We all have books that change us forever. The following books have had a huge impact on my outlook, health and happiness. I've added this post to my "Happy, Regardless" tab because it just makes sense for it to be there. This website and blog is, after all, about being gluten-free AND Happy and Healthy. I have to admit that I'm a little self-conscious about revealing myself in this way. Some of the books are a little nutty sounding. I pride myself on being a practical, logical kind of gal, and I really had to suspend my usual practical mindset to be able to receive the gifts that these books had to offer. So, even if some of these suggestions make you roll your eyes, just know that I rolled my eyes too, and read them anyway, and they stuck with me.
Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. I came by this book through my on-line weight-loss support system, PEERtrainer. When I decided to lose 30 pounds in 2009, my approach was to cut out high fat dairy and exercise more. I found I needed a bit more of a plan, and I found PEERtrainer, which is a very rich treasure trove of free resources for helping people improve health, lose weight and keep it off. They refer to and recommend Joel Fuhrman's materials regularly, so as I am want to do, I went to the library and checked out Eat to Live. I have to admit that I found it rather off-putting. He is judgemental and sort of preachy and it was very hard to not get all defensive about my diet choices for myself and my kids. Some of what he says sounds a little crazy -- like a 5'5" woman like me should weigh 114 for optimal health. 114! I started my weight-loss journey at 155 (at my heaviest I was in the 170's) and I thought 130 would be reasonable. At any rate, he challenges the reader early on to read the whole book before passing judgement. I figured I had nothing to lose (well, except the weight, of course) so I perservered and read the whole thing. I figured it couldn't hurt to try his suggestions for awhile. And the weight came off. And I feel good. And I have more energy. Hard to argue with it. This is a book I've actually bought for myself a number of times so that I can re-read it when I need a reminder. I keep loaning it to people and not getting it back, so I keep replacing it. I figure if anybody I loan it to reads it and makes sweeping changes for the betterment of their good health, then it's more than worth the $15.99 I paid. (Oh, and I got diagnosed with celiac after I adopted many of his suggestions and found that it was EASY to follow his plan and be on the GF diet.)
Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff. Marci's pretty famous in the personal development world, having authoring Chicken Soup for the Women's Soul, Happy for No Reason and Love for No Reason. I discovered Happy for No Reason at the libarary one day when I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but at a time when I was on a quest to boost my own personal happiness. I was perplexed about why I didn't FEEL happier when I had created a life that fit the description of exactly what I wanted. Her book offers concrete suggestions to develop habits that can truly increase your happiness set-point. Some of it is a little hokey, but hey, if hokey works and no one is the wiser, then go for it! She's got a lot of good free content at her website, including recordings and videos and downloads. There are tons of audio interviews with Marci out there that you can listen to for free too. Go to You Tube and type in her name. Or just check the book out of the library. I pick it up once a quarter or so if I'm feeling blah so that I can remember to practice or work on the tips for raising my happiness set-point.
Healing Back Pain by John Sarno. I'm kind of embarrassed for him for this totally cheesy website. I wouldn't put any stock in his material at all if I had seen this website first. Again, this was a book that I picked up at the library at the recommendation of
a friend when I was dealing with back pain that kept me from running (and comfortably getting in and out of chairs, brushing my teeth, etc.) In fact, the back pain was pretty darn debilitating, and I was afraid I was going to enter the legions of those who live a life constrained by pain. The book posits that our brains create very real pain in our backs (and other places) to distract us
from getting in touch with "unacceptable" repressed strong emotions -- primarily rage. It required a stretch for me to get there, but I figured that working on my repressed rage issues by journaling, etc was way cheaper than going to a chiropractor. And what do you know? It worked. The challenge is figuring out what you are mad about that you have repressed. The definition of
repressed, after all, is that you aren't aware of it. So, in the end, I figured that probably 80% of my repressed rage was connected to my parents, who have long since passed on. Following the suggestion of the book, I started journaling about it, and one morning while out running (with back pain) I had a mental conversation with my mom that went something like, "Hey, I know I'm still mad at you about everything, and I'm working on letting it go. In the meantime, would you please do me a solid and take on this back pain for me?" Believe it or not, it worked. Immediately. Right then during my run. No more back pain. If I even get a twinge, I talk to mom and it goes away. I hesitate telling this story because again, it's a little out there. On my morning runs these days I regularly talk to the universe, and my mom and dad, and thank them for all of my blessings. Call it prayer. Whatever. I just know that I have a real connection and I'm happy about that.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This is the true story of a tribe of Central American Indians, and ultra-marathoners, and barefoot running, and the bio-mechanics of running, all wrapped in an interesting and engaging story. A friend loaned me the book unbidden and told me I had to give it back when I was done reading it. Of course I resist reading books that other people foist upon me that I haven't asked about. But I cracked it open anyway, and though it was a little hard to get into, after about 50 pages I was hooked. My big take-away from it was that running can be fun! We humans are designed to run. My dad, who was a runner in his later life, used to joke that you never see a runner with a smile on his or her face. When I started running in the 90's it was only for a year or so, and as part of my cross-training for my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. After I got the belt, I stopped running. Didn't like it so much. In 2009 when I decided to lose 30 pounds I thought walking would be my ticket to sustainable exercise, but I got frustrated that each morning walk took so long, so I studied up, found the From Couch to 5K info on-line and started running, but I wasn't liking it much. Then I read Born to Run and realized that it is only a drag if I come at it with that mindset. It changed my whole outlook. Now my morning runs are much funner. I also learned that I don't need to spend a lot of money on running shoes. Not that I plan to become a barefoot runner, but I do regularly invest in inexpensive running shoes without worry. Saves me piles of money without the worry that I'm inadvertently causing injury. This is another book that should be pretty easy to find in the library.
Happy reading! Any suggestions from your must-read list?
I went to the Philadelphia Gluten-Free Potluck MeetUp yesterday and the topic of pizza came up. Lauren in the group spoke well of Bob's Red Mill pizza crust, and since I was apparently taking the day off of my paleo-vegan diet (an inherent challenge of gf potlucks when my willpower is at an ebb), I decided to dust off the package of BRM crust mix I've had in the pantry for months and give it a try.
One thing I like about it is that it contains the yeast packet and the flour mix all together. Some other expensive mix I bought recently required that I have my own supply of xanthan gum. What is the point of the mix if I have to go out and purchase the other dry ingredients? Especially something as expensive as xanthan gum when the mix is already incredibly expensive by itself. Very annoying, so Bob's crust gets a thumbs up for requiring me to only have eggs and olive oil on hand.
Because I don't have tons of prior experience in making gluteny pizza dough, I wasn't too encumbered by what I thought it would be like. I've also gotten used to the idea that gf doughs for ANYTHING are more like batters -- very gooey, wet
and sticky. And, just as Jessie at last month's gf potluck had described about gf dough in bread machines, the pizza dough crawled up my beaters and threatened to gum up my mixer. I stopped several times during my "mix on medium speed for about one minute" instruction. I had to fake it on how much time was actually spent mixing, and hope that I wasn't wrecking the integrity of the dough while I farted around with ungooping the beaters.
Which brings me to a complaint I have with Bob's. Maybe it's because I don't have much gf baking experience that one thing I'm not as crazy about is their folksy directions. "Mix warm water and yeast and let it sit for a little while." What does that mean? One thing I do know is once yeast is in the equation it's like a science project and I need to know if a little while is 1 minute, 3 minutes or 10 minutes. I went with 3. I also don't like that they tell you at the top of the directions to preheat your oven, when the mixing and the rising and the spreading on the pizza pan takes a good half hour. No one needs to preheat for a full half hour. I was also a little confused about the "Divide the dough in two in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes to let it rise." Two balls of dough individually wrapped? Two blobs in the same bowl but with plastic wrap over the whole thing? If I'm using all of it do I need to split it into two balls anyway? I went with two blobs, each covered with plastic wrap. When I came back 20 minutes later, it sure didn't look very risen. Still, I soldiered on.
I spread the goopy batter as best I could in or 15-inch pie pan (it says it will make 2 12-inch pizzas or 1 16-inch pizza -- I had too much dough for our pan so I threw a little blob of it onto another pan to cook up.) It spread on pretty think, which worried me, since I have yet to see a professionally-made thick gf crust. Would it turn out gummy or soggy? I tried to make it medium thick, what ever that means. I went ahead and did the pre-baking (long enough? maybe not given our hinky oven. Bob's doesn't say if its supposed to be browned or look all pale. Mine looked pretty pale). I added sauce and cheese, finished baking it, and it came out looking just like a pizza. Jenn had come in from outdoors during the pre-baking and she told me later that the initial waft wasn't a pleasant smell. Yikes! She was pleased to report that in the end it smelled like pizza should. Whew!
Then for the performance and taste test. I was very happy that it lifted out of the pan pretty easily. When something that wet goes in, I worry that it will stick. It did turn out to be a little on the thick/doughy side, so next time I will spread it thinner. The bites with cheese and sauce were very enjoyable. The bites of mostly crust by itself not so much. Pizza crust should be enjoyable on its own merits. I remember being a broke college student ordering crust-only pizzas for delivery for about $3 -- it was like getting fresh hot bread delivered. Bob's crust doesn't stand up in that sort of catagory. Still, it was way better than the GF Bisquick pizza, had most of the ingredients included, and cost only $4.50, which compared to $8 - $12 for a pre-made frozen gf pizza crust or up to $11 for other mixes, I'd say it was an excellent value and one I would do again. When I'm taking a day off of being a gf-paleo-vegan, that is.
The Wall Street Journal ran this article a few days ago. It reports on a recently published medical opinion paper that posits that the medical community should acknowledge three levels of gluten issues: 1) Allergy, 2) autoimmune disorders like celiac disease, and 3) gluten sensitivity in which neither an allergy or autoimmune disorder is detected, but in which individuals who go on a gf diet show an improvement in symptoms. Many doctors these days don't take the claim of gluten sensitivity from their patients very seriously. In my own case, the GI doc who did my upper endoscopy and biopsy was skeptical of my (and my hematologist's) suspicious that I had celiac, even in light of my positive antibody tests (frankly, he was a moron and I don't think he read my file, but that's another story. I have a much better GI doc now.) Needless to say, I think it's really important for more doctors to take diet and nutrition into account when addressing physical and mental challenges presented by their patients. I'd go so far as to say that they should look at diet and nutrition FIRST. I recently blogged about and attached a link to a TEDx Talks by Dr. Terry Wahls in which through diet (a paleo diet, which is devoid of grains) she makes a remarkable recovery from debilitating symptoms of MS. I recently read an article about a possible connection between gluten and ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease.) In my own life, I know people who have tested negative for allergies or celiac or who haven't been tested at all, but who have shown a complete abatement of symptoms when going gluten free.
Here's my friend Betty's story. She discovered that gluten was behind her persistent cough. (Betty's the president of Guardian Nurses -- truly you want GN in your corner if you are dealing with complicated or long-term health issues for yourself or a loved one.) Other people I know personally are benefiting from a GF diet without the benefit of a celiac or allergy diagnosis. A friend and co-worker who has persistent debilitating GI distress who tested negative for celiac feels fine when she adheres to a GF diet. The asthma of child of another co-worker and friend is much improved from following a GF diet. A dear relative of mine whose doctor was ill-equipped to pursue a definitive diagnosis cleared up many significant GI issues AND supported his fitness regimin by going gluten-free. One friend had Dermatitis Herpetiformis (a classic sign of celiac) but tested negative when biopsied, who has resolved her issues on the GF diet. How many people do you know that suffer from canker sores or rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or teeth enamel problems or fertility issues or a host of other problems who have no idea what the cause is and can't seem to get better?
I don't believe that all of our ills are caused by gluten. I do believe that as a society we regularly eat things that are either not healthy or which have been so genetically engineered over time as to make them unrecognizable as food to our systems, confusing our natural defense mechanisms and setting off a chain reaction within our bodies from which we get sick.
I strongly believe that each of us needs to take responsibility for our own health and well-being. I try to avoid preaching. I do believe that if a person gets a diagnosis that confirms that damage is being done to the body by eating gluten that they are more likely to adhere to a strict GF diet and improve not only their quality of life NOW but decreasing the likelihood of related more serious health issues later. But for those who haven't tested positive, don't buy it if your doctor says that gluten isn't the issue. Trust your intuition. Listen to your body. Keep looking for the answer. It's your life and you should feel as good as you possibly can to make the most of it.
Technology is amazing.
And to answer a couple of questions:
1) Is the kitchen at the top of my website my actual kitchen?
Yes it is! Well, in my mind anyway. Got to have something to shoot for, right? My current kitchen is featured in the video below.
2) What kind of camera do I use for my videos?
Camera, shamera. It's my iPhone! I can upload directly to YouTube. Amazing.
3) Why haven't I figured out to turn the phone sideways so that it's oriented on the screen correctly?
Ah, but I have! I just haven't demonstrated my learning. Plus I need to do an experiment to figure out which way to turn it so that I don't do a video all upside down.
4) What editing software do I use?
None! You'll note that they are all expertly done in one take. If I really goof up, I start over. It's sort of the difference between stage and screen. No telling what kind of excitement might unfold in this "live" format!
5) Is this all I do all day?
No! Not yet, anyway. Mostly I go to a day job and then I spend meaningful time with my family on the evenings and weekends! And I work out! But still, I want to do this more.
Thanks for visiting!
Oh, and check out my video tips on how to live happy and gluten free even if you share your space with gluten-eaters.
I ate at Philadelphia Chutney Company for the first time months ago. The pictures here are from my lunch outing with my friend Kathy. I fully intended to blog about it right away, but I did experience some GI system distress later that day, so I decided to wait until I'd eaten there again before I made my call on whether to encourage other gluten free folks to eat there.
I've recently lunched there twice more, introducing the place to a different friend each time. On every visit I've asked the person at the counter to direct me to a gluten-free option, and each time the person has answered with confidence that ALL of the dosas (including the vegetarian chicken -- soy) are gluten-free. I had googled the restaurant beforehand and read about other people's positive experiences, and I'm pleased to report that they seem to be the real GF deal. [Between my first visit and my second, I got seriously glutened -- see this blog post for details -- so now I have a real benchmark for what accidental gluten exposure does to my system.]
I've tried something different each time: First visit was #2 Old School Masala Dosa with a tomato chutney -- masala being the potato filling, and dosa being the wrap made from rice and lentil flours. The second time I had the #6 Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Spinach and Roasted Onions with Goat Cheese with a masala base and a coconut chutney, and the third time I had the #10 Spinach and Balsamic Roasted Onion with the masala base with both a coconut and a curry chutney. I meant to order the #6 without cheese (I'm in the middle of a detox, after all, and I'm not a big goat cheese fan) but the place was busy and I wanted to visit with my friend Debbie rather than spend time sending the food back when it arrived with cheese on it. It was SO GOOD! Of the three, it was my favorite. I do want to try it without the cheese to see if I like it as well (or almost as well.) All three items I've tried were delicious. The masala base is tasty on its own, but my advice is to get a dosa with it AND some of their add-ins. And try the different chutneys -- all three I've tried were interesting and truly enhanced the experience. And my three non-GF friends really liked it too. Kathy, Debbie and Amanda, let's do it again sometime!
And take a look at the SIZE of the dosa! And CHEAP! The Old School Masala is only $6, and the ones with all the stuff are only $7! An interesting gluten-free Center City Philadelphia business lunch for $7! I did add a bottle of water, but still I was in and out of there for under $10.
Eat there. Go there today. You'll have to wait a couple of minutes while they prepare your food. TOTALLY WORTH THE WAIT. Do this. Thank me later.