Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's a mystery to me...

I've finally learned. Even though logically it seems no flour or other grains would be used in, say, grilling halibut cheeks or roasting a turkey, by now I know enough to ask. And sure enough. At our lovely upscale restaurant, the handsome server returned from the kitchen with dour news: the Thanksgiving turkey had been SOAKED in a brine containing flour.

Really? And why was that, exactly?

It turned out fine, of course. The salmon entree was beyond exquisite and I'm guessing the asparagus had a cube of butter per spear, so I was more than well-fed. But it still makes me wonder. How ubiquitous exactly is wheat? Even in preparations where it's clearly not needed?

Well, we know the answer to that, don't we? Anyone who's ever tried to go gluten-free knows the answer to that! And could that, possibly, have anything to do with our current health problems? I wonder.

Besides, I happen to know for a FACT, you don't need flour for roasting your turkey. It would be just fine without it. Good thing I didn't ask about sugar!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When 'cheating' becomes a way of life

So, I'm one of those people who, once we find something that works - like the way Paleo has kicked the ass of my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms - we stick with it.

Until, that is, we don't.

I am so ridiculously all or nothing that I could honestly say during the first seven or so months of switching to Paleo earlier this year that I had absolutely no desire to cheat. My improvement was so quick and so dramatic, my memory of sore hands and other joints so fresh, why would I cheat? Pizza? Chips? Absolutely not worth it, in my book. I felt great and wanted to continue to feel great. Those things were dead to me.

In fact, the whole concept of "cheating" irritated me. Who exactly are we cheating, I would muse to friends and family. Only ourselves. This works for me. I'm sticking with it.

Until, as I mentioned, I didn't. It started, as I've posted elsewhere, with a bout of food poisoning. I'm thinking I picked it up in San Francisco, while noshing at numerous odd bars with my daughter, but haven't been able to get confirmation. In fact, when I asked her if she'd suffered any ill effects, she said no, but pointed out that she wasn't the one eating chicken on a stick.

Yes, I did. Chicken on a very long, sharp, somewhat unwieldy stick. It was good. Especially with the sauvignon blanc. Probably not worth the weeks of not feeling right that followed, however.

And once you don't feel quite right, other things slip. I dallied with white rice. Nah. OK, how about commercially prepared applesauce and vats of almond butter? Good, but ... Not. Quite. Enough.

OK, how about ... chocolate? By this point, I had tested chocolate only once since February and found it didn't work well with my other paleo foods. I couldn't stick with just one high-cocoa content square, for one thing, and eating more just didn't make me feel that great.

In my not feeling quite right frame of mind, however, I had a thought: maybe Much Much More would do the trick, huh? Like entire bars of sea salt and almond chocolate. Or how about these awesome little natural food mounds bars I found with unsweetened coconut and uber dark chocolate? Sweet potato chips with who knows what additives? Chocolate coconut ice cream with tons of sugar? Yum, yum, and yum again.

By now I was so out of whack I couldn't tell what wasn't sitting well. I still never ventured into beans and grains, truly no desire to go there, but I started finding myself frequently driving to my favorite coffee place and ordering my old favorite cafe au lait. With Splenda.

And then I noticed something very strange: my hands began hurting. After the better part of a year of not hurting. It hurt to turn the handle of the door to my garage. Shifting gears hurt my thumb. Carrying things was harder, exercising was harder, just sitting and meditating with several joints throbbing was harder.

What had/have I done?

Well, to throw some compassion on the situation, I was/am human. And like most humans, I decided to venture beyond the bounds of the predictable. I feel good eating this one way, will I still feel good if I eat this other way? How about if I just dabble? How about if I dive face-first into a vat of sugar??

So, I got my answer. Big time. And a really sore thumb joint.

Tonight, dinner will be garlic-lemon halibut and steamed broccoli. Dessert will be a perfect honeycrisp apple. My remaining chocolate stash will be placed on the table in the break room at work tomorrow at 8 a.m. By 8:15 it will be gone.

It's great to be back on the paleo train. This lesson, at least, is learned.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paleo: a chill pill?

One of the things I love best about the paleo/primal community is how smart so many of the proponents and bloggers are. These are people who put serious science behind what they do and what they choose to eat, and they generously drag those of us with high school Bio II backgrounds along with them.

One of my favorites is Dr. Emily Deans, who blogs at Psychology Today and her own site, Evolutionary Psychiatry.

I'm not going to pretend I understand the Folate Cycle, which is the topic of her latest post. However I probably should, because - like many people with an autoimmune disease - I'm taking an anti-inflammatory med that requires me to supplement with folic acid. I have learned from Dr. Deans that folic acid and folate aren't the same, but beyond that... I just remember to eat my leafy greens!

In that recent post on the folate cycle, Dr. Deans included this amazing text: "... And in the papers, there are some interesting suggestions (that the stress hormones deplete the B vitamins, thus raising homocysteine, that homocysteine is directly neurotoxic, causing anger. That homocysteine is associated with higher levels of pro-oxidants and represents an inflammatory state, also neurotoxic."

The implications from just those two sentences are mind-blowing.

Rheumatoid arthritis has run rampant in my family for at least three generations. My grandmother had one of the worst cases you will ever see. If you think I can look at what happened to her, and my mother, and my own right arm - part of which is now titanium where this nasty disease ate away my ulna - without a certain, subterranean terror, you would be wrong.

But do I also know the damaging effects of that terror on my body? You'd better believe it. And I also know that terror, and other stress emotions, destroy B complex vitamins. Even Adelle Davis back in the '60s preached of the need for extra helpings of those vitamins when stressed. Her remedy was brewer's yeast, to be sure, but the idea was still the same.

So back I come to the paleo diet. There are two reasons I've stayed on it without any deviation (besides the bar of dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds currently on my counter, and which I'm certain any self-respecting paleolithic dweller would heartily embrace) for more than 7 months now: the almost instant lessening of swelling and joint soreness in my left hand, and the clear sense of well-being I have when I eat this way.

This diet lessens my physical and subsequent emotional stress. I've no doubt about that.

Whichever pathway it takes to do that - whether through the bacteria populating my gut with a higher protein/lower carb diet, or through the kind of chemical interactions of which Dr. Deans speaks, or something else entirely - it really doesn't matter. It just works.

And if it keeps me in a more even state of mind, absent the terrors that come with sudden unpredictable swelling and joint pain, and that mellower state of mind improves my general health as well? That's a cycle I can totally appreciate.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

IBS redux

It's so easy to write and rave about paleo when everything's going peachy. But what's bedeviling me lately is, what do I say - to friends and family and in this very blog - now that I've been feeling funky for a month or so?

Not awful funky, just... Let me put it this way. As someone who's had IBS off and on for years, the resolution of that problem instantly a day or two after starting paleo was a huge reason to stick with it. A miracle, really.

The way I explained it to people was to say that my "digestion" was sooooo much better. And so it went for more than six months. Me and my gut, finally BFFs.

Well, for some reason, suddenly my digestion is soooo not better. And it sucks.

Fortunately, Melissa at Hunt, Gather, Love, (, has broken this ground already. She often discusses IBS issues and has written about how non-paleo foods like white rice seem to help people still - or suddenly - symptomatic. I bought a bag of basmati tonight. We'll see if it works for me, too.

Still, the whole thing is such a mystery. How could all the very same foods that have worked so well since Feb. 1 suddenly have turned against me?

Fortunately, now I'm far enough into this way of eating that I have many more reasons to stick with paleo than just IBS relief: great blood pressure, continued relief from RA pain, steady energy.

I love eating protein and veggies, it's simple and logical and works in many ways for me. I have to believe my gut will come back around, too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Finally reading 'The Primal Blueprint'

If, like me, you've read every paleo/primal book in the world except this one, time to get it. Bought it on iBooks today and it is fabulous. Packed full of great info, all written intelligently and well. I should've known, considering the Mark's Daily Apple site and blog is one of the best and most readable out there. Thanks, Mark Sisson!

(p.s. I was excited to see how long it is! More reading pleasure!)

Parties and paleo

Traveling while on the paleo diet has been pretty well thrashed out in blog-ville. You prep plenty of TSA-acceptable stuff for the airplane, pack your walnuts and seeds and tins of kippers, and just hope that when your stash runs out you're somewhere you can get some nice eggs or a steak (or in the case of my recent visit to Chez Panisse, which proved to be very paleo-friendly, amazing sea bass and arugula salad, with the delicious berries you see to the right for dessert).

And if not, you do what I do, which hasn't proved too onerous so far, you skip a meal.

Give me a choice between a bit of a fast and a bag of those awful little "snacks" consisting of oddly shaped chunks of pretzel-type objects interspersed with round unidentifiable floury-type objects that Alaska Airlines persists in handing out, I'll go hungry, thanks.

But how about dinner parties? Particularly those hosted by lovely friends you'd just as soon not offend by sitting there with an olive on your plate while everyone else is scarfing up the homemade white bean soup and rosemary bread?

Happened to me yesterday, and honestly, it wasn't that bad. Bear in mind, however, white bean soup used to be to me as candy is to your average baby. I raised my kids on vats of thick hearty homemade navy bean soup, cooked for hours with bacon or ham and plenty of onions and garlic until it was practically a solid, content in my knowledge that it was, of course, one of the healthiest meals I could possibly feed them. Oh yeah, with plenty of my homemade, hand-ground whole wheat bread. Sigh.

Anyway, I'd warned my friend in advance about my new-ish eating habits, and so she warned me that she was planning on serving the aforementioned bean soup. But, she added, she'd also have plenty of salad, plucked from the incredibly verdant garden just outside her front door, not to mention veggies as appetizers, olives and berries, etc. And I contributed a lovely gourmet Italian hard sausage just in case any of us got hungry for some meat. It was delish.

Interestingly, not only did I have plenty to eat, but two people - including the hostess - pulled me aside at various points in the afternoon to ask for more details about this new way I was eating to battle rheumatoid arthritis. At our age, most everyone's heard about inflammation and given the brilliance of my friends, pretty much all of them would prefer to deal with any problems via diet rather than medication, if at all possible. We had great conversations and absolutely no one looked the slightest bit sideways at what I was - or wasn't - eating.

Long story short, don't see parties - or traveling or stress or a tough day at work (looking at you, Monday morning) - as reason to "fall off" paleo. I'm in this thing for the long haul and the results I've seen so far, in my c-reactive protein and SED numbers, my weight, and the way my various joints feel, is more than enough reason to pass on that lovely bean soup, thank you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Post-plane paleo

You notice the crackers, beer and bread are on the other, non-paleo side of the table! Ah, but the meat plate with the perfect mustard... all mine. Also that gorgeous sauvignon blanc. This photogenic spread was at The Forge in Seattle.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

AHS: Mind-blowing from afar

Despite being paleo for about six months now and seeing first-hand how miraculous it can be, it never really occurred to me to try to get to the first ever Ancestral Health Symposium, held in LA earlier this month. But after a few thousand #AHS tweets, blog posts and now video lectures, I can see I really missed out.

One of the lectures I just watched with Mark Sisson, aka Mark's Daily Apple, at, summed up everything good about paleo. Which is to say, everything.

I think the reason I love this whole movement is... it's so unlike a movement. It's like Groucho Marx said, I wouldn't want to be part of any organization that would have me. But it's not an "anti" sentiment, really, it's more that many of the paleo folks seem to be too busy living really interesting, intelligent, active lives to care if this is a "movement" or not.

Mark Sisson's talk, for example, was about play. I love that! Completely unpretentious. And it was fascinating! For example, did you know the average hunter-gatherer, after doing everything necessary to get him or herself fed and sheltered, had about six free hours each day to play? Do you have six free hours per day to play? And no, TV and Facebook definitely don't count.

Of course, it's really tough not to notice how great all the paleo people look. Yeah, their bodies tend to be, well, fantastic, but there's also an interested, curious alertness to them that's wonderful to see. And that seems to be true, regardless of age.

What I'm thinking may be part of the reason is that, as they - we - cut the crap out of our diets, we also cut it out of our lives. I made a gorgeous stir-fry tonight, for example, with chicken and dark green broccoli and ginger and carrots and garlic and cauliflower... and the last thing I wanted to do afterward was sit around and watch TV.

I felt good, really good. Energetic. So I went for a walk and met a woman trying out her new slack line in a park nearby. We talked for a while and now I'm wondering ... well, you know what I'm wondering.

My point is, it's all connected. And I can't wait to see where it goes from here. One thing's for sure: sign me up for AHS next year!

Monday, July 25, 2011

As paleo as it gets...

Yep, that's Mt. McKinley, aka Denali, aka the Great One. It's a stupendous mountain, and when it's "out," which is what Alaskans call it when the clouds part and you can see it like this, it's cause to stop the car and pay respect.

Auto-immune Paleo?

Striving to do a stricter, auto-immune version of the diet, and find myself - for the first time - really struggling. My go-to foods for the past six-plus months have been: eggs, nuts, more nuts, almond butter. Of course, I eat all the other stuff, the fish, the meat, the veggies, berries, reasonable fruits. But when I have the munchies, it's been nuts and almond butter. And a hefty plate of eggs has started virtually every morning since I started this on Feb. 1 this year.

But this morning I started with some chicken and baked yam. And tomorrow will probably be salmon and broccoli. It's weird and not entirely filling. Maybe it's just a matter of getting used to it?

Julianne's Paleo & Zone Nutrition Blog was my inspiration. She's having great luck with it. I shall persevere.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A little taste of where I live. This is the view just down the hill from my house. That mountain far in the background is named Mt. Susitna, but we call it Sleeping Lady. There's a Native Alaska legend about a woman who was waiting for her young lover and fell asleep while she waited. He never returned and there she sleeps still.

Another Paleo blog, seriously??

Well, yes. This one, you see, is from Alaska, and if there's anything we know about in Alaska, it's eating good, wholesome food straight from the land...

Actually, that's a lie. We're just like anywhere else. We eat crap, and plenty of it. And we have the waistlines to show for it. Our kids are overweight and obese (those are two different things, and the only reason I know that is my job. More on that later) in record numbers. My fellow adult Alaskans have been packing on the pounds in recent years, too. More to the point, we - like the rest of the U.S., like the rest of the world... except, apparently, France - are overweight AND unhealthy. Fat and sick. Lovely.

That's where the fun ends. Because while I like to nosh as much as anybody, I do not like rheumatoid arthritis. And that's what I've got. One nasty surgery later to repair tendons severed by the sharp edges of a bone eroded by this stinking disease, I decided I had to make some changes.

Long story short, those changes led me to Paleo. Where, I might add, I'm very happy. And, to hear my blood tests tell it, healthier too. My hands don't swell and hurt like they did. I don't hobble on sore feet like a little old lady through my office parking garage. I just, in general, feel a lot better.

I'm learning things all the time about this new way of eating. What works, what doesn't. And more importantly, why. This blog, I hope, will be a place where I can share some of that info - and ideally learn from others, too.

If you've found this blog, welcome. I hope to make reading worth your while.