End of Overeating 7 – Set Rules

Posted: May 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: End of Overeating | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on End of Overeating 7 – Set Rules

End of OvereatingAs approaches for treatment of hyperconditioned overeating are outlined, the End of Overeating next focuses on the essential nature of clear and easily remembered rules we can actually follow. Hyperconditioned overeating is intrinsically impulsive, so we must break the grip of that impulsive behavior. Concrete “if-then” rules are an important part of that battle.

I was reminded in this section of the effort Michael Pollan has invested in constructing clear, simple food rules. His rules are things like, don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients or with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize. He also has rules like, don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

These are the same sort of rules. Clear and categorical rules — “I don’t eat french fries” — are the easiest sorts of rules to follow consistently. As people with celiac disease, my younger children and I are familiar with that sort of rule. “I don’t eat gluten” must be an absolute rule for us.

The book provides some good examples of the sorts of rules Dr. Kessler and researchers have found effective. It doesn’t simply provide the theory.


Three Years Gluten Free

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Three Years Gluten Free

This month marks the third year since I was diagnosed with celiac disease and almost two years since both my younger children were diagnosed. Our gluten free life has become so deeply engrained and automatic that it almost feels sometimes like we’ve lived this way forever. Our refrigerator, pantry, and freezer have almost nothing in them containing gluten. My wife sometimes likes bread or frozen flax seed waffles, and sometimes a breakfast cereal (hot or cold) with gluten. She will also sometimes have some nuts or chocolates in the house that are not guaranteed to be gluten free. But other than that, she pretty much eats what we eat at home.

We’ve essentially converted our lives to be gluten free. Everything we cook is gluten free. And though we tended to cook a lot before, once a food-related diagnosis enters the picture, cooking for yourself becomes a lot more important. My son has been living in an apartment at college this year and cooking all his own meals. My daughter has been learning how to cook more for herself — so much so that the morning after a recent sleepover she made breakfast for herself and her friend.

My kids are both careful and assertive about what they can or can’t eat, especially my daughter. My son, like me, sometimes prefers to avoid going out in order to skip the hassle of explaining yet again that he has celiac disease.

Family gatherings are actually the hardest social setting. At work, school, and with friends you can simply decline to eat anything you didn’t prepare or bring yourself. My kids and I often employ that approach. We can, for instance, eat before or after a gathering and just have something to drink while others eat. It’s a way of participating socially without having to worry about the food. But at family gatherings, as they’ve started to learn more about celiac disease, they want to try to prepare something we can eat. It’s an understandable motivation. In their shoes with a family member on a restricted diet, I would probably have the same urge. And it’s hard to say no in the face of intended kindness.

But there are so many hidden ‘gotchas’ when cooking for someone with celiac disease. Their kitchens and appliances are not a gluten free environment. Were they careful about cross contamination? And there are the things that are so automatic for me now that it’s hard for me to remember them all when I tell them the foods to watch for. It’s hard to say no, but at the same time it’s hard to trust that they really managed to cook a truly gluten free dish, especially since it’s not something they regularly do.

Another difficult situation these days is when my wife has been sick and people from our church have wanted to bring us a meal. (Honestly, a decade or more ago nobody ever really offered. Not sure why. Ironically, now that we can’t really accept somebody seems to ask almost every time.) It feels rude to decline, but at the same time nobody in our house but my wife could eat it anyway. And since I’m cooking, I can easily cook enough for all of us.

Adapting to this disease hasn’t been fun for any of us and I still feel bad that my children inherited it from me. But we have a good handle on it. Since we discovered my kids had celiac before they had a significant amount of damage, they will never have the chronic, severe symptoms I developed and which I’m still working to overcome. I’m thankful for that much at least. And we remind ourselves that if you are going to have a chronic, incurable disease, celiac is a pretty good one to have. You can control it completely simply by managing what you eat.

Now if we could just get the blood tests for celiac disease added to routine screenings, nobody would have to wait for a diagnosis and suffer the symptoms a lengthy delay in that diagnosis can create. Given that 1% of the population has celiac disease and most of them don’t know they have it, screening for it as part of normal physicals seems like a wise step for the medical community to take. And you can’t just screen once and forget about it. If you have the genes for celiac disease, they could activate at any time.

I hope life is treating those who read this blog well. Peace.


Gluten Free Long Haul

Posted: January 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Gluten Free Long Haul

I’m closing in now on two years since my diagnosis with celiac disease. While that leaves me still a novice compared to some, I’ve noticed significant change in myself. Many of the behaviors associated with being gluten free have become automatic to me. When I look at a product in the store, the first thing I do is read the label. I don’t try samples or eat food someone else has cooked unless I’m comfortable I know what they put in it and how they prepared it. Eating out tends to take a lot of advance planning. And when I read or hear people describing their gluten-filled dishes, my initial reaction is more ‘yuck‘ than ‘yum.’ Business travel doesn’t intimidate me, though it does require more careful, detailed planning. I generally have to have a plan (and sometimes a backup plan) for every meal in place well before I leave and that often means packing some food to take with me.

But it really struck home for me recently when a long distance friend of me wife was diagnosed with celiac disease. She was in that initial, “What am I going to eat?” stage. My wife wrote to her with advice, but she also asked me to write and provide resources and advice. As bits and pieces of the knowledge, the online resources, and way of living I’ve acquired flowed through my fingers, I realized just how much I’ve internalized in a relatively short period of time.

Celiac disease is not something you can ever forget you have.

But food does not rule my life.

There’s something to be said for that.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted: November 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone who chooses to read my reflections and musings a Happy Thanksgiving! (If any of you aren’t US natives, it’s a thing here where we celebrate an idealized conception about the formation of our nation and during which we are supposed to give thanks.) I know that the holidays can be a deeply depressing time for many and I hope that’s not the case for any of you.

I am deeply thankful, as always, for my family. And though it perhaps sounds strange, I am deeply thankful for a God who became one of us and who meets me always where I am. I can love a God who understands me that deeply. I can worship a God who has suffered with us. And I long for a God who makes all things new.

My wife mastered gluten free holiday cooking last year, so it won’t be a problem this year when most of us have been diagnosed with celiac. I couldn’t tell the difference in her cornbread dressing last year. If anything, it was even better than it had been in the past. And the dressing was the main thing that needed to change. My wife always made her giblet gravy with corn starch, not flour. Most of the other staples of the holiday are naturally gluten free if you don’t introduce gluten during preparation. Cranberries, turkey, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are all naturally gluten free ingredients.

We also bought a free range, organic turkey from Sprouts this year. We are least trying to eat less industrialized food and have some care about the way our food animals are treated — which matters both for ethical and health reasons. It’s hard in our modern society where we are so disconnected from our food. But we’re committed to at least making the effort.

Grace and peace to all!


Gluten Free and Now Dairy Free

Posted: November 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Sigh.

That’s a significant part of my reaction to the subject of this post.

As I’ve maintained a gluten free diet and healed from the fairly extensive damage to my body, there have been certain symptoms that have not improved and which have even gotten worse. I mostly put them out of my mind and tried not to think about them — mostly because I had a pretty good idea what they likely meant.

Finally my wife put her foot down and told me I had to figure out what was wrong so I could continue getting well. She suggested that as a result of the damage from celiac disease I might not be able to tolerate dairy any longer. Of course, I’m reasonably well-read and already knew that a fair number of those with celiac also can’t tolerate dairy. I just didn’t want to be one of them. I really didn’t want to have to give up yet another major food group.

But I couldn’t just keep running away from it, especially with my wife insisting I deal with it, so I decided to try a few weeks on a strict dairy-free diet. And I quickly began improving which, since I didn’t change anything else in my diet, pretty much confirms that I can’t tolerate dairy anymore.

I know it’s good to identify what’s wrong with you so you can get well. But I would be lying if I said that it didn’t piss me off. I like dairy. Oh well, I know I can deal with it, but an increasingly restricted diet is still a pain.


Udi’s

Posted: May 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Udi’s

My daughter has never cared much for bread, even when she was preschooler. She’s been eating the meat, cheese, and pickles out of her hamburgers, hot dogs sans buns, and sandwich meat a la carte for her whole life. But this past year or so, she’s been taking a peanut butter & nutella sandwich to school. I immediately got her a couple of types of the more palatable bread to try and one of them she thought was okay, but hardly great.

I’d heard that Whole Foods had started carrying a new brand that was supposed to be really good, but hadn’t yet made it down to one to check it out. Lo and behold, as I was looking through Sprouts gluten free jubilee offerings, I saw this in the freezer!

Udi's Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread

I snatched a loaf to try. It’s more flexible than other gluten free breads and it tastes good without reheating it. That’s all good, but the critical thumbs up was my daughter’s. And this bread got it. It’s now the official instrument of nutella and peanut butter conveyance in her school lunches.

While I was at Sprouts, I saw and snagged the following as well.

Udi's Gluten Free Pizza Crusts

Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza Crusts were also a hit. I made my daughter her favorite pineapple and canadian bacon pizza while I had a ground bison and black olive one. This was an important discovery because we can take some of these to her camp when she goes. They will keep them in the freezer and they will make her pizzas using them on nights when she would otherwise have few options.

If you haven’t yet tried any of Udi’s products, I highly recommend you give them a taste! Two thumbs up from both my daughter and me.


Celiac Runs in the Family

Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

I was shaken when I got the call from my youngest daughter’s pediatrician informing me that her celiac panel had come back highly unusual. My wife and I wanted to have our daughter screened at her annual physical because celiac disease has a strong genetic component. Even so, our daughter had never had any obvious symptoms, so we didn’t really expect the tests to be positive. But her counts were worse than mine were when I was diagnosed.

While it hasn’t exactly been easy or always pleasant for me as I’ve adapted to a gluten free lifestyle, the disease has never felt overwhelming or unmanageable to me. I’m a tad ‘strong-willed’ and that trait has stood me in good stead this past year. Discovering that my little girl (even if she’s not actually so little anymore) inherited a genetic disease from me has been worse than anything in my personal experience over the past year. I feel worse for her than I’ve ever felt for myself.

I am glad that I’ve maintained a positive and mostly upbeat attitude over the past year about having celiac disease. That tends to be my approach toward things I can’t change anyway, but I feel that my example may have helped steady my daughter when she got the news about her test results. And she seems to be trying to approach it in the same positive way that I did.

I was immediately more concerned about the changes and adaptations she would have to make than I ever was on my own behalf. Most of our dinners are already gluten free because of me, so we didn’t need to make that transition. She has never cared for school lunches and has always taken her lunch to school, so that made it easier to manage as well. Moreover, with just a few exceptions, most of her lunch fare was already naturally gluten free. So we really only had to worry about those few lunch items, snacks, and breakfast food. I’ll have several food reviews in the future about products I found specifically to fill those gaps for her.

She’s been to a school dance and a birthday party already since her diagnosis and managed both fine. At the dance, she won a cake on the cake walk, and gave it to a friend while at the party, she just skipped the cake. Her friends know about her newly diagnosed celiac disease and have started trying to help look out for her. Socially she’s doing pretty well. Food does tend to crop up all the time in social situations, as I’ve become much more aware over the past year. But that hasn’t been an obstacle for her.

She’s inherited a lot of things from me, but this is one thing I really wish she hadn’t.

I am very proud of her and the way she’s handled this hurdle, though.


No Oats For You!

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on No Oats For You!

Yes, my body has turned into a form of the Soup Nazi this past week and emphatically denied me oats. Apparently I’m one of the small percentage of celiacs who also can’t tolerate oats.

I set up the test pretty well. I got tested and certified gluten free steel cut oats by Bob’s Red Mill. I prepared and ate them in the middle of last week. For the past week I’ve otherwise eaten even more conservatively than I usually do. We’ve not been out to eat at all and I haven’t eaten anything that wasn’t either made by my wife or me or a normal part of my diet. I loved eating the bowl of oatmeal. That was always one of my favorites.

But I’ve been paying for it ever since. Bloating, painful cramping, and a variety of symptoms I won’t describe in detail. I’m only now really beginning to feel better.

So I guess I got unmistakable results from my test, just not the results I wanted. Oh well. At least I don’t suffer from a dairy, corn, or soy intolerance like some celiacs do. I’ve managed without oats for a year with no real struggle. It would be a lot more difficult to remove any of the other three from my diet on top of gluten. So, all things considered, I guess I can’t really complain.

Still, I was really hoping for a more positive result.


One Year Gluten Free

Posted: April 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on One Year Gluten Free

It’s been roughly a year now since I was diagnosed with celiac disease and began a gluten free diet. It was quite a shift at first, but it’s almost become second nature now. I read the ingredients on everything I pick up and am still sometimes surprised. Just the other day my wife was making a Thai sauce when she noticed that the container of peanuts said it could contain wheat. (She noticed before she added them.) Who expects to find wheat in peanuts? Such is life these days.

We don’t go out to eat that often anymore, and when friends or family want to meet at a restaurant, I tend to skip the food and stick to coffee if it’s not a place I already know. It’s surprising how often food is involved when people gather for any reason, business or social. Whole foods are the safest at such gatherings. I always look for the raw vegetables, though I skip the dipping sauces that typically come with them.

It’s not been as difficult for me in many ways because I’ve always liked vegetables of different sorts, even as a kid. And many of my favorite dishes were already rice, bean, or lentil based and required little, if any, adjustment. The transition has also been easier since both my wife and I can really cook. I’ve always been grateful to my Dad for teaching me how to cook, but never more so than this past year. And my wife has been amazing. She was a little overwhelmed at first, but adapted quickly and has since become quite an accomplished gluten free chef. I know that a lot of people in our modern world never truly learn how to cook for a wide variety of reasons. But if your lifestyle and eating habits revolve around dining out and eating packaged, processed food, I’m not sure how you could make this particular transition. At the very least, it would have to be a lot more challenging than it has been for us.

Business travel remains a challenge. Fortunately, I don’t have to travel very often and I typically have plenty of advance warning when I do, so I can do research and plan how I am going to eat. It’s almost like putting together a battle supply plan in unfriendly territory. I know the stores, restaurants, and other resources in the Austin area pretty well. It’s much more of a challenge in an unfamiliar place. Moreover, the worst time to make yourself sick would be when you are traveling, so I tend to be especially conservative about what I eat when I’m on the road.

My family has also pretty thoroughly adjusted. Even though I’m the only one who has to eat gluten free, we don’t make separate meals for me. So much of what we eat at meals does not contain gluten. On my last business trip, my wife asked the kids if there was anything they had missed and would like for meals while I was gone. They couldn’t think of anything.

I feel better than I’ve felt in years, even if I’m still a long way from healed and healthy at this point. I’m not thrilled at all the doctors I’ve acquired over the past few years. I was used to having only one whom I saw infrequently. That’s not only no longer the case, it’s unlikely to ever be the case again. I’ve landed in a new phase of life.

Now that I’ve made the transition to life as a celiac and am feeling better, it’s time to start trying to get back into some kind of shape. I’ll make that my goal for this next year.


Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Posted: March 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

I’ve realized that I don’t post many restaurant reviews. There’s actually a good reason I don’t. Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I eat out significantly less than I once did. Moreover, when I do eat out, I tend to return to restaurants where I’ve had a positive experience in the past. Unless my experience changes, it seems rather silly to keep writing posts on restaurants I’ve already reviewed. I also tend to be rather cautious with new restaurants, which is another reason I only have one post about a more negative experience. (Ironically, that post on Red Lobster is one of the most popular I’ve written. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get multiple visits from people who found it via a search.)

This past week was one of our large meetings with our business customers. Our development project team leader planned a dinner out at Jack Allen’s Kitchen after the last day of our meeting. I wasn’t optimistic that a restaurant with a Chicken Fried Anything section on their menu would have anything I could eat, but I dutifully emailed them to ask. I received a really nice response that I want to go ahead and share.

Hello Scott,

Thank you for choosing our restaurant for your office dinner.  We do offer a few Gluten Free items on our menu such as our taco platters, bacon wrapped Texas quail, smashed guacamole, chips and salsa, and our Country Club Fancy Chicken Salad.  We will also gladly grill you any piece of chicken, meat, or fish that we are offering that day.  None of our items are certified gluten free by the Gluten Intolerance Group and there is a chance that cross contamination may occur as we are not a gluten free establishment. I hope this helps you and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email.

Thank you,

Shannon

@Jack Allen’s Kitchen

I didn’t actually get to meet Shannon, but I decided to give them a try based on his or her response. (Shannon being one of those names that both genders get to use.) In Austin, when a restaurant is familiar both with the Gluten Intolerance Group and the risk of cross-contamination, I’ve never had a problem despite their disclaimers. I believe such kitchens have good food preparation discipline, at least in Austin. There tends to be a sensitivity here to special dietary needs that I’ve not found in other cities that I’ve visited.

I’m really glad I decided to give them a try. Our waitress, when I described my special needs and the response I had received, told me they had a gluten free menu and brought me a copy of it. Later, when she was describing the special of the day (tostadas with a layer of beans, pork belly, grilled scallops, and a relish of jicama, peppers, and some other things), I realized that it didn’t sound like it contained anything with gluten. I asked her if she could check with the chef and she did. When she came back, she said Jack (Jack Gilmore I presume) confirmed that there were no gluten-containing ingredients. However, the tostadas were fried in a fryer that was also used for dishes that did contain gluten. I was impressed that he immediately recognized the risk of cross-contamination, but the waitress went on to say that he could prepare the dish without the tostadas and substitute corn tortillas instead. The “crunch” would obviously be missing, but everything else would be the same.

So I ordered the special with that modification and I was not disappointed at all. Every element of the dish was exquisite. I loved the beans. The pork belly practically melted in my mouth.The scallops were grilled to perfection. And the “relish” was magnificent. Oh, and the corn tortillas were pretty good as well. It was a fun evening and I heard just how much our customers are going to miss me while I’m working on my new job.

My vegetarian and vegan friends can now be appalled at my dinner selection. 😉 What can I say? I can resist many things, but pork belly and scallops? In one dish? Willpower only takes you so far. Of course, my meal also didn’t conform to Orthodox Lenten fasting rules. So I guess that night it was a good thing I’m not Orthodox! The restaurant is a very long way from our home, otherwise my wife and I might be dining there a lot. I noticed they have shrimp tacos that sound exquisite and are a particular weakness of my wife. We will almost certainly go there sometimes, but not frequently because of the distance.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen, though, has definitely made my list of the restaurants at which I will eat. Even if you do not suffer from celiac disease, you will like them. In fact, you will be able to eat a whole lot more off their menu than I can. Everyone enjoyed what they got that night. It was a success all the way around, not just for me.