Thinking outside of the box

I haven't really brought up my physical health on this blog for a while, mostly because I've been feeling pretty well, save for a bad cold in December, and because I've enjoyed writing posts that are less about my day-to-day in Boston and more about packaging moments in my life into something a little more inspiring and thought-provoking. But today, I felt I needed to write about my health, because that's all I can think about. And if I don't leave it out on the (virtual) page, it'll possess me disproportionately. But by the end of this post, things get a little more humorous, so keep reading and bear with me until then. 

This week, I was reminded: while I am not my disease, I am still living with one.

For my past three blood tests, my TTG antibodies (the go-to indicators for celiac disease) have remained high, meaning that gluten has been sneaking into my life and putting me at risk for all those terrible things can that happen when you're doing a shoddy job at living gluten-freely. Long story, short, my body hasn't been able to ignore two trips to China, weeks spent in different cities and kitchens across the US, and the inception of a baking business in the past nine months.

The most annoying diet I've ever had to follow was a pre-procedure diet of strictly water, boiled chicken, and white rice with a little salt in the 12 hours before the 12-hour fast before my endoscopy. Luckily, that was only for a day. Since last April, I've gotten used to eating a gluten-free and generally low-FODMAP diet. This was extremely hard at the beginning, and my friends scratched their heads over it every time I came over to their houses, especially for summer barbecues. As much as I loved dipping everything into hummus and adding caramelized onions onto anything savory, limiting these and other delicious items in the red section of the FODMAPs chart made me feel a whole lot better.

But the medical verdict I've been given this time in response to my bloodwork is particularly extreme: I can't eat out for the next three months and I can't consume anything that comes out of a box or package. Therein lies the difference between a "strict" and "ultrastrict" gluten-free diet. Even frozen fruits and vegetables--my ultimate money- and time-savers--are off-limits, unless I buy them fresh and then freeze them. I'm still waiting to hear back on whether I can have almond milk (my guess is "not unless you make it yourself") and if I can consume gluten-free grains other than rice (the food plan I was sent doesn't specify).

Of course, this comes at a moment when I have been meeting fun, new people, reconnecting with MIA friends, and on the brink of making good on those "we should get that long-lost lunch together" promises. Of course this comes just as I was planning all these trips back to the South, to Seattle, and even to Israel.

So, if you're reading and you had considered plans with me that roll over into a meal or involve food somehow, take note:

1. Wine is one of the five liquids I am allowed to drink. It is in the esteemed company of coffee, water, Gatorade, and plain tea. So if we meet, our options are Starbucks, a drinking fountain, a high school soccer game, and either a bar with an encyclopedic wine list or a few well-catered suggestions for medium- and full-bodied reds. If by the end of the three months, I'm starting to act like the moms who drink wine, you have my full permission to cut off my IV of Merlot and knock some sense into me.

2.  If it comes from an animal, I can probably eat it. With meat and potatoes or rice on nearly every recommended dinner, I'm convinced this nutrition plan was geared towards a soccer mom with at least three kids and a husband who subscribes to the Standard American Diet. I have a lot of respect for the magical moms who do it all and who have categorically run me off New Jersey highways in their fully-groceried minivans as they rush to get home in time to cook. But this diet was clearly not made for a twenty-something who eats vegan 85% of the time and whose grocery budget, already expensive from gluten-free foods, will go up by 50% if meat is added into the equation. Then again, maybe this is the universe's way of saying, "I've really been wanting you to try offal. Now is the time." Or, "That ostrich and alligator meat at Savenor's has your name on it. Heed the call."

3. The most comparable existing fad that matches with this food plan is the paleolithic diet. In advance, I promise you that I'm not going to start Crossfit and become "one of those people." Yoga is as far as I go in terms of voluntarily subscribing to yuppie trends, now that craft cocktails are off-limits.

I'm doing my best to shift my perspective here, but it's still a pretty difficult situation. On a bad day, it's easy for me to feel like I'm going through it alone. So for now, I look to your support and count on your compassion.

And provided it doesn't conflict with your geography or your ethics (food or otherwise), I invite you to come over and help me cook my way through the best and most legitimate gag gift I have ever received from one of the most wonderful people I know:

"Fifty Shades of Chicken."