Thursday, February 25, 2010

You are what you eat.

Oh yeah, spring is just about here!

At least I am. For some people, it's all about what they don't eat. I have a friend who is so allergic to peanuts that if she eats even a fragment, her throat closes and she has to jab herself in the thigh with adrenlin, so as to not die from anaphylaxic shock. I know people who are dairy-intolerant. Eating a bite of cheese gives them hideous stomach cramps and diarrea.

Let me stop right now and say THANK YOU GOD for making me so tolerant of so many kinds of food! Wow.

After eight weeks during which I ate no wheat, this morning on a whim I walked to Peregrine Espresso, drank a latte and ate an almond croissant. Just like that, I broke my wheat fast. The croissant was not especially delicious which was, I admit, kind of disappointing. Now in the aftermath I am not suffering. People with allergies to wheat told me I would feel awful if I went back to eating wheat, but so far I am having no reaction at all. I feel like I had a nice breakfast, that's all.

I remember during the 1970's when I worked my way down the food chain until I was "macro-biotic" which is I believe what veganism was called back then. I didn't do a good job of it since at the time I didn't cook. I did not combine foods to make complete proteins like you're supposed to. My strategy (not a wise one) was to basically not eat anything. I remember the day all that ended. I was on vacation visiting a friend in Monterey whose landlady was a nurse. She took one look at me, sized me up, and invited me to come have dinner with her that evening, along with the friend I was visiting. Immediately I launched into a long list of what I didn't eat: no meat, dairy, sugar, fruit juice, refined grains, bleached flour, oils, etc. etc. etc. She nodded and smiled.

At dinner, she served me a plate of roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans slathered in butter. My jaw dropped. I stared at the food as if it had just arrived from another planet. When I looked up at her, she was gazing fixedly at me. She said, "Eat every bite." A switch flipped inside me and I did. When I tell people that story, they always ask, "Did you get sick after that meal?" Actually, I did not. After two years as a very strict non-lacto vegetarian which was for me some kind of eating disorder, all those forbidden foods tasted good; I had no reaction other than a happy sense of satisfaction.

Not eating wheat means I don't eat processed food much anymore, and that I DO eat a lot more vegetables, many more home cooked meals. I can't grab a sandwich or a slice of pizza any longer, which is a Very Good Thing. After today's wheat-fest, I'm going back to the wheat fast, not because I have to, but because it steers me in a more healthy direction. I am so lucky to be able to choose what I do and don't eat, so very lucky. A salute to my constitution and digestive system. Bravo!


ellen abbott said...

I like this story. I tried being a vegetarian for a couple of years but, like you, didn't do it mindfully. I just stopped eating certain things. I learned being mindful of what you eat doesn't have to mean refusing certain foods. Breakfast and dinner were easy but lunch? When Marc was diagnosed with high blood pressure, we stopped buying processed sandwich meat. One of the results was we stopped eating so much bread but it also changed our lunches. What do you have for lunch if not a sandwich? Lunch is the meal we eat out most often now.

ellen abbott said...

Oh, and what are those pretty flowers?

Reya Mellicker said...

I tend to eat vegetables and rice, leftover risotto (kind of the same thing), soup, or whatever we had for dinner last night.

Reya Mellicker said...

They were tiny little blooms on a bush I passed yesterday afternoon but I don't know what they are - sorry!!

bobbybegood1 said...

Your post so resonates with me. I totally identify with you. I don't know of any food allergies that I have, except for crabmeat. My lips begin to itch after I eat crab. So, I too, salute my body for being able to tolerate many foods that can be fatal to others.

I have recently become vegetarian after viewing farming factories on the net. OMG!! I never knew how mistreated those poor animals are. I CAN NOT, in good conscious, continue to support the meat industries knowing how they treat cows, pigs, chicken, etc. It's heartless.

Anydoodles, dairy and egss are another situation altogether. That's where I struggle; because I love eggs, yogart, cheese, ice cream. Can you offer any suggestions that will make my transition to becoming a non-lacto vegetarian easier?

P. S. I DO NOT like tofu.

Reya Mellicker said...

I can't, Bobby, because these days I eat a little bit of everything - except wheat - for the time being.

Dairy farmers are also heartless, though some organic dairy farmers at least give the cows a break from being milked now and again.

Last night I used grass-fed beef to make a stir fry. It was really good, nice to know those cows were allowed to eat what they were made to eat, not shot full of antibiotics and growth hormones. They lived well and I was well fed.

Factory farming - of vegetables as well as animals - is hideous.

Reya Mellicker said...

And, you know, vegetables don't like being killed and eaten either. They recoil from the hand that pulls them out of the ground. The food chain is a bitch = the life cycle turns on eating and being eaten - but we are lucky enough to get to make choices around what we eat. That makes a big difference.

NanU said...

People's bodies so easily go astray in our modern society. We're made to eat just about anything we can get our hands on, and that variety is necessary to our good health. All these food allergies and intolerances says something important about how far we are from being normal animals.

Susan said...

I went veggie, with a few lapses over which I don't freak out, after seeing the film that my guy did the soundtrack for. "Peaceable Kingdom"
is not strident or angry; it profiles several farmers who suddenly wonder if what they're doing to the animals they love fits with their own sense of morality.
And after watching it, I had to ask myself the same question.
So no meat. The transition isn't nearly as tough as I expected (and I LOVED meat) - Quorn makes a great chicken substitute, there are all kinds of decent burger substitutes and, thankfully, I DO like tofu.
I eat minimal dairy, but haven't cut it out yet. So I don't hold myself up as any great example, and I do know that veggies are living, too, so there's no getting around this.
I think I just couldn't look the calves and baby pigs at the fair in the eye anymore and then go have a bacon cheeseburger.
Add that to the many health and environmental advantages they're finding when you cut out animal protein, and the horrifying sanitation and inhumane conditions at factory farms (which are, at this point, the only producers of what we eat) and that's the end of the argument for me.
If you're interested, "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Foer is a pretty good book on factory farms.
It's not a pretty reality, but it's reality and we should know what we're feeding ourselves and our kids.

Reya Mellicker said...

It's possible here in DC to buy humanely raised meat. In fact it is widely available. When I go to a restaurant I know I'm eating something heinous. For me, it's always a balancing act to figure out how to live and participate in this society without being too unethical. It's tough in so many areas!

Animal protein is absolutely necessary for the nervous system. Vegans who know what they're doing take B12 supplements because they know nothing in their diets supplies this vital component. Streamlining animal protein is very smart, but none at all isn't good for us either. All vegetarians should have a little cheese or butter or an egg here or there. Fish works, too, to supply the necessary nutrients.

Like cats, we can not live on vegetables and fruits alone.

bobbybegood1 said...

I love fruits and vegetables and whole grains. It reminds me of the Book of Daniel in the Holy Bible, and the story of how he and his friends refused to eat at the king's feast. The bet was was that after a few days of Dainel and his friends, eating vegetarian, and the king and his people eating a big feast -- which probably had meat on the menu -- who would fair better. Obviously, Daniel and his friends looked and felt much better. This all proves, to me, that a diet of various fruits, vegetables and whole grains is far better for a person than one full of meat.

Reya Mellicker said...

Everyone (including me) has such strong opinions about food. Makes sense that people are passionate about it.

Mary Ellen said...

I've cut out wheat for some years now - better intestinal comfort, and yes, less bad snacking. It's tough when pizza is the standard for hosting a work-over-lunch meeting. One kid went vegetarian at age 6 when he made the connection between the food (nuggets) and the animal (chicken). The other has spent some time doing raw foods, off and on. That's encouraging!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

thinking alot of my eating habits and patterns.

was vegetarian for nine years of so, then many years ago started eating some meat. not much but some

changed my eating label as I was no longer a vegetarian, if asked, i'd say was an omnivore, whose rule was that i didn't eat cute.

recently i'm running into the term flexitarian ...thinking that might be a good one to use regarding my eating label.

i praise be that i don't have any food allergies.... though maybe i do and don't know it - but what can i say in this department ignorance is bliss!

i like my dairy, wheat, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts, nightshade veggies, etc. etc. and find balance in variety and imbalance in exclusivity.

thanks for the food for thought.

Lynne said...

I can't believe you have flowers coming out already while we are in the midst of our "Snowicane." Honestly, the words they come up with for snow events this year! We are going to be buried. Already 5-6 inches on the ground and they are telling us them main event is yet to come!

Spring? Not here!

We try to eat lots of good things and no pre-prepared or processed foods. I think it matters.

tut-tut said...

one of the best things we can do for ourselves and our families is to cook at home. I know this is difficult for many (commutes, schedules, long workdays), but is so important on so many levels. Just a thought

Rosaria Williams said...

This is so SANE! I love it! All of us could use a menu/nutrition tune up. But, giving up our comfort food is always hard.

Linda Sue said...

I LOVE that story of THE DINNER! Just what you needed- a swift good homecooked kick in the "can't haves". I have played with every fad going but am also made of iron- now, I try to be concious making choices - shop expensively at the organic Co op for grass fed humanely slaughtered beef if I ever actually want to eat beef.Not eating crap has at least put my mind at ease, if not my body...I do feel better and that's what they say isn't it- "if it feels it". I thought for a while that I was allergic to EVERYTHING - would double over in pain for hours after ingesting anything at was my gall bladder in the end- popped that baby out of there and have been fine ever since.So much for self diagnosis.

Reya Mellicker said...

Tut I completely agree that cooking at home creates much much much more nutritious meals. I love cooking which is fortunate for me.

I love the word "flexitarian!" YES. Thanks, Kim.

Imbalance in exclusivity - yes - unless excluding some foods makes you feel better.

Fabulous thoughts here, thanks to all.

Tom said...

Good for you, you'll outlive us all.

I'm a Ding Dong.

Steve Reed said...

My experiences with food have been very similar. I was a vegetarian for years, and then began eating chicken and fish. Lately, as you know, I've resumed eating meat. I've felt no ill effects at all.

Unless you have celiac disease, which is pretty uncommon, I don't think wheat is going to cause any problems.

I really think the solution to eating is balance. Cutting out whole categories of food isn't really necessary, unless, like you, it just feels like the thing to do. Which is OK too!

Nancy said...

I think my daughter needs to do what you did with the nurse. She just doesn't seem healthier on a vegetarian diet. Mainly because she is doing it the way you did it - not being mindful of the combinations. We are eating much the same way as you are now. More veggies, much less meat, non-processed foods. I agree with Bobbybegood 1 on the factory farming.

But my husband bakes the most incredible home-made bread packed with good stuff that I just can't go wheat free. We've quit eating out unless we're traveling, which allows for more healthy choices.

Ronda Laveen said...

This story really made me smile. I could really see the look on your face when the kindly woman set that meal before you. She is a really great example of when people tell you to do this or that, or not do do this or that, just smile, nod and do what you want to do.

I loved and agree with NanU's comment. It makes sense that the body is built for survival on every level.

I, too, am blessed with a strong constitution.

Deborah said...

'eat and be satisfied' is a line in the Torah--when I eat what I really want, be it cauliflower or toast with apricot jelly, I am satisfied--when I don't, but just eat what is there or what is healthy or a healthier choice at the moment, I eat more and more of it and am not satisfied. . . it is a system that works for me

so I say, 'eat and be satisfied' and much love to you.

Delwyn said...

Hi Reya

I like your sensible comments and that I think is the crux of the eating matter. Being sensible: accommodating intolerances and being aware of our own levels of energy fitness and zest.

Happy days

Reya Mellicker said...

I think my friend's landlord, who was (by the way) a nurse, looked at me and saw a very young woman who was malnourished.

Or as the Sufi acupuncturist would say, that was a moment of angelic intervention. It was time to come back from the extreme diet I was practicing at the time. Oh yeah.

Barbara said...

If I had to make a choice, I would gladly give up wheat before all those vegetables that offer so much more variety. (I suspect white flour isn't very good for any of us.)

Cheese and chocolate would be hard to give up. But otherwise I don't feel passionate about most other foods.

Barbara said...

Make that "vegetables AND FRUITS"!

Val said...

here here - or is it hear hear? or maybe a little of each? moderation in all things. . . thankfully like you i can pick and choose, but try to avoid wheat, dairy, sugars, as much as possible

Melissa said...

Lovely post and beautiful photos.

I could remember the very first time I saw a nutritionist/ dietician when I was 19 years old. The very first thing she told me to buy was "Diet for a Small Planet" I still have that same little book for over 20 years now. It's the first time I learned to combine certain foods to make the perfect protein.

We are definitely what we eat. The only person we are hurting or fooling is ourselves. I constantly remind myself of that.