GAPS Ground Zero

“I don’t love you,” Logan coldly informs me while sitting at the kitchen island. “And Sadie doesn’t love you and Daddy doesn’t love you and Loki doesn’t love you and Kitty doesn’t love you.”

He pauses, glaring at me and knowing what my answer would be. “I want a ham and cheese sandwich!  YEEEEEEESSSSSS!”

I may have gone temporarily deaf from his screams, which he holds until he’s red in the face.  “That’s all right, sweetie,” I tremble.  “I understand you’re mad at me–I would be, too, if I were you.”

Tears start to drip down my face.  I can feel a headache coming on.

This is GAPS implementation day.  That morning, we’d officially started Stage 1 of the diet — only boiled meat, non-starchy vegetables and broth allowed.  Logan hadn’t taken it well.  He’d screamed for about an hour before breakfast, refusing to eat chicken broth and cauliflower soup instead of his normal hot buckwheat cereal.  He did finally drink it, after promises of going to the special indoor playground we usually save for the depths of winter.

“I want waffles!” he’d screamed for 10 minutes.  Then it became, “I want buckwheat cereal!”  Finally, he rounded out the morning by screaming, “I want eggs!”

Eggs are allowed on Stage 2 of the diet, and the plan had been to introduce them to his stomach after three or four days.  But we buckled, compromising that if he ate his broth, we’d cook him one egg (which we poached in broth).

The GAPS diet is meant to starve yeast and opportunistic bacteria in the gut, healing it and sealing it to improve overall health.  By slowly introducing foods one at a time, we’re also hoping to pinpoint why Logan’s ears still grow crimson every once in awhile–even after we cut out dairy, gluten and sugar a year ago, it’s clear there is still something he eats that irritates his system.  But because the food on Stage 1 is so easily digested, it does feel like the entire body is starving instead of just the bad stuff.  (I know–I’m following the protocols religiously, too, and I’ve been constantly hungry since Saturday.)  And it doesn’t help that Logan –when he finally caves and eats — is only eating small amounts.

And the strange thing is, the food tastes good!  I decided to blend cauliflower that I’d boiled in chicken stock and add it back into a small amount of stock, making a soup of sorts, and I loved it (even if my headache had now fully arrived.)  My mom has been the super supporter she always is and brought us chicken and acorn squash soup and a blended broccoli and bone broth soup she made herself (which is impressive, given she cooks only slightly better than I do), and they both were delicious.  Every time I eat, in fact, the food tastes like the best food I’ve ever eaten.  

My mom’s chicken and squash soup

Logan, though, has other ideas.

Lunch time was a repeat of breakfast, though the scream session lasted maybe slightly less than an hour.  By dinner time, he only screamed for about 10 minutes before he realized he simply was not getting anything other than chicken, veggies and broth.  Maybe he’s coming around, I thought.

Nope.  Breakfast the next morning began with more wails for buckwheat cereal.  This time I suggested that I make him mini hamburgers instead.  He was somewhat perplexed by this, but agreed.

The biggest problem with this was that I had to touch raw meat.  I don’t think I’ve ever touched raw hamburger before.  Ever.  But somehow, that was only a fleeting thought as I molded small patties and put them on a plate.  I filled a big pan with about two inches of bone broth and added shredded carrots and chopped cauliflower.  Then I plunked in the burgers.  I had no idea how to tell when they were done other than the vague recollection that the meat should no longer be pink.

Burgers in broth

Once I decided they were brown enough, I scooped out the carrots and cauliflower and threw them in a blender with some leftover onions from last night’s supper.  It all turned into a beautiful orange paste that looked almost like cheese atop the burgers.

“Look!” I beamed at my children.

“Is it cheese?” Logan asked, suspicious.

I faltered.  “Well, no, not exactly,” I said.  “But try it.”

It took an incredible amount of coercing, but eventually, he cleaned his plate.  Success.

Maybe today will be better, I thought.

Again, nope.

Around 11 a.m., Logan started complaining he was hungry.  I offered him chicken and broth, which he declined.  And kept declining.  And kept declining, and began insisting to me that nobody loves me.  My body was feeling heavier and heavier, and my headache was now almost blinding strength–whether from the screaming, the stress or the sugar withdraw on my part.  I sucked down another two bowls of chicken squash soup and some cauliflower, and collapsed on the love seat.  Jason took over the task of convincing Logan to eat.  He cried and cried and cried, but again, eventually ate some chicken and vegetables.

Then he crawled on top of me and we both feel deeply asleep, cuddling together.

Feeling: Sluggish

A few reluctant bites of squash

A few reluctant bites of squash

Stocking up to start GAPS

The kids are at daycare.  It’s my day off, and my lovely walk with Loki is over.  I’ve bought the last of my groceries.

It’s time to start cooking.

My first attempt at making bone broth

My beef broth had been simmering all night, and as I turn it off and poured it into mason jars, I wonder why it seems a little pale — more like water with a bit of dirt than the thick, dark brown gel I’d been expecting.  And there’s so much of it — by the time I empty all of the liquid from my stock pot, I’m down to one empty mason jar left.  I’m sure I did something wrong, but I can’t figure out what.  I know I followed the directions, vague as they were.  (Fill the pot 3/4 of the way full?  Does it matter if I use a giant pot or a little pot?)

Oh, well, I decide.  Nothing I can do about it now.  So I move on to my next task of the day, making SCD/GAPS yogurt.  I pour my organic, whole-cream, grass-fed cow milk into a saucepan (only after Googling “how many ounces in a quart?” and pouring the milk into a Nalgene bottle to figure out how many ounces there were in the half-gallon container) and balance my new thermometer on the side (have I mentioned that besides hating cooking, I also hate math?).  Then I wait.  And wait.

Eventually, the milk hits 180 degrees F.  Hurrying, I plunk the saucepan into a large bowl of ice and wait for the temp to drop down to 110.  Now I have to figure out how to keep it there for the next 24 hours.  I wrap the mason jar with a beach towel and cram it into a small cooler, draping more towels over the top.  Maybe that’ll work, I think.  Probably not, but maybe.

Now it’s time for chicken stock.  I’ve posted before about how much I hate touching raw meat, and no, I haven’t gotten used to it in the past year (mostly because my husband still does most of the cooking.)  I try not to grimace as I rinse the chicken in the sink, and and try not to think about how much it feels like a naked baby.  I realize I’ve never handled a whole chicken before.  I wish I could still say that.

Is anything more disgusting than raw chicken?

Is anything more disgusting than raw chicken?

My recipe called for the neck and giblets to be added to the stock pot, but the chicken I bought hasn’t come with those.  I both scowl that I bought the wrong thing and sigh with relief that I don’t have to touch any more disgusting bits for now.  I throw the chicken in its pot, add onions, carrots, garlic, a thick slice of ginger root and water, and set it on the stove.  Go me–four hours down and three cooking goals mastered.

Flying high, I move on to putting away laundry and cleaning bathrooms.  I’ve done two loads and am on my third bathroom when Jason walks in.  He wastes no time letting me know how I messed up everything.

“Why didn’t you cut the onion up more?  That would give the stock more flavor,” he said. “Now it’ll taste like water, just like the beef stock you made.  You put way too much water in that one, and you bought the wrong type of bones.  And the yogurt probably won’t stay at a constant temperature the way you’ve done it.”

“I just need to take over,” he continued later, when it’d been proven he was right about the mistakes I’d made.  The beef broth was watery, and after he took over and finished the chicken stock, it tasted much better.  “It’d be like me trying to teach the kids grammar.  That’s your area; cooking is mine.”

Holding a scummy wash rag and bottle of ACV, I kick the bathroom door shut and start to cry.  I’d been so proud of myself, yet it turned out I’d done nothing right.  

Feeling: Devastated

 

The bone broth that turned out more like water

 

The last latte

Loki and my last latte

Today I took off work to cook in preparation for GAPS.  I need to make chicken stock, beef stock, and GAPS yogurt to have on hand when we start tomorrow.

But first, I took a lovely walk with Loki and enjoyed my last latte.

Here goes … wish me luck!

Feeling: A nagging sense of foreboding 

Fed up and counting down …

GAPS book

The GAPS book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the GAPS diet that Logan’s new MAPS doctor suggested we try … since then, I’ve been reading the GAPS book and the tons of GAPS blogs out there.  And thankfully, a friend who’s gone through it with her family has been sending me lots of information.  It’s kind of overwhelming, but … I’m starting to feel more confident about it. 

So, let the countdown to implementing GAPS begin.  Our target date: 9/27/14.

While I feel more prepared, I’m still dreading the first few days.  GAPS Stage 1 is pretty much restricted to just bone broth soup (maybe some boiled meats and veggies thrown in).  I’m sure Logan will go into meltdown mode when I inform him he can’t have his “treats”: Snapea Crisps, quinoa milk, pumpkin muffins, dairy- and sugar-free chocolate chips.  And from everything I’ve read, most people experience some awful withdrawal symptoms, too.

But the white bumps on his tongue have returned (and actually, I have them now, too, plus a gross white coating on my tongue, which makes me think I have thrush), and I’m about ready to try anything to heal our stomachs.  The Body Ecology diet didn’t help us enough – here’s hoping GAPS will.

Still, one thing has me worried.  I am trying to be as dedicated to going head-on GAPS, as strict as possible.  But that had been my intent with BED, too, and I know we only adhered to it about 95%.  The trouble is, as hard as I try, my window to cook is pretty thin.

Jason and I watched Fed Up the other weekend, a documentary narrated by Katie Couric about the food industry.  It was fantastic, and I’d have said eye-opening if thanks to Logan we hadn’t already started on a healthy-food journey.  Everything, it seems, boils down to avoiding processed foods–at all costs.

Fed Up

The documentary does a great job of showing how processed foods have made us all fat and sick.  It shows quite clearly how getting off the Standard American Diet and onto a diet made from whole foods is a lifesaver.  But there was one problem.

Nowhere in the documentary did it address why we as a nation got on our SAD diet in the first place.  It chronicled a family who got off the diet and onto a healthy one, lost a ton of weight, then put it all back on again.  The movie sort of made it seem like such a shame, and left you wondering, why on earth did they quit?  Why’d they go back?

Because they had to.

The families in the documentary all appeared to be working-class families, as many of us are.  And the simple fact is it is almost impossible to cook actual food while two parents work full time.  The reason Americans eat processed foods is because we have to work.  We only have 30 minutes to cook, and Hamburger Helper caters to that.  Cooking any other way takes time that most of us don’t have.

All of my friends who eat healthy and who have healthy families all have a stay-at-home mom.  Every GAPS blogger and healthy food blogger I come across is a stay-at-home mom.  I calculate my time each day down to the minute to accomplish both working and cooking real food, and there have been days I arrived at work and realized I hadn’t had time to go to the bathroom since the night before.  Mornings are just too packed.

Katie Couric’s advocacy that we not only change the way we eat but change the way we regulate the big food industry is has good intentions, but it won’t be enough.  The way we eat is tied to the way we work, and until that can change, most Americans will continue a diet of processed foods.

Feeling: Fed up

Learning in the blink of an eye

Last time I posted about trying to analyze all my data: how frequent meltdowns occurred, how severe they were, possible triggers… and I often feel like I’m not so much navigating all these numbers but drowning in data.

And recently, I read a book about how that might be exactly how Logan feels.

In Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (which, by the way, I chose to read as a break from autism research … but it seems to find me no matter where I turn), there’s an anecdote about a man named Silvan Tomkins.  Tomkins could look at faces on the Most Wanted Posters from the FBI and know just from the mug shot what crimes the person had committed—because he could read faces so well.

Psychologist Paul Ekman decided that if Tomkins could read people that well, others could learn to, too.  He and his partner identified every single facial muscle and each movement those muscles could make; turns out, there are 43 different moves each of those muscles can make individually.   When facial muscles start moving in combination with each other, things get more complicated. “There are three hundred combinations of two muscles,” Gladwell quotes Ekman as saying.  “If you add in a third, you get over four thousand.”

Five muscles?  More than 10,000 different facial expressions.  Calculating how many facial expressions we could make using different combinations of all 43 muscles is definitely beyond my abilities.  And only about 3,000 convey any real meaning, anyway.

And these muscles make meaning.  The facial expression that, universally, people understand as happiness is made by contracting the muscles that raise the cheek in combination with the muscle that pulls the lips.  I can follow that.  It’s a fancy way of describing a smile.

Then Gladwell raises the stakes.  The expression of fear, he describes, is made by moving muscles “one, two, and four, or, more fully, one, two, four, five, and twenty, with or without action units twenty-five, twenty-six, or twenty-seven.  That is: the inner brow raiser (frontalis, pars medialis) plus the outer brow raiser (frontalis, pars lateralis) plus the brow-lowering depressor supercilii plus the risorius (which stretches the lips) plus the parting of the lips (depressor labii) plus the maseter (which drops the jaw).”

Did you follow that?  I can’t.  I can’t picture that face no matter how hard I try—and I certainly would never come to the conclusion that this must signal fear.

Is this what Logan’s brain is like?  Is he trying to constantly decode all of this information literally while the rest of us simply know without analyzing what faces say?  My god, I’d be tired if I went through that every time I looked into someone’s face.  And if I had to do all that, I’d be sidetracked from my instinctual knowledge.

As it turns out, Gladwell also address autism in his book.  He references a study that tracks eye movement and how people with autism do not focus on faces. And because of that, they miss social cues (duh, every parent of an autistic child is now saying).  They are, he says, “mind-blind.”

Theory has always been that people with autism simply didn’t care about emotions.  But another article I read recently suggests the opposite might be true: it might be functioning too well, working too hard to decode all possible inputs of information.  And when we work too hard at trying to break down data, our instinctual brain can’t take over—what Gladwell says is behind the “locked door” remains locked, hidden.

I don’t think Gladwell believes he is breaking new ground when he mentions facial avoidance; his point is rather that in high-stress situations, neurotypical people can become mind-blind and fail to read faces, too.  He writes about a team of policemen, as an example, involved in a chase who end up shooting an unarmed suspect – the “unimaginable stress,” he says, of believing you saw a gun could reasonably cause temporary autism, an inability to correctly read a suspect’s face.

If neurotypical people can become temporarily autistic and forget to rely on instincts, could people with autism learn to forget about decoding every bit of data?  If only there were a way to remove the stress of information overload for Logan when he looked at someone’s face.  I suppose we’ll find out if a combination of diet and therapy will do just that.

Now I know what a jicama is!

Now I know what a jicama is!

Jicama Hash Browns:

  •  1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 oz. diced meat (I used turkey)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cubed jicama
  • Seasonings (1 tbsp each paprika, garlic powder; 2 tsps oregano; 1 tsp each pepper, onion powder, thyme; 1/2 tsp each sea salt, sage, cayenne)
  • Water

Cook coconut oil and onions in frying pan on medium-high heat for five minutes.  Add diced meat and garlic; cook for 3 minutes.  Drop in jicama and seasoning.  Cook for a total of 10 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water every couple of minutes or so and stirring to avoid burning.  

I served with sunny-side up eggs (or “goopy eggs, as my kids call them”).  As always, they didn’t love this new dish, but I thought it was fantastic.

Feeling: Frazzled.  But well fed.

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