“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Trip and Treats

Seeking some R-n-R, I fled to New York City this past weekend to reunite with college friends and a former coworker. To my great relief, I was able to eat sensibly for the majority of my trip. There is hope for going out to eat after all!

The trip began with lunch at Lupa, a Mario Batali restaurant. Here, I had Farro Tarjarin with Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms. Delicious! The farro was incorporated into ribbons of pasta, so I definitely had my whole grains for the day. Additionally, it was vegetarian and overall quite anti-inflammatory thanks to the mushrooms. Tangerine sorbet (shared with my lovely lunch companion) ended the meal. I eat sugar so sparingly these days that the sorbet shocked me with its sweetness. It was quite good though.

Afterward, I trekked to Caffe Reggio. Thankfully, I was full from lunch so the case of cannolis and tarts were not so tempting. Here, I literally had three pots of green tea. That's a lot of tea, no? The tea was good but it was hard to be in a coffee shop---drinking tea. When I used to drink coffee, I could always bank on going to a coffee shop for a better cup, something better than I could have made myself. However, tea is usually just tea--at home or in a cafe, doesn't matter. Same thing, except more expensive. Sometimes I go to Tbar for more exotic teas when I need a change though.

Then it was off to Mary's Fish Camp for dinner. The boys and I headed to a nearby bar to wait for our table. They had whiskey and vodka drinks; I had water. It sucked. Drinking water at a bar is lame. I couldn't even order a soda or juice. LAME. Thankfully, our table was ready in no time. I ordered raw clams on the half shell and then had Spanish mackerel with carrots and a chickpea puree. All were delicious. I indulged in a glass of white wine and then ended dinner with a glass of red. Meanwhile, I looked longingly at my friends' desserts: a beautiful chocolate bread pudding topped with pecans and a stately ice cream sunday drizzled with chocolate sauce. My friends assured me that the desserts did not taste nearly as good as they appeared. Hmpf.

The night ended with a trip to a local bar. What was it called? No idea. Let's just say I had a lot to drink. Decreasing alcohol tolerance + two boys eager to pay = Fun! Here, the boys discovered that my diet allows red wine. Before I could let them know that two glasses is my daily limit, a magical glass of red wine would appear...again...and again. I am not quite sure how much red wine I had last night but I woke up with a hangover. Good times.

I woke up to a tasty breakfast of banana cinnamon pancakes and green tea. The pancakes toed the line a bit, but oh well! They were really good--this coming from someone who does not typically like pancakes. (Thanks, S!)

When I returned back home, I went straight from the bus terminal to the grocery store. Here I picked up anti-inflammatory goodies for the week ahead. This week I will be cooking with millet for the first time. I had a lot of fun this past weekend, but I also realize that damage control is in order. Time for some (more) green tea and a turmeric supplement...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Small Gems

Now that I am on a restricted diet, I get very excited about delicious anti-inflammatory meals that may come my way.  Trust me, on this diet, there are some massive misses (for example, a spinach salad topped with sardines and chick peas--yuck).  As promised, I hope to share recipes that are downright tasty and healthy.  Tonight, we made Mushroom and Pea Quinoa Risotto and I enjoyed this thoroughly!  I think it's tastier than the traditional arborio rice variety because there's lot of texture in the whole grains.  We made this with a mixture of cremini and button mushrooms, as well as spinach cous cous for added nutrition and a nice punch of color.  The flavors are not only rich but also very clean and light.  I felt full but not heavy.  Best of all, this dish took significantly less time to prepare than traditional risotto.  I also benefit from the the lower glycemic indexes of quinoa and cous cous vs. the arborio rice...

In other news, I went to the optometrist today for new glasses.  It has been almost two years, so my glasses were long overdue.  I failed my depth perception test, which was kind of disheartening and funny at the same time.  When I couldn't tell which circle was "popping out" more than the others, I thought the woman was giving me a trick question.  Whoops. I mean, I can't say this was all that surprising given my difficulty with stairs and pouring water.  

While my diet may not be doing miracles for my eyesight, I think there have been some noticeable benefits.  1) I lost five pounds.  This is out of control for someone as small as I am.  Meanwhile, the boy has lost four pounds since pseudo-following this plan with me.  2) I used to have a persistently oily patch near my brow/forehead.  That is now gone.  In fact, I haven't used face wash since going on this diet, but my skin is just great.  3) This is not about me, but I'm convinced of the miracles of this diet.  The boy used to have this noticeable cyst on his hand.  GONE.  Totally decreased in size.  Coincidence?  I think (maybe) not!

What can this diet do for others?  I have no idea.  All I know is, I think I found something good.  Though I may hate it sometimes and cheat (sssssh...I had lots of fatty, creamy, and delicious cheese on V-Day), I think this plan is quite good and healthful.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Amsler a Day...

One way to monitor your vision is through the use of an Amsler Grid.  Simply look at the grid with both eyes, and then each eye individually.  If the lines appear straight and still, your eyes are probably fine.  If the lines appear distorted or stretched or fluid, something is wrong.  Call your doctor ASAP.  Some look at Amsler Grids daily while others just occasionally.  Though I do not use Amsler Grids as often anymore, I do think they can help with prevention if used at an early stage.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No Mo' Money

I'm so broke it hurts.  Since I began taking this alternative approach to my health problems, I feel like my money is slipping away.  Granted, it's hard to know if I've racked up more expenses or if it's the economy worsening at an alarming rate.  Both?  Either way, I'm living paycheck to paycheck.

When I first started acupuncture, I forked over $500 for 10 sessions.  At the time, it seemed like a small sum to pay for potentially lifetime benefits.  With twice-a-week appointments, well...the 10 sessions are rapidly running out.  My acupuncturist, Dr. Wang, told me that I could start coming once a week if I liked.  But she seemed a bit uncertain when she suggested this; after asking her if she thought I was ready for once a week, she admitted that I would benefit from another month of intensive sessions.  Even she acknowledged how costly this would be and told me that I could choose between once or twice a week.  Talk about being trapped between a rock and a hard place.  While I sure could use $500, I ended up agreeing to another round of twice-a-week sessions.  Dr. Wang believes that my situation is really serious and that an intense regimen of treatment now would help strengthen my body's ability to combat future inflammation.   It's like one of those corny credit card commercials: 10 sessions of acupuncture - $500...Vision - priceless.  In the end, I realized I had spent enough money on Avastin injections ($100 a pop after insurance), which involve a giant needle into the eyeball while fully awake and very scared.  And those certainly didn't work, and I'm not eager to sign up for any more. So, needle in the eye or needles all over my body...same difference.

So, is this acupuncture working?  I don't know.  As crazy as my condition sounds, it is totally painless and this makes it very hard to tell if the symptoms are improving or worsening.  The other day, Dr. Wang asked me to cover my good eye and look at her.  I was astonished by how much of her I saw--where once shadows and 'wavy smoke' dominated, I processed a full face.  I was thrilled, then I went home and tried to read with no success.  Dr. Wang tells me that I'll never regain my lost eyesight--I can only hope to maintain what I have.   

So, perhaps I was imagining that early successful episode.  My retina specialist tells me that sometimes it may seem like I have more inflammation than I actually do because my nerves are shot and misfiring light signals to my brain.  This is why sometimes I see more shadows while others more persistent flashing (like right after someone takes a picture).  This also explains why sometimes I feel like my life takes place at a dance club with a crazy strobe light (except not that much fun).  Most days, I see a combination of flashing and wavy shadows; the picture of the golfer is a very accurate representation.  Thankfully, my left eye sees fine and helps out the right one a lot; Leftie is my lil champ.  Thus, I can still process images correctly and lead a relatively normal life.  I can still read and only need larger text when I'm tired of staring at the computer, or when my eyes have been dilated after an appointment.  I don't drive...but honestly, I think I'd be a really dangerous driver even with two good eyes.  I get pedestrian sidewalk rage as it is...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Since I started this dieting madness, friends and family have been asking me what exactly is safe and not safe to eat.  To be honest, it can be really confusing even to me.  The research is all over the place, and it isn't a specific "fad" diet so no one source is the authority on inflammatory foods.  I've also discovered that there is a spectrum of anti-inflammatory diets, with the most extreme adopting a vegan diet sans gluten and corn.  At the other end of the spectrum, some diets seem too lax to be even health-oriented.

So, what to do?  I ended up going with the diet plan generally recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil.  I like his writing style and overall philosophy toward eating for health.  His food pyramid (pictured) is also quite easy to understand and offers some flexibility in eating options.  This is in sharp contrast to Dr. Perricone, whose list of Pro-Inflammatory Foods is so extensive that I wondered how I would survive day to day. 

Culling information from several sources of anti-inflammatory eating plans, here's my general approach to my diet:

The Good: 

These are the super foods of my diet.  If I am not eating these, my body's anti-inflammatory abilities will go haywire.  It is essential that I eat these foods several times a week and even daily.

* omega-3 anything (cold water fish, amped up eggs)
* fruits (berries and apples are winners)
*veggies (esp. dark leafy greens)
* whole grains (quinoa, brown not white rice) 
* legumes
* nuts (no peanuts)
* spices (esp. turmeric and ginger and cayenne pepper)
* soybeans (tofu, edamame)
* green tea
* olive oil

The Bad:

"Bad" is used with some reservation. I do eat these foods but in moderation just to keep myself from going insane.  Depending on who you read, these could go under the forbidden category but I've seen some recipes with such ingredients.  If I eliminated these, I would become very depressed.

* skinless poultry
* whole grain flour products (I like Rye Wasa crackers)
* tomatoes, peppers, and corn (These belong to the nightshade family and can cause irritation; it seems like this varies from person to person though.)
* canola oil (olive is best)
* low-fat dairy (I do eat this daily; my homemade organic low-fat yogurt is safe to eat.)
* honey (I eat this regularly in my Chunks of Energy though)
* pasta (I try to eat buckwheat pasta.)
* brown sugar
* red wine (You would go crazy without it too.)

The Ugly

No matter what, these are under that "Most Wanted" section of any diet I've researched.  Far and away, I am NOT allowed to have these because these foods are known to trigger inflammation and keep the good guys from doing their anti-inflammatory work.

* all deep fried food (hydrogenated oils are forbidden)
* red meat (so bad, just stay away)
* white sugar
* enriched and processed flour
* peanuts
* vegetable oil
* shortening
* corn syrup
* juice
* coffee
* beer
* trans- and saturated fat anything 
* in short, anything fun and junky

Basically, eat as organically close to the earth as possible.  I have my next doctor's appointment in April so I'm curious to see if any of this will amount to progress...