Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Marisa's Menu: The Challenges Beyond Gluten-Free

My hair, courtesy of the talented Ali Owen at Hagoyah

Why must it be a neverending struggle to nourish myself?  I am 100% on board with the dedication to nourishment.  And I am very patient, diligent, disciplined, and determined.  But I still repeatedly get frustrated by the little things that just seem to create road blocks along the way.

I am talking about my challenge that goes above and beyond being gluten-free.  I still like to tell myself if I were only trying to be gluten-free, that it would almost seem like a piece of cake by now.  At one point, it absolutely was the most annoying, defeating, depressing, and frustrating thing imaginable to me.  But on year 4 of my own gluten-free challenge, I now feel fairly confident with that piece of my lifestyle.  It is the ignorance I encounter, the other food intolerances I now have, and the lack of whole, simple food options in certain locations that will send me into these frustrated states.

My spoiled bird Sunshine, being a total baby
How many times am I going to have a bad reaction to a food or ingredient only to realize that it could have been avoided.  But I was SO focused on the gluten-free/ dairy-free / nightshade-free piece of it, that I full on neglected to notice a potential offending ingredient.  I know it is a learning process.  And I have come so far. I really am aware of this.  But it still sucks.  And I still pretty much react with palm to forehead …”really Marisa??”  How tunnel visioned can you be?  But it makes sense.  I pick the very most important parts, which can sometimes be very difficult to communicate if you are eating out, or even attempting to prepare meals. And that is when I unintentionally skip over a key trigger.  Every single time.  

This time it was the scenario of trying out the dietary restrictions at a new location. Luckily I had the security of knowing a staff member at the bistro, so I did feel confident that once I spoke to her, it would be OK.  But there is still always that nervous apprehension the first time I go some place.  The two items I ended up with were a Brussels Sprout Arugula Salad (Shaved brussel sprouts, arugula, dried cranberries, bacon & Dijon-Maple vinaigrette), and Lamb Sliders (which I got without the bread, & they were made special to meet my criteria). 

Dangerous but delicious salad with the hidden sunflower oil

Within a few hours, my back was killing me, which I just attributed to being tired from the week possibly.  But when I woke up the next day, I was congested in the throat area, my entire body hurt, and my rings would not come off of my hands (which indicated that I was super swollen).  I referred to my food diary (which I strongly suggest anyone with any type of suspected food intolerances should do - it is the best way to scientifically determine what may or may not be a culprit).  And then I decided to research, and make some calls in regards to the dried cranberries.  Low & behold, apparently these dried “fruits” are actually cranberry skins that have been injected with sugar, citric acid and SUNFLOWER OIL.  So there was the presence of my nemesis in this case - some hidden sunflower oil.  So frustrating.  What a waste.  If I am going to feel like crap, and have a bad reaction to sunflower oil, I would WAY rather have eaten a gluten-free pizza with Daiya Vegan Cheese (which has sunflower oil in it).  OR perhaps I would have gone to a favorite burger joint, & ordered a hamburger WITH an Udi’s gluten-free bun (which also has sunflower oil in it).  But to be crippled in pain (causing me to miss yoga, & pretty much have a worthless day off work), because of eating some dried “cranberries” really does not sit well with me at all. I don’t really even like them.

So my pleading to everyone else out there who is suffering from food intolerances, is to please find the strength to be persistent, inquisitive, and arm yourself with knowledge.  And don’t ever hesitate to ask questions before you order your food.  Otherwise you will just end up asking the questions later, to locate the culprit.  It takes some dedication and a strong will to be your own advocate.  But it is worth it.  I try very hard to consistently take these steps, and I feel that I do the best job I can.  But I still have these hiccups.  It is very easy to do, especially if you find food you think you can eat.  Sometimes the joy of seeing “gluten-free” next to something I used to love to eat is so intoxicating that I really do forget everything else, just long enough to not remember to ask about what the flour is made of, or what oil they use.  It’s a tough process.  But it does get easier.  And if I look at things in the grand scheme, I really AM learning something each time I experience what seems a like a road block. Something good always comes out of it eventually.  In this case, it was a blog entry, learning about the dried cranberries, AND a reminder to continue on the path of being my own advocate.


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