Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Drowning Foodie... A Meatless and Dairy-Free Life

I am food challenged. It sucks. I admit it. Please note that I am not a card-carrying vegan with an environmental cause, but feel like I have had my dietary challenges forced upon me by some cosmic force that is poking me in the gut and laughing sadistically. I have been taking a serious look at my dietary history, and the issues it has caused me, so that I can finally eat and feel well.

Now, I was a "normal" kid dietetically speaking, eating most foods I wanted and not caring what went into my mouth, though most of it was cereal - my favorite food at the time. And with that sugary crunchiness came GALLONS of milk. Seriously. But my unintended consequences were obvious, even if not to me. Battling weight and self-esteem issues, (because of all the fatty-growth hormone-infused milk I drank, and sugary crap I ate), adding serious insult to injury - constant colds. I kid you not, I packed a full roll of toilet paper in my backpack to school and blew  through it (bad pun) in about 3 days. Coming home and emptying a full backpack of used tissues should have raised some red flags that there was something wrong with my body, but I was a kid and; never considered such a prospect that I could actually feel anything but sick and miserable about myself. I have seen family photos of me holding my trusty roll. How sad is that?

Now, I must give credit where credit is due - my Mom is wonderful and was very conscious of my health, and did make great healthy food - no white bread (to my horror at the time, can you imagine eating brown bread at the lunch table while all your friends have that deceptively beautiful white bread framing their PB and J?) So no Twinkies, chips, candy or other such refined fodder in our house. My Mom made homemade vegetable and meat dinners- made with all the love that a mother can give. But a kid still gets the crap at school, right?

At the tender age of 14 while staying with my ├╝ber-fit, mountaineering brother, I finally discovered that I was dairy-intolerant. A week of drinking rice milk and almost constant exercise, I felt better than I ever had. Who knew that there was life outside of constant colds, hay-fever, and cases of Kleenex?  So, with a week of drinking Rice Milk, and feeling "snot-free" for the first time in my memory, I ecstatically told Mom and Dad that I was allergic to milk, and ran to the store to buy my first box of Soy Milk.

So my life in the world of alternative foods began. I got my second job at Wild Oats when I was 16, and an entire universe of dietary choices opened up to me. I never knew about meatless diets, vegans, raw-foodies or natural living and healing with food. I was never vegetarian or vegan, but began to make great changes in my diet and felt wonderful!

Which brings me to round 2 of my food challenges, that has just been revealing itself in the last few years.

I guess it has been a long time coming, but since I turned 30 four months ago, my body has completely shut down on any dairy or meat. Crap. I used to be able to eat small amounts, like butter on my toast, or ranch dressing on my salad, and an occasional serving of grilled chicken at a family party, but no more. I have spent more sleepless nights in these last few months, curled fetal-position on the floor of the bathroom, my stomach twisted in spasms of excruciating, kick-in-the-gut pain, wishing to throw up (which doesn't help, by the way), than I have ever experienced with my worst bouts of stomach flu.

So, on that lovely, personal note - we move on. ;)

As I live with the new developments of my dietary challenges, I figure I can take a glass-half-full or half-empty attitude about it. I have found delicious substitutions for most normal foods - have you ever tried Coconut Ice Cream??! I'll never feel jealous at an ice cream party again. I have discovered some amazing blogs out there that have the most amazing food I have ever tasted, or dreamed of tasted. I have found an excellent website dedicated to Non-Dairy cooking, other various food allergies, and general good health, called Go Dairy Free

One of my favorite blogs is Yasmeen-HealthNut - in which I have spent hours reading and drooling. Our new family favorite is Yasmeen's Cardamom Mango Panna Cotta with Honey Peach Sauce.

I also love the Non-Dairy Queen's Blog for her fun and delicious alternatives to dairy and gluten-free cooking.

I must note that this post has been written mostly for me, as an honest self-analysis, and you lovely people just happen to be the bystanders in my dietary therapy session. Hopefully, my sad childhood food experiences can shed some light on unknown issues with others' health issues and maybe help a little.


Colleen said...

Thanks for posting this. I'll be checking out Non-Dairy Queen's Blog!

I don't have any big food issues, but I have a Wheat and Egg allergic child, and it is often difficult for people to understand that it isn't horrible for him to not have a brownie! He has never had it, but people always assume it sucks for him... What does suck is taking care of a sick and unhappy child when people think, "Oh, it's only a little taste" and give it to him behind my back, or without asking if he can have it. He is not yet 2, and doesn't understand why he's sick and has a difficult time with it.

Finding alternatives to wheat and eggs has been a challenge, but I too have found some great blogs to help me make healthy dishes that are safe for him to eat.

Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen said...

You are so sweet! Thank you for sharing your story! I think we all need to share more. We understand so much more when we talk about it. Last year when I found out about my allergy to soy, it was NOT pretty. In fact, it was pretty scary! I am so glad we found each other's blogs...we can definitely continue to learn from each other!

Swedie said...

We have a nut and fish allergy child. He cannot be anywhere around anything peanut - and most kids have peanut butter anywhere and everywhere.

I read your mission statement and thought you might like to check out my site: I have found so many great gift and toy ideas - I'm sure you'll find some you can use.

Alisa said...

Hi Becca,

Thanks so much for your note on Facebook. I know it helps others (even those who don't comment), when people contribute.

I am very curious about your allergy to meat - this isn't one I hear of often. Is it animal protein in general or do you tolerate certain types?

Please let me know if you would like to share a portion of your story on Go Dairy Free (with link / credit to Bug Bites). So many people read the personal stories for inspiration and support.

Feel free to email!