I’m proud of my sister. Today she informed me of her first week of being gluten and dairy free. It’s part of the process she is going through to find out what foods she may be allergic or sensitive to. It’s called an elimination diet. You add all the stuff you’ve abstained from after an allotted amount time and find out how what you’ve ingested effects your body. It’s not easy. Linda said she’d waited two weeks after her doctor appointment to commit to the new menu, which includes no meat and a lot of hummus, but she’s elated now. Feeling more energized. Light. Clear. The results are yet to be realized, but the point is, she’s taken her health into her own hands.
I went through the same process ten years ago. I’d been getting repeatedly sick, and after a lifetime of being allergy-free, had been chronically suffering from red-watery eyes and hay fever. Come to find out, I was allergic to twenty different things, more food, less environmental. After changing my eating habits, I became healthier, in general, and have even reversed some of my issues. I recently had a gluten-sensitivity blood test and it came back negative. Progress. And yes, bagels again. Yay.
I usually refrain from preaching. People are very protective of their habits. Who am I to be espousing fresh produce? But when someone else broaches the subject I don’t mind chiming in. What you eat directly effects everything you do, how emotional you are, how you behave, how you sleep. You gotta share the knowledge.
I was recently sent a TED talk about food allergies. See this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA.
You’ll agree, it’s enlightening and disturbing. Creepy, because you become acutely aware that you have to be your own professional dietitian, your own tireless information detective and your own grocery cop. Good food is expensive. And who has the time to become a nutrition scholar?
My sister said, “It’s a bummer, I can’t really eat cranberries anymore, they’re all covered with sugar.” But it’s not true. There’s 100% cranberry juice and the plain dried fruit. Most foods can be found whole, sugarless and delicious, just not-so-obvious at your average grocery chain. Whole Foods and organic stores are expensive, but Trader Joe’s has mastered delivering quality natural food to the masses. Too bad “TJ’s” is not available everywhere. It’s the one place my friend Nora Lynch, nutritionista, who moved back to Denver, says she misses about California.
When you start eating differently, reading labels, buying fresh, you’ll see new products on the shelves that you’ve never noticed before. It’s like when you’ve been going to a restaurant for years, then have kids, and the family-friendly diner you replace it with happens to be right next door to your old favorite spot. You say to the owners, “How long have you been here?” And they say, “Twenty years.” It’s been there, just off your radar. What I’m saying is, it gets easier and you eventually stop seeing Oreos and Cheetos and begin to focus on organic milk and whole grains.
Michael Pollan, author of the books In Defense of Food, The Ominvore’s Dilemma, and Food Rules, said on an episode of Oprah, something to the effect of, “If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t be eating it,” and also, “If your grandmother doesn’t recognize it, make another choice.” I’ve paraphrased, but I took his words to heart. Though it takes more time in the beginning, you get the hang of reading labels, preparing fresh flavorful meals and eventually become predisposed to a better nutrition.
Congratulations to my sister Linda. Good health and everything that comes with it will be her reward.
Pam Alster, former stand-up comedienne, Lifetime TV writer & suburban mom brings a decade of living on the dark side to light in her forthcoming debut novel Robin’s Blue. www.pamalster.com