Thoughts

My kid ate carrot-ginger soup, raw smoked goat cheese, grain-free bread, and apple for dinner. I hope he knows how lucky he is.

The soup was made with our carrots and homemade bone broth. The cheese is local, the bread is homemade, and the apple was organic.

I wish every baby could eat such nourishing food. We are so blessed. Sometimes I feel guilty of the bounty we enjoy when so many people go hungry or eat crap food because it’s all they have access to.

Everybody used to eat this way, not so long ago. What a mess things are now.

Maybe It Was, Maybe It Wasn’t

I think I had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

(Sorry not sorry for any TMI in advance. My blog, my rules)

All the signs were there – bloating, maldigestion of fruit, FODMAPS, coconut, fermented foods, weird smelling burps, slow “transit.” But I never got the breath test or anything, so I really can’t be sure.

My symptoms are gone now, and that’s really all I care about. I expect that some of you reading this may want to know what I did to cure my maybe-SIBO, though, so I’ll tell you what happened.

In a few words: I chilled the hell out about my health issues.

In more words, I relaxed and used logic to solve my problems. For many months I had browsed the alternative health forums, websites, studies, and more to try and get to the bottom of what plagued me. Everything seemed to point towards small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and I felt almost triumphant and relieved to have located the origin of my problems. Finally, the root cause of my health issues! But I never got the special test to determine if I had SIBO; I just sat and worried and marinated in my own self-obsession. The difficulty in obtaining the test and potential expense plus a good dose of avoidant personality left me grinding my teeth and imagining a gunked-up small intestine slowly ruining my life.

Something I’ve realized is that in a lot of cases, no doctor can fix your problem. It doesn’t matter if they’re the wisest physician in the world – nobody knows and cares about your body like you do. If you aren’t that acquainted with yourself, the illness may be your body’s cry to be acknowledged. Of course, in some cases illness absolutely requires a doctor’s care, but in my experience many sufferers of chronic disease simply need to turn their attention inward to heal themselves. In application to my maybe-SIBO, I’d read online countless people who had tried the conventional and alternative treatments for the illness and failed to eradicate the pesky bacteria. The drugs didn’t work, the herbs didn’t work, nor did the incredibly restrictive diet. I figured that if doctors couldn’t help so many of these people, then it certainly was not unreasonable to think I could fix my maybe-SIBO myself.

I decided that my diet was already restrictive enough, especially given my history of eating disorder and tendencies to overly control my diet. At the time, I wasn’t eating grains (except white rice), dairy, legumes, eggs, or nightshades – I certainly did not need to eliminate another class of foods that included most of the vegetables I ate. So I decided to simply reduce my consumption of FODMAPs (I’m not going to explain the science here, Google does a better job) for a month and then slowly increase. I adhered to a mandatory 4-hour minimum between meals to allow the intestines to do their job in moving things through. SIBO is very much tied to disorded digestive waves, and by creating strict mealtimes I allowed my body to process food in waves as it should. I strengthened my brain-gut connection by only eating when hungry, stopping when full, and paying close attention to what my body was wanting at the moment. I stopped reading and rushing at meals and took my sweet time eating.

And guess what? My symptoms improved and continue to do so. I didn’t see a doctor once. Of course, I didn’t have diagnosed SIBO, so some of you reading this may scoff or think I’m silly. For me, the proof is in the pudding. Illness is about so much more than a label – it is about the PERSON! In fact, the name of the disease is usually the least relevant fact. I plan to delve more into my philosophy on illness in a future post. But for now, if you are reading this, consider turning your gaze inward and realizing your innate healing potential.

You may just be the medicine you need.

Staying Up

In the evening, after Edward has gone to work and we’ve finished eating dinner, I kill time until Blaise goes to bed. Sometimes we play, or clean up, or mill around outside, but I’m always counting down the minutes until he’s asleep. I feel bad saying it, but by the end of the day I am ready for him to be down for the count until morning (let’s pretend he doesn’t wake 3x a night). In those few hours before bed I waver back and forth between deciding to stay up after B sleeps or to zonk out myself. Usually the temptation to stay up in some form is irresistible and I find myself scrolling Facebook on my phone, cautiously reading a book in the dim light, washing dishes, or doing stuff on the computer.

This first year of being a mom has been horrible and wonderful. The toughest part has been having almost zero time to myself! I never realized how much I cherished doing whatever I wanted until I had to care for a tiny drunk fat man 24/7. So usually at night I am putting some pennies into the “me time” piggy bank… only to have the pig smashed in the morning when I’m exhausted as all hell because I stayed up too late. It seems like I will never learn.

A Breastfeeding Poem

A quiet moment on a quiet day

Chubby toddler in my lap

Nestling squirming pinching fidgeting fondling

My soft nipple in his mouth

He feels my breast, my neck, my ear, my teeth and again

Warm breath beating heart tickling hair suckling tongue

Swallowing sweet “milkies”

Affirming me with each moment at the breast: I love you

I love you, little one

A pinching finger invades my shirt

He wants the other one now.

I’m Done With Emotional Eating

On a cold night a few years ago, I sat in my boyfriend’s basement holding my abdomen tightly. With wonder, fear, aching sadness and triumph I let myself feel the empty, heavy hollowness that resided in my gut. He looked at me with questioning eyes, and I said, “I just realized that nothing I eat will make the pain go away.”

Before…

I had been in therapy for several months. In the privacy of a nondescript office building I eked open the door to my emotional self, formerly trapped for so many years. By the grace of God I had finally admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder, and that I needed help. Anorexia nervosa, they call it. Hungry and proud, I called it. Eating only raw vegetables and a meager protein shake each day allowed me to run far, far away from the overweight girl that nobody liked (or so I thought).  Being thin and being in control of my body meant feeling special, loved, admired, accepted, finally accepted. Everything was okay and nobody would hurt me as long as I ran my 3 miles a day and abstained from animal products and chewed my kale. But I was all wrong, of course. And so I began connecting the dots of my emotional puzzle, filling in the image that, deep down, I knew was there all along but couldn’t quite make out.

Before…

I ate to feel full and I ate to feel loved. I ate to feel normal and I ate barbecue ribs, chocolate cake, beef stew, broccoli salad, granola, grapes, kefir, toast with cheese and butter, breakfast cereal, egg salad sandwiches, chips, spinach squares and Chinese takeout before bed. And I ate them in huge quantities, not tasting, not feeling full, but hungry so starving for that emotional fullness. My almost permanently distended stomach was an object I loathed yet sought to ignore because it was too painful to acknowledge. Other people could eat all they wanted and not get fat, so why couldn’t I? Familial emotional manipulation encouraged me to “Eat now or you’ll be hungry later!” “Oh won’t you have some more?!” “Have another piece of pie!” while nodding and shaking their heads and moving their lips saying sometimes people just get fat and some stay thin. it’s genetics…. she’s healthy, she’s normal. I knew something was sour, but couldn’t express it or understand.

Since I was young I had been disconnected from my food. We often ate nourishing, home-cooked meals of love which just as often went rotten from familial dysfunction. I ate because I was told, and because it was there, and because it was better than feeling empty and sad. The artificial fullness from consuming plants and animals masked my inner emptiness. When one of my favorite dishes was served, I did not savor the tastes or relish the textures; I ate and ate with frightening urgency, fearing what would happen once it was gone. The emptiness, the hunger, the sadness would return. My overeating continued into my teens and early twenties, even when my food choices improved and I lost weight. It didn’t matter if I was eating an enormous salad or a bowl of soup or a slice of fruit tart – I would keep putting food into my mouth until I could eat no more. The concept of natural fullness simply escaped me. I constantly thought about food and how it would taste and feel when I finally could eat again. I pored over food blogs and magazines, salivating over and savoring the make-believe delicacies that taunted me from the pages. I took endless photos of my food and pored over those too.

I did this even beyond that illuminating night in my boyfriend’s basement. But since then, I have been working endlessly inside my head to unravel my tangled-up emotional past and re-weave it as a fluid garment of correctly-ordered passions and desires. After attempting several restrictive diets to heal myself of a mysterious illness [more on that later!] I grew tired of the constant food porn on Instagram and charismatic bloggers and cookbook authors and obsession over a new way to get your greens in for the day. A few weeks ago it finally hit me that I wanted no part of this food-worship, this misconstruing of things we eat into gods and more. I sat at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with Blaise and watching him pick over his liver meatloaf and strawberries. I chewed my organ meat realized with a start that -gasp!- I was full. But there’s still some left on your plate! my mind cautioned me. You better eat what’s on your plate! If you don’t eat it all, you’ll be hungry later. I set down my fork and thought for a minute, masticating these warnings. Well, I thought. If I get hungry later, I can always eat more. What’s so scary about being hungry? Liver meatloaf won’t make me happy, nor will these strawberries. Let the hunger come. 

And since that morning, I haven’t been overfull. I have been pleasantly full, maybe even a little under-full, but always nourished and satisfied. I no longer fear the short stretches of time between meals, or the way my belly will bulge over my shorts after eating lunch. Correctly ordering a powerful thing in my life has restored a peace, self-satisfaction and empowerment that I never knew was missing. Never again will I eat out of boredom, sadness, happiness, stress, or fear. I’m done with emotional eating.

One

Last week, on July 4th, my son Blaise turned one year old.

16

I wanted to write a post about his birthday because it was such a momentous occasion. One year on this planet, 365 days shared with this tiny bright soul… but there’s so much that can’t be put into words about being a parent.

6

If you’re a parent and you’re reading this, you know what I mean. Having children is such a humbling, awe-some, terrifying, heartbreaking, beautiful experience. Being Blaise’s mom has ruined my life in the best way possible.

3

Our hearts are full. And that’s all I can really say.

We had a small party with our close family and friends. It was fun, and focused on celebrating Blaise, as it should be. I made a banana cake in honor of his favorite food. Everyone loved it, and I thought I’d share the recipe here.

cake

Blaise’s 1st Birthday Cake

Makes 2 6-inch cake rounds

Based on Ina Garten’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Banana Cake

Cake Ingredients:

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

3/4 cup organic cane sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup avocado oil

2 tablespoons gelatin + 7 tablespoons water

1/2 cup thick coconut yogurt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups Otto’s Cassava Flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

“Cream Cheese” Frosting Ingredients:

1 cup palm shortening, soft

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 + 1 tbsp thick coconut yogurt

*sliced bananas, toasted large flake coconut and candied violets, for decoration

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 6-inch cake pans and set aside.

2. With a hand mixer, cream together the bananas, coconut sugar and cane sugar on low speed.

3. Mix the gelatin with the water and wait 10 seconds, then pour quickly into banana-sugar mixture and blend on low speed until combined. Add in oil, yogurt, and vanilla and combine.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and incorporate them until smooth.

5. Tip the batter into the two cake pans. It should be thicker than pancake batter but not too stiff. Smooth out the top with a wet spatula.

6. Bake for 50 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Let the cakes cool before frosting.

**To make the frosting, beat together all the ingredients on medium speed in a small bowl. Frost immediately. If you need to make it ahead of time, make sure to take the frosting out 30 minutes before frosting the cake. Re-whip the mixture if necessary to aid in the fluffy texture.

Eating Seasonally

mulberry treeIt’s a long road to the self sustainable life. For me, it started a few years ago when I stopped eating gluten, dairy, and eggs and started cooking for myself. I’ve become acquainted with gardening, lacto-fermentation, essential oils and herbal medicine, sewing, and a plethora of other traditional crafts we have now woven into the homespun fabric of our daily life. A newer addition to the list has been eating seasonally.

I used to eat seasonally, seasonally. You know –  eating from the farmer’s markets and kitchen garden in the summer but then swinging back to the grocery store in December for raspberries and asparagus because, well, they’re there. I decided this year after reading Gluten-Free Girl‘s blog that I would challenge myself creatively by truly eating seasonally. As of this summer I’ve only been eating what vegetables our garden produces, with a few small exceptions. Right now, in late June, we have spinach, several kinds of lettuce, strawberries, and rainbow Swiss chard. That’s it. And boy are they DELICIOUS! While it’s been boring eating the same rotation of vegetables each week, my mind has been freed, in a way, by having a smaller selection to choose from while meal planning. Instead of having the entire range of the vegetable kingdom available to me at my local Trader Joe’s, all I have are a few humble green tablefellows to consume. The spinach is tender, mild and faintly vegetal without the overwhelming “vegetabley” taste that most kids hate. The lettuce is butter-soft, crisp and dainty. And the strawberries? Like vibrant red jewels, bright splashes of flavor on your tongue.

mulberries

Another aspect of seasonal eating I am trying to implement into our lives is using what we have from our wild plants. I’m still learning about harvesting wild food, but mulberries and stinging nettle are on my radar. Our mulberry tree is quite prolific, and if you walk underneath it your feet are sure to be left splotched with purple stains. I’m not sure how I feel about mulberries. They look deceptively like blackberries, are sweet for sure, but don’t really have much flavor. I’ve found that when used in baked goods they take on a brighter flavor, but otherwise they’re kind of just….meh. The challenge lies in using these free, organic, wild berries because they are here, and not buying the luscious blueberries, figs, apricots at the grocery store. Well, okay, I bought a few, but keeping my focus on what we grow ourselves is the goal.

 I created this recipe for the mulberries because I was tired of using them in sweets. Really, don’t we have enough sweets, too frequently? Plus it is more challenging for me to create a savory recipe using fruit since I am not much acquainted with that type of cooking. This recipe for lamb is really delicious. The meat is so tender, moderately spiced, and falls apart without a hint of dryness. Persian cuisine frequently features mulberries. They are known in that culture as the “king of berries.”

Slow-Roasted Persian Lamb with Mulberries

Slow-Roasted Persian Lamb with Mulberries

Ingredients:

1 4-lb boneless leg of lamb

2 lbs carrots, chopped

1 1/2 cups fresh mulberries

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ginger

1 slice preserved lemon

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Method:

1. In a food processor, blend together mulberries, preserved lemon, and liquids until completely broken down.

2. Add in other spices and combine well. It should taste spicy and pungent.

3. Place the lamb in your crockpot and cover liberally with mulberry sauce. Place chopped carrots around (but not on) the lamb.

4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, until meat is falling apart and aromatic.

I served this dish with yellow rice, sauteed chard and coconut yogurt.

This post was featured on Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday.