Sunday, October 31, 2010

World Vegan Month

I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I respect the ideals of both eating philosophies. I have not ruled out either one as a possibility, but for now I still consider myself an omnivore (minus the gluten and dairy, of course). However, it has come to my attention that November is World Vegan Month, and tomorrow, November 1st, is World Vegan Day and I think I should do something to celebrate it while also expanding my own palette and search for sustenance.

My Plan

I would like to commit myself (and my husband, by extension) to "Meatless Mondays" for the entirety of the month of November. I believe that this will give us the opportunity to try new foods, new meals and to re-think our diet in small ways that will eventually expand throughout our week of eating. I will approach these Mondays as a vegetarian (mostly just an evo-vegetarian, since "lacto" is out of the question for me anyway). While I may find my way to a vegan diet on some Mondays, at this moment, I feel thoroughly unprepared to take on such a large commitment which begins tomorrow morning.

My Accountability

I started this blog in an effort to keep my thoughts focus about a topic that is very important to me and to hold myself accountable for the steps I have taken in my quest for safe sustenance, that technique shall continue throughout this month. I plan to keep track of my food, my meals and my experiences on this adventure on this blog. This is not a huge commitment  (five Mondays in total) from a numbers standpoint, so I can imagine any issues with "cheating" but if that case does arise, I promise to be truthful about my missteps.

Your Input

If you would like to join me in this adventure, you can feel free to leave a comment on this blog indicating so, or, joining in on the discussion that I will begin tonight on the new Searching for Sustenance Facebook page. Either way, I think we can all agree that many of life's challenges are easier when tackled within support groups. We can trade ideas, recipes or "Monday Meals" to make it through the month and possibly start a brand new tradition in our families (or continue one, if you have already been doing Meatless Mondays!!)

I hope everyone had a really great Halloween weekend and is doing their best to share their candy with as many people as possible. November begins tomorrow and, here in America, ends with one of the most gluttonous holidays we have - why not start the month off with an act your body and your fellow living creatures will be grateful for? Good luck to all those who are joining the journey and any tips from the already converted would be greatly appreciated!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Greenwashing - Am I a Victim?

I finally found out the name of thing I have been fearing in this search for sustenance: greenwashing.To put it in my terms, this is a company or organization pretending to be greener than it actually is (see Sourcewatch for a much more in depth and "official" definition). This has been something I have always worried about in my search, but as of late, I have to say, it was really starting to haunt me. I have had this nagging question in my mind about the labels I trust and whether or not I have become lax and allowed the label to mean everything to me.

I Am Beginning To Have Trust Issues

It began about a week or so ago when I went shopping and I was looking for my Certified Humane eggs in Stop N Shop. They weren't there. I guess they were sold out or something, but this was the second week in a row this had happened and I began to wonder... why can I find organic eggs, but not certified humane? Why is everyone always talking about "organic" but never talking about "humane"? AM I BEING SWINDLED HERE?

I wondered...

                       it festered...

An Ally Emerges

And then I found a blog last night entitled: Why I Am Not Enthralled By "Organic" I thought to myself, "Here is someone having the same issue I am, but with the Organic labeling of products!" The timing of this couldn't have been better. (This like-minded soul recommended the film Bananas! as an exemplar of some greenwashing caught in the act.) On my trip to my now unfamiliar King Kullen yesterday I became a bit inquisitive about the "certified organic" foods as well.

Issue 1: Plastic Produce?
First of all, I was in the produce section and I was confused because all of the organic produce was packaged. Maybe I have gotten too used to my weekly trips to the Farmer's Markets (I will miss them when they are gone!), but is this normal? I like to touch my produce before I buy it, it is part of my selection process.

 Issue 2: The Non-Committal Berries

Secondly, and I am just remembering this now, I was a little bit confused by the strawberry situation: both the organic and non-organic strawberries were distributed by Driscoll farms - why not just do all organic? How did they suddenly decide what part of their farm would be dedicated to organic berries? Is Driscoll a company that practices greenwashing? I could go on here, but I hope to do some research to find out these answers.

Issue 3: Unseasonal Fruit

Thirdly, I can still see where the traps lie if you don't shop smart. One package caught my eye and, at first, I did not know what it was until I looked closer. It was a package of kiwis, in October (nearly November), in New York! So I looked even closer to answer the question: where did these come from? The answer: New Zealand. Now I don't know much about shipping fresh fruit, but can these kiwis from New Zealand still be considered fresh? And a scarier question - were these kiwis exposed to some sort of preservative to help them make the trip? Is that allowed?

My Great Question

It is clear to me that no label is going to be exactly what I want it to be. So I can not afford to become lax in my shopping routine. I must always remember to ask myself, Is this what I value in my food?
And to be able to answer that I have to continue to answer my greatest question of all:
What do I value in my food?
This is my great question, because it is still developing, and maybe always will be (which is why I always have to ask it!). 

Some Of My Answers

So after reading the Organic blog, I recognized that my lack in faith in my labels was well-founded, because I forgot something I knew innately at the beginning of this search: trust nothing at face-value because I always feared big-business, or agribusiness getting their clutches in the labeling process. I also feared something that I now know is called greenwashing. Either way, the lesson is the same stay knowledgeable - educate yourself. Get down and dirty with ins and outs of the labels; what do they really mean.  

I didn't want to feel disenchanted anymore about things I have chosen to trust, so I decided to re-educate myself as to why I selected to trust these labels and see if I still agree. Here's what I found:
  • I trust Certified Humane products.  After reviewing their standards and even read an article fighting for and against certified humane product labels, I remembered why this label became so important to me. Temple Grandin. I was at an education conference a couple of years ago when I saw this book for sale called, Animals Make Us Human it had nothing to do with my teaching, but everything to do with my life - I had three dogs at the time and had just given up my cat due to my husband's allergy. When I bought the book the seller pointed to a room behind me and said, "The author is giving a talk right in there now. You can have her sign it." It had been a long day, I was on my way out so I said, "No thanks," confused as to why she would be giving a talk at an education conference. Oh! If I could turn back time! The book was amazing, Dr. Grandin is even more amazing (I can't believe I haven't blogged about her before), and I learned about humane slaughter of cattle. Oxymoron, you say? Well, meat is still a reality in my house - I am working hard on my husband, but he has forgotten the horrors of Food, Inc. So if I am buying meat and animal products, they will be certified humane.
  • I need Organic Certification to guard against GMOs. While there still may be loop holes in the organic certification process, it still guards against this one giant nightmare. Another blog I read last night, Natural Corn? made a very good argument for organics as well as avoiding high fructose corn syrup (which we Riveras are on the bandwagon for also!). This "Natural Mom" had a very informative blog with a recommended viewing of Fresh, a movie I have yet to see - so it is on my to-watch list!
  • I like to buy local produce. I am still not sure how I would prioritize this in a supermarket given the option of locally grown or organic, but I do know that I do prefer to get my produce from the farmer's market than the grocery store. I need opinions/information on this one - am I being greenwashed at the farmer's market if I am buying produce that is not necessarily certified organic? Is this just as bad as going straight to the supermarket and buying non-organic? Let me know what you think or know about this topic!
So, in the end, it is basically an old lesson learned a-new for me here: be vigilant, read your labels carefully and then research what those labels mean.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Today I had an opportunity to find and listen to a great podcast. While I am sure I will be discussing many of their topics from time to time, there was one that struck me as particularly poignant today. It was from the most recent podcast (episode #008) from Wellness Break Radio. The podcast itself seems relatively "new" with only 8 episodes so far, so it is not too late to jump on in and listen to them all to catch up while you await the next episode (I am definitely subscribing to this one). Episode #008 was their first to address listener feedback. The first call they had truly struck a nerve with me. It was simple enough, the caller was a fan of the podcast and the message of wellness they share, but he was wondering if there was a way to do it more conveniently.

I was struck by this comment because, at the time I was dragging my brand new old-lady shopping cart jammed full of groceries back home for a 2 mile drag on a warm October afternoon.
My new "old-lady shopping cart"
And I thought to myself, "The other day, when I blogged about 'My Well-Fed Life', I had convenience down as a criteria too." So, what is our obsession with convenience? And when did getting food become something that was supposed to be convenient? I am guilty of this thinking myself from time to time, so I have to stop and reflect when any moments of clarity strike.

Questions That Attacked Me In My Moment of Clarity
  • WHY does our food have to be convenient? 
  • When we look closely at our lives, at the world we have created for ourselves - with our family, our job, our social life, our extra-curricular activities - why is it that we choose our own nutrition to be the part of our life that is not worth our time and effort? 
  • Why can't we (and, guys, when I say "we" I hope you realize most of this is coming from the first person perspective here) recognize that the time and effort that we spend on food and nutrition will enhance our entire livelihood, our health, our joy? 

Realization That Attacked Me In My Moment of Clarity
  • Why can't we recognize that if we don't have time for this, than we are truly running out of time... a human life can not sustain itself on all the other "life stuff", but it can flourish with good food.

It was all clear to me as I heard the man request convenience; when I heard my own request outside myself. It was clear because today was not only a day when the words "convenience isn't a solution" sounded right, but the actions felt right, too. I had just spent about an hour in the produce section of my King Kullen (I mistakenly thought it was a shorter walk than the Stop N Shop) scrutinizing the labels of every single fruit or veggie I picked up (this is really quite ridiculous looking with my limited vision - I don't want to know what the other customers were thinking!) searching for where they came from, what was organic and what I needed to make it through until Saturday's Farmer's market. I had also walked to the store, getting in my exercise and spent a gorgeous day outside. I walked my groceries through the park on the way home and enjoyed the ducks and geese swimming in the pond that haven't left us just yet for southern shores.

I spent nearly three hours doing something that normally takes my husband and I a half hour, at most. If I did not, I would have had to order some take-out for my husband so he could eat in the brief 45 minutes he had at home tonight before he had to return to school for Parent Teacher's Night. The entire trip - the walking, the heat, the shopping on my own with my own silly, broken eyes, the cooking and preparation in time for my husband's arrival - looked at, in print, can be seen as really, really inconvenient, but in the end, it was worth every damn second.

...And I am pretty sure I'll be spending more of days on medical leave doing this same exact thing.

Comfort Food - My Ritual and Recipe

Now that Fall is here I am finding that my stash from the Saturday morning Farmer's Market runs are not making it through the week the way they used to. I, of course, did not realize this tonight it was creeping on dinner time and hunger began to strike not only my stomach, but my head as well. I had to think of something quickly before full-on brain-pain struck me down for the night. Don't let the "Rivera" in my name fool you - that is my married name, my maiden name is 100% Sicilian - there is one thing a girl raised with an Italian last name always has in her home: supplies for a marinara sauce.

My whole body released its tension - everything was going to be OK. Armed with my birthright - grandma's recipe - and all of the ingredients required, my hunger tonight would be satiated with my favorite dinner of them all. Tonight we would have pasta and marinara sauce, thank the gods!

The Ritual

It begins with the smell that I swear used to emanate from the walls of my grandmother's kitchen in Brooklyn - onions and garlic sauteing in olive oil. I think if I ever seriously take up the habit of meditating regularly, that I should do it with this smell rather than that of any candle or insence, I know of nothing in the world that has such a calming affect on my entirety.
Oh how I wish pictures could smell!
Once the onions have started to become translucent and before they brown, I grab the can of tomato paste and put it in the  pot along with one can full of water. I stir it all up and let it simmer. There's a new smell now, sweeter, too sweet for me, but I know this is progress and the color is beautiful.
One little can of paste and all my garlic and onion has become invisible!
As the paste mixture simmers, I reach for the big can (I am still on a search to find my perfect tomatoes in a jar!). These aren't any old tomatoes, you can't really negotiate here, they have to be San Marzano tomatoes. I have tried to deny it, but I can't, this truly makes a difference. When the can is opened, I pour it into the pot (keeping as close to the pot as I can to avoid splashing) and see my sauce coming together at last. There are tomatoes in there - this is what I've been waiting for!
THAT'S a beautiful thing :)
 And then things move a little bit faster...

I add my cute little basil leaf.
and the rest of my spices.
I stir it all up, put the lid on and wait.
Tonight's sauce was a one-nighter. Most of the time I will make 6 times this recipe (in a much larger pot, of course) and the wait is much longer, but for this sauce it is enough time for me to get some other things in order. Like check in on the family...
My husband gets his lesson plan together while our furry children could care less - they already had their dinner!

I also have to get the pasta ready. I know what you're thinking, "Nicole! You can't have pasta - it has GLUTEN in it!!" I thought that was true, too. I thought I would never have this comfort food again, but I found the GREATEST thing EVER in my Stop n Shop:
Thank you bionaturae! This pasta is delicious!!
So, while the sauce is still cooking, I get the pot of water.
Don't forget to add the salt!
And wait for it to boil...
First come those little bubbles (I already feel like I've been waiting forever!).
Then some bubbles start creeping up from the bottom of the pot. But you MUST STILL WAIT!
Go back and stir the sauce if you need a distraction. I get stuck here for awhile, the savory smell is simply intoxicating. I think, "I need to cook a really big batch next time so I can get the whole house to smell like this for hours."
THAT is what I've been waiting for... a full-on bubble party. It's pasta time!
Pour it in.
It never fails. The pasta party poopers have arrived. The water is still.
I HAVE to stir to keep these guys from sticking (especially with the gluten-free stuff!).
To get al dente pasta: FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS ON THE PACKAGE OF YOUR PASTA. I use a timer - no joke.
And so I keep stirring...
And when my timer rings that 10 minutes is up, I grab the strainer and
I put it back in the pot and add a spoonful of sauce, so that any pasta left over doesn't get stuck together. (If you don't want to commit your entire package of pasta to one batch of sauce, just put a small amount of olive oil in it for the same purpose.)

I call my husband. Dinner is ready, and I simply can not wait to eat it!
Oh boy that was delicious. I needed that.

The Recipe

A while back I posted this recipe on what is now (it was Recipezaar at the time).  If you have a account and would like to add this recipe to one of your cookbooks, here is the link. Otherwise, here is my family recipe as it is published on that site:

"tomato" Sauce

By Nicole Dominiqué on December 01, 2008
1 Reviews
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 2 1/2 hrs
  • Servings: 4-6

About This Recipe

"A family staple. I am not sure how the ladies before me (mom, grandma, et cetera...) would feel about me making this recipe public, but the WORLD needs to enjoy this. This marina sauce runs through my blood. This marina sauce is the REASON I needed to learn how to cook for myself... I could NOT live without it simply because my ladies passed away! The "Tomatoe" spelling is from my mother's hand-written recipe card where she wrote down the recipe as my Grandma Tina taught it to her. I will post the recipe exactly as I found it and add the little changes I made to it in parentheses. Please feel free to double or triple this recipe, freeze it for later, to send to family or anyone else who needs a little food affection (this sauce = love) - excellent on pastas, ravioli, on pizzas for italian bread dipping... whatever else you would like to do with a delicious marina sauce!"


    • 1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
    • 1 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes 
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1 dried leaf basil (if I used any tomatoes canned with basil in the can I skip this ingredient)
    • 1/2 onions, diced
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon sugar ( or less... I sometimes leave this one out)
    • 2 garlic cloves, diced
    • 1 -2 teaspoon olive oil ( enough to cover the bottom of the pan for sauteing)


  1. Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil.
  2. Add tomato paste plus one can of water and simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Add strained can of whole tomatoes plus 1/2 can of the water from that can (I found this step annoying and silly and I always ended up adding more liquid in the process anyway! So I just throw the whole can in at this point - liquid and all plus a half of a can of water.).
  4. Add all of the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 HOURS (stir and enjoy the aroma intermittently throughout the process).
San Marzano Tomatoes

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Screen Time

Last night I found a couple of videos that I simply had to share. I wasn't planning on posting today, but I figured a short post to accompany two must-sees would be worth the time (watching both videos will take less than 10 minutes!).

Even the Kids Know Something is Very Wrong

First, I begin with our message out of the mouth of babes, because sometimes when we hear children speak about the world we have created for them, we tend to listen a little bit more closely. Birke Baehr, at the age of 11 gave a TEDx talk this past Spring in Asheville, TN about sustainable food. If you have not yet had the opportunity to view any TED talks, I highly recommend that you do (check out the TED site and if you have any questions about it, please feel free to ask me, but I think you'll find your way around). For now, you can whet your appetite for TED talks with Master Baehr's presentation:

Ecocentric, a fantastic blog I found last night, has an interview with Birke Baehr if you simply must know more about this 11 year old, soon to be organic farming advocate. I highly recommend checking this blog out and I anticipate that there will probably be many future links to this site as I continue to post.

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Back in 2003 the following video went viral before YouTube was even invented. I think I will allow the Meatrix website's description of the movie serve as your intro.

The Meatrix:

Watch the movie that started it all! The Meatrix spoofs The Matrix and highlights the problems with factory farming. Join our heroes Moopehus, Leo, and Chickity as they help save family farms!
Winner of the 2005 Webby Award and viewed by over 15 million people, The Meatrix will change the way you look at meat!

So there you have it. You've taken the red pill, you know the truth and there is no turning back. There is a lot of other stuff on The Meatrix website, so if you are looking for more, please click away and SPREAD THE WORD!

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Well-Fed Life

A number of years ago I came across a book that changed the way I looked at and felt about reading forever. It was Steve Leveen's "The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life." This book instantly caught my eye in my local Barnes and Noble because, as a voracious reader I have always sought after that esteemed title of "well-read." Over the years, however, it seemed that this was becoming more and more an insurmountable task - between the countless classics I had yet to read and the litany of best sellers and new classics being published week after week I felt stymied. Leveen's book, a guide, was exactly what I needed, I thought, to finally win the battle against my "to-read" list. What I found inside was not a step-by-step guide to getting to the end of the "well-read" rainbow, but, instead it was a fabulous book about letting that nightmare go and, instead embracing a well-read life in my own style - deciding for myself what my classics would be, what I thought should be on the best seller's list, reading at my own pace, in my own medium (he agreed that audio books were an acceptable form of "reading") and my relationships with my books should be personal. This may all seem obvious to you, but for me, at the time, it was a lesson I had not yet learned.

As of late I have found myself in nearly the same state of quandary about my eating as I once did about reading. I would like to eat "right" as they say, and I am beginning to finally think that the best way to do that is to live My Well-Fed Life. I have to decide what foods I want to bring to my table, and because this is my well-fed life, I need to think about what things are important to me in that quest. Here are five broad criteria that I have currently been using in building MY well-fed life:


Over the last couple of years, as reflected in this blog, a major factor in my personal food decisions has been based on their impact on the environment, on animals, on the industry and on the global and local community. This is the most difficult part of my eating since I am learning new things every single day that cause me to have to search for a new product or company to endorse.


Due to my medical conditions, I have to be very careful of the foods that I eat. I know now of two food "groups" to avoid all together (gluten and dairy) that were evidently aggravating my system more than I realized. Knowing about these "illegal" foods has been a great help to my health, but dramatically changed what I thought my well-fed life was. In addition to the subtractions of these two food-types, I also like to pay attention to GMOs, organic foods and buying fresh whenever possible for the sake of my health and my husband's health.


I am being quite deceitful by putting this criteria third, because in my well-fed life (as I am sure in most everyone's), if a food does not satiate my taste buds it is off my shopping list. Let's be honest, no matter how good it is for me or my planet, if I don't like the way it tastes, I am not going to eat it - EVER.


Sad, but true, for the most part I am not one who likes to spend hours upon hours constructing a meal that will take a fraction of that time to consume. I need to be realistic in my searches for foods that fit my life - can I get them with a quick trip here or there? Can I prepare these foods with the tools I have in my kitchen? If not, is it worth the investment to get those tools, or am I, realistically only going to cook this once? Do I have foods planned that are easy enough to cook that I can do so even if I am having a sick day?


Especially now, while I am on medical leave from my full-time job, I can not afford to overspend on food. However, it should not be overlooked that in my ranking of priority, this criteria squeaked onto the list in last place.

I think it is really important for everyone, especially those who do the food purchasing for the home, to develop their own personal well-fed guidelines. Of course, I believe health should be on everyone's list, and in this climate I think you would be remiss to exclude "impact" (no one will do this one for you!), but in the end, the point of this posting is that this is something you must determine for yourself.

I have only one bit of advice:  

My hand was pretty much forced into this one with my food restrictions and my own conscience about my impact on the planet - I suddenly found myself asking, "What can I eat?" and the list was filled with strange foods I had never eaten or prepared before... I was terrified. My husband was empathetic, but grateful that, if need be he could still sneak back into the world of dairy and gluten. However, we bravely stepped out and starting trying things (we know, for sure, my mother is doing cartwheels in heaven - all she EVER wanted us both to do was TRY NEW THINGS, but we always resisted!), and we found a bunch of new things that we really, really like. Of course, not everything was fantastic, but there were a heck of a lot more wins than losses.

Good luck, good eating and I hope you find as much joy in your well-fed life as we have been finding in ours!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Taking Action

In this blog I have written a lot about food choices I have made personally, what I have learned about the food industry through some media at my fingertips (books, movies, web sites, et cetera), but I am not sure I have written enough about taking action.

I was born in 1976, I was a child of the eighties, took on high school and college in the nineties and stepped into my career on the cusp of the new millennium. I will not venture to say that the society around me was not steeped in great changes, amazing innovations and sweeping culture shifts, however, I do believe something really quite important might have been missing and maybe still is. Where is this generation's sense of power?

I learned of the battles my grandparents and great grandparents went through to become Americans, I learned of women getting the right to vote, the battle over prohibition, the civil rights movement - I learned all of these things not only from my teachers, but from my family - they lived in these times, they made things happen. They embraced the American spirit and took action when things needed changing - they sat-in, or marched, or petitioned or rallied - and the powers that be had to listen because the actions and the voices of the many were cacophonous.That is the American way to make change, that is how we take action -we the people get organized and speak our piece loud enough to be heard. We, as Americans, have the right to speak of our discontent and work in a civil manner to make things better. I sometimes fear that branching out into the world wide web has ripped out our grass-roots.

I would like to plant some grass seeds with my blog and help out some organizations that I think are doing a fantastic job of getting the word out in terms of saving our sustenance. It is high time we gather together as our American rights allow us to to fight what I believe to be the great battle of my generation: the people vs. Big Business.

  • Food & Water Watch - This is my #1 go to source for news related to my sustenance. I have added their RSS feed to this blog for their "Take Action" page so you can check in on whatever particular court case, petition or issue needs your support at the moment. If you do nothing else, join their mailing list.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) - An environmental group that also has a large "Take Action" section of their web site to keep you up to date on their current cases and issues being brought before congress.
  • Certified Humane - I am always popping this site up on my iPhone on the way to the grocery store to make sure I am buying the right brand eggs and chicken because, along with their "Take Action" section they also have a nice link for you to "Find Stores" around you that sell "Certified Humane" products.
  • The Center for Food Safety - Another great site I have written about before (this is where we got our shopping list for avoiding GMOs!), that has the "True Food Network" which is always looking for more support for their causes in the great food fight.
*Note: all of these sites have facebook pages as well, if that simplifies your screen time.

Here's the deal... at some point we are all going to have to admit that something has gone horribly wrong with our food selections. The food I am exposed to when shopping is not the same that my mother or grandmothers were exposed to - we can blame video games, computers, television and whatever other screen time you can add up for the increasing obesity rates in this country, but that is only ONE PIECE to this puzzle - we should not allow agribusiness to  shield our eyes from the truth for the sakes of their pockets! It is time to take action. It is time to become more knowledgeable. It is time to stop accepting and start QUESTIONING so we can LEARN the TRUTH.

P.S. - If you have a favorite "taking action" site you'd like me to know about, please add it in the comments section! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Professional Redraws My Map on the Search

Five days after my last post I had an appointment that would change my life. I don't necessarily mean this in the grandiose way that one usually means such a statement, but I mean it literally: it changed every single day of my existence since then, very often framed the course a day would take and has brought me, personally, to a brand new place in my health, in my path toward better health and has altered my search for sustenance dramatically. The appointment I had was the first one with my nutritionist.

I had always wanted to go to a nutritionist, but I consistently talked myself out of it (especially since my insurance didn't always cover the people I was interested in seeing). I figured that there was enough information out in the world about what the "right" foods are for us that seeking professional advice in this part of my life was both superfluous and financially wasteful. And yet, nearly every single year of my life I would come back around to this thought, "I should go see a nutritionist..." but never would. Then, last Spring I got the most terrifying sickness of my life, more terrifying than my Crohn's disease diagnosis and it absolutely dwarfed my Pseudotumor Cerebri in terms of scaring me to my core - from April 22, 2010 through May 22, 2010 I battled Antibiotic Associated Colitis, more commonly known as "C. Diff." I wish this on NO ONE and I pray that it never happens to me again. The sheer terror of it came from the fact that I knew, since I was not in the hospital and, therefore, not even hooked up to an IV, I was completely malnourished. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. I was terrified to eat.

When I finally recovered I was still terrified to eat. It took three different treatments to make the C. Diff. finally go away and my doctor said I may get it again. After a discussion like this I knew it was finally time to seek professional help in terms of my consumption. I made an appointment to see a nutritionist I had long wanted to see that came highly recommended by many coworkers.

As I got ready for the upcoming appointment I became more and more excited wondering what she would say, what she would find and what she would suggest. I knew a number of other people over the years that had gone to her and had come out with extreme diet restrictions; I was ready for whatever she wanted to take away, but I had one food in my corner to determine whether or not she a complete fraud: gluten.

Nearly every person I had spoken to that had seen this women suddenly had gluten sensitivities or allergies. I was beginning to wonder as I spoke to more and more people leading up to my appointment if this was her panacea for all patients. I discussed my concerns with my husband, "I'll do whatever she says, but if she even tries to take gluten away from me I am going to have a ton of questions!" He agreed with me (so sweet when I am ranting) knowing that gluten foods like white bread are my "safety" and "go-to" foods when I am having a flare up from IBS or, now Crohn's. In fact, when I had C. Diff. the only things I would even try to eat were gluten-filled foods! I knew my body - this woman couldn't try her little gluten trick on me!

The doctor is homeopathic and uses kinesiology, not blood tests or anything, so it is an interesting examination and one that I could also feel safe questioning in the end(if the need arises), unlike cold hard science. After examining me, the doctor and her assistant concluded that my body

  • was completely toxic (that was not surprising considering the cocktail of drugs I had to take each  day),
  • had minimal evidence of any vitamins in my system (some were missing completely), 
  • showed a sensitivity to dairy as I had suspected, but more than anything
  • had an extreme sensitivity to GLUTEN
I think I actually laughed when she said this. She actually went on to explain that the gluten wasn't only affecting my digestive system, but also my head (What?! I was thinking she would say ANYTHING to get me off this gluten!). Since I had a sensitivity to it my body was creating histamines on overdrive every time I ate it and that could be leading to some of my congestion issues (Wait... what? She was starting to break me down with this argument now). I waited politely for her to say, as all good doctors do, "Do you have any questions?" when I responded, "Yeah. Just one..." and went on my diatribe about gluten and how bread has been saving me from severe stomach attacks. I have to admit, my argument was not as impassioned as I had planned after all of her justifications, but I still didn't understand how it could have been helping me if, according to her judgement, it was actually the cause of my problems. Then she said something that made so much sense I wanted to cry, she said, "Maybe it has been acting like a band-aid for you - stopping the attack temporarily, but ultimately just hiding the bigger problem until it comes back." I was done arguing. I would try it. Maybe she was right, and if she was - how much time I wasted unintentionally hurting myself... what a heartbreak!

The last step to my appointment was to sit with the assistant to go over what I could and could not eat and to get a menu of ideas that could work for me. I did not feel intimidated by the undertaking of a gluten-free, dairy-free diet especially since we had started eating a lot more fresh veggies and examining what we were eating anyway. However, when I sat down to discuss the food I discovered how much gluten I actually consumed in a day. The assistant asked me to go through a normal day's food. I was originally only worried about dinner (NO MORE PASTA!!), but I quickly learned I was a gluten-addict!

  • Typical breakfast on a work day: A bowl of cereal -- GONE: gluten & dairy!!
  • Typical lunch on a work day: A Subway sandwich (so happy that Subway came to our school!!) -- GONE: super gluten!!
  • Typical dinner: I can avoid it, but I do love pasta... "I am half Italian-American!" (I actually said this to her as if this should somehow grant me some magical powers.)
After that, the assistant exhaled and brought out my cheat-sheets; one for dairy-free eating, one for gluten free eating and the last for just plain-old healthy eating. They have all been extremely educational.

This has been extremely helpful. I was very surprised to find dairy as a hidden ingredient in so many things! I am a complete nut when it comes to reading food labels now - WHAT a headache.

I found myself having to do more research about gluten at home, but at least this was a starting point. 
I think most of us know these, but it is nice to have them all in one place, in our faces as a constant reminder. Knowing them and FOLLOWING them are two entirely different things.

In the end, I was thoroughly surprised by my results at the nutritionist. It has been four months and nothing has changed - no new restrictions and none of my restrictions lifted: I am living gluten and dairy free and it has changed my life! I do feel much better, I have lost even more weight (which I needed to, so don't worry that I am wasting away) and because I have to look closely at what I am eating I now look closely at everything I eat. I don't cheat because I don't have to and, more than anything I don't want to. I know I probably won't get C. Diff. if I have one piece of pizza, but I believe my body is still healing and some day, hopefully soon, I would like to invite a little one to live in there for nine months - I have to spruce the place up!

Total Pageviews

Usability Testing /

usability studies by userfly

Action Alerts RSS Feed | Food & Water Watch