Sunday, June 18, 2017

Healthy Choices ~ Healthy Girl

My husband and I have been making some changes recently.  We both want to lose weight and get healthier, so we're watching what we eat and our portions.  However, it goes much deeper than that for me.  After my Celiac diagnosis 3 1/2 years ago, not really understanding what it truly means to eat gluten free, like anyone else newly diagnosed, I went crazy buying up a lot of processed (usually overly processed) gluten free food products from the Health Market at my local grocery store.  Now, just because a food product says "Gluten Free" doesn't mean it is healthy or good for you.  Many times, it can be just as bad, if not worse just because of the extra ingredients (refined sugars, sodium, etc) included to make up for the lack of gluten.  For lunches for much too long now, I've depended on many frozen, prepared, processed meals.  I've been afraid to venture out on my own and fell into a comfort zone sort of pattern where I was trying to replace the treats I can no longer eat with high calorie, high carb, high sugar content foods that contain a lot of preservatives, as well.  This is not to say that all products in your health market are bad for you.  I say this to remind you - read the labels - on EVERYTHING!  There are many products out there that use healthy, quality ingredients.  Two of my favorites that I use frequently are mixes from Better For You Bakery, which use whole, gluten free grains and ancient grains where possible, with minimal processing, cutting out unhealthy white starches, and Gnarly Pepper mixes that, used with plain, low fat or non fat Greek yogurt, are healthier options to sour cream dips and mayonnaise.  There are others out there, as well.  You just have to look for them.

Healthy workday snacking

I decided a few weeks ago that I need to find out what other foods I may have issues with, as this is a common problem with Celiacs.  Many Celiacs also have issues with dairy, soy and other foods.  A woman who's blog I follow, Cupcakes and Yoga Pants, has been doing the AIP or Autoimmune Protocol Diet (for more information about AIP click here) to learn what other foods she has issues with.  Following her journey got me thinking about my health and what other issues I may have.  While I haven't done the AIP diet, as of 10 days ago I cut out processed foods and am now eating clean, which is naturally gluten free foods, organic and local whenever possible.  

Fresh produce and locally raised pork shoulder roast from the Sioux City Farmer's Market

Added bonus of clean eating - weight loss!  Other than the effects of detox, mainly in the form of terribly painful muscle spasms in my right arm (which, thankfully, have mostly subsided now), I've been feeling more energetic with no more bloating.  I've increased my water intake and decreased my serving size.  I'm sleeping better at night and am more alert and focused during the day.  I'm making healthier choices, buying most of my groceries each week at the Sioux City Farmer's Market, eating naturally gluten free instead of processed gluten free.  In the past 10 days since making these changes, I've gone from the heaviest weight in my life of 185 pounds to 179.2 - in just 10 days!  That may not seem like much to some of you, but this is HUGE to me!!!  I was always told by doctors that I'd have a hard time losing weight due to having hypothyroidism.  With my Celiac and having a hard time absorbing the vitamins and nutrients my body needs, I figured that wouldn't help in the weight loss arena, either.  Ha!  Just by making these simple changes - and limiting my eating out to Gud n Free, since it is not only 100% gluten free, but they use  better ingredients, too.  Don't get me wrong, it is still restaurant food, but I keep track of every bite I eat and count the calories as best as I can and work the rest of my meals around it when I eat there.  I am NOT giving up my Gud n Free :-)  But that is an awesome thing - if you are tracking what you are eating and are aware of every bite you take, you can make adjustments and still enjoy foods you love or a bite out every now and then.  Of course, with Celiac Disease, eating out is it's own challenge unless you have a 100% dedicated restaurant like Gud n Free where you can dine.

Sioux City Farmer's Market

As you can see, I still enjoy an iced coffee from my favorite coffee place, Heartland Coffee & Nosh now and then!

I'm also excited about a new free cell phone app I downloaded this week called, Lifesum, which is helping me keep on course by tracking my meals, water intake, my weight and activity.  By using this app, I am staying focused and taking it one day, one meal at a time.  And I'm feeling satisfied after each meal!  I had learned how much tracking your food and fluid intake works many years ago when I was a member of Weight Watchers.  I lost 53 pounds by following their Points program and learned so much from my time with Weight Watchers about making healthier choices!!  When my health took a nosedive 3 years before my Celiac diagnosis, I ended up gaining all of the weight back, though I hadn't changed my eating habits.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, that was another sign of Celiac Disease.  For more information on the over 300 signs and symptoms of Celiac Disease click here.  Since I'm now 3 1/2 years into living gluten free, though I'm sure my gut is still in the healing process, I feel like I'm far enough along to work on the weight loss, too.  Doing it this way is a good way to continue healing the damaged villi in my intestines, as well.  (for more information on just what exactly Celiac Disease is, click here)

There are many popular diets out there that make it seem like counting points or calories is unnecessary effort in the weight loss journey.  I disagree.  By tracking your food and fluid intake, you become more aware of absolutely everything that you put into your mouth, which leads to making healthier choices.  When you track your activity, you become more intentional about making that extra effort because you are seeing results.  

Along with eating clean, I've added Kura Protein Powder smoothies and probiotics, as well as other vitamin supplements that my body has difficulty absorbing to my daily routine.  The smoothie powder mix I shake together with one cup of unsweetened cashiew milk and then put in my Magic Bullet mixer (BEST. INVENTION. EVER.) along with whatever fresh, raw fruit I have on hand.  My favorite combo is the berry flavor protein powder along with a small to medium banana, fresh raspberries and fresh strawberries.  YUM!

Kura Berry flavor Protein Powder smootie with crushed ice, blueberries and raspberries.

Whatever your journey, Dear Reader, stick with it!  See it through no matter the work or the cost.  You'll be so glad you did!  Here's to a healthier me and a healthier you!!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Connecting with Community

Panoramic shot of the GF/AF Expo in Schaumburg, IL, April 22 & 23, 2017

I was just watching an episode from the first season of one of my favorite shows, "Switched At Birth".  It's fun to be able to go back on Netflix and re-watch episodes of shows I like that are no longer on the air.  This episode was the last one from season one.  If you have never watched it, it is a drama from the channel now called Free Form.  The first episode begins with two families learning that their 15 year old daughters, born the same day at the same hospital, had accidentally been switched at birth, hence the title.  The show follows these two very different families as they struggle to deal with the life changing news and figure out the new family dynamics that they are now presented with.  One of the two girls who was switched is deaf, the other hearing.  In one of the last episodes of season one, Daphne, the deaf half of the duo, is playing on the basketball team for the school for the deaf that she attends.  As she and her father are checking into the hotel, a young hearing impaired mother and her also deaf little girl meet Daphne and tell her that they drove from another state to cheer on the deaf girls team because they not only represent their school, but the entire hearing impaired community.  This thrills and scares Daphne at the same time because she just realized that she is a role model for the hearing impaired community.  As she explains this to her hearing father, she talks about how no matter where a deaf person travels, if they meet another deaf person, there is an instant connection.  She tells him that the deaf community is a small, but tight knit community and that what a deaf person in the spotlight does reflects and influences others in the community.

Watching this episode again made me think of the Celiac and gluten free community that I became a part of with my diagnosis 3 1/2 years ago.  The way Daphne spoke about the deaf community makes me think of how I feel about the community that I am a part of.  We're a small, but tight knit community.  When I meet someone else who has Celiac Disease or is gluten free for another health reason, I feel an instant connection with them.  So often, it ends up with each of us sharing our Celiac stories with each other, though we are complete strangers.  But you don't feel like you are strangers because you have this link with one another.  Something that people outside of this community can't identify with or understand.  You feel a deep kinship with that other person.  Thinking about the Celiac/Gluten Free community made me think of the connections and friendships I have been blessed to form in this past year more than any other time since my diagnosis.  
Mike & Brenda Orlando and their girls.

As I said before, it began in April, 2016 when I met Mike and Brenda Orlando who were in the process of starting the first gluten free/allergen friendly restaurant in Sioux City and their lovely family.  I've had the privilege of being able to get to know them and some of their staff along the way as I quickly became a huge supporter of their business.  And, yes, by huge supporter, I mean that I eat there - A LOT!  I can't help it!  The food is awesome and I know I can safely eat there without fear of cross-contamination.  Through writing a review of their restaurant, Gud n Free, I then met Tina Messeck who had started a gluten free bakery in Jefferson, Iowa in 2015 called Better For You Bakery.  Tina sent me her four mixes to try and review (loved them, as you can read for yourself on my blog)  Tina, herself, is not gluten free, but she has a 100% dedicated facility and provides wonderful gluten free mixes and baked goods that are out of this world!  I've become a part of the Siouxland Celiac Support Group, sponsored by the Sioux City Hamilton Blvd Hy Vee dietitian, Corrinna Lenort.  I have met some wonderful people through this group, including Corrinna, the facilitator of the group, members of the group and Sara Gotch, the creative mind behind Gnarly Pepper seasoning mixes, which I also love and use (they are gluten free and vegan).  I've met and have been getting to know Alafia and Marije Wright, the people behind the wonderful skin and hair care line called, God's Green Earth.  I also finally got to meet Angela Tague, the voice behind the blog Cupcakes and Yoga Pants.  There are so many people I've had the privilege to connect with through this journey that none of us asked to be on, yet, we are on it nonetheless - together.  Yes, I regularly use the products provided by these entrepreneurial people, however, they have become a part of my world, not just their products or the services they provide, but the people behind these products and services.  We're a community.  We're in this together!

Me, Tina Messeck of Better For You Bakery and Tina Stoen of Mama Stoen's

Sara Gotch from Gnarly Pepper

God's Green Earth products I am currently using.

 Brenda from Gud n Free, Tina from Better For You Bakery and Me - Siouxland Celiac at the Siouxland Health Expo in early April, 2017

Susie from Gud n Free and Me - Siouxland Celiac representing for Gud n Free at the GF/AF Expo in Schaumburg, IL late April, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Graduation Season 2017

Today my family and I celebrated the college graduation of my niece, Shelby from the University of Iowa.  What an exciting time.  It has been wonderful for me to see nieces and nephews as they continue their education, get married, start families, find careers that suit them.  My husband and I don't have any living children of our own, so we've live vicariously through our siblings, their children and grandchildren.

Traveling is always an adventure for someone with food issues (allergies, intolerances, diabetes, Celiac Disease, etc).  Through the past few years I have learned to always pack a LOT of gluten free food and treats to take with me.  This weekend trip has been no exception.  I feel very blessed to have a family that is very supportive, understanding and as accommodating as possible under the circumstances.  Last night we ate at a place we've eaten before since my diagnosis.  While I am always wary of buffets and normally avoid them at all costs, I will eat at the buffet at Riverside Casino & Resort near Iowa City.  They've been accommodating and have a few items that I can safely eat.  As always, I avoid areas where there is likely to be cross-contamination, even if there is a gluten free item.  If it is next to something not gluten free, I don't take a chance.  I took meat that was carved from a larger piece as I watched the cook cut it and put it on my plate and I chose to eat a lot of crab legs - all still in the shell and in an area away from the rest of the food on the buffet.  Granted, I do know that I was taking a risk - more than the usual risk I take eating at a non-buffet restaurant that is not dedicated gluten free.  I chose to take that risk because I know that I've eaten safely at this place before and haven't had any issues.  I do not recommend doing this without doing your research to be as sure as possible that you can eat safely.  Today, the luncheon after the commencement ceremonies was held at Pizza Ranch in North Liberty, Iowa.  I've been very happy with the Pizza Ranch near where I live.  They are extremely cautious and take great care to protect their gluten free customers from cross-contamination as much as they can.  Again, do your research and ask questions beforehand.  Find out how your food is prepared and what they do to make it as safe as possible before you order.  Be as safe as you can be.

Yay, Shelby!!!

If you have to - eat beforehand.  Do NOT let having Celiac or any other food issue keep you from joining in on the celebration!!!  I've attended plenty of events where I had to eat either before or after the event.  Yes, I sit there with nothing to eat while everyone else is eating, but I can still join in on the conversation and celebration.  My health and being proactive in taking care of it is about me, but the celebration or event isn't.  Don't make it about you, but God bless the families and friends who are understanding and accommodating of our needs even during their big and important events!  Celebrate!  Enjoy time with loved ones, co-workers, etc.  Don't stop living just because you can't eat what everyone else can!

Congratulations, Shelby and all of the other 2017 graduates - high school and college - everywhere!  Let the celebrating begin!!!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Touching Base

Good morning.  I had planned on writing over the weekend, but some things came up that took me away from writing.  I'm Monday I got into something that has made me I'll with all kinds of Celiac symptoms including diarrhea, inflamed and achy muscles and joints, headaches, nausea and brain dog with trouble concentrating.  Yesterday was worse than Monday.  Starting to feel better today, but still have lingering headache along with the inflamed and achy muscles and joints.  Heading back to work today and hope to be able to concentrate enough to write a real post tonight or tomorrow.  Thank you for your patience and understanding, Dear Readers.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

God's Green Earth

Photo Credit: God's Green Earth Facebook page (used with permission)

In 2016 I had the privilege to meet Alafia and Marije Wright at their booth at the Sioux City Farmer's Market (which opened for the 2017 Summer Season today, by the way).  The Wright's produce a skin care line, which includes soaps, lotions, lip balm and much, much more, under the company name of God's Green Earth.  It was the name of their company that first caught my eye.  I tried their soap and hand lotion and quickly became a regular customer!  

    Tea Tree soap                                    Facial Scrub
     Facial Lotion             Lavender Hand & Body Cream

These are just a few of the products I've purchased and used from God's Green Earth.  The Tea Tree Soap is my favorite.  I love that the fragrance helps wake me up in my morning shower - especially since I am NOT a morning person at all.  The soap is gentle and leaves my skin soft and without a filmy residue that some store bought soaps leave behind - yuck! The Facial Scrub was a different experience for me.  I haven't used one like it before.  The texture is what you'd expect for a facial scrub, gritty.  It doesn't take very much product to work gently into your damp face and then wash off with warm water.  It exfoliates really well and leaves me feeling fresh and clean.  I've gone through a couple of bottles of the Facial Lotion.  Again, it doesn't take a lot to cover my entire face.  I use it in the morning under my make up and at night after I've washed the make up off.  The lotion doesn't leave my skin feeling greasy, but smooth and silky soft.  I've had dry skin most of my life, but since using the products from God's Green Earth, my skin feels hydrated and soft, not rough and scaly!  Probably my very favorite products are the Lavender Hand & Body Cream and the Lip Balm (not pictured).  I use the hand & body cream on my hands, my rough (not anymore) elbows and calloused feet.  I'm amazed at how smooth using this cream has made the roughest, most dry areas of my skin.  The lavender scent is very relaxing and calming.  I like to use the cream especially at night before going to bed because of its soothing qualities.  The lip balm really surprised me the most.  I can't stand to have dry, chapped lips.  It drives me crazy.  I always carry lip balm and put it on a lot through out the day.  The lip balm from God's Green Earth I can apply once at the start of the day and my lips stay moist and hydrated all day long.

I asked Marije to give me a little information about their business and the inspiration behind it.

"God's Green Earth was established in 2014 by husband and wife team Alafia & Marije.  After their children had been diagnosed with eczema, asthma and food sensitivities to Gluten, Soy and Lactose they were on a quest to find natural remedies.  The prescribed medications for eczema are full of steroids and were causing undesirable side effects.  Alafia & Marije tested many recipes for soaps, lotions, toiletries and household cleaners before being confident in bringing them to market for sale.  Alafia & Marije have a commitment to produce their product lines toxic-free with as many natural, organic, GMO-free, dairy free, soy free and gluten free ingredients as possible.  They only use a small amount of preservative for their lotions because they grow bacteria and get rancid quickly, which would make them unsafe.  They source their ingredients from reputable companies and try to buy as many ingredients locally as possible.  At God's Green Earth nothing gets made that Alafia & Marije wouldn't use themselves for their family of 7.  They are committed to providing toxic free products that you can be confident are safe and enjoyable to use in your household.  Alafia & Marije offer products that are allergen friendly, meaning that they create their products in a manner where they are safe to use for people with sensitivities and allergies to gluten, soy and dairy.  At God's Green Earth we know our skin is our largest organ and we want to help our customers take care of their skin in a healthy and safe way.  We strive to produce all our products without gluten so that anyone can use them.  The only soy that is used by God's Green Earth is in the candles and wax melts; soy is a common allergen because it's one of the highest GMO crops in the nation and it is used in a lot of beauty products, we leave it out of our products that are applied and used on the skin.  God's Green Earth does not use dairy in their general product line.  If you have a bovine protein allergy, Alafia & Marije recommend you stay away from their ...And It Was GOAT line of products because Goat milk may contain some of the same proteins as cow milk.  Sometimes a specialty soap is created which contains some dairy and it gets labeled very clearly.  All the beeswax Alafia & Marije use comes from local (within 200 miles of Vermillion, SD) sources, and is in its rawest form when it gets to them.  This means the only processing that has been done to the beeswax is a filtering to get out large particulates and the heating to produce our particular product.  Alafia & Marije believe in transparency with labeling so even on their handcrafted soaps you will find an ingredient list.  All the products created for God's Green Earth are made in small batches which ensures quality control and it reduces the risk of contamination with ingredients that are not desirable.  Alafia & Marije are committed to providing products you love to use, they are willing and able to create custom formulas for individuals with specific needs or to make available wholesale.  They are available to answer questions about their products if you have specific needs or allergies and can match you with a product or make a special one for you."

Contact information:
Alafia & Marije
God's Green Earth
Vermillion, SD 57069

Monday, May 1, 2017

Celiac Awareness Month 2017

I'm sure you've already seen many posts about May being Celiac Awareness Month.  For those of us living with Celiac Disease, we are aware every single day of the year.  This month is set aside for us to help educate others on this very real and serious autoimmune disease, to encourage people to get tested if they think they may have Celiac Disease and to connect with others in the Celiac/Gluten Free Community.

In the spirit of connecting, I want to hear YOUR Celiac story!  I'm interested in you, Dear Reader, and how Celiac has affected your life and family.  This month is the perfect opportunity for you to share your experiences and story with others.  Stand up.  Be heard.  Help make others aware by telling your story, so they can see that this is real people, living, dealing, struggling, succeeding through this disease.

How are you helping to spread the word about Celiac Disease?  I started the month off by baking!  This past Saturday was my 49th (shhhh - don't say it aloud!) birthday and I decided to treat my co-workers with some gluten free cupcakes - nearly homemade.  I used a couple of chocolate cake mixes by Better For You Bakery (for information about Better For You Bakery, click here.)  I decorated each cupcake with a green awareness ribbon.  These cupcakes were so moist and delicious that my non-gluten free co-workers loved them!  Several even wanted my recipe!  Of course, I had to tell them they could make these yummy cupcakes, too, just by heading to one of the Sioux City Hy-Vee Food Stores to buy the mix!  I'm also working with some other Celiac bloggers on some neat ideas for raising awareness throughout the month.  Stay tuned to see what these are.

Please comment below and tell me your Celiac story and/or how you plan to help raise awareness for Celiac Disease this month.  We're all in this together - you're not alone!  I think you'll be surprised how many people understand what you are going through.

Also, stay tuned for more posts - this month I will be writing about the GF/AF Expo in Schaumburg, IL that took place 4/22 & 4/23, as well as bringing you product reviews, posts about GF kids, travel and much more.

Friday, April 21, 2017

10 Years & Counting!

We made it to Schaumburg yesterday afternoon.  It was nice to not have to drive in a downpour, like the day before.  We enjoyed a very scenic drive for much of the way, with only a "slight" unintentional detour due to a wrong turn that took us just over the border into Wisconsin instead of down toward Chicago!  We got turned back in the right direction and made it here only a little later than planned.  The hotel is incredible!  Our room wasn't ready yet, but we found a lovely area in the lobby to wait, me with a Cafe Latte from the RENdezvous Cafe in the hotel (yes, they serve Starbucks!!) and a Heineken for Dave.

RENdezvous Cafe

Before long we were able to get into our room.  After several hours on the road, we decided to just relax for the rest of the evening.  Our room is lovely and our view is pretty awesome.

 Panoramic view from our room

Pretty city lights

For the second day in a row, we enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in this morning!  I couldn't wait any longer, so at one point when I woke early this morning to use the restroom, I put out the gifts I had brought for my husband for our 10th anniversary, which is today.  It was fun starting our day by exchanging gifts.  The traditional 10th anniversary gift is tin or aluminum, so one of the gifts I bought Dave has a beautifully embossed aluminum stamp (L for Leisinger) on it.

There were two glasses in this gift - both have an embossed aluminum stamp with the first letter of our last name.

This etched shot glass says, "Happy 10th Anniversary 4/21/17" (front) and "D & M Leisinger Est. 4/21/07" (back)
by Candid Nomad

Dave went with the modern 10th anniversary gift of diamond jewelry for my gifts, which works nicely since this is also my birthday gift (my 49th birthday is a week from tomorrow) and diamond is my birthstone, as well. :-)

We love Riddle's Jewelry and use them for all of our fine jewelry purchases.

We ordered a late breakfast from room service after exchanging gifts this morning.  When I called down our order, I placed Dave's order first, which included wheat toast.  I then went into my normal explanation of my gluten free dietary needs before adding my order.  The young man taking my order didn't miss the fact that I had ordered wheat toast and, politely "called me" on it!  I LOVE THAT!!!!  The staff here is very attentive and knowledgeable about the special dietary needs of those who are gluten free for medical reasons, such as Celiac Disease.  The fact that he mentioned this to me to make sure that I was aware that I had ordered something not gluten free is awesome!  I assured him that the toast was for my husband, who does not need to be gluten free.  I could actually hear the relief in his voice as we proceeded with the rest of the breakfast order.  The Renaissance Hotel and Conference Center gets big time kudos from me concerning all of this.  Of course, one would hope that they would be like this, considering that they are hosting the GF/AF Expo this weekend, but that doesn't guarantee anything.  I am so appreciative of the attention and care the staff here takes to take care of their guests, with or without special dietary needs.  For information about the GF/AF Expo click here.

Last night's supper - GF Coconut jasmine rice with peanuts, sriracha, cilantro and skirt steak - SOOOOOO much gluten free deliciousness in one bowl!

 My breakfast this morning - crisp bacon, eggs over easy, OJ, Starbucks coffee and a GF peach crumb cake.
This GF peach crumb cake was so flaky and YUM!

We had big plans to go out and about and see what there is to do in Schaumburg today, since it is the only day we have to do so.  Unfortunately, plans have changed since Dave is now not feeling well (nothing to do with the food).  So, instead of seeing what there is to do around here, I'm blogging and Dave is napping.  So much for a fun anniversary trip.  I feel bad for him because this seems to happen whenever we travel.  He seems to always end up not feeling well at least one day out of our trip every time we go anywhere.  Unfortunately, it happened to be the only day we have free to actually do something together and on our anniversary, too.  Good thing the room is nice, because this is where we are spending our entire day today.  I hope he gets to feeling better soon.  :-(  It looks like the wine I brought (purchased in March at a silent auction benefit for my friend, Dave Saul and his late wife, the first sister of my heart, Sue Saul) won't be opened tonight.

10 years and counting!  For better or for worse, in sickness and in health - Dave has definitely been there for me through a LOT of sickness over the years due to Celiac Disease (undiagnosed until 2014).  Now it is my turn to be there for him.  I think he is much better at that than I am.  Of course, he's had a lot more practice than I have.  I love you, Dave and I'm so grateful for you in my life!

For information about the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel and Conference Center click here.