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I rarely post non-recipe entries these days, but with the holiday carousel already well underway (the HH and I will be attending our first party of the festive season this weekend), I wanted to share some thoughts about the holidays, anti-candida style.
[ACD-Friendly Holiday Nut Roast with Smoky Almond Gravy and sides]
My friend The Architect and his wife have thrown an annual Christmas bash for the past decade or so, and the HH and I have been lucky enough to attend each year. (Like a Same Time, Next Year remake–without the sex, that is–we meet up repeatedly with the selfsame dozen or so guests and always look forward to catching up on the previous 12 months). This time, though, I’ll be dealing with the scourge on my skin, the infestation of my intestines, that plague on my psyche: the Cursed Candida!
It can be incredibly difficult for anyone on a special diet (and by “special diet,” I mean anything that’s not the Standard American Diet–ie, anyone reading this blog) to navigate the holidays. Like it or not, you become keenly aware of the restrictions imposed on you, and the shaky line between friendship and maintaining your health; between wondering, “What would make a good hostess gift?” and, “will there be anything I can eat?”. Sometimes, you might even wonder if it’s worth attending the event at all, when you are (mostly) relegated to outside observer while everyone else indulges in supersized portions of flaky hors d’oeuvres, cheesy bites, holiday meats, chocolate truffles with Grand Marnier ganache, or big, sloppy slices of trifle and bread puddings. Waaaa!
So how do you endure survive traverse the barrage of sugar-laden, cream-laden, chocolate-laden, booze-laden, lard-laden buffets, holiday tables, restaurant menus and dinner parties that will be crossing your path until, oh, mid-February?
[Stevia-Sweetened, ACD-Friendly Chocolate Pots de Crème]
Well, folks, I won’t stevia-coat it; this diet can be a huge challenge, and at times is very, very tough. And make no mistake: even as I enter month Number Ten on this regime, I still find it a constant battle to ensure I don’t fall off the wagon and plummet headlong into the vortex of overeating, bingeing and regretting my transgressions (the gastronomic kind–not to be confused with those other, more famous, transgressions). As a sweets addict, I can relapse with the least provocation; thankfully, I made only a half-batch (10) of those ACD-friendly Matcha Chocolate Truffles, as I consumed them all within two days. (Hmm. Good thing I’m not back on sugar, isn’t it?)
This year, I’ll be following a fairly rigid version of the ACD, even through the holidays. What that means is no alcohol, vinegar, moldy foods (ie, mushrooms, citrus except for lemon/lime, melons, peanuts), sweet fruits (goodbye, dear mango! Sayonara, persimmon! Auf wiedersein, medjool dates!), and no conventional chocolate (ie, with sugar). I’ve only recently begun to incorporate unsweetened chocolate and some non-sweet fruits (apples, berries, pears) into the mix.
As a result, I thought it might be useful to outline some of the strategies I’ve used in the past and plan to use this season to keep the holidays a happy time, even on an anti-candida regime. For those of you new to the diet, I hope this offers some help!
[ACD-Friendly, Stevia Sweetened Mini Spice Cupcakes with Choco-Carob Frosting]
Invitations to Parties and Others’ Homes:
Over the years, I’ve finally set aside any initial fear of offending my host(ess), and always bring at least one dish I can eat (raw kale salad is usually a huge hit with everyone, and it can be whipped up in minutes before you leave). I bring enough for everyone, so that it doesn’t appear I’m simply feeding myself. Yes, this creates a bit of an inconvenience and extra expense, but it’s worth it to be able to eat something. Most parties will serve veggies and dip, so you can munch on the veggies, at least.
I also always eat something before I go, even if it’s just some (wheat-free) crackers and almond butter. That way, if my own salad is truly the only ACD-friendly food in the place, I won’t starve.
It can be difficult to stand around chatting with people as they imbibe champagne, wine, or whatever and eat all manner of yummy, rich and savory foods–but try to keep your mind on the real reason behind the party: to socialize, to meet people, to get together with friends and family. They really are better than a piece of pumpkin pie, aren’t they?
If you’re cooking up your own holiday meal at home, the best thing to do is find an ACD-friendly recipe that the rest of your family can enjoy, too. I’ve found that most vegetable dishes, salads, appetizers, and even main courses are perfectly acceptable to just about anyone as long as they’re tasty.
Desserts are a little more complicated, as stevia is not for everyone. If you can, cook up a dessert that can be divided in two, with one half for you (stevia-sweetened) and the other sweetened with “regular” sweeteners. I’ve accomplished such schizophrenic sweets in my recent Matcha Truffle recipe, the Faux Chocolate, Carob-Coconut Sweeties, and even Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Pudding. All of the desserts on this page can be made that way, too.
Get creative with the ingredients you are permitted to eat, or find yourself some good recipes to use. I’ve been working on these holiday-worthy ACD-friendly desserts (pictured) that I’m compiling for a Holiday E-Book, too. It should be ready in the next week or so, so I hope I can provide some great options for holiday menus to many of you!
[ACD-Friendly, Stevia Sweetened Spiced Pumpkin Millet Pudding with Coconut Whipped Cream]
Despite what the experts have promised, my sugar cravings didn’t go away in a week, or two weeks after being on the diet, or–well, ever. Sorry to admit this, but even after 10 months with NO CHEATING on the diet, even after losing 43 of the 45 pounds to my goal weight (whoo-hoooo!), I still have them, and have them almost daily. For those of us with sugar addictions–much like any addiction–they may never go away.
And when I’m hit with a massive craving for chocolate, or cake with frosting (okay, sometimes even minus the cake), or chocolate chip cookie dough, I still go prowling through the kitchen, opening and closing the refrigerator repeatedly in the hopes that I might suddenly, miraculously spy something sweet that I am “allowed” to eat. (Sadly, no, healthy Twinkies do not magically appear). Then what?
Well, friends, in those times when I’m desperate for something sweet, I must admit that I succumb to the urge. No, no–I don’t mean that I eat something sugary! But I do eat as much as I like of any ACD-friendly sweets. This may mean consuming six squares of my faux chocolate in quick succession, or an entire recipe of Carob-Coconut Sweeties, or even some avocado-carob pudding (use stevia instead of dates). True, I may be eating more than I should in one sitting, but if it prevents me from hooking up with my old sweetheart, Sugar, then I’m okay with it. The moment usually passes by the time I reach the fourth square of “chocolate,” and I return to my regularly scheduled menus, crisis averted.
Feeling Blue without Favorite Foods
Despite your best efforts, despite being motivated, and despite really, really wanting to get healthy, there will still be times when these food restrictions and the havoc they play with your “normal” life will feel like a huge burden, and you may wonder why you are sticking with the diet when results are often slow to manifest. At times like those, I try to resuscitate my drive by getting in touch with positive energy, either from people that are close to me, or other reliable sources of optimism. Call a friend, your sister, your cousin, your sponsor–whoever will be able to support you in a moment of weakness.
[UPDATE, 2015: I talk about all the strategies I’ve learned over the years and use to deal with the challenges of the diet in my book, Living Candida-Free. If you’re looking for even more information, you’ll find it there.]
This holiday season, I plan to focus as much as possible on the intentions behind the gatherings rather than the foods on serving dishes. Being “fully nourished” means feeding not only our bellies, but also our emotions, our psychological needs, our friendships and our relationships with loved ones. As Meghan Telpner says in her ebook,
“Feeling well involves being in good humour, genuinely cheerful, optimistic and positive. Health is the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for our own actions. When our health is good we carry less fear inside and therefore can lead our lives more honestly and with more integrity. We can see the good in our lives and know that the bad will pass. We feel gratitude for what we are blessed with. Perhaps most importantly, when we feel well, we can feel, live and spread love. Wellness breeds happiness and true happiness can ensure sustained wellness.”
Remember that you can recover from candida, and it doesn’t have to rule your life. Here’s to a happy, healthy and naturally sweet holiday season!
What are your strategies for getting through the holidays when you don’t eat the same foods as everyone else? Please share in the comments!
Last Year at this Time: Raw Imitation Fried “Rice”
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