Tag Archives: food

Thoughts

My kid ate carrot-ginger soup, raw smoked goat cheese, grain-free bread, and apple for dinner. I hope he knows how lucky he is.

The soup was made with our carrots and homemade bone broth. The cheese is local, the bread is homemade, and the apple was organic.

I wish every baby could eat such nourishing food. We are so blessed. Sometimes I feel guilty of the bounty we enjoy when so many people go hungry or eat crap food because it’s all they have access to.

Everybody used to eat this way, not so long ago. What a mess things are now.

Maybe It Was, Maybe It Wasn’t

I think I had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

(Sorry not sorry for any TMI in advance. My blog, my rules)

All the signs were there – bloating, maldigestion of fruit, FODMAPS, coconut, fermented foods, weird smelling burps, slow “transit.” But I never got the breath test or anything, so I really can’t be sure.

My symptoms are gone now, and that’s really all I care about. I expect that some of you reading this may want to know what I did to cure my maybe-SIBO, though, so I’ll tell you what happened.

In a few words: I chilled the hell out about my health issues.

In more words, I relaxed and used logic to solve my problems. For many months I had browsed the alternative health forums, websites, studies, and more to try and get to the bottom of what plagued me. Everything seemed to point towards small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and I felt almost triumphant and relieved to have located the origin of my problems. Finally, the root cause of my health issues! But I never got the special test to determine if I had SIBO; I just sat and worried and marinated in my own self-obsession. The difficulty in obtaining the test and potential expense plus a good dose of avoidant personality left me grinding my teeth and imagining a gunked-up small intestine slowly ruining my life.

Something I’ve realized is that in a lot of cases, no doctor can fix your problem. It doesn’t matter if they’re the wisest physician in the world – nobody knows and cares about your body like you do. If you aren’t that acquainted with yourself, the illness may be your body’s cry to be acknowledged. Of course, in some cases illness absolutely requires a doctor’s care, but in my experience many sufferers of chronic disease simply need to turn their attention inward to heal themselves. In application to my maybe-SIBO, I’d read online countless people who had tried the conventional and alternative treatments for the illness and failed to eradicate the pesky bacteria. The drugs didn’t work, the herbs didn’t work, nor did the incredibly restrictive diet. I figured that if doctors couldn’t help so many of these people, then it certainly was not unreasonable to think I could fix my maybe-SIBO myself.

I decided that my diet was already restrictive enough, especially given my history of eating disorder and tendencies to overly control my diet. At the time, I wasn’t eating grains (except white rice), dairy, legumes, eggs, or nightshades – I certainly did not need to eliminate another class of foods that included most of the vegetables I ate. So I decided to simply reduce my consumption of FODMAPs (I’m not going to explain the science here, Google does a better job) for a month and then slowly increase. I adhered to a mandatory 4-hour minimum between meals to allow the intestines to do their job in moving things through. SIBO is very much tied to disorded digestive waves, and by creating strict mealtimes I allowed my body to process food in waves as it should. I strengthened my brain-gut connection by only eating when hungry, stopping when full, and paying close attention to what my body was wanting at the moment. I stopped reading and rushing at meals and took my sweet time eating.

And guess what? My symptoms improved and continue to do so. I didn’t see a doctor once. Of course, I didn’t have diagnosed SIBO, so some of you reading this may scoff or think I’m silly. For me, the proof is in the pudding. Illness is about so much more than a label – it is about the PERSON! In fact, the name of the disease is usually the least relevant fact. I plan to delve more into my philosophy on illness in a future post. But for now, if you are reading this, consider turning your gaze inward and realizing your innate healing potential.

You may just be the medicine you need.

I’m Done With Emotional Eating

On a cold night a few years ago, I sat in my boyfriend’s basement holding my abdomen tightly. With wonder, fear, aching sadness and triumph I let myself feel the empty, heavy hollowness that resided in my gut. He looked at me with questioning eyes, and I said, “I just realized that nothing I eat will make the pain go away.”

Before…

I had been in therapy for several months. In the privacy of a nondescript office building I eked open the door to my emotional self, formerly trapped for so many years. By the grace of God I had finally admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder, and that I needed help. Anorexia nervosa, they call it. Hungry and proud, I called it. Eating only raw vegetables and a meager protein shake each day allowed me to run far, far away from the overweight girl that nobody liked (or so I thought).  Being thin and being in control of my body meant feeling special, loved, admired, accepted, finally accepted. Everything was okay and nobody would hurt me as long as I ran my 3 miles a day and abstained from animal products and chewed my kale. But I was all wrong, of course. And so I began connecting the dots of my emotional puzzle, filling in the image that, deep down, I knew was there all along but couldn’t quite make out.

Before…

I ate to feel full and I ate to feel loved. I ate to feel normal and I ate barbecue ribs, chocolate cake, beef stew, broccoli salad, granola, grapes, kefir, toast with cheese and butter, breakfast cereal, egg salad sandwiches, chips, spinach squares and Chinese takeout before bed. And I ate them in huge quantities, not tasting, not feeling full, but hungry so starving for that emotional fullness. My almost permanently distended stomach was an object I loathed yet sought to ignore because it was too painful to acknowledge. Other people could eat all they wanted and not get fat, so why couldn’t I? Familial emotional manipulation encouraged me to “Eat now or you’ll be hungry later!” “Oh won’t you have some more?!” “Have another piece of pie!” while nodding and shaking their heads and moving their lips saying sometimes people just get fat and some stay thin. it’s genetics…. she’s healthy, she’s normal. I knew something was sour, but couldn’t express it or understand.

Since I was young I had been disconnected from my food. We often ate nourishing, home-cooked meals of love which just as often went rotten from familial dysfunction. I ate because I was told, and because it was there, and because it was better than feeling empty and sad. The artificial fullness from consuming plants and animals masked my inner emptiness. When one of my favorite dishes was served, I did not savor the tastes or relish the textures; I ate and ate with frightening urgency, fearing what would happen once it was gone. The emptiness, the hunger, the sadness would return. My overeating continued into my teens and early twenties, even when my food choices improved and I lost weight. It didn’t matter if I was eating an enormous salad or a bowl of soup or a slice of fruit tart – I would keep putting food into my mouth until I could eat no more. The concept of natural fullness simply escaped me. I constantly thought about food and how it would taste and feel when I finally could eat again. I pored over food blogs and magazines, salivating over and savoring the make-believe delicacies that taunted me from the pages. I took endless photos of my food and pored over those too.

I did this even beyond that illuminating night in my boyfriend’s basement. But since then, I have been working endlessly inside my head to unravel my tangled-up emotional past and re-weave it as a fluid garment of correctly-ordered passions and desires. After attempting several restrictive diets to heal myself of a mysterious illness [more on that later!] I grew tired of the constant food porn on Instagram and charismatic bloggers and cookbook authors and obsession over a new way to get your greens in for the day. A few weeks ago it finally hit me that I wanted no part of this food-worship, this misconstruing of things we eat into gods and more. I sat at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with Blaise and watching him pick over his liver meatloaf and strawberries. I chewed my organ meat realized with a start that -gasp!- I was full. But there’s still some left on your plate! my mind cautioned me. You better eat what’s on your plate! If you don’t eat it all, you’ll be hungry later. I set down my fork and thought for a minute, masticating these warnings. Well, I thought. If I get hungry later, I can always eat more. What’s so scary about being hungry? Liver meatloaf won’t make me happy, nor will these strawberries. Let the hunger come. 

And since that morning, I haven’t been overfull. I have been pleasantly full, maybe even a little under-full, but always nourished and satisfied. I no longer fear the short stretches of time between meals, or the way my belly will bulge over my shorts after eating lunch. Correctly ordering a powerful thing in my life has restored a peace, self-satisfaction and empowerment that I never knew was missing. Never again will I eat out of boredom, sadness, happiness, stress, or fear. I’m done with emotional eating.

Eating Seasonally

mulberry treeIt’s a long road to the self sustainable life. For me, it started a few years ago when I stopped eating gluten, dairy, and eggs and started cooking for myself. I’ve become acquainted with gardening, lacto-fermentation, essential oils and herbal medicine, sewing, and a plethora of other traditional crafts we have now woven into the homespun fabric of our daily life. A newer addition to the list has been eating seasonally.

I used to eat seasonally, seasonally. You know –  eating from the farmer’s markets and kitchen garden in the summer but then swinging back to the grocery store in December for raspberries and asparagus because, well, they’re there. I decided this year after reading Gluten-Free Girl‘s blog that I would challenge myself creatively by truly eating seasonally. As of this summer I’ve only been eating what vegetables our garden produces, with a few small exceptions. Right now, in late June, we have spinach, several kinds of lettuce, strawberries, and rainbow Swiss chard. That’s it. And boy are they DELICIOUS! While it’s been boring eating the same rotation of vegetables each week, my mind has been freed, in a way, by having a smaller selection to choose from while meal planning. Instead of having the entire range of the vegetable kingdom available to me at my local Trader Joe’s, all I have are a few humble green tablefellows to consume. The spinach is tender, mild and faintly vegetal without the overwhelming “vegetabley” taste that most kids hate. The lettuce is butter-soft, crisp and dainty. And the strawberries? Like vibrant red jewels, bright splashes of flavor on your tongue.

mulberries

Another aspect of seasonal eating I am trying to implement into our lives is using what we have from our wild plants. I’m still learning about harvesting wild food, but mulberries and stinging nettle are on my radar. Our mulberry tree is quite prolific, and if you walk underneath it your feet are sure to be left splotched with purple stains. I’m not sure how I feel about mulberries. They look deceptively like blackberries, are sweet for sure, but don’t really have much flavor. I’ve found that when used in baked goods they take on a brighter flavor, but otherwise they’re kind of just….meh. The challenge lies in using these free, organic, wild berries because they are here, and not buying the luscious blueberries, figs, apricots at the grocery store. Well, okay, I bought a few, but keeping my focus on what we grow ourselves is the goal.

 I created this recipe for the mulberries because I was tired of using them in sweets. Really, don’t we have enough sweets, too frequently? Plus it is more challenging for me to create a savory recipe using fruit since I am not much acquainted with that type of cooking. This recipe for lamb is really delicious. The meat is so tender, moderately spiced, and falls apart without a hint of dryness. Persian cuisine frequently features mulberries. They are known in that culture as the “king of berries.”

Slow-Roasted Persian Lamb with Mulberries

Slow-Roasted Persian Lamb with Mulberries

Ingredients:

1 4-lb boneless leg of lamb

2 lbs carrots, chopped

1 1/2 cups fresh mulberries

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ginger

1 slice preserved lemon

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Method:

1. In a food processor, blend together mulberries, preserved lemon, and liquids until completely broken down.

2. Add in other spices and combine well. It should taste spicy and pungent.

3. Place the lamb in your crockpot and cover liberally with mulberry sauce. Place chopped carrots around (but not on) the lamb.

4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, until meat is falling apart and aromatic.

I served this dish with yellow rice, sauteed chard and coconut yogurt.

This post was featured on Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday.