Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 20: The dairy-free challenge

Oh boy! I am 2/3 of the way through the month of no cheese, and I am not going to lie to you, I am not liking it. Frankly, I am hating it. I am following it very well, but it is getting me down. M tells me how he actually doesn't mind it, and as long as he can have some milk in his tea, he can keep on going with this challenge. Yeah, we'll see about that mister!

I have to admit, I am looking forward to February 1st and using Parmesan cheese once again on my pasta. Or using feta in my scrambled eggs. Or to have some yogurt!! This month has definitely made me appreciate how tough it is to have to strictly eliminate it. I really do think it is more of a challenge than going gluten-free. Being that I have to be gluten-free out of necessity, I would never, ever cheat. And with the dairy-free challenge, I am not scrutinizing labels as I would with gluten, but for the most part it is out of my system. I have had no obvious dairy.

I have lost no weight, and feel no different, nor is my skin any clearer. Though, I am a bit worried how my system will react when I add it back in. I know that after I was gluten-free for a month, if I had some gluten, I would have been in miserable pain.

But, damn, I am dreaming of quesadillas and warm, creamy artichoke dip!

I don't doubt that having the dairy out of my system is probably a good thing for me, or for anyone, but I do feel confident that once I go back to dairy, I will be able to cut back a little bit, and enjoy it in moderation. Well, that is after I go on a big dairy binge the first couple days of February.

I think I am going to break down tomorrow and try Daiya, I always see it at the store and hear rave reviews about it, but I really didn't want to use any replacement foods. But I am craving tacos, and I need me some cheese. And silly me thought it was soy cheese until someone, thankfully, pointed out to me on Twitter that is it soy-free (I don't want to add any more soy to my diet). Bring it on!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A slight detour...

First, I am going to give a disclaimer, this is not a post about gluten-freeness. But this is about something I have spoken about before and something that is very difficult and painful for me, and dammit, this is my blog, so I will write about it, and maybe it will be cathartic. Pregnancy and non-pregnancy.

I have written before about how we have one wonderful, amazing, superstar daughter, Z, and she is the light of my life. I could not have ever expected how much you could love someone so unconditionally until I had her. It is hard to imagine I managed to live 32 years without her, before she came into our lives. I also wrote about how I had very serious complications in her pregnancy with severe pre-eclapmsia and HELLP syndrome. Well my little baby Z is now two months shy of 7, and for almost 7 years I have suffered PTSD of that experience.

And in those 7 years, I have enjoyed my time, more than words can say, with my little Z, but because of the PTSD, we only have our one daughter. Whenever I feel closer and closer to being able to give into that fear and just go for it, I get gripped with the horror of feeling claustrophobic and of going through the same experience I had last time, or even worse, of Z loosing her mom, just because I tried to expand our family and give her a sibling. It is a feeling of panic that is difficult to explain. When most people feel joy at the thought of pregnancy, I feel like it is an illness. I see pregnancy as a life-threatening 9-month illness, and my mind can't get away from that.

I have been to a specialist for high risk pregnancies in Chicago, and here in Atlanta, and both times they basically said the same thing. There is a risk it will happen again, about 30%, and a risk I could be on hospital bed-rest with a premature baby. At the same time they also said if I want another I should go for it. Then I ask them what they would say if I was their wife, or their daughter and they said the same thing. The last specialist to tell me that was exactly a year ago.

Well, now I am 39. Six months away from big 4-0. Looming over my head life a freaking black cloud. I used to joke with M that when I was 37 the "shop" would be closed for business, and then it was 38, and now...40? I am so terrified at the thought of being pregnant, yet, I don't want it to be over. I have saved every bit of Z's clothing, and all her toys. I want to use it again. I love the newborn stage and crave to do it again. I want to watch a child of mine grow from a helpless baby to someone with real thoughts and opinions. Why do I have to be so damn scared? Why can I not let go? Why can I not flip a switch? I know so many people who tell me, they know someone, who knows someone who had pre-eclampsia with one and then went on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy. Well, lucky for them!

So, today lucky me, I have my annual girlie check-up. Not one of my highlights for the year. The thought of going to the girlie Dr. brings back terrible memories of my pre-eclampsia/HELLP ordeal, and I will spend all morning in a panic. And of course I walk in the office this morning and the waiting room is full of pregnant women..all except me. Since I am pretty new to Atlanta, this is only my second time to this practice, and last time I felt like the doctor was a little cold, so I decided to try a different one this time around. Maybe not the best decision.

This doctor did her routine check-up, and then I mentioned how I am still not sure I am done, and I still really want another, and then she looks at me like I have two heads and says she would not recommend I get pregnant again. That because of my age and my history, it would not be wise. That I would have a high risk of not only a repeat of the pre-eclampsia and HELLP, but also of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities and my own possible issues with infertility. And then she says this winning gem: "You should have done this five years ago." The tears started forming as the sentence came out of her mouth. How could she say this to someone? Instead, she gave me the card of a therapist to talk to about the PTSD, and my appointment was done. It was the mental equivalent of a one-night stand.

Wow. Yeah five years ago. I should have. But I didn't, and I can't change that now!!! If I got pregnant 5 years ago, I probably would have had to of been taken away in a stretcher because of major anxiety. What can I even say to this? I have made mistakes, but I can't go back in time.

"You should have done this five years ago."

I also have to think, this doctor who I saw today, while she might be the head of the practice, she is not a high-risk doctor, and she has not seen my detailed records as the specialists have. But at the same time, I am going to be 40, and that number can't be disguised. I can't get rid of it, it is standing there like a huge tollbooth that I must pass to cross the bridge into the next phase of my life, and leaving my child-bearing, fertile, young years behind. The specialists may have had more optimism, but I was also a year younger, and I know there is fact to back up with what today's doctor said so eloquently to me, but did she have to be so callous? And there is a good chance that, on my own, I would choose not to have another, because I know I cannot handle the pregnancy part of it. Which is such a shame, because what is nine months compared to a lifetime of having family. But then I guess nine months is a pretty big deal when I risk my life for it. But I just didn't want the decision to be made for me. I wanted to have that little sliver of hope left that just maybe.

"You should have done this five years ago."

It just hurts so damn much to see siblings interact and play with each other, and know that my little girl will never have that experience. She won't have a sibling to love, and I won't have another baby to raise. When my friends get pregnant with their 2nd, 3rd even 5th child I am happy, I really am, but there is a part of me that feels so sad and evious too. Ok, maybe I don't want a 4th, but I would just love a 2nd. I want that experience of having a slightly bigger family.

"You should have done this five years ago."

At the same time, I know how extremely lucky I am to have my one. And I know a lot of women who suffered from pre-eclampsia and HELLP were not so lucky. Many of them have had to leave the hospitals without a baby in their arms, and in some cases their husbands have left without their wives and babies. Z and I really are one of the lucky ones, and I am forever grateful. So why does it seem so unfair when women can have easy-breezy home births, they can have multiple children and be happy and carefree the entire time without a thought of complications. Sometimes I really wish I was one of them. Someone who when I saw that positive pregnancy test would be ecstatic, and that feeling would continue for 9 months. Why does it hurt so much?

"You should have done this five years ago."

People will ask me why we don't adopt, or have a surrogate. And the answer is simple. Money. I would absolutely adopt in a second if I could. It doesn't seem fair does it, with so many children around the world without parents because of war or famine, even in our own country. Yet to give one of these children a loving home we have to have the money to get through the bureaucracy of if to make it happen. Though if I was willing to get pregnant, we would be able to have one for free...well, it would not be free after it was born, but you get my drift.

So, basically today just sucked. I was happy to have an uneventful appointment, but I left there feeling empty, confused and hurt. I still feel like I am 20, how did I get to be almost 40? I am not ready to leave this phase of life, the "childbearing" years behind. Time goes by too damn quickly.

As said on Parenthood this week, 40s are not the new 30s when it comes to your ovaries.

I hope someday there is a cure for pre-eclampsia and HELLP, so others don't have to go through the same experience.

Whoa...I apologize for the heaviness of this post.

I think the words: "You should have done this five years ago," will haunt me for way too long.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 11: The dairy-free challenge

I am officially on Day 11 of being dairy-free, and honestly, I am not crazy about this. I want my yogurt back!

On a positive note, it is really opening my eyes to how much I rely on dairy. Making eggs for breakfast...I want to mix it with milk and cover it with feta or cheddar. I am craving a snack...I want to slice apples and dip it into my favorite mixture of Greek yogurt mixed with peanut butter. Making pasta for dinner...I want to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on it. Or just going into the kitchen, and grab a chunk of cheese. Inevitably, most meals I make I am hitting a road block wondering what I can use instead of my beloved dairy. I am trying to make up for it with pepper, sesame seeds, olives, etc...

I also realize there is a thin line between cutting something out, and then replacing it with something that could be just as bad, if not worse for you. Since going gluten-free, almost three years now, I have loved finding delicious gluten-free replacements....bread, crackers, cookies, cupcakes...bring it! If something says 'gluten-free' I honestly have a very hard time not wanting to try it. And the irony is that when I was able to eat anything, I didn't eat a donut just because it was in front of me. But now if I see one offered that is gluten-free, I feel as if I have to grab and eat in case I never see one again. Ever. In my entire life.

This has been my downfall, and my waist-line can confirm this. Some people think they will loose weight going gluten-free..well, yeah, you may loose weight going gluten-free, as long as you don't replace those gluten-filled items with gluten-free versions. If you can no longer eat those cheese crackers, well don't get the gluten-free version...grab an apple! Just say bye-bye to the cheese crackers. See, I know this rationally, I need to practice what I preach.

So, now that I am eliminating dairy for these 30 days, I am very reluctant to replace with comparable items, such as soy cheese, butter, etc... I am trying to learn to live without it. Plus, I am sure my body does not need anymore soy. Though, I will admit, I broke down the other day, and bought some soy-free Earth Balance to use on pasta. I used a spoonful for a family amount of pasta. It was good, but I felt guilty. Especially since I like to stick with the real thing. If I want butter, I am going to use butter. Sugar, I am going to use sugar, no artificial sweeteners that have a list of ingredients I can't pronounce. I have been using almond and coconut milk and coconut oil, but these are also things I would use before my dairy-free craziness.

Do I feel differently since taking out dairy? Not really. I don't think I notice anything, I wish I did. I am also not noticing any change on the scale, so maybe dairy is not my problem for my inability of loosing weight. I am sure sitting for a lot of the day has something to do it with it.

On the other hand, M has been following along, and been dairy-free except for a couple of tablespoons of milk in his PG Tips (tea)..he is English, so he has an excuse. But yesterday morning, he made himself a big bowl of cereal with dairy milk, and for the next 12 hours...let's just say his tummy was not happy. Coincidence??

For others testing out the dairy-free waters, how do you feel? Do you notice any difference? Have you made any new food discoveries or combinations that you love during this time?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012!!

I know it is technically, the 2nd of January, but for all practical purposes being that it is Monday, it is the real start to the new year. As a result today is my official Day 1 of being dairy-free. As I am still recovering from New Years Eve, I slept in and have only had mint tea today, far dairy-free has been a breeze! But, of course my mind cannot stop thinking of the yogurt that sits in my fridge taunting me.

The holidays were extremely enjoyable and full of delicious gluten-free food, family and friends, and I seemed to make it safely through all of the restaurants and parties. And there were lots of parties! My gluten-radar is definitely more in tune.

The main thing in navigating these situations is to ask questions! If you are at someone's house and that smoked pork looks delicious....then don't feel shy and ask your host what/how it was cooked. Sometimes even if it was made safe, it can scream cross-contamination, with how the dish is placed on the buffet table (next to stuffing, sharing a serving spoon?), or you can't find the creator of the dish - oohh, those potatoes dauphinoise looks scrumptious, but there could be hidden flour. Turkey smoked in beer?? Sounds unusual, but it does happen. The key is never to take anything for granted. After coming across soy sauce in salsa at a local restaurant here in Atlanta (Flying Burrito), I always ask what all ingredients are. Of course, I do so in a nice way, and try to be as polite as possible, I don't want to annoy my host, or sound like a broken record. Because people are not mindreaders, and maybe in the past you have mentioned your food issues and you assume they may tell you, but don't assume. Always ask, and always ask nicely!! I can't stress this enough.

Sometimes things will seem questionable, and in those cases -REFRAIN! It may seem sad not to take part in the collard greens with everyone else, but if you can't be sure if the broth used is gluten-free, it is not worth the discomfort and pain you will feel later that will cause you to leave the party early and miss out on all the fun conversation. It is much better to do without, enjoy that third glass of wine and feel great.

Restaurants can cause another snafu. I have learned that if I ask our server a few questions I can usually gauge my comfort level, if they have to ask me if gluten is found in dairy, I know I need to play it safe (or leave). If they respond by educating me in what gluten can be found in, then I feel I have struck gluten-free gold, and feel much more at ease and willing to try their recommendations. This was my experience for our Christmas Eve dinner at Murphy's, here in Virginia Highlands (Atlanta). I can't rave about it enough, and can't wait to go back! You can read my review here.

Some of my culinary favorites this holiday season were the smoked pork dishes over New Years weekend, smoked turkey (beer-free) I enjoyed on Boxing Day, my brother-in-law's cheese ball, scalloped potatoes, my friend's chocolate flourless almond cake, my Indian meal at Panahar, and this gem on The Pioneer Woman's blog, black-eyed pea dip.

Notice a pattern with many of those favorite dishes? Dairy! I love it, I can't get enough, and now that I am coming up to lunchtime on my first official dairy-free day I am craving that yogurt, the full carton of Trader Joe's eggnog, the block of cheddar cheese, the luscious blue cheese I would like to add to my omelette, the list goes on. But for 30 days, I am saying no. Just so no to dairy is going to be my MO for January. I just have to tell myself that if I can quit gluten, I can quit dairy for a measly 30 days.

And what happens after these 30 days? I am not sure. I will reevaluate if the lack of dairy made me feel any different, if I lost any weight, and take it from there.

So, please bring on your favorite dairy-free/gluten-free recipes, I would love to learn more.

What were some of your culinary gluten-free favorites of the holiday season?