Medical Diets

When you’re struggling with your mental health, it can be very difficult to navigate the equally tough world of physical health. Sometimes, you get saddled with complicated medical conditions that require therapeutic diets. Conditions like IBS, diabetes, Chron’s disease, Celiac disease, epilepsy, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and more. These aren’t the diets you hear about in the media, like Atkins, blood type diet, detoxing, juice fasting, etc. I’m not going to go into those. These are diets that are supported by the medical community and are used to treat specific medical conditions.

Some of these diets are the low-FODMAP diet, the gluten-free diet, the Ketogenic diet, the DASH diet, among others. These diets should be closely monitored by a medical professional, as they are treatments for medical conditions. Once again, I am NOT a medical professional. I’m barely qualified to write a blog. Please see your doctor or dietician for advice.

Ok, so, how do you mange these diets when you already have a full plate (lame pun totally intended)? The key is to really rely on prep and proven foods.

For example, I have the unfortunate pleasure of being on the low-FODMAP diet. I have visceral hypersensitivity, which is a very painful condition in which it hurts when organs perform their normal functions. While I don’t have IBS, my doctor thought it would be helpful to go on this diet. I went on the diet once before, and I wound up giving it up because it got too depressing. This time, however, I’m determined to do it right.

So, what did I learn the first time?

1. It takes some planning.
One of the hardest parts about medical diets is that it’s hard to grab food on the fly. There’s no guarantee that a restaurant will have something you can eat, and even if there’s something suitable on the menu, there’s still a risk of cross-contamination (big problem for people with allergies and vegans). This is especially difficult on the low-FODMAP diet, where you can’t have any onions or garlic. Planning might include calling restaurants before you eat there, bringing your own food to a friend’s house, or carry a protein bar with you. Make sure you know exactly what you can and can’t eat. If it’s a long list, it might be helpful to carry it with you.

2. It takes some prep.
Even if you decide to cook at home, it doesn’t ensure you can buy the necessary ingredients. You might have to make your own salad dressings, condiments, baked goods, etc. For example, it’s almost impossible to find low-FODMAP BBQ sauce. So, I make my own, put it into little containers, and freeze it. That way, I don’t have to make BBQ sauce every time a recipe requires it. I also like to stock up on gluten-free pasta, gluten-free breadcrumbs, suitable vegetables, etc. since there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to find the ingredients on short notice.

3. Keep a tally of brand names of products on which you can rely.
This will save you an ENORMOUS amount of time when you shop, especially while you try to get into a routine. While you should continue checking the labels in case they change the formula, your shopping trip doesn’t have to revolve around it. You can make the process easier by guessing and checking, major allergen labeling, and using an app (such as UPC Sanner). Once you’ve built your list, you can send it to family members to make their lives easier as well.

4. Make it easy to differentiate “safe food” in your cabinets.
I like to store my designated products away from stuff I can’t have and then put a sticker on the packages. It might be overkill, but I like fun stickers.

5. Look for food in unexpected places.
In the days of the internet, we now have the ability to order lots of weird crap online! If it’s hard to find specialized food near you, check out Amazon. However, I would recommend only ordering from a trusted retailer. I’ve also had good luck at health food stores and ethnic food markets. If you do go to an ethnic food market (and can’t read the product’s original language), make sure you do some research online first. The labeling isn’t always phenomenal.

6. It’s okay to be pissed.
Seriously. It’s quite the loss, and it’s hard to do. Every time I visit the produce aisle, I still get sad about not being able to have mangoes. No more croissants, no more hummus, no more avocados. It’s difficult to hang out with friends and I hate quizzing the waiters about ingredients. But it does get easier and you’ll get in the groove of it.

Need ideas for easy recipes that accommodate your dietary restrictions? Visit the Clean Brains Pinterest board.

Dressing for Weight Fluctuations

Dressing for Weight FluctuationsDressing for weight gain and loss is hard. Maybe you’re in treatment for an eating disorder. Maybe you’ve gained weight after taking medication. Maybe your appetite has decreased and you’ve lost weight. There are a million reasons why sudden weight change might occur.

Unfortunately, I’ve been there. When I first was put on medication, I gained 60 lbs in about a year. I stayed stable until I was put on Clozaril for a few months and gained 10lbs. I ended up stopping the Clozaril and lost that 10 lbs. When I started severely limiting my caloric intake, I lost 20 lbs, only to gain 30 for an unknown medical reason. A few weeks ago, I was put on a new medication and have gained a few lbs since then.

Sometimes, it’s not a slow and small weight gain, and a lot is affected from such a drastic change. Your self esteem, your self worth, and your wardrobe become foreign, slow to adapt to a new situation.

Or, let’s say you feel confident about yourself and your weight. No matter what, your closet is due for an overhaul. Easiest way to handle it? Sweatpants and huge t-shirts. While those might work at home, they become less appropriate and more depressing at work or running errands.

Women

Dresses can be your best friend. Sundresses, wrap dresses, and cowl dresses work really well. The key is embracing fabrics like jersey, spandex blends, etc. You can pair them with stretchy leggings, and it’s appropriate for any season or situation. In a relaxed setting, oversized tunics and leggings work well. Tunics look big, but they are made to look big as opposed to buying a larger size of an item that is meant to be fitted. I can’t tell you the last time I actually wore real pants.

As depressing as this thought may be, maternity clothes also work well. Many of them don’t look like maternity clothes at all, yet they’ll still accommodate some weight gain. In addition, since they’re also designed to be worn postpartum, they also look good with weight loss. Yes, this sounds embarrassing as all hell, but you know what? The only one who has to know is you. I have a few camisoles from Target that I wear when I’m in a rough patch and have to double up on some Seroquel, and not one person has noticed that it’s maternity clothing. I do draw the line at nursing bras, though.

The idea of camisoles leads me to my next tip: layering! Layering allows you to adjust clothing to cover up exposed skin that happens when your weight changes. For example, it took me an embarrassingly long time (and one mortifying suggestion from a teacher) to figure out that there was a gap between my jeans and my t-shirt, especially when I sat down. Plumbers, you can sympathize with me here. Tanks and camisoles usually come longer and stretch, moving and growing with you. Similarly, they also allow you to wear your larger shirts for longer by hugging your midsection. Finally, they are usually cheaper than other clothing, so you can stock up.

The strangest suggestion I have? Wear scrubs. I know it sounds nuts, but think about it: they are stretchy, comfortable, come in a million sizes, cheap, and no one is going to judge you. There’s no rule that says you can’t wear scrubs unless you’re a medical professional, and unless you happen to be in a medical setting, no one’s going to rely on you for medical advice. These obviously aren’t for formal occasions, but they’re perfect to wear while running errands.

Men

I don’t have much experience in this area, so I’ll refer you to a great Art of Manliness article.

Everyone

In terms of clothing, stick with basic, foundational items in neutral colors. They don’t have to be expensive, and you can get a bunch of uses out of them. In addition, shopping doesn’t have to be a nightmare scenario. You can buy online and try them on at home, or you can go to a store with which you’re comfortable.

One coping mechanism I use is to concentrate on finding nice accessories, things that can stay with me regardless of my weight. I like to pick out nice shoes, scarves, watches, etc rather than become upset about my actual clothing. A cute purse is a cute purse regardless of how much I weigh at the time. And, when I slip my feet into my nice shoes, I remember that I can enjoy how I look despite how I might feel.

Expect the Uncollected

At least I’m not this bad! From the movie “Everything is Illuminated”

In my heart, I’m a collector. Knowledge, stuff, images, music, memories, quotations, etc. Anything that elicits a feeling from me, I want to keep. It’s not necessarily hoarding (I know it’s not logical, and I’m able to limit it. It also doesn’t affect my life in a drastic way. In addition, it’s related to my OCD diagnosis, which goes against the diagnostic criteria of compulsive hoarding).

You may feel this way, too. Maybe it’s depression or shopping addiction or a manic episode. But no matter what the reason is, over-shopping and storing creates a number of challenges.

The first is space. For example, I live in a house, but it’s very small. One floor with three small bedrooms, 1¾ baths, living room, tiny kitchen, a basement that loves to flood, and a tight garage. Storage space is very limited. I inherited the house from my grandfather when he died, and many of his things are still there. That, plus my stuff, plus my boyfriend’s things, plus the million cat toys we have, equals a lot of needed space. It’s a wonderful home and I’m lucky to live here, but physically, there just isn’t enough room to house a bunch of stuff. In addition, even if I do push it to the brink of what it can hold, it looks crowded, distracting, and overwhelming.

And, once something gets into my house, it rarely ever leaves. What if I need it again? What if it’s one-of-kind? What if I forget every memory attached to it? My boyfriend would be more than happy to attest to my constant pleas to keep him from throwing stuff out. I once told him that I couldn’t recycle all my empty spaghetti sauce jars because they contained my hopes and dreams.

And then there’s the cost. Shockingly, it gets quite expensive to keep buying crap. Even if they are small charges, it adds up. And spending money on more things means I can’t spend money on better things.

And don’t forget that you have to keep all of this stuff clean! Dust, silverfish, etc are all symptoms of clutter.

So, what can you do? You want to buy things, it’s fun, sometimes you do need to hang onto things you don’t always use…  Not everyone can be Bea Johnson (you can read the People article or check out her blog). Don’t get me wrong- I think it’s cool what she’s doing- I just know I can’t accomplish anything close to that. I don’t have the self-confidence to bring glass jars to the deli for meat. I don’t think it’s fair to refuse to take packaging from stores as a “statement” and force them to throw it out. I have a job and can’t dedicate the amount of time it takes to pull something like that off. But that doesn’t mean I can’t work at cutting down on spending, collecting, and waste.

My favorite tips:

1. Pictures

Almost everyone has a camera phone these days. Even if you don’t, cameras are so cheap and small that it’s fairly easy to find one. Pictures can be a great way to cut back on spending. For example, let’s say you encounter a great sweater. It fits, it’s made of great fabric, whatever. But you’re not sure if it’ll match the rest of your wardrobe. Maybe you can find it cheaper on Amazon. What if you don’t need a sweater this year, but might need one next year?

Well, take a picture of it. Take one of the item and then a close-up of the tag. This way, you don’t have to buy it immediately. You can go back and grab it if you want to, you can go online, or even save the picture and find something similar a few years down the road. I like to organize my photos on Pinterest, but even folders on your computer will work. This way, you don’t have to buy anything, but you can remember what you saw.

Another way to use photos is to take a picture of something to which you’re attached before you donate it or throw it away. For example, I got a paper jewelry making machine when I was very young. Of course, when I tried to throw it out over a decade later, I was sad. I didn’t want to just throw these memories away. But I also didn’t want to save a broken 1990’s-era plastic knick-knack covered in glue. So I took a picture of it and then threw it away. Now, I can go back and look at the picture to get the memory rather than have junk cluttering my space.

2. I never set hard price limitations on things I have to buy

Before I did this, I found that I would buy things I didn’t really like simply because it was in my price range. After a while, my space was filled with things that I didn’t even really want or like but had spent money on. Sometimes there was a skirt on sale that looked okay, but didn’t fit me quite right. Instead, I got rid of budgets and instead pick things based on if I need them and like them.

3. Forget about deals

I work in the marketing department of a technology company. Someone I used to work with was in charge of ordering the little tchotchkes that people hand out at tradeshows. Now, when you order custom items in bulk, they have a different price system. The price is calculated on a cost-per-piece basis. It costs a vendor a certain amount of money to set up the dyes, the stenciling, or anything else that it takes to put your mark on a certain product. If you only order a few items, it’s going to be a larger cost per item because that he doesn’t change. However, if you order a lot of them, the price per piece would go down because it doesn’t cost that much more to keep the process going once established. And so, my coworker wanted to buy more pieces because she said it was a bargain. And, it was a bargain… if she needed 500 pieces. If she only needed 10 pieces, it wasn’t a bargain because she spent more money in all and had to store all the extra stuff you. Sometimes, companies would offer her a great deal on a product that they were trying to get rid of. Well, if we needed this, it would be a great deal. However, it’s not a great deal when you don’t need it, and you might never need it. It’s this “good deal” mentality that really starts to burn a hole in your pocket. If you have a coupon for something, and the store brand is still cheaper, is it really that good of a deal to buy the item just because you have a coupon? If you only need one bag of chips, but you buy a kind you don’t like because you get two for $1, is that a good deal?

Now, I don’t have the time to spend on extreme couponing. I’m not good at it, and the amount of time it would take me would just not be worth it. So, I try to ignore deals and coupons altogether. Sometimes I try to capitalize on some deals for things I know I’m going to use, like facial soap. I stock up on that because I know I’ll use it in the near future. However, I don’t go out of my way to coupon, and I don’t buy things that I wouldn’t need or ordinarily use. I downloaded the Target Cartwheel app, and I’ll try to get CVS Extra Bucks. Other than that, it’s freedom, baby!

4. Reuse it in a different way

Do you have a piece of clothing that you love but is riddled with holes? Cut that sucker up and use it for dusting rags. You still get to use it, just in a different form. Or, if you’re talented at sewing, make it into patches or a quilt or some of these things. I, however, suck at crafts, so I go with the rag thing or use them as bedding for the cats.

 

5. Buy a digital copy

I love magazines, but I hate tossing them. Now, I try to buy digital copies of things like movies, magazines, books, musics, etc. That way, I can keep it forever, but I don’t have to store it.

6. Don’t shop when moody

I’ve had my problems with spending when manic. For example, a number of years ago I went to a Barnes & Noble bookstore and spent over $200 on calligraphy pens because I was convinced I was going to immediately take up calligraphy. Did I do any writing at all? No. I promptly lost almost everything. I tried to shop for groceries the other day when I psychotic. And I ended up spending $40 on gourmet cheeses and a few crackers. It was not a very good dinner.

If you’re not feeling well, try bringing only cash or gift cards with you to places. It’s impossible to spend more than you need to. Also, try to avoid going to places that offer good deals on store credit cards so you don’t open a new one. Or, have a friend go with you or shop for you.

My favorite line from a tattoo removal ad: "A pegasus hatching from an egg? What was I thinking?!"

My favorite line from a tattoo removal ad:
“A pegasus hatching from an egg? What was I thinking?!”

7. Wait or try before you buy.

Anyone who has gotten a drunken tattoo can tell you that waiting to make decisions can make all the difference. A few years ago, I really wanted to learn how to play an instrument. My cousin was moving, and she was kind enough to let me borrow it for a few months. I played it for about a week before I got too distracted. It’s hard to know exactly what you’ll like before you try it out, and the last thing you need is to spend money on clutter. To combat this, try before you buy. See if you can borrow an expensive item before you get your own. Or, buy a sample size before you grab the whole thing. You can really get creative with it!

  • Wait a week or two before you make a change or spend a large sum of money
  • Volunteer at a pet shelter before you adopt a pet
  • Ask for a small sample of expensive hair or beauty products
  • Buy a trial or travel size
  • Email a company to see if they have any promotions
  • Leave the tags on your clothes for a few days after you buy them in case you want to return them

Replacements

One of these has got to fit mine, right?

When you buy an item that requires a replacement part, take a picture of what the replacement part looks like. That way, when you get to the store, you’ll always know the part you need.

Sample items this works for:
Razors
Air/Water filters
Light bulbs
Electric toothbrush heads
Wiper blades
Batteries (for watches, scales, etc)
Vacuum bags
Printer ink
Cords, wires, chargers
Air freshened cartridges
Items in a matching set (flatware, dishes, etc)
Hardware (screws, nails, etc)

Getting Started with Healthy Eating

Beginning to eat healthy can be a very difficult to start. If it’s something in which you’re interested, check out this downloadable “Quick Start” guide made by Whole Foods. It’s pretty easy to understand, accessible, and gives some great tips on building smoothies and breakfast bowls, along with a few recipes and a shopping list. You can find the ingredients at most supermarkets.

 

Download Guide

Surprise Visitors

Have an emergency box for visitors. Don’t use the contents unless you absolutely must and, if so, replace them. It can be awkward and embarrassing when people drop by and you have to basically tell them, “Sorry, I have nothing to offer you.”

Examples:

  • Samples of good quality tea, both normal and herbal. These can often be picked up at hospitals/hotels, etc. Or, when round at your parents’ or friends’ homes, comment that the tea they served was fantastic and ask if it would be ok to take two or three bags. If they are foil sealed, wonderful. If not, cover in foil or put in zip lock bag.
  • Smallest bottle possible of a decent instant coffee (Starbucks Via isn’t bad, and it looks fancy.)
  • Long life milk/unrefrigerated soy or nut milk.
  • Individual samples. You can generally get these for free at restaurants, coffee shops, etc. Individual packets are generally more shelf-stable so you won’t have to use/throw out a whole bottle of something. I try to find:

 

Sugar/Sweeteners/Honey Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard, Relish
Dipping Sauce (BBQ, Honey Mustard) Dairy Creamers
Salad Dressing Jams/Jellies/Marmalades/Syrups
Hot Sauce Soy Sauce

 

If you don’t want to take these for free, you can pick them up online as well.

  • A nice, clean set of dishes (so you don’t have to scramble to clean anything). You can also get a decent set of disposable dishes as  well.
  • A packet of decent cookies, crackers, or chips
  • Frozen finger food that can be heated within 15 minutes in your disposable oven tray and served up in a disposable bowl. French fries are good for this. If you need something fancier, the Archer Farms brand at Target has some decent frozen appetizers.
  • Another winner is to have a packet of corn tortilla chips, jar of salsa, and shredded cheese (stored in the freezer). Bang it all together on a large disposal plate pop in microwave and within three minutes – simple but delicious nachos. You can always add a tin of jalapeños or canned chili (I like Amy’s brand) for bulk.
  • Microwavable popcorn

Amazon Subscribe & Save

If you feel like you can’t leave the house, Amazon has a service called Subscribe & Save. If you join the service, you can select from a variety of items and have them delivered monthly, bi-monthly, etc. You can save 15% on your order, and it comes with free shipping. The program is great for toiletries, vitamins, pet supplies, household cleaners, etc. This way, you have everything you need shipped to you automatically— no need to remember anything at all.

Just the Thing

If you happen to be shopping around and find something that you know someone in particular would like, buy it and save it for the next occasion. This way, gift-giving pressure (both emotional and financial) is dispersed and presents are more meaningful. If you can’t afford it or don’t have the space for it, take a picture of the item and attach that to their contact information on your phone.

Phantom Gourmet

Buy gourmet item samplers and separate them for presents. You can find these really easily after Christmas. I’ve picked up candy, hot sauce, lotion, preserves, and collector’s mugs. You can then use those items to add on to other gifts and it’ll look like you put way more thought into than you actually did. For example, I like to pick up Crabtree & Evelyn hand lotion (which I also happen to love) variety packs when I see them on sale at a discount store for about $10.00 USD. These are my bread and butter for girls’ gifts and forgotten Mothers’ Days. I pair them with gift cards, flowers, lip balm, tea, etc. If you’re really at a loss, you can pair a bunch of the small things together and make it look like a gift bag. I’ve done this with special salts, flavored oils, etc.