My Life with Nut Cheese

My Life with Nut Cheese

(alternate title: DEEZ NUT CHEESES)

I got a reminder that my domain was up for renewal and I was like “shit, I should write on that thing.” There are many things that I’ve considered blogging about and I’ll start with FOOD. Obviously.

As many of you know, I’ve gone gluten- and dairy-free on an experimental basis at the suggestion of a nutritionist. This is my story (dun dun).

Why I Went to a Nutritionist in the First Place

I’d been struggling a while with “being tired” and “gaining weight no matter what I do.” The latter is a bit of an exaggeration; I could keep my weight steady if I watched every damn calorie I consumed, but it never went down. Only up, or nothing.  I don’t care so much about my actual weight because I strength train but this was also coupled with “feeling fat,” whatever that means.

I’ve been on thyroid medication before so it occurred to me that maybe something was up with that. But feeling tired and fat is also a symptom of basically everything else, so in order to rule out just “being lazy,” I put myself in what was surely a caloric deficit and it was also around this time we put the squat rack in the basement and I got back to lifting regularly.

My weight/general ennui continued not to budge, at which point I felt like I wanted to get science involved.  I had recently moved so I picked a new doctor that was part of an “integrated health practice;”  their services included nutritionists and they even had an apothecary. Neat!

My blood tests came back infuriatingly normal; my doctor suggested I take more Vitamin D and B12 and meet with the nutritionist. If dietary changes didn’t help, there were some secondary tests she could run. Infuriatingly reasonable!

I was nervous to go to the nutritionist because I was expecting her to tell me to eat 900 calories a day and/or do a weird juice cleanse and/or go low carb and I really didn’t want to have to throw her down a hallway. But what she actually did was give me “healthier” suggestions to appease my sweet tooth (lara bars & lily’s baking chips) and recommended swapping Coke Zero for Zevia, although water would be best.  She asked me if I already WAS low carb because my blood sugar was so kickass. High five.

She also noted that I had an elevated level of C-reactive protein (CRP) which apparently indicates inflammation in the body, as well as slow (but still in range) thyroid function, which may have been exacerbated by the inflammation.

She suggested cutting out gluten and dairy as these are often inflammatory for people. She recommended cutting out diet soda and gave me a sheet about what sorts of oils to consume vs. avoid (spoilers I haven’t been paying much attention to that – that’s phase 2, I guess). She also suggested adding cardio into my routine which I pretended to consider but secretly rejected outright.

So how’s it going?

Gluten

This was surprisingly easy. I’m used to “eating clean,” a term I no longer like to use because it has become meaningless or even destructive; back in the day it just meant eating minimally processed foods. So basically I’m comfortable with eating protein and vegetables, protein and vegetables, or, if it’s a special occasion, protein and vegetables. Couple this with the fact that Bren is legitimately gluten intolerant so our shared meals are already gluten-free (GF) and it wasn’t a difficult transition.

I enjoyed checking out all the weird GF products available these days – what a time to be alive – but I agree with the Whole 30 principle that you should just learn to eat the new way rather than trying to replicate the old way. So, except for the occasional pizza crust or pancake when I’m really jonesing, I just try to stick to my friggin protein and vegetables.

But, good news, plenty of potato chips are gluten-free, so there are still plenty of options for me to eat like an idiot! 😀

Dairy

Dairy- and gluten-free at the same time is pretty hard. Everybody knows if something tastes bad you just dump a bunch of cheddar on it… but what if you no can has cheddar?

BTW, the day after I saw the nutritionist, I accidentally ate cheese enchiladas. I made sure the shells were GF but the fact that I couldn’t have dairy hadn’t sunk in yet. Obviously I ate them because I had already ordered them.

I’ve gotten used to this and it’s actually not so bad in my day-to-day life. It’s usually the weekends when we’re out and want to share an appetizer or something that it becomes a problem.  I miss you, spinach/artichoke dip!!

I’ve already “challenged” my system with dairy – on our anniversary I ate a cheese plate and some ice cream because F the police – and didn’t seem to suffer any adverse effects.

That said, I “feel like” (science!) consuming dairy on the reg was not great for me over time (e.g., I was eating a Greek yogurt cup every day) so in the long term I think I’ll just avoid dairy as a general rule but not worry too much if I encounter some incidental cheese* here and there.  But I’ll wait until after my follow-up with the nutritionist to loosen up.

*Incidental Cheese is the name of my next album

Speaking of getting used to the “new way” of eating, ALL THOSE FAKE NUT CHEESES WILL NEVER BE ACCEPTABLE

Caffeine & Diet Soda

I used to drink so much Coke Zero on a daily basis that I was embarrassed to quantify how much it was, which probably meant it was too much. I come by it honestly – my dad went to Iraq and only drank Coke Zero instead of water. He even wrote a blog post about how great it is.

There is a lot of conflicting information on artificial sweeteners. There is some evidence that it messes with your metabolism but nothing really conclusive. I think it’s probably one of those things that either affects you or it doesn’t. At any rate, I figured I was drinking too much of it and maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I drank some damn water ughhhhh gross

The nutritionist suggested Zevia which is sweetened with Stevia; it has that weird Stevia aftertaste that I’m getting used to but it does hit the spot better than a seltzer if you want a soda-soda. And some flavors are caffeinated!

I was worried about the caffeine withdrawal, which always had me crawling back to my Coke Zero every time I tried to cut down. So I went looking for the most caffeinated tea I could find – I believe I told Bren that I wanted to find “the meth of tea” – and ended up with some type of “English Breakfast” with THE MOST DOTS under “Caffeine Level.”

For somebody with such a severe sweet tooth I have surprisingly little issue with consuming plain ol’ black tea. I drank some every morning but eventually phased it out (more out of laziness than anything else) after I felt like I was over the caffeine hump.

I still get a diet coke if we go out to eat because I need to live my life but haven’t had any in the house since the appointment. I bring a box of Polar seltzer to work because I need to have a CONSTANT STREAM of alternative beverages to keep me from going to the vending machine and that has been working. But the worst part is, in the last couple weeks I’ve started drinking just plain … regular… flat … water. Like, what animals drink. What have I become?!

Results So Far

First of all, this is a bad experiment because I cut out three things at once. I guess we’ve established that dairy is probably not a problem. And, let’s be real: if you can’t eat gluten and dairy, you also can’t eat basically anything except protein and vegetables, so of course you’re gonna feel better and less bloated. I don’t know that that’s an inflammatory thing.

BUT

I feel frickin’ great, which is good but also bad because it means I have to keep up with this charade.  I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my energy levels: I used to be fighting to stay awake by like 7:45 – Thursday night rehearsals were brutal because we’re there until like 10pm – now I can make it all the way until like 9:15! 😉 (By the way, I get up at 5:30, so this seems reasonable).

I don’t “feel fat” most of the time (like I said, potato chips are gluten free) and literally just within the last couple weeks something very strange has started to happen: I stop eating if I get full? I noticed it when I was eating a Chipotle bowl. I had eaten about half and was like, “I’ve had enough of this for now” and put the remainder in the fridge. What the hell? Usually I just power through whatever’s in front of me.  I wonder if, now that I’m no longer riding the wave of artificial sweeteners and/or the inflammation is going down, my body’s signals are more accurate (or noticeable)?

I also invented iced tea. It was hot out and I didn’t really want to have my customary hot tea, and I was like, “what if, I could have this tea, but like, it was, like, cold? or like with ice in it?” and then I was like “wait, they already have that. this is exactly why I need caffeine.”

About Looks

One sort of surprising thing that I struggled with was wanting to lose fat in the first place. For some reason I felt like it made me a bad feminist – why do I want to take up less space? Who does that serve?

These are good questions to consider, but I realized – I just don’t feel good. Continuing to feel gross just because pointless diets are a ToOl oF tHe PaTrIaRcHy doesn’t make any sense. Once I re-framed it as the way that I feel vs. how I want to feel, it was much easier to pursue solutions. Turns out, I don’t really care how I look when I feel good. It was only when I felt bad that I became overly concerned with my appearance – maybe as a way to feel more in control. So, this whole process has worked out pretty well for me personally.

I have my follow up soon and I’m very curious to see if there has been any change in my body composition. My body fat % was higher than ideal so the immediate goal is to get that down.   I perceive a slow change but it could be wishful thinking. 😉

TO BE CONTINUED, I GUESS

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