Roaring Shark

Eating differently for better health


Week 5 Wrap-Up: Group II Testing Continues

I am now more than halfway through the week of taking more things out of my diet, prolonging the Elimination Phase of the TQI Diet. Two and a half more days to go, and then another reassessment.

If I haven’t started to feel a lot better by then, I might go searching for more information in a book Abascal recommends, called “Food Allergies and Food Intolerance: The Complete Guide to Their Identification and Treatment” by Jonathan Brostoff, MD and Linda Gamlin. Abascal says that although most people will see significant improvements in the first few weeks of the Elimination Diet, there are those, maybe including me, whose food sensitivities are harder to tease out and may take longer and require more research. If it’s not dairy, wheat gluten, alcohol, peanuts, tree nuts, fresh or dried corn, soy, citrus, the nightshade family, bananas, chocolate, strawberries or pineapple, what could it be? Well, there are further groups of foods she recommends testing: Group III is eggs, grains, legumes and shellfish; and Group IV is fish, meat and fruit. Abascal also mentions that certain groupings of foods, which we may not realize are related, can cause issues in rare cases. For instance, cashews, mangoes and pistachios are all related to poison ivy and poison oak, and some people may react to them.

So that my diet does not continue to be so terribly restricted, I still plan to start next Monday on the Testing Phase. This will entail picking one food from the most recently eliminated group and eating it at all meals and snacks for two days, while carefully noting any changes in health on a chart provided in the Abascal book. If there is no obvious reaction, I can add that food back into my diet immediately, then begin with two days of the next food on the list. At the end of this testing period, I can decide which additional foods I may wish to remove for a week and then perform the same type of testing with them. All of this means that my basic Elimination Phase will need to continue a while longer, but I am fine with that. Honestly, I do feel like I have made what feels like it will be a long-term lifestyle change in terms of my eating/drinking habits. So, a while longer of the most difficult part of it is really not that big a deal – it will all end up being worth it if I find a food that is bugging me and can feel better after it is no longer in my diet!

I am taking heart from Abascal’s own experience when she was developing this regimen – she had a number of persistent, painful and troublesome health issues, and she ended up staying on the Elimination Phase for six months because that’s how long it took her to see the real improvement she was hoping for. When I first launched into this journey over a month ago, I thought I would be counting the days until I could begin testing and get back to all my old favorite foods, but in that time my perspective and priorities have shifted, and for the first time in my life, I feel truly motivated to eat what is healthy and pass by what is not with no regrets. It doesn’t mean I will never eat sugar or drink wine again, but right now I can’t imagine going back to consistently eating the old, bad way. I will hang in there with this as long as it takes. And if I really can’t figure it out myself, I will contact someone at Bastyr Clinic or elsewhere to help me really sort it out. It’s worth it, for my hope of a healthier life to follow.
Thanks for reading.

I heart fruits and veggies


Pressing Onward

Sorry about the bummer last post. I still don’t feel great, but am somewhat better than when I wrote last. I do wonder if eating less frequently is exposing some previously hidden issues, possibly including hypoglycemia, so I will have to be careful about that and also probably need to schedule a check-up with a doctor.

Even though my family is still in town for their visit, I don’t feel like I can wait any longer to try eliminating some more foods to see if I can find a culprit for the variety of health issues that continue to bother me. So, in addition to the things I have already eliminated for the past month (wheat and wheat relatives, dairy, peanuts, fruit juice, sugar and added sweeteners, dried corn, oils besides olive, and alcohol), I am going to take out the following, just for a week, and see what happens: soy, tree nuts, citrus, fresh and sprouted corn, onions and garlic, bananas, strawberries, chocolate (oh no!), pineapple, and all members of the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant). I am also considering removing eggs, although they are the only reliable breakfast protein source I can think of to eat since grains are not allowed at that meal and now nuts will be out so my almond-flour waffles and muffins are no go.
Many of these (soy, tree nuts, nightshades, citrus, and corn) are foods which Abascal recommends eliminating if one has reached a “troublesome plateau,” which I believe I have, and the others are things I have often wondered if I have sensitivities to. For instance, pineapple sometimes makes the roof of my mouth swell up and tingle, onions seem to disturb my digestion, and I think chocolate might be a headache trigger. I am just going to take them out and see if I find any improvement as a result.

Will this be a huge pain? Well, yes, but it’s only for a week. I can do it ! I think so, anyway. Maybe it will not give me any new information, but if it does, I will be so happy I did it. One day down already, only six to go! Then I can start testing stuff and see what I find out.

In the meantime, what will I eat? I will just have to be creative. There are still a lot of thing ON the list, and I will do my best to keep them in the house and enjoy them happily instead of thinking about what I can’t have right now. In general, that mindset is the best help I can give myself to continue on this diet journey.

Here was tonight’s delicious dinner, a huge salad composed of mixed baby greens, baby spinach, chickpeas, carrots, nectarines, pumpkin seeds, kalamata olives and avocado, dressed with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar with a grind of fresh black pepper on top.


On the list – delicious dinner salad


Week 4 Wrap-Up: Wish I Felt Better

Week 4 of the Elimination Phase of my TQI Diet odyssey just finished, and I wish I had more positives to report. I am 10 lbs. lighter, which on most diets would be cause for celebration, but that’s not what I was going for and so I am going to admit to feeling pretty frustrated.

Instead of seeing great gains in my general health, I feel like I’ve gone backwards. My gut is completely messed up, I am back to having daily headaches, my skin looks horrible, I haven’t slept more than 4 hrs. per night in weeks, and my blood sugar seems very off. I can’t say that any of this is due to the diet, but I was hoping for better at this point.

What I need to do, I guess, is cut even more things out, and then start testing. But my family currently visiting from out of town makes even sticking with the regular Elimination part of the plan very challenging (I feel like a total killjoy at every mealtime, abstaining from pretty much everything they are enjoying), so I can’t imagine adding to the no-eat list until they depart. I wish I didn’t have to wait to do it, though – I am so hoping that I will figure out what is bugging me, and if I don’t, I will be so hugely disappointed. I’m starting to wonder if it might be the nightshade family – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers – that is causing a lot of my troubles. I know someone who says he cured his psoriasis by cutting them out, but somehow I could never bring myself to even try taking these staple foods out of my diet. I would be sad to lose them, but if the trade-off is an uptick in the way I feel, I will happily do it.

Thanks for reading, sorry my posts have been sparse due to busy-ness and feeling crummy. Hoping for better things next week!


Week Three Wrap-Up: Prolonging the Current Phase

As Week Three of the Elimination Phase of my TQI Diet trial comes to a close, I have decided to stay with the way I am currently eating and to forgo beginning the Testing Phase for now. Here are my reasons:

1. Although I have lost 9 lbs. to date, my primary goal with this diet is to identify what foods may be causing inflammatory conditions in my body, and I feel like I have yet to get that information. I had hoped to see more of an improvement in my chronic skin, gut, sleep and other issues, but so far that has not occurred. To me, it seems reasonable that it might take longer, perhaps much longer, than three short weeks to see positive results from changes to my diet, which has been sub-optimal for quite a while.

2. I have had a stomach virus for the past day, am not sure how long it will take to resolve, and don’t want to start messing around with adding back dairy and gluten and other things until those symptoms are gone, so I can have a better chance at correctly identifying any changes that take place when foods are added back into my diet.

3. Out of town family is coming to stay for a while this weekend and there will be a lot of eating together. I will already be on the outside of a lot of the shared repasts, having to bring my own food or cobble together meals ad hoc at my folks’, so compounding this with further changes (taking out other foods like the nightshade family, fresh corn, and soy; adding back in large quantities of gluten or dairy and then having to keep careful track of resulting symptoms, if any) seems like too much stress.

So, one more week of status quo Elimination Phase, then a week with other stuff pulled out, then I can start testing two weeks from today, if I want to.

Honestly, despite feeling cruddy at the moment due to the virus, I am so happy I decided to undertake this project – although it has sometimes been a bit of a pain as far as planning goes, I really have not felt deprived, and am now able to walk around at the store without even looking at the corn chips or cookies, as I don’t really have any desire to  eat them. I would say that in general I am not super will-power-fueled, so if I can do it, you probably can too.

Thanks for reading.



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End of Week 2: I Feel Lighter

After two solid weeks in the Elimination Phase of the TQI Diet, I am starting to feel its impact in a positive way. It’s not just the weight, but the feeling of leadenness that was always with me for as long as I can remember that is now gone. I have more energy throughout the day, and it is manifesting itself both physically and mentally.

This week, I did things I haven’t had the energy to do in a long while – dealing with long-put-off paperwork, bouts of late-night baking and canning, jumping on a trampoline, climbing up to a treehouse 20 feet off the ground via a rope ladder. My semi-daily walks have been brisker and I am not panting for breath on the hills. I still have sleep issues so I am not feeling like a 20 year old or anything, but the improvement is marked.

In a week, I can start the Testing Phase of the diet, wherein I will add back one category of eliminated foods at a time, to see if I can determine what it is that was weighing my system down and causing me to feel unwell.

Then again, I could also choose to just keep eating this way and see if I continue to adapt to and enjoy it. I’m still considering both options.

In the meantime, I will savor this new feeling of lightness and continue to watch for other positive changes in my health and well-being.


Restaurant = Waterloo

OK, I guess it had to happen – my first fall off the TQI Diet wagon. In my defense, it was not out of choice…

The scene: Seattle’s Wild Ginger, a spiffy Asian fusion restaurant in downtown Seattle.

The protagonists: some very dear out of town friends, who were treating me to dinner and a concert, and me.

The problem:  seemingly nothing on the menu, or even off the menu but available, could be prepared without something I am not supposed to be eating right now. Corn oil, wheat/gluten-containing soy sauce, non-organic soy products, farmed fish, the works… there was no way out. After torturing the waiter and the chef with multiple questions, I finally just gave up and ordered the mussels in coconut broth, which seemed to have the fewest issues, and ate them with brown rice and as many green beans in sesame oil as I could manage to snag. Still, the proportions (1/3 grains and protein to 2/3 fruits and veggies) were way off, and my stomach started hurting before the meal was over and still hurts today, more than 24 hours later.

I felt really bad for making the wait and kitchen staff listen to my special requests, and also about not sharing all the delicious and fun food choices my friends were enjoying, since the restaurant serves everything family-style. It also just felt rude to be imposing my food preferences (because until I find out if I have any real sensitivities, that’s what they are) on my friends. It just kind of felt like a buzzkill.

Meals at home or al fresco are pretty easy, going to dine with friends and family at someone’s home is a little harder (partly due to fear of insulting people) yet still do-able. But I think that unless you know of a restaurant that is really geared towards special diets, or you plan to eat in advance and not partake at all (which just seems weird), it might be better to just abstain from dining out during the five-week elimination phase.

If someone has had a good restaurant experience or clues for how to manage this more successfully, I’m all ears.

Seattle’s Wild Ginger restaurant – great food, just not much that is TQI Diet-friendly.


Summer’s Bounty

Starting the TQI Diet in the summer has probably helped to make it easy. There are so many varieties of fresh fruit and veggies available, many of them local, that it requires little effort to eat the variety of nutritious, fiber-rich foods that are part of this uber-healthy diet.

In the past week, I have enjoyed Bing and Rainier cherries, cantaloupe, watermelon, green and red grapes, Valencia oranges, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, mangoes, kiwis, nectarines, plums, peaches and apples. Between the grocery store and the garden, super-fresh veggies and herbs coming my way have included Tuscan and Russian kale, Swiss chard, three kinds of lettuce, baby spinach, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, bok choi, Crimini mushrooms, zucchini, arugula, onions, basil, mint, avocados, chives and thyme.

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are also allowed on this plan, but so far I have not wanted or needed to supplement the fresh stuff with those. I have a small freezer but I think I’ll need to clean it out to make room for blackberries when the season arrives next month. I want to eat those all winter!

Not to be gross, but you’d think that with all of that fresh produce, my stomach would be having trouble; but that has not been the case at all. I am not eating an entirely raw diet, and there are other things on my plate at each meal, so maybe that helps. In any case, my digestion has actually been much better than usual. Hey, maybe I just noticed the first health benefit, here in the second week of eating this way…

Favorite fruit combo of the week: a perfect peach, sliced, with ripe local raspberries. Sweet and sour and so delicious – no need for ice cream to go underneath!


Day 7: First Week Done!

Yesterday I completed the first week of the TQI Diet (To Quiet Inflammation), created by Kathy Abascal. It is the first time in my life I have gone a week without sugar, not to mention dairy, wheat, dried corn, peanuts, alcohol, and a few other things. Incredibly, aside from a couple of small inadvertent slip-ups (didn’t realize the seaweed snacks I shared with my daughter were coated in canola oil, a no-no; had some gluten-free bread that turned out to be fruit-juice sweetened), I came through completely clean, with zero cheats. Some moments of temptation arose, but they were never painful, and vanquishing them actually helped strengthen my resolve. If you know me and know how much I love all of these foods, you might not believe me, but it’s completely true.

In Abascal’s book, she says that the effects of the anti-inflammatory diet should begin to be felt in the first couple of weeks. I can’t say that I am there yet, but it has only been a week. One almost unbelievable aspect is the weight loss:  although not the over-arching goal of the diet, is a frequent side effect and for me it has been fairly dramatic. I am going to write about that in a separate post, but want to make it clear that this is not a weight-loss blog, nor am I going to make that a big focus of things here. I believe it is possible to be healthy and happy at many different weights, and not all skinny people are healthy (or happy!). I am interested, however, in seeing if continuing to eat this diet would eventually result in my body finding a resting point at which it decides that a certain weight is comfortable.

So, at this mini-milestone, here are some things I learned about eating this way:

- coffee is less filling without milk in it, so I am tending to drink more and then have more trouble sleeping; I need to be more careful about that

- using mineral water with lime as a wine substitute is tasty but bothers my acid reflux, so I have had to cut it out; I can’t have fruit juice so need to look into some tasty herbal/unsweetened teas that taste good cold

- buying organic fruits and veggies in much bigger quantities is expensive (so I need to source cheaper alternatives for some stuff, and clean out my freezer so I can buy things when they are on sale and freeze them)

- making more things ahead than I usually do is useful, since preparing meals in the proper proportions can be time-consuming

- I miss cheese way more than sugar or anything else

- and, last but not least, I am stronger than I thought I was

Thank you for following along. I am excited to see what Week Two brings!

Woo hoo, one week down!


Day 6: Lifting my Fork on the Fourth

The 4th of July is a huge deal in my Seattle neighborhood. There is a long-running (over 50 year) tradition of closing off several blocks of a street near ours and organizing the surrounding area’s residents to come together for twelve hours of Independence Day activities. It’s an event that unites neighbors, friends, and at least three generations every year. It begins with a parade down the street with the local fire truck and ends with a square dance, also on the street, with live music and a caller.

In between are many opportunities to eat, drink and be merry. We have a potluck breakfast curbside, same for dinner, and roving wagon-loads of popsicles, ice cream, sodas and other treats. One highlight of the day is the pie-eating contest, one of my daughter’s most beloved events of the year (she has tied for first or placed second in her age group most years).

I was not sure how I would handle all of this “forbidden fruit” while on the new food plan. Aside from the weirdness factor of being the only one not partaking of the potlucks, I thought I would be tempted to stray from the no-sugar and no-wheat dictates, especially when the dessert table filled up with goodies at dinner.

Once again, I packed up my own food (pumpkin protein muffin for breakfast, sprouted corn tacos for dinner) and made sure to load up on fruits and green salads from the buffets. The kids scarfed down piles of cupcakes and rice krispie treats, red white and blue Jell-o and homemade brownies – I happily and un-enviously skipped all of that and had lovely raspberries from my own garden instead.

Holidays are so often centered around either over-eating or eating junk, so it does take some effort and planning to make sure you have something when everyone else is wolfing down the traditional repasts. It’s not all that hard, though, and is better than having to go back to square one and start all over again with the Elimination Phase! That’s what’s keeping me on the straight and narrow more than anything else.

Thank you for reading. Hope you had a safe and happy 4th of July!

Didn’t make it, didn’t eat it. Nice-looking berries!


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