It’s about time for an update…

It’s been a while since August 8. Lots of things have happened. That’s life!  I figure that it’s time for a good update.

What’s new with my MS

The last time I took any kind of disease modifying drug to help slow my MS progression was July 11th, when I quit Tecfidera. For those of you who are not inclined to do the math, that’s about 6.5 weeks ago. I wasn’t even on a therapeudic dose long enough for it to be helpful for me, so if you really want to know how long it’s been since I was on medication to help my MS in any meaningful way, we’d have to look at when I stopped Copaxone, which was on June 2nd. This means that my MS has been running amok for almost 3 months. That’s an entire season!

Honestly, I miss Copaxone. I never thought I would say that, since I hate giving myself injections, but I haven’t been enjoying the come-and-go nature of my MS symptoms which are more pronounced since I stopped. Numbness and tingling on my left side and on my back has been annoying, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. Fatigue has been significantly worse. Bladder/bowel stuff has been annoying but not disabling. Fortunately, I stay pretty close to a bathroom at all times. I’d hate to already be needing Depends. I’ve had spells of time when seizures returned with force. Last night, for example, was pretty tough, but today has been fine.  I’ve noticed that getting enough sleep (which for me is apparently about 14 hrs a day) is absolutely necessary to proper bodily function.

By and large, I’ve been alright. I’ve enjoyed not dealing with any side effects from meds. I’ve enjoyed not injecting myself nightly, and I’m actually surprisingly optimistic about starting Gilenya (a once-a-day pill for MS) on Thursday of this week.  I have to be at the hospital at 8 a.m. for the administration of my first dose. I’m hoping that the 6-hour observation period goes smoothly.

What’s new with the Paleo Diet

Well, first of all, I feel like an ass-and-a-half for sharing those ketchup recipes with you. I was so proud of my work at the time — but I’m really not pleased with what’s come after the first day. I’ve been using the stuff that I made for a few weeks now — and the first thing that happened with it is that the condiment got super thick, just like tomato paste. I have to dilute it with water every time I use it.

I intend to make another batch using a different recipe.  This recipe is based on Heinz ketchup, and has gotten good reviews.

Ingredients

6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth.
  2. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Remove pan from heat and cover until cool. Chill & store in a covered container.

To make it paleo-friendly, I’m just substituting honey for the corn syrup and sugar. Because honey is 1.5 times as sweet as sugar, I’m only adding 1/3 c. for the whole recipe. I know agave nectar would be a better 1-to-1 substitute for corn syrup, but it’s also a high-fructose syrup (90% fructose, 10% glucose).  Honey has a better ratio of fructose to glucose (40% fructose, 30% glucose, 30% other).

Several folks commented on the recipe that they subbed honey with good effects, so I’m hopeful that my next batch of ketchup lives up to my expectations.

As for other paleo-ness: Adam and I decided not to join in on August’s Whole30. I started making a meal-planning calendar and it just got too overwhelming. Right now, I’m just focusing on yummy, simple recipes. I promise I’ll share more.

What’s new with life in general

Well, this past weekend was all kinds of freakin awesome. My parents and my brother all came in town to visit me.  It still weirds me out to think that Mom and Dad are in the rural sticks of PA and that Daniel is in Denver, CO. Some part of my brain still acts like I’m in college and they are still living together in our home in Collierville, TN even though we’ve all moved on with our lives. We’re all still really close and talk frequently, so it feels like we should just be able to hop in the car to see one another, but that’s not the case. We actually hadn’t seen each other since Poppy’s funeral last year.

This weekend was pretty great because we made a commitment to being relaxed. We went out for delicious (and very non-Paleo) meals, and otherwise, we just hung out – no pressure.  Sure, my type-A personality required me to put together a wicked long list of things we could do, but it was more so that we could acknowledge that we had options and feel good about our decision to do nothing. 🙂 All that any of us cared about was just being together. So, Dad and Dan got to play chess while I showed Mom my Sims 3 game one day and after walking through a 4-story mall and hitting a bookstore, we watched a few episodes of Too Cute: Puppies back at their hotel room the next.  I feel like I made out like a bandit, honestly. I got to spend time with people I really, deeply love, was treated to fantastic meals, and Mom even got me some nail polish and mascara. (BTW – I totally endorse Maybelline’s Volum Express Falsies Big Eyes Washable Mascara. It is the shit. It adds volume and length without being clumpy, and it doesn’t flake off.)

Other than that, life is good and simple.

I’ve graduated from cognitive behavioral therapy. My therapist is so pleased with how I’m doing that I only have to have a visit with her now if something comes up and I need to call her, which is great.

I’m no longer afraid to take public transportation unless I’ve had a seizure in the last 24 hours, so I can get out of the house fairly easily, and I actually do have places I want to go to from time to time.

As for other activities, I’m currently working on writing a novel — an activity which is simultaneously frustrating and entertaining.  Currently, I’m only 2 chapters in, but I have faith that in time I’ll get through the whole story.

Adam and I are still working out at the YMCA at least 3 days a week, doing weightlifting on resistance machines and cardio on the elliptical or a treadmill.

And I’m still adding recipes to the Paleo Compendium every day, always in an effort to make my relationship with food easier and yummier.

I’m still butt-crazy in love with my husband after almost 3 years of marriage and 3 years of courting, and our dog is at least 5 times cuter and sweeter than he is a pain in the ass. 🙂  I really couldn’t ask for more out of life.

Right now, I feel very lucky.

Makeover Success!

Grammy Would Be Proud.

After I posted the recipe “Mom’s Flank Steak” on this blog, I found out from my father that the recipe was actually not originally Mom’s, but my Grammy’s!  (Grammy was my Dad’s mom. I called my mom’s mom “Grandma” for anyone who’s curious.) Apparently, Grammy gave my mom the recipe before I was even born! Boy am I glad she did. Dinner tonight was *fan-tastic*.

20130808_193754

Flank steak with mashed potatoes & broccoli… 100% paleo. It doesn’t get a lot better than this. 🙂

Monday, I had to pick up more ingredients, so Tuesday, I made the paleo ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. This morning, I made the Catalina dressing, and tonight, we had (in the words of my hubby) “fuckin’ delicious” flank steak.

I *did* have to make some revisions to one of the recipes, though!  I promised you that I’d let you know if we had to make any changes, so here we go!

Paleo ketchup that makes the grade!

(Revised!)

This was adapted from a highly-rated ketchup recipe on Allrecipes.com and the rich and deep-flavored ketchup on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. This ketchup recipe can be bottled in sterilized jars and kept for up to 6 months in the fridge.

Recipe makes about 5½ cups

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stick of celery, chopped
½ fennel bulb, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves
30 ounces tomato paste
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
1½ c. cold water
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Toss in the celery, fennel, ginger, and basil and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the contents of the frying pan, and put it all into a food processor.
  4. Blend into a paste.
  5. In a large (preferably glass) bowl, stir the green paste, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar together.
  6. Pour the water into the bowl and continue stirring until smooth.
  7. Add the spices (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander) and stir to combine.
  8. Transfer to a container (or a few containers) that is (are) good for refrigeration.
  9. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before using.

 

I hope you enjoy!

Paleo Recipe Makeover: Mom’s Flank Steak

Every once in a while, when it was a special occasion, my mom would make us flank steak. It’s one of my most positive food memories, so it’s no surprise that I’d want to create a paleo version of it.

This recipe makeover’s not as simple as quick substitutions. There’s soy sauce in it – and that’s an easy fix. (Wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos) But then, there’s Catalina dressing, which Kraft makes with high fructose corn syrup. Not one to give up, I found a great recipe for Catalina dressing… and found out that it is made with ketchup (not usually paleo) and Worcestershire sauce (also not usually paleo).

Recipe Makeover: Mom’s Flank Steak

Here is my mom’s amazingly tasty flank steak recipe, in its original glory:

Mom’s Flank Steak

Ingredients: 
1 to 1.5 lbs of flank steak
1 small bottle of Kraft Catalina Dressing
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ginger Powder

Directions:

  1. Cover the flank steak with equal parts garlic and onion powder (the steak should almost be white)
  2. In a bowl, mix Catalina dressing, soy sauce, and ginger powder to taste.
  3. Pour dressing mix over flank steak and marinate for at least 3 hours. (24 is best!)
  4. Grill the steak, reserving the marinade.
  5. In a saucepan, bring the remaining marinade to a boil to remove any possibility of bacteria
  6. Serve the steak in thin strips with hot marinade on the side as a gravy.

Let’s make it paleo.

The flank steak is fine. So is the garlic powder, onion powder, and ginger powder (though I’ll probably want to use fresh). I’ll be swapping the soy sauce for wheat-free tamari. (I just don’t like coconut aminos.) Now, to make the rest!

Paleo Catalina Dressing

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup paleo ketchup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon paleo worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Place first 6 ingredients in a food processor or blender (or use a handheld blender) and process until smooth.
  2. Add the oil in a slow steady stream with the machine running until the mixture comes together in an emulsion.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

This recipe makes approximately: 1 ½ cups — about the right amount for my mom’s recipe.

But I need paleo ketchup and worcestershire sauce… and they don’t sell that at the grocery store.

Paleo Worcestershire Sauce

Adapted from http://paleodietlifestyle.com/homemade-paleo-condiments/ (Their recipe contained soy sauce, and I’m just not willing to make the concession.)

Ingredients

½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp wheat-free tamari (or coconut aminos)
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a bowl while stirring frequently.
  2. Let simmer for about a minute for the flavors to develop.
  3. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Paleo Ketchup

Adapted from a highly-rated ketchup recipe on Allrecipes.com and the rich and deep-flavored ketchup on Paleo Diet Lifestyle. This ketchup recipe can be bottled in sterilized jars and kept for up to 6 months in a cool dark place. (I haven’t made this yet, but it’s what I’m going to try. I’ll update and let y’all know how it is.)

Recipe makes about 8 cups

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 stick of celery, chopped
½ fennel bulb, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves, chopped
24 ounces tomato paste
2 tbsp honey
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 c cold water
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Toss in the celery, fennel, ginger, and basil and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the contents of the frying pan into a paste.
  4. In a large bowl, stir the celery, fennel, and ginger paste, tomato paste, honey, and vinegar together.
  5. Pour the water into the bowl and continue stirring until smooth.
  6. Add the spices (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander) and stir to combine.
  7. Transfer to a container that is good for refrigeration. (a sterilized jar would be perfect!)
  8. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before using.

The Plan of Action

Tomorrow, I will be making the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Catalina Dressing, and finally, will start marinating the steak, so we can eat it on Tuesday. Updates will follow.

Despite Multiple Sclerosis…

Yesterday, a good friend whom I admire and respect left a link for me on my Facebook timeline. The text that he wrote to accompany the link was “Inspiration of the day.” What followed was a link to an article about a woman who, 3 years after her MS diagnosis, has chosen not to take any MS medication and instead to run a marathon every day for an entire year, finishing the year with a double marathon.

Now, I know this friend pretty well, so I am entirely certain that he had good intentions and was looking to lift me up when he sent me this article. I am not upset with him, and I deeply appreciate that he holds me in his heart and wants to remind me that I am capable of more than I think I am.

That being said, something that people who don’t have a chronic disease often don’t understand is that when you send links about people who have your disease doing incredible (sometimes ridiculous) things, it is not inspirational. It is a form of shaming.  It suggests that the disease you deal with on a daily basis really isn’t that bad, and that anyone with that disease ought to be able to do the crazy-ass thing that this person, who has your disease, has chosen to do.

Diagnosed with MS? Climb Mt. Everest!

I remember when I was initially diagnosed with MS, Teva Pharmaceuticals sent me an information packet, asking me to be a part of Team Copaxone – a bunch of folks with RRMS who do things like climb Mt. Everest, lead a team to the South Pole, participate in the Para-Olympics, and so on… (from the Teva Pharmaceuticals website) “Team COPAXONE® is a group of individuals with RRMS who have different talents and aspirations, yet one common objective: to live the lives they have imagined despite their disease.”

I remember thinking, “I’m finishing law school and am going to take the bar exam despite the fatigue and cognitive problems caused by RRMS. I’m kind of like the folks in Team Copaxone! I won’t let anything stand in my way!”

And I did complete law school.  I even took the 3-day CA bar exam twice.  I didn’t pass either time, though I was close — and I blame the fact that I didn’t pass on the constant seizures I was experiencing at the time. (It’s hard to pass a test when you have seizures that cause you to fall out of the chair you’re in and bang your head on the desk while you’re taking it.) These seizures were caused by MS.  So no matter how much I wanted “to live the life I imagined despite my disease,” I couldn’t.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t give it everything I had.

It’s not that you’re inferior. They’re just so superior.

When folks with MS get media attention for do amazing things, like training for the Kona Ironman competition, modifying bicycles so they can pedal with their hands and participate in 2-day long bicycle races, continuing to pursue a lifelong dream of being a basketball player with the NBA, have a booming career as the mascot for an NFL team despite heat intolerance, or be a Major League Baseball player, people who are not knowledgeable about the disease think that the rest of us ought to be able to do these things.

To make it worse, you’ve even got fictional characters, like President Josiah Bartlet of the West Wing, messing with the understanding of the disease for your average person.

The bad logic isn’t hard to follow: If there are people who have MS that can succeed as professional athletes or political figures, people with MS really aren’t that disabled. They’re just holding themselves back.

While I wish that were the case, it simply isn’t.

This is what MS does to you.

Multiple sclerosis is different for every person that has it, for many of us, the symptoms are severely disabling.

The most common symptoms of MS (courtesy of WebMD):

“Abnormal sensations: People with MS often say they feel a “pins and needles” sensation. They may also have numbness, itching, burning, stabbing, or tearing pains. About half of people with MS have these uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, they can be managed or treated.

Bladder problems: About 8 in 10 people have bladder problems, which can be treated. You may need to pee often, urgently, need to go at night, or have trouble emptying your bladder fully. Bowel problems, especially constipation, are also common.

Difficulty walking: MS can cause muscle weakness or spasms, which make it harder to walk. Balance problems, numb feet, and fatigue can also make walking difficult.

Dizziness: It’s common to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You usually won’t have vertigo, or the feeling that the room is spinning.

Fatigue: About 8 in 10 people feel very tiredIt often comes on in the afternoon and causes weak muscles, slowed thinking, or sleepiness. It’s usually not related to the amount of work you do. Some people with MS say they can feel tired even after a good night’s sleep.

Muscle spasms: They usually affect the leg muscles. For about 40% of people they are an early symptom of MS. In progressive MS, muscle spasms affect about 6 in 10 people. You might feel mild stiffness or strong, painful muscle spasms.

Sexual difficulties: These include vaginal dryness in women and erection problems in men. Both men and women may be less responsive to touch, have a lower sex drive, or have trouble reaching orgasm.

Speech problems: Sometimes MS can cause people to pause a long time in between words and have slurred or nasal speech. Some people also develop swallowing problems in more advanced stages of MS.

Thinking problems: About half of people with MS have trouble concentrating that comes and goes. For most, this means slowed thinking, poor attention, or fuzzy memory. Rarely, people can have severe problems that make it hard to do daily tasks. MS usually does not change your intellect and ability to read and understand conversation.

Tremors: About half of people with MS have tremors. They can be minor shakes or make it hard to manage everyday activities.

Vision problems: Problems with your eyes tend to be one of the first symptoms. They usually affect only one eye and go away on their own. Your sight may be blurry, gray, or have a dark spot in the center. You may suddenly have eye pain and temporary vision loss.

Very rarely, people with MS may have breathing problems or seizures.”

There is no cure yet for Multiple Sclerosis.

The only thing that upsets me more than being presented with evidence that MS doesn’t stop you from doing amazing physical things (for many of us, it does!), is when people send me links talking about people who have “cured” their MS.

None of them have.

Dr. Wahls, for example, has done an amazing job of regaining ability in her body that she had previously lost due to MS, by eating a modified paleo diet. News sources around the world touted her discoveries as a “cure” for MS — but Dr. Wahls will tell you herself that she still has the disease, and that she is managing the symptoms through diet. She still deals with some symptoms from MS, but she’s much better than she was prior to starting her diet regime.

Then there’s CCSVI (which was proven ineffective), stem-cell recipientsbone marrow transplants, and recently, T-cell reprogramming.

Not one of these “cures” is a real cure, but, they are steps towards one.

Why do I get upset when people excitedly tell me about “cures?”  Because every one of those articles about potential medical therapies carries with it a  mixture of false hope and more shaming. These articles contain the implied suggestion, “If the news says this is a cure, you should try it – and if you don’t, then you’re not doing everything you can to fight the disease.”

I’m proud of how I’m doing.

I have gotten accustomed to a life with seizures, thinking problems, sexual difficulties, muscle spasms, fatigue, dizziness, bladder problems, and abnormal sensations — all occurring during the last 6 years while I’ve been taking medicine to slow progression of the disease.

So, no – I don’t think I’m going to be running 366 marathons anytime soon. I sure as shit am not climbing Mt. Everest, and I have no designs on trying to become a professional athlete or political figurehead.  I’m facing the challenges presented to me by my body and am not looking to increase the difficulty of my life.

The fact that, since the constant seizures abated in January, I have consistently gotten myself to the gym 3-4 days a week proves to me that I am not a quitter.

The fact that, for 6 years, despite being initially needle-phobic, I gave myself nightly injections to fight the disease, lets me know that I’m willing to face my fears and do whatever is necessary to maintain as good a level of health as I can.

The fact that I am, once again, following a modified paleo diet because science confirms that it makes a positive difference in the health of people with MS, shows me that I am not lazy or letting the disease “win.”

The fact that I’m willing to try new drugs when they come out on the market, like Tecfidera, despite the chance of horrible side effects, lets me know that I have not lost hope.

Despite multiple sclerosis, I do my best to live a full life.  And to me, that’s all any of us can ask of ourselves.

Returning to the Paleo Diet

English: vegetables

Good food is good.

The Cavegirl Cometh.

The lazy part of me is groaning so hardcore, but after reading about the modern science that backs the paleo diet, I found myself challenged.  I could either continue a way of eating and exercising that “fails long-term over 95% of the time,” or I could “eat more and exercise less—but smarter.”  When I reread what I had written yesterday, though, it made me look at these statistics with a new set of eyes.

“[I]n all of the studies that follow, everyone ate the exact same quantity of calories, but one group’s calories were of much higher quality [meaning part of a primal/paleo diet]:

  • University of Florida researcher J.W. Krieger analyzed 87 studies and found that those people who ate [a paleo diet] lost an average of 12 more pounds of body fat compared to those who ate an equal quantity of lower quality calories.
  • C.M. Young at Cornell University split people into three groups, each eating 1,800 calories per day, but at different levels of quality. The highest-quality group lost 86.5% more body fat than the lowest-quality group.
  • In the Annals of Internal Medicine, F.L. Benoît compared a reduced-calorie low-quality diet to a reduced-calorie high-quality diet. After ten days the high-quality diet burned twice as much body fat.
  • Additional studies by researchers U. Rabast (1978,1981), P. Greene (2003), N.H. Baba (1999), A. Golay (1996), M.E. Lean (1997), C.M. Young (1971), and D.K. Layman (2003) all show that people who ate [a paleo diet] lost an average of 22% more weight than those who ate the exact same quantity of lower-quality calories.”

So, if I’m genuinely trying to lose fat and maximize the effectiveness of my workout routine, it only makes sense that I would choose to eat in a manner that has repeatable, quantifiable results that match my desires. Doing otherwise is working against myself, and I don’t want to do that. Life is hard enough without giving yourself unnecessary barriers to success. I’m working as hard as I can to improve my body… I just haven’t been working as intelligently.

It’s funny, though, they never include “doing more dishes” or “spending more time cooking and shopping” in the calculus of whether or not a diet is good for you.  And I guess that tells me something important: those things aren’t terribly relevant. It ultimately comes down to motivation.

Motivation

Last time, the choice to quit eating a primal/paleo diet came down to convenience and a desire to be able to eat with family and friends at restaurants and on special occasions.  If I have any hope of maintaining this diet/lifestyle choice for any real amount of time, I have to address those needs.

80/20 = 100% OK.

Firstly, there is good precedent for not eating paleo 100% of the time. Heck, there are even some folks out there who say “you will get 99% of the benefits of the Paleo Diet if you adhere to it 80% of the time.” That being the case, to avoid the desire to quit because of what other people think of my food choices, I’ve decided to eat whatever-the-heck-I-want when I’m out with family and friends. I will not berate myself for eating a non-paleo meal when the occasion presents itself. I will keep a paleo home, which is where I eat most of the time anyway, and be proud of making healthy choices overall.

Convenience foods/K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) = Good

There was a time when I was very concerned that eating foods that were ready-made was against paleo doctrine. I spent unnecessary time putting together fresh salsas, tomato sauces, and other products that exist in the marketplace with no forbidden foods as part of them.  I also thought of meals as needing to be composed, so I spent a lot of time cooking. I didn’t take advantage of the caveman thought process: grab food and eat it. This time around, I’m going to focus on simplicity.

Sticking with my supplements.

Every time that I go to work out at the gym, I take Assault prior to the workout and on days when I lift weights, I have a whey protein shake afterward.  (Adam and I call them victory shakes.) 🙂 Neither of these things are paleo, but I already have seen the benefits of using them, and I don’t intend to stop.

So what does that mean for this blog?

More paleo posts! I will probably return to posting a paleo recipe-of-the-day and growing the Paleo Compendium, which is now 1470 followers strong.

For now, however, I’ve got some meal planning to do. I don’t want to end up with a Whole30 or 46 that was as repetitive as the ones from my past. There’s no excuse for it when I’ve got 1159 recipes in the Compendium already waiting to be tried.

Tecfidera & MS Diets

It begins.

It begins.

Tecfidera & Me – The Beginning

Wednesday of last week, I received my shipment of this month’s Tecfidera. I decided to start it that night.

So far, it hasn’t been bad.  I take my pills with food (breakfast and dinner), and I’m already on Prilosec, so I haven’t had any stomach issues.  I have, however, experienced flushing a few times, and it feels more funny/unusual than upsetting. It’s kind of weird to have really hot ears out of nowhere.

I’m still not used to going to sleep without giving myself an injection.  Every night, I climb into bed and feel like I’m forgetting something important. I’m sure I’d get more used to it if I would just throw away the 5 sharps containers I have sitting on the nightstand next to me.

One thing that has already changed in my life, thanks to this drug, is that I am consistently eating breakfast. It still feels weird every day to eat prior to getting on my computer. I don’t know when in my life I actually stopped eating breakfast, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere around 1994, when I had study hall 1st period during my freshman year of high school, and breakfast was a pack of peanut M&Ms and a Dr. Pepper from the school’s vending machines. (Hey, I was in band, marching with a 30 pound bass drum 6 days a week. My metabolism could somehow handle it then.)

The Wonderful World of Weight-Loss

Unfortunately, my metabolism is nowhere near as good as it was when I was 14. I currently am tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal and am following their suggestion of keeping my caloric intake below 1600 a day. I’m also working out pretty hardcore: doing weightlifting & 20 minutes of cardio 3 times a week and doing 30 minutes of cardio or more on the off days. You would think, after a month of that sort of activity, that I would have seen some movement from the scale.  I mean, I have been working out at least 3 times a week for 3 months now.  But the scale sits at 214 and will not budge for anything.

That’s not to say that I haven’t seen improvement. When I started working out, I was doing most of my weight-lifting exercises on the very lowest weight setting (usually 15 pounds) – and I’m lifting much, much more weight than when I was starting. I also couldn’t do a full 10 minutes on the elliptical trainer on level 1 without having to stop because of fatigue, and now I can rock out 20 minutes on level 10 without thinking about it. As far as measurements go, I’ve lost an inch from my arms, an inch from my waist, 2 inches from my hips, and 2 from my thighs. So, I am seeing improvement… just not on the scale. My relationship with gravity has not changed. And for whatever ridiculous and infuriating reason, that number, staring me in the face, drives me mad. It feels like the scale itself is saying to me, “You’re not trying hard enough. Do something different.”

Diets and MS

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about weight loss is changing your diet. I’m already limiting my caloric intake to the amount that science says ought to make a difference. I started thinking maybe I needed to change what foods I am eating. I already limit my sugar and fat intake to 30g and 50g respectively per day. I already cut out processed foods.

Then, I read this article that talks about yet another doctor (Dr. Jelinek)  who has come up with a diet that he proclaims “cures” MS.  It just makes me shake my head and realize that a big part of why I am so frustrated with this situation is that I have tried so many different diets all throughout my life, with none of them making a real, lasting difference in my life.

I started with Weight Watchers when I was 8. That went nowhere. As a teenager, I tried Atkins. I actually almost passed out on the first day because my diet at the time was comprised primarily of bread and I had “nothing to eat.” After the first week, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Once I got diagnosed with MS, I tried the Swank diet for several months with zero results. I asked my neurologist at that time what she suggested, and she said to eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet as suggested by USDA. Time passed, and I ended up with a seizure disorder. My epileptologist suggested that I try the ketogenic diet to help stop the seizures. But, since my seizures were caused by MS, that didn’t help either, so I went back to a traditional western diet.

Then, in 2010, I tried the paleo diet, in earnest – for several months. I had more energy, less pain from inflammation, and I lost weight without exercising… but it was expensive, took forever to make meals, and family was not supportive of it at all. Every week, when we’d visit Adam’s parents, there was some other reason that one of his family members would say we should quit the diet. We were presented with homemade cookies, bread, or sugar-added fruits or veggies that had been lovingly prepared that we were faced with, and it gets really hard, emotionally, to continually be telling your in-laws, “I don’t want to eat what you’re offering me.”  So, I caved in and went back to eating “like a normal person.”

Dr. Wahls shortly thereafter came forward with science that says eating a paleo diet, including the following “recipe” for daily vegetable intake can vastly improve your MS:  3 cups of cruciferous and dark greens, 3 cups intensely coloured: 1 cup red vegetables / fruit, 1 cup blue black vegetables / fruits, 1 cup yellow/orange vegetable / fruits, and 3 cups others including: 1 cup mushrooms / onion family (for organic sulphur), and seaweed for iodine and trace minerals. (source)

Many of my Facebook friends gave her formula a try, and while it hasn’t hurt any of them, I have yet to hear about any significant improvements.

Now, Dr. Jelinek says that we should be eating only eating only vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, seeds, pulses and grains (so most pastas, rice, wheat, oats, corn, barley, etc), fish and all other seafood, & egg whites. This means those of us with MS should avoid:

  • Meat, including processed meat, salami, sausages, canned meat
  • Eggs except for egg whites
  • Dairy products; that is, avoid milk, cream, butter, ice cream and cheeses. Low fat milk or yogurt is not acceptable. Cow’s milk and dairy products are best avoided altogether as the protein is likely to be as much of a problem as the saturated fat, given recent evidence. Soy products or rice or oat milk are good substitutes.
  • Any biscuits, pastries, cakes, muffins, doughnuts or shortening, unless fat-free
  • Snacks like chips, corn chips, party foods
  • Margarine, shortening, lard, chocolate, coconut and palm oil.
  • Fried and deep fried foods except those fried without oil or with just a dash of olive oil. It is important not to heat oils if possible.
  • Most fast foods (burgers, fried chicken, etc.)
  • Other fats and oils

Then there’s the MS Recovery Diet. It’s based on the idea that there are five common trigger foods that can set off the symptoms of MS–dairy, grains containing gluten, legumes, eggs and yeast.  This would seem to be mostly in line with both Dr. Wahls’ advice and the paleo diet.

Lastly, there’s the MS Diet for Women which was designed by an MS sufferer who has, as I have, gone through all the science on diets and MS and decided to smash them all together for the best result.  This diet has you avoid dairy/cow’s milk products, gluten and wheat, saturated fats (meaning red meat), heated fats (in any form), caffeine, refined foods (with high sugar levels), legumes, chicken and eggs, and citrus fruit. What are you allowed to eat?  Fruit (but not citrus!), all vegetables, non-glutenous grains, oily fish, nuts and seeds. That’s it. It’s like the paleo diet on crack.

It’s no wonder, when confronted with this many contradictory diets, that I am stymied as to the correct plan of action. This, of course, keeps me from doing anything but limiting calorie, fat, and sugar intake, which is exactly what both of my current neurologists say is all I should be doing.

I’ll let you know if anything changes.

Life.

Well, that was “fun.”

A week in the hospital for long term video monitoring showed nothing on EEG, just like the first time I was in the hospital for seizures – the only difference being that this time there were no post-ictal spects done. Apparently, it is not the University of Chicago Medical Center’s standard operating procedure to do post-ictal spects. They either don’t have the equipment or don’t believe in them. I’m not sure which.  Either way: not good.

Were it not for having a prior diagnosis by another couple of doctors at a better facility (Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, CA), my epileptologist would think that I do not have a seizure disorder, but instead have nothing but pseudoseizures (and she would have been wrong and made an erroneous diagnosis).

I feel sorry for the patients who roll through that hospital being told there’s nothing wrong with them when there is something wrong with them, only they’re being denied full diagnostic care.  I had to get forceful about the fact that my diagnosis was real because my doctor hadn’t even gotten the notes from my previous doctor. Sloppy care.

I do not recommend UCMC for folks who are dealing with seizure issues. Not one iota.  In fact, I am shopping for a new seizure doctor, as my confidence in my current epileptologist went from 100% to 0% upon finding out that after 2 years with her, she hadn’t bothered to get notes from my diagnosing doctor and had manipulated me into getting the video EEG just so she could see what she was working with for her own comfort in tapering me down off Topamax for pregnancy.

This past week was deeply frustrating and painful.  I am covered in black and blue spots from where they put in IVs (or were unsuccessful in their attempt to put in IVs because I have tiny veins), gave me shots for blood thinners, and had electrodes glued to my head.

I am thoroughly miserable right now.

Everything I’m going through in order to have a child is making my life almost intolerably miserable.

I am completely off of anti-depressants now.  I am having crying jags, for no reason at all, daily – sometimes more than once a day.

I am painfully aware of the fact that I have almost no friends of my own (meaning not Adam’s friends first) in the Chicagoland area, and my mother-in-law accidentally really knocked the ball right out of the park when she innocently asked the question, “Did anybody miss you while you were in the hospital?”  I felt all the air leave my lungs and the negative thought pattern that used to rule my suicidal thinking come back with force.  The thought “Nobody will miss you.” was loud and clear… because the honest answer was, “No. Nobody missed me while I was in the hospital.”

I have no real friends here. And the really shoddy thing of all of it is that I can sit here, shouting that fact to the universe here on my blog and it won’t make a difference anyway.  Maybe 5 people will read it and mockingly laugh about it.  I mean, you don’t get friends through pity.  You make friends through shared experiences.  And no one shares the experience of feeling sorry for myself but me.

So what am I doing about it?

The only way to change things is to do life differently.

First, I’m gonna have to get over my fear of having seizures on the bus, and just deal with it if it happens. I can’t rely on Adam to take me places when he’s got to work all day.  I used to use public transportation all the time when I lived in Boston.  It shouldn’t be that different here in Chicago.

Secondly, I’m going to have to find things to do outside of the apartment so that I am not alone.  I’m looking towards Meetup.com for inspiration.  I’m also thinking that there should be yoga classes at the Y that I can take advantage of.  Maybe I can make some friends there.

Lastly, I’m not just expecting things to change on their own, or for things to be made better with a pill. I have to go out there and find some happiness, regardless of the weather.

Oh, and the Paleo Diet — The Hospital Cured Me of That.

They didn’t allow me to stick to the Paleo Diet while I was in the hospital.  So I’m done beating my brains out trying to eat “clean.”  I’m going to exercise daily. I’m going to keep my portions small, and I’m going to be able to eat like a normal human being, at any restaurant I want.

I refuse to stay miserable. I will claw my way back to happiness, changing 1 thing per day until I feel better.

Sunny Anderson’s Grilled Fennel with Grilled Jalapeno Sauce – Paleo!

https://i1.wp.com/img.foodnetwork.com/FOOD/2011/12/07/RE0912H_grilled-fennel-with-grilled-jalapeno-sauce_s4x3_lg.jpgI Am Feeling So Much Better Today

Yesterday was awful, but today’s not so bad.  I think it’s all a matter of withdrawal and normalization, this “coming off of antidepressants” thing.  Sure, I drop down again tomorrow, but at least today, I’m not feeling so bad.  I’ll take a good day where I can get it.

Today, I’m trying to get a bag packed for the hospital next week and get the house neatened up so that it’s good to go.

Oh! And here’s some news! Our foster kittens got adopted!  We drop them off to their new owners tomorrow afternoon.

Other than that, not much is going on. I’m really enjoying going through Food Network’s website and trying to get at least 1 paleo recipe for each of their chefs.

It’s pretty awesome to me that each of their celebrity chefs has at least 1 (if not more) paleo recipe in their top 100 most popular recipes featured on the website.  So without further ado, here’s today’s recipe.

Sunny Anderson‘s Grilled Fennel with Grilled Jalapeno Sauce

Ingredients
Fennel:

  • 2 bulbs fennel, stalks removed and fronds reserved
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 whole jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Preparation

For the fennel: Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.

Slice a thin layer off the root end of each fennel bulb. Cut each fennel bulb into 8 wedges, keeping the root end intact. Chop 2 tablespoons fennel fronds and reserve. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the fennel wedges until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside so the water evaporates and the fennel cools slightly.

Brush all sides of the fennel with the olive oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt and a grind or 2 of pepper. Place the fennel bulbs on the grill, 1 cut-side down. Grill the fennel until golden and caramelized, about 4 minutes. Flip and grill 4 minutes more on the other cut side.

Meanwhile, for the sauce: Brush the jalapeno with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the jalapeno on the grill and grill on all sides, turning while grilling, until some charring occurs, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the jalapeno from the grill, remove the stem and chop the pepper very well. Place in a medium bowl with the honey, vinegar and reserved fennel fronds. Whisk to bring together and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the fennel from the grill and drizzle the sauce over the top. Serve warm.

Barefoot Contessa’s Tequila Lime Chicken – Paleo!

Patron Tequila

Patron is Paleo! (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Can’t get much lower.

I am now at the lowest dose of Abilify and Cymbalta and am thoroughly depressed. Like, I’m having trouble getting myself to do anything. It’s nearly 2 p.m., and I’m still in my pajamas.  I just made myself a morning breakfast smoothie. 1 banana and a ton of strawberries with almond milk.  Like that takes effort, right?  TODAY, IT TOOK GENUINE EFFORT, PEOPLE.

Saturday will be my first day with no Abilify, Cymbalta, or Nortriptyline – and Monday, I go in to the hospital for a 3-5 day video EEG session where they’re going to take me off Topamax and measure my seizures to see how much Topamax I’ll need to be on (if any) while I’m pregnant.

This is… not fun.  I’m looking at that graphic of the tequila thinking “Man, I miss drinking.” when I really don’t miss the headaches that followed. I just miss the days before MS, seizure disorder, depression… the whole shebang. But at least tequila is paleo!

The Barefoot Contessa’s Tequila Lime Chicken recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gold tequila
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 limes)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeno pepper (1 pepper seeded)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 whole (6 split) boneless chicken breasts, skin on

Preparation

  1. Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper and chicken in a zip-top bag
  2. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Heat a grill with coals and brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking.
  4. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade,
  5. Sprinkle chicken breasts well with salt and pepper, and grill them skin-side down for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned.
  6. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, until just cooked through.
  7. Remove from the grill to a plate.
  8. Cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  9. Serve hot or at room temperature.

SERVES 6

Calories: 277
Total Fat: 14 grams
Saturated Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 31 grams
Total carbohydrates: 4 grams
Sugar: 1 gram
Fiber: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 93 milligrams
Sodium: 419 milligrams

“WOW, we made it to 501 entries!”

At least I made an entry.

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Hash Recipe – Paleo (if you eat potatoes)!

Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri (Photo credit: Automotive Rhythms)

Got a lot of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving?

Me too.  In fact, Adam and I bought an extra turkey since they were on sale, so we have a whole extra turkey’s worth of meat to use up.

Here’s a great way to use 2 pounds of it!

This recipe got 5 stars on the Food Network website, and is one of those recipes that you really look forward to on a cold fall morning when it’s so cold outside that you’re just sure that it’s going to snow.

Potatoes?!  Potatoes aren’t Paleo!!!

Some people say that potatoes aren’t paleo – and for them I say, “Great! Make em sweet potatoes, it’ll still taste good! Or, in the alternative, don’t make this recipe.

Adam and I eat potatoes. They grow out of the ground. Grok wouldn’t say no to them.

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Hash

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces olive oil
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • red bell pepper, julienne
  • green bell pepper, julienne
  • 2 jalapenos, diced, and seeded
  • 2 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds red potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 lime

Preparation

  1. In medium saute pan, add 2 ounces olive oil, onions, peppers and saute until translucent.
  2. Add turkey and brown on all sides.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a separate pan, add 2 ounces of oil, and fry potatoes in oil until crispy.
  5. On a serving plate layer the turkey mixture on top of the crispy potatoes.
  6. Top with diced roma tomatoes and fresh squeezed lime juice.
  7. Serve and Enjoy! 🙂