Plight of the Reluctant Omnivore

The Plight of the Reluctant Omnivore

Green salad in a glass bowl
What happens if you cannot live on a vegetarian or vegan diet due to food intolerances, allergies, or autoimmune disease, AND you love animals so much, it’s difficult to eat them for meat? Photo by Imei Hsu.

In a chorus of happy plant-based friends and colleagues, I admit that I am sometimes skittish about mentioning that I am a Paleo, allergen-avoiding omnivore. With my current animal protien-intensive meals, my diet is the furthest cry from vegan and vegetarian.

However, my soul is not.

You see, I love animals. I am that woman that says, “Squee!” out loud when I see pictures of cute, furry pets, barnyard animals playing with one another, mini donkeys, unusual animals in their natural habitats, and the big animals of the wild. I shed tears when I hear about elephants killed for their tusks or used as laborers for their ability to pull heavy loads. I have even come around to find unusual spiders and bizarre insects as fascinating co-habitants of our diverse planet.

Every Friday on my Facebook page, I post pictures of cute kittens and cats under the hashtag, FurballFriday for my friends to enjoy with me. It’s become a bit of a ritual, where I search Pinterest every Thursday evening to line up the best pictures to share the next morning. I’ve even created a few, “Hey Girl” photos of my own, using a photo of a kitten and a blanket.

And so, every time I sit down for a meal, prep my lunches, or select something from a menu, I am painfully and mindfully aware that my choice to eat meat cost an animal its life. I am eating the suffering of an animal, along with vegetables, rice, fruits, and oils, to keep me alive. If I love animals as much as I say that I do, why on earth do I eat them for food?

The answer is simple, but never easy:  to survive. 

So, what do I do — and what do you do — if you find yourself a Reluctant Omnivore?

Continue reading

Dairy Free Chocolate Moo FTW

The ridges on my fingernails say enough.

When you have dry, brittle, and ridged fingernails, it can often mean you have a chronic illness and/or a nutritional deficiency on board.

I have both, despite eating as much as I possibly can shovel in. Part of this is because I’m a triathlete, and my body’s daily nutritional needs are high. And part of my deficits are because my small intestine gets its own workout when it needs to process and then distribute my medically-restricted diet to the rest of the body. Usually, my finger and toenails show up these deficits in the form of dry, brittle, and ridged nails and occasionally funny-colored nail beds. And my upper body has a tendency to look quite “leaned out” without even lifting weights. Wah wah wah. But it’s a struggle, and I know I am not alone.

Each time I hear someone comment that Celiac Disease and food allergies, with their restrictive diets, make it easier to stay thin, I just want to cringe. The idea that CD and gluten free eating with food allergies could ever be construed as the new fad diet or an eating disorder reminds me how much misinformation floats about the Internets. By now, most of us should know that eating gluten-free, in and of itself, is no guarantee of magical weight loss. Gluten free eating that is not paired with sensible macro and micro nutrient balance can be nutrient poor even if it is calorically enhanced.

Nutrition for the person with Celiac Disease and food allergies and intolerances is focused on a formula of nutrition first, flavor and texture second (so you’re more likely to keep up with it), and easy to source and prepare the foods (to defy the lazy factor) third. With all that, I try to keep the making of food FUN FUN FUN, because I completely understand that if it isn’t fun, you and I are going to be hungry. And when we’re hungry, we’re less likely to make good decisions that keep us healthy.

Case in point: at the end of the 2015 Mt. Si 59 mile Relay race, I was so hungry, I ate a fruit roll up that was available at the finish line. I saw that it had  high fructose corn syrup in it, which is a no-no food for me. Yet, I was so hungry, I stuffed two of those fruit roll ups in my mouth, hoping for the best. This is as real as it gets. I was so hungry, I was willing to risk my guts falling apart.

There has got to be something better! Something easy. Something tasty, And something nutritious. And I think I found one solution: a post-workout, or post-meal beverage that is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, vegan, nut free, and can be made sugar free, if you like.

What is this beverage, you might ask? Dairy free cacao powder milk, that’s what! Continue reading

A Menu Redacted

A Menu Redacted

When I first started talking to others about food allergies and Celiac Disease, I began by trying to describe what food allergies are. As in, “Here are the medical definitions, and here’s what to look out for, and by the way, here’s how to keep me and others around me safe.”

End of story. I just want to eat, feel good, and not be sick.

And really, if that was all this was about — this website, these descriptions, and what I can’t eat — there would be nothing left to share, and no discussion. By now, you know that there is plenty of discussion, thus the many blogs on the subject.

Yet time and time again, I run into people who are truly curious about how I, and millions of others, live with a medically restricted diet due to both multiple food allergies and intolerances, and an autoimmune disease such as Celiac Disease.

After I found out I had Celiac Disease, I saw some improvement on the standard GF diet, which focuses on a strict adherence to a diet free of barley, wheat, and rye. I still had a Grumpy Tummy that would react to foods such as corn, quinoa, chia seeds, gluten-free oats, gluten free baked goods and breads containing soy and xanthan gum. Eating these foods didn’t cause the same widespread inflammatory response in my gut that gluten did, but they kept me sick, weakened, and fatigued.

You can understand that I developed this mental complex that maybe I was just a food pariah: a one-off person, alone in my experience of food intolerance. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it was not only counterproductive, it simply wasn’t true.

There are millions of us. There are millions of YOU, if you too suffer from one or more food intolerances, allergies, or a medically-restrictive diet.

During the “Grumpy Tummy” months,  I encountered others who would be perusing the same aisles of the grocery store, turning items over to read ingredients, and putting them back on the shelves. We’d introduce ourselves, compare notes, and have these, “Me too!” moments after one of us would say, “I can’t eat anything with soy in it,” or “Gluten free oats make me feel sick when I eat them.”

It wasn’t very long before I realized there were tons of people around me, all of us feeling alone, isolated, and freakish for having guts that just couldn’t handle the same foods everyone else seemed to eat without any problems. And I remembered thinking that someday I would figure out a way to convey to all these people how much we have in common, not just by comparing food restriction lists with judgment and criticism, but in some kind of creative image that allowed people to see through my eyes.

Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I present to you just one of those creative images. I present to you, A Menu Redacted.

Continue reading