REFLECTING, UNBURDENING

LAST JANUARY, ON MY 27TH BIRTHDAY
Indulge me for a moment. I tend to want to remain optimistic on this site, partially out of a certain sense of professionalism and a distaste for being too candid with strangers, but mainly out of a desire to remain encouraging to anyone who is suffering from similar problems and would benefit from making significant changes to their diet. But let us be realistic for a moment; sometimes properly taking care of yourself sucks. (Flat understatement.) Over time, I have learned that feeling sorry for myself earns me little comfort (or sympathy), and for the most part if anyone offers me words along the lines of, "That must be so hard," I shrug it off. I typically return their condolences by explaining how lucky I am to live in an area of the world where I have access to a great deal of foods that I tolerate, access to the information that I needed to understand the changes I needed to make in my life, and the creativity and resourcefulness required to flourish. I punctuate those truths with the most important one of all: that it is absolutely worth it, because I feel better than I have in years, and the memory of how unbearably awful I felt every day is enough to make eating the right foods an incredibly easy choice. 

But when you have a list of food restrictions the length of a college admissions essay, and are still managing chronic health problems, life can be hard--especially around the holidays. Last year around this time, I felt quite depressed and deflated. I had gone through months of rigorous testing and doctors appointments, and received no definitive answers except for a blood test which gave me a lengthy report of my food triggers on top of the ones I had already discovered during my elimination diet. I was just beginning to experiment with new foods, and the dishes that I brought with me weren't hits with the family or with my body. This year, my circumstances have improved, but I've felt a wave of anger about it all. Despite my strict diet and lifestyle modifications, I still get flare-ups of Candida, and I'm still unable to work because of my nerve inflammation. I have to make all of my food from scratch, every day. This means that if I want to go on a trip, or even leave my home for a significant amount of time, I have to plan, cook and pack, which can exacerbate the aforementioned inflammation. If family or friends want to eat out, I often have to eat beforehand, as accommodations can't always be made for me. This makes me quite conspicuous, and often results in everyone talking about my health problems for the bulk of the night. (I'm still learning the art of redirecting conversation.) It ends up being quite difficult to not feel like my identity is completely shaped by what is missing in my life, rather than what enriches it, like my main loves, music, art and photography. 

MORE LIGHT & SHADOWS

Anger, however, can be a gift, and I hope to use that emotion to help energize my next wave of searching for answers. I'm determined to make the new year a positive one. In the meantime, let's ride this wave of catharsis. Here, in answer to that need, and in answer to my many friends and family members repeated requests, is my current list of foods, spices and ingredients that I have to avoid. (Take a deep breath...)

Wheat, gluten, soy, corn, sugar, dairy, eggs, caffeine, chocolate, vinegar, yeast, tomato, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, alcohol (even trace amounts in extracts and tinctures), fermented products of any kind, all allium (garlic, onions, shallots, chives, leeks, etc.), all sweeteners except stevia, coconut (except coconut oil), potato, beet, pork, beef, cod, tuna, tilapia, scallops, shrimp, mushrooms, brown rice, beans (except minimal amounts of chickpeas and bean flours), lentils, all fruit except lemon & avocado, capsaicin (chemical in all peppers, including black and bell), carrots, zucchini, green beans, eggplant, chicory, sunchokes, turmeric, oregano, paprika, ginger, mustard, and cinnamon.

The following can be eaten in extreme moderation: Sweet potatoes/yams & other sugary root vegetables including squash,  peas, grains of any kind (including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.), foods high in fructans & inulin like endive, artichokes, and many of the foods I've already listed.

This seems to be a complete list. No doubt, those friends and family members who have asked will now be able to see why I haven't indulged them thus far. It is an intimidating list, and one which doesn't acknowledge those foods that I try to avoid for ethical & environmental reasons, such as veal and many fish. I am, however, fully aware of the need to pick my battles, so I can't claim to never consume farmed Atlantic Salmon or questionably sourced chicken or turkey if I am eating at a restaurant or as a guest in someone else's home without other options. 

Much gratitude and respect to anyone who has made it this far. Hopefully those of you who can relate to this will at least find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

2 comments:

Ricki said...

I apologize for being SO far behind in my blog reading that I hadn't seen this yet! I think you touch on so many other important issues about food restrictions and how they affect us psychologically. I often share the same frustration at the medical establishment and feel that same anger at how difficult it can be simply to navigate the world the way everyone else does, effortlessly. I think you are a shining example of someone who deals with it with aplomb and creativity. I'm so glad that things are, at least, better this year than last; and hope for continued and remarkable improvements in 2011 for you!

KRIS said...

Ricki, absolutely no need for apologies; I really can't fathom how you keep up with it all! Your words are so kind, and I sincerely return them to you. Anger surely is fuel for our creativity...we are resourceful ladies! I look forward to reading about your health triumphs this year; here's hoping that they are plentiful!

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