Battle of the Food Allergies & Eating Disorder

A few weeks ago I wrote one of my favorite entries, Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?. I had always wanted to share with my readers how food allergies changed my eating disorder recovery in a myriad of ways.  Even though food allergies make recovery more difficult, they have helped me overcome and stay on top of my eating disorder (for the most part). I stay on top of my ED with a few simple tools: learning a new way to eat, inventive ways to prepare/cook food, meal planning-my ultra super secret weapon.

I grew up eating, enjoying, and cooking good ole Southern food. You name it I can make it. Chicken and Dumplin’s, beef stew, biscuits and white gravy, pound cake, layer cakes of all kinds, buttercream frosting, casseroles, apple butter, canned green beans, etc. If it was a cheese dish, you added extra cheese. If it was a cake, more frosting!  And like all Southern kids, I spent quite some time stirring the jelly in the copper pot while complaining my arms are getting tired. It took many years to master the subtle art of Southern-Appalachian cooking however, when I was diagnosed with food allergies I had to adapt to this new world of food. Gluten free cooking/baking a horse of a different color. I had to learn about flours and how they interact, how to make blends, how to decrease contamination. When it came to dairy free cooking/baking I learned how to make my own buttermilk, how to create dairy free cheeses out of tofu and nuts. I even learned to make my own nut butter since I was allergic to peanuts. It was, and still is an ongoing and fun process! I enjoy learning new ways of approaching food and the challenge of making gluten-dairy-nut-free food taste good.

Lets take that a step further and add eating a mostly vegetarian, sometimes vegan diet. It definitely makes things more difficult, maybe I am a glutton for punishment or I just like my tummy to feel good, possibly both. When you cook vegetarian or vegan fare it takes finesse, skill, and an understanding of spices/herbs, how you can make non-meat (tofu, mushrooms, beans, lentils, I don’t eat “fake meat”) taste like meat and manipulate the textures to make it tasty. When you have a meat loving husband you try even hard to make your allergen free, meat free, food taste better than their gluten and meat filled counterparts. It is fun to read cookbooks, find pins on Pinterest, and go on your whim-take what you already know and play with what you are learning or what you think would work. In other words: YOU COOK! I have had epic fails and amazing successes. All in all when I rely on good food I know I am nourishing myself which is exactly what Melvin (my ED) doesn’t want. Cooking is a way to shut him up and feed him yummy, tasty, delicious allergen free, meat free fare.

I have also started to incorporate mindful eating and a more yogic perspective on eating. The book Yoga of Eating inspired me so much.  When I eat more mindfully, as in I eat slowly and listen for hunger cues, I can stop myself from binging. I can also stop myself from getting sick and irritating my GI issues. I also try to eat smaller portions slowly so I can fully fill my stomach get full and go back for more if I  need it. I also try not to pigeon hold myself into traditional dinner rules or other eating rules. I may not have any grains in a day and that is ok because my body may not be able to digest it. I may have more grains than fruit. I  may have more vegetables that anything else. Whatever it is, I make sure I get enough nutrients and listen to what my  body wants. When I eat what my body wants and not what I want I again have set myself up for success against Melvin.

Lastly, my biggest tool against my eating disorder that I have learned in my fiveish years of this lifestyle, is to meal plan. I never really understood meal planning till I got married. I had to plan our meals and maximize our budget. Then that changed once I stopped eating meat. I had to plan my own meals, his meals, maximize our budget, and make sure I have enough food for snacks (which I have a hard time doing because I just think of three meals). I sit down each Monday and meal plan for at least two weeks, sometimes I get through one. I peruse Pinterest, cookbooks, and my recipe collection, pick similar recipes or recipes that use similar ingredients. I also look at my pantry staples and see what I can already  make out of them. I write down my recipe ideas, usually three to five dinners/lunches (it’s just me and I LOVE leftovers), three snacks that make multiple portions (raw bites or smoothies), and then I pick up some go to prepared but whole food snacks that I can supplement as well (bean chips, whole grain corn chips from Aldi’s, with their peach mango salsa is a must!).  I have noticed that when I don’t plan I go to the grocery store more I rely more on packaged, processed foods like Amy’s Meals, while great on occasion, aren’t the best all the time. Or drive thru Bo-rounds and their Cajun Pintos.  I also notice that Melvin is more rampant. I tend to refuse to eat because “I have no food” or I binge on junk food (vegan ice cream anyone?), I also feel hungry. My body isn’t properly fueled and can’t sustain itself with my busy and active lifestyle. Ages ago I could go on hours of exercise on little to no food. But now as I am older and more aware this yogic dancer needs her food or else I am not pirouetting or down-dogging!

All of these tools I learned or honed because of my food allergies. Without being diagnosed with food allergies I would not have learned how to use these tools to manage my ED. I am continuing to develop these tools and adding new ones to my arsenal. How do you use food to manage your ED or other food plagues? For my fellow allergen followers what have you learned from your food allergies? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comment section!



Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?

One thing I haven’t written about in the two-ish years I’ve had this blog has been how my food allergies has affected my eating disorder and recovery. I will admit having food allergies can make relapse easier and recovery harder. Especially when you are diagnosed right as you begin recovery. Food allergies are no joke as well as eating disorders. Every aspect of you life is affected by them.  You feel as if your food allergies are an eating disorder. You feel as you can’t recover. That it is easier to just give in to your disorder and feel sorry for yourself. But with time, it does get a tad easier…I said a tad not 100 percent.

I played around with the concept of recovery late summer of 2011, before I went to Bates Dance Festival and my last major injury. During this pre-contemplation phase, I was still restricting food and doing the usual ED things, but I was very very sick. I had constant battles with throwing up and constipation, tummy gurgling, and most of all 3 hour migraines every day with extreme fatigue, the migraines got worse when I exercised. For the most part my family and I thought it was seasonal allergies because if you live in East TN you have seasonal allergies, and just IBS from my dad’s genetics. I also didn’t give it much thought because when you don’t eat, abuse laxatives, and other means of self torture you just blame everything on your ED. This went on for a few months while I was in early counseling, mainly just talking to someone about my anxiety of being injured before a major summer workshop. While I was at Bates my throat began to tingle and feel off. I called my Mom and she said I need to go to an allergist.

While waiting to get into the allergist I had a session with my first successful counselor. We had a talk about what could be the worst thing about recovery or learning to eat more “bad” food. I remember saying, my biggest fear is having food allergies because food allergies with my eating disorder will be the death of me. Well, I guess my mind had the right idea because just a few days later I was diagnosed with food allergies; and not just one or two. But a slew of them: gluten, oats, dairy, shellfish, most nuts, apples, cantaloupe, melons,  and plums. That meant no more PB sandwiches. No more apples. No more oatmeal. Pretty much my safe foods turned out not to be safe!

I have my list of can and cannot’s and I feel as if I am back into Melvin’s grasp. He has me. There is no way I can make a full recovery with my recommended/must list of can and cannot’s. I already had a list and I didn’t want another one. I cannot go back and eat foods that I hadn’t eaten in five, seven, or ten years. I will never know what it is like to enjoy those foods I wrote off. Why? Because they are filled with gluten, oats, dairy, butter, peanuts, almonds, and everything that is delicious. Especially good Southern cooking—shrimp with cheese grits anyone?

I go to therapy. I go to the store. I go everywhere with my list. With my head full of confusion and Melvin cackling like a witch in my head.  Questions such as, “Can I eat this? Can I eat that? No I can’t eat this? Ugh, this bread is not bread, it is concrete! But I must eat it because it was eight dollars. What can I eat? I hate broccoli. All I can eat is vegan yogurt. I guess I will make tuna salad (back when I ate seafood) with veganase again…” I ate so much of that dairy free tuna salad that I have to leave the room if I smell tuna and I can still taste that tuna salad. I made a damn good tuna salad though.

Eventually one of my recovery warriors and good friend who was gluten free and dairy free stepped in and helped me navigate this new life. This new world of food. How I could eat well and eat to a healthier recovery. How to make bread that doesn’t taste like concrete. How to overcome the voice of Melvin when I am at the store when I get discouraged about not finding food. How to properly prepare food and plan for food success, and not relapse.

I still struggle with this aspect everyday. For four years it is a battle of Melvin wanting to manipulate my food allergies. It is an everyday battle of Melvin telling me to eat allergy filled foods so I can throw it all up and lose weight; but I say no because I hate throwing up. It is also a battle of not bingeing because Melvin will tell me that I can eat as much my sweet treat I want because it is gluten free, vegan, sugar free, Paleo…but if I do that then I will be full of guilt while being full of food. It is an everyday battle of Melvin using my restricted food list to restrict even more food.  On the other hand, I am learning how to enjoy free food. How to make healthy and indulgent coconut whipped cream. How to make flourless and vegan black bean brownies, that even the hubby liked.  I even made a gluten free, dairy free tiramisu for my birthday and enjoyed every bit of it.

Do you have food allergies and an ED?  Or maybe you developed an ED because of your food allergies? Let me know. I wanna hear from you!





rolling in the gluten free dough…

Daily Prompt: Ingredients

by Ben Huberman on February 9, 2014

What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us KITCHEN.


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I know this prompt is a few days old, but I don’t check my blog/write in my blog daily. When I saw the prompt I knew I had to write about this! For those who don’t know me, I LOVE cooking and baking. I grew up by my mother’s side in the kitchen. I had little aprons. I had real pots and pans, not just the Fisher-Price kind. Growing up I wanted to be a singer AND a television chef like Julia Child.

Cooking is in my genes. My mother cooks. My Memaw (grandmother) cooks. My Mimi (great-grandmother) cooked. My mom’s God-mother cooked. It was a way for them to show their love to others. Feed them mind, body, and soul. Growing up in the South a young girl is taught, more like schooled, in how to cook (all except for my sister, she never cared to learn). Family recipes and “old”/”country” way of doing thangs is passed down from generation to generation like cast iron skillets. I have early memories of stirring apple butter on top of a wood stove. I have early memories of learning how to make biscuits from scratch.  I have early memories of being taught my mom’s famous chicken and dumplin’s recipe. I adored making dumplin’s and dropping them in the creamy, white, thick, gooey broth. I even remember the first time I made buttercream frosting (just butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. NO EGGS. This isn’t Yankee buttercream).

As I grew older I learned more recipes. Boiled Custard. Mimi’s Applesauce Cake. Fudge. How to make cakes from scratch. Scones.  I learned stories from the good ole days of my Mimi. How they didn’t use toothpicks to test a cake, they used broomstick hairs (what is cool, you can still get these in old country stores and artisan shops).  I even learned how to properly season a cast iron skillet, and how to thump bread to see if it is done. It took me years to master flouring and greasing a pan. Let’s just say the kitchen sink and floor would be covered in flour!

Once I was diagnosed with food allergies I had to change the way I cooked. Suddenly those old methods of cooking didn’t apply to gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan cooking. But I loved the challenge. Learning to cook new styles of food and new ways of food has really broadened my foodie side even more. So now I am learning to turn gluten-free bread on its side after baking, that tofu can make: Alfredo sauce, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, and feta cheese. That gluten free cakes are different, but just as, if not more tasty than their gluten filled counterparts. And most of all, I can share these new foods with others. Just like my family did with their cooking, I can with my own cooking. I introduce people, and my husband, to this new and tasty world of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan-vegetarian world I live in. I feed them mind, body, and soul.

Now you maybe wondering, “this is about an ingredient or a cooking tool. This chick isn’t there yet.” Well I am getting there…I have to make all this food with something correct? I don’t have a magic wand to bippty boppity boo it (even though that would be super amazing if I did). I have to use my own utensils. And these are more treasured to me than some of my family recipes.

*Mimi’s Rolling Pin

This rolling pin is my Mimi’s from 1929. Yes, 1929! It was given to me by my Memaw about a year or so ago. I never had a rolling pin and was using an old Pam spray can as my rolling pin. I was(and still am) so in love with the rolling pin. My Mimi was a very special woman and I loved having something of hers. As my Memaw was giving it to me, I started thinking about all those biscuits she made with it. All the pie crusts. All the goodness that came out of her kitchen. I like to believe that her kitchen magic comes out in that rolling pin as I use it on my gluten-free biscuits and scones.

*Memaw’s Cast Iron Skillet

If you are not familiar with cast iron, here is a bit of information: just like silver, cast iron skillets are handed down from one generation of women to the next. Cast iron skillets must be seasoned. If you have a new skillet you must wipe some bacon grease (ultra Southern) or shortening then bake it in the oven, some people put it in a brown bag before they put it in the oven. After each time you use it, just a little soap and hot water does the trick for cleaning. You will then put more bacon grease or shortening and put it away. The more a cast iron is used, and the older it is, the more flavor is put in your dishes. You can do anything with good cast iron, make fried chicken, bake cakes, make cornbread, caramelized onions etc…This  past Christmas I was given one of  my Memaw’s skillets. I don’t know who was more excited, my husband or myself. Just like Mimi’s rolling pin, I believe her kitchen magic comes out of the cast iron skillet into my cornbread.

*My China

I didn’t register for China or crystal. I had no need to because I had a Hope Chest. Which was filled with pretty much everything my husband and I needed in the kitchen. One part of it was my china. The china is from my Memaw (catching a drift here?). It is a gorgeous Noritake pattern from the 1960s. It is antique cream with a blue trim. It has a trio of poppy’s (orange,blue, green) on it. It makes me so happy and it is a stunning set. Especially when I use my blue Noritake glasses we registered for.

So there we are.  My take on ingredients/kitchen tools. I hope this inspires you to go to the kitchen or take a look through your family recipe box. In the voice of Julia Child, “bon appetit!”

“Southerners know you can’t be considered a serious Southern cook if you don’t know how to make peach cobbler.”  – Trisha Yearwood

“Southerners equate food with love, so if you love what they cook, they’re sure to love you back.”–Kim Holloway