Testing new foods

I can’t remember if I’ve already mentioned this or not, but at my last appointment with my ND, we established that my health plans have mostly had the desired results and we talked about my plans for the future.

I really want to do the next step in working on my digestion and she supports that, but the challenge is that it’s a pretty intensive three-month eating a supplement plan. Since we have travel happening all throughout the fall and into winter and I really want to have a little freedom during those times, I asked if we could defer until the new year. She was a-okay with that.

In the meantime, I get to start to introduce new foods to see if they show inflammatory results when I do. The thinking is that the anti-inflammatory diet I’m following cuts out all of the foods that most commonly cause an inflammatory response, however, as unique individuals, we all have our own responses. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

Even though she gave me the green light to start trying things out over a month ago, I still haven’t really wanted to disrupt the diet. It felt too risky, like I had too much to lose. Dr. Shannon’s advice was to pick a food that I really miss. I joked that it was pizza. In truth, one food that I’ve been really thinking about a lot is tomato. I thought of it even before we had the discussion and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I promised myself that I’d wait to test it until the tomatoes on our deck started coming in. We’re getting closer by the day and I can practically taste them every time I go out there to water.


Too many tomatoes!

For years I didn’t have a garden. I lived in a fantastic apartment that had only one flaw: no balcony. I had nowhere to grow anything other than a few houseplants. I was good at that, but I really craved more.

When Kevin and I first moved in together, we lived in a two floor townhouse that had a little wooden deck in the back that got afternoon and evening sun. We moved there in June and settling in distracted us from the possibility of a real growing season that first year. Towards the end of July, we picked up four straggly plants from the nearly empty garden centre nearby: two tomatoes and two strawberries. It was mostly a charity purchase. Their prices were way marked down and we bought them because we felt sorry for them. We took them home, repotted them into fresh soil and put them out on our tiny deck. We were so surprised when they shot up almost immediately and actually produced some fruit (though not much) by the time the season was over.

The next year, I bought more of the same plants, only much earlier in the year and much healthier overall. Again, success. They loved that deck!

That fall, we relocated back to New West and an apartment with a similar facing balcony. More afternoon sun, more happy gardening potential.

After two seasons of proving (mostly to myself) that I could do it, I decided to expand my goals and my season. That was the first year I invested (my money and my heart) in growing seeds. I took so much care in sowing them, watering them, monitoring them. I was thrilled when they sprouted and continued to grow. The first night I relocated them outside, I felt like a parent sending their child off to college. I think it even kept me up that night. By the time prime time summer came around our deck was a virtual jungle of tomato plants. They were everywhere!

The next year, I planted more seeds and supplemented them with nursery grown plants as well. As each new gardening season has approached, I’ve become more determined to grow more seeds and fewer ones that somebody else grew. I like the challenge of growing things from seed and it adds an extra layer of satisfaction when I’m successful. This year, I’m going 100% seed grown plants for the second year in a row.

There is one problem with this plan. It’s that I invariably grow too many little seedlings and have to find good homes for what I can’t grow on our balcony. I’ve cut back this year and am only growing on the deck – no extra spaces in community gardens or other people’s yards. I want to enjoy what I’ve grown and be able to see it every day, sit amongst it, watch its progress.

We spent part of last weekend delivering some of my extra plants to friends and family who welcomed them into their gardens. I’ve taken some to work and convinced people with access to soil, but no use for it to try growing this summer. I really don’t want any to go to waste, but every spring I can’t help but want to spread the gardening love and tomatoes seem like the best breakthrough plant to grow.

I’ve found homes for most of my tomato plants, thankfully. Enough to know that they’ll all end up somewhere even if I have to keep a few more than I’d planned. It’s good news for sure, because the peppers will be ready soon, too and then we’ll need to start all over again!

This is the first post I wrote about the easiest ways I’ve found to grow tomatoes.

Dietary update

I sat across from my naturopath yesterday, confessing, “it’s been really hard for me to eat 30 grams of protein three times a day.” She leaned back across at me and said, “that’s really hard for everyone.”

(This is not 30 grams of protein.)

She hadn’t mentioned that the last time I was talking to her. And that’s probably a good thing. Had I known it’d be a tall order for anyone, it might have been even more daunting. As it stands, I’ve met my goal with the exception of one single meal over the last 35 days and I’m pretty proud of that. Turns out, I need to stick with it for another two weeks and then I’ll be off the hook. The reason I was doing it in the first place related to some of my DNA test results. They showed that I have a tendency for a diminished sense of appetite – I don’t detect hunger easily (fact) and I don’t detect when I’m full either (probably, but not as obvious.) Findings have shown that you can sometimes reset these cues with a high protein diets over a period of time so that’s what we were working on. That’s our goal.

We also switched things up with a bunch of new herbs and supplements. More Vitamin D (immunity) and some adrenal support to try to boost my energy. Since I’m still showing some signs of digestive issues, we traded out my old supplements for new, more focused ones.

The best news of all, as mentioned, I can lay off the protein in two weeks’ time. We (one of us more than the other) are hopeful that I’ll be able to get some more enjoyment out of eating again. I’ll still be following my initial anti-inflammation dietary changes, but I’ll have a little more freedom than I’ve had over the last little while.

“What I’ve learned is that no matter what comes you’ve got to wrap yourself in all the goodness you can muster.” – Jann Arden

I was starting to feel like I was in a bit of a reading funk, but maybe I was just in a reading selection slump.

I’d thought it might be possible that my passion for reading would wane as the weather got warmer and we spent more time outside. I finished up an okay book that took quite a while on Sunday night and then started one I was kind of enjoying (though it was still early) yesterday morning. Last night as I was heading to bed, I picked up a different book (contrary to my 19 for 2019 resolution, I know) I’d bought on a whim on the weekend, Feeding My Mother by Jann Arden and it is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a very long time. I stayed up late with it last night, I got up early with it today and I was actually thankful for long commutes and waiting room times this morning because I could read more of it then.

As you may have read, heard or watched in interviews, Arden has spent the last several years caring for her ailing parents. In this book, she details the experience of watching them suffer through dementia and Alzheimers diagnoses and supporting them through the end of their lives. The stories inspire a span of emotions and Arden truly presents as an inspiration. As much as she can recognize when she lets her frustrations get the best of her, she also frames the situation realistically – the heartache as well as the bright spots, the triumphs and the defeats.

As the dog and I walked home with the wind at our backs and the sun streaking through the trees, I thought to myself how good people are. How kind and helpful and hard-working and empathetic. Even though my faith in the human race is challenged at every turn, I still believe that goodness is abundant and that bad people will not be able to turn us into the bitter, hateful souls they seem to want us to be. They want us to be like them, full of dark and dread and doom, to become wicked beings set on causing pain for the sake of pain. I will find the good people and I will surround myself with them. I’ll keep trying to be decent and thoughtful and helpful and creative. I’ll leave good things behind me when I pass. I promise this to myself.

She shares all sides of her experience and it’s made me think a lot about my relationships – not just with my parents, but with everyone. How do I give to others? How do I offer my support? What do I do to show others that I care about them? How do I love?

This is a really thoughtful and heartwarming/breaking book. I’d thoroughly recommend it to everyone (just maybe not while riding public transit. Or bring some tissues at least.)

Also, it includes recipes. As you may have guessed.

Why do we need things need to be like other things?

This has come up for me twice this week.

Most recently, just a few minutes ago. While stopping at the most amazing Safeway (Burquitlam) on the way back from my parents’, I grabbed a little package of date balls because I was famished. Now, date balls are good on their own. These date balls, however, weren’t actually date balls – I only gleaned that from reading the ingredients list. These date balls were packaged as salted caramel energy balls. Sounds delicious, right? I dug in as soon as I could tear open the bag once we got back to the car. Guess what? They were date balls. Like any other. Which is PERFECTLY FINE if what you’re buying is a date ball. I was sold a very different idea of what was inside, but it was the same old thing. It only made me feel ripped off that the expectations outlined on the packaging set me up for something way better.

Before that, I’d been talking to a friend who told me that she hadn’t tried a Beyond Meat burger yet. As you know, I am obsessed with them. She said her butcher had stocked Beyond Meat burgers (forward thinking butcher, kudos!) and they also had sausages and wieners. I didn’t even know those products existed so I was super into that. Then she told me that they used to have Beyond Meat chicken tenders, but they pulled them from the shelves because consumers found they tasted too much like fake chicken. This is in spite of the fact that THEY ARE FAKE CHICKEN. (This story seems to be somewhat sketchy, I can’t find a relevant link to support it, but it’s what I was told.)

As a thirty-year vegetarian (to varying degrees over that time) this is something that has always baffled me. I mean, I was pretty conscious of my desire to give up meat at the time when I did it. Back then, meat substitutes were just coming into play. Money’s Mushrooms had a veggie burger and Yves was just entering the market with veggie dogs. Those were basically the mainstream options that you had and you took them. I mean, what choice did you have?

For barbecues, they’re convenient, but outside of that that, why is everything in a pseudo-meat form? We’ve moved pretty far past that as far as what we can produce, but we’re still looking for meat knock-offs more than we are alternatives. Yes, I eat Beyond Burgers practically daily, but it’s because of their high protein content, not because I can trick my tastebuds into believing they’re actually made from real meat.

(Veggie ground round, I get because of its versatility, although for the most part I just sub in lentils instead.)

So, why do people need non-meat products to be like meat? Didn’t they give the meat up for a reason? And whatever that reason might be, they’re seeking a solution that is NOT meat. (The sole exception I can really get down with is that they’re really reluctantly doing it for health or environmental reasons, but I know few people who are that motivated for either.)

So, what’s the deal? How do you see it? Why can’t we call things what they really are?

I am basically a 3-year old

There may be many ways In which that’s true, but right now the one I’m focused on is in how I eat. I basically have two foods I’m eating as I search for protein. This things are 1. Protein shakes and 2. Beyond Meat burgers. To be fair to me (and my body) and not give off the wrong impression, I usually supplement the shakes with some nuts or hummus and veggies and the burger with some salad or grilled vegetables. They aren’t exactly the only thing, but they make up the lion’s share of most of my meals.

It isn’t that I’m a picky eater, it’s that these two meals can most efficiently meet my 30 grams of protein goals and I’ve become so consumed with doing so that I no longer really care about food. (I never really thought I did, but I’ve now gone far enough down this road to realize it was more important to me than I’d initially thought.)

Have you tried a Beyond Meat burger? They are out of this world. We first had them at A&W, but now that they’re available from Safeway, we basically bought out the stock at the location that’s at the bottom of our elevator. I throw them on the barbecue, pluck some monster lettuce from the balcony garden (see below), add some onions, sugarless mustard and avocado and they’re good to go. Meat eaters swear that they taste just like meat, but I don’t agree with that entirely. That said, I haven’t had a beef burger in 30 years. (I also think it’s a weird thing to go for – in this products and the world of faux animal products.)

Here’s a list of ingredients in a Beyond Burger, each patty contains 20g of protein:

Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract (to protect quality), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Beet Juice Extract (for color), Acetic Acid, Succinic Acid, Modified Food Starch, Annatto (for color).

Many veggie burgers are made with some supplemented wheat so it’s nice to have a new option just in time for my favourite – summer barbecues! Some may think that it’s creepy to have something designed to look/taste like real meat – and I get that. I don’t want to eat meat, why do I want to fake it? – but I think most will get over it once they try it for themselves.

If you venture to give one a shot, A&W’s version features their spices on top and they can do a lettuce wrap if you want to avoid the bun. Or just come over to our place!

Here’s a comparison between real meat and veggie burgers.

Have you tried a Beyond Meat burger? What did you think?

Wrapping up the weekend

We had a four day weekend this weekend with Good Friday and Easter Monday considered holidays for both me and Kevin. Now we’re staring down the start of a new, albeit short, work week again.

I often find that I look forward to some aspects of going back to work after even a couple of days, but especially after an extended period of time off. In fact, contemplating it tonight, I think long weekends are actually better in their future state than they are in their current. (I should specify: long weekends spent at home are. Travel is a whole different ball game and travel beats regular life any day.)

It’s so nice to look forward to having three or four days or even a week off. Me, I fantasize about sleeping in, going for drives in the country, reading, enjoying cups of tea and having and attending barbecues. In reality, I wake up before 8am every day anyway and we often end up embarking on a string of errands every day. That isn’t to say that we don’t have fun, but it isn’t the maxing relaxing that I picture in my mind over the days leading up. It’s the anticipation that I like the most. (Unless, again, travel.)

The other thing that’s high on my mind at the moment: this three meals/30 grams of protein thing is kicking my ass. I had a mild tantrum about it today as I’ve got a pretty good handle on it, but it’s still a huge challenge for me. I contemplated scaling back to three meals and making sure two of them included 30 grams of protein and then increasing after I’d learned to rock that. I still might so that, but I haven’t made a conscious decision about it yet.

I’m relying on a lot of fish and seafood to meet my goals which gives me the satisfaction of hitting the targets, but I don’t actually like it all that much. And even though I’ve spent the majority of my life (68% of my life) in various states of vegetarian/vegan-isms and I’m well versed in how to make healthy choices, I don’t know how I’d make solely plant-based. I know it’s possible, but the sheer amount of food I’d need to take in would be impossible for me right now.

There was something that my ND said the other day that I’ve returned to several times. She said that she thinks my disinterest in food may be a story about how poor my digestion has been. What she meant when she said that was that since my digestion has likely been poor for a long time, she believes that it isn’t a true disinterest in food, but that I’ve adapted my response to food because of it. If I’m honest, I have a feeling she is right and I hope so.

On the bright said, Easter was fun and it was also interesting. It was a challenge to fill baskets with items that weren’t candy or chocolate (I heard on the radio today that Americans spent $2.5 BILLION on Easter candy this year – I couldn’t find a figure for Canada) but we pulled it off. Kevin, in fact, totally nailed it. This basket is full of some of my favourite things – bath related luxuries, lip balm, crystals, aromatherapy and… those hand weights I’ve been wanting. He got a hoodie, a sound machine, a book and some healthy, anti-inflammatory diet friendly snacks.

It was a good weekend.

End of Lent

I’m not going to lie, those three words were googled a number of times over the past six weeks. Every time, at a particularly challenging point, I would double, triple quadruple check that Lent came to an end on Thursday, April 18th.

We’re in the clear!

But here’s the thing: as challenging as it has been, we’re sticking to it. For Kevin, of course, as he recovers from his injury, anything that battled inflammation is key. He feels like his body is moving better, his head is cleaner and his team of practitioners is happy with his progress. Coincidentally, his barista got his order wrong this morning and served him up with a venti americano. Of course, he’d nearly finished and was feeling jittery and foggy by the time he double checked the tag on his cup. While we’d both already felt fine with kissing coffee goodbye, we had a long conversation about how it made him feel and really confirmed that continuing with the coffee ban is the right thing at this time.

Kevin has been given the green light to start testing new foods – egg whites or corn. Even though that was the answer he got from his nutrition coaches, he says he’s feeling so much better that he actually doesn’t want to change anything just yet.

Me, I’ve got this new protein challenge which is exhausting me. I’ve realized that I don’t eat three meals a day consistently, let alone protein rich ones. Yeesh. Every day so far, I’m almost obsessed about it. On an episode of Spiritualish podcast that when approaching eating restrictions or goals, a good way to prepare is to always know what your next two meals will be. So far, it’s working.

In addition, I’ve started some new supplements to aid digestion and they’re starting to have some really lovely effects. Dr. Shannon has advised that I might feel more energetic as a result. Nothing makes me happier than the possibility of increased energy!

So, while we survived the six weeks of Lent, it isn’t really over for us. We’re just going to keep on fighting inflammation as best we can.

How did you Lent practice work out? We’re you successful? More importantly, what did you learn?

30 grams of (plant-based) protein

That isn’t even all of it, friends. THREE TIMES A DAY.

There it is.


I’ve been witness to friends who committed to intense and meticulous eating plans and I have applauded them. I have cheerleaders for them. I have have talked them down from ledges with reminders of their greater goal. This isn’t even that hard, but it’s certainly a challenge for me.

I saw my naturopath again today. (I also saw my regular doctor who didn’t brush off my issue the way I’d hoped she would. Then I broke a tooth. Needless to say, my ND visit was the highlight.) We caught up on my findings from the anti-inflammatory diet I’ve been following. Mostly it’s been going well and I am feeling great. We also checked in on the DNA results that we had access to as part of my Ancestry raw data.

Among the things I learned:

  • Caffeine is not my friend. Coffee, green tea, chocolate. None of it.
  • I’m great at absorbing the nutritional content of nuts and seeds.
  • I’m best suited to a Mediterranean diet: fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. (A ketogenic diet would wreak havoc on my body.)
  • I was really happy to hear that my DNA indicates that a plant-based diet should suit my body just fine.
  • My disinterest in food likely “tells a story about my digestion.”
  • I don’t absorb Vitamin D well as others.
  • I don’t deal with saturated fat as efficiently as other people might.

We reviewed all that and much more. Most of it I can’t relay accurately. Next up, we worked on an eating plan and a timeline.

The Plan.

  • The aforementioned 30 grams of protein per meal.
  • Three meals a day, for that matter.
  • New supplements, all related to digestion.

I love that we’re focusing on one thing and that its digestion. Never before in all my life, all my medical care, all my doctors, nobody has ever taken even a passing interest in my digestion, but in the short look we’ve taken, it seems there may be legitimate concerns. It’s enlightening and also disappointing. For all of the health concerns I’ve had, some of the roots may have been in the health of my gut. How could it be that until now nobody ever asked?

Instead of looking back, I would prefer to look forward. I’m excited for the changes ahead and the challenges in learning more about how to eat. I haven’t had a number around a goal before so I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or tips. (I have to continue to avoid the same things I have been already, including wheat and sugar.)

The west coast food privilege

We’re approaching the midway point of our forty day food experiment (aka Lent) and if you were to ask me how it was going, I’d tell you two things.

  1. I feel fantastic. My energy has skyrocketed and many of my minor aches, pains and twitches have disappeared.
  2. The anti-inflammation diet honeymoon is over.

It isn’t that I don’t like it or that it’s even that hard, it’s just that it’s something I have to think about all the damn time. I feel like I’m always on guard. I can’t just order a salad because I need to make sure it doesn’t have tomatoes or corn in it. I have to make sure I make a modification to a fish dish in case it’s being served with a side of potatoes. Stuff like that. There isn’t anything I’m particularly craving and I’m certainly not thinking about anything overly indulgent, but I’m ready for a little freedom.

Truth is, I’m excited to get through this experiment, get back to the naturopath, analyze my DNA information and come up with a new, more tailored eating plan with, perhaps, a little more exploration or elimination testing even.

Today we were on the go. We were out a little late after the lacrosse game last night so we weren’t rushed to get up, but when we did get moving, we headed to my folks’ to do a little more walking down memory lane and, in some cases, trashing some of the scenery. After several hours there, we hurried home so that Kevin could get ready for work and so that I could get ready to go to the hockey game with my girl, Cara. In the midst of all that, we didn’t really get to eat anything so Kevin had the genius idea of trying Freshii for the first time. We’ve seen a million of them and have even talked about going, but we’ve just never done it. So we did. He got a salad and I got a bowl because I’m supposed to be focusing on warm foods. And you know what? It was legitimately good, healthy food that was modifiable to our needs, but actually required very few tweaks. We’ll certainly be going back!

Hours later at the hockey game, I was able to sip on a green smoothie from Jugo Juice and I was reminded of just how lucky we are to have the variety of food that we do in this area. Sure, my diet is pretty limited right now, but if I run out of time or want to grab something on the go, there are reasonable possibilities at nearly every place I go. Sure, it may take some modifications and a little detective work, but it’s possible and that’s a real privilege.