It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘food sensitivities’ Category

Unico 20.87- The Quiet Pool

The quiet pool was really the focus of our vacation I think. After a leisurely waking and a nice walk to the breakfast buffet, we retired to the quiet pool. It was a bit cooler than the two main pools and it was tucked off to the side. The music was lower, easily talked over. There was no beer pong. All the beer pong was over in the main pool.

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This really sums up our vacation. The clear cool water of the pool. Blue sky with decorative puffy white clouds. Palm trees swaying in the breeze. The swim up bar opened at about 11, or maybe 10:30. But we didn’t have to actually swim to the bar because the amazing Bianca would come by every little bit to refresh the ice buckets keeping our water bottles cold and see if we needed another pina colada, or maybe another daiquiri, or a chi-chi, which is what Bianca told me a pina colada with grenadine is called, although Google differs.

When we got warm, just hop up and take another dip in the pool. Gustavo, a young man not long out of school and saving for University, was tasked with making sure our umbrella constantly moved to keep us out of the sun. We didn’t take advantage of the lunch delivery, but it was available.

Partway through the morning our Host, Leonardo, would come by to see if we needed anything. Dinner reservations? Spa reservations? Could I please have an electric fan in our room? Certainly! No problem. Everything we could possibly need, including change for a $20 on the last day to tip our favorite servers, he made possible.

They were running some great specials, so after a leisurely morning reading and swimming at the pool, and a late lunch, I took myself off to the spa. Daily massage has become a goal. Some were good, some were amazing. Volcanic hot stone massage is a favorite, but I tried some of everything.

One day Beloved took off on an excursion to see the ruins at Tulum. He came back full of excellent educational details. He said the quality of the excursion and the education was much, much higher than the cruise excursions we’re used to. I didn’t think I’d be up to the walking, so I was in the spa and then had a lovely reading day.

After the pool and the spa was always a leisurely dinner. Beloved made extensive use of the jacuzzi tub on the deck every evening.

But when I plug into the memory to relax and bask in the joy, it’s laying on a sunbed at the quiet pool in the breeze that is the strongest memory. That’s what I look forward to in our next vacation.

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Unico 20.87- the Food.

Food, glorious food!

One of the questions we always have to ask is, can they handle a guest with food allergies. Yes, they did, and they did a fantastic job.

Breakfast and lunch every day was at the 20 87 restaurant, which is an enormous buffet. In the US I am particularly leery of buffets because you can’t be certain what is actually in the food, and cross contamination is a big problem. I ate at their buffet twice a day for 5 days and never had a single issue. You should be impressed.

While they did have all the traditional things an American tourist will expect, made to order omelettes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, and pancakes, that was the very least of the breakfast offerings. There was an array of things to make breakfast tacos, which I never fully investigated. There were so many things, I often wished they were still offering breakfast at lunch so I could try things I missed. Every day I had beautiful creamy scrambled eggs and bacon and gluten free bread. Other offerings that rotated were various preparations of potatoes. Poached eggs with salsa, with salsa verde, and some creamy cheesy sauce that I sadly skipped. Several times shredded beef or chicken that was beautifully seasoned. An entire section…six or seven trays…of sliced meats specifically a salami type item that I ate for breakfast and lunch every day. Trays of cheeses that made me sad I can’t eat cheese any more. Tray after tray of cut fruit, the expected watermelon and pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, something I didn’t recognize, and sliced peaches and plums, which was a very nice treat for me.

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And a huge selection of every possible pastry that my Beloved enjoyed ruthlessly. On the weekend they offered a selection of gluten free muffins that were lovely.

The juice flowed endlessly, and if you’re a fan of watermelon, I’d just like to recommend fresh squeezed watermelon juice to start your day. Or strawberry juice, if that’s your thing. Definitely my thing, along with orange juice, which was always fresh squeezed and far superior to what I can usually purchase here in the DC area.

Lunch was the same layout. More fruit, cheese, and sliced meats. Made to order lunch steaks, hamburgers, or fish. Tacos. Curries. Random veggies. Interesting potatoes. So much variety every day. Beloved was particularly enamored of the no less than 5 varieties of ceviche that were presented every day. And of course, desserts, if you possibly had any room. The gluten free chocolate chip cookies were very nice.

For less formal lunch or afternoon snacks there were several choices. There were some areas around the pools that were just walk up bars. One specialized in fried fish, one had a big brick pizza oven, one seemed to specialize in sandwiches. I never had room to try them.

For dinner, things were just a bit more formal. The space that was a buffet two meals a day became a steak house. I had to most amazing flank steak possible. It didn’t taste like anything but flank steak, but it was the richest, most tender flank steak you can imagine and I have no idea how they managed it. Beloved had something they called a strip roast, which seems to be what a rib roast would be if you cut it the other direction along the ribs. It was also very good, but we agreed mine was the best tasting.

There was a Italian restaurant that I admit we didn’t try. They do offer a gluten free pasta, but neither of us were particularly intrigued by the menu.

Mura House is their Japanese restaurant. We ate there twice because Beloved adores sushi. Everything he ate was beautiful and he raved about the freshness. They offered gluten free soy sauce, so all the sushi was available to me, except that I don’t care for it. Instead I had custom prepared teppanyaki, which wonderful. They also offered a specialty beverage called a Momo which went down so smooth on a hot day that it’s only by careful pre-planning that I didn’t over do. They are saki, peach liqueur, peach juice, and something else I think. Really spectacular. In this picture Beloved has received his tempura, but we’re still waiting on our drinks. With multiple open grills, I found it a bit warm, hence the fan.

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Cueve Siete is their Mexican signature restaurant. It is not what you think of as Mexican, but it was amazing anyway. One night there was table-side fresh to order guacamole. My favorite dish was a beef and sheep’s tongue appetizer that was just amazing, tender and flavorful. Both nights we were there I had the duck as my main course. It was rich and tender and not under cooked the way it often is here where it’s practically raw in the middle. It is not done to lick the plate, but it was difficult to maintain my composure. Sex on the Beach was the drink of choice those nights.

And on the off chance you might possibly still be looking for more food, Cafe Inez was on the walk from the restaurants back to our room and they offered a dangerous selection of desserts, baked goods, and they had a little three-tier case with three lovely gluten free choices, a fantastic apple tart with an almond base, a super rich frosted chocolate brownie-thing, and a lovely crumbly round pastry with a rich sweet taste and a light chocolaty layer in the middle. I’ve never seen one before, but it was delicious.

They took being accessible to those of us with food allergies very seriously. After check-in I was presented with a laminated card with all the food allergies I’d submitted printed on it. I showed this at every restaurant and it was noted down. I think that as they go along they’ll come up with a better method for keeping the information on file, but for now, in their first year of operation, they are obsessively keeping statistics.

It made our experience that much more stress free.

And because it matters to me, so maybe to you, in a conversation with part of the customer care team we ran into on the way back to our room one afternoon, I learned that almost all the food is local, either organically or hydroponically grown. They have a very aggressive recycling policy and have a whole team devoted to minimizing their impact.

Here at home I eat organic as much as possible, and I try to make the freshest choices, but the difference in the  food is astounding. Everything just tasted better there, and I don’t think it was solely because I didn’t have to cook it myself. I think real, fresh, untainted food is a gift it’s hard to get here. I’m not sure we as a culture even know where we’re missing any more.

If you missed the first part, it’s here.

 

 

What did your mother tell you?

 

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

My mom did at least.

I think that’s something that most of us have trouble with. Not when talking to others, but when talking to ourselves.

The hardest part of feeling terrible all the time is the feeling that I’m letting the rest of the world down. All the things I could be doing and accomplishing if I could just buck up, force myself off the couch, move faster, pay attention longer.

But I can’t. I just can’t.

Apparently there are people who are content to sit around and do nothing, even though they are mentally and physically able. You hear about it now and then. But I have to wonder, is that true? Are they really mentally able? Because if they are, it is unfathomable. Who could possibly choose to do that?

I put every effort into trying to maximize what I can accomplish. I eat the best I can, I do research, I force myself to accomplish things. If it takes everything I have to accomplish what must be done and leaves me no energy for what I’d like to do, well, there we are.

But when I look at people who just stop off at the grocery store because it is a nothing little task, I could cry. If I had done this and that differently. If I could just. I want so much to be able to do that again.

And I take all the blame on myself. It’s all my fault. No shifting blame to the doctors who let me go 15 or 20 years with undiagnosed food allergies and a thyroid condition. No blame to the government that gave me all kinds of horrible advice about how I should eat that caused horrible consequences. Only a brief harsh word about genetics.

No, it’s all on me. I should be better. I should be different. I should fight harder.

I promise, if I had anything else to fight with, I would.

When food can’t be trusted

With a title like that, the first thought might be dieting and weight loss. I’ve certainly felt like that many, many, oh so very many times in my life. But this is worse than that.

Let’s talk about food allergies.

Food allergies are exhausting.

Have you ever gone to a scrumptious buffet, and left hungry, not because of any will power or intentional self sacrifice, but because there was nothing you could safely eat?

How long does it take you to figure out a restaurant to stop at after a busy day?

Once upon a time, when I was young and callous, I knew a woman who ‘claimed’ to have food allergies, and she was allergic to a great many basic staples. And I thought she was making it up. Or at least fussing over No Big Deal. We took to calling her “one of those people who doesn’t eat food.”

And now, of course, I am one of those people, and I want to go back and give my young self a talking too. She didn’t mean to be unkind, exactly, but it was so far outside her experience that it didn’t seem real.

Perhaps you are one of those people. If you are, please give me a minute to explain.

Have you ever traveled to a place where it wasn’t safe to drink the water? And you not only had to find bottled water everywhere, you had to remember to always have a bottle in your hotel room so you could brush your teeth? And you had to remember to only eat vegetables that had a peel, because greens and things like that are washed in the local unsafe water?

It’s a little like that.

Any time you eat out, especially at a new place, it’s like spinning a roulette wheel. Especially when your allergy is something ubiquitous like gluten, or something deadly, like shellfish or peanuts. You can order carefully. You can tell the server to ask the kitchen. You can hope that the server will actually ask, and the kitchen will both know and answer honestly. And it’s still giving the wheel a big old spin.

The more allergies you have, the likelier you are to have a problem with something.

I have a lot. My options are limited. I have a very short list of local restaurants that I’ve vetted, taking the risk of feeling awful for a full week to see if it’s safe. My poor husband supports me in my quest for safe food, but I know he loves business trips where he can just go eat without having to study the menu, call the manager, and pray.

I usually just eat at home from my short list of reliable, sensible food. Which means an awful lot of cooking from scratch. No convenience foods.

I’m a better than average cook, but there are so many times when I really, really can’t face my own cooking, but there aren’t really any better options either.

I suppose this can be classed as a first world problem. Much like dieting, it’s about being faced with food you can’t eat, instead of the much harsher problem of there being actually no food. I’m not confused about that.

But since we (I at least) live in first world environments with computers and internet and ridiculous amounts of food, it’s a very real problem.

It makes me tired.

What if depression isn’t in your head?

This morning I came across a fascinating article from The Guardian discussing a new theory about depression. What if depression is a side effect of inflammation?

The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.

There are a number of experiences in my own life that make me really, really want to see more research on this possibility.

In my early 20’s I had a horribly stressful job with a crazy boss. I spent several years on anti-depressants.

I have always had a tendency towards depression. At some level, I was able to manage this without additional medication by watching my diet and supplementing regularly with Vit B6 and Vit D both of which are known for an anti-inflammatory effect.

Everything got much, much better once I got my thyroid properly treated, and inflammation is both a cause and an affect of low thyroid.

Food allergies and possibly one of the biggest and most misunderstood and undertreated causes of inflammation in my opinion. I only have to go a little overboard on dairy to start sniffling and wheezing again, and asthma is a leukotrine inflammation response, among other things.

Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky gave an amazing lecture on depression which is available on YouTube in which he discusses a lot of diseases that cause or are associated with depression. A quick review shows that many of those conditions are also associated with inflammation.

Obviously it’s too soon to say anything for certain, but I can say that this one rat is going to spend the rest of the dreary dark season experimenting with increased use of turmeric and staying carefully on top of my vitamins.

 

It isn’t just french fries.

I am really conflicted about this ad:

On the one hand, I am utterly appalled at what passes for healthy eating in this country. Our food supply is a nightmare. Refined, mutated, depleted, it can be difficult to get adequate nutrition. It genuinely astonishes me how many adults don’t know how to cook. Not even anything fancy, but how to make a meal out of basic ingredients. Add in a low-fat bias and we’re pretty much doomed. Teaching kids how to make a healthy meal and how to enjoy one is an important parenting step that isn’t always getting the attention it deserves, for many reasons, some unavoidable like economic inaccessibility of quality ingredients, and sometimes just because.

So yes, teaching our kids about healthy nutrition is really important.

But this PSA? It’s all about fear tactics, and it leaves out so much.

The blame for weight issues is always assumed to be food choices and nothing else. And that tunnel vision makes me so angry!

Sure, many people eat badly. Plenty of them are thin too, and no one feels it necessary to emotionally manipulate them into self loathing.

Wait,what?

That’s right. In my experience (personal and direct from friends) every time a fat person fails at a diet program, they hate themselves. Because ‘everyone’ knows that if you just stick to your diet, you’ll lose weight. So if you don’t lose weight on your diet, it’s a personal failing. The medical profession really compounds this by being condescending and skeptical. Because even though I’m a well educated, intelligent adult, I can’t be trusted to watch my own calorie count. If the diet doesn’t work, I must be lying to myself about what I’m really eating.

I could go on about this for quite a while. I have a lot of hostility on this subject saved up.

But back to that ad.

It shows that poor guy who has been overweight his entire life, and pretty much suggests that he’s fat because his mom fed him fries as a kid. Because it’s the only thing that makes him stop crying.

You know what I’d ask a parent if they said only one food would make their kid stop crying?

“Have you checked in to food allergies?”

The problem with reducing everything to the calories in/calories out model is that there can be a LOT more going on, and it makes life very unpleasant for those who can’t figure out why, and don’t have the time and energy to chase after possibilities. We need society to be a little more open minded about causes and a little less judgmental.

Ok, and feed our kids fewer french fries, that’s true enough.

When they get it.

In my years of pursuing health and trying to learn about my body I’ve tried an awful lot of things. Some work, some don’t, and some only work for a while, and then stop. And it took me years to figure out when it was time to buckle down harder, and when it was time to back up and choose another direction. I wrote about the difficulty in fighting dogma a while back.

When you’re out on the fringe (of anything, health and nutrition for this discussion) it is such a relief when you get to share ideas and options (and new recipes) with someone who gets you. Understands your perspective on health, understands your need to find your own way no matter what the mainstream says, understands that people are not interchangeable machined parts. Unfortunately, sometimes (often really) you get caught up with someone who feels that they own the One Truth, and there is no discussing with you, they just talk at you. So frustrating. They put so much energy into finding a great alternative solution for themselves, and yet they can’t believe that their perfect solution probably isn’t perfect for everyone. Because if solutions were one-size-fits, said practitioner would have followed the instructions their doctor handed out and wouldn’t have made doing something different their life’s work. They get so caught up in their own dogma that they forget that they started out helping people.

I bring this up because last week I went to a ladies business lunch where I have made a number of good friends and I got to sit and brain storm with an amazing food educator.

 My friend Elaine teaches people about raw food and alkaline diets. She doesn’t start with a major overhaul. She starts with a list of foods that would be spectacular for you and helps you find a few that you could add to your diet. Starting small and practical. But if you say “yeah, I know flax can have all these benefits, but I happen to be horribly allergic” she doesn’t say “are you really sure you’re allergic” and she doesn’t say “it’s really really good for you”, she says “oh, how about chia seeds?” or other options.

Elaine understands that I am healing multiple health problems, and I’m not ready (and who knows, may never be) for her program. That doesn’t stop us being friends, or helping and supporting each other. She never makes me feel bad for not jumping on her bandwagon, because what she really really wants is for me to be as healthy as possible. Whatever it takes for me. She had to find her own solution, and she did a fine job, since she’s a 2 time, no chemo cancer survivor. (I’m impressed. How’s that for some qualifications?)

My point here is, if you get the opportunity to work with people who really get that you are a unique individual, make the most of it. They’re rare these days. But don’t let anyone tie you to their bandwagon if it doesn’t fit.