Thanksgiving | Eating | Food | Allergic Living
As I sat next to a dancer at a celebration of life marking the passing of a beloved artist in my community, I noticed her unroll a reusable cloth wrap containing a few cookies, olives, and other snacks. While there were foods from a lovely potluck spread from the hundreds of attendees gathered, I cheered internally that I am not the only one who finds other ways to navigate social settings that include food. I wanted to focus on sharing in the celebration, grieving, and supporting of others, not worrying about accidentally making myself ill.
The ability to sit at the same table and eat with others is a challenge for those who need a medically-restrictive diet. This person’s food may have contained nuts while being absent of milk; an unmarked potluck dish of innocent-looking vegetables may have come in contact with a corn or seed oil. All to say, each person must do as one must, and in my case, that means admiring the bounty of food provided with my eyes, not by eating it.
This year, I’ve finally turned a health corner. With a stronger immune system, my body has shown diminishing reactivity to previous food intolerances. This is an expected outcome of healing. Additionally, I’ve embraced new ingredients and cooking methods that have made my food cleaner, more robust, flavorful, and flexible. Psyllium husk and nutritional yeast are new darlings; cooking with the Hestan Cue to make beautiful foods with precision and perfection has helped me return to the kitchen again and again because it’s just plain fun to cook, to nourish, and to feed myself and people I love.
It’s been a long journey. Just post-diagnosis, I hated grocery shopping, every food seemed to make me feel sick, and no one had any answers for me. Doctors could tell me the name of my disease, but they couldn’t show me how to live in such a way as to heal my gut, chase away the fatigue, or reduce the anxious and depressed mood that comes with a messed up microbiome.
Now it’s near the end of 2018 and entering into my sixth year since I became ill, and I’m still relishing in the fact that I crossed the finish lines of a marathon, an Olympic Distance triathlon, an Ironman, a Ragnar Trail Relay, and a 100 kilometer trail race before December, as well as participated in a ten-day triathlon camp in Maui, all while eating my way to a healthy fat and muscle balance. I’ve gone from surviving on sweet potato puree, to incorporating low-processed gluten free crackers, fruits, and even a couple nuts and seeds (this is HUUGE). Party!
Each reintroduction of a food I have left behind represents a small yet important victory. Every new way of making foods at home, such as a fluffy gluten free bread in a bread machine, puts a toothy smile on my face, not just for the food itself, but because it often opens a door of opportunity to do all the things I love just that much more comfortably and safely. Being able to eat a bacon, cashew nut butter, and banana sandwich in the middle of a desert is just one part of a monumental testimony of wellness of which there is no price tag.
This Thanksgiving and season of holidays, I count myself as a Thankful Eater. It’s been a long time coming. Each year, I reflect on my processes and why I do what I do. I believe that being truly thankful for what I have and what I’ve experienced is translated into actions that change the lives of others. The main part of my mission in making food fun again is to create a resource and product and service website to help others learn the lifestyle aspects of food and socializing, healing, strengthening and becoming active, and reducing stress in the body, mind, and environment. I am still so excited to have a website dedicated to this mission.
I proudly proclaim, “I am my own food truck!” when traveling and spending time with others. My hand bag, pockets, and running vest with my special-needs food lets me go everywhere (except restaurants that ban outside food), and how could I not want that for every person I encounter who tells me that their life has just sucked so much because the food world or the personal hygiene world or the office environment or the social environments seem to conspire to make it that much more difficult to engage?
For every win, for every bite and step and doctor’s visit, and for every set back and the courage to try again, I hope for you too to embrace what you have and what you’ve been able to accomplish regarding your own health journeys, whether small or large. If you have already been on this journey, and you’re a pro at it, thank you for joining this community by subscribing, commenting on the Facebook and Instagram My Allergy Advocate pages, and for sharing your enthusiasm, support, and experiences.
To you, O Thankful Eater, this post is dedicated to you. To you, O Thankful Eater in-the-works, welcome. There is room at this table for us all.