I was going to call this blog, confessions of a reluctant food snob, my reluctance coming from admitting I am a snob. I really do not think I am one. Actually I am a food particularist. So I decided to re-frame and change the title to reflect my story in the hopes I can glean some light on my healing process for those who are going through a tough time with their own health and wellness issues.
I have not always been a food particularist; I have evolved! However, I can explain, and I will, read on…
I’d like to say it all started when I was a child and I know what I wanted to do when I grew up, that I had such a burning desire and calling I couldn’t contain myself and I had to follow that passion; it didn’t. Yes, I had burning desires and passion, however it was more about eating sugar and junk food. I was raised on Wonder Bread and Drakes cakes, devil dogs were my favorite. I ate Hostess twines, the banana ones were the best. ( yes they did exist) I also relished Kraft macaroni and cheese and Lipton Chicken noodle soup. All foods I would not eat today let alone even buy.
I had so many stomach and digestive issues and vomited more than a bulimic on a binge. The only problem was, there was no direct connection to all the sickness and the “food” I was consuming. I was the one who had strange viruses and illnesses that could not be explained. Then there was the sweeping general explanation; it’s in your genes.
It wasn’t until later in my life, my children were in high school, I got a divorce, I was sick of being sick! All this time, I still considered my food knowledge sound. I believed the foods I was eating were healthy and the grocery stores I shopped in to be informed and in control of my best interest. They were caring about what I ate because they had it in the store. After all, they are the ones in the food business, not me- right?
Today I would say, So how’s that working for you?
I was so sick of being sick, that I took it upon myself to start eliminating foods that I felt were suspect in making me feel bad. I started with Dairy, so I drank soy-milk, almond-milk, and hemp-milk. Then I eliminated peanuts and peanut butter, oh how I loved peanut butter. Skippy was my favorite. After all I grew up eating it, how could it be bad? Every time I ate it, I burped. No sooner had I chewed and swallowed it, I was burping. Then I read about the mold content in pistachios, I used to eat a lot of pistachios. Peanuts and pistachios contain the the highest amount of mold; eliminated. Each week I looked in my pantry and saw what I was eating, thought about how I felt when eating it, and proceeded to eliminate “foods” that made me sick.
During this time I was training to be a Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor, and Midwife. I was getting re-educated about muscles, tendons,bones, ligaments and body systems. Which I had already learned about when I had gone back to school several years earlier. I was putting things together I was doing my own nutritional research and asking questions of any one who had knowledge about health topics. I eliminated more foods. I felt a little better, but still not as good as I had hoped.
My friend suggested that I eliminate wheat. I was horrified! OH NO! Wheat is in everything I gasped! So, reluctantly I started reading labels and picking and choosing how I could eliminate wheat. I love bread, pasta and cookies, so eliminating wheat was going without the main staple of my diet and a huge nutritionally void filler. I was feeling withdrawal before I even did without.
Back then, gluten free products were few and the taste was less than desirable. Cardboard tasted better with salt and pepper! I was so excited when I found gluten free bagels and soy cream cheese. I was in gluten free heaven and still had a stomach ache. Little did I know that I was exchanging one glue for another.
All the while I was getting hungry and having more cravings to be nutritionally satisfied and culinarily sustained. I did what any hungry person with the desire to learn and explore food would do, I went into the kitchen to cook, bake and play with food. In other words kitchen chemistry. I made more bricks, duds and door stops than a concrete factory, and I kept going!
Over the years as I continued to eliminate suspect foods I continued to experiment in the kitchen. My successes were far outweighing (in a good way) my duds, and I was really enjoying myself. Not only did I like what I made, my friends and other people I shared with liked it too. The more I experimented the more I learned, the better I got, the more consistent my goodies became the more knowledge I amassed. I was taking copious notes, and sharing the information I learned with who ever would listen. As I learned I made changes to my eating habits and read more labels. I took more classes and gained more wisdom and insight. The only problem, I was still getting sick. Not as often, but still with enough frequency to be uncomfortable and baffled.
I spent 2 weeks at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego. I did two 12 week sessions of Colon Hydro Therapy and then became a Colon Hydro Therapist. I continued to clean my colon regularly for another 2 years. I was getting better all the time, as well as the clients I was seeing. I continued to learn more and assist my clients with eating, wellness and digestive health issues. All the while using myself as a walking science experiment. I was diagnosed with low thyroid and I had a mass in my right ovary and fallopian tube. I had systemic edema, plural effusion and the Doctors all whispered and speculated cancer. I knew I didn’t have cancer, but when the “experts” allude to it often enough, it becomes difficult to be positive. I had surgery to remove the mass and, of course, did not have cancer. However the edema remained. I was diagnosed with a rare small intestine disorder that causes edema, but is really unexplained. You were probably born with it, is how the Gastro Doc explained it. Which is better than idiopathic, which means no reason no cause; but not much better.
So, again, I took it upon myself to eliminate more foods. I put myself on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, designed by Elaine Gottschall who wrote the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. I was able to do more experimenting because the only flour I could use was Almond flour, Hazelnut flour and for a special treat, Pecan flour. Honey was the only sugar source. I was getting very hungry after 3 months of that bare minimum eating protocol. I was craving Quinoa and sweet potatoes. After slowly adding back into my eating my favorite foods I was craving on the SC Diet, I have continued to stay away from soy, corn and rice. I do not eat cows or pigs and will not knowingly eat a factory farmed chicken or farmed fish. I am more likely to eat a rabbit or a lamb because I can source them from the farmer at my local Farmer”s Market, and learn where it came from, what it was fed, and how it was raised and slaughtered.
I was and still am convinced that I have the power to heal myself. I believe energetically we can already be healed and our physical bodies take longer to integrate. I believe this is what is occurring for me. However, it is frustrating to be without immediate results.
I have spent many years eliminating foods and researching ingredients. Some results come more quickly than others. I have educated myself in substance, form and content. It seems to be never ending, and it is, but I prefer to look at it as constantly ongoing. Just as life brings us so many profound and rich lessons, finding out what and how to eat, nourish ourselves and heal is a life long, ongoing process. This process is so much more than just food.
There came a time in my quest, that I knew I needed to move on. It was literally time to move; leave where I was. I packed up everything, put most of it in storage, the rest at my parent’s house, moved out of my apartment and drove away. I made a short detour to my cousin’s wedding in Santa Barbara. When I finally drove away after a wonderfully full and fun extended weekend, I asked myself why I was leaving the place I really wanted to be. I knew I had to go and do something else, but I didn’t know what, I knew I just had to go, and I could always come back! I had no idea where I was going, there was something I needed to do and so much more to see and learn. I lived on a goat farm for 6 weeks through the WWOOF program. I consumed a lot of goat milk, from goat to glass, and fresh eggs straight from the chickens. The farmers did grow some organic veggies but bought most of their food from Costco to save money and for the most part ate the standard american diet. I had my own food and was gluten free, as well as rice, corn, and soy, so I cooked my own food parallel to them and we ate together. What I learned from them about food is everyone has their own ideas about what is good,healthy, what is best and what is worth eating to constitute food for meals. Even though they had goats, chickens and the potential to grow most of their remaining food, convenience, cost and what they liked from the store was more of a priority. I was amazed at how few veggies they actually liked to eat. They just grew them to sell for extra income.
I was so glad to have had my goat farm experience, again it was time to move on. I felt like I was being birthed again. I was re-immerging back into another reality to move forward on my quest for knowledge and healing. I was so convinced I would quickly and easily find a place to live and a job; I was mistaken. Every place I looked either fell through or brought dead ends.
One day at a job interview that I was very excited about, the Human resources woman asked if I knew about the SRJC. I said no. She said they have cooking classes. I thought to myself, Cool, the Jewish Community Center has cooking classes, but Santa Rosa? Too far….
I was living in Novato at the time and the interview was in San Rafael which is where I wanted to live. SRJC is the Santa Rosa Junior College, I thought the JC was Jewish Community Center, I didn’t realize JC was still being used for Junior College. That was Thursday afternoon. I was enrolled in Culinary School on Monday and started my first 2 classes. Even through the annoying and some what arduous enrollment process, everything went pretty smoothly. I was on my way again. Classic French Culinary School, who would have thought; certainly not me!
As I progressed through Culinary School, my skill, confidence and appetite increased. I started off extremely slowly with adding foods I hadn’t eaten in years back into my eating. I found with great surprise and delight, I could eat pretty much what I wanted. I didn’t want to go through Culinary School and limit myself in content or quality. So, even when I chose not to eat something, I still tasted it.
As I became more familiar with the people and instructors in my program, I learned more about their own personal eating habits. Most of the time people ate at school, where we had all organic produce. We were allowed to take home leftovers. But when people ate at home or out and about, they chose cheap, easy, processed foods, including a lot of fast food from local chains. It all had to do with money, cost and budget. There was very little real food awareness or even care and attention to it. Many of my fellow students didn’t even know what a Genetically Modified Organism was. Some were interested in learning, and we would have good discussions about food and high quality ingredients. One of my young friends would tell me every time she learned something new or read an article or saw a movie about food politics and ingredients. Then we would have a discussion about it. I always enjoyed those light bulb food moments.
I thought it was very interesting how disconnected the students and instructors were to specific ingredients and to the global food politics movement. Simply having organic produce is the tip of the iceberg lettuce, when looking at food, food production and the food industry. I assisted one of my Chef Instructors known as the Veggie Queen, who is active in the vegetarian and vegan world and trying to diplomatically educate about GMO’s and eating a healthier lifestyle. She even seemed to be on the fringe at this school. I resonated more with her, because I saw her walking her talk which is extremely important to me in my own life.
At this point, I can pretty much eat anything I want, except scallops, which I am unfortunately allergic to. I however choose not to eat everything. I pay attention to how my body feels when I eat certain foods, after I eat them, and how they process through my body. Some foods I eat less often and others I continue to eliminate because I feel so much better when I do not eat them. This is part of what I call mindfulness eating. Being mindful of how certain foods affect my body and how I feel. Another aspect of mindfulness eating is consciousness. Being conscious of where the food comes from, what it ate, what it consists of and where those ingredients came from and how it was treated, and slaughtered if it is an animal. This takes being a consumer to another level. Asking questions, reading labels, voting with your dollars, then passing on what you have learned and uncovered to others who do not know.
We are powerful change makers and we do make a difference. Paying attention to many different aspects goes along way. Our food is very important to us. We deserve the best!
Being a Food Particularist is an ongoing process. I learn as I grow, I grow as I learn. Because I have gone through this process in my life I know it is all for a reason. I have learned so much. I want to share what I have learned so others do not have to re-invent the wheel in their own process. I continue to learn about ingredients and how to closely scrutinize a label. I continue to fine tune what I am eating to maximize how I feel and my nutritional intake. I even struggle with a few cravings, but I know my intention and determination to continue to heal is far greater than my desire to eat what makes me feel bad. I continue to be humbled by other people’s process and the struggles they have had to come through to get to where they are. I know I am moving forward with great passion and wisdom to continue to heal every cell in my body and to help others do the same.
If I could have done it a different way, yes I would have, however I know because I had all the experiences I had I have gained so much knowledge, wisdom and insight.
I can say I am proud to be a Food Particularist!