I Can Do Hard Things (And You Can Too!)

I read a thought provoking post lately. The aim was teaching your kids to tackle hard things. The author is a homeschooler, and she challenged one of her kids to persevere and accomplish a hard task in their schooling. It wasn’t fun at times (for the mom or the child), but the sense of accomplishment and the lessons learned were invaluable to the child (and mom!).

I have up’s and down’s with this new lifestyle. Put simply: it’s hard work.

I can’t find the exact article I read, this one is interesting though, but I read an article that looked at how much time we (Americans) spend in the kitchen preparing food. As one might guess, this has decreased over time landing around 1 hour per day as of 2008. Many people choose to eat out or prepare packaged, quick meals.

The thought of how much time I spend in the kitchen has been rolling around in my head. Although I haven’t timed it (and it does vary day to day), here’s what I think I spend in the kitchen. The times below are meal prep and cooking, not cleaning up.

  • Breakfast – 30-40 minutes
  • Lunch – 15-20 minutes
  • Dinner – 1.5 – 3 hours

Generally, I hit the national average by lunchtime. I only stay under 20 minutes at lunch if we are eating leftovers (which I try to do most days!), if I prepare fresh food, that easily hits 45-60 minutes. Dinner varies dramatically based on the number of veggies I need to chop and the difficulty of the meal. While I love this cookbook. Most recipes are 2+ hours to prepare.

So, it’s hard work. Eating well is not easy. It takes a commitment of time and skill on my part, training on the part of my children (they are often in the kitchen with me!), and sacrificing “me” time (I often cook through nap time.).

But I believe it is not only worth it for our health; it is also worth it for:

  1. Our budget (WAY cheaper than eating out! Especially if you factor in long-term health effects of eating out.).
  2. My kids to learn how to prepare real, good food.
  3. My family to experience a variety of food.
  4. Me to serve my family with a good attitude during my “free” time. (This is the hardest one most days)

It is hard, but it is worth it.

What hard thing are you tackling right now? I guarantee that it is worth it. Hard things usually are.

Gluten Free Daily Menu

Here’s another “day in the life” so to speak. What do we eat on this gluten free/fresh-as-possible diet?

Well, let me show you…

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon (burnt, of course), and a green smoothie (or brown, if you will)

Notes:

  • The bacon is burnt because it always is when I cook it! Too many things going on! I actually like it burnt too so I’m not too motivated to change. Ha!
  • Green (Brown) Smoothie: 1 cup water, 1-2 cups strawberries, juice of 2 limes, 1 big bunch of Swiss chard. Chard + strawberries = brown. Luckily my kids don’t know brown to be a yucky color! I show their breakfast also so you know they eat what I eat. No special meals here!

Lunch – kimbop made from leftovers, carrot sticks and dill dip

Notes:

  • Kimbop is a Korean dish. It’s rice (plus veggies or maybe meat) rolled in kim (roasted seaweed wrap). We love it, and I like to use up leftovers in this way for lunch with the kids. The chicken is from our previous dinner of Adobo Chicken and the brown/white rice mix from that meal too. Take a small amount of each plus a little spicy if you wish (ssamjang in the middle of the plate), roll it up like sushi and devour in one bite. Yum!
  • The carrots can be dipped in the ssamjang, eaten plain, or with another vegetable dip.
  • See the kiddos love this meal too! They like to ask me to take their picture while they say some silly made up word. I can’t remember the word from these photos but it makes for genuine smiles!

Dinner – Smoked Kielbasa, Wilted Kale and Roasted-Potato Winter Salad, Strawberries

Notes:

  • We LOVE this kale and potato salad recipe. I’d made double of the dressing though. Ours above only had 1x the recipe, and it was a little dry. Although, it was probably dry because I used 2-3x the kale. 🙂 Gotta get those greens in somehow!
  • The kielbasa was homemade by a friend. Dan smoked in on our grill. I have no tips for you on this. It appeared cooked and delicious on the table, like magic!

Snack/Dessert – Fresh Strawberries and Homemade Whipped Cream

Notes:

  • Our boys are in the habit of getting a snack right before bed, so this was their snack. Delicious, no?
  • I love whipped cream, but due to the diabetes, try to keep extra carbs out that I don’t need. This whipped cream is only heavy cream plus a 1/2-1 teaspoon of vanilla. That’s it. Guess what? You’ll never miss the sugar when it’s on sweet berries like this! Yum!

So what do we eat?

Backstory: I am on a gluten free diet because I am a Type 1 diabetic. I have learned that gluten irritates the gut and does not allow carbohydrates to absorb through the intestines causing raised blood glucose and the body to produce more insulin. Gluten also causes the body to produce antibodies that attack the beta cells in the pancreas thereby killing the pancreas and causing Type 1 diabetes. My pancreas is not dead yet (I’m in the “honeymoon” period), but I’m hoping to prolong that period as long as possible through a gluten free diet. Research I’ve read suggests a gluten free diet will halt the body from producing those antibodies and attacking itself.

This is not the easiest diet change in the world. It goes along the lines of Whole30, Paleo, Primal Diet, etc. Eat real fresh food. However, it does mean more time in the kitchen and more thought and planning, I get it. I hope to encourage you to eat healthier by seeing what my family is actually eating.

Here is a day’s menu from last week:

Breakfast: steelcut oatmeal with strawberries and green smoothie

Notes:

  • I used the “Basic Recipe” for steel-cut oats in the link above then put fresh strawberries on top.
  • I rinsed by oats before I cooked them. I don’t have official “gluten free” oats. Oats are naturally gluten free, but there is a chance for cross contamination due to harvesting equipment and processing in facilities that contain wheat.
  • Smoothie recipe (roughly!): 1 cup of water, 1 apple, 1 cup of pineapple chunks, 1 lime (to cut the bitterness of the greens) and a lot of a leafy green (kale, spinach, swiss chard)

Lunch:  Dried cherry, cheese, candied walnut salad with balsamic vinegar and oil

Dinner: Adobo Chicken over brown and white rice

Notes:

  • The recipe came from this cookbook, and it is hard to find them free online because Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen requires a subscription. This is hands down my favorite cookbook. Nothing has failed, and I’ve probably made 20 recipes from it. They are more involved though, so read the recipe through before starting!
  • I cut back on the adobo chilis so my boys can hand the spice. I think it calls for 3 tablespoons, and I use 1-ish.
  • The rice is 1-1 ratio of brown rice to white made in a rice cooker.

Bedtime Snack: plain yogurt with strawberries and cashews (for Emily to limit carbs), plain yogurt with honey, cashews, walnuts, strawberries, and coconut (for Dan)

I do usually have a morning and afternoon snack, but I don’t have any pictures. Some ideas for these are popcorn, veggies and dill dip, fruit, trail mix, cottage cheese, etc.

I hope this is encouraging and not discouraging. My husband and I like to cook, but our culinary skills have evolved over time. Success is changing one small thing tomorrow. Vow to make breakfast (or something) better first. Conquer that then tackle the next meal. You can do it!

 

What’s with Wheat?

Dan and I love documentaries, and we owe it partially to them for our health beliefs and discoveries.

Our latest one is called What’s with Wheat? You can watch it through the link for $5.99 or for free on Netflix.

This documentary validates other research I’ve heard/read and hunches I’ve had. It’s not that wheat or gluten is evil/bad to eat. It’s what we’ve done to wheat throughout recent history that is making our bodies reject our food and attack itself. It’s the crossing of wheat varieties that aren’t related to each other, all in the name of more production (i.e. more profit!). It’s the taking off of the bran and germ to make it more palatable (i.e. stripping all the good nutrients from wheat!).

As I’ve mentioned before, God made this world to sustain life. Life for human beings, animals, and all other kinds of organisms. He made wheat, and I believe He made it good. Wheat was a part of his declaration on the third day…

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

Genesis 1:9-13

It was good. All of it. The fruit trees were good. The carrots were good. The green leafy vegetables were good. Even the brussel sprouts were good. It was all good. Wheat was good.

But then sin entered the world, and with that the earth didn’t work the same again. God said Adam would have trouble growing plants. Adam would have to work hard at it. “Adam” is still working hard, and using science to try to make it easier. Unfortunately, we didn’t see genetically altered wheat turning against us. It sounds great to make a type of wheat that produces more berries with a thinner bran. It’s easier to processes and tastes better (or so society thinks). We missed the mark. Some of us realize it, but is there anyone who will or can stop the behemoth that is the American food system to make real, radical changes?

I’m not sure, but I can change me and my family.

One, of many, interesting tidbits was about bread making. Our method of bread making is mentioned in the film (or how we used to make bread):

  • freshly ground, whole grain flour
  • natural sourdough started
  • multi-day process

If your bread takes longer to make, maybe we wouldn’t eat so much!

The gluttony of the American diet on wheat was something I hadn’t thought of before. Not only is wheat in all kinds of products: bread, salad dressing, cosmetics, shampoo, tons and tons of processed food, but we (as Americans) actually produce more wheat than the world can consume. Seriously? No wonder we keep putting it in everything. We’ve got way way too much of it!

The documentary touches on processed foods too. Say you buy into the wheat/gluten issues and decide to keep it out of your diet. What do you eat now? Do you go to the gluten-free section of the grocery store to buy your bread for your sandwiches?

NO!

Processed food is bad for you. All of it. I love that the documentary touched on this. One of the first reassurances I received upon hearing about my diet change was “Oh don’t worry, there are so many gluten free options now: bread, crackers, etc!” That person meant it in the best way possible, and I don’t hold that against them.

But really, yes, there are many options, and they are

  • carrots
  • kale
  • Swiss chard
  • zucchini
  • squash
  • artichokes
  • cherries
  • peaches
  • apples

Do I need to keep going? Our wheat is flawed but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to eat. In fact, wheat, should be, a very small part of our diet. There’s so. much. more. to eat.

I’m going to be posting as often as I can what we are eating. The options are endless. They are tastier, more fulfilling than anything packaged you find in the store.

Thoughts? I’m pretty fanatical these days about food, but I still love to hear what you think and discuss!

 

Control Girl

Shannon Popkin is a local author/speaker who has challenged me tremendously through her talks at my church’s young moms group, Bloom. She just published her first book, Control Girl, early this year. It was free on Amazon one day, so I picked it up.

I devoured it when I read it in March. God used His word and Shannon’s book to open my eyes to control issues in my life.

One area that seems to keep coming back to haunt me is my health. I just firmly believe I’m a healthy person.

  • I eat the best food I know how to prepare.
  • I exercise regularly (while having periods of not exercising, I’ve been active and/or exercising since middle school!).
  • I don’t use chemicals in my house.
  • try to read my Bible regularly.

I keep telling myself that I’m doing everything right. I’m checking off all the boxes to keep my health in check.

And yet…things keep falling apart…

My AVM

Type 1 Diabetes

If I allow them, these thoughts start to snowball on me. If I leave it to fester, all of the sudden I’m at death’s door (in my mind’s eye).

This is not the life God has for me.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Worry, anxiety (aka. control) are not what God has for me. Psalm 37 is full of good “do not worry!” advice. It is more focused on comparing yourself to others, but I think God doesn’t want us to worry no matter what!

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 37: 1-9 (emphasis mine)

I can do what I think are all the right things, eat all the right foods, exercise very faithfully, and yet my body still might fall apart. God knows the number of my days, and He also knows if those days are filled with health or sickness.

I gain nothing by worrying about why my body isn’t quite right. I lose valuable time and energy that could be used to further His kingdom.

My focus for today: Give God control back. Not that I truly had control in the first place, but I like to think I do!

 

Spirit Led

I realized more and more how much I am affected by music. I thank my mom for playing the piano while growing up and teaching me to play it too, and growing up in a church that sang hymns. Even though I no longer play (I think I could still bang out parts of Chopstiks and Fleur-de-Lis!), I have a deep appreciation for good music and good lyrics.

We sang Oceans in church yesterday. I was struck by these lyrics:

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

God’s grace abounds when I’m in over my head. When I realize I can’t do it on my own, when I’m failing on my own, He is there to step in when I finally surrender.

I am a very driven person. I have a hard time with failure or even perceived failure.

It wasn’t until I took an actuary exam that I experienced failure academically. Crazy, right? I thought I knew so much. I had majored in mathematics in college, and I graduated with a 4.0 in my major. I must know SO MUCH, right?

I barely studied for the first actuary exam. I started flipping through the 1.5 inch thick guide the week before the exam. My heart began to sink very quickly.

This was hard. Very hard.

Want to know my score on that first exam? It’s graded on a scale of 1-10.

I got a 0.

Yes, a 0. You can, in fact, score less than 1. Ha!

It is so funny to me now, and I actually appreciate that 0 so much more than my stream of A+’s in high school and college. Through my actuary exams, I learned through failure. In fact, I’m a firm believer now that you can’t learn without failing. You NEED to fail to learn. When I used to tutor for the GED exams, this was a concept I tried to drive home.

You need to get problems wrong to figure out why the correct answer is right. It won’t stick until you’ve done it wrong (possibly many times!).

You need to fail. You need to get things wrong.

I did eventually pass that first exam. It took me 4 tries. That’s probably higher than most actuaries, but I learned so much about calculus, how to teach myself, and how to problem-solve through that exam.

On to the reason for this post: I’m back on insulin. It felt like total failure at first. I had researched so much, learned so much about diet and Type 1 diabetes. I thought I had it figured out: just eliminate gluten and all will be well. Well then I learned I still needed to watch my carbs. That was minor though, things were pretty much in line once I started that.

Then my fasting blood glucose numbers started being higher (around week 4 of the gluten-free/no insulin diet). I was consistently in the 170’s when I woke up. It’s really odd because I would go to bed around 130 or 140, and my BG would rise overnight to 170. I didn’t have any snacks still working in my system (to my knowledge). So this phenomena was odd to me.

I consulted with my doctor, and we agreed to go on 1 unit of Toujeo (a long acting insulin) per day.

1

1!

1 per day!

Are you laughing at me yet???

I am. Well, now anyway.

I am a Type 1 diabetic who is only taking 1 unit of insulin per day. I don’t know what the “unit” is measuring, but it’s very very small.

The crazy thing about this 1 unit is that I will be low for lunch and dinner if I don’t have a snack 1-2 hours before those meals. Can you believe how sensitive my body is?? I’m still a little shocked.

Ok, done typing. I have more thoughts, but they can wait until another time.

Edit: I forgot to wrap around to my initial thoughts! Ha! When I am down in the dumps over my failures, physical or spiritual, that is where God meets me. In fact, I think He’s more present in my failures than when I’m sailing through life (most likely because I’m less in tune with God then). His grace abounds in deepest waters.

I desperately want the Spirit to lead my life. To take me to the edge of my capabilities, because it is only then that I have to let go of my control and let God lead.

Spirit lead me…

Gluten-Free Results: Eczema Gone!

I wish I had pictures to go along with this post. I’ve had eczema spots on my right hand for years. For most of the time, it would only pop up during the winter. I tried all kinds of creams, using gloves to wash dishes, always wearing gloves outside, etc. It never really helped, and it never went away completely.

The last year or so, the breakouts have never gone away, even in the summer. It’s been a year-round condition for 1-2 years.

I’ve read that eczema and other skin conditions can be autoimmune in nature and irritated by gluten. I wondered if my gluten-free diet would change it.

IT DID!!!

The eczema on my right hand is GONE. G-O-N-E GONE.

No way. I’m in amazement myself. It took almost 4 weeks on a gluten-free diet. I seriously can’t believe it. Water doesn’t hurt my hand anymore! The skin is soft and irritation free!

My evening numbers have been a little high lately making me wonder if I’ll need to start low doses of insulin soon. If I do, do I keep up with the gluten-free diet? I was questioning if this was all worth it. Now, I’m thinking yes! Even if I end up on insulin (which is very likely, eventually, I’m still a Type 1 diabetic!), I’d love to keep the scaly, painful rash away!

I never thought I was allergic to or even sensitive to gluten. Now I’m thinking differently…isn’t this amazing?!?!

O Rejoice in the Lord

This song popped into my head today as I was doing school and coloring with Jackson.

Rejoice in the Lord by Ron Hamilton

God never moves without purpose or plan.
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD, though your testing seems long.
In darkness, He giveth a song.

O REJOICE IN THE LORD!
He makes no mistake.
He knoweth the end of each path that I take!
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold.

I could not see through the shadows ahead,
So I looked at the cross of my Saviour instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day,
Then peace came, and tears fled away!

Now I can see testing comes from above,
God strengthens His children, and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging, more fruit I will bear.

I can see clearly now the trials that God has put in my life. Truly, not to harm me but to mold me, to refine me, to make me like gold.

I’m struggling today because it is looking like gluten-free + low-ish carb might not work. This whole diet has been an experiment, and I’ve known that from the beginning. It is still so disappointing to see high blood glucose readings when I think I’m being “so good.”

I do need to give it more time for the gluten to get completely out of my system. How long, I’m not sure. Also, how long is too long for the damage high blood glucose can do to my system? And how high of a BG damages my organs? 143? 180? 200? 300????

Besides the two meals this weekend, my numbers have really been good, but a couple have been in the 140’s before a meal. The last doctor I saw made it clear that was not good enough, and the perfectionist/people-pleaser in me feels like a failure. On the other hand, my sister-in-law thinks those numbers are great as she works with my teenage niece to control her blood glucose.

Where is the balance? Am I good enough, being in the 120-145 range before a meal? Am I causing harm to my body at those levels? I haven’t done much research yet. I need to get out of my funk and figure it out. When I feel like I’ve failed, I tend to sit on my butt and do nothing.

I’m not opposed to insulin. I will take it if I need to, but if there is a way to keep my pancreas alive AND not incur the huge expense of insulin (savings to me and everyone in the healthcare system!!), why wouldn’t I keep at it? I just don’t have definitive confirmation that what I’m doing will work. It looks like I’m forging my own path here based on my own research. It’s kind of scary.

Back to the song, “He makes no mistakes. He knoweth the end of each path that I take.” God’s already at the end. He knows what happens, and He is with me every step of the way. He didn’t allow my body to attack my pancreas on accident. It was no mistake. God knows what He’s doing all the time. This is just another opportunity to put my faith in action and trust.

Delicate Balance

I thought I had my diet and blood glucose (BG) levels all figured out, and then, I got lazy. Two meals this weekend I eyeballed my portion and carb load and definitely missed the mark, by a lot.

Oops.

The first meal was meatloaf, rice, and corn. I knew I had about 20 carbs in a half cup of rice, and I guessed the meatloaf was very low in carbs, say less than 5. I didn’t give the corn much thought. Big mistake.

It’s a vegetable, right? The diabetes educator said I could basically eat as many vegetables as I wanted because it requires so much energy to digest them that the carb load is negated.

Well, I forgot her caveat about starchy vegetables.

I tested 4 hours after dinner on Saturday night, and wouldn’t you know, 284 BG. WHAT?!?

I thought my hands were dirty so I washed then tested again…283 BG. Hmmm…

I immediately thought it was the meatloaf…it did have a sauce…oh, ketsup has like 4 carbs. So it’s not the meatloaf.

Then I thought I had forgotten how many carbs are in rice…nope, about 20 for a half a cup is right.

I guess, maybe, it’s the corn. (Still in doubt, still believing it’s a regular vegetable.)

Google: “Carbs in corn”

123g in 1 cup

Holy moley. That’s the problem. Unknowingly, I had eaten close to 90 carbs for dinner. Lesson learned, not all vegetables were created equal!

Although, the lesson was not learned completely because I did a similar mistake the next day.

Lunch on Sunday was red beans and rice. My portion was probably a touch large, but should’ve only been 40 or so carbs. What I forgot to account for was dessert…creme brulee…my favorite!

So that meal, I ate 70 or so carbs and was pushing 300 BG three hours later.

So here’s where I’m at now: keep each meal less than 50 carbs (including dessert!) and eat lower glycemic vegetables.

My BG have been super good since introducing exercise again last Thursday. I think I may be able to control my diabetes without insulin! When eating gluten-free and 50 or less carbs per meal (with a 20 or so carb snack in between), I’m able to be below 130 BG before each meal and before bed. Woot!

Now to see if the doctor’s agree…

Diabetes Check-up – 1 Week Gluten-Free

I met with my endocrinologist office this week to review my numbers and make sure I’m on track. 

The office had never heard of treating T1 diabetes with a gluten-free diet. This is a little concerning to me; however, new research is coming out all the time, so it is probably hard to keep up. 

The doctor I spoke with was supportive of the diet, of course still checking blood glucose (BG) regularly to make sure my BG stays in line. I was a little disappointed that she thought my BG were still a little high. I just had <150 stuck in my head. So I thought levels of 130-140 were perfect. The pre-meal BG needs to be <130, and the 2 hour post-meal BG <150. I should be <130 in the morning too, after the overnight fast.

Oh rats, maybe the diet change isn’t good enough. I’m regularly 130-145 pre-meal or fasting in the morning. 

I want to give the diet more time, especially since I JUST started feeling better/normal again. I’m checking in with the office next week, and we’ll go from there. 

Here’s my latest thought or thing to research: is the goal of insulin and diabetes management to make sure my BG returns to normal level after eating or is it to make sure my BG doesn’t spoke to high while eating? Somewhere in between? Both?