Food Allegies

Official Diagnosis: You’re on My Last Nerve

If you have followed me over the past few years or know me in real life you are aware of my Phantom GI Issues. For five years these episodes have controlled my life. There were days when I could not get out of bed. There were days when I had to leave work early because I couldn’t stop throwing up. There were months where I lived on smoothies and liquid foods. There were dates with the hubby that had to be cut short because I got sick and would pass out. Then there was the time I had an attack at the OBGYN office; the hubs had to pick me up and I had to drink the orange sugar drink they give pregnant ladies. I lived in fear (and sometimes embarrassment) of knowing that any moment I could have something coming out of somewhere.


Over the years I have spent more time in doctor’s offices then I’d like to admit. I have lost my temper and swore off doctors all together. I have had ingested more radioactive tracers than a “healthy” person needs to. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “you’re too young to be here” or “too young to be having these issues” I’d have a brand new car. I had tests done that costs more than a new car done that came back with negative results. I have tried medicine, food, supplementation, and just living to get this under control. I had to listen over and over again to people telling me that I need to ingest essential oils and I’d be cured. That I don’t do enough yoga or meditation. These antidotes spun around me like a record on a record player.


I got to a point where I thought they were never going to figure out what’s wrong with me. It wasn’t my gallbladder, my hiatal hernia had been long cured, it wasn’t my small intestine  and it’s function, my colon, or more food allergies. While I almost felt like giving up a part of me kept fighting on. I knew eventually something would have to give and I would find out what was causing my distress. Even though it seemed like no one was listening to me that something was wrong (it started to have that girl who cried wolf vibe) I knew internally something was off. I just had to find the right doctor.




After reading some research on a medicine I was taking, I began to think that maybe my nerves weren’t working. While I suffer from GAD and spent most of my life battling eating disorders, I thought that maybe somehow together they caused the nerves that go to my belly to stop working. If that was the case then maybe there is some way to stimulate them, just like the therapies that are out for Alzheimer’s and when you ESTEM a muscle when it has atrophied too much.  When I went to my new GI doctor we talked about that and he set me up for one final test. The results were positive! I finally got a result: I have gastroporesis/delayed stomach emptying. The nerves from my brain to belly in fact didn’t work. Since they don’t work I can’t tell if I’m full, hungry, or something in between.  I was so relieved. To think I finally had a diagnosis. That something was actually wrong with me! I wasn’t crazy.


With this new found relief came a whole new round of stress. Yup, the stress was still around. This time instead of worrying where the closest bathroom was I had to restructure my eating and lifestyle AGAIN. I’m not going to lie it was, and still is difficult. I had to stop eating vegetarian because I can’t digests lentils, beans, and most staples of a vegetarian die (bring it on to those who disagree with research and science). I’m slowly eating more mea and figuring out how to keep my veggie loving self happy. I have to eat small portions every few hours and eat very slowly.


While I still have some stress about eating, I feel relief in my diagnosis- almost a sense of peace. With this new found peace I am determined to finally have a healthy relationship with food. It will take some time but hopefully bite by bite food can restore how I view food once and for all.







When the Yoga Works

I have been practicing yoga for sometime but have really prescribed to it over the past few years and more so lately because I am a yoga teacher! So I really have to live up to the yoga hype right? Actually, I don’t have to live up to the “yoga teacher” hype but it does help me to be more aware of yoga practices, how to live more yogiclly, and to practice what I preach (which is so much easier said than done!). My biggest challenge in the realm of yoga and recovery life is that of being meditative.

Meditation is not what most people think, thinking of nothing. Meditation is developing a mindful attention to one thing at a time and giving all your energy and focus on that one thing. My meditation practice isn’t sitting there in lotus with my malas smelling lavender essential oil and chanting Ohm. In fact, my meditation is practice is anytime I can just be still and focus on one thing, usually it is a chore/task/yoga pose. My meditation practice has stepped up since yoga teacher training, before then it was non-existent. In my teacher training we were required to establish a meditation practice and journal it. I went from zero minutes all the way to seven minutes in the course of eight months. I went from manic monkey mind to just monkey mind. I went from unmindful and hustle bustle to a more mindful hustle and bustle. Sometimes I never really notice how far I have come until someone points it out or I am in a situation where normally I’d be a walking ball of stress and anxiety and I am surprisingly clam. Like a magically fountain spring in the holler calm. Nothing showed me this more than my recent trip to the allergist.

I went to the allergist to get my food allergy panel retested because it’s been a while and it needed a check up. If you haven’t experienced an allergy than you a lucky duck. Allergy panels suck. You  lay on your belly and they prick your skin. If that isn’t bad enough they begin to fill the little pricks with possible allergens. Right as those allergens hit the pricks your skin goes on fire if an allergen is present. Then you have to lay there for fifteen to twenty minutes. No music, no TV, no human interaction. Just you and the burning, itching, kerosene soaked fueled fire, that is on your back. You can’t scratch it. You can’t move. All you can do is lay there and breathe. Breathe. All I did was breathe. I practiced my breath counting exercise (my favorite pranayama, count inhales and make the exhales the same length). 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I began to feel the groundedness of laying on my belly. I began to close the eyes and imagine my breath filling up my body, just like I tell my students. I kept counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and  out 1,2,3,4,5,6. When my mind would wonder or think of something else I would acknowledge it and go back to counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I didn’t feel my back burn. I didn’t feel the itching. I lost track of time. I almost feel asleep (but that could’ve been because it was 8 am). Before I knew it the alarm went off and it was over. They counted my results and we discussed my test. After I left the allergist office I realized that yoga works. I was in a situation where I normally am unhappy, irritated, and dread. But I didn’t really notice much of anything. I barely felt any itching. I just accepted the moment.

Yoga works when you want it to. All you have to do is surrender to it and just do it! Just do yoga. Breathe in. Breathe out. 1,2,3,4,5,6.

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!