|morning deserves cake|
Where did I leave us? Ah yes, after 25+ years of veganism, I made the switch to following a paleo-friendly, genotype based diet (more on this in an upcoming post) due to some pretty debilitating health conditions that I didn't know I had but definitely explained why I had been feeling so incredibly crappy for so many years despite eating a plant-based diet and getting plenty of exercise. And despite having a bunch of doctors who have been following me for a few years for lots of ridiculous sounding, alphabet soup conditions including MGUS or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (a "pre-malignant" condition often associated with a nasty cancer called multiple myeloma), POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia (which makes for erratic and often very low blood pressure), and more recently small fiber neuropathy (which may or may not be related to the erratic blood pressure, but can cause tingling and numbness in my feet and hands).
Upon moving to Portland - a city in a State that recognizes the value of alternative medicine - I started seeing a naturopath as my primary care doctor, in addition to the hematologist who is an MD and follows my blood disorder. Naturopaths complete the same pre-med classes as MDs, attend naturopathic medical school for 4 years, are board certified and licensed. Only a few States have naturopathic medical schools (Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Connecticut are a few) and recognize them as primary care physicians. Mine has been a godsend. Because even though I have been in the care of a few of some highly regarded medical doctors in NY, and even though there was a period in the past couple of years when I was losing weight for no explainable reason, and tests were run for unusual tumors, etc. it was the naturopath who discovered that I am pre-diabetic. Not yet diabetic but definitely on my way. As a lifelong sweets lover, this was pretty f-ing hard to hear. But here's the thing: diabetes and pre-diabetes are most often diagnosed if someone's fasting blood sugar is 100 or above. Mine has always been low. Most pre-diabetics are overweight. I am not. The only way to have known about pre-diabetes is to do a test called the A1C, a single-draw test that determines the average blood glucose over a period of three months. Mine was elevated in the pre-diabetes range. This in combination with severe anemia (my stored blood iron levels were 7, while normal is 50+), led to the decision to really, truly, not temporarily overhaul my lifestyle beginning with food.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nothing sucks more than having your body hand your ass to you. You can think you're doing "everything right" and following all of the most current wisdom and reading every magazine and book and making tons of green smoothies and splashing your face with coconut oil and trying to look "glowy" (if I could shoot a word, that would be it). Nature, my friends, doesn't give a crap what Gwyneth Paltrow says. Your own personal biology works a particular way based on thousands of years of evolution that allowed your ancestors to survive long enough to get you here. Listen to it for crap's sake. And don't do what works for everyone else. Do what works for YOU and YOUR body.
I learned that my body needs iron in the form of meat. There are two types of iron. Some is found in plants, some is found in meat. My body really and truly needs a combo of plant and animal based iron. When it doesn't get it, as I discovered the hard way, I become severely anemic, lose my hair, lose a ton of weight in the form of all of my muscle mass, lose my period, and look generally dried out and ghastly. Going for twice weekly iron infusions just so that I didn't feel like dropping dead wasn't fun. My iron levels are stable now and I make sure to follow a diet that supports that. Which brings me to: Sugar.
Full disclosure: Intellectually I understood that sugar acts as an inflammatory agent in our bodies and contributes to most of the major deadly diseases. I just don't think I ever thought that what I was eating was so bad. Following a vegan diet, I ate lots and lots of grains, sweet potatos, fruit, dried fruit, gluten-free flours and products (really super high in carbs usually) soy products, non-dairy ice cream, lots of dark chocolate. All of these are incredibly high in carbohydrates which equals sugar. We all need carbohydrates just not in the mass quantity that many vegan/vegetarian products and meal plans include. Correction. Some people are ok with lots of carbohydrates and very limited protein. Turns out my body is not one of those. So between the anemia and the pre-diabetes oh and the stomach problems, it was time for a total overhaul which FOR ME means very low carbohydrate (grain-free) and low to no added sugar, plenty of protein at every meal, and lots of healthy fat in the form of nuts, nut butters, seeds, and olive oil. Along with limiting black coffee to once or twice on the weekend (initially really hard and then awesome when I discovered that I could actually live heartburn-free), things are much, much better. Adding in other things I used to laugh at like meditation and yoga on the daily have also really helped. Perfect? No. But changes that seem to be working and I'm working with the changes.
Which brings me to my latest recipe. Like many folks I enjoy eggs for breakfast but seriously can't have them every day. Seriously. It gets to a point where I want to cry when I see eggs in a pan, in a frittata, scrambled, etc. I used to hate eggs. I got used to them. But they cause me much sadness when they're there every morning looking at me in a little sulfurous pile.
Both J. and I love a good morning baked good so I did a little research, tried out a couple of things, and came up with this super easy (if you have a microwave) delight. It tastes like it's full of flour and carbs, but doesn't have any grain in it at all and the tablespoon of molasses/maple syrup/honey can be replaced with a teaspoon of xylitol if you are avoiding sugar. Best eaten right after cooking so it doesn't dry out. I definitely don't recommend packing it up lest it become a leaden ball. Enjoy!
chocolate walnut mug cake
1 egg (if you're going to be eating lots of eggs, make sure they are really good quality, ideally certified humane)
2 tablespoons ground flax
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon molasses/maple syrup/honey OR 2 tblsps of water if you are avoiding sugar
1 tablespoon roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit (I added 3 chopped figs)
Optional: Feel free to sprinkle on a few more walnuts or dark chocolate chips. An extra drizzle of honey or maple syrup or chocolate syrup if that works for you. The recipe is not sweet at all and for some it might need a little boost. Go crazy with your bad self.
Mix all ingredients together in a medium/large mug making sure it doesn't splash up on to the sides of the mug. Place in the microwave and cook on high for between 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 minutes depending on your microwave. When ready, it should be steaming and separate easily from the mug on to a plate.