Arizona and after – What I Ate (the treats & the experiment)

Long post warning!

Faithful readers have patiently read (put up with) my discussing/analyzing/obsessing about my food plan post-race, a potential gluten free (GF) experiment, and what I’d do after. So this is to share what I actually did pre and post-race, what I learned, and what’s next.

(I actually wish I’d taken MORE photos and some I am sure I took seem to have gone missing. However, I’ll say it was weird to be taking photos of so much of my food, especially in restaurants. I found it a bit disruptive, got annoyed with myself at times. While I enjoy blogging and tweeting and connecting with you all, I’m not a “professional blogger” and I don’t live to blog/tweet. It felt like I was breaking the flow of actual life somehow and putting priorities in the wrong place. Anybody else run into that sometimes?)

Pre-race, I stayed on my Paleo diet plan. As always, not the easiest of plans to follow when eating out, but research, grocery shopping and being able to tolerate very limited options made it mostly work. (Thanks and kudos as always to DH for his patience and support!) I am gluten-free (GF) because I’m gluten-intolerant if not celiac – so out of need. I’m Paleo by choice due to other intolerances and a desire to limit carbs and sugar. I’m not Paleo because I believe we should eat what cavemen ate or anything like that, though I do think the less processed foods and sugar in one’s regular diet, the better. Paleo is just the easiest shorthand for the combination of foods that seem to mostly work okay for me – though I also follow the GERD diet for GERD/hiatal hernia and past ulcers, don’t eat nightshades for autoimmune reasons, though I do eat eggs, and am inching toward lower FODMAPS as I seem to have issues with some veggies, especially raw. The Venn diagram of what I can/do actually eat would be amusing.

After the race however……I’d decided to go wild and temporarily abandon Paleo tenets (no dairy, legumes, etc.) after almost two years of following them. I also allowed myself to eat foods that are prohibited on the GERD diet (spicier foods, carbonation, caffeine, citric acid), a bit risky, and I did have some acid issues, especially toward the end of the two weeks. I continued to eat gluten-free as the pain of not doing so would be not literally intolerable, but severely miserable, and not worth it. (I did contemplate trying the gluten-containing Tammie Coe cupcakes and other yummies – we had the Ooey Gooey cupcakes at our wedding, or naan at our Indian restaurant, but decided the risk/guarantee of pain was just too high. If you can eat gluten though, make sure you eat Tammie Coe products while you’re in Phoenix. Amazing.)

One reason for this “break” is that for the last year or so, the Paleo diet had felt like deprivation more than a positive choice. We had some problems over the 2013 holidays while visiting DH’s family that caused stress for everyone, and it seemed everywhere I looked was something I couldn’t have or chose not to have. It got to be kind of upsetting. Another reason I chose to do it after my ultra is because so many of my favorite foods are in Arizona, places that handle GF well (and my favorite brand of ice cream). It would have been best if I stuck to only restaurants for higher quality food but I did pick up some GF packaged foods like Glutino’s pretzels (ate while crewing), some bars I wouldn’t normally eat (Hammer Whey and Picky) and discovered – thanks to DH – the amazing Tim’s Salt and Vinegar potato chips. You may think you’ve had good salt and vinegar chips, but believe me, these are THE BEST. (and, dangerously, available directly from the manufacturer – not sold in our geographic area).

Tim's Salt and Vinegar Chips

Tim’s Salt and Vinegar Chips

Here’s how it went…..

Thursday 12/25 (left home 5am ET, ate my own food on plane, arrived at the hotel around noon local, which is MT)

Ate our holiday “lunch” at the hotel restaurant, beet and spinach salad with candied pecans and small chunks of steak. We went to Walgreens to pick up SmartWater and snacks, but there wasn’t much available. I believe I got a fruit cup. Our shopping was limited as all the grocery stores near the hotel were closed on the holiday and even Walgreens had limited hours.For dinner, room service burger with bacon (which got remade as they’d put GF bread on it) and sautéed veggies.

Friday 12/26

Breakfast – in the room, Paleo bread sandwich and nut butter (I carried these on the plane)

Lunch – salmon and asparagus along with another beet/spinach salad (no meat) at the hotel’s spa cafe

Dinner – spinach/spring mix salad with mushrooms, chicken, bacon, nuts, strawberries and fig balsamic dressing at Picazzo’s (if you eat gluten-free, this is a place for you…only 2 items on the whole menu not available GF)

Picazzo's spinach salad

Picazzo’s spinach salad

We went to a favorite local grocery store and found kabocha! DH pushed me to get it. It IS possible to cook it in a hotel room microwave, but it takes forever and doesn’t turn out as well….also, I think it wasn’t quite ready to be picked.We also went to Whole Foods and picked up sweet potatoes, fruit, asparagus, turkey lunchmeat, a new loaf of Paleo bread, strawberries and some nut butter. I think we also got some GF treats in preparation for my post-race “indulging”.

Arizona kabocha

Arizona kabocha

Saturday 12/27 (day before race)

Breakfast – in room, asparagus, Paleo bread and turkey sandwich, kabocha, some strawberries

Lunch – grilled chicken and asparagus at the hotel’s spa cafe

Dinner – PF Chang’s steamed Buddha’s Feast with chicken – this was a bit disappointing as while I was very clear with the server, some “unapproved” (can’t eat) veggies wound up in my meal. I chose to pick them out as it took so long to get the order in the first place and I needed food in me early, but it was stressful and not the first time it’s happened at PFC. It makes me think I’ll have to re-evaluate them as my go-to option.

Snacked on frozen bananas w nut butter (yes, managed that with a freezer compartment) and Terra sweet potato chips.

Sunday 12/28 (race day!)

Breakfast – none. I did my regular BeetElite and FRS chews in the room before we left. I’d debated about trying to eat something before the race as it was a 9am start (11am ET) but I just didn’t want to risk it. I was pretty hungry at the start.

During the race I had a craving for flat Coke (DH said aid station didn’t have, but post-race they had flat Sam’s Cola which is remarkably similar and was yummy). My brain translated that into also wanting fries and a burger.

Post-race – my usual Ultragen immediately after. Then we had to pack the car and get back to the hotel, get cleaned up, etc. Fortunately, racing usually kills my appetite and the Ultragen held me for a while.

Let the binging begin……

Dinner – Five Guys… glad they have gluten-free fries! First time I’d had potatoes in almost 2 years. I got a little burger w/ bacon (no bun) and a medium fries to split between me and DH, and Coke Zero. Turns out all I really wanted was the fries, at a bite of the burger and a little bacon and ate about 2/3 of the fries. Went to Picazzo’s and picked up GF skillet chocolate chip cookie and coconut milk ice cream.

Picazzo's GF skillet choc chip cookie w coconut milk vanilla ice cream

Picazzo’s GF skillet choc chip cookie w coconut milk vanilla ice cream

Monday 12/29 

Breakfast – Went to the AMAZING Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe where EVERYTHING is gluten-free and almost everything is unbelievably delicious! This place is uber-dangerous. Have the pancakes. Trust me. The texture is a revelation in GF pancakes, and they have a “buttermilk” syrup – I don’t know what’s in it, it has a hint of sweetness but not necessarily maple, but it will become your new favorite. (think it might be butter and agave)

Jewel's biscuit and pancakes

Jewel’s biscuit and pancakes

Donuts, oh, donuts, puffy yeast donuts. I loved the cinnamon sugar (but I love cinnamon sugar on its own, so that’s an easy one) but I think I loved the glazed more.

Jewel's donuts

Jewel’s donuts

Also got scones (blueberry, maple pecan, chocolate chip, all excellent – made from their biscuit dough I think), cookies (terrific molasses, dense and subtle oatmeal raisin, okay peanut butter), cupcakes (Elvis – banana cake good, pb frosting good, fluff and bacon overkill, Vanilla birthday cake only okay) and a sample of a swoon-worthy pecan bar.

more Jewel's yummies

more Jewel’s yummies

Dinner – Chelsea’s Kitchen, owned by LGO, which owns other restaurants we’ve liked. I had smoked trout dip (cream cheese, ok, not great, good tortilla chips though), kale salad unique and pretty good, short rib tacos and seasoned fries excellent – great tortillas, amazing fries and nice sauce on the meat (which reminded me of pot roast). They’re pretty good at GF, but always make sure to double-check details with the server as modifications may be required.

Tuesday 12/20 (day before race for runner I was crewing)

Breakfast – leftovers in room

Lunch – kale salad leftovers

Dinner – Picazzo’s again…..sauteed spinach as I was trying to include veggies (even a half order was too much, and a lot of olive oil)

Picazzo's sauteed spinach

Picazzo’s sauteed spinach

and this beautiful GF flatbread/cracker crust pizza with BBQ sauce, goat cheese, chicken and artichoke hearts

Picazzo's pizza

Picazzo’s pizza

Wednesday 12/31 – 24h race crewing day

Breakfast – in room before leaving at 7am.

Rest of day, night, into next day, was food I brought to the race along with a couple of chunks of cold boiled potato with salt. (I’ll put more detail in my crewing post)

Thursday 1/1/2015 – 24h race continues…still crewing (until 9am, then getting everything to the hotel, getting showered, etc.)

Dinner – picked up from Picazzo’s – an even better GF pizza! Cracker crust, BBQ sauce, artichoke hearts, bacon, mushrooms, 1/2 white cheddar, 1/2 smoked mozzarella. And of course another cookie.

Friday 1/2/2015

Lunch – Waldo’s BBQ – a LOT of food. I had pulled pork and a different type of rib than I’m used to…pretty reasonable. Side of a baked potato and lettuce salad (no dressing, unapproved veggies removed) as the GF options were….a baked potato/sweet potato and lettuce salad. (I saw onion rings and mac-n-cheese pass by.)

Waldo's pulled pork and rib

Waldo’s pulled pork and rib

baked potato and salad

baked potato and salad

We’d tried to go to Little Miss BBQ which smelled amazing, but after waiting in the parking lot line for 15 minutes, it became apparent we’d have to stand at least another hour to even get in the door, so we left. Perhaps another trip. Both BBQ places were helpful in answering my question about GF options via email or twitter. (I always research and try to confirm ahead of showing up.)

Stopped by Gluten-Free Creations, which had been my favorite GF bakery and cafe (prior to Jewel’s). I had a couple bites of their English muffin, which needed to be toasted more and wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. Had a bite of a holiday cookie (meh). Ordered their pumpkin pancakes, ate one and took the rest back to the room (think I only ate one more). Bought their buttermilk biscuits (making trip home to be frozen), maple walnut scone (one of these going home too) and a huge iced cinnamon roll (which I’m eating over 3-4 days). Being able to compare them to Jewel’s makes them overall less attractive, though they do offer more breads (bagels, buns, English muffins) than Jewel’s. I think I actually liked GFC’s cinnamon roll better – more Cinnabon-y but with sugar icing which I prefer. Both ship so I could get more if I wanted. Both are worth checking out.

We went to Whole Foods to get Sweet Republic ice cream (best ice cream, IMO) from their gelato counter there (rather than going to the SR standalone store, also this way could get more flavors by the scoop). All flavors were incredibly yummy: eggnog, pumpkin spice (like pumpkin pie), cinnamon (different than fave Maggie Moo’s – good thing I didn’t realize they were in Scottsdale or we would have had to have a taste-off) and Belgian Chocolate (like Lee’s from Baltimore but Lee’s had chunks). I tried a taste of the peaberry espresso, it was terrific too. I’d say DH and I shared them but I’m sure I ate most of them.

Dinner – accumulated snacks, bakery, produce and leftovers in room

Saturday 1/3/2015

Breakfast – some Paleo bread with nut butter in the room

Lunch – buffet at Indian Delhi Palace (hugely recommend, we visit them every trip to Arizona) THE BEST Tandoori chicken I’ve ever had. Excellent chicken tikka masala, goat curry, palak paneer. Very good kheer and a dish of ground lamb, peas and spices. They do their rice with ghee and saffron, unique and works well with their entrees. Unfortunately, no naan for me (I miss naan) but DH assures me it’s still good.

Dinner – the leftover pizza from Thursday and other accumulated snacks, bakery, produce and leftovers in room – we were pretty full from lunch.

Sunday 1/4/2015

Breakfast – Jewel’s again where I ate more than I’m willing to tell you (but you MUST have their pancakes and one of their donuts, whichever kind is your favorite of cinnamon sugar, glazed, white/chocolate iced – the cinnamon roll is okay

Jewel's cinnamon roll

Jewel’s cinnamon roll – that glob is cream cheese icing

but I think the donuts are better) and picked up scones, cookies (chocolate chip, also good), a loaf of their flax bread and pancake mix to take home. Also got some pancakes for breakfast Monday – since we have to be up and out earlier than they open, I wanted breakfast to be something yummy to soothe the pangs of leaving. I wound up eating one pancake and bringing one on the plane with me, then deciding to save it and freezing it to have Saturday morning (Jan. 10) after my run.

So full from brunch that no lunch was required and there was barely room for dinner….during the afternoon while we were packing I did, however, take a little bit of peanut butter from some DH had bought and remembered how much I loved peanut butter.

Dinner – Tottie’s Asian Fusion, a new-to-us Thai/Vietnamese/Chinese place reputed to be able to handle gluten-free and other special needs. They seemed knowledgeable and answered my questions well. The spring rolls and chicken satay were both outstanding and a bit different. The rolls were heavy on veggies including mint, and the satay marinade had a hint of lemongrass in it, which I loved. The peanut sauce was only okay. The appetizers would have been enough for a meal for both of us but we didn’t know that when we ordered.

Tottie's satay and summer roll - 1

Tottie’s satay and summer roll – 1

Tottie's satay and summer roll - 2

Tottie’s satay and summer roll – 2

I had Pad Thai with thin rice vermicelli (how they made it GF) but wasn’t fond of the sauce, not what I’m used to. Ate some of the noodles but mostly the chicken and fresh veggies. DH had a red curry dish that he let me taste which was excellent – I even put some of the sauce on my noodles and it improved them significantly. A good find and one that we can return to again as it has a pretty big menu and can handle my needs.

Tottie's GF Pad Thai

Tottie’s GF Pad Thai

Sunday evening, did some in-room snacking to finish off some pastries, enjoy a few more tortilla chips, pretzels, etc. One day I had a handful of DH’s microwave popcorn, tasted just like I remembered.

On the plane home Monday, I had a Paleo bread and nut butter sandwich, part of a Quest bar and some dried bananas. I brought some Jewel’s treats on the plane but decided to save them for when we got home.

In the week of vacation back at home in Virginia, I continued the binge…. had 2 varieties of GF BBQ chicken Naked Pizza both excellent. Got Pad Thai from the place near us where we get my Chinese food (they changed the noodles and I didn’t like it as well).I checked out Happy Tart GF treats again, European-style bakery goodies – including this flaky apple turnover

apple turnover - 1

apple turnover – 1


along with some okay regular chocolate and chocolate chip cookies, and some yummy cake pops! (lemon, a really good red velvet, and chocolate)

I also stopped by Buzz Bakery (the GF brownie is tremendous). I made plenty of toast from AnnaB‘s multigrain and cinnamon raisin breads (bought at Richmond and frozen) as well as the flax bread from Jewel’s. I ate all the treats from Jewel’s other than the bread (saved some). I tried and liked goat’s milk yogurt both as yogurt and as a sour cream type dip. Wish it wasn’t so expensive.

I ate one Reese’s peanut butter cup, but was much more interested in the new spread DH had purchased. My rec: don’t get it – it’s way too dangerously delicious to have in the house. I’m not kidding.

Reese's spread - dangerously delicious

Reese’s spread – dangerously delicious

Once home, I also tried additional packaged things I’d missed or thought I wanted like GF clam chowder (Progresso). Okay, not great. Packaged GF oatmeal – over sugared and sticky. Didn’t get to the Annie’s GF mac & cheese we bought. (DH may be eating this leftover stuff, or I might take it to work and leave it out for folks.) Tried Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate. I did enjoy it, but it’s one of the suspects in a tummy ache I had that day. Enjoyed some Cape Cod salt and vinegar potato chips (we brought Tim’s back, but they’re hidden for the future) and some Green Mountain Gringo tortilla chips (wow, they were excellent!) as I’d been craving tortilla chips. I enjoyed the bizarre chemical taste of PopChips Salt and Vinegar chips quite a bit – you know you’re not eating real food, but it’s addictive. I also discovered that Harris Teeter (local grocery) makes their veggie “sushi” summer rolls with tapioca paper, not rice paper, so I can eat them even when Paleo. Yay! I did have some of the regular rolls with rice while I was off Paleo, as well as some yummy brown rice from our Chinese place – amazing what you miss, toast and brown rice. (By the way, goat cheese on toast is quite yummy.)

So what’s the result of all this? What did I learn or get out of it, other than probably a record for caloric intake in a 2 week period? (a record I am not proud of holding, btw)

I learned that I do still love the GF stuff – though I’m sure some of it was just the wonder of “look at all I can eat!” after so long of ignoring so much food I see (you should have seen me at the grocery store). I was reminded how much easier it is on me and DH if I’m only restricting to GF. I remember when that used to be difficult – it’s still limiting, but there’s so much more awareness and availability so I feel a little bad imposing Paleo on him.

I also learned that it can still be hard for me to stop with the sugar and carbs – at some point I seem to keep eating them whether I want to or not or whether I’m hungry or not (or even enjoying the food or not). Within the first couple of days I was feeling over-sugared and over-carbed, a bit bloated but decided to carry on with the treats (though i should not have eaten anything near the quantities I’ve eaten – it was a fairly stressful and sleep-deprived vacation but that’s not really an excuse).

I had treats every night after we got back and tonight (Mon. 1/12) is the first night I won’t be doing that, but I can feel the pull. “Fortunately” I ate almost all the treats and have frozen everything else out of sight and will ask DH to hide anything else. Making do with frozen bananas (no nut butter for a while, probably) and blueberries/mango/cherries is going to be a bit rough, though my appetite on Monday is really minimal. It’s 4pm and I think I’ve taken in maybe 600 calories, a chunk of that in a purple sweet potato I just ate. My system is really out of whack now.

Strangely however, given how sensitive I’ve seemed to be to carbs like sweet potatoes – I’d get sleepy and a blood sugar drop resulting in huge hunger 1 hour after eating them – I had NO blood sugar issues or sleepiness at all during my GF grain carb fest. Truly bizarre. My system did start to crave veggies though, and let me know that it was getting a little sick of all the junk I was eating. I also didn’t notice any big boost of energy from all the grain/carbs I was eating, which makes me think I was doing just fine on my prior plan (as my performances would indicate, but I’d been concerned about recovery, etc.). Of course, the real test would be to eat – moderately! – GF grain during a training cycle, but given past good results NOT doing so, I’m sticking with what’s worked.

At this point, I’m thinking of keeping white potatoes as another carb source (even though they’re nightshades) in my diet. I had forgotten how much I liked them. I’ve read they’re considered Paleo/Whole30 ok now – and supposedly if you peel them you address the autoimmune concerns, though I think I’d eat the peel for the nutrients. I doubt the intent would be to let me have baked/regular chips and fries, but that may happen as well as baked or boiled or mashed potatoes. (boiled/cooled have resistant starch, a good thing) It’s easier to be able to have those things and a bag of baked Kettle potato chips is less calories and fat than the straight up Terra sweet potato or Terra chips…yes, I know the answer is “don’t eat them” but I’ve got to be realistic….sometimes it’s just choosing the least bad option. I might also keep the goat’s milk yogurt – like yummy sour cream – and goat cheese as I didn’t seem to have any lactose/dairy reaction. I’m debating that. I’m not a Paleo purist, but it can be easier for me to just say no than have to repeatedly make decisions. (I’m also saving a can of GF chicken noodle soup I didn’t get to…in case of a cold or something, sometimes you just wanna open a can of soup and not have to make it yourself!)

I think not having GF stuff in the house (or hiding it so I forget it, freezing it so I have to think about eating it) is how it has to be. I’ve also decided to try to – next time I do this, possibly post-Boston – go with something I did a few times this trip: is take a bite and if it’s not exceptional, get rid of it. It’s wasteful of money and food, and both those things are problems for me (if I’ve bought it, I feel obligated to eat it) BUT better to waste those things (if I can’t resist buying them) than be in the position I am now, where I’ve overindulged and need to lose weight.

It was yummy, but it wasn’t all great or worth it. I didn’t need to eat as much or as often as I did, and some of it I’ll be regretting as I now have to lose whatever weight I’ve gained and get my body back to feeling normal. (I’m not going to weigh myself – I think I’d just get too upset and it wouldn’t change my approach in any good way.)

Thanks for reading! Hope you found something interesting or enjoyable in the above, whether it’s places to eat or the details of my experiment in informing your own food choices.

What, if any, “rules” do you follow about what you eat, and how did you arrive at them? What experiments have you tried?