Tag Archives: crohns

Losing the weight

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Most people are struggling to lose weight. Probably because most of us are overweight, or if you are brave enough to look at a BMI chart, even obese. Unfortunately there is no magic pill, hidden button, genie granting wishes, no fast lane. Because we are a nation of instant gratification, we don’t really want to put in the hard work. The standard American diet isn’t healthy. You can try 100 different things, all proven, and yet nothing works. Or worse, you put in the hard work and either you don’t lose enough (or any) or the second you “cheat” it all comes back on carrying along some new friends.

You might look at me and think I haven’t had that struggle. You’d be wrong. I’m 5’4 (and no, I won’t prove that because I don’t want to be 5’3) and my weight has been everything from 100 pounds to 200 pounds.

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When I was in high school, I couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds, fully dressed, in shoes. I ate the typical spoiled brat diet of M&Ms and Doritos with a side of Pizza every weekend. I drank soda instead of water. My exercise was wondering around the mall, probably eating more junk along the stroll.

I wasn’t all bad. I remember now the walks I’d take before I got my driver’s license. I’d want to meet a friend, or go to a certain store, or whatever, and I’d walk miles to get where I wanted to go. If I couldn’t beg up a ride. Now I think about how I’d walk home from school, then turn around and walk back down the hill to meet my boyfriend (now, my husband) and we’d walk downtown and if we were lucky we would either have enough change to get the bus home or we would time it to meet my mom after she got off work for a ride home. There were many times I would “need” money and I’d make that trip downtown just to get to my mom, get cash from her then go off to the mall or movies, whatever. I’d walk far just for that $10. And yes, that dates me a little if ten bucks could last me all day and I’d come home full of junk food with a shopping bag of goodies.

Nowadays with a car, I don’t walk that much. Not for $10. Maybe if I ran out of gas, but I fill my tank up to avoid that exact situation. I’d love to say I’m a passionate runner, triathlete, cyclist, or a rock climber. The truth is I don’t really do much of any of those things.

So how did I lose the weight? My husband and I changed our ways. I was up to 200 pounds whenever I’d get hospitalized for my Crohn’s disease and put on steroids. My husband was up around 275 by eating a healthy diet of fast food and beer. When I wasn’t sick, my weight would sit around 160, maybe 150 if it was starving.

Most of my weight came off when I was sick but my husband wasn’t that (un)lucky. His loss was all hard work and dietary changes. But, I’ve kept it off and I’ll tell you how we have done this.

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I’d like to first say that not everything that works for one person can work for others. If you’ve been trying to lose weight then you already know this. It can be frustrating, especially when some skinny says, you should _____ as if you haven’t tried everything and are still waiting to hear back if your soul was sold to the biggest bidder.

My husband went vegan. After watching documentaries like, Hungry for Change, Engine 2, Forks over Knives, Food Inc and so on, we then read books. Books like, The China Study, Thrive, Finding Ultra, Fat Sugar Salt, Food Rules. There are tons out there. Read one and chances are they will reference a book in their book, then go read that one. It’s like a scavenger hunt.

All these resources plus online sources really establish a strong base for going vegan. Now, I’m too picky for that large of a jump. Since my husband says he is “plant based”, I’ll steal that as well even though I do eat animal products. I am adding more and more healthy choices, which are starting to crowd out the less healthy.

My husband is completely vegan and limits any oil intake as well. He trains for things like the Leadman Epic 125 and other insane events. I’m not running 10k events or cycling 100 miles and I’m definitely not swimming more than a lap or two. If you can get into some zone and do all that, awesome, you’ll be losing weight like crazy. If you don’t have the time or drive for that (yet), welcome to the club.

How I have kept off the weight, is pretty easy, now. I switched so much stuff around that in the beginning it was a steep learning curve but now it’s actually easy.

Step 1
I watched, read and researched the diet I wanted. I use the word diet here meaning the foods I am going to eat….not necessarily the plan in which I wanted to lose weight.
For me, that meant local meats, dairy for a local family owned farm, fresh produce from organic and as close to me as possible, and very little packaged foods.

Step 2
I changed grocery stores. This slowed me down since I wasn’t sure where anything was. I paid attention to where items shipped from. How it was grown. How it was packaged. Instead of reading claims (fat-free, no sugar, gluten-free, etc) I looked for fresh and real. Having crohn’s this was a challenge and I’m still slipping occasionally and eating blah packaged something if I’m flaring too bad but it’s getting more rare.

Step 3
I buy local. Remember back, way back, maybe your parents but more than likely your grandparents use to talk about so & so’s store/farm/restaurant? They knew the owners and chose to support them. I do that now. If I am going to go to a restaurant, it’s going to be a small locally owned place where I feel my money is well spent. That means goodbye to all the fast food joints and even big box stores. I try to keep my money near me.

Step 4
I tried a bunch of new recipes. Since I was now cooking almost all vegan meals, this means you can now sample the foods throughout your cooking process. Since I’m picky, I got to try things raw, semi-cooked and then cooked. I found I actually do like more foods than I thought. By cooking more, I’m more invested in my meals. I eat slower and less often. If I want cookies, it takes a lot longer when you have to make them by scratch then back when I could just pop open a bag of them.

Step 5
I don’t count calories or fat grams or carbs or make sure I have enough protein. I just eat. If I want butter on my baked potato, I use real butter, and only a tiny it goes a long way when it’s the real deal. I only buy foods at the store that I need for my cooking and that way when I get snacky, all I have around to grab is fresh produce or whatever I’ve most recently cooked. I also don’t drink my calories. Drink water all day long. I drink nonstop. (That line makes me smile)

Step 6
I got out of the habit of shopping only once a week. By going whenever I need something, I no longer have a weeks worth of food to eat all at once on Monday. I also get smaller portions of things since I know I’m going back to the store in a day or two. It also allows me to meal plan day to day rather than guessing on Sunday what I will eat on Wednesday. If planning helps you, then by all means, schedule it out. But you may want to still only buy foods for a couple days in advance.

Step 7
I look at food as fuel. Usually people will say this and mean they eat kale all the time and while its not tasty, it’s fuel. Yuck. I mean, it’s expensive. When you go gas up your car, you expect high prices. You get the right kind of fuel for your car so it doesn’t break down later. So when my grocery bill is more than normal, I remind myself I am buying quality not quantity and its to fuel my body and my family. It also helps that I break my shopping up and only see smaller dollar amounts because I full weeks worth can top $200 pretty easy. Just remember to shop for what you want to be putting in you and not because its on sale or a bargain.

Step 8
I move more. I’m not in training. Once I lost weight, I actually did run a 5k but that was torture. I do try really hard to do more than I use to. I walk more, I climb more stairs, I play outside more and I just get up and go more. If you can fit in any exercise, you’ll be that much more healthy. You don’t have to set up something where you have to run 3 miles a day, or else. Just plan on doing something active everyday. One day, you can run, another day maybe you’ll swim or cycle. Just commit to a healthier lifestyle.

Step 9
Remind yourself why you are doing this. Are you losing weight? Getting healthier? Becoming more active? Just remember why you started. When it gets tough, remind yourself and get re-motivated. Re-watch the documentaries, go online and research foods. Become more involved with what you are eating and why.

Step 10
Give yourself a break. That doesn’t mean flop on the couch, although sometimes that is totally needed. Sleep really does aid in weight loss so nap if you can, but definitely go to sleep early. Just don’t beat yourself up. Maybe today you can’t run a mile without stopping (I can’t) but maybe tomorrow you can. As you eat real fresh foods, your body will start to level out. Your weight will drop and stay in a normal range. Once you stop eating processed crap that claims to be fat free, you’ll feel better and look better. Mostly though, be ok with yourself. I started wearing shorts again. I thought for sure, everyone would see the saggy skin, the stretch marks, the pale see through white skin…..no one looked. I started realizing that it was only when I compare myself to others that I worry what others think of me. When I stopped looking at others, I stopped thinking they were judging me. I wear my shorts. In fact, I now wear a bikini and it doesn’t even bother me that my body sags…..ok, that’s not true. It totally bothers me that I’m not tan and fair but it no longer stops me from wearing what is comfortable and doing whatever activity I want to do.

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Tying to lose weight is so difficult. While you can have support groups, friends struggling with you and goals, it’s really an individual sport. You need to do what works for you. If you focus on getting healthy, eating healthful foods, eating right, then your weight will fall into your goal zone. Add in the active lifestyle you want now. Don’t wait until you are thin to do what you love, do it now and focus on yourself and don’t judge others. They really aren’t judging you. If they are judging you, really they are comparing and judging themselves. So, don’t buy into their insecurities and make them your own.

Be healthy. I’ve found my gut is following my lead. I’m eating better therefore my flare ups are getting better. My weight is stable because I eat as well as I can without too many cheats. Cheating for me is eating dairy because my goal really is to be vegan.

Be happy. I know when you are overweight, it is hard to be anything but focused on the problem. Focus instead on the solution. The cure. Get healthy and your body will follow. You will have more energy and drive to do even more when you are using the right fuel.

Last, just keep going. Spend free time researching and watching documentaries or reading books. It’s really hard to sit down with a large diet soda, a bowl of chips and a dish of ice cream and watch a movie about food, health, diet, etc.

You really can do this. You are the real rockstar!

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Spinach and Chickpea Curry

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I read the book Promise to Keep by Jane Green. Besides being a great read, it also featured a vegan chef and included several recipes. From the book, I made a Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry for my vegan husband. He loved it, but then again it’s a big detour from the foods I typically make. It is rich in flavor and color. A little spicy, a little sweet. Plus, it has the ever-so-healthy Turmeric in it. Then factor in that it takes things you probably already have in your pantry/fridge and that takes less than an hour from start to table….Mass positives all the way around.
Making this definitely piqued my interest regarding Turmeric. Besides being a spice used to season foods, you can find it as a supplement. The health benefits of Turmeric (Curcumin) seem endless. From helping with inflammation (crohn’s?) to healthy heart, arthritis and joint health, cancer prevention and so on. I’ve also seen recipes where you add Turmeric to rice or applesauce. I might have to try these as a natural remedy to some of my crohns symptoms.
Without further ado, the recipe for

Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry.

1 can Chickpeas
1 can diced tomatoes (bonus points if organic)
2 medium potatoes, cubed and parboiled
3 cups torn spinach
5 cloves (approx 1/4t ground cloves)
1-1/2 t Turmeric
1-1/2 t Curry
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can coconut milk

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First step I took was to cut up the potatoes into 1 inch cubes and parboil them. This is simply boiling them until they are just softening. When you pierce it with a fork, you should be able to feel the potato is slightly softened but still a little firm. Over-cooking these will result in mashed potatoes. By parboiling them, it reduced your cook time as well helps the potatoes retain their cubed form later. I let them boil about 8-10 minutes.

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Next you will add all the ingredients into a large skillet and combine. You will want to bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.

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Cover and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. The flavors will cook together and the dish, especially the potatoes will turn a rich gorgeous shade of yellow. About 5 minutes before it was done, I tossed in another cup of slightly torn spinach. The original 3 cups had cooked down so much that I liked the look of the golden potatoes, red tomatoes and bright green spinach. Plus, my husband isn’t a huge fan of cooked spinach so by adding in some at the end, those retained a bit of a crisp fresh touch.

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I served this over rice, allowing the broth of the Curry to flavor that as well. You can always add more spice if you’d like a more seasoned dish. You could add Rooster sauce if you wanted extra heat. If you aren’t vegan, you could add some yogurt or sour cream. I also served some pita/flatbread with it, only because I couldn’t find vegan naan.

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Enjoy! This recipe makes enough (with rice) to serve 6. Because it only gets better when all the spices can mingle longer, leftovers are awesome. After serving it as dinner, we kept some out as leftovers and tossed the remaining into the freezer for a quick meal later.

I hope you get a chance to try this recipe. I love reading and so it’s always fun when I come across a character I adore. With the recipes included in the book, I can pretend I’m a vegan chef too!

Have a healthful day!

Summertime Fun

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Well, it’s been a long time since I blogged. I have been busy with summertime fun, dealing with my crohn’s and researching a vegan topic that has me reaching.

Summer is in full force with high temps and blazing sun. I use Kinesys sunscreen that I buy online. I actually first tried it in Hawaii at the Ironman comp, and loved it! It’s amazing because I am allergic to everything and burn within minutes, but with this, I spray it on and stay nice and white….day glow white. Ok, I wish I could tan. Even knowing that it isn’t healthy, blah blah blah. I am seriously Casper the ghost white. See my blue veins white. People put on sunglasses to look at me white. Oh well. Grab your sunscreen here: http://kinesys.com/

Now, the heat is proving to be a challenge for my Crohn’s. I have heard some people say it will cause them a flare up, but I hadn’t really experienced that in the past. Most summers, I spend my days inside, curled up in the AC. This year, I’m outside more. Hitting the public pool, going to the county fair, picking berries at the farm. Incredible summer so far! However, being in the heat has proven to be a real gut wrencher for me. I’ll be laying there, glowing, and all of a sudden it feels like I’m in an oven and my guts are freaking out. I’ll get all pukey feeling, gag a few times as I rush to the toilet….really bites. It’s happened enough that I know it isn’t something I am eating, it’s the heat. So, remember to drink lots of cool water, well, as much as your gut allows. Then drink it often. Grab some shade before you get sick. For me, that’s after about 30 minutes. Then I guess the only thing you can do is be excited that you are enjoying the sun for any chunk of time you can because even running off to the bathroom in public clutching your mouth and gut, is in many ways better than being in bed, or ick ick in the hospital.

Last, I’ve been reading and reading and pondering. I’m going to blog about all this research once I can wrap my head around it better. My husband has lost over 90 pounds after going plant-based (vegan). He is back doing triathlons and other fun things. I have lost over 50 pounds with a combo of Crohnie Crash and better eating. Despite the flares, I’m sticking to fresh fruits and veg as often as possible and staying away from processed food. So, lots of people have been asking us what we are doing. Usually I say they can skip a huge amount of time by just taking their food and flushing it down the toilet, but then they look at me funny because not everyone gets Crohn’s humor. My husband, Mr Vegan is pretty quiet about all the changes he made. Mostly he says he is eating better but then everyone wants examples to see if they can duplicate your hard work. As soon as he says plant-based, most ask “vegan!?!” Yes, vegan. Oh man, insert every common question, concern, debate, whatever right here. I thought Mr Vegan was quiet because he didn’t want to push his views onto others. Holy cow, I think he doesn’t want to have to spend time defending why he no longer eats crap fast food and yes, he is getting enough protein and yes, his doctor knows what he is doing and no, it’s not that radical. So, my research is going.

How do you explain your eating viewpoint without being preachy, yet kindly deflect their concerns, answer their questions and get out of the debate quickly without one side flipping over a table? That’s my homework. I’m reading The China Study. I’ve done some reading on proteins, essential amino acids, calcium, casein and so on. I’m hoping to gather up enough to basically write a somewhat short reply that would answer some of the questions my husband gets slapped with.

Ever feel like when people ask you exactly what you eat and how…..it’s almost like asking a woman exactly how did she get pregnant. I already get asked all sorts of things for my Crohn’s. My favorite would be the “have you tried…?” ones where sometimes they really do have advice I haven’t heard but usually it’s asking me if I have tried not eating gluten, or dairy, or whatever. I understand, I mean, people (like me!) are really curious. And not always in that nice way. I mean, sure ask what we have been doing, but then be supportive or go google your highest concerns. Don’t try to convert someone into going back to eating crap. I can guarantee we eat better now than before. I especially love people that will hound Mr Vegan only to then say that they don’t like vegans because they preach too much. Oy! Seriously? So…..off my high horse, stepping down so I can get out to that gorgeous sun, but I will be back. I’ll try to get a simple clean answer that will satisfy those that ask, are you sure that’s healthy?

Have a real good day!

What are they feeding us?

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I read constantly. I will read any book that happens to get in my reach or happens upon my nook. I finish every book I read, no matter how bad it might be. I love to edit and research and learn. When I find a topic that interests me, I like to look at it from all angles before forming an opinion. Even after I have an opinion, I’ll change my mind if I learn more or differently. I am not without fault, sometimes I get it wrong. Very wrong.

I use to believe that I couldn’t make a difference. Now I am ashamed I might have passed that thought to my son. Each person does make a difference.

I use to think one didn’t matter. Such as, one more time won’t hurt; just one will be fine. Boy, was I wrong there too. One becomes two, two becomes a dozen, a dozen morphs into hundreds and if you allow yourself to just “one more” or into thinking one doesn’t matter….it does!

I use to say that it didn’t matter if I bought this or that because it was already made, already there. It’s not like my getting it made a difference. Like my dollar spent even counted.

I bought the name brand products. I loved junk food. I liked the ease of popping something into the microwave or grabbing “food” in a drive up for dinner. The speed dial of pizza delivery. The Standard American Diet…..sad.

Then I woke up. From a nightmare.

My health was horrible. My crohn’s was flaring like never before. I was dropping weight, taking meds, pleading with doctors to not hospitalize me.

My husband was overweight. He was worn out, grumpy, depressed. He slept with a CPAP. His days of Ironman Triathlons were done. His back hurt, his feet hurt.

My son was tired all the time. He didn’t want to do anything anymore. His energy level was dropping along with his spark. He munched on the crappy snacks I provided then chowed the crappy dinner I served.

We were all starving. Starving not just for REAL food but for life.

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I took my love of reading and went crazy. I have read dozens of books about food and diet. We’ve made some huge changes — that have actually been easier than you’d think.

My crohn’s isn’t perfect but I don’t expect it to be. I push my limits with my new diet. I don’t just eat white processed foods. I am trying to expand my diet to a plant-based diet full of variety. I lost 50 pounds in the process.

My husband has dropped over 70 pounds (and not by pooping like me) by changing the way he sees food. He eats only plant-based meals. His diet is most easily defined as strict vegan. Zero animal products or by-products. He’s thin, fit, exercising comfortably. He’s running races, cycling, swimming, all in preparation for a triathlon at the end of the summer. I can describe him as an athlete again. He sleeps without the loud machine and looks 10 years younger and refreshed. His work has improved. He quality of life has dramatically improved. All he did was switch to an all plant diet. It is an amazing and formation. I wonder how I’ve changed? I know I have…..

His transformation has been so inspiring that my son and I are trying desperately to mimic him. We are just such picky finicky eaters that we can’t eat the variety my husband eats yet. YET. We are working on it. With my crohn’s, I do add in and try new foods a bit slower but I’m doing my best without pushing myself so far I flare. With that, I am encouraging my son to try new foods. He has been so great at trying, unfortunately, he hasn’t liked much he tries….still, baby steps.

After eliminating the junk food, stopping all the fast food and educating our whole family more, we are all improving in leaps and bounds. My son is active again. His skin looks terrific and his smile charming. His outlook is very positive. He is so supportive of the plant powered diet that I love listening to him explain the benefits to an adult. He’s very passionate about health and food and quality.

Let’s pause on that word. Quality. That word is what made me grab my iPad and start tapping away at this post. Quality.

What the hay is up with GMO and other “food” like crap we are buying, eating, and serving to those we love? We are not educated on what GMO is or does unless we go look for the imformation ourselves. My father was agreeing with me when we talked about how horrible it is. Then I realized, he thought companies had to inform us when they used GMO ingredients. Nope, not in America. He was floored. He is a very intelligent man. He watches the news, reads the paper, he is well-informed. So how did he miss that? How did I?

Until recently, I couldn’t have told you what GMO even stood for. Yet now after learning more, I still can’t explain to my son why these big ass companies feel the need to use these products. Beyond greed, it doesn’t make sense. Have you ever tried explaining something to a child? Where you can slide stuff by some adults, maybe sway the story, leave out parts you don’t agree with or don’t understand; you tell that same story to a kid and they’ll call you out. They question the simplest things and man, they want answers!

So, in my research (and its far from complete), I’ve learned that big companies will bury the facts so deep that you start to believe what they want you to believe. You can easily fall into the trap of believing that you need meat twice a day (gotta get that protein) or that milk, it does a body good. You might even feel comforted that good ole McDonald offers more healthful choices now. Maybe you don’t feel GMO is damaging us. Or maybe you don’t think that children are effected by all the hormones in meat and dairy. Perhaps you haven’t heard of BVO or care much about essential amino acids. Maybe you are still sipping that diet soda hoping to lose some weight. No worries, we’ve all been there. Sometimes, I don’t feel that far off from all that.

Baby steps! My researching is opening my eyes. I’m teaching my family. I’m choosing where I want to spend my dollar. I’m not accepting just “one more”. I am done ignoring the facts. I am done with the excuses. I am looking for answers in that straight forward nature frequently reserved for kids and old folks. I’m making changes that will benefit me, my family, my community, my world. Because, I do make a difference. My dollar counts. My vote counts. My life relies on me making the right decisions. My health is too precious for me to keep ignoring it all. Hopefully, I can inform others of what I know, what I learn through websites, publications, news stories and my beloved reading. I learn so much from those I follow on twitter. I truly feel it’s a give and take exchange of knowledge. I learn from you while sharing what I know.

Together, we really make a difference.
Really.

EEK! A holiday is coming!

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Oh boy, it’s a holiday. I made plans to have my family over to my house. I’m on prednisone, enough said. The crohnie in me sitting in the bathroom is less than thrilled with my plans. The party girl is excitedly planning a menu.

This is the first year our BBQ will have to accommodate both my crohns and my husband not eating animal products. Beyond that, my mom is coming and she is who I learned to be picky from. Top all that off with my new knowledge of how foods are created and processed and you’ve got one girl (me) freaking out. Oh, I might take this opportunity to also say, I sort of made these plans without consulting my husband, so to him, surprise!?!

I know I want to bake something colorful, patriotic, and yummy for dessert. I also want it to be vegan so my husband can enjoy it. I’ve been baking enough lately, I feel good about that. For the main course though, I will BBQ some veggies, corn on the cob and some local chicken. Sorry, I’d love to say my meal will be completely vegan but at least I’m not serving L&A hot dogs. I’m also sorry local chickens, I know just because you were raised locally doesn’t mean you are honored to be featured in my meal, but I do promise I will appreciate you.

My menu is looking like this;

Fresh veggies with dip (undecided on dip recipe)
Local tortilla chips with bean dip

BBQ chicken for those that partake
BBQ veggies for all others
I got this insanely good Bo Mack BBQ sauce, yum!
BBQ corn on the cob
Fresh rolls (vegan & made by me)

Strawberries, blueberries and vanilla something, cake, cupcakes, something. Dessert!

For drinks, fresh lemonade, sun tea, mix those together for some Arnold Palmers, beer for those that dig that.

What am I missing? I need more items. Maybe a salad or two?

I am really feeling torn. Part of me would love to serve up an all locally sourced vegan meal, while the other part of me is already missing the traditional fried chicken and BBQ burgers. So with a side of guilt, I’m going to do the best I can to transform my meal into one where any animal products served are done so on the side and anything that can be replaced in my baking/cooking will be.

Wish me luck. I’d love to hear your plans, struggles and menus.

Real Good (Vegan) Chili Recipe

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OK, I can honestly say, I’ve finally created the best chili recipe this picky family has ever seen!

I battle with Crohn’s, my son is so picky he makes me look adventurous (which I am not) and my husband eats an only plant-based diet (fancy wording for vegan). So finding, then adapting, a recipe for chili has been a goal of mine. After a few flops, I’ve done it! Here is how:

Shell’s KickAss Chili
serves 8

1 onion (sweet yellow is nice)
1 jalapeño
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2t garlic
4 cans of beans (I prefer 3 black beans and 1 kidney bean)
15oz tomato sauce
2T chili powder
2t salt
2T pepper
1t Oregano
4 cups of liquid; this can be all water, I use 3 cups water, 1 cup vegetable broth
2T whole wheat flour

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Dice the onion, garlic, all peppers into small pieces. The smaller they are, the more they will disappear into the chili when cooking. (Great way to sneak it in without having to see it but can still benefit from the flavor).
In a large stew pot, sauté the onion and garlic with a touch of water until translucent. About 6 minutes. You can also use a bit of coconut oil if you want.
Add the jalapeño, green and red peppers and continue to cook on medium until all veggies are soft. Another 5-6 minutes.
Rinse the cans of beans thoroughly. The best you rinse, the less gassy they are later. (extremely important if you have Crohn’s or any digestive issues or, you know, a stinky spouse).
Combine all the beans in the pot with the softened veggies. I turn the heat down to low at this point so I don’t burn the beans.
Add in all the spices right on the beans. The chili powder is flexible. 1T is a nice mellow chili, where 3T is a bit spicier. You can also add a bit of cumin at this time (or chipotle) depending on the heat flavor you are seeking.
Add the can of tomato sauce (or purée) and mix well. Then add about 4 cups of liquid. I use mostly water with some veggie broth. Depending on how long you are going to let this simmer, you can adjust the water. If you have all afternoon to let it simmer, 4 cups is perfect. If you are going to rush this, then add much less.
At this point, I crank the heat to high. I make a super simple roux from 2T wheat flour with about 1/4 cup of warm water and mix until its a thick paste. Then I stir the roux into the chili to ensure the final product will be a nice thick hearty chili. Once it boils and bubbles, turn it down to low/simmer.
I cook mine all afternoon on an easy low simmer. I haven’t tried to speed cook this but it could be done. After about 45 minutes, it’s usually ready. I like to really slow cook it because the longer I cook, the more the veggies disappear!

Consider serving this with some delicious Mexican Rice. I modify a great recipe found here By not using any butter when warming the uncooked rice and instead either use coconut oil or just water you can make it vegan.

This chili freezes really well. It is ideal for making tacos and burritos. It’s great as an entree for either lunch or dinner. You could easily top this with tomato, avocado, salsa, whatever you might normally top your Mexican yummies with.

I really hope you can use this recipe to create your own masterpiece. I’d love to hear your take on chili. Even though I found this recipe to be Perfect, I’ll always be experimenting with additional changes.

Have a real good night!

Comments to a Crohnie

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When you have a chronic disease, like Crohn’s, you hear some pretty crazy things. Here are some that have actually been said to me. For real.

I just had the flu so I totally understand what you deal with! (Yea, it’s just like that only different)

My friends mom has that and she’s fine. (Good for her)

You don’t look sick. (Thanks?)

So, what can you eat? (Do you mean today?)

What exactly is crohn’s? (Asked at the dinner table)

Are you really going to eat that? (Was going to)

(After a long bathroom trip) What were you doing in there so long? (Just sitting on my ass)

Are you just in the bathroom playing on your iPad? (Yes, the toilet is just so comfortable and I especially love it when my leg falls asleep, fun)

This is important to me, please don’t bail. (Well in that case, I’ll make my guts do what I want)

You’re not a very good friend, I mean, you are sick all the time. (Thanks, I wasn’t feeling crappy enough as it was)

Can’t you just have surgery? (Maybe getting inches of gut cut out doesn’t sound bad to you)

I get an upset stomach when I eat spicy foods, do you think I have crohn’s? (You should probably get a scope, they are fun, ugh)

My doc said I have crohn’s and I feel great, I don’t understand why you don’t? (I should see your doctor, he must have a magic wand)

OMG, I’ve heard of that! You could die from that! (Whoa, hope not!)

So, why isn’t there a cure yet? (When was the last time you raised money for IBD?)

Can’t you wait until we get home? Just hold it. (Do you really want me to poop my pants? In your car? Really?)

No big deal, everyone poops, right? (Yep, I just do it a dozen times a day)

I just take Motrin for my PMS cramps, have you tried that? Maybe that would help. (Good idea, it’s not like I haven’t tried every med out there already)

You take steroids? OMG, you’ll get all buff! (Nope, just get the ‘roid rage, grrrrrr)

Why don’t you just get some sleep? (Why didn’t I think of trying that?)

You have to go to the bathroom again? (While pausing the movie, again)

You can go, there are bathrooms there. (And all bathrooms are equal)

How can you be a good parent when you are so sick? (Hey, my kid loved having stories read to him in the bathroom)

Can’t you just take medicine? (More than the handfuls I already take?)

You know, you can’t expect special treatment. (Gee, really?)

You were in the hospital again? What for? (Just taking a little break, thought I’d have a little spa week. They wait on you hand and foot, especially after you ring for them eight times. The food is indescribable and I love sharing a room with a stranger. You should try it!)

Can’t the doctors do anything for you? (I’ve never asked)

You better not overdo it. (Just waking up today hurt)

You can have just a little, right? I mean, it won’t kill you! (Says the person who won’t be up all night in the bathroom crying)

You cry in the bathroom? Why? (No, of course I don’t cry. You can’t prove it.)

You make it out to be such a big deal. (Usually said by someone you haven’t talked to in weeks)

You know, when you get sick, it’s hard on all of us. (Like that ball of guilt will help?)

You can go, it’s just at their house. (And its always comfortable to ditch a small gathering for a half hour and kill another persons bathroom. Hope they have a fan, toilet paper, patience, sense of humor, everyone pretending you didn’t just do that)

Wow, you are still upbeat about it all! (Yes, I’ve found that kicking a toilet and screaming really doesn’t do anything good. Humor is my only defense)

My uncle only flares up when he’s stressed. (Either he is flaring all the time or he’s a monk)

Maybe getting crohn’s is a blessing. (Well, I do do a lot of praying – please please stop, I just want to rest)

When was your last flare up? (When have I ever not been flaring?)

You can’t have crohn’s and colitis. Only one or the other. (Really? Can you send that memo to my gut? Here’s the mail chute)

How do you handle it? (I don’t. It takes everything I have got to hide the pain, pressure, guilt, fear and anger I am feeling.)

You seem fine. (Then my acting has improved)

It will get better/easier. (When?)

Can we go on the trampoline? (The things we do for our kids!)

Yes, crohn’s suck. Any disease that causes pain and discomfort is horrible. The guilt alone that we face when we feel we are imposing on someone or causing disappoint eats us up. Like the disease. A good attitude really does help. (Insert eye roll if you’d like, but it really does)

When I was first diagnosed, I really lost all hope. I was sick non-stop for months that turned into years. It wasn’t anything like my mom’s crohn’s; or your aunt’s, his mailman’s, her dog. It was living hell. Trying a new medicine every couple of weeks only for it to fail and my hope would fall further. I spent so much time in the hospital, I knew which vein could last more than 12 hours, I knew the tricks for getting the better night nurse, heck, I could have set up my own IV and med machine. In fact, I already could disarm those blasted alarms. What I couldn’t do, is know what worked. What could I eat without dying afterwards? Why did action “a” only sometimes equal reaction “b”? It changed every flipping day. I swear, crohn’s is this spazzy little kid high on sugar bouncing from one thing to another, tearing down the walls and cackling. I’d go left, it went right. I’d make a play to get a handle on it, it would duck and hide. I could run, but it always caught me. It could run, and I’d never get close. It felt like I was battling myself in some epic sci-fi war where only one of us would come out alive.

Some nights, I let the crohn’s win. Some weeks it would win. I got depressed. I got angry, at myself. I was disappointed, in myself. I felt ripped off. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live a life with crohn’s. Then, I would turn it around and feel strong and feisty and ready to fight. Repeat and rinse.

Everyone said it would get better. I’d understand it more as time went on. I’d get it under control. After a few years, I still didn’t believe these Pollyanna types. Then, it changed, just a little.

I finally understood. Crohn’s Disease is only two words; not a sentence. It was some I had, it didn’t have me! I could beat this thing. Then I would flare and doubt would sink in again.

This would go on and on until finally the remission times between flares would be just a tad longer than the last time, allowing me to get that much stronger than before. Finally, I might be feeling pretty good for a couple months at a time. During that time, I’d have a positive attitude and feel like I won. When I flared, it would take more than a couple bathroom trips to knock me down and even then, it wouldn’t put me completely out of the game. Time did go on and it really did get better.

My crohn’s didn’t ever really improve. Sometimes a medicine might work or I wouldn’t flare for as long or as often but it basically stayed the same. It hated my guts and I wasn’t too fond of it either. However, the way I looked at it, my disease, did change. I couldn’t let it define me, control me, beat me.

I make jokes, like most crohnies. I deal with other auto-immune disease, like most crohnies. I struggle and adapt and keep moving one foot in front of another, like most crohnies. I research it more than any doctor I know, like most crohnies. I know medicines better than a pharmacist, like most crohnies. That’s when I understood, I’m just like most crohnies….except what works for you, might not work for me and vice versa. But we will try anything. Us crohnies, are a gutsy group.

So, keep your chin up. Face this flare up with smile. Sit on your comfy toilet (isn’t it sad we know toilet brands and features as well as a plumber? Oh, I do love the extra tall ones, and your seat is much nicer than my current one) and get stronger. Use humor when you can but cry if you have to. You do deserve special treatment, only it’s up to you to give it to yourself. Don’t overdo it, and don’t feel you have to explain yourself to others. If you can’t do something, just say that. Don’t feel you have to give reasons or excuses. You just can’t or don’t want to. Let the other person deal with it. Eat what you want when you can. Enjoy your life in any small segment you can. Even the worst crappiest days ever, can be dealt with if you don’t pile on the self guilt. It’s hard but I think that’s what people mean when they say it gets easier. The disease stays the same, gets better, gets worse but how you look at it and deal with it, does change.

Stay positive (when you can) and go kick your own ass!

Can I be a Real Vegan?

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I’ll be the first to admit my food choices usually suck. I’ve done some research and know how important eating healthy is. I’m the pickiest eater ever and I also have Crohn’s. Not every food choice I make, I can tolerate. What to do?!

My husband is vegan. My son is as picky as I am. We’ve watched enough documentaries and read enough books that I feel bad when I eat poorly and feel guilty when I feed my child poorly. We have improved a little. At least we don’t eat any fast food anymore!

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Here is a glimpse at our weekly groceries.
Our old  batch would have been full of name brand junk food!

My Crohn’s started its most recent flare about 9 months ago and has only improved by baby steps. I’ve lost a bunch of weight and after living a life determined to lose weight, I’m actually insanely now trying to hold on to the weight I’m at.

Losing weight is real difficult. I’m finding maintaining a weight is just as hard, especially when the weight came off fast and due to illness.

As my guts start to settle down and accept food, I’m being careful what I introduce. I’d love to go vegan and get quite a chuckle out of myself when I say that. I wouldn’t miss the cheese but ice cream, I’ve tried coconut “ice cream” and it’s nothing like real creamy good ole ice cream. Although, I do like sorbet….

I somewhat enjoy meat. I say somewhat because if I stop to think at all about it, especially when it’s still raw, my stomach turns and I really don’t want to eat it. Once it’s all cooked, it’s hard to resist. Somewhat.

I adore the Hungry for Change (www.hungryforchange.tv) advice of adding more and more “good” foods to replace all the “bad” choices. I’ve been trying that. As I add something like kale to my salad (has to be in teeny tiny pieces) then that’s replacing just plain green leaf or romaine. However, I don’t think that line of thinking is going to get me to my goal of being a vegan.

I highly doubt I will ever add so many veggie meals that one day I decide not to make my great grandpa’s beef stew. I’m going to have to give up animal products. Then, as I pathetically try to find foods I like, I’m bound to try and like something I can add. I hope.

What I afraid of? I love to blame my disease for my pickiness. Oh, my guts don’t like that. That definitely wouldn’t settle well. Ahhhh, but most things I have never even tried. My fear of food isn’t limited to healthy foods. I don’t like (read: I’ve never tried) any dipping sauce besides ketchup. No ranch, no sour cream. I don’t like (never tried) any toppings for burgers, or salad dressing besides 1000 Island. In fact, I have only ever eaten apple, strawberry or coconut cream pie. I’m too scared to try cherry, probably because I’ve never eaten cherries. I don’t like trying new ice cream flavors, candy bars, drinks. So the likelihood of me trying a vegetable has always been slim. I haven’t even tried hiding anything green into my fruit smoothie.

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I’m going to jump in, give up meat. That way I’m part way there. If I reduce my animal products like cheese and butter, then I’m even closer to my goal. My husband has asked me why I can’t do as he did and just jump straight into being a vegan. I’m scared. When I look for advice on picky-eaters, I get advice I can’t use on myself. I don’t want to make an avocado a face with cauliflower hair. I don’t see how I could sneak food into my own meal, what cover my eyes as I put in something slimy? I did read you shouldn’t bribe a kid with money, although a few weeks ago my husband paid me $10 to try asparagus and that worked, kinda. I tried to so I could claim my ten bucks and even sorta liked it. Not enough, I’ve eaten it again. Maybe, I should pay myself but that might also be an easy out, I mean, it’s still my money whether I eat it or not…..ohhhh, why was my mom picky and let me get away with eating Mac n Cheese all my life?

I’m part of a generation that’s been told what nutrition you need and how to look for that on the side of the box. Only lately, is it that I’m looking at things I don’t want included or better yet, buying items without a barcode. Being brought up with this mindset, I’ve been convinced, even though my research shows otherwise, that I won’t get enough nutrients if I give up meat.

I’m well aware that by eating a well-rounded vegan diet, a person will easily get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, protein, calcium, all that besides B12. However, that is what makes me fear being vegan: well-rounded. Well-rounded? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean a salad of green leaf with a couple of hidden pieces of kale and a carrot.

As long as I eat meat and animal products, I’m going to have this internal battle at every meal. I look at my husband’s colorful plate then look at my plate full of different white and beige and pout. I really want to eat what he is eating.

My son is just like me. He’s declared himself a vegan just about five times a week. Only, he’s afraid to try new foods too. He eats what I eat.  I have so many reasons (read: excuses) why I just don’t like (read: won’t try) certain foods.  They are lame ones, but I got a ton of them.

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I make a bunch of different veggie burgers for Mr Vegan,
Sir Picky and I don’t eat them (yet)

I also know there is a bunch of hypocrisy when I say I want to be vegan but then also feel better about eating only locally grown, grass-fed meats. The local cows don’t like that. I’m also aware that by saying I’ll eat vegan most of the time isn’t right. I mean, is it ok for a heroin junkie to just relapse once a week? OK, meat isn’t heroin but some would argue it’s a darn good comparison.

I also worry that by being vegan, I’ll need not only to try new foods but try things like faux meat, vegan cheese and things that are mimicking a non-vegan food. That sort of grosses me out. I mean, if I have trouble understanding mixing peanut butter with jelly, you can imagine my not being keen on tofu.

Last night, I did more research and made some tough decisions and without even thinking, sat down with a bowl of ice cream to think it over. That was one guilty snack. Guilty because if you do care about weight loss, then a midnight snack isn’t healthy. But more so because I was literally online researching vegan choices while I ate!

I’ve got to make the jump. The guilt will only get stronger.
Wish me luck!

Real Crohnie – Real Struggles

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I had already had several really bad stomach cramps. I had already pooped my pants in public. I had already spent hours and hours in the bathroom. I finally learned I had Crohn’s.

I did what I would advise people not to do. I looked up Crohn’s on the Internet. This was 1998 and I had limited knowledge of the web. Being exposed to pictures showing the worst of the disease was really not something I should have been looking at during work hours, well, ever! Don’t do it. Don’t look up some medical thing, especially images. Yet, we’ve all done it. And we’ll probably do it again.

So I sat at my desk and cried. Why I looked it up is still a mystery for me because I had grown up with a mother who has crohn’s. I already was familiar with the disease. Yet, when the doc scoped me and said it was the worst case of crohn’s he had seen and asked me how I was dealing with the pain, I freaked out.

My mom had been in the hospital twice when I was growing up. I knew she had to be careful with what she ate, she got tired easily and sometimes took pain meds. I also knew that she spent a long time in the bathroom. Even though she deals with it on a daily basis, she has a mild form of the disease. That wasn’t my case.

Within a few weeks of finding out, I had my first two week stay in the hospital. Immediately, the docs saw my case was anything but normal. I went anaphylactic on meds, I broke into rashes, my IV had to be changed every 12 hours, I absorbed pain meds like a junkie, and nothing seemed to want to work.

After 30+ hospital trips, featuring several different hospitals in two different cities, I can honestly declare that hospitals suck. Once you can eat, the food is gross. The nurses range from rock stars to “oh, man, please not her again”. Guests either never show making you feel lonely or stay too long, turning you into a hostess. It’s just rough on everyone.

I was the first person at my Oregon hospital to try Remicade, which had been approved for use only days before. It worked great….at first. Like all good crohnies, what works at first, might not later. Remicade worked well but I still had to take handfuls of other meds as well. In fact, I took meds to help with the side effects of other meds. Handfuls.

Around this time, working became impossible and I struggled to stay out of the hospital for two months at a time. Always staying at least two weeks, and once a whole month. Lots of people ask why? Fluids, pain management and usually high doses of steroids (fun fun).

This was before docs knew better than to prescribe 120mg of Prednisone, so I got slammed. I gained 80 pounds despite being unable to hold down food. I never slept. I got depressed then I went psychotic. I’m not proud of what I put my friends and family through, but I also totally blame the meds. After a couple of months, I was dropped to 100mg and stayed at that dose for a couple of months. Doctors misdiagnosed me as bi-polar because that amount of steroids was wrecking havoc on all aspects of mental functioning.

Meanwhile, I’m on this med and that med, getting Remicade transfusions and still visiting the nurses at the hospital every couple of months. My husband struggled with it but stood by me. In fact, he would come home on his lunch breaks to make sure I’d take my meds and get me some lunch. He’s so incredible.

My friends all but disappeared. After I bailed on plans, missed parties, couldn’t commit, backed out of promises, no one wanted to be friends with a sickie. I can’t really blame them yet, to be honest, I totally do. It’s hard to stay friends with people that only want to be around during the good times and split as soon as the admission papers are signed.

It was hard on my mom. She knew about Crohn’s in her limited experience and couldn’t understand why nothing that worked for her, would work on me. Oddly, during her third major flare in 30 years, the doctors removed some of her gut and she’s been great since. I say oddly because in all my battling, surgery was only mentioned once and not in a positive way.

Perhaps, surgery isn’t an option because the more they scope me the more complex my case becomes. I have crohns, but I also have colitis. I might have celiac disease but nothing has been conclusive. I also deal with all the crap those with autoimmune diseases deal with, fibromyalgia and symptoms that mimic other diseases. My disease runs from my mouth to my anus. I get mouth sore, nodes on my legs and bruising so bad, my husband begs me to wear long sleeves. (He has never ever put me in a box and tossed me down a hill, it only looks like that could have happened) I also have different doctors than my mom.

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I found out I was pregnant only a week after a dose of Remicade. I was scared. Some doctors warned me against carrying my surprise baby to term. Others said I was safe. I believed the latter. At 7 months pregnant, our little girl stopped breathing in utero and died. While its rare, I can’t directly blame the medicine either, but I totally do. I gave birth and promptly had the worst flare ever. A month long hospital trip was my prize.

Very quickly after I got my strength back, we tried for a baby. We hadn’t been ready, but losing my angel changed that. We got pregnant fast but my past miscarriages and then the stillbirth taught my not to count any chickens before the eggs were hatched. Like the pregnancies before, everything went smooth – except it was hard to control my anxiety at times. In 2002, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. And I stayed in remission!

After 10 amazing months of motherhood, I flared. They tried Remicade and it failed. They couldn’t give me high doses of steroids because I had developed Addison’s disease and my adrenal glands no longer produced cortisol so I take low doses daily. (Thanks first GI, hoped you learned from that little oopsy) We had tried experimental, traditional, basically anything ever suggested as a possible assist, we tried. I’d either be allergic, it might work for a few weeks before failing, or it never worked from the get go. I was hospitalized in a city 100 miles away from my baby. That was crushing.

After several more hospital trips, I got serious with my docs about limiting my meds and tried to make some significant strides. I had felt awesome when I was pregnant and not on any meds, yet felt like crap when flaring and placed on handfuls of drugs.

Some of my doctors are forward thinking, others like to play things safe. About 8 years ago, I tried TSO. That’s pig whipworm eggs. I’d digest them and they would hatch in my gut. My body would then fight them instead of itself and then after a few weeks, expel them and I’d start over again. That was the plan anyway. The vials came from Germany and were ridiculously expensive. I had to get so many approvals from places like the USDA, prove I wasn’t a pig farmer and so on. so when the FedEx guy tossed the package of glass vials on my porch, I prayed none broke. A program called, From Beyond, filmed me and my family for their Discovery Health show. It was an exciting time, I felt I had beat the odds. Then I flared again. And again.

Getting the Addison’s part under control helped a ton. Everything started to smooth out slowly. I was finally feeling better and wasn’t on a ton of medicines. I had a nice couple of years where everything was in a nice moderate stage. Nice. Then, boom, when Crohns wants to come out and play, it does. My crohns happens to be a spaz.

Last fall, my health went from pretty good to horrible in one day. All of a sudden, nothing stayed down. I threw up everything I tried to eat, spent hours rushing to the bathroom dozens of times a day, my body hurt. I did as I was instructed, except I wouldn’t go to the hospital. Flat out refused. I could push my on fluids, I didn’t want to rely on pain meds this round and I can’t take high doses of steroids so really, anything the hospital would do, I could do. It took tons of help from my husband and son to stay at home. They pretty much catered to my needs as I laid in bed for a couple of months.

I missed out on school events. I pushed myself then would slide backwards. As the holidays approached, I panicked and faked feeling better. Us, crohnies, we fake feeling better so well we really deserve an award. My health suffered and I lost tons of weight.

My husband has always been a yo-yo bouncing from one extreme to another. He had let his weight go and was eating really poorly. As a result, our son was eating only junk while I was still struggling to hold down jello. At the beginning of 2013, my husband went into a huge health kick. One that looks promising, like it might be a forever change, for real this time. (You can read about our story and his 70+ pound weight loss here: http://wp.me/p3CR61-1t)

I decided to once again, not follow doctors advice. Another thing crohnies get good at, practicing medicine without a degree. My GI has always suggested a bland, all white, processed diet; especially while flaring. I decided to eat healthy; fresh foods, fruits, veggies, basically everything off the do not eat list.

At first, my gut flipped out. Then again, it hadn’t really ever stopped flipping out since the flare began in September. I pushed through and my gut adapted! Soon, I wasn’t cramping as bad after meals. I was, but a normal amount. I was still going to the bathroom over a dozen times a day, but that has become my normal so food wasn’t really effecting that, negatively or positively. Then, I really ticked off my docs. I decided to come off some of my meds. For the first time in a decade, I was off my pain meds, off anything “extra” and off anything I didn’t think was helping.

I can’t say I’m in remission right now, but I’m also not in bed crying, or rushing out of a store with poop in my pants. I’m more active than I have been in the last nine months. I’m happier. I’m eating all the things the doctors stay not to eat. My doctor knows and is hesitant but I think she’s still mad that I refuse to go to the hospital, even for a scope and that I love to play doctor and make whatever changes I want. She’s dealing with my rebelling, I’m sure she would get along with my parents.

My husband has stopped eating all animal products and I call him vegan, he says he eats an all plant based whole food diet. Same dif. Now, I’d do that far and slowly I am trying. I know meat isn’t the easiest thing to digest and if I was trying harder to get my crohns into remission, meat and dairy would be some of the first things to go. But, I’m picky. I’m so picky that picky people make fun of me. I’m so picky, the idea of trying something new scares me. I run to the bathroom, ok, only to hide but still….what if whatever I try is so gross, I puke, on the table, in front of everyone??? What if…..

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I’m trying. I’ve been cooking and baking vegan recipes for my husband, Mr Vegan, like the one pictured above. (That’s @Engine2Diet Mac not Cheese, and one day I hope my plate will look like that) I’m trying it all to encourage my son, Sir Picky to try it as well. I’m finding I like some of them (beans, huh) or at least I can hide it in a salad (kale please pretend you are green leaf) Although, the concept of hiding yucky food in yummy food doesn’t really work on me since I’m the one cooking it. Even if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I could spot a pea hiding in my noodle.

As I try to train my taste buds and get brave, I’m blogging. I’m hoping to share recipes, share my stories, learn from you and share what I have learned. Mostly, I’m hoping this crohnie will one day soon, become Mrs Vegan, for real.

Yo-Yo Dieting – Real Weight Loss

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Being a healthy weight isn’t the easiest thing for most people. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, half of which fall into the obese category. That means only one-third of Americans are of a healthy weight. Why?

Well, a lot can be said about food choices. The sad Standard American Diet at work. There are thousands of new food-like products being offered every year. Our society looks toward processed foods to nurture ourselves and our families. As if the packaged food that is enriched with vitamins is going to be better for us than the real deal.

What comes from this situation is a dieting frenzy. A new diet hits the market every time you turn around. TV doctors are promoting this way of eating, these exercises, that lifestyle. Meanwhile, most people will lose and gain the same chunk of weight over and over again. Yo-yo dieting is not only common, it’s practically expected. Some people will even say it is dangerous for your health, others say it’s better to yo-yo than to not. Excuses all around. But it is nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off if you are eating today’s highly processed foods.

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My husband has been a big yo-yo dieter most all his adult life. His weight has gone down, stayed average, ballooned up, drifted around, soared up, slid down for years now. He had run marathons, done half Ironman competitions, had transformed himself many times. At the end of 2012, he had decided once more that the Pizza & Beer diet wasn’t working. He was tired all the time. His back hurt, his feet hurt, actually, everything hurt. His health was hurting. He was hooked up to a CPAP machine while he slept. He was depressed and felt so overwhelmed when he thought of trying another diet. He also feared not trying one. His father had died of a heart attack when he was just 51, and this year he was turning 40.

The last straw was going into an IHOP for breakfast. Most booths at restaurants are comfortable, the table moves and adjusts for who needs more space. This table didn’t. It was in a fixed position and when he tried to slide in, he couldn’t. Instead of asking for another table, one he could fit into, he opted to stay there and uncomfortably order and eat his meal. That was difficult.

Meanwhile, my crohn’s was flaring away and had been for months. Stress was a huge factor in the home. I was in bed or in the bathroom more than anywhere else. My husband was falling asleep on the couch in middle of the afternoons. Our son, Sir Picky, was deciding which drive-up we should grab our dinner from. Heck, I didn’t care. It wasn’t like the food was going to stay down. He didn’t care, because really, what is just one more? Our son, he didn’t complain. It tasted great.

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Finally, the time came. My husband signed up to do the Biggest Loser challenge at his work. He pulled what he knew from different plans he had done in the past. He changed his eating to a “more healthy” diet. Anything was healthier than how the family had been eating but as he changed, Sir Picky and I really didn’t change much. Instead of red meat, my husband ate ground turkey or leaner slices. Instead of denying himself, he had a cheat day once a week where he, in theory, could gorge himself full of junk. Starting with McDonalds for breakfast and ending with a bellyache at night. To give him credit, with the Biggest Loser competition (and $500) on the line, instead of cheat days, he only ate cheat meals here and there and stopped all fast food.

A few weeks into the year, he started watching lots of food related documentaries. The one that told us a story flat out, in basic language, was Hungry For Change (www.hungryforchange.tv). I’m always supportive of anything my husband dreams up. So, I was watching the shows, researching meals, reading up on whatever he mentioned. Hungry For Change impacted the whole family. All three of us needed and wanted to change after watching it.

My weight had already been dropping. At that point I had gone from my pre-flare weight of about 165 down to about 130. Enough, that people started feeling comfortable to ask me what I had been “doing”. For me, life would have been so much simpler if I could have just grabbed my food, rushed into the bathroom and promptly flushed it. My crohn’s wasn’t tolerating anything. Not a great way to lose weight. In recent years, my weight had gone from a prednisone high of nearly 200 and a flare low of 135 and everything in between, twice. 130 was light.

As a family, we decided to start adding healthful foods – real foods – fresh foods. Then, started reading books. Anything that had been mentioned on the HfC film. We read books that those books mentioned. We consumed books. We finally learned. The more we learned, the more we realized that we had been looking too much at our food, and yet, also not enough.

We never really bought into the organic movement, now we do. More importantly, we now look for location. Is that grown nearby? Was it grown organically by farmers we agree with and want to support? Is it in season? We use to look at nutrition facts on labels, not at the ingredients. We looked at foods that would help us, live up to their claims but would still taste good. We weren’t looking for basic regular whole foods. How could an apple be healthier than this food created by scientists that did everything an apple could do, plus more!? Wow, we had a lot to learn.

In our research and reading, I began reading more about the food industry. (I highly recommend any book by Michael Pollan, I especially love his food rules. Another great is Fat, Sugar, Salt book by Michael Moss). Meanwhile, Mr Extreme became Mr Vegan. He watched the Engine 2 film, Forks Over Knives, and read their books. He read all about the China Study and started in on books by athletes that were plant powered (Rich Roll, Scott Jurek and tons more). He learned our bodies could not only survive, but thrive on a full plant based diet. He went vegan. (Yes, the V-word)

Many months later, here we are. He has not eaten any meat or animal products in several months and is loving life. Yes, he constantly gets those questions and advice, because everyone has something to say when they learn this little fact.

But we need meat, how are you going to get protein?
We are built to eat meat, see our teeth.
You need your milk otherwise you’ll get osteoporosis.
How will you get calcium?
Won’t you miss (fill in the blank)

I don’t remember ever having anyone approach my husband when he was eating pizza to tell him not to eat that. Or tell him to eat more of something. If anything, people were there offering him another beer, another burger, some chips. Cake to celebrate.

Now, I’m a bit more use to people commenting on my life. I have crohn’s so everyone has something to tell me.

My mailman has crohns and he is fine!
I had the flu once so I totally know what you feel like!
Are you sure you should eat that?

I am also picky. (OK, beyond picky) I recently heard the word neophobia and totally related. I am afraid to try new food. So people love to offer advice on that too. (I would like to say, I would totally know it if I tried to hide something I didn’t like in my noodles. Because, I made it! It’s not like I could later forget, space off and accidentally eat something gross. Ugh!) I will admit, my pickiest is embarrassing (who else keeps a PB sandwich in their purse during a dinner out?) and it unfortunately rubbed off on my son, Sir Picky. However, we are now trying.

Our lives are better and I believe the string on the yo-yo has been cut. I would love to keep adding foods until one day, I like enough variety that I could be a full-time vegan. For now, I season my meals with meat, sometimes. We try to eat plant heavy. Anything I bake, I make sure it’s completely vegan so we can all enjoy it. We research our foods and get to know where they come from and how they were grown. I planted herbs. I know the difference between chai and chia. We are still learning but standing strong, as a family. A real family that wants to make a real change.

Currently, I’m weighing in at 112 (5’3) and my husband is back to running races and training for a triathlon. He has gone from 265 to 193, consistently losing weight each week and can now see his goal weight (165) approaching (he’s 5’9). Our son is healthy, happy, fit and is also learning. Like me, he looks forward to the day our whole family is vegan plant powered.

Thanks for reading our story. Please follow me on twitter (@ShellJacobson) and my husband (@jake946) and be sure to share this blog with others. I hope to share with you my adventures on this journey as I explore and learn more about healthful living.

Have a great day and Happy Father’s Day.

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Michelle & Neal – June 2013