Thursday, February 12, 2015

Week One and Two on Whole 30

You may be wondering how I survived two whole weeks without four of our major "food groups": Sugar, Legumes, Grains and Dairy.

A Sunday lunch for the family. They got Cheese/Meat Doria while I got just the meat part with an egg baked on top.
First, the good parts.
I learned some great new recipes. I even made mayonnaise (a little challenging) and pesto (super easy). I also made salsa that I can use for some meat/fish dishes later. Today, I am planning to make a cucumber salad. Yesterday, I made chocolate chili, which was a big hit. The day before, I made three garlic-based dishes, which everyone loved. Even Y is loving all of these new dishes and he eats his share when he returns home from work.
Garlic-based dishes that the whole family can enjoy.
Homemade mayonnaise using Olive Oil

I read up on the rule about omitting legumes, including soybeans, because my husband was so concerned about it. I found out that soybeans, in their fermented form, are totally okay, and like Kimuchi and other fermented foods, are quite nutritious. So, soy sauce, miso and natto are fine, and Japanese people typically eat these daily but in very small quantities. Unfortunately, tofu, fried tofu, and other tofu products are not okay.

I did just fine with skipping the white carbs (rice and pasta) at meals and felt filled up with my meat/seafood and veggies. The kids still got to eat rice and pasta, but they also tended to eat more veggies...because they were there.

I found some easy recipes. I used the pesto for marinating chicken and later for a fish dish, so I found the pesto be very versatile.

A typical lunch for me at home. Pesto-topped scallops, some bits of marinated steak, nice big salad.
I tried the cauliflower (mashed potato form), and it was easy to make, tasted good and even the kids liked it. I have tried some other veggies, such as that cauli/broccoli high bred that has a nice, nutty taste.
Ground meat sauteed with mushrooms, basil and onions with a side of mashed cauliflower.

I experimented with making coffee at home, using coconut milk and some flavored extracts. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not. But, it was fun to experiment.

When I went out to cafes to meet up with friends, I managed to avoid the heavy mocha cafes, and made do with a coconut milk steamer at one place and an oolong tea at another place.

I felt more energetic. I thought I could do more and accomplish more in one day. The only time I felt truly relaxed was when I attended my weekly yoga class. This was not such a good thing. One hour per week is not enough relaxation time!

Now, the bad parts.

Have you ever drank coconut milk straight? No? Okay, have you ever put it in coffee? Yeah, I thought so. It takes getting used to. Even one of my friends grimaced when I told her I had resorted to putting coconut milk in my coffee.

My emotions began to get the better of me too. Because I was not numbing myself with sugar and carbs every time I felt any kind of stress (or anger, sadness, frustration...), I was feeling every emotion very intensely. This was really hard on me, and I felt like I was going through withdrawal. After the first week, this started to go away, and I began to feel more positive in general. In the end, I found that coming to terms with my emotions and understanding where they were coming from, and also talking it out with friends really helped.

The one thing I could not give up was chocolate, so I resorted to 72% cacao, which is satisfying enough, but watch out...slippery slope there!

And the dairy...I knew that it would be hard to give up dairy, but I have been able to avoid cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. The main issue is that I still want milk in my coffee. So, I have been putting a couple tablespoons of hot milk, a few table spoons of hot coconut milk, and then hot water. This combination is WAY better than my old combination, which was more like 2 cups of milk each time.

There are times, when out and about, that it is really hard to avoid these four food groups. Last weekend, I went on a women's retreat, and somehow, I was able to stay on my diet while there. I was very proud of myself. We even went to a nice restaurant on the way home, and I had German style carbs, lots of veggies. But, the next day, I had to take Ailin to a dance practice from about noon to 8pm. I didn't have a chance to eat lunch before leaving, and the timing of the practice sessions meant that I couldn't nip off and get something to eat right away. I couldn't eat lunch until 3:30pm. By that time, I thought I would die, but the choices were really limited. So, I ended up getting a KFC chicken burger. KFC is my least favorite restaurant on the planet, but that's how limited my choices were. Then, I topped it off with a donut from Mr Donuts. Call it stress combined with extreme hunger. I should have brought some snacks along at least.

This weekend is Ailin's birthday, she requested me to make Italian dishes for both her family party and her friend party. I haven't decided what to do for the family party yet ... should I sit down and eat with them, or should I make some alternative dishes for myself? I will likely just eat smaller portions and focus more on the veggies. For the friends party, it will be easy to avoid eating with them because I know I'll be busy hosting the party.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Paleo Starts on February 1st

Originally published on 1/31; Updated on 2/1

Wow, this is exciting. I got to the point in the book "It Starts with Food" where I am ready to choose a start date and get my kitchen ready. I also called a family meeting for tomorrow morning so that I can "break" the news to my husband and kids. My kids already seem to be sensing something is up because of the exceptionally healthy meals we have been eating the past two weeks, but I'm about to take it up a level.

Family Meeting
I think that by telling my husband that I am trying to get clean so that I can figure out why I have psoriasis (an auto-immune condition that started a couple years after moving to Japan) and why I have such a hard time losing weight, he might get on the same page. Luckily for him, he rarely eats meals with us during the week...though recently he has been asking me to set some food aside for him to eat when he gets home.

I can almost predict what he will say:

Y did indeed ask all of these questions and made a lot of know-it-all comments. These are the things I have to listen to from the person I am sharing my life with.
Make sure the kids are still getting rice and miso, tofu and other important, nutritious food even if you can't eat it yourself. 

Uh huh.

He understood about rice, bread and pasta because he is aware of the low-carb/no-carb diets that are out there, but he doesn't have a clue that they might be unhealthy for people in general, even for people who are not trying to control their weight.
And of course, he commented that I still need to feed all this stuff to the kids on a daily basis. I wanted to laugh, not only because I predicted it, but this because this is the guy that always insisted on eating WHITE rice, thick WHITE bread, and WHITE pasta because whole-grain stuff tastes gross.
Still, my job is not to insist on anything but to just take care of myself. If he and the kids want all that stuff, I am happy to make and serve it to them, but it annoys me that he seems to feel that MY EFFORTS to eat healthier impede so much on HIS EFFORTS to NEVER EVER CHANGE ANYTHING AND STILL ACT LIKE AN IGNORANT, NAIVE CHILD.  

Are you sure you have to go this far?

Uh huh.

Again, he admonished me having to go to extremes, and suggested that just by cutting out my morning mochas (which were mostly skim milk!) and by exercising more, I would have seen a big difference in my weight.

Now, I did begin the explanation by saying this wasn't just about weight, it was also about my other health issues, issues we have been dealing with for years but with no relief. But still, he says, "I have always been saying this. Stop drinking those mocha coffees and get out and exercise more." Yes, so easy, isn't it? 

Don't you think you should just exercise?

Yes, of course, and I am exercising.

Coming from someone who mostly sits on the couch, eating junk food and watching TV, I think it's ironic that his advice is so simple. However, he does often remark that UNLIKE HIM, I rarely veg out on the couch surrounded by bags and boxes of junkfood, and that in general, I seem to eat quite healthy, but that I don't move my body enough. Well, I have tried this route (and I still am trying), but not much progress gets made.

Does this mean no more going out to eat? 

That depends on where you want to go.

Yes, he did whine about this. He even said that I should have considered the family when I decided to go on such a restrictive diet because now how/when/where will we go out to eat. I told him that it would depend on the place. Restaurants that serve fast food or instant food are out of the question, but there are some restaurants that serve dishes made from scratch, and as long as there is a nice salad bar and I can avoid the pasta/rice/bread that often gets served with the meal, it would be fine! To be honest, I didn't get that far in my explanation because I was already so frustrated with his attitude.

What about Ailin's birthday parties in February?

Her birthday party is the perfect chance for me to test out my skills at not succumbing to peer pressure. It also gives me a chance to discuss with her which types of foods she should NOT request for her birthday dinner because if she chooses, for example, LASAGNA, Mama won't be able to eat it with the family. I am steering her towards choices that are acceptable or that I can pick around.

He did not ask about this specifically.

Finally, what about tofu? It is SO HEALTHY?

Well, actually, it's not. I'm supposed to stay away from all soy products because apparently they cause a lot of problems, and they very well could be the explanation of my psoriasis issues developing AFTER moving to Japan. This is something I need to test out and make sure of.

But seriously, imagine all the various forms of soy beans that we eat in Japan!!! This will be the most difficult thing to avoid/explain/deal with!

He was most shocked and incredulous about the notion that I have to cut soy products out of my diet, even if it's only for one month. He insisted that Japanese food is so healthy and Japanese people are healthy, so obviously any soy products (miso, soy sauce, tofu, edamame, etc.) are extremely healthy, and I shouldn't eliminate it from my diet.

He also commented that I should stay away from MEAT, EGGS, and OILS. I told him all these were fine but that I needed to be careful about where it comes from, what type of oil, etc. Then, he said, no, you should just eat FISH. Well, of course, I would include fish and seafood in the diet, but not only fish, every single day.

I can see he is confused, and even going to AEON soon after to go shopping, he insisted on buying margarine, and I said, we have plenty of butter at home, so why buy margarine. He insisted that margarine was healthier and then he ran back to the other side of the store, supposedly to pick up some margarine, but I didn't see it in the basket when I paid for the groceries, so I am not sure if he changed his mind.

Later on the way home, he seemed to sense my obvious frustration. He said, "I bet you wish you had married a cooler guy, but YOU married me and this is what you got!" I replied, "No, I wish you were smarter and read books and kept up to date on new research so that I don't have to argue with you about such stupid things. Your information comes from very old ways of thinking." He then insisted that he is smart.

Well, good luck to me this month.

Today,  I put together a grocery list for AEON to restock my cupboards with items that I can buy easily and will be useful in our menus from now on. I also put in an order at iHerb to get some organic items that are not available at AEON.

If anyone would like to shop at iHerb, use this discount code. They ship to Japan fairly cheaply.

Here is my iHerb order in case you are curious. Lots of coconut products. The chocolate bars are for a friend as I plan to send her a care package next week.

 Wish me luck!

Resources that I am using include the following three books:

And the following web site:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

One Little Word for 2015: Nurture (January)

 As part of January's OLW assignment, we need to explore our word by looking up the various definitions, synonyms, nuances, etc., and we also look for some quotes that speak to us, whether they actually make use of the word or not.

Before I chose the word "nurture", I had actually been contemplating the word "care", but soon realized that "care" carries with it a heavy, sometimes negative, load, such as "careless" or "suffering of the mind", which essentially means caring too much about something. I didn't want to a word that carries these connotations for an entire year.


In the end, "nurture" seemed like a right fit, especially when I decided that nurturing my body would be a priority this year. That is why I used "Nurture Your Body" twice in the above lay out. This lay out conveys the aspects of my life that I want to improve upon this year. I think these phrases go well with the intentions I have set (on a separate worksheet), but they are easy to remember. If done this way, you can spend one or two months focusing on each one, or you can mix and match, spending as long or as little time as they need.

I will hang this lay out up on the bulletin board in my kitchen so that I can see it every day as a reminder. It also helps to use it, and the other lay outs, as desktop backgrounds or screen savers.

Finally, we were asked to reflect on how we are currently successful with our word (I find this to be difficult to do!), our fears, what we want more of and less of, and why we are excited about what this word might bring into our lives. 

I added a photo of me and Baymax because to me, Baymax represents the perfect nurturing soul, who has some faults. He cared so much about others' well-being that he sacrificed himself. (Oh my, did I just make an accidental religious reference here?) However, as a mom, wife, friend, teacher, and colleague - I have to take care NOT to sacrifice myself too much. I have every right to nurture my own soul (and body) back to health. I have to remember to nurture others (like Baymax) but to also nurture myself.

Note on the digital kit used here: A Beautiful Mess (Turquoise) by Libby Prichett of Sweet Shoppe Designs.