Finding Joy in Food Again

Originally published on September 23, 2020

My journey with food has been long and painful. I rarely write about it or share it because I don’t love dwelling on my health problems, but I’ve been noticing how many people have stomach issues or issues with food. So I decided to share my experience in case it can help someone else. 

My Health Issues with Food

Of all my health issues, the one that brings me the most frustration is my stomach. There have been many periods where I can eat only a handful of foods without causing issues. I can clearly remember many times that I have been frustrated to the point of tears because a) I spent all this energy to cook something that hurt my stomach, b) I am tired of eating the same thing every day and c) food stresses me out. 

I have been gluten-free for 14 years! When I was 8, I was diagnosed with celiac and gluten-free options have come a LONG way. For years there was one kind of gluten-free bread available; it was frozen, beyond expensive and tasted like cardboard. I’ve preferred Udi’s bread for as long as it’s been around and once I tried it, I decided it was my bread and I didn't try anything else. 

My sensitivity to gluten has gotten much worse as I’ve gotten older, so I try to avoid cross contamination. When I was younger, I would still “cheat” and eat something every now and then, but it wasn’t worth it. I remember for one of my friend’s birthdays, our friends’ mom made amazing cakes and I decided I would just have one bite, and I ended up eating a whole piece. I can say confidently that that was the last time I "cheated", so I guess I learned the hard way. And yes, if that Johns Hopkins doctor who swore up and down that my 14-year-old self didn’t have the “self-control” to be 100% gluten-free ever comes across this, now you have it in writing. 

Milk - Doesn’t it Do a Body Good?

I’ve been dairy free off and on for 10 years. Another Johns Hopkins doctor  (this one was much nicer) suggested it when I was 14. Every now and then I would decide to start reintroducing dairy into my diet, but it never lasts. Today I do still eat dairy occasionally, but it’s with maximum amounts of Lactaid and a pretty bad stomach ache. I’ve learned that many gluten-free people are also dairy-free.

My nutritionist keeps trying to get me to eat dairy and I do, but I usually don’t last more than a month without getting stomach aches. Although I still eat small amounts of true parmesan reggiano, bought at the common market, and sometimes real butter. 

FODMAP - The one Diet you might not have ever heard of

The most consistent “diet” I have stuck with is low-fodmap. It definitely hasn’t solved all my problems, and there are still things that I can’t pinpoint, but I try to follow this as much as possible. My biggest issues with these “fodmap” foods are garlic and onions. Before I had my stomach procedure in 2014, I would get sick immediately if I had anything with garlic in it. While my stomach issues generally improved after surgery, garlic and onions are still just as bad. I have loved the brand FODY foods over the last few years. While I try to avoid tomatoes, their pasta sauces are by far my favorite and I have been working on using their sauces and seasonings more often. 

No, Not Sugar!

Most recently I have come to discover that sugar is the source of many of my problems. After working in a bakery for last year, I noticed my flare ups came on days I brought home pastries. I’ve been working hard to lower my overall sugar intake and be more mindful about what I’m eating. 

I still drink ginger ale every day, but I usually only have ½ a can a day, and I drink Blue Sky ginger ale, which is made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. I loved Katz gluten free donuts but I could never eat them without stomach aches, so gave those up. Donuts are still my favorite treat, so I get them at the gluten free bakeries every chance I can. Other than that, I eat Annies sour fruit snacks, Jolly Llama fruit pops, Cocomels, and Daiya ice cream bars. I usually give myself one treat a day, but if I get Starbucks or pastries, I can’t go have chocolate. 

Do it Yourself

While I don’t do a lot of baking anymore, I’ve found my perfect granola recipe that’s as simple as can be and low sugar. I’ve also been working on making my own trail mix that doesn’t have too much sugar. I’ll share my recipes soon! 

I want to share more recipes and food adventures because it will help me have a better relationship with food. Also, I need to work on eating more than my usual grilled chicken and roasted potatoes every single day. My favorite part of traveling is to find the best food, because it used to be my biggest stressor. I definitely miss traveling because of CoVID and my favorite bakery in New York, but I hope to find some food that brings me as much joy without having to leave the state.

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