Friday, June 30, 2006

Gotta Keep Moving Forward

I talked to the clinic about my blood test results and I was basically told that everything is normal, no need to follow up. Hmm- the blood tests were supposed to only rule out particular potential causes of my hair loss, not just dismiss my case altogether! I was very annoyed, because he didn't have any suggestions for follow-up care. Finally he suggested I see a dermatologist, because he obviously couldn't come up with anything else. I made the appointment, but I'm not seeing how this will help me, since the doctor already determined there is no infection.

Even though the tests show things as normal, I made an appointment with the nutritionist - only to find out she is a dietician, which is not the same thing at all. A dietician is actually a better option because they are clinically trained, while anyone can call him/herself a nutritionist. That means that this person should be able to take a closer look at my labs and talk to me about the connection between my diet and those results. I don't know how she feels about the raw diet, but my test results would seem to support my being able to continue eating mostly raw.

So now I have to consider more seriously the other possible reasons for my hair loss. Is it stress? I've certainly been very stressed out since moving to a new state and starting a doctoral program. It's been a very challenging experience and I struggled mightily in some areas as I got through my first year. Trying to lose weight at the same time adds stress. Also, losing a lot of weight that first month might have been the culprit, or a contributing factor. It could also be genetic. Regardless of what the source of the problem is, the hardest part is the thought that it might continue falling out and/or might not ever grow back.

I've been a bit depressed and stressed out about things (not just the hair, although it only makes things worse) so I stopped caring so much about the scale- if I gain, I gain. Who cares? This week I noticed the scale creeping down again. Sometimes that attitude works, sometimes it doesn't. Hope it works for me until I get down to my goal!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Got the Blood Test Today!

This morning I got my blood taken for the hair loss testing. If there's a "problem" found I'll get a call, otherwise I'm to call them for a followup appointment next week. I hate my insurance plan- I have to pay up front and then fill out all these forms to get reimbursed. But since I don't have the money, they'll send me statements until I pay. The tests cost $145 rather than $160, but that's still a lot of dough. I'll be reimbursed 80% of this (about $115). I'm glad I got it done.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I'm Finally Getting Blood Tests

Well, I saw the doctor today. I weighed in at 277 - I knew it would be higher than 270 (my lowest). My blood pressure was 110/80. The doctor was puzzled that my hair loss is symmetrical, as if I did it myself -for example, a certain hairstyle or tightly fitting hats could cause this pattern. But after reviewing my situation and finding no evidence of infection or support for my doing this to myself (!) he recommended $160 worth of blood tests- YIKES! He want to check a few things, but most importantly my thyroid, iron, cholesterol, electrolytes and glucose.

I really had to think about going through with the tests because I surely don't have $160. My university-based insurance will reimburse me at some point, but that doesn't help me today. I took the choice of having them bill me. I will not be able to register for classes until I pay the bill, but I figure I'll have the money by fall, and my health is important. So, tomorrow I have my round of tests. The results come in about a week. Even if they don't find anything that explains the hair loss, it'll be helpful to have the results just so I can see how effective my raw lifestyle has been. Last year my cholesterol was over 200; I can't imagine there not being an improvement.

So, now that the medical stuff has begun, I'm looking at my diet again. According to Sparkpeople I had around 1700 calories yesterday. Almost 400 of that was because of the nuts I ate, but those nuts also gave me a high proportion of the 46 grams of protein I consumed. Fish was another large contributor to my protein total even though I had less than 3 ounces. If my calorie or fat count are causing me to not lose weight (remember, I'm not working out at the moment!) I may decide to alternate my protein sources because they are both higher in calories. Maybe I'll eat the fish and nuts on separate days. Some raw foodists claim that overweight people can eat high amounts of raw plant fat and not worry about caloric intake because they will still lose weight. I haven't seen that for myself as of yet.

I'm happy to be getting the medical stuff underway, at last. Next on the agenda: the nutritionist!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Do I Take Thee, Raw, in Sickness and in Health?

Last night I was devastated to realize that despite my dietary changes and increased vitamins, my hair loss problem has obviously not let up. No more wishful thingking- I'll have to get serious about the medical side of things. I think the main reasons I have delayed doing this is that, in addition to being a poor college student who can't afford a bunch of medical tests, I'm really afraid of being told that a raw diet is not good for me. My fear is well-founded because my raw diet is the only thing that has taken away my compulsive overeating and out-of-control bingeing and given me more of a life.

This might actually be a good time for me to tackle this problem, however, since my weight basically stalled (I've lost70 lbs, but since then have hovered between 65 and 70 lbs lost). If I were steadily losing weight, I'd be less willing to change my diet for fear of regaining. Since I'm not losing weight the way I was earlier on, I can let the weight issue be less of a distraction and focus more on the other aspects of my health.

In the end I have to remember that overall health is my real goal, not just weight loss. It doesn't make sense to lose weight at the expense of other areas of health - that would be crazy! But I live in a crazy society that values weight loss over everything so I have to remind myself to have common sense sometimes. Not only am I going to make a better effort to see a doctor and nutritionist, but starting today I'm going back to to record my food intake. The Raw Odyssey continues!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Today's Raw Menu

Today I decided to track what I've eaten using It's been a long time since I've regularly tracked what I eat, because I wanted to get away from depending on tracking my foods and start listening more to my body. Today I found that I've had 1113 calories, give or take a hundred, perhaps. I started my day with 2 ounces of almonds and maybe 1/2 an ounce of goji berries with a little Himalayan sea salt. For lunch I had hummus and taboule with a little feta cheese at a Mediterranean restaurant. The serving of taboule was quite large, but I managed to choke it down. :-) I had a little left over, which I ate at my office later, with a flourless tortilla made in the "Ezekiel" style (it has the unfortunate name of "Fat Flush" tortilla- very unappetizing).

According to my trusty NutrtionData info, I had over 40 ounces of protein. About 12 of these came from the nuts, about 15 from the hummus, and about 9 from the feta. I've been eating nuts and hummus daily for the past week, but I need to vary my menu before I get too bored, so I'm going back to salads. I'll keep eating the almonds (even though they're apparently around 1/3 of my daily caloric intake!) for breakfast, and have salads for lunch for awhile. OK- I might have baba ganoush tomorrow but after that I'm having salads again!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Torture Of Clothes Shopping

Today as I put on a pair of black capris pants and noticed I was floating in them, I thought about the onerous task awaiting me: shopping for new clothes. I love having new clothes, but I hate shopping for them- it's nothing short of torture. When I got down to a size 14 a few years ago I noticed how much easier it was to find cheap, decently-made, stylish clothing. At size 12 and 10 I even rejoiced at rarely having to try anything on- I could just grab something off the rack, pay and leave. And what a selection! I could really express my inner "wild child" in those days.

Today, at a size 24, shopping is even more torturous. I don't own a single item of clothing that expresses my persona because I can't find anything decent in my size that I like and/or can afford. My clothes are strictly utilitarian: they keep me legal and protect me from the elements. When I was near my goal weight and could wear the clothes I loved, I used to take walks just for the joy of being able to look the way I wanted to. I went to bookstores, cafes, outdoor fairs, etc. because I felt so good about my weight loss and my ability to dress in a way that reflected who I was.

As a large woman in ugly clothes, I don't like to go out much, and I often find myself walking with my eyes cast away from people, as if I were trying to hide. As I lose this weight, I look forward to presenting myself once again in the way I want to be seen, and feeling happy about the way I feel and look. It's not about being pretty; it's just about the freedom to express myself through my personal style. A freedom I don't feel these days.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Changing Appetite

Over the past two or three weeks I've noticed that my tolerance for certain flavors and textures seems to have narrowed. More and more I seem to prefer blander, plainer, and less-processed foods. It's strange to realize how my enjoyment of flavorful foods has diminished. That's not to say I don't like them- I loved the samosas we had at our potluck this weekend. They were beautiful and colorful and aromatic, with deep flavoring, but I find that one tiny piece is all I can have. (Now, why couldn't I have experienced this back when I was eating pizzas and drinking gallons of Pepsi? Not fair, I tell you.)

What I'm eating a lot of these days are nuts (a couple of ounces daily), hummus sandwiches made with Ezekiel bread, and mildly sweet fruits such as melons and bananas. I drink plenty of water, or at least try to. I was getting into a kombucha tea habit for a while but the last three I had made me feel the way I feel when I drink wine- the muscles in my neck, shoulders and arms get a bit "achey" when I have alcohol. I was surprised that kombucha tea has been having the same effect, because although it can contain alchohol from the fermentation process, I can't imagine that such a little amount would affect me like that. Especially when it didn't affect me previously. Is that strange or what?

I'm still eating smoked salmon, but I've found that the smooth kind that is cut into thin slices is getting to me because the texture is a bit, um... slimy. What is wrong with me? I love food! It's crazy to be mentally crossing food after food off my list because it tastes too strong, feels too slimy, or makes my arms hurt! Luckily I can eat the thicker slices of smoked salmon without feeling disgusted, but it's very hard to find any that's free of brown sugar. I guess ceviche is going to be more my thing. By the way, if anyone knows how to make ceviche that doesn't taste too lemoney or "citrusy" from the marinade, I'd really appreciate your passing that info on to me.

I want to extend a welcome to people joining the Raw Odyssey Cafe. There, I discovered another raw foodist in our midst: Renee, who has a nice-looking blog at

Well, that's all for me. Time to get into bed and do my deep breathing exercises! I might be ready to dive back into my Buddhist studies soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Raw Food Potluck

Minnie' Raw Samosas with chutney
Felicia and I hosted a small raw food get-together at our place tonight. It really turned out to be a fabulous experience, with all of us trying recipes we'd never had before. We had samosas with chutney which used Indian spice mixtures. It was flavorful and aromatic- delicious! My camera battery conked out so I didn't get good pictures of the wonderful sushi brought by Brian and Kat (I hope I spelled your names correctly!) but it was beautiful and tasted great!

Felicia made her raw lasagna, a mango-tomato salsa, and a dessert of strawberries and mint in balsamic vinegar. I made guacamole, which we ate with flax seed crackers and sprouted tortillas. Also on the table was hummus, to which was added olive oil and paprika for both appearance and taste. We had quite an international table, great conversation and promises of a repeat performance in the near future.

Raw food potlucks are such a great idea, not only because potlucks in general are a fun, affordable way to get together with old and new friends, but because they are an excellent way to experience new recipes without having to experiment in the kitchen yourself! Now that we've tasted Minnie's samosas, Felicia is looking forward to adding them to her repertoire (Minnie says she'll put the recipe up at the Raw Odyssey Cafe). The sushi was well-made and inspired me to make mine the way these were done, as they were much neater than the ones I create, and the nori wasn't the least bit moist. The flavored soy sauce was excellent! Those at the potluck who don't usually eat raw said they were impressed with what they saw and tasted. A very nice evening indeed. (And we got the leftovers -Happy happy joy joy!)

I'm looking forward to our next potluck. :-)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Smaller and Lighter!

Originally uploaded by rawallison.

I had a pretty good day today. First, I checked my cod ceviche and found it had come out very nicely. I marinated the cod for a far shorter amount of time than the tilapia - maybe that helped, or maybe cod is just better than tilapia for marinating ("Plantation Chick" suggests I try kingfish- I'll have to look into that, as I've never seen it at the stores).

Second, I did my deep breathing exercise during my commute to work (and also back home). This is great for staying calm in heavy traffic, and hopefully is paving the way for me to get back into my meditation practice.

Third, on the way home I bought some raw almonds (thanks for the suggestion, Dawn). Almonds are supposed to be very good for you, but I have been avoiding them because I never liked them. I'm glad I gave them another try because they are reminiscent of the cashews I love so much; soft and slightly sweet. I wonder if that's because they are raw. Are roasted almonds harder and more bitter? That's what I remember of them.

Lastly, I measured myself this week and can see that I have lost more than 35 inches overall since January 8th 2006. I weighed myself this morning and found that I've now lost 70 lbs!! I'll probably hover around this weight for the next couple of weeks- agonizing when you are so close to the next set of 10s! I really wish I were losing weight more quickly, but I'm not going to starve myself or exercise myself to death to do it. Good health and moderation are my mantras these days.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Raw Sea Foods

Originally uploaded by rawallison.

I've now tried raw fish in two ways: ceviche (marinated in citrus juices, which "cook" it with the citrus acids rather than with heat) and cold-smoked, which is another technically raw way of preparing fish without heat. I learned that fish is sometimes cured before smoking, so I have to make sure it wasn't cured in sugar. Curing is supposed to be provide extra protection against microbes. I have to say I like smoked fish better than my homemade ceviche, but I'm a newbie at making ceviche, so I'm not giving up. I still need to figure out how long to marinate, what herbs and spices to use, and which types of fish respond best to this type of preparation. The tilapia I tried was a bit chewy, so I might have done something wrong. Next I'm trying cod.

I felt so good about my dietary change that I was motivated to look further into healthy sea foods. Readers have recommended that I try dulse, so today I read up about it. The info on the back of the dulse package alone cheered me up, but let me quote Wikipedia for you, which pretty much provides the same info: "Dulse is a good source of dietary requirements. A handful will provide more than 100% of the daily amount of Vitamin B6, 66% of Vitamin B12, a day's supply of iron and fluoride, and it is relatively low in sodium and high in potassium." This is great not only for me, but for Felicia, who needs extra B12 and iron due to her gastric bypass surgery.

So I'm feeling pretty good tonight, having had some smoked salmon sushi, a bottle of kombucha tea, and performed some deep breathing exercises. I'm going to try to ease back into meditation. I'm very bad at it- if my mind isn't racing a mile a minute, I'm falling asleep!

An update on HAIRWATCH: I can say with near certainty that my hair has been falling out rather than ceasing to grow altogether. I can tell because my hair is growing long. In fact, I almost want to say that it is growing quickly, but I don't want to be too optimistic! Despite the fact that it is growing in length, however, it is still thin around the temples and top -meaning I can see my scalp easily in those areas. I feel heartened that my hair is growing in length; I guess it is an indicator of something positive.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Guacaboule: When Food Combinations Go Wrong

A new raw foodist asked what to do with leftovers. I never saw leftovers as a problem because it seems anything can be thrown into a salad! This can work really well; for example, if I try a vegetable for the first time and discover I don't really like it, I can bury it in a salad where it can be covered up with enough herbs and other flavors that I can't taste it. Also, if I'm bored, I might combine different foods to come up with something that looks new and interesting.

As another example, raw spaghetti isn't something we made up, but Felicia wouldn't have bothered to try it if she hadn't had leftover tomato sauce and yellow squash from the raw lasagna she'd just made. By using the spiral slicer to make "noodles" from the squash, she ended up with a tasty meal that was new to us and which put the leftovers to good use.

Sometimes combining leftovers doesn't work too well, though. Felicia and I have very different tastes when it comes to flavors and textures, and she is much more likely to be creative with food combinations than I am. Last night she made an Ezekiel tortilla wrap, combining guacamole and taboule. That combination did not work for me at all, although she thought it was awesome. I'm sure there are many innovative recipes in my raw future, but I'll be staying away from the "guacaboule," thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Why I'm Ready for a Vitamix

Photo by tofu666.

Since January I have steadily increased the variety of foods that I consume as a raw foodist. Along with this increase in variety has come an increase in the complexity of food preparation. In the beginning I went with simple fare that required chopping and mixing- easy stuff I could do by hand using my cutting board and a knife. I made taboule, salsa, and guacamole. I put together salads, cabbage wraps and living-bread hummus sandwiches. I made delicious smoothies in the blender. All pretty simple.

As my interest in new flavors and textures grew, I acquired a dehydrator, allowing me to try crackers, living breads and dried fruits. Felicia joined me in my raw odyssey, prompting us to try new bread and cracker recipes, desserts, sauces, etc. But already I had discovered that food prepping for raw food meals is time consuming for a full time grad student. To save time, I was using the blender and food processor for chopping up my taboule and salsa ingredients along with the smoothies and other recipes. The poor blender couldn't hack it.

We're now on our third blender. One of them started smoking, another's motor wore out leaving us with slower speeds. The current one shakes and would probably whip itself off the counter if we didn't hold onto it. We've also been unhappy with the food processor's inability to make smooth nut pates and its too-small size.

So now we've come to a point where we want to buy something that is going to last through years of heavy use. It needs to be versatile and handle both our blending and food processing needs. After all, we want to add vegetable juices, raw warm soups and raw "ice cream" to our repertoire. Enter the Vitamix.

We attended a demonstration of the Vitamix at a local Costco and were impressed with what we saw and tasted, as well as with the answers provided by the guy doing the demonstration. Making nut butter was easy and very quick! Salsa came out perfectly, with visible chunks of vegetables that weren't too big or too small. Carrot juice tasted great- it was thicker than juiced carrots because the fiber is retained, which is fine by me as I want all the nutrients I can get (you can add water to thin it). Felicia asked him to do celery so she could see if it came out stringy. Nope- no strings whatsoever! The motor is so powerful that anything the guy made took half the time it takes us at home. Clean up was simple, although cleaning up after nut butter takes a bit longer.

I'm sure there's a learning curve before we are making all the things we imagine creating this summer, but we are so tired of weak blenders and burned out motors that we are willing to spend the money it'll cost for a Vitamix. If it lives up to its reputation, it'll be the last such product we buy for years to come.

(Note- the photo of the Vitamix is courtesy of "tofu666" at Flickr).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ceviche to the Rescue

Ceviche @ Bar Celona
Originally uploaded by carradine65.

In response to my post about adding fish to my menu, someone (who, sadly, remains anonymous) suggested that I try ceviche. I had heard of ceviche, but I never knew that the seafood it contains is not cooked but instead marinated in citrus juices. Here is what Wikipedia says about the process: "In addition to adding flavor to the ceviche, the acid in the citrus marinade pickles or "cooks" the fish, so by the time the ceviche is served, the fish is no longer technically raw".

Now, I have no idea if marinating the fish has the same effect on its nutrients than heat-cooking it, although I did learn that while heat can kill parasites, marinating does not. Still, I'm very excited about having a different way to eat unheated fish at home. To be extra safe, I'll prepare fish immediately after bringing it home, or I'll freeze the fish if I plan to marinate it later.

The photo I'm including comes from "carradine65's Flickr page. Great picture, huh? Looks like an awesome raw meal that I can duplicate at home. So now I feel better; in my hunt for relief from my hair loss problem, I have a tasty new source of protein and B vitamins that I don't have to cook with heat! Hair, you'd better start growing!

Raw Odyssey Cafe News
Welcome, new members! I see we now have a recipe for flax seed crackers in the Meet & Greet section- yum! Since I prefer making my own to buying them, I believe I'll be testing this recipe!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Went Paleo Last Night!

Felicia and I visited a Japanese restaurant last night so that I could have the ikura maki I've been wanting for the past couple of weeks. Ikura maki is sushi made with roe (fish eggs), often without rice. Felicia didn't want ikura, but she was interested in what type of sushi she could have without rice. The sushi chef, Ryan, was very accomodating - in fact, he was intrigued by the challenge of making sushi without rice or fish. But something was messed up in the translation and he took it upon himself to come up with two attractive pieces of nigiri sushi made with raw tuna and raw salmon, along with a spicy cabbage made with mayonnaise (see photo). This was definitely NOT what I wanted- not a fish egg in sight! But since he was so inventive I felt obligated to eat, and I reasoned that the fish was raw, so...

Felicia is more assertive than I am and she let the chef know that I really did want ikura, not raw fish, and that because we are eating a raw diet, eating the mayonnaised vegetable would set us back on our road to health. She was very friendly about it, and the chef reacted very graciously, telling us that because this was his mistake, that we shouldn't worry about paying for it. He wouldn't take it back, suggesting that we eat it if we wanted. I went ahead and ate the raw fish out of the sushi roll, curious about what effect it might have on me. I'm pleased to report that we didn't get sick, lightning did not strike us, and the Raw Police did not surround our car after the meal!

Felicia's inventive meal consisted of cucumber, avocado, carrot, a tiny amount of marinated onion, wrapped in nori. The cucumber was sliced in a continuous, horizontal manner so as to create a long, thin sheet the width of the cucumber. This sheet was laid upon the nori, and the vegetable strips placed on top of that. Lastly, some smoked salmon was included (Felicia won't eat her fish raw). She LOVED this sushi! I will definitely make this for her at home.

Both of us have been concerned about aspects of our health since going raw. Felicia is more in need of nutrient-dense meals than the average person because her gastric bypass surgery limits the amount of nutrients she gets from a meal. She also has very low iron and has felt tired on occasion. Gastric bypass patients have to pay special attention their B12 levels, sometimes requiring B12 shots. I am concerned about my hair loss, which has been linked in many medical texts to deficiencies in the B vitamins and in protein. Although I take supplements and enjoy a rare kombucha tea which provide B vitamins, I have had a chronically difficult time achieving the RDA of protein. We found that three ounces of raw salmon and tuna have between 17 and 20 grams of protein respectively. Fish roe has about 12 grams of protein for 4 tablespoons. So for a small amount of raw fish and raw fish eggs, I had about 30 grams of protein, plus the fish had 40% of the RDA of B12.

I prefer to get my nutrients through foods rather than through supplements. If I were to eat animal products for protein, I would prefer to eat fish rather than raw cheese. It seems more healthy to me (just my gut feeling- no knowlege behind it whatsoever). However, I don't trust my skills enough to buy, store and eat raw fish from the grocery store- too much risk of illness. I'm also not sure I want to eat raw fish or ikura regularly; a little goes a long way for me! I'd consider having salmon cooked in some way that adds only herbs and spices, but then the dilemma would be that I'm adding a cooked food to my menu. What's so bad about that? Nothing, really (well, animal rights people would disagree with that statement!)

The bottom line is that I don't belong to a cult that dictates what I eat. I have to be the one to make nutritional decisions that enhance my health and well-being. My main criteria are that I get all my necessary nutrients, and that I don't develop the cravings and bingeing that kept me overweight and unhealthy in the past. Although the majority of my diet is raw, I give myself room to explore the options out there. I do feel a little guilty about eating animal products, but I recognize that this is because I am influenced by the ideas of raw foodists around me whom I admire and whom have found success on all-raw diets. I'm not like those people, though. Are they losing their hair? No! I have to find my own way.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Night Out on the Town

Last night I went out dancing and had a great time because the atmosphere was fun and the music was good. There was a live band as well as a DJ, and the lighting was very well done. I'm not one to go out and buy rap music, but in a club they can make it very danceable. When I was smaller (for about 5 minutes) I really enjoyed dancing. Now that I'm over 100 lbs overweight, I feel very conspicuous and don't like the image I have of myself on the dance floor. I know that's my issue and that I need to work on it, but the fact remains, I don't like dancing in public the way I'd like to.

Felicia, on the other hand, attracted an admiring crowd out there on the floor. Women and men were clapping and trying to dance with her. A man offered to buy her a drink! I really didn't want to be near her because when they looked at her dancing, they naturally looked at me, too, and I don't want to be noticed these days. But I didn't want to spoil her good time, either.

I remember when times were reversed and she weighed over 300 lbs and I weighed about 170 and worked out at least 4 times a week (size 10 at 170!) Part of my sadness is knowing I used to be where she is but ruined it for myself. The other part is that I feel especially terrible-looking next to her, as she is gorgeous! But in the end, just seeing her having such a good time made me happy as well. I focused on that as much as I could. I also took lots of pictures- I'm making a video of her journey, and the changes since her surgery are truly amazing. (For newcomers to Raw Odyssey, Felicia's story has been told in this blog: Felicia's Story.) We plan to go out more often. It'll help us both in different ways- for me, it'll have a desensitizing effect, I hope, in that I won't think so much about how I look on the floor. For her, it'll boost her confidence in her appearance and of her progress towards fitness and health. I just hope I can have fun now, not a year from now when I'm back to size 10 or 8 or wherever I end up.



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