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Archive for September, 2011

Five Simple Rules…….To Dating My Stomach.

During my food-a-licious adventures these past five years or so I’ve met many, many different kinds of people along the way.  There are the ones who feel sorry for me and my husband and wonder how we survive without Schimdt’s Blue Ribbon (which, by the way, was never my ‘favorite brand.’ I’m more of a Wonder Bread girl, myself, honestly); there are the curious ones who ask you ten thousand types of questions about your intestinal tract and have no problem with the gory details that even you’d rather not share (“well, it’s called leaky gut syndrome, and it’s um, kinda gross……”  *Inquisitive stare* “No, please – go on!); there are the people that brag about having no food allergies what-so-ever, even though their gallbladders hate them, they have the kind of acid reflex that burns holes in couches and they can’t explain that “strange bloating” that happens every 2 hours or so…..and they’re barely thirty.  Then, there’s the waitress at the local diner who amusingly screeches that it’s all in your head and you just like coming in every Saturday to request no toast, please, in front of all of your neighborhood friends (sure, that’s it Cookie).

The ones I like and appreciate the most, however, are the people just like Tim and I were a few years ago – the desperate-for-a-change-in-their-diet-folks who know that there’s something wrong.  I like them because I was and still am one of them: the ones who angrily struggle between changing their habits and “just dealing with the pain.”  They are the ones that get scared thinking there is no hope without wheat or soy or casein (“What the hell is casein, anyway?!” ), that they’ll never be able to live again without Hamburger Helper, Betty Crocker or Quaker Oats and that their families will hate them and their new-found Glutino bars and sudden distaste for Summer pasta salad. They are the ones who get pissed at buffet tables and the voices in their heads that say, “you really shouldn’t eat this,” which results in a 2 minute inner battle between them and ultimately, themselves (have you ever gotten into a silent argument with yourself before?  It really is quite amusing.  Not so much, maybe to the people around you who are wondering why your left eyebrow keeps twitching every time you glance at the mysterious baked tuna dish on the picnic table and why you suddenly look like The Governator at a bi-partisan convention.  But amusing, nonetheless).

It’s people like this who give me the rare opportunity to delve into my simple but necessary philosophy for allergy-tolerant living. They also enable me to write posts like this – posts I don’t normally write because there really is no one right way of going about this thing, and I don’t like to be preachy.  My cousin-in-law, however, gave me the inspiration to come up with a really simple plan to living with food allergies and intolerances – so simple it almost makes me vomit (not, however, because of that Eggplant Parmesan I thought was Cacciatore Chicken, thankfully).

It’s the KISS…..my ass, you stupid food allergies! list of five guidelines, or for short:

The KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetness) List!

  1. Eliminate.  No, this has nothing to do with a week’s stock of Folger’s coffee enemas and  your  condemned downstairs  powder room.  It simply means pinpointing what might be bothering you and taking it out of your diet for a few weeks.  You can do this with a few foods at a time or just one, according to your lifestyle and susceptibility for nervous breakdowns.  Many doctors, gurus-of-sorts and websites will tell you different, but I really believe that eating is  not just something we do to survive, but rather an emotional, habitual way of living.  So plan ahead and take it easy. It’s okay to mourn the cheese for a little while, too.
  2. Say no to Sugar-Crack, or as big companies like to call it, High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I know what the commercials say, but it really has nothing to do with corn.  Anything that has the slang word for getting stoned and the scientific term for something’s molecule in front of the actual name of the plant IS NOT FOOD! There truly is real sugar out there – in every bit of tasty stuff that hits your mouth and starts to breakdown, not to mention the actual product, which you can buy in a store and use in moderation.  Why amp it up with the crack of the sugar gods instead?
  3. Go for the whole: whole grains, whole vegetables, and whole meats, a little bit at a time.  All in all, a whole grain diet is best.  We live in a world of modified and bleached flours, foods that have nutrients processed out of them and then re-added, and carrots that are advertised as “babies” but are really sculptured and flea dipped orange-tinted nubs.  It’s not hard to rise above this, however, and you can start small.  Brown rice, for one, instead of the white stuff.  Unbleached flour, or if you are adventurous, whole grain.  Some people like Bob’s Red Mill brand all purpose gluten-free flour mix because it’s easier than mixing a blend of bean this-and-that themselves.  There is even “white” bread out there that is really whole grain, but cleverly disguised as albino for inquisitive 5-15 year old minds.  Frozen things are always better than canned (unless you’re talking tomatoes, low sodium edition) and buying fresh foods can be cheap and easy if you know of a local stand.  The meat part can take a little time to figure out, though more and more grocery stores are carrying organic and un-drugged beef, pork and chicken.  It’s all in moderation and again, takes some time, but a little bit of whole is better than a whole lotta not.
  4. Have some fun. I always wonder how happy those gaunt, grisly, and surprisingly waxy-looking health nuts are.  Sticking to a diet of chia seeds,  nori seaweed and quinoa just doesn’t seem like The Life to me. I know I have food intolerances and that I have to be careful, but it doesn’t mean I don’t let my hair down a little from time to time with a very tempting double chocolate brownie (you heard me – a brownie.  Aw, yeah).  I certainly wouldn’t do this with something that causes me  acute symptoms, like mushrooms or eggplant, since hives will never be the new black or a must-have adorable fashion accessory, but part of living to me means having a little fun and if it’s the occasional side of mac & cheese or my one of my cousin’s freshly-baked coconut sugar cookies, well, bombs away.  It’s all about moderation – of sticking to what helps you to thrive as a human being and understanding that a little bit of rebellion is part of that.  It’s called (dada dada): Being Healthy (just ask anyone who works at an “Adult Novelty Store” – but that’s a different story)!
  5. When in doubt….., my step-mom always used to say, Throw It Out, but in this case, I’m going to say Go With Your Gut.  You know when something looks just too tempting for your own good – when the sugar crystallizes on top of some glistening dessert a little too much, or when the word ‘spices’ on the back of bag of chips just screams, “modified food starch!” in big black letters?  Yep, that’s what I’m talking about.  It’s hard suddenly training your brain to say no to things you always enjoyed and loved (at least until the symptoms started), but your gut knows way before your conscious brain does what is and isn’t good for you.  Think about it like this: can you imagine the elements that even our flawed human noses can pick up in a mash of noodles, veggies and assorted flavored vinegars?  When the alarms go off in your head and you’re just not sure, start looking at everything you CAN have.  It’s so much more pleasant focusing on what your body can digest and enjoy rather than on everything you suddenly feel deprived of.  There will always be another dish on the menu, another buffet, another opportunity to try something new and exciting to devour. Get pissed for a second and then get moving….onto something else.  Life is way too short to spend half of its precious time brooding at the lunch counter, and the rest of it on the porcelain throne.

Whew.  Well, that was exciting.  There is so much I want to share with the world out there about life with food allergies, but I equally want to spend the rest of it actually eating! I hope you feel the same way, too.  In the meantime, eat well, ask a lot of  questions, and lick yours lips when you are done – Mangia!

Cellina – The Hopeful (and hungry) Foodie

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