Sunday, March 21, 2010

"I recently cut out fructose"

Do I have that Seinfeld quote right? I'm remembering Kramer telling someone how he stays fit and eats right. Well, I have now cut out fructose, too.

One of my new year's resolutions for 2009 was to avoid corn syrup and cut down on sweets in general. I did that, but it was a struggle. Because I'm lactose intolerant, limited sugar and dairy became my standard way of eating.

Then later in the year, I noticed an allergic reaction to tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant. These are the nightshade vegetables. So, no more pizza for me.

At the very end of 2009, I realized that the reason I kept getting stomach aches even if I'd had no dairy, nightshades or sugar was that I also had an intolerance to wheat. My list of no-no's stretched to include pasta, bread, tortillas, bagels, crackers and croutons. SO! No more Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, French or Spanish cuisines. No sandwiches, pasta dishes, anything that contains breadcrumbs or sauces that contain any of my danger foods.

I've been cooking a lot of Indian dinners without the ghee and eating a lot of rice. I make vegetable stew with chicken, fish or beef and carry it to work for lunch most days. Breakfasts have been oatmeal with fruit and nuts. And life has been okay.

But three weeks ago, my doctor identified a condition I've had before. It's called candidiasis and I will let you find out as much as you want about that on your own. The most effective treatment includes a severely restricted diet. You might think this would be no problem since I've been living on a restricted diet, but oh, no. The Candida Diet is even more severe than living without dairy, wheat or processed sugar.

The version of the Candida diet that I'm on requires that I keep avoiding all those foods I've been avoiding and also cut out all grains and flours, all condiments and fermented items like vinegar, all sugar and sweeteners, including artificial sweeteners and most fresh fruit, plus all beverages, except water and herbal tea. OH, yeah.

For three weeks I've eaten nothing but vegetables, protein and a few fruits like hard pears, blueberries and grapefruit (but it turns out that my skin reacts to the grapefruit, so that's back out). I'll probably have to stay on the Candida Diet for another month, then my doctor might start letting me bring back food groups one at a time, separated by weeks. In the past -- yeah, I've done this before -- the first group I could add back was fruit. Then a few weeks later, condiments. Then all grains except for wheat. Then wheat. Then sugar. And last of all, dairy, but I don't like much dairy anyway, so I don't care about that.

I've lost four pounds. It'll come back once I'm eating normally again, so the question is how do I retain enough of this diet to keep the weight loss? I don't know. It's actually pretty nice in some ways. The payoff for not being able to eat all those baked goods, potato chips and chocolate is that I can totally indulge in all the avocado, almonds, and dark meat chicken I want. I put olive oil on everything with no guilt at all. I eat this way and still lose weight. It's been kind of fun sometimes, like when I'm stepping on the scale or putting on those pants that used to fit tight.

But it's not fun at all when I sit at my desk wanting, no NEEDING one of the cupcakes I know others are enjoying at the afternoon office social. It's not fun to long for a sandwich, just a #$%-damn sandwich and know it'll set back my healing process if I have it. I sometimes dream of cookies and fluffy cakes, but say "No, thanks, I can't." Imagine how mad I am at myself when I wake up from those dreams.

I'm a sugar addict who's going cold turkey right now and isn't sure how long she can hold out. Like most addicts, I can stay on the wagon for a set amount of time. Knowing this will end, abstention's no problem. But I wish I could kick the sugar habit permanently. I really wish I could eat this healthy for life.

Last night I had my first dream that went the way I wanted it to. After telling myself repeatedly, "Dream of dessert and eat it all. Go ahead and eat cake," I dreamt that I was at a Christmas party. Multi-layered cupcakes and frosted cookies surrounded me. I ate it all and woke up satisfied.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Bob's Wild Life

My husband loves animals and has always had them in his life. We would have a dog, except that he's not home enough to take care of one and we would have a cat except that I'm allergic to them. So instead he feeds the city wildlife. We moved into our current apartment three years ago, partly because it had a room Bob could use for smoking: an enclosed front deck. Since we're on the first floor, it looks right out onto the trees and grass that are between us and the street.

First Bob bought a birdfeeder and got a lot of pleasure out of loading it up every morning and then spending hours watching the sparrows devour its contents. Feeding the little guys made Bob feel good and gave him a calming focus as he sat smoking and listening to the radio each day. But our landlord didn't like it. He said it drew pigeons which were damaging the structure of our building, so eventually Bob took the birdfeeder down and moved it to the back porch. When the landlord found it there, he just took it. Our landlord doesn't like direct conflict so I know talking to Bob about this was hard for him. And passive aggressive people do things like just steal something, so that birdfeeder is gone now.

Then Bob turned to the squirrels. Tossing them whole peanuts didn't draw pigeons because they couldn't open the shells, but the squirrels could. That was actually even more fun for Bob because he would put a pile of nuts right in front of him, on the ledge of the window of the enclosed deck, and the little rodents would climb up to get them. Bob gave them names like Blackie, Cloudy and Fred, and always greeted them. When a squirrel would nervously dash off again, Bob would say, "Okay, 'bye now." Bob went through a lot of peanuts.

Sometimes a squirrel would be on the ground outside Bob's deck and it wouldn't feel like going all the way up there. It would stand on its hind legs and stretch toward Bob. Bob would hold a peanut out the window. The squirrel would inch closer on its hind legs, looking like it was dancing. By the time Bob threw the peanut, I'd be laughing.

After that, Bob got in the habit of tossing the squirrels peanuts as if they were dogs, but unlike dogs, squirrels have really bad eyes and could never find a peanut unless it landed right next to them or hit them on the head, which sometimes happened. I used to wonder of the squirrels were developing a Pavlovian response to the smell of cigarette smoke or the sound of WGN.

But this couldn't last either, since the peanut shells littered the tiny lawn that our landlord carefully tends in front of our building. He does a considerable amount of landscaping and nurtures fresh grass, flowering bushes and tanbarked trees. It's the most beautifully landscaped building on the block, so of course it drove the landlord crazy that Bob's generosity was causing litter and holes in his garden. I didn't like that the front of our building was starting to look like the inside of a bar, with the broken peanut shells, but I also knew how much pleasure Bob got from his ritual. I just tried to stay out of it.

It was a low-intensity standoff between my husband and our landlord. Carlos. Bob started picking up the shells that dropped, but that still left the holes the squirrels would dig to hide the nuts. When Carlos came around, he'd bring a slingshot and try to hit the squirrels. Bob couldn't stand this and would withdraw into the apartment when he saw Carlos coming. If I were home, I confront Carlos about the cruelty of the slingshot, but both my husband and the landlord loathed direct confontation, so theirs was a low-contact conflict.

One day, when Bob returned to his post after Carlos had finished his vigilante work, Bob saw a hole in one of the enclosed deck windows. He went to find Carlos.

"Were you just outside shooting rocks at the squirrels?" Bob asked him.
"Yes," said Carlos.
"You broke one of our windows!"
"No, I don't think so."
"Yeah, you did. Come here."

As they stood and looked at our double-paned window, the outside pane of which was punctured, Bob said, "See? Look. How would you like it if someone took a slingshot to you? You're too old to be playing with a slingshot. And I'm not paying for this!"

Carlos looked at the hole and wouldn't look Bob in the eye. He still wouldn't admit breaking the window, but he said, "I'll take care of it."

It was months before Carlos replaced that pane, but he didn't let up on Bob. He wanted the peanuts to stop. So, Bob finally stopped. Having peace between him and our landlord was more important. There were no more peanuts for his friends, but because Bob couldn't stand having the squirrels look at him "that way," he stopped sitting out on the front deck. For months he switched to smoking on the back deck, waiting for the squirrels to forget and stop coming around, which they eventually did.

While on that back deck, Bob noticed a cat with a litter of kittens that was living on the abandoned lot next door. The condominium had been half-built when the recession caused all construction to stop. Now it housed a family of cats. Bob tried to figure out how to get food to the cat, but he hadn't quite worked it out when workers came and boarded up the building, to keep out transients. After the doors and windows were sealed shut, Bob didn't see the cat or her kittens again. We tried not to think about it. Then Bob discovered Mob Wars and Farm Town and stopped spending as much time outside, listening to the radio.

In the past few months, Bob has discovered his latest "work around." Carlos doesn't want peanut shells on our property, but no one's keeping tabs on the abandoned lot next to us. The grass in front grows wild and is choked with weeds and litter. So now, each morning, Bob fills one baggie with peanuts and another with birdseed and scatters this on the ground there on his way to work. He doesn't get to watch the recipients enjoy it or see their smiles of gratitude, but he knows how they feel. I think you just can't stop some people from taking care of others. It's going to happen one way or another.