Let’s throw it back to the pre-rebrand days when I was still @bitchesbeglutenfree, avoiding wheat flour like the plague in the hopes of toughening up my fruitcake of an immune system. Which, by the way, got compromised not from the trauma of leaving my mother’s womb — although I’m still struggling with that — but from a class trip upstate my freshman year of high school, where I got exposed to something that left me with a crippling 103 fever every day for 2 weeks. Said mother asked me repeatedly if I was making out with a boy who was sick, bless her heart. My ugly duckling-lookin ass didn’t turn into a swan until at least a full two years later.
Anyway, for the next 5, I proceeded to get sick constantly — sinus infections, stomach bugs, chronic exhaustion, UTIs, you name it — while my face developed a rocky terrain of cystic acne and depressive feelings flared from uncomfortable to intolerable. This was way back in the day when Americans outside of Berkeley, CA didn’t understand the power of ‘food as medicine’ or whatever; I only knew one Celiac girl at school, and totally gave her shit while eating her nacho rice chips as we gossiped during free periods. Antibiotics were presented as the only solution, and I consented to about a course of them a month — until my sophomore year of college, when an alternative doctor finally suggested that might be doing more harm than good. (No shit.) I was more confused and exhausted than ever, so off I went into the deep, dark depths of healthy Hell without much second thought.
Out went mom’s lasagna, matzo balls, and sandwiches from the place I loved up the block; my stomach swelled with probiotics, gluten-free bread, and overflowing shots of apple cider vinegar instead. I hypnotized myself to like coconut oil by the spoonful, crave almond butter for dessert, bake low-glycemic munchie food. I purchased 25 different types of herbs and $25 grip socks, becoming a slave to barre classes (#mindbodyconnection #stressmanagement #yeahright), drank so much mineral water I could practically call myself an amphibian, and asked bartenders for clear liquor without chasers. Most alarmingly — in retrospect — I abandoned my prized bookshelf for hours spent trolling alternative blogs and the VSCO-glossed Instagram pages of uncertified but well-manicured #fitfams, making lists of supplements I couldn’t pronounce but absolutely needed to buy.
I’d get high as fuck from the feeling of “doing good for myself,” way higher than any vape or pill ever got me.
My physical discomforts returned as quickly as they seemed to disappear, though. Maybe they never went away at all. It got to the point where it genuinely felt and looked as though everything I ate made me sick. I crawled out of my skin, feeling like an intruder in my own body. As far as I could tell, I was doing absolutely everything “right” — I was the pinnacle of health, the reigning Queen of Kale! WTF was wrong?! My anxiety surrounding mealtime shot through the roof: one bite of something that gave me any sort of symptom in the past, and I’d freak out about it for the rest of the day while busting out the charcoal, enzymes, oil of oregano, magnesium…
3 months ago, I reached the end of my rope and saw a traditional allergist and internist. I want to give you a good reason why it took so long, but I don’t have one. Like many of you, I simply became convinced of and addicted to the concept of “healing myself.” It turns out, however, my allergies are NOT gluten and dairy, as all forms of media would have me believe, but yeast, mold, soy, and coconut (!!). This means my no-no foods are dried fruit (BUT SUPERFOODS), apple cider vinegar (BUT SUPERFOOD), bread (BUT GLUTEN-FREE…SUPERFOOD), wine (BUT RED…SUPERFOOD) cured and aged meats and fish (BUT PALEO?!), cheese (BUT KETO?!?!), and, God rest ALL of our souls, fermented foods (BUT…THEY’RE…SUPERFOODS!!!). The things I was meant to avoid were the EXACT things I was binging on.
Think about it: a veggie-heavy diet meant a lot of salads, which meant a lot of dressing. Sliced turkey as a snack meant obligatory mustard. Perpetual bloat meant eating loads of kimchi or kombucha, in order to build up ‘good bacteria’. Not to mention all that meat I ate in restaurants while patting myself on the back for steering clear of carbs…tofu eaten in “vegan junk food”… powdered mushrooms instead of coffee…
Yeah. #cleanliving was actually obliterating my gut lining.
As with any juicy story, there are a few small but important details I left out before. Remember how I became a slave to barre? All that exercise spiked my appetite, and I would go ham on snacking. My fridge looked like a co-op’s, but nut butter is no longer healthy when you’re eating 3/4 of the jar in one sitting. Same goes for two burgers without the bun, three slices of vegan cheese, four servings of avocado oil potato chips…you see what’s happening here. What can I say? Filling grains were “inflammatory,” and nowhere to be found. My eating was insanely imbalanced, and no doubt fucked up my stomach further. But “too much” wasn’t — isn’t — a concept on Instagram, is it? Nor is the well-documented correlation between anxiety and digestion.
The cold, hard truth: “superfoods” have never actually made me feel like superwoman — they just inflated my ego while deflating my wallet. Shame on me for falling prey to the new public belief that one size fits all when it comes to health. Shame on you, too. Shame on all of us. It is both irresponsible and downright embarrassing to blindly take advice from people who merely seem that they are qualified to give it because of how they look, or a course they took at some fancy-sounding institute. Angels, goji berries won’t heal your clinical depression, and Paleolithic people died, like, very young. A healthy diet has nothing to do with image and everything to do with taste, feeling, and common sense…three senses that have dulled in the digital era.
Now, I could end this spiel with a description of what my diet currently looks like…but I’ll respectfully decline. I’m not a doctor, despite having watched the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy; and since no two bodies are alike, it’s unlikely my regime will work for you. Just know that I am finally “well,” in all possible ways. Here’s what I’ll leave you with instead, from someone “in the scene”…
Most of those gorgeous fitness girls you admire are wildly anorexic, seeking therapy multiple times a week. Your favorite vegan bloggers get drunk and house pizzas. Herbalists? Cigarette smokers. Energy healers? Sexual freaks! We are ALL battling darkness in our own ways, and coping with it the same. Follow your heart and your intuition instead of new people on Instagram. Ok? Ok.
Love you, mean it.