Sunday, March 16, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude.

If you know me, we've probably had at least one conversation about the science behind happiness and gratitude. In case we have not: in a nutshell, science has proved that feeling gratitude lights up the same part of the brain as feeling happy; the two are biologically indistinguishable. So if you can't get happy, you can try thinking of something you're grateful for - and tah-dah! You'll be happy.

The trouble is, all the feel-good articles about this phenomenon, found in my hippie magazines, websites and Wholesome Living blogs, focus on feeling grateful for the usual suspects - your health, your family, your job, your sense of humor, your intelligence, the sun, the stars, the beauty of springtime, the ocean, the nourishing rain.

And I don't mean that it is trouble to be grateful for those things. They're wonderful! They do fill me with gratitude. They are beautiful moments in daily life that can indeed inspire an attitude of gratitude.

But sometimes, the trouble is, we never talk about how it's also OK to be grateful for things much less epic, and much more worldly.

Like the Veronica Mars movie that came out this weekend.

And you can call me superficial, you can call me a pathetic fan girl, you can roll your eyes that I'm going to claim this is a worthy example of an attitude of gratitude. But I'm doing all three anyway.

The movie made me so happy. They did a great job delivering a story for the fans that was still smart, funny, true to the characters, and a great mystery. So here I am - grateful to love things in the world - movies, songs, books, slices of tart cherry pie from Lauretta Jean's. By being in the world, in both the sacred and profane, I get my regular doses of gratitude - and they light up that happy part of my brain that otherwise doesn't get too much attention.

Bring it on, bring it on, yeah.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The results are in.

The time has come - my SIBO test results are in!

I picked up the phone with great nervousness, and heard, "Hi Emily! It's Dr. M!" She was excited and smiling, I could hear it.

"Hi! How are you?" I said in a big rush, as I locked myself into a conference room at work.

"I'm great, I have your test results and it is so exciting!"


So my bacteria indicators are down 80% or more. I still have it - and I knew I did - but it's going away, and it's going away fast. I'm not at all disappointed. I knew it would still be there, and my only fear was that it would be, like, 10% gone or something. But 80% gone! Miracle of miracles! Every single bite of food I passed up was worth it!


It gets weirder.

The latest drug regimen, which Dr. M. wants to see me undergo, would be a choice of either herbal or pharmaceutical antibiotics. Herbals are $200 out of pocket and take 40 days. Pharmaceuticals are $850 out of pocket and take 14 days. She wasn't strongly advocating either way, but the pharmaceutical route - as evidenced by the cost - is a pretty incredible drug. It does not build up a resistance, so it should be as effective this time as it was last time. And it's non-systemic, so it does not cross into the blood and body; it stays right there in the digestive tract. If it does as well as it did in January, and I do as well with the diet as I did the last 8.5 weeks, I could be free of bacterial overgrowth and back on a path of healthy well-rounded eating. And so, yes, I'm a Western science girl at heart - I'm gulping on paying the bill and going for it. Round two shall be more pharmaceuticals.

But this is where it gets weird.

The second drug regimen comes with a new instruction. If choosing the pharmaceuticals over the herbals, one should, for 14 days - and not sooner, nor later - be eating, at one or two meals a day, something(s) from the list of "NO" foods. 


The highly fermentable foods list, aka everything delicious, will become my friend for 14 glorious days - and on day 15, it is cold turkey back to the SIBO diet. The theory here is that you want to feed the bugs while killing them… draw them out and knock 'em down; don't let them hide in dormancy while you take the pills.

As the calendar would have it, I am headed to Florida to see my mom and aunt next week, and frankly, this couldn't be better timing. I have not started the regimen yet, for two reasons. One, I am afraid I will get sick, like I did last time. It was the flu; I know it was. But what if - what if - what if it was a die-off reaction from slaying bacteria? And secondly, because I am making a list of Portland things I want to fit into my 14 day schedule. Any other suggestions? So far I have what is below, and it may well be two more months before I can have anything this tasty again.
  • a slice of berry pie from Lauretta Jean's
  • a kati roll from Bollywood Theater
  • something from Maurice (brand new sweet shop near my office)
  • half a pizza from Firehouse
  • ice cream with hot fudge from Salt and Straw
  • chocolate blackout cake from Sugar Cube (I've never had it!) 
  • Frank's noodles 
  • bread from Fleur de Lys 
  • a bagel from Tastebud, now at food carts near my office

Thursday, March 6, 2014


So today, I cheated.

Tomorrow marks eight weeks - two fucking months - of living grain- and refined-sugar- free.

And I have not cheated, not once. And if you don't know, I work in a literal candy store. Yes, it's a software firm, but it's all the tales you've heard about these insane, hedonistic, childlike Googlesque workplaces? They're true.

Snack plates are put out once or twice a day in the three most high-trafficked areas. Perhaps brie and summer sausage, perhaps guacamole and chips, perhaps almond mini croissants and a bowl of coconut whipped cream, perhaps peanut butter-filled celery sticks. And that's just those three areas. Then each kitchen (there are also three) is stocked: a cereal cabinet with 15+ kinds. A candy cabinet, a cracker drawer, all the bagels, bread, and muffins you could want (cinnamon raisin, plain, vegan, wheat, etc.). There is a sweets cabinet - Oreos, Petit Ecoliers, Nutter Butters. There are at least ten kinds of granola bars: Kind, Kashi, Nature Valley, PowerBar, Clif. There is, ok, a nod to health, with a fruit bowl. But there is a soda cooler, there is beer and wine, there is endless tea and coffee with your choice of soy, coconut, almond, regular, skim, whole and lactose free milk - half and half. (One guy eats two bowls of cereal a day, with half and half as the backdrop.)

This is meant for us to enjoy, every day, all day, for free, day in and day out. Since the second I have worked there. There is also at least one company lunch each week from the nearby food carts (variety makes it impossible to prepare your defenses against the deliciousness), and I've yet to work a week there when there is not also another pile of leftovers for lunch or at about 3 PM, everyone's best time to avoid high-cal snacks - it is often Voodoo Doughnuts, or Elephants Deli sandwiches, or Pizzicato pizza of six or seven varieties.

Oh, and we have a monthly food holiday - National Milkshake Day was one. Just come order up! The soda jerk is ready to help you out.

And so it is that in the face of this, I have not cheated once. Not one time. I have not eaten half a broken Chips Ahoy as I filled the cookie jar. I have not licked the spoon after slicing up chicken enchiladas. I have not had a Twizzler. Not a Dove chocolate square. Not the edge of a pizza slice. Not a quarter of a doughnut. And yet it's all staring me in the face, for the eight to ten hours a day, sometimes more, that I spend in the office.

But today, friends, I broke.

I came to work to help set up a breakfast buffet for visiting colleagues from the remote offices. French Toast. And pancakes. And look; I love pancakes like Phillip Seymour Hoffman loved speed balls. One is never, ever, ever enough. There were mountains of butter pats and maple syrup. But no, I set it up - and I walked away.

Then I attended a lunch event on behalf of the company. We were served a chicken sandwich on fluffy ciabatta. And if I can't get heroin but I can get oxycontin, to continue the inappropriate and gross metaphor, then bread is the very best next thing after a pancake.

But I didn't eat it. I ate the chicken out of the sandwich. I declined the basket of rolls (yes, rolls, with a sandwich, good sweet Jesus) and I declined the cookie assortment after that. It's true that I love cake more than cookies, but don't get me wrong - I love a cookie, even a bad one, too.

I made it back the office, still slightly hungry. I decided to heat up my almost-cooked-into-baby-food-texture carrots and a little beef short rib. And what is waiting in the kitchen?

A Thai buffet. With a giant hotel pan of fluffy, steamed white rice.

My doctor told me that if I'm melting down, and freaking out, the very best cheat on this diet is white rice. It has no nutrition - it has no fiber to feed the SIBO bacteria - and it goes right through you.

And willpower, as scientists are learning, is a muscle. Like any muscle, it can get fatigued. It needs rest to get strong again. I think - side note - this is why I am averaging 8.5 hours a night of sleep right now. I need to replenish the willpower reserves! And by the way, people with kids, plug your ears: that is 8.5 hours of sleep. I measure it with my UP band. I'm actually IN bed a good 9 hours or more. That's the pure, sweet sleep of someone not actively consuming peanut butter by the gallon, hoping to stop thinking about bread and pancakes.

So the willpower muscle was tapped out, and I added about a third of a cup of fluffy white rice to my dish. And Oh. My. Lordy. It tasted like sugar. No. It tasted like nectar. It was like some kind of divine manna. And I am talking white rice, I know. But it was almost funny, I almost laughed - how good it tasted.

And then, about twenty minutes later, I felt like I was on speed myself. I was hyper alert. Vigilantly awake. I was giddy, smiling. I had more energy than I have had in weeks. I was giggly, bright, amazed. What a world! What a day! What a gorgeous life! I'm going to the gym, to my crazy-tough fusion workout class!

Which I promptly did. And I set a new (self) pushup record, which my teacher noticed and was impressed by.

Powered by the blandest thing in the world. I may be a cheater, but I'm definitely a rice rocket today.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Whole Lotta Nothin' Goin' On

I'm stuck in neutral over here - in the next couple days, I'll get the SIBO Test #2 results. As I've said, I'm certain it's not gone - but I'm dying to know what the reduction is. In half? Less? More? How much bacteria do we think is still in there, wreaking havoc?

But in the meantime, there's a whole lotta nothing going in, dietarily. I've admitted that almond flour and me don't get along. Things seem to be better with coconut flour, but I have more experimenting to do this week. It really is like the universe is trying to take away ALL my food joys. At least I still have peanut butter, and I'll be giving that up with cold, dead fingers, trust me.

I haven't added in many new foods; I'm still figuring out what amounts of the existing list of 25 or so are good, and which cause belly aches or bad poops. And it's getting depressing. I don't get to participate. At work, I ordered ice cream sandwiches - even gluten free ones, and vegan ones. But no makes a grain free, refined sugar free ice cream sandwich. I order lunch for the whole company every Friday, but I never get to eat it. I put out the snack jars a couple times a week, but there are no snacks for me. It's boring. It's isolating. It's frustrating and at some point, if I don't start getting healthier, the depression is going to outweigh the striving for health, and I'll go back to the SAD. (Standard American Diet.)

But know this, friends. Maranatha nut butters? They all contain cane sugar of some sort! Those little liars. Give me Justin's every day of the week.