Saturday, August 25, 2012

Food Friday: Dairy Free Diet

Saying something and doing something are two entirely different things as we all have learned on this little journey called life.

My decision to go dairy free has been no different. It's easy to say, "Cow - I only want you for your meat." It's not so easy to pick up dinner on you way home from working late when your go-to meals are pizza (hello, cheese!) and bucket o' chicken with a side of mashed potatoes (butter and milk).

For the record, when this happened two weeks ago, I picked up Little Caesar's - only thinking of filling my belly and not my latest diet experiment.

However, I've been able to manage fairly well with only the slightest of caution thrown to the wind. Here's a sample of what I've been eating.


Long gone are the days of overnight oats and cereal. Wait. There were never days of overnight oats and cereal. Breakfast is an egg with ham or a pancake for one (made with almond milk.)


I felt inspired this week, and I made Taco-Spiced Lentils served over brown rice with golden baby tomatoes, avocado and cilantro. The lentils were made like the Indian-spiced variety except with homemade taco seasoning. Very good though it's true that some cheese or sour cream would have tasted pretty good.


Nothing Earth-shattering - chocolate (my dairy downfall), vegetables with hummus and the random salad. The one thing I discovered-slash-realized is that a lot of salad dressings have dairy and the ones that do are my favorites. Ranch? Dairy. Blue cheese? More of the same. I had my salad with Greek dressing, which, sadly, had a scary ingredient list.


I've been rather uninspired to cook lately (lentils aside). I seriously couldn't plan a menu for the life of me last week, and everything has been a hodge podge of crap. This week, we went out to "celebrate" the first day of school and had pasta at my in-laws. I did manage to make chicken burgers and calzones (no cheese for me).  Riveting, I know.


Fruit bars. My saving grace. Oh, and vegan cookies from a downtown bakery - not really saving (at least calorie-wise) but delicious all the same.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Life outside the cube

She had it all - a plan, the will and the Beaba.

One of my best girlfriends, who gave birth 6 months before me, was determined to make her own baby food purees. It was a way for her to contribute to the family, as she said, and provide nutritional, chemical free food. She said that it was easy and took but a couple hours a week.

How to use puree baby food

Inspired by Heather, I committed to the same. Or my version of same. Heather's schedule had a bit more flexibility in her day to make the purees each week. I was afraid that with working, I wouldn't have the time every weekend. I decided that it would be best for me to make in bulk.

And I mean bulk. I made 10 pounds of steamed, then pureed, sweet potato cubes; five pounds of carrots; and what had to be at least 10 pounds of pears and apples. There was banana, too, and avocado. (I saved things like green beans and peas for Gerber.)

Recipes using pureed baby food

The things I failed to realize, as my food processor whirred with exhaustion, was that Heather is a stay-at-home and would be offering every meal - not just the two or three I would be. Oh, and she would be offering meals to her twins. Twins. Double the meals, double the babies.

Ways to use baby food purees
Miles with his friend Luke, one of Heather's twins
She made purees each week; I had enough to make it through another baby. Thank goodness I discovered how to use them without getting knocked up.

 Do you know the muffin (wo)man? The apple and pear purees were the easiest and most obvious choices. Applesauce can be a substitute for oil in baking recipes and the same for pear puree as it has a similar consistency. Both tasted delicious in the Carrot Zucchini Muffins I've baking for Miles and me.

Oat'ncha gonna try it? I am pretty sure that I've tried on more than one occasion to make a carrot cake-inspired oatmeal but have come up short every time. Shredded carrots doesn't magically make it carrot cake. I came close, though, here recently. I defrosted a cube of carrot puree and mixed it into the oats, along with golden raisins, cinnamon, pecans and a packet of Stevia.

Smoothie operator. Every fall, people flip for pumpkin this and pumpkin that - myself included. In my world, though, sweet potatoes aren't that different from pumpkin. I decided if people drink pumpkin smoothies that Miles could drink a sweet potato smoothie. He's been drinking a blended fruit drink at morning snacks lately, and he happily took down a mix of banana, frozen sweet potato, low-sugar apple juice, milk and a dash of cinnamon.

It looked so good that I considered stealing it from him ... until I realized it had dairy. D'oh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On pride and relationships

"Your mom would be proud."

My co-worker's words hung in the air. Thick. Murky. Choking. Choking the words out of me. It was all I could do to merely nod.

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The conversation started with a ring, a turquoise ring that I had worn during a meeting the previous day. It had caught her eye as department heads gave their daily reports. From my finger, her eyes traveled up my arm to my toned biceps and defined shoulders - the result of diet, exercise and lots of BODYPUMP.

She complimented me and I said what I always say to things like that: "Thank you. I've been working hard."

Quite obviously, she had replied. I had been working at it since she has known me, since she met me eight years ago when I began this job. At my heaviest weight.

"It's like I've seen you grow up," she said. "Your mom would be proud."

I know she meant it sweetly but all I could think was, "Really? I wouldn't be so sure."

The truth is: I'm not certain my mom would be proud.

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I've often thought about what my mom would think of me now. A me that almost doesn't look like the me she knew. A me who used her downfalls to struggle to climb to the summit and then reach for the sky. A me who did things that she never could.

I most definitely know what my mom thought of me then, and it wasn't all good. The few months before her death were spent in silence or in shouts as we battled over things said, unsaid, perceptions and reality. While we had reconciled a few weeks before her heart stopped, those weeks made it clear that our relationship was forever changed. It seemed she preferred my now sister-in-law to me, couldn't wait for she and my brother to have babies, to share and do things with J. She shared reservations about Mark and his family and seemed to mourn that she had lost me.

And the truth is, she had. Years of fighting over her weight and what I considered a lack of responsibility for her health had caused me to distance myself from her. I thought I had done better, was better, than her and didn't want her shame, the shame I'm sad to say I felt about having her as a mom.

We all know that I wasn't better than her. In fact, in many ways, I was no different. I was eating poorly, not moving and justifying choices. It took huge changes to my diet and general way of life to move forward.

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The changes I made were unlike any I had made during previous weight loss efforts, which were supported by mother. Then, she understood walking and eating less. She understood the excitement of being in a size 14 and shopping in the misses department. I was healthier but still heavy and not so different from a girl she had been.

I don't think she would understand running more than a few miles, eating lentils and buying a size 2. I can't picture her on the sidelines of a race holding water or a pair of dry socks. I don't see her going to a Weight Watchers meeting with me. I am certain she would tell me that I'm too skinny as so many other members of my family have. I think she would, at least on the surface, disapprove. Be resentful. Distant.

I think. I don't know. It agitates me that I can't, deep down, really know how she would feel. Like I never knew her. It's especially frustrating because I'm certain of how my dad would feel. My dad, who died when I was 15 ... I can see him riding his bike alongside me during a long run. I can see him getting excited about a race. I can see him, dare I say, being inspired to pursue his own athletic endeavors. A century, perhaps?

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"Your mom was proud of you from the very beginning. She loved you both very much. When she was diagnosed with diabetes, it threw her into a 'poor me' mentality."

I asked Grandma what she thought about the conversation with my co-worker and whether she would have any insight. Of all the people in my life, my grandma knew my mom best. Knew my mom and me best.

Grandma talked for a bit, hashing out things I've had to hash out a million times before as I struggle to really understand things. Still. It always comes back to that mentality. It had left her to blame others, to become more depressed, to become more troubled with herself. It caused her to lash out and to spiral. To push people away. Push me away.

 "She would have been jealous," my grandma said. "But, no, she would have been proud."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marathon Monday: Having a cow

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following a schedule loosely based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training.

The week, in running:
Tuesday: 5.01 miles (+stroller)
Thursday: 5.4 miles (+stroller)
Friday: 5* miles, tempo
Sunday: 16.1 miles, long run

*This run was supposed to be a 1 mile warmup, 4x1 mile tempo with 0.25-mile recovery, 1 mile cool down. I tried to shorten this to a 6-mile run with 4 miles at tempo to accommodate Mark's schedule but ended up cutting it short because of stomach troubles.

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I ate a half-piece of cheese yesterday. Frozen yogurt, too. To cap off the day, I had a super small scoop of ice cream with crustless apple pie.

Obviously, I know how to live it up. More obviously, I'm struggling to live a dairy-free life.

"Why dairy-free?" you ask. "Didn't you try that before?"

To put the chicken before the egg, yes, I did try dairy-free before. It was suggested to me when I was nursing Miles in an effort to ease his acid reflux but more than likely his issues were my low supply + his temperament.

My choice to go dairy-free this time is a bit more selfish and lot more personal health-centric.

Running long this summer has been no easy task. In the early part of my marathon training, as mileage ramped up, I found myself feeling sick during runs. Like, "I need to stop or I'll throw up even though I'm running a 10-minute mile" sick. I thought it was the heat, hydration issues and my decision to play around with my fuel. However, no matter what I did, I kept feeling sick to my stomach and was forced to cut runs short.

I was frustrated and ready to give up the marathon but as I made tweaks to my schedule, I realized that I should make tweaks to my diet. I'm not sure what place the decision came from - educated or otherwise - but I decided to start limiting dairy. I began by cutting the obvious things  -  skim milk in my oatmeal, cheese on a burger, ice cream in the evenings. Within a week, my stomach pain during long runs was gone and I was running better than I have all training cycle. My belly also felt less bloated, and I dropped three stubborn pounds.

At the same time, though, the weather took a turn for the better. Was it possible that the weather was responsible for the shift in gears?

The answer: No.

I indulged on Thursday. I had a hot chocolate in the afternoon and creamy chicken and noodles for dinner. Friday morning, I went for that tempo run. If there was  reason to call a run crappy, this run was it. And I'll leave it at that.

According to a 2006 article, "Foods to avoid when running," as many as "60 percent of runners experience varying degrees of nausea and unpleasant stomach issues during or following a run." Much of the cause is the stress that running puts on the body, the physical impact jostling the GI tract, fiber, sweeteners, some vegetables and - wait for it - dairy could cause problems. While only 15 percent of people of European descent are lactose intolerant (source), milk, cheese and ice cream can trigger stomach pain because lactose is just plain harder to digest.

Dairy products don't ordinarily cause me severe problems but if I do a mental rewind, a slight lactose intolerance is likely. According to WebMd, lactose intolerance is characterized by some very sexy symptoms: bloating, cramping, gas, nausea and/or throwing up and changes in No. 2. I don't think details are necessary but I definitely experience a number of those symptoms on a regular basis.

The symptoms, though, have never caused me great issue. Until now. It's my personal, likely unfounded belief, that the additional mileage is putting additional stress on my body, aggravating that slight lactose intolerance.

My plan is to continue to avoid dairy as best I can but let's be honest: It's a very difficult undertaking. Dairy, in some form or another, is in a lot of processed foods: bread, potato chips, deli meat, nutrition bars and peanut butter.

Yes, peanut butter. I might give up cheese but you cannot take away nut butter from this runner.