Leaving Las Vegas … with Pneumonia

I headed off to Las Vegas just over a week ago to attend WPPI – the Wedding & Portrait Photographer International conference. I decided to fly in on Saturday because it would make my flight less expensive, I could settle in to my hotel, and I would have time to attend classes and the print competition on Sunday. Or so I thought.

I arrived Saturday afternoon and once I was checked in to the Signature at the MGM, I headed to Whole Foods with Jane, Lisa & Marcia to pick up food for our rooms. Mmm… nothing like staying at a hotel that has a kitchenette so you can eat good, fresh food! After our shopping adventure, and being entertained by our cab driver who played his authentic Australian didgeridoo for us, I spent time hanging out with them and just settling in to Las Vegas. It was a nice, low key way to kick it all off. Once I learned that Jeff, my business coach, and my roommate Stephanie had both made it to the hotel, I left the east coast ladies to get some rest and went to meet up with them both at Wolfgang Puck’s for a late dinner.

We talked and enjoyed good food. Well, it seemed like good food at the moment. Stephanie had ordered creamed spinach. She decided once it arrived that she shouldn’t be eating the dairy, so I took it and ate it. It seemed innocent enough, but it wasn’t at all. It turns out that they use wheat flour to thicken the sauce in their creamed spinach. Doh!

When I first went gluten free, I could sneak in a little wheat here & there and just feel like I had a hangover the next day. Maybe a little congestion. Now? Not so much. So the hidden wheat in the creamed spinach? NOT a good thing.

I felt congested that night, but I blamed it on the smoke on the casino floor of the MGM, which is where Wolfgang Puck’s is located at. I mean, I didn’t eat any wheat – so why else would I be congested? It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning completely congested, with the sore burning throat, feeling like I had been hit by a truck, and with the all too familiar stomach pains, that I told Stephanie that I felt like I had eaten wheat – even though I was sure I had not.

Sunday was a pretty miserable day. I spent most of it in the hotel room instead of in classes or the print competition. I finally pulled it together for dinner that night and made it to dinner with the Team-X mentors and then the Team-X Soiree. By then I was just congested, but otherwise doing good. A large group of us ended the night for a late, late dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s.

This time, I asked about the creamed spinach, and the wheat was confirmed.

Monday was full of meetings (meals!) with the Team-X mentors and Jeff, the Team-Xers for lunch, and the boudoir dinner with some of my favorite ladies in the boudoir photography world. It was a good time, but by the end of the night all the talking, the smoke in the bars, and the sinus pain had me pretty worn down. I thought it couldn’t get much worse – until it did. Tuesday was miserable. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I was running a fever by then. Wednesday & Thursday just feel like a blur – by then, the cough had started. Strange, my congestion normally just stays in my sinuses.

Thursday I was feeling better, but I knew flying home with congestion was not going to be fun. Fortunately, thanks to all my travel last year earning me Silver status on United, I got bumped up to First Class for my flight. I took decongestants to hopefully save my ears, packed some tissues, and settled in for a comfy ride. It was all good until we landed, and my ears popped — and wouldn’t clear.

Mike picked me up at the airport at midnight, and being the fabulous husband that he is he took me pretty much straight to the ER. We stopped at home long enough for me to change clothes. 8+ hours in the ER, I’m glad I was wearing something comfortable! I was finally taken to a room at 4am, seen at 5am, told that my ears looked fine, but my chest? Not so much. He could hear the wheezing when I breathed, so it was off for a chest X-ray.

I am officially battling my first round of pneumonia.

I left the ER with a shot of mega-antibiotics, a prescription for Levaquin (which is used to treat the Plague), some pain killers that I haven’t taken at all, and an Albuterol inhaler to help me breathe.

Until yesterday, 4 days later, I still had a low grade fever. I am a horrible patient when I have a fever. My normal temperature is 96.8F – not the official normal of 98.6F – so once it is even at 98.0 I’m sore and tired and miserable. Last weekend sucked between the fever, the wheezing, my sinuses, and the Cough. Oh my, the Cough hurt. (Hm. Maybe that is what the pain killers were for?)

Today was the first day that I haven’t woken up coughing. I can still hear a little of the wheeze, but it is getting better.

Traveling while sick? Ugh. No thank you. I’d rather not do that again! I feel like almost all of WPPI was in a haze. I hate that foggy feeling.

I asked the ER doctor if it was possible that this was all from the wheat. He confirmed what my Ear, Nose & Throat doctor has also told me – it was. As my ENT put it, for some people, an allergen causes inflammation throughout the entire body, and it attacks everything. It doesn’t just make you congested, but it causes muscle aches, fatigue, etc. Your entire body fights back. Add that to my history of chronic sinusitis, and yes – the wheat was the culprit. If I had not eaten it, I wouldn’t have had inflammation, my body wouldn’t have been in a weakened state fighting it, I wouldn’t have ended up with a sinus infection, and the bacteria wouldn’t have moved in to my lungs. He said that I was more than likely not contagious to anyone else, which at least made me feel a little better. I would have hated to be Patient 0 in some WPPI outbreak.

Damn wheat. Damn pneumonia.

Lesson learned – ask about wheat in any food that I eat. Anything. I’ll no longer assume things are safe!

The Four Hour Body Four Week Update!

I can’t WAIT to share photos and stories from last week at ALT with you, but first I figured I needed to share my Four Hour Body update!

Back in December, I had a breaking point. There are many cooler terms for what happened, but the reality was that I broke. Somewhere between my desire to just be able to buy a dress off the rack at Anthropologie and watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” followed up by “Food, Inc.” I ended up deciding that it was time to follow the lead of many other people I knew that had lost 40-60lbs and buy a copy of Four Hour Body.

I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy at first. The first few days are rough, and I consider Day Four to be “hell day” for most people. I don’t know what it is, but I bet it has to do with your body just freaking out because you haven’t been giving it all those starchy carbs for four days. But by Day Three I had noticed that without gluten (wheat), my allergies that I’d been battling for what seemed like forever were pretty much gone. GONE! My inflammation was down too, and since that was a huge, huge goal of mine, it made it easier to stick with it and just plow through.

Which brings us to today. I’ve lost 10.4 lbs, and I’m pretty damn happy about that, especially since I was traveling for 8 days last week! Now I’m moving towards my next goal, to have lost 20 lbs by WPPI in a month! (Which is completely possible in my mind if I stick with it.)

In the past month, I’ve heard every excuse under the sun from other people. You all realize that *I* have been using those same excuses for about 10 years now, right? Yeah, they are bunk. Stop it. You guys are always tell me things like, “I could give up (one item), but I could NEVER give up (another item)!!!” (Fill in the blank with flour, rice, potatoes or sugar.) Look, I loooooooove things made with flour. Matter of fact, my mouth is watering just typing that sentence. A good biscuit? I’m all over it. How about some well made tortillas? Divine! But the fact is, eating flour, sugar, rice or potatoes raises your blood sugar, causing your insulin to spike, causing you to get FAT. So if you don’t want to be fat, try giving them up. 30 days. It isn’t going to kill you, I promise. It is just 30 days – you can do anything for 30 days! But STOP giving me excuses for why you couldn’t. And don’t tell me that you can’t do it if you haven’t TRIED to do it.

Carbohydrates from starchy foods are what are making you fat. It is that plain & simple. Cut them and you’ll lose weight.

Things I have learned throughout this in no particular order:

  • After Day Four (aka HELL DAY), my normal cravings for carbs stopped. Feed your body enough meat, vegetables & beans and it will stop craving starchy carbs, the cheap whores of food.
  • If – and only if – I haven’t eaten enough or it has been too long, I then crave carbs. A few cashews or almonds stops the craving, and eating makes it go away completely.
  • Any time I eat gluten, I wake up congested the next morning. Have issues with allergies or inflammation? Try it.
  • Speaking of inflammation, did you know that Type II Diabetes and High Blood Pressure are both related to inflammation?
  • I stop losing weight when I eat cheese. Every time. Skipping cheese from now on.
  • I also seem to stall when I eat fruit. I have been doing one “binge day” a week (I prefer to call it a free day) and I save potatoes, fruit and cheese for that one day a week.
  • I can lose weight while I travel if I have control of my own meals.
  • I can stay steady at my weight loss while I travel when I don’t get to choose my own meals.
  • Gluten-free options are still full of starchy-carbs. (Cheap whores!) Ok on that binge day, but not ok the other six days of the week.
  • Binge days make me gain a pound normally, but ultimately I lose even more by the end of the week following. Plus they keep away the mentality of dieting sucks.
  • Veggies are my friend. I especially love a good spinach salad.
  • I’ve tried new foods and it didn’t kill me. People! This is a big deal for me!!!
  • If I “listen” to my body and eat as much as I want of meat, beans & vegetables, I will eat enough.
  • The biggest thing I’ve learned? I CAN DO THIS.

    At least three times in the past seven years I’ve tried to lose weight on a rather big scale. My goal was to lose 5lb a month – 1.2lb a week – and keep it off. It is all documented here on the blog. Every single time, I was miserable. Dieting in the modern meaning of the word SUCKS. I’m NOT on a diet. I am eating to lose weight. But I plan to keep eating this way for a loooooooong time after I’ve lost the weight. Because it doesn’t make me miserable and cranky. Who knew?!? A diet that won’t make you miserable!

    It brings it all back to what diet is supposed to mean – what you eat. Your dietary needs. Not the four letter word that diet has become!

    I’ve bought new jeans because my old ones don’t fit. The belly fat that has been plaguing me for years is melting away. All I have done is changed what I’m eating. Meats, beans (legumes) and leafy green vegetables. Lately I wake up craving meat or a salad. My how things can change in four weeks!

    10.4 lbs. I can hardly believe it. I don’t think I ever got past losing 10-15 lbs in all the times I’ve tried to diet in the past few years, and it was always an uphill battle to get there. Try this. It works!

    Four Hour Body – What I’ve Been Eating…

    I’m a picky eater. I have been for YEARS. So starting off on the Four Hour Body / Slow Carb adventure was a bit intimidating for me. Mainly because one of the things you are supposed to eat is beans. EW!! Beans! I hate beans!!!

    Then I had to get real with myself. While I truly despise green beans, and I have given them a chance 2-3 times within the past 5 years, I haven’t tried most other beans since I was a kid. Many beans I had never tried at all. Saying you don’t like something seems to buy you time if you just have no desire to try it at all.

    Ok, maybe I would like a lot more stuff if I was willing to try it.

    But I have a really sensitive palate, textures sometimes gross me out, and if anything smells “weird” to me, I won’t taste it. It has to pass the smell test to even make it into my mouth.

    Side note: don’t ever make fun of a picky eater, or try to convince them to try something they don’t like. They have their reasons. Being a picky eater sometimes really sucks. Being harassed about it sucks even more. Unless they are one of those whiny picky eaters – which I am not – then all bets are off. Whining earns you the right to be picked on in my book.

    3 weeks now — no “fast” carbs. No sugar, flour, rice, or potatoes. No high fructose corn syrup. No “white” foods. (Cauliflower doesn’t count as a “white” food. FYI.)

    I’ve lost 7 pounds. More importantly, I’ve survived. And I’ve tried new things. Things that for years I declared “I don’t like”. One perk of my dietary habits is that I don’t mind eating the same thing every day. Doesn’t phase me at all. So for now, that is what I’m doing. Breakfast & lunch, same thing. Daily. That means I don’t have to think about what I want to eat. Mike cooks dinner, and some days I stick to a pretty small list of things I like. Other days I branch out more.

    Breakfast: Huge glass of ICE cold water. Wakes you up FAST! 2 eggs, scrambled, with a little ham added.
    Lunch: BIG BIG BIG spinach salad. I make it in a mixing bowl. I sometimes add turkey and/or ham. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds for a bonus crunch. 2 Tbsps of Newman’s Own Garlic & Parmesan salad dressing. (My only food item that has a little sugar.) Chop it all up with two knives with the dressing already on so it is spread all the way through.

    Those foods on my “no” list above? Honestly, the only find myself craving them is when I let myself get too hungry. If I don’t pay attention to the clock and I suddenly find myself craving bread, I know I’ve gone too far.

    Tonight for dinner I had a little salami and a piece of string cheese. I’m not supposed to eat dairy (4 Hour Body), but even more so I try not to because it is one of my “domino” foods. Domino foods are those things that if I eat a little, I normally eat a lot. I love cheese. But tonight I had one piece. Then I had:

    - 1/2 can of Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans): rinsed & drained, Mike taught me to put 1-1.5 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet, then add the chickpeas. Cover with a lid so they don’t pop out of the pan, roll them around every so often so they don’t stick. Cook until browned & toasty looking. Sprinkle kosher salt over them to taste. We added some chopped garlic to them tonight towards the end, and some kale chips that we crushed & sprinkled over the top.

    - A small portion of the lentil “meatballs” from the recipe at Sprouted Kitchen, with Mike’s own pesto sauce. He didn’t have any basil on hand, so he made a pesto out of parsley, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice & salt. YUM! Bonus? It got me past my texture issue fear of eating the lentils, because instead the texture was like meatballs!

    - Sauteed Spinach with a balsamic reduction. Mike puts a little olive oil in a skillet and once heated sautes garlic for about 30 seconds in it. Then add a mound of rinsed fresh spinach and a pinch of salt. Stir once & cover. Check every couple of minutes for the spinach to be wilted (about 4-5 minutes). Add a splash of balsamic, uncover the skillet, and let that cook down. Serve.

    If you had told me a month ago that my dinner was going to consist of chickpeas, lentil “meatballs”, pesto, and spinach, I would have told you that you were CRAZYPANTS!!! I did like spinach before, but not anything else on that list. Tonight? It was all amazing & scrumptious!

    I’m not dieting. I’m planning out a future post about my rant about that word. But a diet these days is a temporary thing. No, this isn’t something that I can just stop. This has to be a complete change. But it is ok – I’ve hit that point. The point of no return. My friend Brett wrote about his “elephant moment” and I can relate. I’m so grateful for all of the friends & family I have cheering me on and supporting me right now. I want to say I couldn’t do it without you – but I am pretty damned determined. So while I could do it without all the support, it wouldn’t be quite as easy.

    I guess a picky eater can learn to like new things…

    PS – that whole gluten thing? I ate part of a piece of wedding cake on Saturday (it is a job requirement *grin*) and I ate homemade pizza Saturday night. Sunday morning? I woke up congested, and feeling like I was hit by a truck. Lesson learned! I need to really limit my gluten!