Friday, February 19, 2010

Eat More Food

"Eat more food?" I asked with my heart sinking into my poor, distended gut. "Eat more food," said the nutritionist who sat across from me.

Eat more food.  Isn't that the kind of advice that everyone wants to hear? Eat more food.  That sounds easy.  Hell, I bet you most of America would agree it even sounds fun!  But I almost cried.

I've been overweight for as long as I can remember.  I was teased constantly growing up, and I had always thought that with proper diet and exercise, one day I could control my weight.  What I didn't know is that my body wasn't, isn't, and may never be normal, so the normal principles of weight loss don't necessarily apply to me.  As many of you know, I've been getting into fights with my body.  I was hoping that it would cooperate after all the allergies, the gluten, and the vices were cut out of my lifestyle.  My body decided it had other plans.  Different plans.  What I suspected to be thyroid related plans.  And after several doctors over several years told me its not your thyroid, I tested positive for thyroid antibodies, which assures me that I'm not crazy after all.  The presence of these antibody suckers does indicate that I am in fact experiencing some sort of autoimmune disfunction. Perhaps signs of early hypothyroid.  The first thing I thought of, admittedly selfish mind you, was maybe my metabolism will finally kick into gear.

Because of me having been overweight for most of my life, I always thought my metabolism was extremely slow.  I had one pediatrician tell me I had no metabolism, and that was that.  Through sources such as articles, journals, and medical professionals, metabolism is another one of those things medical science doesn't know enough about.  Which is why I was shocked to find out there was a metabolism test that I was going to take with a nutritionist, in order to see how many calories I was burning a day.

The metabolism test I took consisted of being at rest and breathing into a tube for 10 minutes.  The breath goes through the tube into a small machine that looks like it came from the late 1980s, which then estimates about how many calories you're burning in a day.  I expected a slow metabolism.  After all, I can't lose weight so it only seemed to make sense. Why haven't I learned that my body doesn't make sense?  My metabolism was a lot higher than I expected.  So high that the nutritionist said I need to eat 800 more calories a day, which brings me to the eat more food above.

Lately, eating has been more difficult than usual.  I think it's this weird new no appetite feeling my body's been showing up with.  I tried to eat enough, at the right times of day, despite the fact I haven't really been into it.  I guess I wasn't doing a very good job, because I wasn't eating enough according to the woman who was a size 0 telling me to eat more food.  And so now I'm here, the opposite place I'd ever imagined myself to be as a mysteriously overweight woman: eating more food.

It's not the fun foods that you would want to add to your diet like chocolate or butter, or more chocolate (hey I like chocolate!)  It's more like, eat more protein, more dairy, and more caloric vegetables and fruits without adding a lot more fat.  This is super hard with my food restrictions as everything I happen to eat is naturally low in calories.  I like chicken and turkey, peas, apples, bananas, and romaine lettuce.  I like baking with agave and applesauce, and eating pudding or yogurt for dessert.  So sue me!  But eating them in what I always thought were appropriate quantities is not helping my crazy-ass metabolism (aka C.A.M) so now I have to just eat more of them.

At this point, I'm willing to try just about anything to see if it works.  This is week 2 of my eating more food.  I'm not going to lie, I feel miserable about it.  It's not my favorite thing in the world to force myself to eat, especially when I'm not hungry.  But like everything else, this will take time to get used to.  I just hope it really works eventually, because I'm running out of other ideas.

I hope you don't mind me sharing these things with you reader.  To me, coping with these problems seems to go hand in hand with pre-Celiac, Celiac, or hyper-allergic individuals who still experience further symptoms despite altering their diets.  All of these things relate back to our autoimmune systems, an all encompassing storm of crazy that seems to rain down if one tiny thing gets of kilter.

I also hope this will explain why I may not post recipes for a few weeks, as I'm eating a lot of baked chicken, chicken/turkey/beef burgers, fruits, veggies, tinkyada pasta, and yogurt.  I'll find other upbeat things to write about though, don't you fear!  I'm actually going back to the UK for a couple weeks of work and hope to try out some awesome gluten-free foods while I'm in town.  I promise to tell you all about it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Math+Science+Crying=Experimental Baking

So as you can imagine, when I first faced my one serving of sugary or medium-oxalate carb a day, I didn't quite follow all the rules.  I would sometimes conveniently forget that a cookie was made with rice flour, or think it's only a small amount compared to eating a cup of rice.  I justify sometimes.  Don't we all?

But I'm a determined person.  I'm a willful, ambitious woman and I apply that directly to any challenge that faces me (as long as you give me from 1 hour-1 day to be frustrated with said challenge, wherein I may possibly cry.) After justifying, the determined person in me woke up and thought, I don't have to bake with rice flour just because it works.  I can bake with other mixes of flour too.  And thus began my journey into a haze of alternative flours, poofing up before my very eyes.

When I'm experimenting with Gluten-Free baking, I find I get a lot of fails before I hit my successes.  I've seen train wrecks, rocks, and mush come out of my oven time and time again.  And I've learned the age-old, visual disclaimer the hard way:  just because it looks good, does NOT mean it tastes good.  I've thrown away some really valiant tries, and I've frozen some interesting products to be eaten with courage at a later date.  For the better part of 2-3 months, I've been divining what will be my new flour mix: a rice free, corn free, soy free, nut free, bean free mixture that will work well with regular recipes, with substitutions, and with different types of baked goods.  Seems like a lot to ask for, doesn't it?

Now let me take you back to school with me for a moment.  Remember when you sat in class and muttered those famous groans, When am I EVER going to use this stuff?!  Oh, I remember very clearly because I was always very vocal regarding school lessons and practical life applications. The only hope I had for my future, grown self was that I would in fact never use mathematical sciences daily as a part of my career.  To say I never excelled at mathematical science would be the understatement of the century.  I'll be the first to stand up and tell you I was all for biology and anatomy, but was destroyed by chemistry and physics.  Ironically so, experimental baking is ALL chemistry and physics.  Oh, cruel fates!

Since my brain doesn't function with numbers (I was so much more of an English kid), I'd rather think of baking experiments as logic puzzles which haven't been solved yet.  For all you middle-school science fair attendees, I approach the trials with informal if/then statements (hypotheses) and solve them through trial and error.  Of course numbers are involved with baking no matter what because you find you need more of this or less of that, but if you only look at measurements and do equations on recipes first, you'll end up with a mess on your hands.  My first flour mix used 6 different flours; I ended up with a mix that uses just 3 flours (nice and economical.) I could take you through all the tedious reasons why mixes 1-5 didn't work, but I'd rather not "show my work" and dwell on past failures.  Instead, I'd like to celebrate mix 6, which did work.  I've used mix 6 on three separate weekends now, altering the same recipe (my control) checking to make sure that the substitutions didn't disturb the ability of the mix to absorb or not absorb what I was doing to it.  This weekend I'm running trials on how the mix functions in an originally gluttened recipe and how it functions as a vegan mix, but I'm confident that both trials will hold up nicely.  I'm not quite ready to share mix 6 with you yet, but it's not far off in the distance.

So class, what have we learned?

  • 1) Don't quit if your experiment backfires, literally or figuratively.
  • 2) You may occasionally cry during this process.  Have tissues handy.  Wash hands.  Try again.
  • 3) Don't be afraid of experimenting with baking because it's just like a middle school science fair project, and we've all been forced to do one of those.
  • 4) If a dunce like me can apply the principles of school to life and make delicious baked goods, I guess mathematical science isn't 100% evil (maybe just 98.5% evil.)

Class dismissed.  Go make a mess in your kitchen :)

Tip:  When testing baked goods, make smaller batches of smaller goods.  I tested wholesome cakes with muffins.  Check out the blueberry!

If anyone would like to buy me a new camera, 
well please do...