How Being Allergic to Everything Delicious Made Me Stop Obsessing about Food

I used to troll food blogs like pornography. Now eating has become just another automatic thing I do every day, like going to the bathroom.
Publish date:
April 9, 2012
food, dairy, allergies, gluten

First, you must know this about me: I love cheese. And steak. And brownies. And ice cream, OMG ice cream.When I was pregnant, I ate a giant bowl --- we're talking like, four generous scoops -- of ice cream every night after dinner, sometimes with a brownie. (It's calcium, right?) My babydaddy used to joke that I was going to give birth to a giant ice cream-covered brownie. I did not give birth to a human dessert, but I did gain almost 60 pounds during my pregnancy (and no, I do not regret it, but my doctor at the time gave me so much grief and actually told me to "Lay off the cookies").

I think we've established that I'm a red-meat-loving ice cream whore who doesn't want to live in a world without cheese. Also: coffee. And let's not even get into Nutella right now, OK? Because I will eat an entire jar of that if you hand me a spoon.

In addition to eating all these delicious things, I also like to look at pictures of food, and I'm that annoying one in the office who asks everyone in the breakroom what they're eating: Oooh, is that a burrito?And then there are TV shows about food. Did anyone see the episode of "No Reservations" where Anthony Bourdain goes to that weird convenience store in San Fransisco and eats the ginormous meat sandwich? It had like, pastrami, ham, bacon, a burger and hot dog on it, topped with cheese and an egg, and maybe your firstborn child, too, I don't know. Anyway, it was SPECTACULAR and I told my boyfriend we really needed to plan a trip to San Francisco just for The Meat Sandwich. He concurred, but we never made it up there.

If I were to calculate all the time I’ve spent and brain-space I've wasted thinking about what I want to put in my mouth (foodwise! I'm talking about food here), I'm pretty sure it would be enough to go back to college and finish my degree at least twice.

So I have a problem. Or rather, had.
My food allergies and sensitivities started a few years ago, and here's where I overshare in the grand tradition of all contributors before me: I had tummy troubles of all kinds, including constipation, occasional diarrhea, and almost constant and painful gas and bloating. I ate antacids every day. I had the internal plumbing of some fat, middle-aged trucker with the diabeetus whose diet consists solely of fast food, No-Doz and Mountain Dew. Which was odd, considering I had stopped eating fast food and drinking soda almost 10 before. I was miserable, but not miserable enough to figure out why. Plus, if I found out I couldn't eat cheese, what was the point of living anyway?

My breaking point came last year, when I made the obvious-to-everyone-but-me connection between all things gluten/lactose and my ongoing digestive issues. Did I mention I had also developed weekly migraines? Fun times.

I started eliminating gluten from my diet for a week or two at a time and then adding it back in. And every time I started eating it again, the digestive problems returned. Same thing with dairy: I felt great without it, not so great when I added it back in.

Once I came to terms with the fact that my love for my favorite foods was most definitely unrequited, I decided to completely eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet. Within just a couple of weeks, my stomach issues were completely gone. I was still having migraines, though, so caffeine and sugar had to go, too. I’ve been headache-free ever since. I feel amazing, you guys.

Let's recap: I don't eat gluten, dairy, sugar or caffeine. I also don't eat much meat anymore because all meat that is affordable to a gal on a budget is scary chemical franken-meat and I want no part of it. I'll have some chicken or fish every now and then, but I only buy organic. So what DO I eat? Mostly fresh vegetables and fruit; brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and other non-gluten-y grains; nuts, seeds and beans; eggs; and occasional tofu. Every once in a while I will splurge and eat some goat cheese because it doesn't bother me as much as cow cheese does.

In short: I am no fun.

You would think with all these restrictions I've placed on myself that I would constantly crave what I can't have: those cheesy, doughy pizzas of yore. Donuts. Espresso. Garlic naan. But honestly, now that I'm not eating that stuff, it doesn't even sound appealing to me at all (okay, maybe donuts). Some of it is kind of repulsive to me. If I were to witness The San Francisco Meat Sandwich in person today, I would probably hurl.

In fact, I don't even really think about food at all, except when I'm hungry. Or if it's the end of the week and it's time to go shopping again. The old me would have lustily poured through food blogs for my daily food porn fix, and the new me doesn't even think about what she is going to make for dinner until she is standing in the kitchen at 6:00. I know dinner is going to be vegetables and probably some sort of grain, and maybe some beans or tofu if I'm feeling sassy.

I’ve imposed dietary restrictions on myself in the past (hey, remember the Atkins diet?), but the difference now is I’m not arbitrarily denying myself certain foods because I seek an end result (weight loss). Now my dietary restrictions are purely health-related. This is the way I have to eat for the rest of my life, or else I’ll feel totally fucking miserable. In a weird way, that makes it easier.
Eating has become just another automatic thing I do every day, like going to the bathroom. I still eat all the time (I’m a snacker), but now I just do it and eat whatever appeals to me, so long as it isn’t on the list of things that will make me hate life.

I still eat ice cream and brownies (gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free), but the difference is now I don’t sit at my desk all afternoon daydreaming about them or feeling guilty when I do eat them. I just have them if I want them and that’s the end of it.Is this how "normal" non-obsessed people feel?