Sunday, May 29, 2011


Have you ever watched Steel Magnolias?  If you have, do you remember the scene where Shelby has too much insulin in her system and her body essentially goes into fight or flight mode- an insulin reaction, as it's called?  If not, let me describe the scene:

Shelby and her mom are at the hair dresser's, and they are having a conversation about Shelby's wedding, which is what she is getting her hair done for.  Suddenly, Shelby can't really connect to the conversation around her.  She starts to feel edgy and zones out a bit.  She then starts to hit Truvy (the hair dresser and her friend) and then scrubs her fingers through her hair in a rage,  messing up everything Truvy had just done to it.  She gets defensive and wants everyone to leave her alone.  When her mom tries to get her to eat something to counteract her reaction, she tells her no and to leave her alone.  Her mom has to force-feed her to save her from the reaction.

Hypoglycemics have the same thing happen, but it's for different reasons (Shelby is diabetic).  I realize you may know this already if you've been going through this for a while, but for some, the idea may be new.  For hypoglycemics, the pancreas still works, but it doesn't work well.  When food enters the bloodstream, the pancreas shoots out insulin but sometimes too much, and if there isn't good food for it to work on, there ends up being an excess of insulin in the system, causing an insulin reaction.  It isn't as dire as for a diabetic, but it feels just as bad.  And you certainly don't want to give a hypoglycemic juice or candy, like you would for a diabetic.  For the diabetic, that excess insulin was put into the body via a syringe, so it needs to be used up.  For the hypoglycemic, the pancreas will shoot out more insulin, and if all it has is a simple sugar to work on, it can be a never-ending cycle.  So, simple sugars like candy, breads, etc., will only make the hypoglycemic feel better for a few minutes, and then s/he will feel terrible all over again.

There is a link on the home page to learn more about hypoglycemia.  I know a lot of people try to  ignore this issue.  The problem with that is 1. There's a higher chance of it turning into diabetes.  2.  One can feel perpetually drunk, fatigued, achy, nauseous, edgy, spacey, annoyed, foggy, etc.  Until the hypoglycemic does something to remedy the symptoms, s/he may not even know that "normal" isn't normal at all.  Way before I found out I had fibro, I found out about the hypoglycemia.  At first I was really good about eating, and I felt a lot better.  Then, I would "fudge" with my diet, eating sweets after a good meal, so at least there was some protein for the insulin to work on first.  I spent several years going back and forth between being diligent about my diet and not being.  I guess that's fairly normal.  It took my fibro pain for me to get really serious again about my eating habits (and I still "fudge" at times but not every day).

There is a secondary issue, called "fasting hypoglycemia", the previously mentioned issue is "reactive hypoglycemia"- I have both, of course because I'm lucky that way), but some people only have one or the other.   For some people, waiting too long to eat can cause the same issue as eating the wrong things.  That's one reason a good breakfast is imperative.   I have to have protein for breakfast- the end.  But, I also can't go for more than 4 hours tops between meals, or I get sick.  If I'm stressed, it can be a shorter period of time, like 2 hours- stress seems to bring on an episode, and when I am stressed, I'm not paying attention to my body; I'm paying attention to my stress (stress also increases fibro pain- sheesh). The result of  fasting too long will usually manifest itself in me getting really cranky and/or overwhelmed.  At that point, it is really hard for me to know what to do next, which needs to be to eat something. Instead, I go into "survival mode," even if it is a really ineffective one, like Shelby did.   Even if I can figure out I need to eat something, I have a really hard time deciding on something to eat.  For one thing, it's too overwhelming.  For another, at that point, my stomach gets upset, and the last thing I want to do is eat.  That's why I try to keep Zone bars in the house.  I can usually force myself to eat that, at least.  Usually I try to eat a little more protein in addition to that, as I find the Zone bar not to be perfect for me, but it does solve the problem temporarily.  Cheese does the same thing.  Zone bars are easy to carry around with me, too, so I never get in an emergency.   (I feel like a commercial!)  It's also really easy to eat something bad for me, like fries, when I'm starving and can't think straight enough to talk myself out of it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Recipe Books

Ok, I already blew the every other day thing.  I'm trying to get ready to teach a summer class in a little over a week and underestimated how hard it is to convert a 16 week class into a 5 week one, even though I've done it before... but not for a class that has a 10-page paper.  Anyway, I'm sure you wanted to know that.

I have three decent books for recipes.  Regular cookbooks will have good recipes in them, but it is really hard to sift through them and find one that works on this diet, especially while trying to ignore all the recipes that I really would rather eat.  Now, I am going to stick to the strict diet recipes, because I believe most people will need more help with that, since it's harder to find good strict recipes.

Before I get into that, I did find that Almond Mousse recipe.  I will add it to the last post tonight or tomorrow, depending on how tired I am at the end of this post. [Update: this was a low-fat, not a low-sugar/carb recipe!  I can't even figure out a way to convert it to fibro-safe, so it's out, sadly.] I have been Zumba-ing my butt off lately, but I usually pay for it ("fibro crash" pay, not "normal person" pay), although it's only a few hour crash, so I find that worth the price.  Of course, that cuts into my day, so things get dropped.  Ok, let's move on...  after one more note... can I just tell you how happy it makes me as an English professor that this blog lets me italicize, so I can do titles properly.  It bugs me to no end when I can't do that, like on Facebook.  I know most of you don't care, but I do. Painfully.

1.  What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Fibromyalgia by Dr. St. Amand

The kicker here is that I let someone borrow my book, so I can't look them up until I get it back!  But, I did find a board of recipes based on the diet:

Strict Diet Recipes  (I saw a cheesecake recipe I will be going back to when I'm done here!)
Liberal Diet Recipes

2.  The Fibromyalgia Cookbook: More Than 120 Easy & Delicious Recipes by Shelly Ann Smith

Quote from the Foreward: "Research has shown that almost half of all FM patients attempt dietary changes and many report this as a helpful approach.  In the case of the related disorder of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), over 70 percent of those who attempt dietary changes report it as the most helpful complementary or alternative intervention."  Just sayin'... because like I said earlier, I really didn't want this to be true, emotionally, but like I said earlier, it has been so worth it and not as painful as I anticipated... not even close.

Now, a lot of the recipes in this book have ingredients in the liberal (non-weight loss) diet from Dr. St. Amand.  Some ingredients aren't on either list, so I don't use them unless I'm throwing a little caution to the wind.  I actually haven't looked through this book for a while; there are a lot that work for the liberal diet but few for the strict one, so I'll only be adding a few here.  By the way, I eat "desserts" and "dinners" for breakfast all the time.  If they're on the strict diet, it really doesn't make a difference:

Spinach Salad
-4 c. fresh spinach
-1/2 c. cubed red bell pepper
-1/2 c. sliced red onion
-1/4 c. sunflower seeds (should only be 12 seeds on the strict diet, though)
***my additions:
- sugar-free bacon (I've bought it before, though it's hard to find)... it's spinach salad!  It needs bacon, for crying out loud!  And for someone with HG, we need protein.
-hard boiled eggs
-salad dressing of choice (not really... or you'd pick something bad for you, so I found you a good recipe instead.  See following).

Warm SF Bacon Dressing (from's Low Carb Diet Page)
-4-6 slices of cooked bacon, sliced
-1/2 c. minced onion
-2 T. cider vinegar
-1 clove garlic
-a pinch of salt
-2 pinches of pepper
-2 t. worth of sugar substitute

Chicken and Shrimp Salad
-1 c. cubed cooked chicken
-1 c. small cooked shrimp
-1/ c. chopped celery (I hate celery, but it was in the book, so I'm putting it down against my better judgement)
-1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
-1/2 c. chopped green onion
-1/2 mayo (see recipe below)
-1 T. horseradish (not the creamy kind, cheater!)
-1 t. dill weed
-pepper to taste
-5 c. iceberg lettuce

Combine chicken, shrimp, celery, onion, bell pepper in bowl.
Combine mayo, horseradish, and spices.  Add to shrimp mixture and stir well.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Serve on lettuce leaves.

Parmesan Sautéed Zucchini
-2 T. extra virgin olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 med. zucchini, cut into thick slices
-pepper to taste
-Parmesan cheese to taste

Saute garlic in oil in a pan on medium heat.  Add zucchini and cook until tender.  Season with pepper.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Chicken Chili

I like this one, because it doesn't have tomatoes in it, which have been shown to cause inflammation.  I am starting to believe they affect me, so as much as I like them, I try to avoid them when I can.
-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
-1 c. finely chopped onion
-1 c. red onion
-2 med red bell peppers, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed (no beans allowed on the strict diet, darn it)
-1 3/4 chicken stock (make sure this has no sugar in it.  I can't believe some of the things they put sugar and other starches in.  You may want to make your own sometime and save it.)
-2 4.5 oz cans green chilis, drained and chopped
-1/4 t cumin

Spray a skillet with non-stick spray (again, check ingredients).  Add chicken, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and cook over medium heat until the chicken is done.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer 10-15 minutes to thicken.

Baked Salmon
I don't eat fish, except sushi, which I know sounds weird.  This sounds good, though.
-4 salmon fillets
-1/4 c mayo (see recipe below)
-1/4 t. pepper
-1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dill weed

Place salmon on greased foil, skin side down.  Spread with mayo.  Sprinkle with pepper, dill, and garlic powder.  Fold the foil over salmon, sealing completely.
Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes or until it flakes when tested with a fork.

Herbed French Dressing
Finding a good legal dressing is really hard!  Here's one that works.

-1 c. extra virgin olive oil
-1 c. wine vinegar
-1/2 t seasoned pepper (I'm not sure what this is, actually)
-1/2 t. garlic powder
-1/4 t. dried basil leaves
-1/4 t. dried oregano leavs
-1/4 t. paprika

Put all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.  Refrigerate.  Use on salad greens.

Dill Dip 2 
"Dill Dip 1" had illegal ingredients, just FYI

-1/2 c. mayo
-3/4 c. sour cream
-2 t. onion flakes
3 t. dill weed
1/2 t. celery salt (I can tolerate and sometimes like celery salt and seed, for the record.)

Combine and chill.  Use with legal raw vegetables.

3.  The Low Blood Sugar Cookbook by Patricia and Edward Krimmel
(They also wrote The Low Blood Sugar Handbook, which is very helpful if you aren't used to having low blood sugar yet and need to know more about it.)

Not every recipe in here adheres to Dr. St. Amand's diet, either, but there are some good options in here as well. Some of them have to be adapted, as they like to use pineapple juice and such as sweeteners, which won't work on the strict diet.

Baked Egg
-1 egg
-1 t. butter
-parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper
***my addition: 
-thawed frozen spinach

Break egg into buttered custard cup/ramekin.  Put spinach and spices in next.  Pour melted butter over that.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.  Bake at 325 for 20 minutes.

It is hard to find SF mayo at the store.  If you have watched Julie and Julia, her mayonnaise sounds like heaven on earth, so I found the recipe online and made it.  It is a pain in the rear to make, but it is very good.  For someone with fibro, doing it by hand is just not always practical.  I did her recipe twice; the first time I had to take a nap afterwards (seriously, I did) and my hands hurt for two days.  This recipe is easier:

-1 egg
-1 t. dry mustard
-3/4 t. salt
-1 c. vegetable oil
-2 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. vinegar

Blend everything in a blender until it is thick and lemon colored.  Continue blending and add in a steady thin stream:
-1 c. vegetable oil (if you put it in all at once, it won't work)
If too thick, add: 
-1 T. warm water
Store in a covered container and refrigerate.  Fresh mayo is really tasty!  You can adjust the lemon juice amount to your taste.  It took me four batches before I found the combo I personally liked.  

You can also add spices to this mayo to make dips and dressings, since most of the store-bought dips and dressings are no-no's as well. 

Egg Custard
-3 eggs
-1/8 t. salt
-1 t. vanilla
-2 c. milk (the strict diet won't allow for milk, so use cream)
-nutmeg to taste
-3 1/2 T frozen concentrated pineapple juice (the strict diet won't allow for this, so use sugar substitute)

Scald milk.  Beat in bowl: 3 eggs, sweetener, salt.
Stir in slowly: slightly cooled milk, vanilla.  Pour into custard cups; sprinkle with nutmeg.  Place cups in large baking pan with 1" hot water on bottom.  Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve warm or chilled.

Lemon Chiffon Pie (ok, not a quick and easy one, but it might be worth the time!)
-1 envelope unsweetened gelatin
-5 eggs
-1/2 c. lemon juice (this is over the allotment, so don't eat the whole recipe in one sitting!)
-1/2 c. frozen concentrated pineapple juice (the strict diet won't allow for this, so use sugar substitute)

Mix in pan: gelatin, sugar substitute (add water to compensate for no juice).  Blend in 5 beaten egg yolks, 1/2 c. lemon juice.  
Let stand 1 minute.
Stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved (the book says "till"- really?), about 3-5 minutes.  
Pour into a large bowl
Chill, stirring occasionally until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from spoon.

Beat in medium bowl:
5 egg whites until stiff
Fold into gelatin mixture.  Turn into glass pie plate.  Chill until firm.  
(Note to self:  Go to grocery store tomorrow to get ingredients for this one.)

Ok, that's it for today.  Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

But, I'll Miss My Treats!

Yes, you will.  There is this great chocolate tiger cake or something like that at a restaurant here called The Pastry Pub.  (Not to mention their sandwiches on croissants- man!)  But, when I eat it, as soon as I get home, my body will shut down and go to sleep for a couple of hours, and I will hurt for two days.  Once in a while, that may be worth it to me... I guess it's like people who go out and party and get drunk, knowing they will pay for that.  The funny thing about that is, I've never understood why anyone would put themselves through those kinds of hangovers.  Now, I kind of get it, because that's exactly what I've done at times with sugar.  And, I still think it's kind of a dumb thing to do!

Anyway, I have found some things that are pretty good "legal" substitutes.  No, they're not as good as the real thing, but I have found that the longer I stay on "the straight and narrow", the more my palate has adjusted to it, and I enjoy the legal foods more.  Case in point, the first time I had diet soda, it was the grossest thing in the world.  Now, regular soda is, besides the fact that that is the quickest way to a sugar coma and inevitable hangover I can think of.

One thing I should make clear is that not only do I have hypoglycemia (also called hyperinsulinism), and good percentage of those of us with fibro do have it, but there is diabetes in my family.  So, I really don't want to overwork my pancreas that often, besides not wanting to feel awful.  If you are really touchy with sugars and carbs, that may be a big part of it, so you might want to read up on it.  Maybe I should add a link on symptoms.  Remind me to do that.

If you aren't sure, start a food journal.  Write down everything you eat and when and also write down when you feel sick, edgy, foggy, etc.  Do this for a few days; you will be amazed at how clear the correlation is when it is written down.  Until I did this, I couldn't see that food was affecting me.

Here are some legal treats I've found:

-Diet A&W root beer (other brands are gross, as far as I'm concerned)

-Sugar-free ice cream (technically not on the strict list, but I've never had an issue with it affecting my weight loss as long as I don't eat a gallon at a time).

-Sugar-free candy (same as the ice cream as far as affecting weight loss; Weight Watcher's mint patties and coconut candies are amazing.  Werther's Originals has a sugar-free version, as does Jolly Ranchers, both of which taste identical to the sugared kind to me.  Sugar-free gum is abundant.  By the way, Doublemint is not sugar-free- found that out half-way through a pack. O.o  Also, be aware that many sugar-free chocolates have sorbitol in them, which is a natural laxative, so take it easy.  You don't really want to know how I learned that fact.)

-Egg creams (Ok, I'm a New Yorker at heart, though I haven't lived there since I was a toddler, so I know what these are and love them.  There is no egg in it, for the record.  I'm assuming it's called this because the foam looks like egg whites).
*seltzer water- about 8 oz. (make sure to leave quite a bit of room in the glass, or it will overflow and you will have a mess.)
*cream- about 1/8 to 1/4 cup
*sugar-free chocolate syrup to taste (in my town, I buy Eat Right; Be Fit brand at Smith's; it's in the diabetic section there)
Mix and enjoy.  Don't use fizzless seltzer.  There are these great little tops I found with a "ball" on top.  Once I open the seltzer, I put this on and pump it up, and it lasts for weeks longer this way.

So, one issue I guess I should mention now-  I don't measure; I'm Italian.  I'm sorry.  We genetically don't need to measure.  We just eye-ball everything and it turns out well.  If you're not Italian, I'm sorry you don't have this talent.  It does make it hard when I'm trying to tell someone else a recipe- that's why all my measurements say "about".

-Sugar-free custard or mousse (I just find pre-made packs for this)

-Italian sodas
*seltzer water-about 8 oz.
*sugar-free syrup (like Torani, which, by the way, you can buy online when your store only carries SF vanilla; I recommend almond or amaretto flavor, which really should be the same thing, shouldn't it?....mmmm, almond.... sorry, Homer moment.)
*cream- about 1/8 to 1/4 cup (optional, though in my opinion, it's not)

-Ricotta cheese recipe from the last post.

-Strawberries and Cream (with a little Splenda mixed in)
If you use frozen strawberries, it kind of freezes the cream and makes instant ice cream.  I've also microwaved it to make it warm and mushy.

Again, there are more things that I can't think of, but this is a good start.  I have to say that never having to avoid cream makes me happy.  People who can eat regular food but want to lose weigh can't say this.  That seems at least a little more fair to me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Quick Foods

Ok, most of the things you need to eat on this diet take a little forethought, but there are some exceptions.  Also, there are some things that I've found work on the strict diet that probably shouldn't.  I was very strict at first, though,  and then I experimented, one thing at a time, once I wasn't in as much pain anymore.  I would suggest that strategy.  Then you know what affects you and what doesn't.

There are some things that I do for a quick meal (with the strict diet in mind):

-Boar's Head cold cuts don't have fillers in them.  And a lot of them don't have sugars in them.  There is usually a brochure at the deli, so you can see what is in them.  Sometimes, I just put some Boar's Head roast beef, or whatever, in a ziplock, and there's my lunch.

-Stouffer's Spinach Souffle is the only frozen meal that I've found that works on the strict diet.  I've found a few things, but very few, that work on the liberal diet (meaning, if you aren't needing to lose weight), and I will sometimes eat those.  I'll post those another day.

-Protein Shake:  I guess, strictly speaking, this shouldn't count on the strict diet, but it's never slowed down my weight loss, so I include it.  Everyone is different:
*1/2 cup of sugar-free vanilla ice cream (the Carb Smart kind is awful, though; I buy Dreyer's)
*A tablespoon of sugar-free almond butter (because I don't like peanut butter, but if you want peanut butter, make sure it is sugar-free)
*a cup or so (I don't measure) of cream.
Blend.  Drink.  Mmmm.

-Zone Bars.  Okay, I only use these in an emergency, but they are balanced well and have saved me from a hypoglycemic crash many times.  Some bars out there have a ton of sugar, so you can't just eat any protein bar.

-Ricotta cheese with cinnamon or nutmeg and Splenda.

-Pre-cooked, microwavable bacon.  It's not as good as regular bacon, but it is good in a rush, especially in the morning before work.  Incidentally, some bacons have a lot of sugar.  I try to buy the kinds that don't- hard to find- but, I also find that it seems to cook off, or at least it doesn't affect me.

-Blue Cheese salad (originally, this was an appetizer recipe with everything on endive leaves, but the fast version is to make a salad):
*Romaine lettuce
*Blue cheese crumbles
*Dried cranberries (not on the strict diet, so you can leave them out)
*Balsamic vinegar, reduced (I often won't even reduce it- it's better when it is, but I don't always have the time or energy for it).

-Boar's Head Salad:
*Romaine Lettuce
*Your favorite Boar's Head meat, cut up into small pieces
*Your favorite allowed dressing (or just olive oil, or oil and vinegar).

-Cheeseburger (sans bun):
*Sugar-free ketchup (it's out there)
*Homemade or sugar-free mayo (I'll give the recipe for homemade one of these days).
*Sugar-free bread-and-butter pickles
Obviously, you can vary it however you want.

Ok, so that's a start.   I'm sure I'm missing things.   I will try to post at least something every other day during the summer (since I have more time).   I'd like to get a good "recipe book" on here eventually.