and remember that it could always be much worse. 

The Instant Pot

I wanted to write a post about my Instant Pot. It’s an electric pressure cooker, and I love it. I’ve had it since last fall, and it’s in regular rotation. It’s the kitchen tool I gush about to whoever is willing to listen. Or, at least they nod along – hearing a person ramble on about their love for an electric pressure cooker is not for everyone. I learned about it from NomNomPaleo as the author is a huge fan and even has a summary of her favourite recipes.

20160831_121055This is my Instant Pot. It is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker, and it steams and sautés. Some versions can make yogurt, but I didn’t need that function.

My main uses:

  • Broth – I use the leftover bones from roasted chickens or chicken legs to make homemade bone broth in 2 hours as opposed to 6-8 hours in a slow cooker.
  • Spaghetti Squash – Instead of roasting a spaghetti squash for 40-50 minutes in the oven, I can steam the squash in under 15 minutes.
  • Soups – I have another slow cooker, which is really wide so great for large cuts meat, but I prefer the Instant Pot for slow cooking soups because of the cylindrical shape of the stainless steel pot.
  • Dinners – My two go-to recipes are Mexican beef and buffalo chicken. Both only take about 10 minutes to prep, then I start the pressure cooking and walk away while it works its magic.

Since I made my buffalo chicken recently, I thought I would share how easy it is.

I bought 4 chicken thighs and some pre-washed leafy greens. First, I make the buffalo sauce in the Instant Pot on sauté mode with the lid off.

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I added 1/2 c hot sauce, ~1/4 c ghee, ~1/4 c coconut oil, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tbps cider vinegar. Once they are all mixed, I turn off the sauté mode and add the chicken.

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Then, I just push the poultry button, which is automatically set for 15 minutes. You can adjust the timer down for smaller pieces or up for bone-in pieces. When it’s getting close to being done, I make some salad dressing (either a vinaigrette or ranch). Once the chicken is done, I can enjoy a buffalo chicken salad and have the other half for leftovers. Note: I don’t have photos of the finished project because I was too excited and started eating it before remembering to take a photo. Whoops!

One other thing I really like about the Instant Pot is that it’s Canadian. And you probably won’t find it in regular stores. In Canada, you can find it in Showcase stores (the As Seen on TV stores) or buy it online. I got mine last year in a Showcase store for $109. Pretty good deal considering the use I get out of it.

Weekend Away

This past weekend I was out of town. It was not the first time I have travelled while completing an elimination diet, but it was the first time I had flown.

Since the first flight was over the dinner hour, I needed to eat something, but I didn’t have time to prepare anything in advance. This meant searching for something I could eat at the airport. Based on the list of places, it was looking slim, but I remembered one place that usually has fresh and healthy options.

I found a salad bar, and while it had been pretty picked over, it was still sufficient for me to keep my hunger at bay. Here’s what I had:


Yes, 2 hard boiled eggs and a handful of blueberries.

It was quick, I could use my hands, and the blueberries were actually quite delicious.

My weekend away went well because I have supportive family and friends. It was a little hard to watch my friends eat some of the best donuts in town. Literally, there were three dozen gourmet donuts, and people would swoon after a bite. But, the decision was easy. I would stay the course. There will always be donuts. And should I want one later, I will decide then if it’s worth it. Until that point, I’m focused on my health.