Bye, Bye Wheat!

I’ve been suspecting this day would come soon. The day when, once again, I bid farewell to wheat forever.

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I’ve been here before. Years ago I went completely “gluten free” after discovering that eating wheat made me go into these awful, can’t-breathe, going-to-die, coughing fits. After moving to Europe and doing a good deal of wheat cheating cough free, I realized my problem wasn’t with wheat but with the bleaching agents they add to wheat (America likes to add all manner of nasties to their wheat products. Europe got wise and realized that was foolish and just said ‘no’). Bleached wheat meant I would be pretty miserable for about five to ten minutes. Unbleached wheat meant uninhibited carb binging.

giphy-1Halloooo German pastries!

After also cutting out diary, things started to really heal in my gut and I was able to eat bleached wheat no problem.

Until now.

Several weeks ago I started to notice some weird itchy skin on my back, face, and arms. Strange splotches started cropping up and my psoriasis was worse than it had ever been. I chalked this up to being stressed and didn’t really worry about it. Then I noticed inflammation in my joints whenever I woke up in the morning. My thinking was foggy which I blamed on poor sleep. Every time I ate wheat my skin would start itching. Then in the middle of church I got the old knock-down, drag-out coughing fits I used to have. I had to run out last week mid-sermon, tears streaming down my face from the coughing, gasping for air.

That’s when I knew: I have to quit wheat. I’ve got leaky gut and possibly an allergy to wheat. It didn’t matter if it was bleached or not, the itchy patches and coughing came up regardless of how “healthy” the source was.

There was no fanfare, no “just one last Chick-Fil-A biscuit” (my habit of cheating on my super-healthy life with CFA is honestly a huge reason why I’m in this mess), no last piece of sprouted grain toast. Just done. Tonight I had a wonton in some wonton soup. Just that one single wonton has been enough to make the skin all around my face and back itchy.

I’ve been down this road before. I know how hard it is. I know how frustrating eating out is going to be from now on. I know how hard it can be to explain to people when you’re at their house that you can’t eat their food. People look at you and think you’re just being picky. What you’re doing is watching your back.

Choosing health often means saying “no!” to something you really don’t want to say “no” to. But you know what? That’s what facing your demons looks like. That’s what discipline looks like. Choosing health can look like saying “Yes” to beautiful, healthful food, but also means giving up things that are literally making you sick. That’s where it’s hardest. I have NO problem stuffing down a forkful of kale or guzzling a glass of powdered greens

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(something a lot of people on a Standard American Diet would shudder at!). The hardest part now is going to be saying “NO!” when I need it most.

 

 

What are you needing to say “No!” to? What is getting in the way of you and a healthy body? What do you need to say “Yes!” to?image1

Fall Favorites: Delicious Root Bisque

I’ve been making variations on this soup since I was a dirt-poor missionary in Germany and root vegetables were the only things my sad little budget could afford. It’s cheap to make, and it makes a decent sized pot full!

The key to root soup is celery root, which can be hard to find in the US. I scored some at my local Earth Fare last week and quickly started planning to make another batch of root soup. Celery root, also known as celeriac, is pretty hideous, but oh so tasty! (It tastes nothing like celery) It’s rich in fiber and B vitamins, and has a more sponge-like texture than potato. It requires a bit of preparation before you can cook it, but I’ll cover that below. Combine it with antioxidant rich beets and inflammation fighting turmeric in this soup and you’ve got yourself a veritable tonic!

I got the ingredients for this soup without really realizing that Hurricane Florence would be barreling toward us. When we made the decision for me and the baby to leave and stay with my parents while my husband stayed behind and manned the RV, I didn’t really want to leave without cooking up as much as I could so he would have some meals when he came home after a long shift.

I don’t know how else to describe the flavor of this soup other than amazing, creamy, comforting, and smooth! I brought a mason jar of it to my parent’s house and my mom was hooked!

If you manage to find a bulb of this delicious but hideous veggie, be sure to pick some up and try this recipe!

Root Bisque

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

3 T butter
3 T coconut oil
1 medium sized celery root (skinned with head and root bits removed)
1 large Yukon gold potato (leave skin on)
½ small beet (skinned)
3 medium sized parsnips (skinned)
3-4 medium sized carrots
½ small white onion
small thumb of turmeric (skinned)
small thumb of ginger (skinned)
1 bay leaf
½ t. dried rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 t. salt
pepper to taste
2 cans organic coconut milk (Thai Kitchen is my go-to brand)
½ cup PLAIN coconut milk yogurt (So delicious is the best brand for this)
1 ½ Cups vegetable stock

Cut all your veggies into small, half inch pieces, skinning the celery root (use a knife, not a peeler), the parsnips, the beet, the turmeric, and the ginger. Celery root is seriously “rooty” and you may find yourself cutting a lot of the bottom off so you’re not eating literal dirt.

In a large skillet, heat butter and coconut oil. Ordinarily I’d say to just do coconut oil, but there’s something about the way butter and celery root play together that’s a little too magical to ignore. Add half of your salt, pepper, and all the rosemary and parsley.

Add ALL your roots (celeriac, potato, beet, parsnip, carrot, ginger, turmeric, onion). Sauté on high heat, stirring constantly until soft (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.

root soup

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a large pot on medium heat and add vegetable stock, coconut milk, bay leaf, and the rest of your salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and remove the bay leaf. Add coconut milk yogurt then blend with an immersion blender until all the vegetables have been just blended.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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Travel Nursing Update: Pregnancy, Housing, and Living in a Retirement Community

We have now lived in Ft Myers, FL for seven weeks and as of today I am exactly 32 weeks (eight months) pregnant.

How my pregnancy is going:

Pretty uneventful, to be honest, minus a few ribs that like to pop out of joint and hips that don’t like staying in their sockets.  My mother and baby chiropractor in Cape Coral is an absolute lifesaver!  At the beginning of my pregnancy, my chiropractor in South Carolina told me she was pretty sure (but couldn’t diagnose since that requires an x-ray) that I have an inherited connective tissue disorder that results in extreme ligament laxity (which was so NOT a surprise since I’ve had so many ligament-related injuries over the years).  When you mix already lax ligaments and the relaxin my pregnant body is pumping out on the regular, it means that this mamma-to-be has the structural soundness of a pile of jello.  Other than my ribcage collapsing in on itself and not being totally sure if my hips are in their sockets or not, I’m doing really well!

Since we are moving next week (update on housing below), I’m trying to make sure we clear out our fridge, which means an unending amount of smoothies!  I’m not really prone to cravings anymore (except for a regular craving for pho, which is fine since there’s a great pho place up the road), which means sticking to a pretty strict diet is doable.  It’s really important for babies to have a healthy gut flora, and a lot of newborn issues like colic and acid reflux can be due to a lack of healthy gut bacteria.  This means I’m trying to keep my gut bacteria in a really healthy place (yes, mother’s gut bacteria gets passed to babies through the placenta as well as during birth).  That means limited processed sugars, refined carbohydrates, and dairy, and adding loads of probiotics and gut healthy foods like bone broth (incidentally it also means that the usual stereotype of pregnant women having constipation does NOT apply to me!).

Ironically, the Southern tradition of a meat and two vegetables has kind of been my go-to for setting up dinner (though you won’t find any chicken fried steak or fried okra in our house and macaroni and cheese does not count as a vegetable).  Dinner usually consists of a modest sized piece of meat (usually organic chicken or salmon), and two hearty portions of vegetables of varying kinds and colors (purple potatoes, swiss chard, sweet potato, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc).  The only bread we eat is Ezekiel bread (or whatever arrives at our table when we do eat out) which is usually at breakfast.

My exercise regimen now consists of walking most days, stretching A LOT, and doing weight training a few times a week.  Since my body is getting more and more loose (and prone to injury), I’m taking it easier and easier with the weights.  It’s really important that I keep my muscles in tact for the marathon (birth) that I’m training for, so I won’t toss out weight training until I just can’t anymore.

What about your housing?

Glad you asked.  Remember the lady from the last post?  Yep, we love her.  We will be moving in with her on Wednesday.  She’s even driving us to the airport on Thursday for our flight to SC for Christmas.

The tiny house is another issue, though.  There is one bank who is deciding as we speak whether or not they’re cool with lending for a tiny house, so if you’re the praying kind, prayers would be appreciated that they will look favorably on us.

Thoughts on Living in a Retirement Community

I would say the majority of people living in Ft Myers are 55+ retirees (or at least that’s how it feels).  Especially where we live now, it seems like there are 10 silver haired folks/baby boomers for every Millennial.  These folks in particular have made it: they have retired to Florida, near the beach (or at least they have from November to April).  This means, for many of them, that they are in constant mental vacation mode.  I’m not saying that every snowbird has mentally checked out, or that everyone who retires to Florida is in vacation mode (my uncle and aunt would definitely be an exception, for example).

But you want to know something funny?  I’ve never overheard more complaining in my life than I have living here.  I’m not really sure how to account for it, either.  Maybe having a “grass is greener” mentality for 40 years just waiting for the day when life will be easier has led to permanent discontent, or maybe it’s a generational/cultural gap between me (an older Millennial) and the q-tips in the booth behind me at the restaurant.  Maybe life is just so much harder when you’re in your 60s and 70s than I ever realized.  I don’t know.  But I will say it surprised me.

I think the antidote to perpetual complaining/discontent is to avoid “someday” thinking: someday when x happens I’ll be happier, someday when I lose x pounds I’ll be happier, someday when I get x object that will make me happy, someday when I’ve saved x dollars my life will be easier.  The problem is “someday” may never come, or if it does “someday” looks nothing like you imagined and you’re left facing the bitter reality of “now.”  Focus on gratitude and contentment in your present.  Make life meaningful now.  Try to stay mindful of the times you complain.  Catch yourself complaining and ask, “How many times a day do I complain?”  It might be a lot, and you may realize that you’ve been a total Debbie Downer to the people around you for years and never known it.  Just a thought.

BUT the other thing I’ve noticed is the obvious lack of smartphones in the hands of said silver hairs.  And you know what?  It’s so refreshing.  It makes me catch myself a little when I realize I’m the only one in the room staring at a glowing screen.  Life is slipping by and I’m checking email (and I don’t even have a real job, what is wrong with me?).  Put the phone down every once in a while, friends.  Or better yet, turn it off and enjoy your surroundings.pexels-photo-386148

Five Ways to Cope with Stress Every Day

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Migraines.  Anxiety.  Depression.  Gut problems.  Acne.  Weight gain.  Adrenal fatigue. Dizziness.  Nerve problems.  Insomnia.  Heart palpitations. Hormonal imbalance.  Hair loss.  Muscle pain from rock hard knots causing ribs muscles to spasm and difficulty breathing.  Lowered immune function.

These are all symptoms I have personally had in the past that all had their root cause in extreme stress.  Other symptoms of stress in other people include ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attack, autoimmune disease flare ups (hello, psoriasis), the list goes on.

My mother used to say when I was a child that I was a “bottler”:  I would bottle up all my feelings, stress, frustrations until it was too much and it all came exploding out in a fit of tears like a shaken soda bottle.  I had stomach problems all the time, even into my teenage years.

Stress is normal in life.  In fact, if you have a totally stress-free life, that sounds pretty boring.  But stress can undo us if we let it.  I could write a very long blog post on the different situations in my life that have caused stress, but I’ll spare you that for now.  I’ll boil them down to a few things: overwork, overcommitment, financial stress, problems in personal relationships, awful jobs, constant change, transition.

Sound familiar?  I realized, after finally getting all the stress behind me and all the awful physical and emotional symptoms that went with it, that no matter what situation I find myself in, stress will follow.  It’s life.

It wasn’t my situation that always needed to change, it was how I coped with stress on a day-to-day basis that mattered.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some really important things you may need to change in your situation to bring dangerously high stress levels down.  However, for many of us this just isn’t possible.  But keeping your stress levels down is a huge key in staying healthy and keeping your weight in check.

So, what to do?

1. Breathe.

One of the little clues I would get that I wasn’t processing something stressful or anxiety inducing well was that my chest would start to tighten up.  When you’re in the midst of stress, it’s important that you stop for a moment and breathe deeply and slowly.  Soon you should feel that tight feeling in your chest ease up, and stress begins to lighten.  Praying as you breathe in and out is also a great way to ask God to guard your heart and body.  For example, slowly breathe in (“The Lord is my Shepherd…”) and breathe out (“I shall not want…”).  Continue with as much of the Psalm as you remember.

2. Scan your body for tension.

I had to do this at work today.  My muscles tend to tense up when I’m under even normal everyday stress like getting a project done.  There are currently two huge muscle knots in my shoulders as a result of this.  But catching this tension in the act can be really key from letting it take over and give you an awful headache, neck ache, or back ache.  Doing a quick scan to see where you have tension (and then telling your muscles to quit it) is easy and can work wonders on keeping all that tension from causing you to freeze up.  Start at the top of your head and work down.  It’s quite telling when I realize, “Holy cow, my face is even tight!”  I’ve had days where I was tense from top to bottom.  Maybe you have, too.

3.  Practice self-care

Let me first be clear that there is a difference between self-indulgence and self-care.  Self-indulgence leads to the problem getting worse (eating a bucket of ice cream feels good for a moment but has really done nothing to help me cope with stress).  Self-care leads to the problem getting better.  Self-indulgence looks like comfort eating.  Self-care looks like drinking a nourishing smoothie with superfoods in it.

For me, self-care can look like a lot of things, from taking a walk along the river and praying, to painting, to going on a run.  Some people find writing in a journal to be very beneficial.  Others might find that what your body needs is a nap.  Stress is something that effects body and soul together, so self-care to help you deal with stress needs to involve the body and the soul.  If time and money allow, go get yourself a massage!  It gets those pesky knots out and you leave feeling amazing.

I find knowing your Myers-Briggs can go a long way in helping you know how to reduce your stress.  As an “omnivert” who tends toward extroversion, sometimes what I really need is to sit and have coffee with a friend.  Or maybe I need to take a walk alone in the woods (Jesus was a great example of someone who practiced this in a really healthy way.  He knew when it was time to be alone and pray and when it was time to be with people).  Listen to your body.  Find ways to feed your soul in healthy, constructive ways.

4.  Learn to say ‘No.’

When I lived in Germany I was frightfully overcommitted, and it lead to severe burn out.  But it’s hard to say ‘no’ when someone asks for you to commit to something.  Maybe you feel guilty drawing that boundary with people, or maybe you feel like you’d be personally missing out on something if you said ‘no.’  For me it was the latter.  There are always good things going on, but there is only one of you.  Maybe your kids are signed up for too many activities (guess who else might feel the pinch of too many ‘yeses’ and not enough ‘no’s’?  Yep, your kids.) and you need to feel more like a human and less like a taxi.  Maybe your church has asked you to volunteer for literally everything and there’s an expectation you’ll say ‘yes.’  Either way, if the plate of your life is already full, it’s time to start learning to say ‘no’.

5.  Keep a gratitude list

Anyone who’s ever read Ann Voskamp’s amazing book One Thousand Gifts will know what I’m talking about.  Thanking God for everyday gifts changes your perspective quite a bit.  Maybe it’s something small that you’re grateful for like your daughter’s laugh or the way coffee smells.  Maybe it’s something big like the support of your spouse or a good friend or the provision of your house or car.  Filling your heart with gratitude does two things: makes you realize Who is ultimately taking care of you and that yes, you are going to be just fine, and that fear and frustration cannot fill the same space as thankfulness and gratitude.  “In everything, give thanks.”

Stressful situations are unavoidable, but how you cope and manage that stress can mean the difference between squeaking through life sick and miserable, and actually enjoying it, vibrant and healthy.

How does stress affect your health?  What are some ways you cope with stress?