Becoming Jill: Adventures in Adulthood

Chapter 23: In Which I Stop Eating Grain and Learn to Love the Butter
January 31, 2012, 11:49 am
Filed under: Food, Primal | Tags: ,

So, you may have noticed from my last few posts that I stopped eating grain. Why would a sane person do this to themselves, you ask? Well, for me, the answer is quite circuitous, but here’s the summary: because it makes me feel like a new person.

Here are just a few of the things that have happened to me since I stopped eating grain in October, 2011:

  • I’ve lost 38 pounds, nearly effortlessly
  • I have cut my antidepressant medication in half
  • I have completely eliminated the Metformin I took for my blood sugar
  • I have boundless, endless energy
  • My skin is softer, with no more dry patches, even on my elbows
  • My hair is thicker and shinier
  • My face no longer breaks out once a month, if you get my drift
  • The Queen of Sinus Infections hasn’t had even one!
  • I no longer have extreme intestinal distress for months on end
  • I no longer feel like I have been swamped by a wave of exhaustion every afternoon
  • I don’t have to eat every 2-3 hours to keep my blood sugar from dropping
  • In fact, sometimes I go an entire day without eating (but not very often)
  • I no longer have to avoid going to the grocery store at a busy time, because my improved mental health means no more panic attacks
  • My mind feels clear and sharp, instead of tired and fuzzy
  • I sleep better
  • I stopped snoring
  • My lower back, which has hurt constantly since my senior year of high school, hardly even bothers me, even while exercising
  • Need I go on???

In short, stopping eating grain is easily the best thing I have ever done for myself. I feel like it’s given me my life back, and the thing is, I didn’t even know it was possible to feel this way. I thought it was normal to feel half-dead all the time. I knew some of it was depression, but even during times of mental healthiness, I never had much energy. Guess what? Apparently it’s not normal to feel like you are constantly underwater!

As my energy levels have increased, I have started doing more physical activity, just because my body has energy and wants to move. It’s a weird, weird feeling, people. Now I take walks frequently, run up the stairs in my apartment building every single day, and do strength-training exercises every other day. I am gaining muscle along with losing weight, and I feel great while I do it– not like I am on the verge of collapsing, like I always felt during previous attempts at exercise regimens.

So, how did I arrive at the decision to stop eating grain? It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ll try not to ramble too much.

Last summer (2011) I spent spent several extremely hot, extremely humid months in Missouri helping to care for my Venter grandparents. If you have ever taken care of an elderly person, you know it’s a lot of very physical hard work. There’s a lot of sweat involved in changing a grown man’s clothes, bedding, and adult diaper several times a day, and having 100+ temperatures for months didn’t help. In short, all the sweat led to a yeast infection in my armpit, which apparently is a thing. Who knew? Now I do!

Despite repeated attempts with medication to get it to go away, it wasn’t budging, and it was extremely uncomfortable. Also, my stomach was in constant uproar, and I was hardly eating because it produced rather unpleasant results. During a late-night googling session, I read that my real problem might be systemic yeast overgrowth, and everything I was eating was just feeding the yeast. I immediately embarked on an anti-candida diet, which starves off the excessive yeast in your system by eliminating sugars and most grains, and a few other things. Within a day or two of starting this diet, the rash began improving, and eventually went away, never to return! My tummy settled down, and I could eat without fear!

There were a few things I didn’t like about the anti-candida diet. For one, it said no dairy, and it was much easier for me to give up pasta than to give up cheese… It also eliminated other things I really like, such as mushrooms, olives, and chocolate. In the course of scouring the internet for anti-candida-friendly recipes, I came across this thing called the Primal or Paleolithic lifestyle, which seemed fairly similar to anti-candida, but added back some dairy, and those yummy mushrooms, olives, etc. Best of all, you could have dark chocolate and red wine as a sensible treat!

The science behind this lifestyle is based on looking at the diet that humans ate for thousands of years before the agricultural revolution which introduced grain cultivation about 10,000 years ago. Since our hunter-gatherer ancestors evolved without grains for so long, our bodies aren’t adapted to processing them, which causes all kinds of problems. By eliminating them from our diet, our bodies function better. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s a simple summary. There are tons of great resources on the web and also in books that can explain the science of it all much better than I can. But here’s what I know: it works for me. If it’s not your thing, that’s fine! I am not here to tell people how to eat– I am simply trying to say: This Changed My Life. Period.


So if I don’t eat grain, what do I eat, you might ask? Well, I eat tons and tons of veggies. Some fruit, mostly berries because they are very low-sugar. Some dairy, mostly goat or sheep, because cow dairy and I don’t get along. Healthy, natural fats, like BUTTER (which is awesome, if you didn’t know), olive oil, coconut oil (which deserves it’s very own separate post), and avocados. I wrote previously about my love for guacamole, and boy is it great! Lots of protein: eggs, beef, pork, chicken, oily fish, seafood. Some nuts and seeds for snacks. My favorites are English walnuts, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, pecans, and almonds. Since legumes are discouraged for reasons I won’t go into here, I don’t do peanuts or cashews, which is sad, but I have adjusted and discovered a love for walnuts!

So, lots of whole foods, prepared relatively simply. Some people like to do all kinds of fancy Primal-ized baking, like making cake with almond flour and stuff like that, but I figure I would rather just have a little bit of the “real” thing and call it my treat for the day. Which brings me to my favorite thing about Primal! The 80/20 principle recommends that you follow Primal eating for 80% of the time, and then have sensible treats for the 20%. For me, this is enough to keep me from feeling deprived, as there is absolutely nothing you can’t eat in that 20%! Over time, I have come to realize that most of the things I used to really enjoy no longer taste good and make me feel awful, so I don’t get too carried away with the 20% very much anymore. I usually have 2 squares of 85% chocolate and call it good. On the other hand, if I am eating at someone’s house, I will gladly eat what they serve me without feeling like I am “cheating” on my diet (hello, dinner roll!). I never, ever want to turn into that person who imposes her dietary whims on others, so I just go with the flow, and call it my 20% 🙂

In short, this has made me feel great, and I am never going back to the Demon Grain. I ate pasta nearly every day, so this was a big change for me, but you couldn’t pay me to go back. Luckily I have always loved veggies, so that’s easy. It’s taken me a while to get used to eating lots of fat (Primal folks aim for 60% of their calories from healthy fat) after a lifetime of being told that fat is evil. Guess what? Natural, healthy fat is not evil: it’s actually necessary for your body to work properly. Man-made fat is a different story, though. The hardest thing for me has been getting enough protein. I aim for 100 grams a day, and I don’t always make it. I have never been a big meat eater, but I am getting better! Buying the highest quality meat I can afford helps, as it tastes a lot better. I tend to do a lot of things with large, budget-friendly cuts and then eat them for several days in a row. Cooking your meat with healthy fat makes it taste even better!

the Primal eating guide, from

If you are curious about learning more about the Primal lifestyle, there’s tons of info on the web! My favorite website is Mark’s Daily Apple, which has lots of great, free stuff. I did end up buying the Kindle editions of a few of his books, but you can find everything you need for free.

Here’s a few good places to start:

Primal Blueprint 101: A fantastic list of some of the resources available on Mark’s Daily Apple. This will answer the majority of your questions.

How to Succeed With the Primal Blueprint: A short, sweet summary of the basics

The Definitive Guide to Fats: Or, Why Fat Is Not The Devil

HuntGatherLove: A great roundup of resources

I know this isn’t for everyone, but if you are the slightest bit curious, just try it. Give it 2 weeks, and see how you feel. I think you’ll like it!


Sausage Egg Casserole Goodness!
January 26, 2012, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Food, Primal | Tags: ,

breakfast time!

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I agree! I have always loved breakfast food, and one of my favorite things about the Primal/Paleo lifestyle is getting to eat lots of yummy breakfast foods like bacon (nitrate/nitrite free!), eggs, and sausage.

I find that I feel best if I have a fairly substantial breakfast (400-500 cal) with lots of protein. I almost always have eggs, because eggs are cheap, delicious, and you can do a million things with them. I used to do omelets with lots of veggies every morning, and even though I always pre-chop my veggies, it seemed like a lot of hassle every day, plus it created lots of dishes to wash. Since I have to wash my dishes by hand, I am always looking for ways to have fewer dishes to wash 🙂

So I came up with this casserole!  Like most things I make, you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. I almost always have a big container of bell peppers (all colors) chopped up in the fridge, so I tend to put them in every time I make it.  Use what floats your boat, just make sure to get lots of veggies! I would love to try this with spinach or kale, but I never seem to have it around when I make the casserole. Maybe next time! In the casserole pictured below, I used:

  • 12 eggs (cage-free, please!)
  • 1 lb sausage (try to get it as chemical free as possible! Jimmy Dean makes 100% natural sausage)
  • Bell peppers, chopped (red, orange, green, yellow)
  • onion, chopped
  • Baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded  (would probably taste great with feta or swiss!)
  • Salt, Pepper, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • butter, olive oil, or coconut oil for sauteing veggies

look at all those colors!

Heat butter and/or oil over medium heat and saute veggies about 3 minutes. When done, transfer to 9×13 casserole dish greased with olive oil. In the same skillet, brown the sausage and then add that to the casserole dish as well. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and seasonings. Add shredded cheese, then pour into the casserole dish. Mix all ingredients together to make sure there’s an even distribution before baking at 350 for 30 minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing. I cut it into 6 large pieces, but 8 small would work, too.

This reheats really well, and is an easy make-ahead breakfast. Cook on the weekend, then just grab a piece out of the fridge and stick it in the microwave every morning! I tend to do a lot of meals this way– for me, eating healthy is much easier if I set myself up for success. If I have healthy food ready to go (or quickly assembled, like pre-chopped veggies for salad) I will eat that quite happily! If I am starving and am faced with the option of cooking from scratch or ordering chinese, I don’t always make good decisions…

Based on the food tracking website I use ( one serving of this has:

  • 407 calories
  • 2 grams carbs
  • 31 grams fat (the Primal lifestyle recommends getting 60% of your daily calories from natural, healthy fat)
  • 27 grams protein

I always have a 1/4 cup of blackberries with breakfast– lots of good vitamins and such, and very low sugar.





Spicy Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Guacamole
January 15, 2012, 11:47 am
Filed under: Food, frugality, Primal | Tags: ,

I am working on a longer post about my switch to the Primal/Paleo way of life and eating, but in the meantime, here’s what I made for dinner last night:

please pardon my sub-par food-styling-and-photography skills!

It was super easy, super delicious, and super nutritious! A winning trifecta of NOM. Oh, and it was cheap, too. WINNING!

I borrowed the drumstick recipe from The Pioneer Woman, and decided to use my homemade taco seasoning instead. I think it turned out really great! Here’s what I did:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks, skin-on (I can’t afford organic, grass-fed meat, but I do my best to get it w/o hormones and antibiotics)
  • 1/2 stick butter (next time, I will add a TB or two of coconut oil to the butter)
  • 1 batch taco seasoning (you could use any spice mixture you want, but I did taco so I could eat it with guacamole)
  • 2 TB lime juice

Jill’s Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 1 TB chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper, or to taste

Melt butter over high heat. Stir in spice mixture and lime juice (the original recipe called for lemon, but I only had lime, and it worked great). Working one drumstick at a time, use tongs to place drumstick in pot and completely coat in butter. Transfer to baking pan with roasting rack. When all 6 drumsticks have been coated and placed on rack, roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn heat up all the way or to broil for a minute or two at the end.

This was hands-down the best chicken I have ever made! I have never liked making chicken, because it always seems dry and flavorless. Once I switched to buying higher-quality meat, the flavor improved tremendously, but I was still disliking the dryness. Let me tell you, this chicken is anything but dry! I had juice actually running down my chin– it was really attractive! But seriously– great flavor and superbly juicy. I will be trying this method for thighs and breasts in the future. Thanks, Pioneer Woman!

I ate my drumsticks with a big helping of guacamole, which is full of good fat and lots of fun antioxidants. It’s not hard to make your own, so if you are in the habit of buying yours at the store, STOP! In under 10 minutes, you can make it yourself and know that it’s 100% healthy.

Here’s what I use:

  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled and smushed (it’s a technical term)
  • cherry tomatoes, halved (use as many as you like– I like lots)
  • 1/4 onion, chopped (I prefer red, but I mostly use yellow because I always have them)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (mmmm, garlic)
  • dash sugar (you want just a tiny hint of sweetness, but not much)
  • 1-2 TB lime juice (or lemon if that’s the way you go)
  • seasoned salt, to taste

I like to add the onion very last thing, and in small amounts, because if your onion is old, you can get overpoweringly oniony FAST. I don’t like spicy guac, but if you do, add chopped jalepenos or cilantro!

I eat lots of guac, because it’s a really easy, tasty way to get healthy fat. I am still getting used to eating it without tortilla chips, but I’ve found that it’s great with chopped veggies. I must admit that I mostly just eat it with a spoon, though… YUM!

So, I made dinner from start to finish in about 35 minutes, and it was grain-free, additive-free, almost sugar-free, and low dairy (Primal allows for some full-fat dairy, but it upsets my tummy mightily. I should probably switch to using clarified butter, but I am lazy. You could make this entirely with coconut oil, but I love me some butter). I will definitely be making this many, many more times– I always need cheap, fast, high-protein, DELICIOUS meals in my arsenal!







I’m Still Here!
January 9, 2012, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Primal, Uncategorized, Updates

So, my blog has been on hiatus for quite some time. What can I say? Life has a way of happening, often in extremely unplanned ways.

Here’s a quick review of 2011 in The World of Jill:

  • Number of hospital stays for dad: 3
  • Number of hospital stays for mom: 1
  • Number of hip replacements for Papa Coats: 1
  • Number of hospital stays for Nana Venter: 3? (Could be losing track, here)
  • Number of hospital stays for Papa Venter: 2 (Plus in-home hospice)
  • Number of trips to Missouri for Jill: Innumerable
  • Number of pounds lost since October: 36!
  • Number of jobs found: 0
  • Number of EF-5 tornados narrowly avoided: 1 (hooray!)
  • Number of first dates: 4 (I think? I may have blocked a few out)
  • Number of second dates: 0 (Trust me, you wouldn’t have gone on one, either)

So, yes, rather a momentous year for Jill And Family.


My Papa Venter passed away in July, following several months in the hospital, and a brief stint at home and on hospice. I first experienced hospice with my Grandma Denzel before she passed away in 2010, so when Papa came home from the hospital, I already had a lot of knowledge of how to take care of him, which was very helpful. My aunt and I took care of him at the Venter family farm, and while it wasn’t easy, we were glad he passed away peacefully in his home, on the farm where he was born.

A handsome young soldier!

Since Papa had dementia/Alzheimer’s, taking care of him was more difficult in many ways than taking care of Grandma D was. It’s hard to get used to bossing around your stubborn and confused grandfather.  On the other hand, you get to have some pretty entertaining conversations, like trying to convince him that he doesn’t have to go deliver a wagon-full of turnips to town. One rather scarier interchange involved trying to convince him that we hadn’t been gassed by the Germans (he fought in WWII). All in all, I was glad I was able to be there with him, and we all miss him very much, especially my Nana, who is in very poor health, herself.


I was in Joplin, MO helping my dad through his recovery process following his motorcycle accident when the city was devastated by an EF-5 tornado on May 22nd. Thankfully, none of my family members were hurt, and my step-sister Jana had only some minor damage to her house. Lots of other people weren’t so lucky.

I still have very strong emotions about this event, and it’s hard for me to write about. I won’t say much, other than it really helped me stop focusing so much on the things that are “wrong” in my life and start seeing the bigger picture. It’s an ongoing process for me.

Joplin, following the tornado

Due to my many extended stays in Missouri through the past year, I have gotten to see the process of the city rebuilding, which is nice. I am glad that the images from the weeks following the tornado are slowly being replaced in my brain.

November 2011: New buildings! Trust me, it really does look better


In more positive news, once things calmed down a bit in my family and I got to come home to Minnesota, I was able to focus on myself and start making some positive changes! By far the biggest change so far has been discovering the Paleolithic or Primal lifestyle, which advocates eating the diet that humans evolved eating before the introduction of agriculture. I stopped eating grain, sugar, and processed food, and I feel GREAT! Plus, I have lost 36 pounds total. I’ll definitely write lots more about this in future, because I feel like it’s the best thing I have ever done for myself. Not even exaggerating. Goodbye pasta: you are NOT missed!


So… in the year ahead, here’s what I want to do:

  • Continue following the Primal lifestyle, and start increasing my exercise and activity level
  • GET. A. JOB.
  • Spend more months in Minnesota than Missouri (sorry, mom)
  • Move to a slightly larger apartment once I have had said JOB for a while
  • Write more, both on my blog and my very neglected fiction writing
  • Be a better friend, which includes keeping in better touch with people
  • Find some volunteer work that I find meaningful. I miss volunteering.
  • I am sure I am forgetting something.

Happy 2012 (Slightly late, but that’s how I roll!)

Pip celebrates the new year with his favorite pink toys!

Here We Go Again
April 20, 2011, 7:11 am
Filed under: Updates

So… it’s been awhile, yes? What can I say? Life happens.

I am back in Missouri, with my dad in the hospital. Sound familiar? Short story, he had a motorcycle accident about a week and a half ago, and has been in the hospital ever since. He has 5 or 6 broken ribs, with several of them broken in multiple spots, a broken collarbone, a punctured lung, and pneumonia. He had surgery to plate his ribs together (4 plates, 30 screws) and was doing well recovering from that when he went into shock, just like he did in December. Luckily I was with him at the time, and was able to get help to him quickly, and back to the ICU we went!

No one has been able to decide exactly what happened– it probably wasn’t sepsis again like we originally feared, and may have been anaphalactic (sp?) shock from an allergy to one of his medications. Either way, it’s fairly scary to see your dad stop breathing and shaking so hard the bed is rattling.

We got out of the ICU yesterday, but he is still having a lot of pain from his broken collarbone– he is actually going to have surgery again today to remove a portion of the broken bone that has slipped out of place. This surgery won’t be as big a deal as the rib plating, but it’s not guaranteed to give him any relief, either. We are just going to hope for the best!

Kitties are with mom, and I miss them, but they always like to go on “vacation.” If I sound a little incoherent… well, I am. Not much sleep has been had! Positive thoughts would be appreciated!

I Feel Lucky
January 10, 2011, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Depression, Positive Thoughts

I hope that I am not a shallow person, but sometimes it takes events like the shooting in Arizona over the weekend to remind me how very lucky I am. I have struggled with mental illness for over a decade now, and it’s easy to get caught up in regrets, and wishing that things had worked out differently, and feeling despondent that I haven’t achieved very much in my 30 years. Then something like this happens, and reminds me that I *am* lucky, because I have people in my life who care enough about me to make sure that I get help.

The more I read about the young man who caused all this sadness, the more clear it seems that this tragedy was not the result of over-inflamed political rhetoric, but rather from untreated mental illness.

While my own particular issues have never made me want to hurt anyone else, I can understand how it happens. I don’t know if this young man was aware that he was ill, but I do know how hard it is to get treatment. For one thing, when you are mentally ill, it’s just hard to get anything done. A lot of days, taking a shower is more than I can accomplish, and let me tell you, getting mental health care is a whole hell of a lot harder than taking a shower. If you don’t have insurance, it becomes an even more monumental task. If you do manage to get to see a doctor, can you afford to purchase the medicine they might prescribe?

I am so very, very lucky. Over the years, I have had family members and friends who would take me to the doctor if I couldn’t get there on my own. I have parents who could pay the bills, even if it meant making sacrifices elsewhere. Sometimes I have even had insurance. Right now, I am going to a great non-profit clinic where each visit is 10 bucks, and they give me sample medications for free. If I couldn’t get samples, my depression meds would cost $145 per month.

I don’t know anything about this young man’s situation, but I can empathize with the many people in this country who can’t get the help they need. I am so thankful that I can.

A Positive List
January 9, 2011, 6:08 pm
Filed under: Positive Thoughts

Another day of fending off the sinus infection, so my brain’s not really up to analyzing any positive thoughts, but here’s a random list of things that have made me happy in varying degrees today:

1) Dozing on the couch wrapped in my down comforter while watching Cranford on PBS (again, dork porn alert!)

2) Snuggling with my kitties on said couch

3) Eating steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast (yum!)

4) Looking at the pretty blue sky

5) Using my space heater for a bit to warm my toes

6) Looking at pics on facebook of various friends’ various babies

7) NOT having a baby of my own!