I’m Having an Affair . . . with Coconut Oil

You read right. I’m officially in love . . . with an oil. I feel as though I should hang my head in shame that I’ve let anything capture my thoughts and admiration and desires other than my husband. But I just can’t help myself. The more I learn what coconut oil is and does for my body, the more I want to indulge in its pleasures.

It was definitely not love at first sight. I was actually repulsed, literally, at the thought of cooking with anything other than the old standbys, canola and olive oil. But when Jennifer assured me, what, four to five times, that cooking with it wouldn’t make my food taste like coconut I hesitantly decided to give it a try. And . . . she was right! It didn’t taste like coconut—it didn’t taste like anything. It didn’t even taste like canola oil, which is something I’ve come to appreciate.

So once I became comfortable with the cooking aspect, Jennifer then said you can eat it. Straight or laced with a nut and agave. She actually said it’s good to eat up to three tablespoons a day (although she confessed she didn’t do that)! Okay, I was officially grossed. Steve was pretty grossed by the thought as well. You should have seen us standing huddled in the kitchen, jar open, spoon full (the dog was even watching), looking at each other saying, “You first!” And after a few chides the spoon went back in the jar, lid closed tight, then a mad rush to the couch to indulge in Swamp People for comfort.

Then Jennifer said that if you can’t handle eating, rub it—you can actually use it as a body moisturizer. And even as a sunscreen. What?! Okay, now that I was over the “eating” episode trauma, I soon found myself drying off from a shower and about to apply some creamy Olive Body Butter when I remembered Jen’s words of dare. Sigh . . . okay, I would give it a try. My skin is (or was) so dry, I felt I had nothing to lose (and at least it didn’t involve the mouth). So back to the kitchen for the jar I went. And on my body I rubbed. It felt fabulous. If you rub the solid oil between your hands, it quickly melts to liquid form and absorbs right into your skin. Very nice. I haven’t looked back.

Since then I’ve done my own research online (organicfacts.net is my favorite site) and have found a myriad list of benefits. Here are just a few: it helps hair, skin, digestion, bones, heart, blood pressure, and kidneys. It also helps maintain good cholesterol, increased immunity, healthy bowels, and even brain function in people with Alzheimer’s. Personally, my skin is no longer dry and my bad cholesterol has dropped 22 points in the last three months. I give two teaspoons a day to my dog, and she sheds significantly less than before. (She loves eating from the spoon. J)

So now I’m spreading the love . . .  If you haven’t tried using coconut oil, I hope you will. Do like I did—start small and build from there. If you are already a fan, post comments to let others know what they’re missing. It may be just enough of a push to convert yet another soul to the point of no return.

Happy oiling!!

NOTE: Only use organic, cold-pressed coconut oil (from the Philippines), never hydrogenated.

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Professionally Gluten-Free

ImageJen and MacKenzie have both shared their stories, and as the “professional” gluten free girl of the group I thought I should add mine as well! I’ve been gluten-free since summer 2004 after about ten years of random illness that no one could seem to explain away. I was 21 years old and about to begin my senior year at the University of Miami at the time. I didn’t have regular celiac symptoms, which is probably why it took us so long to figure out what the problem was! I also have quite a few allergies that took a while to diagnose and all of the symptoms mixed up together were a little much for most doctors. After years in and out of hospitals and various specialists offices for extreme headaches, an over abundance of sinus infections, dizziness and fainting, lack of energy, and low blood pressure, I finally found my answer at the allergist.

I was tested for food allergies and the results were a staggering 30 or so foods, with wheat, corn, apples, beans, plums, chickpeas, and shellfish topping the list as the worst offenders. It felt like a death sentence and I did not take it well. After all, I had always been the girl who sneered at low carb diets while proclaiming that anyone who willing gave up bread must be crazy! I was a royal pain in the behind to be around for the first six months of my detox, but after a while my body responded and I felt so much better. I tried adding some things back in, working my way up from the lowest reactors to the highest. I was easily able to add back in black pepper and garlic, but adding in wheat made me so sick I could barely move. My stomach was in knots and my doctors were finally able to diagnose me with celiac. Corn gave me horrible migraines, chickpeas led to vomiting, and apples closed up my throat. Things like salmon, halibut, and beans give me horrible hives and led to sinus infections. Back then, it was difficult to find healthy foods that fit into my new diet, even in a big city like Miami, so I learned to cook. That first year was rough though–especially since I was a college student in one of the biggest party cities in the U.S. My sorority sisters had a hard time understanding why I wasn’t drinking beer, vodka, or whiskey anymore and why that 2AM Wendy’s run was now completely out of the question. And my cooking skills back then were decidedly sub-par. I ate a TON of plain baked chicken and plain steamed veggies, which certainly helped make me the skinniest I’ve ever been, but didn’t do much in the way of enjoying life and food!

It’s gotten easier and easier over the years to be on such a restrictive diet–especially thanks to farm-to-table movements and the increase in blogs and other internet resources. I moved to New York City for five years after college and learned to love food again while I was there. I learned how to cook all sorts of tasty dishes and how to eat out as safely as possible. It was city of inspiration for me and helped me learn to enjoy being gluten free instead of suffering through it! I’ll be sharing recipes, tips, and tricks alongside my fellow gluten-free gluttons on this blog. I can’t tell you what a relief it is after all these years to not be the only gluten-free gal at work functions 🙂

A New Venture, in Life and Blog

Last week, over lunch with a couple of coworkers at The Wild Cow, a local vegetarian eatery, all three of us decided to order gluten-free treats to take with–a chocolate cupcake and a piece of vanilla raspberry cake. Each. We reasoned that since we aren’t in that part of town often, we might as well stock up. One of us remarked that it was so gluttonous to be walking out with six desserts between the three of us, but hey, at least we’re gluten-free gluttons!

Aren’t we so clever? Just nod and say yes. We’re so dang clever that we thought this would be a great blog name and decided it might be fun to take it for a spin and see if it goes anywhere. I’m an infrequent blogger over at my own place, so I’m not sure I can make any promises. However, some lifestyle changes over the last four months as well as cancer among friends and family have me pretty obsessed lately with food and herbs and general well-being. That may be just enough motivation to spark frequent-ish posts.

It all started on October 10, 2011, with a delicious and beautiful cake pop. (My nails looked really good that day too.)

It tasted fantastic. And my mouth started swelling up within a couple hours–lips, tongue, roof of mouth. (It’s a good thing I didn’t eat the second one I took home.) The next morning my mouth was painful and swollen, so I went to a clinic and was put on prednisone and massive doses of Benadryl for what the doc believed to be an allergic reaction to food dye. Unfortunately, the treatment only sent my body into a further tailspin (I won’t go into details here–to sum up, prednisone = terrible). I ended up stopping the prednisone and the swelling went down, leaving raw skin in its wake, but even benign foods like apples began to make my lips swell. Fed up with Western medicine’s tactics, I decided to go visit a naturopath (otherwise known as Dr. WooWoo).

And then everything changed…

That’s the beginning of my journey, one that initially included a lot of whining and misery and detoxing because of the dramatic diet changes (and a lot of annoying my coworkers with the whining–I think that might be part of what made a couple of them ultimately join me in this lifestyle change, just to see what all the whining was about). All that bellyaching and un-fun detoxing came to a good result–an amazing result really. I am in a much happier and healthier place, where I am now gluten-free, mostly sugar-free, and mostly dairy-free (I’ll share more about my eating plan in a later post). I am completely off the medication for my Hashimoto’s and have never felt better. My head is clear, and I actually feel like my brain is working better. I am sleeping  for the first time in fifteen years. I feel AWESOME. Seriously. (If you know me in real life, especially in the past, I’m not a feel-awesome kind of person by nature. I’m a lay-on-the-couch-all-day-and-eat-chips kind of person.) I haven’t had another allergic reaction since I eliminated gluten, sugar, and dairy from my diet. And I have become obsessed with sharing my transformation and all this wellness-for-the-taking with others. For me, going gluten-free isn’t a fad. I believe I can manage my food allergies, my seasonal allergies, my thyroid, and my physical and emotional well-being by tending to my body in a way I had never considered before. The naturopath hasn’t told me I need to be gluten-free for life, but I’m definitely considering it. And strangely, I don’t feel deprived at all. In fact, I’m enjoying food in a whole new way, fascinated by all the creativity of learning to cook in this new dynamic.

So that’s what I’m here for. I’ll be sharing about my experiences, what I’m learning, and lots of recipes. If you’re going to live this way, you have to cook (which I already loved), but you have to cook in a new way. At first this annoyed me, but now I find it kind of exciting. I feel like some kind of wizard in my own kitchen.

The plan is for four of us to blog here. Only one of us is professionally gluten-free (she has hardcore celiac). The rest of us are kind of a domino effect of my initial diet changes. We all feel better, have lost weight, and are happier and healthier overall. We figure this will be a great place to share recipes and stories. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.