Note from Jane: This is the latest in a monthly series by Duffy, who went whole food, plant-based late in 2013 with the goal of losing over 200+ pounds. To see previous posts, choose Duffy Chronicles from the Stories menu.
A few weeks ago we had a sudden jump in temperatures from mostly 60’s to 88 degrees Fahrenheit! Personally, I prefer 65 and below as my ideal temperature. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with excessive sweating, especially on my face/scalp but also on other parts of my body to a lesser degree. The condition is known as hyperhidrosis and mine seems to be a less common variety than those who sweat excessively from their underarms, palms of their hands, or feet. Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, I can tell you that this was miserable. In recent years I’ve looked into a few different treatments and started taking an oral anti-secretory agent. I would also sometimes use the product Sweat Block, which is not recommended for facial use. Ooh, it itched like crazy while it dried!! Both of these things helped a little, but only a little.
About three weeks ago when we had the first temperature spike, I was standing in the hallway outside my classroom after teaching and thought man, its getting hot in here! I am uncomfortably warm right now. Even now it is a difficult sensation to describe as it was brand-new to me. I felt like warm air was pressing against my skin, like being inside an oven on low heat, and it was uncomfortable—but not to the point of distress. Most startling of all, I was not sweating. I wondered if this is how most people experience being hot? I cannot remember a time when I have experienced being hot without also being uncomfortably and excessively sweaty.
Whether it was a hormonal glitch of some sort, I don’t yet know. I hope that, as others with my condition have testified, eating very low-fat will have the effect of reversing my hyperhidrosis. Unfortunately as temperatures have been climbing again recently, I haven’t had the chance to test the theory since I’ve been a slave to dry-roasted almonds with sea salt.
It happened one day after work when I was soooooo hungry and stopped at Safeway to get some food stuffs on the way home. I know better than to shop when hungry. The good news is that I stayed technically within the boundaries of the WPFB diet. The bad news is that I discovered dry-roasted (oil-free) nuts with salt. And I ate a package of them (about 1,000 calories) every day…. except for several days when I ate TWO packages. For two weeks… and then off and on for a 3rd week. I started making special trips to this particular Safeway just for this package of nuts. It was a total manifestation of food-addict behavior!
Chef AJ called nuts a “hand-to-mouth” food. That is exactly what they are for me—something I could eat mindlessly, eat a lot of, and crave more of even when I wasn’t hungry, just for the pleasure of that hand-to-mouth motion and mindless eating. The first week I gained 0.4 lbs (my first gain since going 100% WFPB). The second week I came back down 0.2 lbs, for a net gain of 0.2 lbs over two weeks. Not too terrible in the bigger scheme of things. I mean I was eating almonds, not 2 Taco Bell crunchwrap supremes with a 32 oz Mountain Dew, a caramel apple empanada and a side of chips with nacho cheese sauce—yes, that was a very common, probably 3-4,000 calorie meal for me just a few months ago. Now at the end of the month I’ve lost only of 3.2 lbs, kind of lame sauce.
Nonetheless I am reminded that fat, sugar and salt, and especially any combination thereof, are addicting. So… I’ve given up the nuts again. Aside from the two-tenths of a pound weight gain, I felt fat, bloated and extra lethargic during my nut-binge weeks. It was kind of awful. Oh, and I was definitely sweating!! Even though the preschool where I work is air conditioned, there are hot and cool spots all around the building. And sweating so much, causing my hair and clothing to feel wet and uncomfortable against my skin, makes me GRUMPY!!
Sweating excessively also makes me feel so unfeminine. Aside from the constant “are you okay?” and “did you just run really hard?” questions that I get from people who don’t know me well or haven’t yet been around me through a summer season, it makes me feel gross. I cannot wear makeup as it all gets destroyed, and I don’t like to wear necklaces (let alone scarves! Ha!) because they get all slick with sweat running down my neck and chest. I have a high forehead but can’t stand to wear bangs or wear my hair down as it becomes matted to my skin and as wet as if I’d just stepped out of a shower.
After that singular experience, before the weeks of the nuts, I am more motivated than ever to eat low-fat and find out if it lessens or even reverses my hyperhidrosis!
I said that I was going to do the elimination diet to see if it would help with my bowel distress. And let me tell you, I earnestly tried. For one whole day. When people tell me that they’re in awe of my willpower to stick with my diet plan, I tell them I am not exercising willpower anymore. Maybe I was at the very beginning. But once I found things I truly liked, that were rewarding to eat, I no longer had to exercise a lot of willpower. I ate often, I ate plenty, I once ate a banana while watching and smelling pizza cook (the power in willpower really is glucose!) just to keep from feeling overwhelmingly tempted or deprived. But since the months have slid by, and I haven’t indulged—not even a bite—in the never-ending array of sweets, treats and chocolates at work, they’re no longer a real temptation.
During teacher appreciation week one of my student gave me a bun-muffin thing with a white chocolate coating drizzled over it. It looked particularly appetizing so I immediately put it on the desk of my pregnant co-worker who likes to joke that since she can’t drink her calories right now (e.g., wine) she’s got to eat them (e.g., chocolate). Out of sight, out of mind actually worked wonders! As long as its not in my possession, I’m okay. 🙂
Well let me tell you a little bit about how the elimination diet went down. I was using this guide from Dr. McDougall. I am pretty much the pickiest eater I know. Maybe I’m a supertaster, I don’t know. But I narrowed it down to a short list of allowable starches that I liked. The list consisted of one item: brown rice. I studied the list of vegetables and determined I could probably eat some plain green beans without choking. For fruit, I decided that canned peaches counted since they were probably heated during the canning process… maybe.
I managed to eat some brown rice and green beans for breakfast. I was not happy. I ate some more for lunch but couldn’t finish them. The only thing that kept me going was that I’d promised myself “cereal” for dinner. Cereal was one of my all-time favorite meals as a SAD-eater. I even liked it with plant-based milk. But by cereal I of course am referencing Life, Raisin Bran, Honey Bunches of Oats…. that sort of super sweetened thing. For dinner I was having puffed rice (yes, its on the list), plus some more brown rice (I figured puffed wouldn’t be very filling) and even though it technically wasn’t on the list, banana milk… plus a banana and some canned peaches chopped up. Let me tell you friends, it was not good!!
That was the end of the elimination diet. Because I don’t actually have a lot of will power. I may actually have no will power at all. I am hedonist. A pleasure-seeker. I do not make myself eat things I don’t like. That is what has kept me going and compliant all this time.
A few days later though I came up with plan B: I realized that what I most expected to eliminate by doing the elimination diet was high sulphur content foods (plant foods are way lower in sulphur than animal foods and there is a research base for the connection between IBD and sulphur and this blogger has found the same in his diet). I decided to do a 1-week trial of a low-sulphur diet to see if there was a connection. On this subset of the WFPB diet, I’d eat only foods with 25 mg of methionine (a sulphur-containing compound) per 100 grams of food or less based on Burgess’ experiments with his diet. This meant potatoes were in and brown rice was out.
And so was mustard.
Just to clarify the gravity of this statement, I should tell you that I eat yellow potatoes, chopped up as oven fries and baked, 3 times per day. I eat them warm when possible but will also eat them cold. I enjoy pink and purple fingerling potatoes as well but yellow have become my recent favorite (since pink Amarosa fingerling potatoes went out of stock at Whole Foods a few months ago). And I dip Every. Single. Bite. in yellow mustard, easily consuming 1 ½-2 bottles of mustard per week.
Mustard contains 1,280 mg of methionine per 100 grams. And I was looking for foods coming in at <25mg!
I needed a new potato topping and decided on salsa. I am no fan of spiciness so I made my own quite mild salsa. It took me four days to get up the nerve to try it. It was kind of okay, but I experienced a major psychological hurdle in that every bite reminded me of choking down eggs with salsa back when I was doing a high-protein diet several years ago.
Plan C was to put ketchup on my potatoes instead. Enter psychological hurdle number two. I think I could eat ketchup on a (veggie) burger with lettuce, tomato and pickle just fine. But I could NOT dip my oven fries in it. Every taste reminded me of eating plain grilled chicken and beef smothered in ketchup during that same high-protein diet years ago.
Currently I’m formulating Plan D. New potato toppings I’m considering are: sweet and sour sauce, gravy (I’ve never actually liked gravy so I don’t know why I’m considering this, but I’ll probably try it anyway), spaghetti sauce and creamed corn. I would do Susan Voisin’s cauliflower cheesy sauce, which I don’t love but like okay, except that cauliflower is a little high on the sulphur list. Another option is to just mash up my potatoes instead of baking them. Mashed, I eat them plain. Its not very exciting but it is filling. I could do that and have fruit (yummmm, watermelon!) be the exciting part of my meal.
Clearly I still have an emotional attachment to food! And a fairly limiting palate. And also a great fear of trying new foods as I shall demonstrate with two conversations that happened last week at work.
Scene 1: Lunchroom
I’ve just sat down with my re-heated potatoes, water bottle and bottle of mustard. Out of my lunch bag I pull a Ziploc with 3 muesli cookies and extend the bag to Molly.
Duffy: Will you try this for me?
Molly: What is it?
Duffy: It’s a muesli cookie. I made overnight muesli a couple days ago and I couldn’t bring myself to try it so I baked it into cookies to see if that would make it easier.
Molly: Um, maybe… whats in it?
I proceed to tell her the list of ingredients but since I can’t recall if the oats were certified gluten free or not, and she has celiac disease, she ultimately declines.
Just as I’m surveying the room for another contender, Molly puts on her teacher hat and tries to employ reason with me.
Molly: Whats the worst that could happen if you try it?
Duffy: I might not like it; it could taste gross.
Molly: And then what would you do?
Duffy: I guess I’d spit it out and drink a lot of water.
Molly: There you go.
Duffy: But what if the taste wouldn’t leave?? This one time when I was like maybe 10 or so, I asked my brothers for a bite from a plate of nachos they had made. They kept refusing and then all of a sudden they said “yes.” I was a little suspicious so I asked them what the brown spots were. They said it was just melted cheese. It wasn’t—it was Tobasco sauce!! I couldn’t get the burning out of my mouth forever.
Clearly I’m traumatized.
And by the way, I did ultimately try the muesli cookies. They were pretty tasty. Here is Chef AJ’s recipe.
Scene 2: Cubicles
I’m sitting at my cubicle next to Lisa, a friend and co-worker who has traveled down to my site for a meeting. She is bemoaning the fact that she just ate half a donut, a banana and two gluten-free mini-muffins leftover from that morning’s staff meeting and now her stomach hurts.
Duffy: Well it could be the gluten free mini-muffins; they put stuff in them that’s sort of indigestible.
Duffy: Not like wood chips indigestible, but just things you’re not accustomed to eating, and it could cause some intestinal distress.
Lisa: (smoothly switches the topic to poop. She is definitely my poop friend: no amount of information is considered too much or too outlandish. This morning we end up talking about foods that color our stools, which is how we end up on the topic of beets).
Duffy: What do beets taste like?
Lisa: Um. Kind of, um, vegetable-y?
Duffy: Are they sweet?
Duffy: I probably should buy some. And turnips; I’ve been meaning to try both of those.
Lisa pulls out a skinned, cooked golden beet and starts eating it like an apple.
Duffy: So is it like potatoes?
Lisa: I don’t know. I mean, it just tastes like a vegetable.
Lisa: Do you want some?
Since I had given her one of my muesli cookies, which I’d already decided were safe (it was the scent of the nutmeg that turned me off a little) I didn’t hesitate.
Duffy: Yes but only a teeny-tiny piece. Like the size of your fingernail maybe.
After we establish that it doesn’t break off easily, that no, I do not have a fork in my desk drawer (pre-WFPB I totally would have had forks and napkins from various fast food joints), that I don’t mind if she uses her fingers or that one side of the (very much larger than fingernail size—more like thumb-knuckle size) piece she gave me has been bitten off of, I finally try a piece of roasted golden beet.
Duffy: It tastes like squash. Like winter squash, kinda. I think you could have told me this was squash, and I wouldn’t have known the difference.
Lisa: I think its just vegetable-y.
One of the trials of weight loss is finding clothes that fit. I know, I know, you’re thinking “First World Problem” right? And truly it is. But let me explain. My co-workers have started to good-naturedly tell me that my shirts are too big and offering to take me on shopping excursions. I walk around hitching up my pants all day long. But the one thing I can’t stand in this world…. is shopping! For the past few years I’ve bought a lot of my clothing online. I’ve gotten to know some tricks and how to read descriptions to figure out if I’ll like the fit, and its worked out pretty well most of the time. Recently I attempted to order some knee-length shorts for this summer. I wore Capri pants all last summer but they’re now approaching ankle-length since they fit more loosely and… its just time for some modest shorts. I pulled my measuring tape from my sewing kit, measured my waist and ordered the shorts. Either I’m terrible at measuring my waist or the measuring tape is seriously off, because I tried on four pairs of shorts and they were ALL about 5 inches too large! Needless to say, I will be returning them. In the meantime though, I decided that since my pants aren’t likely to fit me next winter, I may as well get some more wear out of them this summer, and I went ahead and cut two off into knee-length shorts. And then the temperatures returned to the 60s and 70s. Despite the fact that it means I’ll have to shave my legs with more frequency, and I may risk blinding passerby with the pasty white glare of my shins and calves, I’m actually looking forward now to the warmer weather if only for the chance to wear my “new” shorts… and of course I’ll pair them with the 3 new t-shirts I bought in a smaller size. Because I will show my co-workers that I can dress myself and no, there is no need for a girl-bonding shopping trip, at least not until I get out of the plus sizes thankyouverymuch!
Earlier this month, my LDS Mom learned that she has high cholesterol. Although I’ve told her about my diet (in the “way of eating,” not temporary weight loss aid sense) and my weight loss, she’s shown little interest. I had actually wondered if she was even really listening to me and talked less about it with her because I felt like it wasn’t something she wanted to hear about.
However when she learned about her high cholesterol and her doctor wanted her to go on statins, which she did not want to do, she called me and asked for more information about my diet. She’s a trim sprite of a woman with no other risk factors for heart disease aside from the high cholesterol (and the Standard American Diet but lets not bite off more than we can chew here!) so I asked her if she was going to let well enough alone or if she wanted to try to affect a change by eating less animal products (as we’d established the common knowledge that cholesterol is only found in animal products, and not plants). She said she wanted to try eating less animal products this summer and then went on to ask for details about my diet. I’m sure many of you readers have had similar conversations.
LDS Mom: So what does Whole Food, Plant-Based mean?
Duffy: Well for starters I don’t eat animal products.
LDS Mom: No red meat?
LDS Mom: But you eat chicken or fish right?
LDS Mom: Oh… not even tuna?
Duffy: Um, no. I mostly eat potatoes actually.
LDS Mom: So you eat some yogurt and cheese right?
Duffy: No, no animal products at all, not even dairy.
LDS Mom: Do you eat eggs?
Now my LDS Mom is an intelligent woman. She knows the meaning of the word vegan and she knows animal products from plants. I think what the conversation mainly reflected was the mainstream belief that animal products are somehow necessary to human diets, especially for meeting protein and calcium needs and its for that reason that she kept probing about different types of animal products.
Anyway I was rather pleased that she thought to ask me at all and I hope she’ll be able to cut down on the animal products and processed foods and lower her cholesterol.
As I reflect on this past month, I’ve had a little bit of regression as manifest in the salted-nut eating. But I’ve also stayed the course and lost a little bit more weight, even if it was significantly less thanks to the added fat from the nuts. I want to thank all of you that regularly read and comment on my blog posts. It feels pretty good to have a supportive audience!
Since I’m a bit of a putter-offer, I haven’t replied directly to comments for the past couple of months. But I read them all. I want to say to Neil that I love the way you love your daughter, Jane. It brings me a lot of peace and hope to see such a strong father-daughter bond. To JustMe, I wanted to say thank you for all of your suggestions and encouragement. To Kevin and Wynona and Yeagi and anyone else I’ve missed, thank you for reading! Scott Zimmerman, I’ve been wondering how that cruise experience went?? There are days I really appreciate your analogy, about feeling like an alcoholic in a beer hall. 🙂 To Orva, I thought your last comment was perfect and want to share it here for the readers:
“I believe one of the best things about eating this way is that you have a foundation for eating you know to be good: the Word of Wisdom. You may have to tweak it, but at least you have a place to start that is truth.”
And that is the most grounding knowledge of all. Although I am still making tweaks for my health, I know that the WFPB diet is aligned with the Word of Wisdom and I know the Word of Wisdom is truth.
Love and blessings,