Sugar Free Lenten Challenge 2015: Ten Days In

Quick blog post on how I am doing on the Sugar Free Lenten Challenge 2015.  Frankly I am doing Better than I thought I would.

Ten days in and I feel Better.  Less tired, less sluggish, more mental clarity and let's just say that things are moving through my system much Better.  Are there cravings, oh yes.  Sometimes after dinner I do want a sweet gluten free treat but I have stopped that by having some fresh raspberries and blackberries.  Then there is the doomsday prepper sized jar of Peppermint Patties in the office.  So tempting with their cool mint and dark chocolate wrapped in silver.  I am fighting hard to just say "No".  Remember....addiction isn't pretty.

So there has been so sugar, except one slip up and it was a total accident.  There was a post season pizza party after the Sweet Boy's last hockey practice on Tuesday night.  I had gone a whole week without sugar and feeling pretty proud of myself.  We all know that I cannot eat regular pizza but it was dinner time and I did spy some carrots and hummus on the buffet, a perfect thing to tie me over.  As I was getting the carrots and hummus someone mentioned that the chocolate chip cookies were gluten free.  I thought "great, I will try one".  So I did and as I was eating this treat I thought, "these are Good, they are probably made with just egg whites and......sugar".  Yup, sugar and at that point I had accidently eaten about 3/4 of that cookie so I mine as well finish it.  It was an accident, not a conscious choice so it's not really that bad, but I have always vowed to be honest with this process. 

So I would say ten days in and pretty Good.  I  will keep you posted how this week goes.

Enjoy the Best food!

Lenten Challenge 2015-Sugar Free

So today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.  Since going sugar free was such a Good thing for me last year I decided to do it again in 2015.

Was it hard...yes but giving up something for Lent is not supposed to be easy and addiction is not pretty even if it is to Hershey Kisses.  Knowing that I was doing this for Lent was really the one thing that kept me from indulging in sugar for those forty plus days.

When it was over, I felt better and looked better.  I know that sugar isn't good for me and can add to my health challenges but it seems to be one vice I have trouble kicking.  Note this is from a woman who has not had a Dunkin Donut (shocking for a former Bostonian) or a ravioli in over five years.

So I am ready to take the plunge again, sugar free for forty days.  I will keep you posted on my progress here.

If you want to read about last year's Sugar Free Lenten Challenge the posts are below.

Enjoy the Best Food!

March 30, 2014

Lenten Sugar Free Challenge-Week Three

The Challenges
So the third week of Lent…the sugar free challenge was more challenging and I can’t even use the stomach bug as a reason.  It started with a work trip and ended with a retirement party. 
Last Friday I was in the airport for my day job.  I was tired, I don’t sleep well the first night in hotels and I was only there for one night, I had a big event that day, and I had already had my gluten free Lenten travel staple for lunch—brown rice sushi.  I was in the airport, I was hungry and tired and didn’t find any options that were sugar free, gluten free and meat free that sounded good.  In a moment of total weakness…I had fruity snacks.  Not proud of it, not making excuses for it.  Fruity snacks.
On Thursday we had a retirement party for someone at work.  Miss B came up to my desk and told me that she ordered me a special treat.  She ordered me a red velvet gluten free cupcake.  Sigh.  I ate it…and it was amazing.

But other than that…there were no slip ups.
What I have learned
I didn’t know that I would learn so much in this process by giving up sugar for Lent.  I thought I would challenge myself and probably not be able to do it.  I have done much Better than I thought I would but the whole blessing of Lent is to teach you something.
Here is what I have learned.  I feel a lot better when I don’t eat sugar.  Deep in my heart I know it is not good for me, it’s really bad for people with autoimmune disorders and causes inflammation.  I have always known that but sugar tastes so darn good.  The additional benefit of this is that I am down about 5 lbs. 
I have learned that for me, I really need to cut sugar out of my diet as much as possible.  I need to treat sugar the way I treat gluten…avoid it at all costs and I won’t feel horrible.
My plan is to go through Easter and enjoy the day and all of the treats it has to offer, go to our amazing tropical resort vacation and eat what I want (gluten free of course) and then when we return back to the mainland, restrict as much sugar as I can.
So there it is.  I said I would be honest about this process.  Two slip ups.  One was worth it, one was just based on exhaustion and traveling.
Enjoy the Best food!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Sugar Free Lenten Challenge-Day 12

Well today is all kinds of mentionable days…it’s another snow day (seriously…like number 10,000 this winter), St. Patty’s day (yes, I am Irish) and also Day 12 of my Sugar Free Lenten Challenge.  It’s going Good…really Good…except…
Well about 10 days ago the Sweet Boy brought home the stomach bug.  It has run rampant in the lower hall of his school for about three weeks.  Apparently there are either different strains of this bugger or it takes different forms in different people.  Either way, I think that Jack may have had two different strains of this thing over four days.  I will spare you the details.
Well, on Friday I woke up not feeling well.  Queasy, pukey, blah.  I soldiered on and went to work.  As my morning progressed STILL NOT BETTER.  I cheated and reached for the only type of ginger ale in the office fridge…the kind with sugar.  For the next two days I proceeded to cheat…sort of… is it cheating when you have a full blown stomach bug and the only thing that you can have is ginger ale and Gatorade?   I mean if you are going to cheat…wouldn’t you just go for a big cheat and eat a gluten free or regular cupcake? When I bought more ginger ale, I did choose the kind without sugar.  That should absolve my sins….hopefully.
So without the episode of the stomach bug, which has also hit Running Daddy….hard, I would say my Lenten Sugar Free challenge is going Good.  I am having little cravings for sugar, well and for any food for that matter over the last couple of days.  I will even stay strong and hold off until Easter weekend on the gluten free Girl Scout Cookies my friend Nurse M is getting me all the way from North Carolina.  That one will be hard…I have not had a Girl Scout Cookie in FIVE YEARS.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Despite the score of Stomach Bug 3…Team Good Better Best 0 I am determined that this will be the Best Sugar Free Challenge yet. 
Enjoy the Best Food,

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Confession, a challenge and a potential movement

The Confession
I have a confession, I think I am a sugar addict.  While I eat in the Good Better Best style every day and make our dinners in Good Better Best, I am not going to lie to you…I follow that healthy dinner with candy or a gluten free ice cream treat almost every night.  There…I said it and it’s time to do something about it.
I know that white sugar is really bad for me.  It’s really bad for all of us but especially bad for me due to my autoimmune diseases.  I know that sugar causes inflammation and anything that causes inflammation is a challenge for people fighting autoimmune diseases.
The Challenge
So this year for Lent, I am giving up white sugar.  I am not giving up honey or things like stevia, I am giving up the processed white stuff, he ingredient that makes things taste so yummy, but is also doing so my damage to my body.  I am also not going to replace white sugar for artificial sweetener, to me that just defeats the the purpose.  For  the record, I am not giving up wine and while I do know that wine contains sugar, it’s not the same as the white stuff and I think giving up wine and sugar is just setting myself up for failure.
The Potential Movement
Betsy Karetnick, former host of Morning Living on the Martha Stewart channel and writer of and I were chatting on Facebook last week about sugar and how all calories are not created equal.  I mentioned to her that I was giving up white sugar for Lent and she suggested that we try to start
, along the lines of Meatless Mondays.  So today I went a whole day without white sugar.  I just had some raspberry tea with honey for dessert and it was pre
Let’s see if I can go forty days without sugar, which will also happen during my birthday and I will keep you posted on my progress.  I promise to be honest.
Enjoy the Best Food.

My guest spot on Despite Lupus

This is a departure from my regular blogs which typically focus on Good wine, Better recipes and the Best kind of living.  A while back my friend Sara asked my to do a guest spot on her blog Despite Lupus and share my health situation and  journey with a new Lupus drug called Benlysta.  These are typically not easy things to share for me, but I know it will help people and I would do just about anything for Sara.  Sara entered my life as a kind stranger who gave me a lot of advice about how to put my life back together after my diagnosis and today I am so thankful to call her my friend. 

If you have any questions about Lupus, autoimmune diseases, Benlysta or my story in general, feel free to leave a comment below or email me directly at  I will answer every question.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

GUEST POST: Benlysta Part 1: My journey to Benlysta

Benlysta Part 1: My journey to Benlysta, by Guest Blogger Patty Richey

I am thrilled to have friend, fellow lupus patient and health blogger, Patty Richey, here to tell us about her experience with Benlysta. Most of you are familiar with Benlysta - the first FDA-approved drug for lupus in over 50 years. It's improved the lives of many lupus patients, and I think Patty would put herself in that category. I'm so happy that she's agreed to share her story!

You can read more about Patty on her own blog, Good Better Best Food, where she talks about healthy eating made simple. Her premise is great - Each recipe starts as a healthy meal, which is Good. Add one element of organic, whole grain, or locally grown or garden grown, and you've made it Better. To make it Best, incorporate several elements of organic, whole grain, locally grown or garden grown. Healthy eating can be as easy as Good Better Best.

In today's post, she's putting aside her healthy, meal-planning hat to talk about her journey with lupus, and how she came to be on Benlysta. She'll cover her treatment and results in Part II, so stay tuned. You haven't heard that last from Patty!


Sara and I have been friends for about four years, and we met via email right after my diagnosis. It turned out that she lived in the next neighborhood over from me - sometimes your angel can live right next door.  Our children now go to the same school, so we are now Mom friends and real friends along with being Lupus friends.

A while back, Sara asked me to write a guest blog spot on my experience with Benlysta, and when someone helps you put your life back together in those very dark days, you just have to say yes.

While this is a departure from my regular blog, , I felt that this was important to share for those struggling with Lupus and those that love someone with Lupus.
When thinking about this blog post on Benlysta, I really thought it was best to break it up into two parts.  To just write about my experience since starting Benlysta on January 2, 2013 would not really give readers the clear picture of my health situation that got me to this point.  No one should enter into infusions of this kind lightly or as a first line of treatment in my opinion.

So where do I begin?  I have never really been all that healthy, a cold would turn into bronchitis.  I would take Echinacea and whatever virus I would have would only get worse.  Things really changed with my health the minute I became pregnant with my son, aka the Sweet Boy, in the fall of 2005.  I had bad morning sickness, which was really all day sickness.  I was dizzy a lot and had extreme fatigue, but heck, I was pregnant. Wasn’t I supposed to be tired?  Apparently not like this.  What I now think was happening was that I had bad morning sickness on top of Lupus flares.
The Sweet Boy was born in August 2006 and the extreme fatigue continued, but I ignored it.  I was a working mom with a demanding job…but does that mean I needed to nap for over two hours on the weekend and wake up unrefreshed?  I soldiered on.

In 2008, I helped with a store opening for the company I worked for, I had walking pneumonia at the time but I would not let myself stop as there was a big event to be done.  That year also I worked both political conventions back to back for my corporate job.  I had done four conventions prior to this so I was used to the non-stop work for months leading up to the events and the twenty hour days the week of the actual presidential conventions.  After it was over, I could not seem to catch up on my rest.  I thought, this time is different, I am older, and I am not some young kid anymore who can recover in a weekend. I soldiered on.

One Saturday in March 2009, I woke up with a big lump in my right cheek that hurt a lot and I had a fever of 103.  When I could not get my fever to go down by the next day I went to the emergency room where they diagnosed me with an infected parotid gland (main salivary gland) and said that if I had waited any longer to go to the emergency room it could have been deadly.

That week I saw a so called Top Doctor ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) who said she really didn’t know what caused this and didn’t seem too interested in helping me.  I knew I was sick, really sick and this time I could not soldier on.  I still felt like a truck had backed over me two weeks after the trip to the emergency room and just knew there was something really wrong with me.  One Thursday afternoon I got on the Johns Hopkins website and located an ENT at the main hospital in Baltimore that was also a parotid gland specialist.  I called Dr. Derek Bohene’s office and I had an appointment the next Tuesday.

Dr. Bohene and his intern walked into the room that Tuesday morning and the intern said “Do you think she has Sjogren’s disease?”  Dr. Bohene replied “Maybe, but I need to make sure it isn’t a tumor”.  Well, it wasn’t a tumor, but it was looking like Sjogren’s.  With Sjogren’s disease, your immune system starts to attack anything in your system that makes moisture.  In addition, fifty percent of people who have Sjogen’s either have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

That summer I was able to get one of the first appointments in the new Sjogren’s clinic at Johns Hopkins.  It’s run by Dr. Alan Baer who is the head of rheumatology.  After reviewing my blood work, family history and other symptoms, Dr. Baer determined that I had Lupus/Sjogren’s undifferentiated, which basically means that I have characteristics of both diseases but don’t fit neatly into either box.   Many people with autoimmune diseases don’t fit neatly into a medical diagnosis box.  That’s what makes these diagnoses so difficult.  My favorite saying is “You’ve seen one case of lupus…you’ve seen one case of lupus.”

Over the next couple of years Dr. Baer and I would try a lot of different things together, Plaquenil and Evoxac, I went gluten free, but I was never really better.  I mean I was a little better, but I still had crushing fatigue, joint pain and there were far too many times when I would just run out of energy and not be able to walk.  Frankly I don’t even know what a flare is because in over nine years, I never had a symptom free day to compare it to.

In November 2011, I had an appointment with Dr. Baer and he told me about a clinical trial that he was running for a Sjogren’s drug. I told him at that point I was willing to try anything, even if it meant weekly injections with something that could end up being a placebo.  I was beyond ready.

It took one full year to begin the screening process for the clinical trial.  During this time, I was getting worse.  I had done both political conventions again…back to back and really struggling through the fall.  The day I showed up for my screening exams for the trial, I was a total mess and trying not to be.  So guess what…I flunked out of the trial.  Now, Dr. Baer will say I didn’t flunk out, but basically, that day I was exhibiting too many lupus symptoms and therefore I was excluded as a candidate for the clinical trial.

I went on a lunch break and little did I know while I was eating my hospital cafeteria salad, Dr. Baer was in his office reading my file from the last 3 ½ years.  When I came back from lunch he was waiting for me, and I could tell the news was not what I wanted to hear.  While he did tell me that I was no longer a candidate for the study, he thought there was enough in my file to make the case to the insurance companies for Benlysta which was approved by the FDA in 2010 and the first lupus drug of its kind in over 50 years.

That day I gave Dr. Baer permission to send a letter to the insurance company asking for coverage for Benlysta infusions, which can run about $25,000-30,000 per year.  Within 10 days, we had approval.

I think it is important to understand how I got to the point of Benlysta infusions.  It is not something I embarked upon lightly or quickly.  Dr. Bear is a very cautious and thoughtful man and he does not push pills or new treatments.

In part 2, I will cover my actual treatments and results.  Stay tuned.  If you have any questions please either email me at or leave a comment here.  I will answer all of them.

Friday Five--Bring on 2015

So although we are more than two weeks into 2015, I am delving into the topic of resolutions. Not just about food and healthy living, which is the cornerstone of Good Better Best Food, but also ways that are going to make me live happier.

This blog didn't get written when I wanted to due to technical difficulties--think hard drive crash the week before Christmas---nightmare.  Then on New Year's Eve....I got the flu, and yes I got a flu shot this year--double nightmare.  I have spent the last two weeks trying to shake the aftermaths of this flu and it's not fun or easy.

So now onto my personal resolutions for 2015, Friday Five style. 

1. Take the compliment: I have decided that when someone pays me a compliment I am just going to say "thank you".  Not "oh please this dress is so old" or "I am so tired today", just say thank you. 

2. Relaxing music to and from work: It snowed last week, sort of.  As I got into the car to drive to work I decided to hook up the radio from my phone and listen to some David Foster radio.  I almost floated into work.  I arrived relaxed and like my commute didn't take any time at all.  What I found is that I had such a better week shutting out the noise of talk radio and the latest Kardashian escapade.

3. No wine during the week: Having the flu meant that I didn't have my nightly glass of Sauvignon Blanc with dinner.  Typically just one but if you read this blog with any regularity, you know I like my wine.  I also know that wine does cause inflammation and with my underlying health conditions this is not really the best combination for me.  As I am recovering I am finding that I do feel Better without my nightly glass of wine.  Let's try to just reserve this for Friday and Saturday nights only, well and the occasional girls night.

4. Cup of warm water every morning: With the flu, I spent a lot of time reading things about health on the internet.  I know not always the most reliable source.  One article that I found said that your body detoxes a lot while you sleep, and if you drink a cup of warm water (usually I drink cold) in the morning it really helps to flush things out of your system.  It's just a cup of warm water so what can it hurt?  I have been doing this for almost two weeks now and I do think that there is something to this.

5. Spend more time with people I really like: I always feel like I am rushing around and interacting with people that I have to interact with.  I have decided that this year, I going to make an effort to spend time with people I really like. 

I believe every day can be Good, but there are lot of things I can be Better at, especially where it comes to my own enjoyment and self care.  I truly believe that if I work on concepts listed in this Friday Five, I can make 2015 the Best year yet.

Share your resolutions with me in the comments or feel free to ask for ideas to help you with your resolutions.

Have the Best year!
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