Monday, January 13, 2014

Always changing

As with workouts and everything else in my life, my diet is ever-changing and under constant scrutiny. My current focus is based on a paleo/primal lifestyle. Yes, there is a difference between Paleo and Primal, mostly having to do with acceptance of artificial sweeteners.  I'm really more Paleo, though I aspire towards Primal. I reduced my diet soda intake from a daily habit to the occasional (once or twice a month) 24 oz. I reduced my coffee with International Delight's Sugar Free Vanilla creamer habit from daily to weekends. Even the weekend coffee is now one or two cups, as opposed to the quart I was drinking daily. There are only a few teas I like unsweetened, and several I like with sweetener, so every once in a while I'll have a quart of tea sweetened with stevia. None of these are daily occurrences.  

Nothing is 100%, and a big part of what I'm trying to do starts out with "I refuse to obsess." I'm only a little prone to obsession… The Primal community I lurk in suggests an 80/20 rule. If you're 80% primal, you're doing pretty darn good. For me, this means most days I stay away from grains, legumes, sugar, and processed foods. My diet is primarily meat and vegetables, except I'm not eating many of the higher starch vegetables either. If Superman makes me a dinner that contains black beans or lentils, I'll eat it. That's just one day, one meal out of many without. However, I'm not willing to eat corn chips at the mexican restaurant every Friday. I'm uncomfortable with that frequency of diversion.

There is special reason to stay away from wheat and gluten, since studies have found leaky gut syndrome can be implicated in auto-immune diseases. Wikipedia takes a skeptical stance on leaky gut as a whole, and if you Google gluten and auto-immune disease you'll find a ton of not fully accurate information. I believe enough to make the break myself. According to what I've read, Gluten affects the lining of the intestines, allowing "...toxins, microbes, undigested food particles and antibodies to escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream." The antibodies your body produced to defend against the gluten protein now roam free throughout the bloodstream, attacking other soft tissues like skin and thyroid.   

Changing lifelong habits is difficult, and the transition to paleo/primal has been less than smooth. It wasn't until I could actually envision how gluten affects me that I finally walked away. Even so, it still gets me sometimes. I had chinese the other day, knowing soy sauce is made with wheat. I didn't know egg roll wrappers are made with wheat, but I also didn’t look it up. Now I have, and they do. I was determined to eat off plan anyway, since my order consisted of fried rice and rice is both high starch and a grain.

The largest factor in staying grain free (other than the gluten issue) does not have to do with hype from the Paleo and Wheat Belly communities. It has to do with carb content. I've had surgeries that affect my hormone levels, take medication for an auto-immune disease that directly affects my metabolism, and struggle with the equivalent of a carb/sugar addiction. Even with regular exercise, in the past 12 years I have only managed to lose 10 lbs, and that for only a little while. Just like so many other dieters, I've gained those 10 back and then some. 

I try to love my body the way it is. I try to ignore the constant barrage of media input over the last several decades, telling me I should be thinner, softer, younger, and prettier. Really, what it comes down to is I'm uncomfortable in my clothes. The image I have of myself in my head does not match the image I see in the mirror.

I've tried every single diet. I've tried not dieting. The fact of the matter is, I have yet to figure out how to feed this body in a way that is both physically and emotionally satisfying. Paleo comes closer than anything else I've tried, even when I'm not doing it "right." Basically and for the most part, I eat real food. Meat and vegetables, with an occasional fruit or other sweet.  Sometimes I eat a starchy food like potato or rice. As long as it's an "every once in a while thing" not an "every week thing," I'm comfortable with that. I don't know if this will help me lose weight. So far it has not, but so far I've deviated from the plan more often than I'm comfortable with. Shame eating is never a good thing.

One of the things I'm hoping will help with carb cravings involves my newest food infatuation: Kombucha tea. It is sweet fermented tea, but the sugar and alcohol content is negligible. The fizz addresses the cravings that lead me to still drink the occasional soda. The sweet satisfies my sweet tooth. There is also a tart component that prevents me from guzzling the entire bottle at once, which means I savor the sweet over a longer period of time. Additionally, with live cultures Kombucha provides probiotics and B vitamins.

In order to drink as much as I'd like (read quarts, possibly even gallons of the stuff), I decided I need to make my own. A quart a day = $7 at Whole Foods, which is way to rich for my pidley little budget. To make the quantity I intend to consume, I purchased 2 ceramic dispensers, each capable of holding 2.5 gallons. I purchased the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast), the fermenting agent that takes average every day sweet tea and converts it into nectar for the gods. I also had to purchase a heating element, since I don't keep my house at a toasty 70-80 degrees year round.

Everything arrived this past week, and this weekend I made my first batch of tea. I'm reminded of my Dad, brewing his own beer and wine. I set up the heater and wrapped an old thermal jacket around the containers, for insulation. The SCOBY will die if it overheats, so I'm diligently watching the thermometer on the side of the ceramic vessel, praying it didn't get too cold in shipping or when the temperature dropped overnight. I've already had to resist the urge to open it up and look, to taste. Instead I wait impatiently for next weekend, when I can bottle the stuff with small amounts of cranberry juice. Then, Monday or Tuesday, I'll have my own Kombucha to drink, with another batch fermenting in a continuous production flow. If I get tired of cranberry, I can change it up with other juices. I can also change up the type of tea I use for the base, though I have to be careful not to use a tea with oil. There will always be something of a black tea base, to maintain the ph levels the SCOBY needs to survive.


The SCOBY I purchased was large enough to make 2 gallons of tea. It will grow with every batch, so within a few weeks I should be up to the full 5 gallons of tea a week. I won't be able to consume all 5 gallons, as you have to seed the new batch with a portion of the old. After a month or two I'll have a baby SCOBY, at which time I'm more than happy to donate if anyone else wants to join me in this adventure. Providing I feed the mother SCOBY enough sugar and acid to keep it happy, I could continue producing kombucha with just that colony for years to come. 

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