So, I think my growing spending discipline is spilling over into other areas of my life. And I like it. Actually, I need it.
Because of food.
Backtrack four years and I was the happiest little piglet on the block – my boyfriend feeding me huge bowls of pasta (he makes an AMAZING anchovy spaghetti sub-fry that I still dream about), Ukrainian potato things and loads of crumbed stuff. Once a week we “treated” ourselves to fish & chips or a huge Lebanese feast. We usually drank a bottle or two of red a night as well. Those were the heady days where I could eat anything I wanted, allergically speaking. Or at least thought I could. And it showed.
Fast forward to today and I now know I am Coeliac and can’t eat dairy. Goodbye every single thing that’s fun to eat.
And it’s getting worse. A few weeks ago I was trying some paleo baking when a big blob of mixed yeast and water dropped on my arm. I didn’t notice it, just kept cooking. I was scratching the same place a lot and when I finally rinsed the skin there was a big, red, itchy, angry welt where the yeast had been. Undeterred, I figured I might only react on the outside, and happily ate my English muffins (Brittany Angell, you genius). I was desperately ill for two days.
Goodbye all the breads ever.
So, I tried making my own almondflour flat bread but was still reacting. Also to coconut and cauliflower – two of the main paleo diet staples.
In the meantime, my mother was placed on a lowFODMAP diet by her doctor. Most of the things she had to cut out were things that I had discovered I was also reacting to – coconut water, cauliflower, garlic. It’s not that complicated to identify what’s troubling you when you can only eat about ten things.
So now, I am eating on a paleo lowFODMAP food plan, seeing how I go. Just until I heal my gut after the years and years of antibiotics (infected tonsils and calcified lymph nodes and bad asthma) that wiped out its friendly bacteria colonies. I am not sure why this is happening now, but maybe its just years and years of poor diet, binge drinking and medication catching up.
So for now, its goodbye restaurants or anyone cooking me dinner, ever. The last time someone tried was Christmas eve. Everyone else had pasta and I had a bowl of walnuts, lettuce leaves and cranberries. Sadly, now I can’t even eat the cranberries.
To make things worse, I am about to start the Whole Life Challenge and have to eliminate alcohol and things like french fries – the last bastion of eating out goodness for me.
For all the joy eating brings me at the moment, I might as well be fed intravenously. No, that’s not fair. There is still endless variety in all the meats, most of the vegetables, and some herbs and spices. And thank baby cheeses that whiskey is lowFODMAP.
One of my aims is to have healed enough to eat relatively normally on a trip to Amsterdam with friends in April. Ok, it will still be gluten- and dairy-free, but I simply won’t be able to eliminate anything else. So all my focus is on gut-healing: loads of turmeric, kombucha, sauerkraut, probiotics, gelatin, bone-broth, grass-fed meats and no alcohol.
If I’d been given all this news at once, four years ago, I would probably have gone into a bakery and eaten myself to death. Wrapped myself in pastry, dipped myself in chocolate and fed myself to the wolves. Or at least collapsed in a heap asking “why me?”
I do admit to feeling a boiling envy of people who can just go out and order anything on the menu. Never, ever take that for granted.
But I’ve put my big girl pants on and I’m just going with it. I don’t even think about cheating because that would only hurt me. I stick even more tightly to my workout and cooking schedule and make extra time for careful menu-planning. I allow myself to buy whatever ingredients I want, because basically there’s nothing more important than health to spend my money on.
The similarly-afflicted community I have found on Instagram of all places is simply amazing. If you have any kind of eating challenge, type it in and SOMEONE is making recipes just for you. With pictures. And cheering you on as you choke down your beet greens.
And yes, I am losing weight. Other good things seem to be happening too, like skin getting tighter, more hair on my head and eyebrows (which I find weird) and orange-peel legs smoothing out. But I would be a liar if I said I would not trade all benefits in a second for a huge burger, pizza and ice cream.
Good thing for discipline, huh?
“My name is Siân and I have cheated.”
So in my last post I renewed my no-spending vows and promised to reveal exactly how I had cheated.
But first, a little story. When I arrived in Munich 3.5 years ago, I was pretty much stone broke, or “financially embarrassed” as my friend Jean and I like to say. I had decided that nothing would stop me from accepting the job offer, but looking back, I really did it tough at first. I had to buy the cheapest of everything, because my boyfriend in Sydney and I had just forked out a load of cash for a new fridge, washing machine, dishwasher, mattress, sofa and side tables, so savings were non-existent. Plus, the role here involved a huge pay cut.
I had also not realised the way the rental market works in Germany. The TENANT pays the real estate agent a non-refundable fee of 2.8 times the gross rent of the new place. Whaaaa? In most cases, for NOTHING! Literally, these people stick an ad in the online search site, thousands of people apply (because Munich has a chronic rental housing shortage), they hold one open-house for 20 mins at a super inconvenient time, collect a thousand applications and pick the first one that meets the criteria. Done. For that, they earn around 2 grand. From the tenant.
My first apartment rented for 780eu a month. I had to pay two months’ rent in advance, a bond of 1500 and then a real estate agent fee of around 2000. All this on top of the furniture I was repaying at home, plus my flights…and I still hadn’t been paid my drastically reduced salary.
Long story short, I had to buy really cheap shit. Including a mattress. I bought the most inexpensive Ikea one I could find and slowly realised I might as well be sleeping on the kitchen table. I haven’t been able to replace it since then.
I’ve been sleeping poorly because of it. I realised last month that over time it had become so bad I was actually avoiding going to bed, knowing I would toss and turn for hours and never be comfortable, waking with stiff shoulders and a burning neck. Here’s a snapshot from my sleep tracker app of what an average night looked like for me:
I didn’t want to spring for a new mattress (see what I did there?) at this stage in my financial development, so I decided to try something else first. I know amazon have their issues, I really do. But what I love about it as a consumer is that I can see what everyone else thinks of a product. Mattresses and pillows in particular are difficult to buy, because what feels comfortable for three minutes in a show room may not be what feels good long-term, when you test it in the privacy of your own privacy :).
So I picked the best-rated pillow and mattress-softening overlay and they were delivered the very next day. And holy land of nod do they make a difference to me.
It’s still not quite like sleeping in a good hotel, or my old bed in Sydney. And still, one of the first things I will buy when I am debt-free next year is definitely a really quality box-spring bed. But in the meantime, here’s what sleep looks like now:
I know, right??! Progress.
I also bought:
Measuring cups and spoons. German baking and recipes go by weight, so you can find the world’s most advanced kitchen scales that can measure the exhalation of a cricket, but not a single “teaspoon” or “cup”. I figured it was much better use of my resources to simply buy a set than spend endless hours converting things in all my recipes. I am happy with this choice.
The Best Paleo Recipes 2014 ebook. I am getting a recipe book for Christmas, I know. And I didn’t need this. But it was on sale for $19.95 USD, (which it still is) and I liked a couple of the recipes I had seen sneak previews of. I definitely need more recipe books, because I cannot free-style in the kitchen like all those incredibly gifted people who can. I am paint by numbers or nothing at all. This ebook seemed like a good choice.
So those were my cheats. I am not proud of them, but I am consoling myself with the fact that they all in some way contribute to my health. Sleep most importantly. And there was not a single wasteful or silly item, not even a cheap piece of costume jewellery that I’d have tired of after the first wear.
Even though I cheated, I consider that I cheated well. I feel like this is progress. And today, that’s good enough for me.