March 16, 2009
[It was great to read so many positive messages from all you okra fans in response to my last post. Who knew there were so many okra supporters out there? Here’s to a new image for our pal okra! To the dawning of the age of okra–a new era is born, and it’s brimming with green pods and seeds! Okra is cool! Okra is au courant! Okra rules! O-Kra! O-Kra! O-Kra! Whoo!]
Now that I’ve completed my first week of strict adherence to the Anti-Candida Diet (ACD), I thought I’d put down some thoughts and reactions for those of you who are contemplating embarking on it, or for those who are simply curious. (If you’re here seeking a new recipe, please come back tomorrow–we’ll have cookies!)
First, I am thrilled to say I have not veered even one iota from the procrustean parameters of the diet. Having said that, I’m also amazed at how difficult I am finding it this time round.
Maybe I’d just forgotten how painful the process was last time, nine years ago, but I don’t recall struggling with it this much back then. Somehow, a decade made all the difference! True, I am also nine years older, and nine years closer to the dreaded “M” stage of life. ** Or maybe those little candida critters have been pumping iron in the interim and are now more resilient than ever.
[You are allowed burgers (sans bread)–but who would want one? Image courtesy of Beltway Confidential.]
As I mentioned in my previous post, this diet requires elimination of any food that could feed yeast or help yeast to grow (ie, allergens, toxins, etc.), leaving precious little to eat. For omnivores, the bulk of the diet would become meat, chicken, fish, eggs. But if you don’t eat those foods, not much else remains once you cut out all grains and fruits, plus some veggies (okay, not all grains; I’m allowed 1/4 cup of one gluten-free grain per day)–not to mention sauces, condiments, alcohol, fermented foods, and so on.
Here’s what you should know if you’re curious about trying the ACD.
Because I’d done this before, I was already aware of a few of these challenges, which made it a bit easier to follow the diet. Still, it can be very difficult to stick with it unless you’re prepared for some of the following.
- No Dessert for You. Since most people on this diet are addicted to sweets, cutting out the usual baked goods, puddings, candies, cakes, pies, etc. is really tough. Initially, my body went carb-crazy and I had to eat something every two hours or so to keep my blood sugar levels steady. This passed by day three (thankfully–it can really mess up your schedule!). I’ve also managed to create a few ACD-friendly “desserts”–which I’ll post anon.
[Here’s your dessert on the ACD. Image courtesy of Innocent Creativity blog.]
- Precious Few Grains. The first phase of the diet eliminates most carbs, and allows very few of the “acceptable” ones. To my mind, it seems very similar to a low-carb or low-GI diet. Which would make sense, I suppose, since its purpose is to starve off candida albicans–an organism that feeds on sugar (including blood sugar).
- Hunger. Perhaps I should more accurately designate the feeling as “unresolved cravings.” I mean, I can count on one hand the times I’ve experienced true hunger. On this topic, I think Mark Bittman has something useful to say. A couple of weeks ago, I heard an interview with the man, discussing his newest tome, Food Matters. Among other things, Bittman mentioned how his “vegan until six” diet plan helped him lose 35 pounds and regain his health.
In the radio interview, he was asked how he managed to alter his diet so radically and still stick with the plan. His response was enlightening (and I paraphrase liberally here): “Well, consider the three major needs in our lives, for food, sleep, and sex. We all learn to control our sexual urges fairly early on; and certainly most of us in the working world regularly ignore our need for sleep. Yet we never, ever, in our society, are willing to allow ourselves to feel hungry. Like needs for sex and sleep, why can’t we just ignore it when we feel hungry sometimes?”
For me, Bittman’s comment was a little epiphany. Clearly, my appetite is telling me to eat when I don’t actually require more food; the ACD supplies all the nutritional requirements necessary. What I’m fighting is the desire for those last six Hershey kisses just because they’re left at the bottom of the bag (and really, why would you leave six little kisses sitting there?) or the mindless crunching on handfuls of Red Hot Blues because I just got home from work and dinner won’t be ready for a couple of hours and what else am I going to do while I peek intermittently at Oprah?–well, you get the idea. Remembering Bittman’s advice this past week allowed me to overcome those cravings, at least most of the time.
- Die-Off Reaction. As the yeasty beasties die off, they release toxins into the system that must then be filtered and cleared out by your own detoxification systems of liver and kidneys. This can be tough on your body. The second day of the diet, I was convinced I was coming down with a flu: my forehead pulsated, my muscles felt weak, all I wanted to do was sleep. By day three, it had disappeared. Even though you may feel worse initially, it’s important to push through.
It’s been a mere seven days, but already I can recognzie a few of the benefits of this cleanse:
- Symptoms abate. Almost immediately, I noticed that my chronically blocked sinuses began to clear. I had a strange sensation of, “hey! What’s all that air in my nose?” before I realized, “oh, THIS is what it feels like to breathe out of both nostrils.” Similarly, the muscle weakness disappeared, some tummy grumblings cleared significantly, eyes were less swollen in the AM, and so on.
- Clarity of Thought. One of the oft-mentioned symptoms of candida overload is fuzzy thinking or inability to concentrate. This will begin to clear once the yeast begin to die off, after about 3 days or so.
- Energy. Yeast and other toxins sap your energy. Once they begin to take a hike, your energy returns–and you’re suddenly intensely grateful for the extra hours you have during each day to blog, read, meditate, spend time with loved ones, or do anything else you please.
[I concur, Mum–it’s great to have boundless energy! You should try rolling on the grass some time!]
I won’t be chronicling the events of every week in this much detail, but will likely mention the more significant milestonres every now and again as I move through the process over the next five weeks. If anyone has any specific questions about the diet or the experience, please let me know and I’d be happy to address them in an upcoming post as well.
“Um, Mum, you know that no one could be more serious about food and eating than we are. . . but really, I think you need to take a chill pill on this one. Because this post is really a downer.”
I don’t mean this post as a downer. The ACD will tax your willpower and force you to confront your worst eating habits. . . but that can be a really good thing. For me, it’s a necessity. Well, every nine years or so, anyway.
** no, not “Marriage,” though that might throw me just as much. I meant “Menopause.”
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs
January 8, 2008
I wouldn’t have believed it myself if it hadn’t happened to me personally (why, yes, you’re absolutely right, that does sound like the opening line of a letter to Penthouse Forum! But sorry, it’s not).
Two whole days, and I have consumed not one single sweet. No cookies. No cake. No muffins, even. But best of all: no chocolate! My small intestine is saying, “thank you.” My gastric juices are whispering, “we appreciate the time off.” My liver is chanting, “Bless you, my child.” The scale is even winking at me in gratitude. The Girls–well, they’re not as thankful. (“We really do miss getting the leftover bits of those oatbran banana muffins, Mum.“)
How did I accomplish such a feat, you ask? Well (like so much else in my life, unfortunately), it wasn’t a conscious choice. I have discovered since our new semester began this week that it is just soooo much easier for me to eat healthfully when I have some distraction. During the past two days, I’ve had distraction squared. Exponential distraction. To wit, dozens of students emailing with questions, numerous pieces of coursework to put into place, several meetings with colleagues, coordinators and Chairs (and chairs, too, actually), a cooking class to present in a major grocery store, a doctor’s appointment, and myriad other little errands and domestic tasks that I’ve left by the wayside for too long (hmmmm. .. why don’t we see just how long we can live without unpacking the second half of our kitchen, still in boxes from our recent move?)
On some level, I guess I know that my dietary habits are curbed by being busy, so I tend to overbook myself, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. But hey, I like it that way; I get too stressed out when I’m not so busy that I’m stressed out.
It just seems that the ability to exert willpower over poor dietary choices is much more effective when I have many things to occupy my time and mind. This fact tends to convince me that my eating is, indeed, emotional, as I am able to easily ignore even the most insistent rumbling of my stomach during times that I’m involved in what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (I swear, that’s his real name) would call a “Flow” activity.
I guess I’ve always been someone who requires structure and consistency to be comfortable and stave off anxiety. As an undergraduate, I was exceedingly organized, so much so that I could work part time, go to school full-time, be a teaching assistant part-time, and still have a social life. I was one of those annoying students who elicited the gag reflex in others by always having her course readings done (with notes) before class, and always finishing essays long before the due date (though I never actually handed them in before the due date, because I didn’t want my professors to think I hadn’t used the maximum time allotted, thereby designating me a slacker).
When it comes to my eating habits, however, I tenaciously resist the idea of structure. Why? There have certainly been times in my life when I did diet according to “Diet Rules,” whatever fashion dictated they were at the time.
Ah, nostalgia: I remember clearly when The Nurse first explained to me (a mere tyke at the time!) about the concept of calories. The rules were easy: it didn’t matter where you got your calorie buzz as long as your sinful activity never exceeded a certain number per day (I think it was 1000 at that time). You could eat anything you wanted, no matter how decadent, and you’d still lose 5 pounds a week as long as you followed the rules. But if you went too far, or enjoyed too much, you’d pay for breaking those rules by growing fatter and fatter, and your friends would ultimately reject you. So we went on a chocolate cake diet, eating one slice of it for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner in order to lose weight. (Come to think of it, that was also about the time she explained the birds and the bees to me as well, so maybe I’m getting those two sets of rules mixed up.)
Later on was the “same thing for each meal” diet (not to be confused with the previous one, which is technically the “same thing for every meal” diet). In its second incarnation, the diet prescribed a bowl of corn flakes with skim milk for breakfast, a salad and orange for lunch, and chicken and vegetables for dinner. At that time, I was working lunch hours in the high school cafeteria, so I’d get my orange and salad for free (I know, I can get my entire lunch for free, and what do I pick? Salad and an orange). Back then, in my early teens, that diet also worked beautifully. I did lose weight, my first large weight loss. Unfortunately, I also lost my period and felt pretty crappy most of the time. (Oh, and losing the weight didn’t help me get a boyfriend, either. Bummer.)
I could go on (but I’ll spare you). Suffice it to say that, over the years, I tried sundry and various ways to lose weight, always keeping it off for a short time (except my one big “lose,” after which I maintained my slim self for about a decade). But eventually, I gained back the weight in the most cliched fashion, even surpassing the previous “high” weight.
Lack of success in the past may explain why I’m diet-shy at the moment and bristle at any mention of counting points, calories, carbs, fat grams, or anything else that would cause me to practise my rusty addition or subtraction skills before eating. I am truly thankful that I haven’t felt the urge to consume anything unhealthy in the past two days, but I’m still not entirely sure why that’s been the case.
What I’m aiming for, eventually, is to regain the power in that equation (there’s that darn math again!), allowing me to assume conscious control of whether or not I lean toward the slice of chocolate cake or the scrambled tofu for dinner. And judging by the last couple of days, it would make sense to examine just what it is that distraction offers. Because in the end, I think it’s far preferable to meander through your days, relaxed and aware, than to rush through a predetermined schedule just to avoid the temptation of unhealthy eating.