Hit and Miss

By: Rachel Sircy

Well, it is the Lenten season – a time for all Christians to reflect on our own frailty and to understand how much we need the Lord. My church doesn’t follow the liturgical calendar, but I’m starting to reflect on my own frailties this season. Especially because since my last post about sticking to a strict diet and loving plain, toasted walnuts – blah, blah, blah – I’ve fallen off the wagon. It all started with an innocent trip to Aldi. I was picking up some food to take to a party when a box of dark chocolate sea salt caramels caught my eye. I thought that I would just take them to the party – but I didn’t. Once I brought them home, they never made it back out of my front door. And it only got worse from there. I’ve had more bacon, sausage, cheese, chocolate, and cake in the past couple of weeks than I have in the past couple of months. It just proved a point that my pastor often makes – if you preach about something, you should prepare for a test on it the next day. Well, I failed my test, of course. But the wonderful thing is that if at first you don’t succeed, there will always be another test.

Gluten free muffin_Every Woman Blog

This is a picture of a cinnamon streusel muffin. My mother-in-law made it, and it’s gluten free. AND it’s delicious. I know that she meant well when she dropped these off yesterday, but it’s calling to me. The voice of a cinnamon streusel muffin sounds a lot like those friends you have in college that come to you right before a huge test and ask, Do you have to study? Well, ok then…we’ll think of you while we’re out having fun…

I mean, which would you rather have for breakfast – a delicious, cake-like muffin, or this:

Kate_Every Woman Blog

If you said you’d rather have the kale and flax seed, you’re lying. Come on, you know you’re lying. But I didn’t totally fail the test this time. I compromised and had a bit of both.

Breakfast_Every Woman Blog

I think that means that I got a straight C on this test. I’m okay with that for right now. When I first started to go gluten free, I had a whole lot of stops and starts. Once, shortly after I was diagnosed as a celiac, I broke down and ate almost an entire package of Chips Ahoy cookies. The next day the pain in my stomach was so bad that I could barely move off of the couch. It was a lesson learned. I didn’t ever do that again. And so, even though my breakfast wasn’t the healthiest in the world, it was sort of healthy. And that’s a start toward something better.

A NOTE ABOUT GLUTEN FREE STUFF:

Occasionally on here I rant about how the food industry is riding out the wave of enthusiasm over the gluten free diet fad. I don’t mean to try to tell anyone how they should eat or how they should live, it’s just that I think that there is a lot of information out there that is really misleading about this diet. And, as a celiac, I firmly believe that anyone who thinks they may have a gluten allergy/intolerance or celiac disease should seek a medical professional’s opinion. Well, I’m getting preachy again. I don’t mean to, I just hate to see people being purposefully mislead about their health. If you don’t have your health, not much else matters. Your health is important to me, so I’m going to share something that has recently come to my attention.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a container of disinfectant wipes that are supposed to be 99% natural (or something like that). I prefer to use natural cleaners around my house and often times I make my own cleaning solutions. I’ll have to write a post about that sometime. Making your own solutions, though, can be time consuming and a bit of a pain, so I wanted something that would help me when I just needed to do a quick cleanup. About a week after I got the wipes home, I noticed this on the back of the container:

gluten free wipes-Every Woman Blog

That’s right. Apparently, my disinfectant wipes are gluten free. Do you know what this means? It means that this company is shameless. I guess because most people don’t know much about gluten, manufacturers of all kinds of products are using the gluten free label to sell their stuff. Now, I don’t mind buying a cleaner that happens to not have gluten in it, but I would never purchase a cleaner because it didn’t have gluten in it. The thing is, gluten only affects you if you eat it. No one, not even celiacs, need gluten free cleaners, shampoos or soaps. I mean, if you really think that your disinfectant wipes or your shampoo looks tasty then you have a problem, but that problem isn’t your gluten intolerance. According to Mayo Clinic’s website (the Mayo Clinic is where I get a lot of my information, I trust them as a reliable source), true celiacs only need to make sure that their toothpastes, mouthwashes and lip balms, etc. are gluten free. The reason for that is pretty obvious. You’re probably going to ingest some of your toothpaste and mouthwash and lip balm even though you don’t mean to. According to Dr. Picco of the Mayo Clinic, if you develop a skin rash from touching a product that contains gluten or wheat, you should see your doctor. It could be a wheat allergy (which is not the same as celiac disease) causing an allergic reaction. Also, there is a skin condition that sometimes accompanies celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis, but this is not caused by skin contact with gluten, it is only caused by eating something contaminated with gluten.

Well, that was a long rant. I hope it was helpful!!

A Shocking Experience

By: Azure Stilwell

Sun will come out tomorrow

I have debated with myself about whether or not I should blog about my newest treatment against Bipolar Depression. After much thought I have decided to go ahead and share my experience with ECT, also known as electro-current therapy.

Unlike the treatments given 50 years ago, today’s ECT treatments are quite civilized. I haven’t had to shave my head or scurry into hospital backrooms for my treatments. I walk into outpatient services like anyone else having an outpatient procedure done. I am given an i.v. and then some anesthesia. A box is placed over my head while I am under, and a seizure is caused using electro-current. I have been doing this 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks and though the results have been slow, I have had some improvement. I am feeling less sad with each treatment.

The thing I am struggling with is not being able to drive. My family has had to rely on extended family to help me get to and from my treatments, which has been more difficult since we have no family in the Columbia area. We have had to ask family to come from the coast, Georgia, and Florida. They have all come without hesitation and it has truly been a blessing seeing how much our family cares about us.

My hope is that ECT will help me get back to the person I used to be or at least close to her. Bipolar depression has robbed me of so much of myself. I am tired of feeling sad and tired all the time. I take so much medication with little results that it would be nice to finally find a fix for what ails me. I want my life back and ECT may be the closest chance I have to a cure. Surprisingly, I am not alone in my search because the waiting room is always full with people going through the same or similar ailments as me. We have all decided to try ECT, in spite of its stigma, as a way to get back to ourselves.

Disclaimer: It is essential that you seek professional advice for all issues concerning your physical and mental health. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new health treatments. 

Not Official Until There’s a Bracelet

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Recently, I wrote about my 2017 word of the year: Simplify. Am I complicating things by adding one more to the mix? Because while I am trying to keep my life simple, the thing I balance_every woman blogneed to work on even more is BALANCE.

As I approach the two year anniversary of my ruptured aneurysm – which I call the two year anniversary of my survival – my energy seems to be coming back in bounds. When I have a day with great energy, it’s hard not to take on too much. I can write a list of at least 50 things I need to do, but have to keep in mind that I can’t always accomplish it all in a day or a weekend. I have to prioritize with balance in mind.

Take, for instance, this coming weekend. I have supper club, a band party and church. But those are only scheduled events. I also want to cook for the week ahead, take a long walk, straighten the house (kitchen, bathroom and basement, in that order), work on my finances and get caught up on This Is Us. And, and I really need to wash clothes. What I’m learning is that I can’t do it all, even in a weekend. My energy is coming back, but I still need to rest and relax.

So I’m doing some refining of my list by way of this post:

  • Saturday evening Supper Club is a must. We’re going out, so I don’t have to clean or cook. And it’s much needed time with friends.
  • The band party is a wait-and-see. It’s an event for The Animal Mission, and a band featuring a couple of friends is playing. I don’t get to hear them play much anymore, and it’s a short set. Still, with my voice issues, clubs aren’t my best venue.
  • Church is a given. It inspires me for the week ahead, gives me a chance to see friends and gets me up and out. The service isn’t until 11:15 a.m., so I can still sleep in or get up early to get started on the cooking.
  • Cooking for the week ahead has been on my list for a few weeks now. I generally don’t do it on weeknights because I go to the gym after work, and time is already tight. For me to eat healthier, I seriously need to do this. Which means…
  • …Straightening the kitchen becomes a higher priority. There’s no way to accomplish this without at least clearing the counters, making some room in the ‘fridge and switching out the dishes. The bathroom and basement are medium priority, because I need to get a plumber out soon to work on a few projects.
  • The long walk is creating issues in my mind. I’d hoped to walk to the park and Trader Joe’s like I did before the rupture. But I don’t want to wear myself out and ruin my other plans. Maybe I can do it Sunday afternoon or evening, when it’s okay to be worn out. It might even help me sleep longer and a little better.
  • Working on my finances is easy. I can do that on my laptop in bed Saturday morning. Or even tonight.
  • This Is Us. It’s on Netflix now, and I’ve heard so many good things about it. I usually don’t turn on the TV on weeknights because it distracts me and prevents me from getting a full night of sleep. While I’m excited it’s on Netflix now, that doesn’t mean I have to watch it all on one day. This is definitely not a priority, and I may start watching (aka NOT binge watching) next week.
  • Washing clothes. A job that’s never done. I miss the days that I took everything to the dry cleaner, but my bank account doesn’t. Maybe instead of shooting for everything, I can do laundry based on priority, i.e. what I need for the week ahead.

Boom. I’ve created a simple solution for the weekend that includes plenty of balance of those things Maslow told us were important. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So what’s up with the bracelet headline? I’m a highly visual person; I like visual reminders close to keep me motivated. I have a SIMPLIFY bracelet, but need one for balance. Thus, the addition of a “new word” won’t be official until I get one. Perhaps I need to add THAT to the list.

Is your life “in balance?” What do you do to maintain a balance in your life? What do you need to work on?

New Beginnings

By: Rachel Sircy

As I sit writing this post I am eating one of my new favorite snacks: plain toasted walnuts. That’s right, there is absolutely no seasoning, no salt, no anything on these walnuts. I bought a bag of walnuts from the baking section of my local Aldi and simply toasted them in a dry skillet. And they are delicious.

walnuts

I know what you’re probably thinking, because it’s the same thing that I tend to think when I read health food blogs. You’re probably thinking that I am either deluding myself into believing that plain, slightly burnt walnuts are really good OR I’m just pretending to like them so that I can lord my good health habits over all of you out there who are reading this while eating potato chips. Since I’m usually the one who’s out there eating potato chips, I tend to believe the latter about people who write health food blogs. While I can’t give you a 100% guarantee that I’m not delusional, I can promise you that I’m not making this up. There really are healthy foods out there that actually taste good. The trick is just finding out what tastes good to you.

Right now, I’m on an exploratory journey to find healthy, low-fat foods that taste good to me. I wasn’t planning taking this journey this year. I mean, I wanted to lose some weight, and I thought that eating a little healthier might be a part of that. To be honest, I thought I already WAS eating healthy. I thought the extra weight I was carrying around was just a natural consequence of the fact that I HATE exercising and that I snack too much. But a recent letter in the mail detailing the results of my most recent bloodwork revealed that my cholesterol was over 100 points higher than I had expected. Clearly, I wasn’t doing something right.

I still don’t know if my high cholesterol is due entirely to my diet, or if it could be a side effect of the gluten free diet that I’m on because of the celiac disease, or if it’s genetic. Really, that knowledge is of secondary importance to me. I know what I need to know. I know that my cholesterol is high. I know that people with celiac disease may be up to twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease according to a recent study by the American College of Cardiology. And, most importantly, I know that I have a chance to change my fate with a change in diet and by increasing activity and exercise in my life. Sometimes diet and exercise alone don’t work – yes, I’ve seen those cholesterol medication commercials, too. But sometimes they do and they don’t come with the nasty side effects of some medications. I worked for six years answering phones in a doctor’s office and I’ve heard people describe the hardships of life on medications. If there is anything that I can do to avoid those hardships, I am going to do it.

In my last post, I said that I was going to talk to my friend, Tiara, who has her PhD in nutrition, about what to do and what to eat to get me started on this path to lower cholesterol and a healthier life. The gist of what she told me was what I expected, but really didn’t want to hear: vegetables are good and Cheetos are not. I told Tiara that I usually get all my junk food from various health food stores around town. I thought that that fact alone should have made a difference in my health. And do you know what she told me? Junk food is junk food regardless of whether or not it has a label that says it’s organic. Gluten free junk food is some of the worst junk food on the market – it’s low on fiber and other nutrients and high on fat and salt and sugar, more so than many gluten-filled products.

So, there’s really nothing to be done other than to get rid of the junk and find some wholesome food that I like to eat. I’m starting with one of the foods that the Harvard Health Newsletter states will help to lower your cholesterol: nuts. And, of course, I have to start to find an exercise routine that I like and that I will stick to. This evening my husband is taking me to our local park to attempt to teach me how to play tennis as part of his Valentine’s day gift to me. (I’m not going to say which park because I don’t feel like being totally publicly humiliated.)

And, since I enjoy recommending books to read, I’m going to share one that I have just started reading myself: The Daniel Plan. It’s a book by Rick Warren (and others) that outlines a method for a total lifestyle change, one that is supposed to be healthier for mind, body and soul. You may like it, you may not. I haven’t read it before, so I can’t vouch for it. I haven’t committed myself to the Daniel Plan diet, but I’m at least considering it. (Actually, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I scoffed at the ideas in this book when my mother-in-law first bought it a few years ago, back when I was still nice and thin. Well, fat happens and I’ve changed my mind since then. We’ll see how things turn out.)

Until my next post, I wish you all happy reading and health(ier) eating!

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!

Hurdles

By: Rachel Sircy 

Since my last post – the one about New Year’s resolutions and losing weight and all that – I have encountered a very unexpected obstacle in my path to health and happiness.

Every Woman Blog - Heart Health

I recently had some lab results come back in the mail with some bad news. My overall cholesterol levels were well over 100 points higher than I had expected them to be. My LDL (bad cholesterol) was way up and my HDL (good cholesterol) was way down. I actually dropped the results in horror when my eyes lighted on those awful numbers.

**Side Note: I should state here that my numbers, while high, are not so high that I have to take immediate action or that I must start medication right away. But they were pretty high for a person my age and they do require me to make some permanent lifestyle changes. **

Now, truth be told, I haven’t had my lipids checked in about 6 years. The only reason that I had labs drawn last month is that I get them for free during the month of my birthday by virtue of being a Lexington Medical Center Employee. The last time I had my levels checked, my cholesterol was only slightly elevated. Since that time, I had thought that I was eating a healthier diet overall. I have certainly become a better celiac – better at keeping myself safe from gluten. True, I have had a child since the last time I had my cholesterol checked, and I have retained the baby weight. But could an addition of 30 pounds really cause such a jump in cholesterol? Or, could it be genetics? Could it have something to do with the subject of this study by the American College of Cardiology, which found that celiac patients following strict gluten-free diets may be twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease? The study also found that celiacs may have a slightly higher risk of having high cholesterol levels while maintaining low blood pressure (which is the case with me). Could it be – and I hate to admit it – the fact that I loathe exercise?

I have no idea at this point what could have caused this change in my body. However, I do know that I am the kind of person who fixes things that are broken. And that is what I intend to do with this situation with my health. I am starting the process with this: this Saturday I am having dinner with a friend from church, Dr. Tiara Rosemond, who has her PhD in Nutrition and Public Health, to see what I should and should not be eating.

I am inviting every reader to follow along with me as I start this investigative journey and make some huge lifestyle changes. I’ve never had such a long list of resolutions in my life. This will certainly be a year to remember!

New Year, Old(er) Me

By: Rachel Sircy

Being born in December is weird. You don’t start the New Year looking forward to a birthday. Instead, you start the new year having recently survived a birthday and all of the complicated tangle of emotions that go along with that. At least the emotions that follow me after my birthdays always seem complicated and tangled.

But, every January I – along with countless others – put the cherry on top of our emotional confusion sundae by making New Year’s resolutions. I have so many this year that if I achieve them all I will be a completely different person by my next birthday. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers different. That will really complicate my emotions. But what’s life without a little melodrama, right?

Anyway, personal goofiness aside, I have made some New Year’s Resolutions that I intend to keep, especially those relating to health. I have retained all the baby weight since my gluten free weight lossdaughter was born. She was also a December baby and just turned two. I am ready to lose some weight and get healthier. And so, for those of you out there who, like me, are attempting to get into shape this year and have to also remain gluten free, I wanted to write some words of advice and encouragement.

Firstly, for those who are unaware, a gluten free diet is NOT a low calorie or low fat diet. Gluten free convenience products (such as breads, cookies, pasta, frozen entrees, etc) are usually higher in fat, salt and sugar and have far less fiber than conventional products. I have been approached by a number of people who have told me that they are “going gluten free” in an effort to lose weight. Unfortunately, switching to gluten free convenience products will only help to keep you from losing weight and they may cause you to gain weight. In the case of anyone who is not a celiac, it may be better and healthier for you to eat whole wheat products than to turn to gluten free options.

For those of us who are celiacs and can only eat gluten free products, we all know that cookies and waffles are never the key to losing weight anyway. Unfortunately, the best way for celiacs to lose weight (and to make sure that we stay safe from contamination) is to cook for ourselves. Of course, that is probably true for everyone. If celiacs want cookies or pasta, it’s better to make our own and control the amount of fat, salt, sugar and fiber that we put into these foods. (Fiber can be added to foods in the form of ground flax and by making sure that we try to use whole grain pasta like brown rice or quinoa.) And there are cookbooks available that have recipes that are both sugar and gluten free. For Christmas I received a cookbook by Kelly E. Keough titled Sugar-Free Gluten Free Baking and Desserts, which offers healthier recipes for things such as pizza crusts, cookies, and cakes by using alternative sweeteners such as fruit juice and stevia.

Secondly, better and healthier products are available to celiacs (and gluten free enthusiasts) for less money. I used to pay approximately $12-13 per week for two loaves (small loaves!) of a high fiber gluten free bread. Who can afford that? But if you have no other choice, then you have no other choice. Here is where I am going to shamelessly shill for Aldi BECAUSE now we do have another choice. Aldi sells really good bread, both white and whole grain, for half of what I used to pay for my high fiber bread. Now, that is still not dirt cheap since they also sell regular bread for less than a dollar sometimes. However, 3.99 for a loaf that is big enough to last me an entire week is the best deal I’ve found since I was diagnosed. Also, most Aldi stores sell ground flax seed and good quality organic brown rice and quinoa pasta. Healthy gluten free eating is becoming easier and more affordable.

So, go out and conquer your healthy New Year’s resolutions! You can do it!