5 GLUTEN-FREE WAYS TO SURVIVE THE SUMMER

Abdominal Pain

It was spring 2016, when I woke up at four in the morning, with incredible pain in my abdomen. I tossed and turned a little bit, thinking it was just another crazy dream. About an hour later, as it was progressively getting worse, I slid out of my bunk bed and tried to stand up. Once my feet hit the ground, I doubled over: my upper right quadrant throbbing, as though it was being stabbed. 

Hobbling over to my bathroom, I studied myself in the mirror for a moment and was horrified to see a pale complexion decorated with beads of sweat. Closing, then sitting on the toilet seat, I mentally reviewed all the possibilities that could have contributed to this searing pain.

What’s wrong with me?

Food poisoning? I didn’t have any dinner. PMS? I just had my cycle. Gas? From what? Pulled muscle? Maybe.  I grabbed a foam roller and applied the area of pain to it, and nearly screamed at the contact. Nope, it definitely was not that.

Getting back in bed, I reasoned time would pass, and I would get up for class. Shortly after, I came to the conclusion that I would not make it in this condition. Doubled over, I once more got out of bed and crawled to my parents’ room. Panicking, my mother prescribed some ibuprofen and the pain soon subsided.

Gallbladder Attack

What I soon found out was that what I’d experienced was the first of many gallbladder attacks. So, in an attempt to ensure it would never happen again, I began to monitor my diet carefully. Fat? No, it makes me sick. Dairy? No, it makes me sick. Soy? Nope, it makes me sick. Wheat/Gluten? Nope, it makes me sick. Rice? Same as others. Corn? Not.

For a while, it worked. I dropped weight at a rapid pace, and I stopped feeling pain, both of which I didn’t mind. But I couldn’t live like that forever. So, a week after my birthday, my gallbladder was removed.

The doctor told my mother he’d never seen a gallbladder that inflamed. I felt better, but I was still afraid of food. I was terrified, actually. What scared me, even more, was that I was putting weight back on. So as soon as I got the okay from the doctor, I immediately resumed working out to try and combat it

Recovery

I was eating properly by the end of the year, and incorporated many things back into my diet, except for dairy and gluten/wheat. I had more energy, my drive was coming back, but nobody in my family had severe food allergies like me.

Family Reunions were full of foods packed with gluten, dairy, an abundance of fat: everything I couldn’t have. Potlucks I began to realize, were chock full of the favorites I couldn’t consume, so I just avoided them. I would find an empty room and sit there and fast while my family would get food and socialize.

Traveling

Traveling became a nightmare. Restaurants hardly have accommodations for vegans, let alone people with a gluten/wheat allergy. Professional dinners and banquets seldom have options for people with dietary restrictions; on top of that, I was rarely happy. Food is culture, in itself a love language. Food is friends, and it is socialization; activities are centered around food.

To reject the gesture is to deny the person. Individuals have picked on and mocked my lifestyle as though I choose this out of fun, or to lose weight when that could not be further from the truth.Every summer, life gets one thousand times more frustrating, and although it has only been twenty-two months since I have adopted this lifestyle, here are five tips/ways to survive this summer, not only gluten-free but also being vegan.

Meal Prep

Meal prepping has been such a lifesaver.  So what? Options may be low, but because it is mostly from scratch, taking twenty minutes to an hour to plan and prepare meals for the week saves so much extra time during the week. For example, Bob’s Red Mill has gluten-free instant oats that can be prepared in literally three minutes. Buying about five of them for the work week eliminates the worry of what to eat when rushing out the door.

Not interesting enough? Add dates, nuts, berries, and/or cinnamon to spice to up. Find Out What You Can Eat At an event? Don’t completely abandon the refreshments table, or dodge the dinner. Walk down the line, do they have any options for people with food allergies?

If not, is the salad, okay? What can be added to the salad that will be satiating? Ask the caterers or waiters questions about the food if need be. Never be embarrassed to inquire about the preparation of food, you might find out there is something that’s okay.

Don’t Be Afraid of Trying Alternatives

Love cake but haven’t had it in ages? Go to the store and find a box cake mix, or a prepared one. It just might suit your fancy (or it could be grotesque). Either way, you are one step closer to being reunited with a childhood favorite. These days, there are gluten-free versions of practically everything. Cookies, crackers, bread, cheesecake, French toast, waffles, pancakes, muffins, burritos, etc. Everything.

Discover and Enjoy Activities that aren’t centered around food

Everything does not have to be about food. My sister and I used to love cooking together, but after I stopped eating gluten, that quickly flew out the window. Instead, we started working out together. It is possible to spend quality time with family and friends without fast food being the center.

Educate

Shopping for clothes/shoes, or going to a concert, for example, are great ways of hanging out without awkward moments, or not being able to find “safe” foods. Educate Your Family and Friends Have an honest conversation with your loved ones.

Let them know about your allergies and the reactions you could get. Once they understand that you are not blatantly rejecting them, they will more than likely be supportive of you and the lifestyle. Give them recipes, or offer to bring side dishes to events. Just because you may be the only person with those problems, does not mean you will automatically be the outcast.

So I got my life back. I am now the healthiest I have ever been, the strongest, and have gained a new level of maturity. In no way have I learned everything there is to know and learn, but I have come a long way. I eat only when I am hungry and have prepared dishes for my family that was vegan and gluten-free.

Traveling has gotten better. I found a pizza place that has gluten-free options. My family knows what to look for when shopping and the dos and don’ts of food preparation. Yes, food is still a love language, culture, and how we socialize, but it is not emotional for me anymore. I eat to live, not live to eat.

j. grey is a Tumblr Influencer based out of Atlanta, GA.  She enjoys learning American Sign Language, reading, traveling, and discovering new foods and recipes that are gluten-free.  As a teenager, she aspires to become a bestselling author.  You can find her on Tumblr @jgreyblog.                                                                                      
 

Meal Prep and Weight Loss

Are women who prepare meals in advance healthier?

Are women who prepare meals in advance healthier than those who don’t? I can speak from experience and say yes. When I don’t cook at the beginning of the week, I come home, tired, exhausted and tend to eat whatever I can grab from the refrigerator which is usually a sandwich and maybe a snack.

If there something salty nearby lie chips, I may grab that too along with some water. Next, I may drink a fruit smoothie that has previously purchased from the store, but that has a considerable amount of sugar to drink before bedtime. Fresh fruit would be better because there is not as much concentrated sugar in it.

However, I find that when I do basic food preparation at the beginning of the week, I tend to eat healthier throughout the week. So, to have a healthy lifestyle, I must plan. This way, I can portion out my meals for the rest of the week, pick it up and go.

You know the old saying, “Fail to plan, then plan to fail?” I think that applies in this situation. If this is an area that you are struggling with, I have some tips that may be helpful to you.

A Few Ideas

First of all, plan what you are going to eat for the week in advance. I have started doing meal prep on Sunday. Sometimes I cook a few meals and portion it out in containers to take to work for the week, or I prepare veggies for soups and stews by cutting them and then bagging and storing them until needed.

If I am going to steam them later in the week, I chop and put in bags in the refrigerator. Then, when I am ready, I add sauce, seasonings or whatever I need to dress it up and prepare the meal.

Meal Prep Containers

I utilize meal prep containers and store my lunch for the week.  Check out these meal prep containers.

You can easily roast potatoes and veggies and save them until needed.  Later, add them to stews or soups, wraps or veggie bowls.

The Versatility of Beans

A large pot of beans can be used one day for chili, another day for burritos, added to rice or Quinoa, added to soups and salads. If you are creative, you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make. The beans become the base for the week of other meals. I could go on and on with additional suggestions for this protein.  Did I mention that you can make bean dip, bean spread, beans in sweets?

The quickest and easiest bean to make if you have time constraints is Lentils. They are full of protein and fiber and can be used as they are or with rice. I like them in Mexican soup, lentil and spinach soup, lentil tomato and spinach soup, or whatever combination you wish to use. Canned beans with low sodium are another option for quick meals. Curried Lentils are also quite tasty!

Breakfast, the Most Important Meal of the Day

For breakfast, I prepare 3 or 4 days worth of smoothies, pour it in cups, and freeze.  In the morning, I take it out, let it start thawing, and it is ready to eat before I leave or when I get to work. My other option for smoothies is to freeze the fruit for individual smoothies in baggies and, in the morning, blend the fruit and go. This way I have a variety for the week.

Another breakfast or dinner favorite is scrambled tofu with onion, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms if I have them and spinach or kale. It’s an excellent way to get extra veggies in my diet.  I sometimes also add spinach or kale to my smoothies.

I make a batch of my healthy whole wheat waffle recipe and freeze them.  The preparation is quick, and the waffles cook quickly.  I prefer the brands that make four waffles at a time. This waffle maker makes waffles on one side and pancakes on the other.  I love it because it reminds me of the one my mother used when I was  a child.

Invest in a rice cooker for use instant brown rice. I only use brown rice because it has more nutrients than white rice. I do believe it is a healthier option. I prefer Basmati or Jasmine rice because it is flavorful and a pleasant aroma. It may be harder to find in some stores, depending on where you shop. Rice cookers allow you to put the ingredients in the device and come back when it’s ready.

A Few Secrets

One nutritious grain that I discovered a few years ago is Quinoa. This grain is not hard to cook and loaded with protein.  I will write a full blog post about it in the future.  It is so versatile, and you can cook it in a variety of ways.  It is an excellent grain for meal prep.

I keep a bag each of Spinach and Kale at almost all times.  I use spinach in salads, spinach, or kale on my sandwiches instead of lettuce, I put them in smoothies and scrambled tofu.  I don’t eat eggs, but if you do, try adding them to your scrambled eggs.

Keep it simple. I like the convenience, but I also want my food to be tasty and healthy.  Many think that to eat healthily, one has to sacrifice taste, but that is not true.

I don’t like long hours in the kitchen.   On meal prep day, I do what is easy.  You don’t have to make your entire meals for the week upfront, but there needs to be enough preparation, so you don’t feel like you are working a second job when you get off of work.

If you take a little time each week for meal prep, you will find that some of your bad eating habits will change.  You will be more conscious of what you are putting into your body, and you will feel better about yourself for taking better care of your body.  Try it out next week and leave a comment below letting me know how things worked out.

The Benefits of Accountability Partners

Have you ever wondered why so many people are unsuccessful in exercise and changing bad habits? Maybe it’s due to the absence of one crucial ingredient that many need but don’t necessarily utilize; it’s an accountability partner. Without accountability, some of us will not do things that are necessary for good health. Sure, we all know we need to exercise; it’s just a matter of doing it.

I currently have some friends who are holding me accountable for exercise, drinking water, and eating correctly. We check in once a week and give our weight gains or losses. In addition to this, we also encourage each other during the week to drink more water and eat healthy foods. At other times we post pictures of our meals as suggestions for the others to try. We also have water consumption and exercise challenges.

 

Two are Better than One
There is a text in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 that says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls don, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Now here are some of the benefits of an accountability partner.

Motivation 
If I become slack in my exercise or health management, then I have someone to say, “Hey, you can’t quit now, get up and keep trying.”  Sometimes we may get tired of motivating ourselves, and that’s when an accountability partner steps in.  When you run out of gas and feel like giving up, your accountability partner is there to motivate you not to give up.  You may hear them say things such as, “That was just 15 push-ups, give me ten more.  Hey, keep going, you can do it.  Don’t stop!” 


Encouragement
There is nothing like an encouraging text, email, or note from time to time from someone who is in your corner when it comes to health. “Hey, it looks like you’ve lost a few pounds.” (they notice)  “I found a recipe you may like, try it and tell me what you think.”  “You drank eight glasses of water today?  You go, girl!”  Are you exercising for 20 minutes?  “You drank eight glasses of water today?  Way to go!”  “You’re exercising 20 minutes? Maybe you can go for 30 minutes.” Have you had your mammogram or physical this year?  Accountability partners give gentle reminders and suggestions.

Success
Many successful workplaces and groups incorporate accountability into their overall health plans. They put systems in place to keep employees healthy. Some things they offer are discount or free gym memberships, online health education, weight loss programs, or free health monitoring devices such as the Fitbit. Check with your place of employment to see if they offer any of these programs. 

Exercise buddies can be just about anyone. They can be husbands, sisters, friends, co-workers, or neighbors. You can even find online partners and groups. There is a website called www.sparkpeople.com that has plenty of free resources for losing weight and staying healthy. They also have accountability partners/groups, recipes, exercise videos, and a wealth of other information. If being consistent is difficult for you to get an accountability partner. Remember, two is better than ONE!

Understanding Cholesterol

Many people are confused about cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  Women need to be careful and monitor these levels because heart disease is on the rise in this population.  When getting test results, some say they do not understand how to read them.  Doctors will usually order a panel called the “Lipid Profile.” This panel includes Total Cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.  Although I understood “Total Cholesterol,” I was a little confused about the LDL and HDL levels so, here is a breakdown of the panel.  I hope this brings some clarity to you as well.

What is Cholesterol?  Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood.  Our bodies need some fat, but if there is too much in the blood, it can lead to sickness and disease.  Having too much cholesterol can clog and narrow the blood vessels and lead to health problems.

Total Cholesterol  
This cholesterol is a measurement of the total amount of cholesterol in your body, including LDL and HDL. This number should be less than 200.

LDL
This cholesterol levelshould be low. Many refer to it as the bad cholesterol. If this cholesterol is high, it leads to heart disease by causing clogged arteries. It is best if this number is less than 100.

HDLButter

This cholesterol helps remove the bad cholesterol from the body. Many call this the good cholesterol. This number should be 60 or higher. HDL levels less than 40 put you at dangerous risk for heart disease.

Triglycerides
Triglycerides are fats. It increases the risk of heart disease. These types of fats come from fatty foods. Triglyceride levels should be less than 150.

Why Should You Be Concerned?
Over and over again in medical literature, diet and health books, the news, and many other media outlets, certain key aspects seem to be prevalent in many diseases, and the same is true for heart disease. If we address the following things,  we can significantly reduce our chances of getting many health diseases:

Exercise – Lack of exercise increases the risk of heart disease.  Even though some realize this, they do day in and day out without exercising.  Physical activity must become a way of life.  Look at it this way: You must eat to live, and you must be physically active to live.  There is no way around it.  It is a must.  Exercise is free medicine for the body.  Want to increase your HDL (good) cholesterol? Then start exercising. When I did my yearly physical at work, my triglycerides and cholesterol levels were pretty good, but my HDL was too low.   In my exit interview, evaluator instructed me to increase this level by exercising regularly and that if I didn’t change anything, my results would remain the same.

Diet – You can lower your cholesterol by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber. There is also fiber in whole grains, nuts, and beans. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, it is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences that women take at least 25 grams of total fiber per day. Stay away from refined sugar,  white bread, and pasta and try whole grains and natural sugars instead.

Fats – Saturated fats that come from animal products are significant contributors to high cholesterol and should be used sparingly or eliminated. Labels that contain the words “partially hydrogenated” and choose an alternative product.  On the other hand, some foods that are considered healthy fats are avocados, ground flaxseed, olives, walnuts, almonds and chia seeds.

Home Food Substitute Suggestions
1. Substitute for oil – Applesauce
2. Substitute for eggs – Eggbeaters, ground flaxseed, or the slimy film of boiled flax seed.
3. Substitute for sugar – Dried fruit such as dates, frozen bananas, Agave Nectar, honey, Turbinado sugar, raw cane sugar, and Stevia.

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