Integration, round 1

Well kids, the time has finally arrived.

After weeks of removing EVERYTHING I love about food from my diet (no, this is not an exaggeration – I could live off bread and garlic), it is time for the elimination diet to end.

Let the re-entry of deliciousness begin?

First, I needed to create a system to help me determine what foods are difficult, HOW difficult they are (read: how often I can suffer through them), and any specific observations to help going forward.

So I created a rating scale 0-5.

0 = I feel awesome, let’s dance!

KP dance

5 = OMG IT HURTS MAKE IT STOP

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Now that I had a rating system, it was time to begin introducing foods. Naturally, I started with garlic. Until my doctor suggested using the FODMAP diet for my elimination plan, garlic was a culinary staple. I mean, it’s GOOD for you! Garlic is my first love. I tolerated removing it from my meals because I told myself “oh this is silly, there’s no way garlic is actually a problem.

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I started in a way I thought would be safe. Garlic powder added to sautéed vegetables with breakfast. A few hours post breakfast? No complaints (she said while holding her breath in fear). At dinner, I grated a little raw garlic into the salad dressing I made.

See, self? I told you it would be fine. 

By the next morning, I had some minor discomfort, but maybe a 1 on the scale. Plus I was being stubborn and didn’t want to admit garlic could potentially be an issue. On day 2, I added sautéed garlic to my veggies at dinner. IT WAS DELICIOUS. My heart was soooooo happy.

By day 3, however, my belly was not. For the next 24 hours, I was super uncomfortable. All my symptoms were back.

So I spent day 3 and 4 eating all the safe foods I have come to appreciate. Symptoms = gone.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Don’t be stubborn. It won’t help. Listen to your body.

2. Garlic is okay (for me) OCCASIONALLY but not every day. And everyone’s body is different. Hopefully your experience will be more pleasurable than mine!

3. It’s totally acceptable to sit on a crowded bus, sobbing quietly about losing access to your favorite food.

Conclusion:

Garlic = 2-3 on the scale, depending on how much and in what form.

Next up…onions.

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Gluten tragedy

Over the last two weeks, we have had lots of friends visiting. Which is nice, right? Out of town guests, lots of fun sight-seeing in our city, laughter and story-telling and enjoying life…over food. All our favorite food. The best “go-to” spots in the city, the ones you just have to check out while in town.

I spent the last two weeks of my elimination diet watching people eat sandwiches, drink microbrews, and after a few drinks, indulging in a greasy, late night fast food run.

While I ate salad. And eggs. And more salad.

I’ve been grumpy.

Actually, no. Grumpy feels inaccurate. Unfortunately, there’s no word in the English language that quite captures “hangry, not out of hunger, but out of despair.”

I’ve been pretty good about food prep, but no amount of making food ahead of time and having snacks in my purse could make up for walking through Pike Place Market and knowing no matter how good it smelled (you can smell the butter a block away), I could NOT get a croissant from La Panier.

Tragedy.

I realize, comparatively speaking, not being able to eat a croissant isn’t the worst thing in the world. Not even close. As a therapist, I work with clients every day who have extensive, heart-breaking trauma stories. Skipping a pastry is nothing compared to the years of neglect and abuse experienced by people around the world every. single. day.

And in moments of clarity, I am able to take a deep breath, and remind myself skipping almond-filled pastries will not, in fact, be my death.

It just might feel like it for a while.

FODMAPs and Grief: An Introduction

FODMAP – Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols

The idea of FODMAPs may not be new to you. This may have been an area you’ve navigated for years. But for people like me, who until a few weeks ago had no idea what that meant, here’s the quick run down, courtesy of the Stanford University Medical Center. “FODMAPs are carbohydrates (sugars) that are found in foods. Not all carbohydrates are considered FODMAPs….[they] are osmotic (means they pull water into the intestinal tract), may not be digested or absorbed well and could be fermented upon by bacteria in the intestinal tract when eaten in excess.” See the full write up about FODMAPs here.

After talking with my doctor extensively about the multitude of symptoms I just couldn’t quite shake no matter what I did (think all the variations of gastro-intestinal discomfort), she suggested following the FODMAP protocol as part of a larger elimination diet to try and identify what is making my gut so unhappy. Essentially this means a month of eating a gluten-, dairy-, and alcohol-free diet, in addition to eliminating anything considered high in FODMAPs such as garlic, onions, certain fruits, certain vegetables, legumes, and high fructose corn syrup.

So what does this have to do with grief? 

I’m glad you asked. Think about your favorite form of self-expression. Really think about it. Think about the joy it brings you. Imagine yourself doing it right now. Notice if it improves your mood.

Some people love to draw or paint. Others create beautiful music. Writing is the preferred outlet for many people. Me? I cook. Cooking is my creative outlet, it is my way of showing people I care for them, it is my favorite way of exploring a new city/country/culture, and it is my favorite form of self-care. To say “I love food” feels wildly insufficient. And now I’m being asked to eliminate entire categories of things I love. Granted, it’s for the sake of sanity and health. I get that. I do. But I haven’t accepted it yet. Which leads me to my point…

I’m grieving. It isn’t about the inconvenience  (not really anyway). I feel I have lost part of myself. My body is rejecting what has always brought comfort, and my way of being has to change. Some of my favorite memories, memories of stories integral to who I am and my life journey to date, center around food. Sandwiches filled with grilled onions, bread slathered with garlic aioli, and pork dripping with garlicky goodness literally define a chapter of my life. When I have this sandwich, I am transported to warm, Seattle summers, eating with friends as the sun sets, and the satisfaction of knowing I had survived some of the hardest years of my life. Foods from home remind me of childhood. Hot dogs covered in chili sauce remind me of high school soccer games; hashbrowns scatters and smothered with a waffle reminds me of spending time with my siblings; sausage balls remind me of Christmas morning.

I could go on for pages, but you get the point. Food is my love and my scrapbook. And now I’m being handed new materials.

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (who literally wrote the book on grief), there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages (according to my understanding of grief) do not occur linearly and are not exclusive. It is very possible to visit each stage multiple times, and to experience more than one at any given time. Currently, I find myself in depression and bargaining. I am generally grumpy about the world when it comes to food, and have had conversations with the universe like this:

Ok. Look. I want to feel better. But this stinks. What if I give up gluten, but I get to keep garlic and onions? I think that’s fair. Right? RIGHT?!

So far, no response. I’ll let you know if that changes.

I am a firm believer in the power of community – both for the purpose of sharing resources and the emotional support of not feeling alone. Thus, this blog is born. My hope is to create a space for resources, both for myself and others, while also processing my experience. I’ve been a therapist long enough to know the processing is just as (if not more) important.

Happy eating!