Goats Are My Heroes; Or, How What I Don’t Know Keeps Biting Me

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Recently, Shaunta posted about the problems she was having adhering to a gluten-free diet, and it got me thinking about my own situation. During the last six months, I have not intentionally eaten anything gluten-filled (nor have I knowingly eaten anything else on my own personal Sick List) — and considering how much I loved the living shit out of all kinds of gluteny goodies, that’s pretty danged good. Credit given, head patted, oh goody joy.

However. There have been plenty of times when I didn’t look carefully enough, and then got glutened. Back in December, I joked to a friend that I wished someone could “double-blind” me and maybe slip me soy sauce when I thought I was eating tamari or something, that way I’d know this wasn’t all in my head. Well, it ain’t no joke, I’ve “double-blinded” myself plenty since then, and let’s just say that if there were still pay toilets out there, I’d probably be broke by now. Let’s see. There was the yummy dessert tea (Almond Sunset), which turned out to have barley in it. There was the store-bought mole sauce, which had frigging wheat crackers as an ingredient. There was that oh-so-delicious house-made root beer at a local pub…yep, barley again, dammit. There was the oatmeal (*coughMcCann’scough*) processed at an oats-only facility, but likely cross-contaminated during transport. Oh, and don’t even get me started about the number of times I’ve ordered fried food in restaurants without asking if they fried their wings or potatoes in the same oil that they did their onion rings or chicken tenders in, or if any of those things were dusted with wheat flour before cooking. And even when I did get confirmation about a wings-only fryer, I neglected to ask if the jerk sauce I was about to order had gluten in it…ayup.

Why does this keep happening? What’s the point of adopting a special diet if all I’m going to do is cross my fingers and pray that what I just ate doesn’t have any sickmakers in it? I might not make myself ill as often, but if the purpose of this is not to get sick at all by my own doing, I’m falling down on the job. Pretty much literally.

Part of this, I think, goes back to the constant admonitions I experienced as a kid that I was being weird and difficult and a pain in the ass and people were tired of hearing my annoying voice and answering my dopey questions. In Gluten-Free Girl’s book, she talks about not wanting to seem like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, that woman who drove waitstaff and dinner companions to poo-flinging monkeyhood by asking for sauces on the side and things warmed up to just the right temperature. Yep. I’ve had that thought, too — I don’t want to be one of those people, picky picky picky, it’s just food, damn it, one meal out of your life, cook it yourself if you want it just so. Only it’s not just for a meal that I might not find exactly to my liking, it’s for a meal that might well put me out of commission for the rest of that day, and maybe the next day, too, maybe even longer.

So yeah. I have to be one of those people, if I don’t want to get sick. I have to. And that also means limiting my restaurant options to places I know for sure are nontoxic for me, and potentially foregoing stuff I might really like, because it’s not safe for me to eat it, even if the ingredients look okay on paper. Same goes for food at parties, conferences, other people’s homes, whatever. That’s the other mondo sucko part of this. Not that I don’t enjoy cooking, and do lots of it, because I do. But I don’t want to cook 21 meals a week from scratch week in and week out, okay? I just don’t. Who does? So that pretty much means that before I go anywhere, or have anything delivered to me, I have to, underline HAVE TO, do my homework. Call them ahead of time if need be, to make sure that what I’m about to put in my mouth will make it past Checkpoint Charlie at the entrance to my belleh. Ugh. I just have to remember that I’m not the first person in the world to ask them about the gluten (or dairy, etc.), every restaurant gets calls like that all the time. They won’t hang up on me.

Not, of course, that a little experimentation is necessarily bad, because that’s how I find out what I actually can have. Which brings me to the goats — or more specifically, their milk. Since I started accumulating lists of No foods, I pretty much assumed that all dairy products were off limits to me, because I had such terrible problems with anything having to do with cow’s milk (exception: clarified butter, which has no milk solids). But after about five months of total dairy abstention, during which I tried pretty much every vegan cheese substitute there was to try and hated all of them except Daiya mozzarella (which still feels a little weird going down, for reasons I’ve yet to quantify), I finally broke down and bought a small piece of chevre at Trader Joe’s and said, “What the hell, if I can’t eat this, I’ll pass it on to someone who can.” Y-reka! It was SO GOOD. None of that plasticky, rubbery taste I’d been suffering through, and my stomach felt fantastic after eating it. Oh, man, did I ever miss cheese.

And from there, you know what I did? I bought a quart of goat’s milk. And I made some damn mac and goat cheddar cheese (with Ancient Harvest corn/quinoa elbows). Heaven on a fork, and my tummy was so pleased with me! Then I made a milkshake with the goat’s milk and some Tempt hemp-milk chocolate frozen dessert. YUM-MEEE! And I could make my beloved Siamese Chicken Curry with Broccoli and Peanuts, which I’ve made for over two decades and which always tasted “off” when using milk subs, and it was just how I remembered it. And oh, the goat cheeses and sheep cheeses that were out there for me to have. A Brie-like soft cheese that I could have with my gluten-free King Arthur bread! Some ricotta (goat) which I combined with Pecorino Romano (sheep) to make eggplant freaking Parmesan! So two of my former “regular rotation” recipes came back to me, just like that. (Cow’s milk in any form continues to be a no-no; I had some butter the other day, just a small amount, and my stomach gave me the finger.)

So now artisan cheese, or at least some of it, can be part of my life again. If only someone would make a great gluten-free artisan bread…

Happy Musical Blast From the Past: The Rubberband Man

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Because I thought we could all use one. I know I could.

This is a live performance of the 1976 smash hit (#2 pop, #1 Hot Soul in Billboard) by the Spinners (The Detroit Spinners in the UK) featuring the late, magnificent Philippe Wynne on lead vocal, as shown on the 1970s US TV series, The Midnight Special. According to The Billboard Book of #2 Hits (yes, such a thing exists, although they only did it once), Thom Bell and his lyricist, the late Linda Creed, wrote it to cheer up Bell’s son, who was being picked on at school for his weight. It’s all about a “short fat guy” who uses a giant rubberband to make funky music. (Lyrics here.) Check out the rubberband dance action at the finale!

BADD 2011: (In)(di)visibility

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011
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Blog note for newcomers: Welcome to my world! All first-time commenters (or those whose IP addresses have changed since they last commented here) automatically go into moderation; I am in the U.S. Pacific Time Zone and work nights and sleep days, so it might take a while for me to approve your comment. Trolls, however, can expect to be immediately perma-spammed. Thanks.

I am not divisible from my fat.

- Marilyn Wann

How do we separate You People from this terrible condition you have and make you normalnormalnormal? How? How?

I’m a big fatty and a big autistic. There are differences between how I’m regarded in society because of my fat, and how I’m regarded in society because of my autism, but the big difference for me is the issue of individual blame. Nobody has figured out a way to rank out autistic people for “giving themselves autism,” not yet, so all the catastrophizing about autism centers around how did we as a society damage so many brains all of a sudden, and how can we stop? (Of course, those of us who were diagnosed in adulthood, or clearly had autistic ancestors whether they got the diagnosis or not, could tell them they’re asking the wrong damn question, but we’re usually dismissed as either too autistic to see beyond our own noses or not autistic enough to understand. Funny how that cuts in both directions.)

But fat people get blamed for their fat from here to Sunday, and every Sunday after that. It’s all about the naughty things we put in our mouths, and if we’d only stop, we could be normalnormalnormal forever…right? Never mind that almost nobody manages to lose a third or half or, gods help us, three-fourths or more of their body weight and keep it off for good with no physical or mental health consequences whatsoever. Somebody, somewhere did it, just like somebody, somewhere fed their autistic kid the “right” diet and made them normalnormalnormal, so that means it will work for everybody, everywhere.

I know there are people in fat acceptance who don’t like their fellow fatties defending their “good health habits,” that doing so defends classist and ablist tropes about how we somehow owe it to the world to be perfect angels with no vices in order to earn the “good fatty” badge (while thin people are perfectly free to have all the vices they want, as long as said vices don’t show up on their thighs). I understand where they’re coming from, but it’s also true that being perceived by others as being self-destructive and unreliable costs us jobs, educations, housing, medical care, and so on. The perception of fat people being self-destructive and unreliable is directly rooted in the idea that if we just tried a little, normalnormalnormalcy could be ours, and we just don’t feel like it, pass the chocolate-covered French fries. But for most of us, achieving the state expected of us wouldn’t just be a matter of trying, it would be the equivalent of earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics while simultaneously working swing shift as a police officer and raising triplets as a single parent — and we’d never get to stop. Maybe someone can actually do this, but expecting it to be a routine occurrence is, frankly, an expectation not supported by existing evidence.

I’m spared this expectation when it comes to my autism. But I also know that almost all the research on autism is going into prevention — “catching it” as early as possible, preferably in utero, and if not, then in babyhood so that as many autistic tendencies as possible can be beaten back with various therapies. It’s not going into what I can expect of my autistic brain as I age, or into services that might actually make my life better, or into improved diagnostic tools for adults, or even much in the way of assistance for autistics of any age whose families are not affluent. In fact, this focus on prevention pretty much rules out making any effort towards improving the life of any autistic person who insists on presenting as autistic after the age of, oh, 16 or so. We’ve been written off as useless employees, bad relationship partners, people whose judgment can never be trusted, people whose executive function in all areas renders us incompetent, and even too dangerous just to be around, just because of our diagnosis. Get to know us as individuals before deciding we’re wastes of skin? Hah. Never happen.

Make no mistake about it. In both cases, it’s divisibility we’re fighting about. It doesn’t much matter if divisibility from our “abnormalcy” is thought to be a matter of individual initiative, parental effort, or sweeping societal change. The basic assumption is that there’s a normal person underneath waiting to be liberated, and the goal of finding that normal person “trapped” in a defective body should take precedence over everything else.

But Meowser, suppose there WAS a cure for those things? Wouldn’t you want it?

Short answer: Not as much as I want a cure for my irritable bowel syndrome. That really blows some chunks.

Longer, more serious answer: That depends. What else would this “cure” do to me?

The very nature of fixing things means you run the risk of breaking something else. Sometimes that risk is worth taking. Not eating gluten or cow’s milk (I can handle goat’s milk in limited amounts) is a royal pain in the patootie, and I dread going back to New York and being surrounded by great pizza and bagels and cannolis and challah and wondering how I’m going to avoid succumbing (and subsequently spending way too much of my trip in the john). But I remember the days of crapping my brains out and having horrible gas pains pretty much every day of my life, and I don’t want to go back to that, thanks. That “fix,” so far, seems to be worth it.

But if you’re Officially Fat, you already know what it’s like to be faced with the hard sell of a “cure” that turns out to do more harm than good. We’re faced with incredible pressure to take diet pills that will inevitably get pulled off the market because of serious health sequelae, get surgery with an incredibly high risk of death and complications, or spend every spare minute we have working out like hamsters on a wheel while running a serious energy deficit. This is not optional; in many cases, we must actively disobey our doctors not to take the “cure” that’s offered us, even though the evidence that it will actually make us permanently thin is pretty damn sketchy. I don’t have to, because my doctors are smart enough to know that telling people they have to lose half their body weight in order to improve their health is ridiculous. But I’ve seen enough medical records through my job and talked to enough of my fellow fatasses to know that this makes me quite privileged indeed.

The “cures” offered so far for parents to try to “fight” autism are either extremely risky (chelation, avoiding vaccines) or much too expensive, time-consuming, and socially isolating for them to be doable for most families (full-time ABA, GAPS/SCD diet), and the evidence that they actually help autistics is not exactly clad in iron, any more than the alleged cures for “obesity” are. What makes anyone think any subsequent so-called cure is going to be any different? Wouldn’t you more or less have to have a full brain transplant in order not to be autistic at all (as opposed to simply finding it easier to pass for nonautistic)? And if you have a full brain transplant, how are you still you?

Recently, codeman38 commented on Shakesville that while he wouldn’t want the full brain transplant, he wouldn’t mind having an “off button” for the autism to be used in certain situations. I know what he means. I can’t drive a car because I get momentarily overwhelmed by everything whooshing through my filters; I wouldn’t mind a “cure” that would allow me to turn it off while I was driving. But again, if I take it, what else is it going to do to me? I’m already on some pretty serious chemicals for major depression that have, for the last 20 years, pretty well mulched what was left of my metabolism; I accept this, because to me, nothing is worse (or more life-endangering) than feeling like you’re a piece of shit that deserves to die as painfully as possible. Is Asperger’s in that same category of soul-sucking, life-threatening puke vortex? I don’t think so. Not enough of one that I would monkey with my other major organs in order to turn my brain “right side in.” Whatever that means.

Want more BADD? Click here for the full list!

How A Bowl of Oatmeal Pissed Me Off

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Right now, as I’m typing, the number 1 most e-mailed story on the New York Times site is Mark Bittman’s evisceration of McDonald’s oatmeal. The article pisses me off, and I’ve been trying to figure out why it pisses me off so much. It’s not because I’m such a big fan of either McDonald’s or oatmeal, both of which I’ve always considered to be food I eat, if I ever do, because it’s there and not much else is, it’s not something I ever really crave. (Your mileage on either may, of course, vary, but that’s just me.)

And truth be known, I already do most of the things that foodie scolds like Bittman think I should be doing (even more so now that my diet has been purged of stuff that makes me too ill to function), and I’m sure they’d be pleased as punch if not for the fact that I’m DEATHFAT, and thus, in their eyes, automatically in need of a conservatorship even without taking my brain cooties into account. I like the fact that Bittman, in his own way, is trying to make cooking less intimidating, and gods help me, I actually like some of his recipes. I’ve made his cornmeal pancake recipe (without the pine nuts) a couple of times, and it’s wonderful. And easy.

And I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to talk about perceived versus actual convenience, having once been married to someone who thought it took 30 minutes to empty the dishwasher and 40 minutes to drive from San Francisco to Reno. If you have access to a grocery store, cooking space and instruments, plus a little heat-retaining storage container for your oatmeal, he’s probably right that it’s faster to just nuke some rolled oats or put them in milk and let them soak while you’re in the shower, than it is to go to McD’s. And he’s probably also right that there’s more nutritional value in that then in any kind of “instant” oatmeal, and it will be cheaper, too.

So why am I so irritated with the article? Well, for starters, Bittman is one of those “you must cook” people who make me want to throw eggs on the kitchen floor deliberately. There was another article of his that I’m too annoyed to want to bother looking up now, where he said having lousy kitchen facilities was no excuse for not cooking; after all, he lived in a place with lousy kitchen facilities, and he just asked a neighbor if he could borrow theirs! Yeah, ahem. That’s IF you know people with a better kitchen, and IF you know them well enough to ask them if it’s okay to make a mess in their space, and IF they’d say yes, and IF they don’t live so far away that everything you make will get cold by the time you get it home, and IF it’s actually safe for you to be there by yourself, and IF you can manage to carry all the stuff over there and back…all of which, of course, will be a slam-dunk for every single NYT reader, since poor (or disabled) (or geographically isolated) people don’t ever read it, and if they do they’re not in the NYT’s prime demographic anyway, so nyaah.

So I’ll admit it, Bittman was walking a fine line on my personal Annoying/Useful scale already. And I think I hit upon what pushed him over to the annoying side; it’s all the stuff about ZOMGCALORIES and YUCKCHEMICALS, and although he doesn’t mention fat people specifically, he might as well. MCDONALDS AND THE UNWASHED MASSES IT’S PRACTICALLY A RECIPE FOR INTERPLANETARY FATTY BOOM BAH DOOM. Now, granted, most of his article focuses not on how people have tuna cans where their brains should be if they think this stuff is “healthy,” but on how McD’s should be ashamed of themselves for telling people it’s “healthy” when it’s not. Why, he demands, couldn’t it be made with honey and skim milk instead? (Er, maybe because they tested it and people didn’t like it?)

But all you have to do is read one page of the comments to know that the implication is exactly what Bittman intends; you ARE a tuna-brain if you eat this stuff, ever, even with a free coupon. Making your own oatmeal, or your own whatever, is what sets you apart from the hoi polloi, who are foolish enough to think five minutes waiting alone in the drive-through for a little peace and quiet is some sort of gift. Because you know EXACTLY what it’s like to have to work two jobs to feed your kids and only get three hours of sleep a night, and one more set of dirty dishes plus a microwave mop-up shouldn’t faze anyone, period, end of sentence.

But seriously, is this stuff any worse for you than instant oatmeal you buy in the market? Or at Starbuck’s? And frankly, with my digestive wonkitude, it’s practically the only thing I could eat there for breakfast (hold the cream), if I was on the road or something. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the onus against “processed” food, and I wonder where the line is for the foodie scolds. Isn’t everything we eat processed in some way? Is my brown-rice pasta, which consists of brown rice flour and water, a “processed” food? After all, that’s not how rice looks coming off the bush, right? My Daiya (non-dairy) cheese is processed all the way, and Whole Foods sells it proudly. Fish from the fish market? Well, it’s not like they have a boat and a net and a freshly stocked lake in the back of the store and they just throw it off the boat to you; someone has to take the bones out and clean it and pack it and treat it to prevent spoilage.

Look, I’m all in favor of nutrition, and I’d definitely say that if millions of people have to make the choice every day of “eat McDonald’s or starve,” that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. But then again, I don’t see anyone rushing in to fill the vacuum with anything better — that is, of comparable price point, ubiquity, and near-universal digestibility, plus more optimal nutrition. Know what’s really not healthy? Not eating at all. I’m not sure where the foodie scolds get the idea that it would be better to let poor people starve to death than give them McD’s, but way too many of them seem to believe that, and it’s scary.

Quickie Reblog: Fategories

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I don’t usually do this, but hey, if cutting and pasting’s good enough for D** S***age, it’s good enough for me. About a year ago, I did a post called “Fategories” (yes, I finally fixed the spelling in the post, although I can’t manage to fix the URL), wherein I came up with my theory about why so very many people are so very eager to hack up unsolicited diet tips anywhere there’s fat people, especially fat people who say they DON’T want their farkakte diet tips. It’s because there are four basic human metabolic categories, and people giving the diet tips mistakenly essentialize their experience in getting and staying thin as universal.

To wit:

Category 1 is people who can get and/or stay thin through no effort whatsoever; in fact, they would have a very hard time not being thin, if ever called upon to do so.

Category 2 is people who can get and/or stay thin with a token effort — that is, doing so doesn’t take over their entire life. (Although they might not be able to get quite as thin as they think they should be, if their body ideal hovers somewhere below a BMI of 20.)

Category 3 is people who can get and/or stay thin (or even anywhere close to it) only by devoting their entire lives forever to the cause.

And Category 4 is people who won’t be able to get and/or stay thin (or anywhere close) no matter what they do.

Most diet-tip hacks are category 2′s, who mistakenly think everyone else is a category 2. But occasionally you do get category 3′s who think everyone should have the exact same degree of obsession that they do (and for the most part, either haven’t passed the 5-year mark or haven’t lost more than 30 pounds to meet their goal). And sometimes you get category 1′s who are blissfully unaware of their genetic privilege.

Once more, with ketchup: If you think you believe in human diversity but you draw the line at body size, sleep requirements, physical and mental ability and predisposition to sustain daily multi-hour “vigorous workouts” forever, and indulgence in the desire to have a decent-sized slice of one’s own birthday cake…you don’t believe in human diversity. One of the Slog posters on Lindy West’s post said something like this, which I will shamelessly paraphrase in order to avoid crashing my browser and yours with a mega-comment thread: If you only need five hours of sleep to feel fresh and alive…GREAT. If you never eat sugar or flour and never ever want to…FABULOUS. If you have such a great time in the gym at 5 AM that you never want to leave…WONDERFUL. If a spirulina shake at lunch fills you up for the next six hours…CONGRATULATIONS. Really. But why does everyone have to be your clone?

The Happy Foods List (A Work in Progress)

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After my last post, The Well-Rounded Mama asked me in comments whether I had plans to do a post about what stuff I can eat without tummy trouble. Why, yes, in fact, I did. And here it is.

Now, bear in mind a few things:

One, I haven’t tested everything yet in isolation, particularly some fruits that are out of season. I’ll be marking a few items as subjects for future research.

Also, I’m still trying to figure out for how long a problem food is going to continue giving me problems; I’ve been known to have asplodey after one bite of an ostensibly safe food, or even after drinking water. Eating or drinking anything is bound to stimulate the gastrocolic reflex, especially if it’s feeling particularly sensitive (as mine does for the first few hours after I get up). But chances are pretty good that if asplodey happens immediately, it has a lot more to do with something I ate quite a while before that. Maybe even a few days before that, for all I know; transit time can be tough to pin down.

And I’m not going to discount stress — including the unbelievable amounts of stress I was subjected to pre-aspie-diagnosis — as a factor in stomach upset, either. Not to mention decades of ibuprofen and naproxen overuse for my killer cramps because my first GYN scared me by saying, “There’s a death rate on the Pill.” (Right, doc, and there’s no “death rate” on hurting so badly every three weeks that you want to yank your uterus out and flush it down the john?) Nor have I ruled out the possibility that my problems could be a harbinger of something more serious, and I’m actually strongly considering getting scoped in order to rule that out. But when I’ve eaten something my southern half disagrees with, I do start getting inklings of it pretty quickly.

So here goes:

Stuff I can eat when I first get up: Hoo boy, this has been the landmine for me. For a long time, I was getting up so late that my breakfast was my partner’s dinner. I’ve since realized that I can’t really do that; I have to acclimate my digestive tract to the fact that it’s expected to receive nutrition after being in a stupor for the last 9 (give or take) hours. Now I make sure there’s at least a few hours between the time I get up and the time I eat dinner-type foods, and I make sure to have something small first. I’ve tried high-protein breakfasts, mixed carbs and protein, just carbs, high fat, low fat, medium fat, big breakfasts, little breakfasts, medium-sized breakfasts, fruit-only breakfasts…you name it.

And this is what I’ve come up with: The best thing for me is a small bowl of gluten-free cereal and some hemp or soy milk, and if I handle that okay, follow it up half an hour later with some berries (frozen if off-season). My favorite is Mesa Sunrise Flakes, which I get in economy bags from the local hippie stores; they taste great, and I’ve never had any belly rebellion after eating them. If I have to dash and don’t have time for that, I carry some raw cashews and some Mary’s Gone Crackers with me, and eat either or both them when I get peckish. I may look for a different GF cracker besides MGC, though; they taste fine, but sometimes they make my teeth hurt. (If you have recommendations, feel free to share.)

Stuff I don’t know about because I haven’t had a chance to test it yet: Cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, melons, grapefruits (who knows; oranges seem to be on the “no” list, but small amounts of lemon and lime juice don’t bother me), asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, clarified/drawn butter (or ghee).

As long as I’m mindful of when I’m about to reach salicylate overload (I can tell if I’m starting to feel agitated apropos of nothing in particular), I can consume the following: Broccoli (must be careful of undercooked stems due to FODMAP issues), eggplant, olives, spices, herbs, coffee, tea, peppers (though I hate bell peppers and pimentos), yams, zucchini, cucumbers, spinach, water chestnuts, alfalfa sprouts, berries, dried apricots, grapes, almonds, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, cornmeal, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias, mint, pickles, popcorn, wine, rum, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce.

FODMAP-listed stuff I know I can work with are the following: Anything in the onion family as long as I don’t eat the white parts of the flesh (I can cook with it for flavoring), broccoli (beware undercooked stems), carrots if cooked or shredded and I have a little dextrose with it, tomato sauce or ketchup if I have a little dextrose with it, any legumes (including soy products and any flours or noodles made from legumes), brown rice as long as I don’t go too hog-wild with it, pomegranate juice (it’s tart, so I just use a little for flavoring fizzy water), small amounts of honey, fruit sweetener (including agave), or even HFCS (which I avoid for metabolic reasons, but if some sneaks past me on rare occasion it’s not going to kill me), coconut milk or cream, small amounts of sucrose (table sugar) or brown sugar (i.e. table sugar plus molasses). Gatorade, SweeTarts, and Smarties are my go-to sources for dextrose at the moment, though I’m considering getting some dextrose powder to see if it’s more effective.

Foods that are generally no problem for me at all (see above for caveat about breakfast): All nuts not listed above, any kind of fish, meat, or poultry, all non-gluten-containing grains not listed above (oats can be okay depending on processing), tamari/liquid aminos, all vegetables and tubers not listed above, bananas if they’re not underripe or overripe, mangoes, small amounts of dark chocolate if not made with milk fats, garlic, salt, eggs, all oils not listed above, Earth Balance spread (indispensible in baking), vanilla extract, gluten-free beer, sparkling water, fish sauce, liquid smoke, hemp milk.

I just got an Imperia pasta maker and am starting to make my own GF pastas (flour blend is 1/3 garbanzo, 1/3 cornstarch, 1/3 tapioca — it doesn’t taste beany at all once it’s cooked). YUM! I also ordered some Better Batter flour mix to try out, so that my partner can (I hope!) go back to doing the baking he used to do before I started tinkering. (He’s not doing the same restrictions I am, but he also doesn’t want to bake things I can’t eat.)

I’m sure I’m going to forget some things and have to add them in later.

With that in mind…got any good recipes for me?

2011 Resovolutions, Part 2: The FODMAP Not Taken

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I used to fantasize writing a universal cookbook for eating theorists. Each food would come complete with a citation from one system or authority claiming it the most divine edible ever created, and another, from an opposing view, damning it as the worst pestilence one human being ever fed to another.

Steven Bratman, MD, Original Orthorexia Essay

So for all the operetta involved in this dietary change, how much did it benefit me? Well, let’s just put it this way; it helped quiet down my noisy belleh, and I actually got a surprising brain boost out of it. I had thought all that stuff about leaky guts and opiate peptides was woo, and maybe it is, but the fact of the matter is that it made a difference in functionality for me. When I adhere to GFCF, I don’t feel like a totally uncoordinated stumbledrunk (most of the time), and I have markedly less agitation and anxiety and don’t stim as much as I used to. It could be that only a small percentage of autistic folks actually do get this benefit, but I do seem to be one, though a “cure” it ain’t.

As it were, though, I was just scratching the surface. Sure, I’m “sensitive” to food. I’m sensitive to air and water, why the hell wouldn’t I be sensitive to food? But the question nagging me was, was it really going to be every food that was going to give me problems? Do they even make diapers in my size? Yeah, I know a certain tiny percentage of post-chole patients do have issues with bile salts (warning: grody stuff in link) and have to go on something like Questran, but my patterns didn’t seem to fit that. Some foods really have been okay. But here’s the thing: When they diagnose you with IBS, what’s the first thing they tell you to do? Eat a high-fiber diet. Which usually means lots of things like whole wheat bread, brown rice, lots of veggies and fruit. And these are undoubtedly wonderful things for people without major intolerances to have a lot more of, if they can.

But after I ate an apple and a pear from that Zabar’s basket, I knew there had to be more going on than just gluten and dairy stuff. Apples! Apples are health food, right? Keep the doctor away, right? Yeah. I had a childhood that was more or less one long stomachache, and do you think anyone would have taken me seriously if I’d complained that apples made me feel yucky? But they do, and the shrink sez it’s a common thing for autistic folks to have problems digesting. Along with pears. And tomatoes. And onions, which I’ve never liked much anyway but are undeniably useful for cooking.

So then I did some poking around and discovered the mostly-unknown-in-the-U.S. disorder called fructose malabsorption. Apparently, about 30% of the population in Western nations has it to one degree or another. Thirty percent! With rare exceptions, that usually doesn’t mean we can’t eat any fruit sugars, but that we have to know what our limits and triggers are. This covers not just fruits or their derivatives (including everyone’s favorite chewtoy, HFCS), but also many veggies and beans. (Does Michael Pollan know about this?) And in some cases, it can lead to problems digesting wheat and dairy, too.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that small amounts of Gatorade (which changed its formula in 2010), along with SweeTarts and Smarties, can help me digest things like tomato sauce and carrots, because the dextrose in them helps balance out the slight overbalance of fructose to glucose in the veggies. (These are the hard-candy Smarties known as Rockets in Canada, not the chocolate-based candy by that name sold outside the U.S.) Doesn’t do squat for me with apples and pears, though, or with any savory veggies or grains…oh well. But Gatorade! It keeps the doctor away! For reals now!

And more poking around still uncovered a condition called salicylate sensitivity, which we auties (among others) can also be subject to, and which covers the triggers I have that aren’t accounted for above. Guess which foods are highest in salicylates? Yes, that’s right — pretty much every produce item that’s not on the FODMAP list. (And Donna Williams, an autistic author based in Australia, says documentation exists that veggies are being bred these days with extra salicylates, which are supposed to protect against cancer.) Not to mention tons of nonfood stuff like aspirin and ibuprofen, and most commercially available shampoos and soaps. Holy frigging gluten-free donut holes, Batman. Maybe there’s a good reason some people resist chowing down on ten-foot piles of produce — we don’t just get a little farty eating undercooked broccoli stems, we turn our tummies into skin-covered Cuisinarts doing it, no matter how many times we try over and over again to “get used to it.”

Oddly enough, though, beans don’t bother me at all. Not even if I eat them with pickled cabbage slaw. I’m weird, I know.

I’ll probably keep thumping away on this drum until I die or get a knuckle-ache, but one more time for old times’ sake: Insisting that everyone “eat healthy” (or be thin) is a form of ableism. All of us can’t fucking do it. Oh, they think they’re not talking about people who have Medically Documented Problems eating fiber by the yard, but when we’re potentially talking about almost a third of the population, most of whom have no idea why they can’t “learn to like” stuff that’s allegedly good for them, something is getting lost in the conversation.

Dr. Bratman published his orthorexia article in 1997, but most of what he wrote still applies. Like him, I can’t help but be flummoxed by the fact that, after all this time, after all this study, after billions of human volunteers happily and unhappily offering their bodies up for the cause, nobody can come up with a unifying theory of nutritional medicine. Instead, what we have are handfuls of theories about what’s “good for us,” all of which cancel each other out. Is it possible that some people thrive as veg*ns? Sure. Is it possible that some of us really do have metabolic issues requiring a relatively high consumption of animal proteins? Sure. (Remind me to go on for about six weeks about low-carbing sometime, but for now I’ll just say that going to the grocery store and seeing apples marked with skulls and crossbones would make me snortlaugh to the point of hiccups.) And is it possible that some people have to be every bit as careful consuming “healthy” food as they do eating “junk”? Sure. But that seems to be too much complexity for all the eat-like-I-do gasbags out there to process, just like they can’t process that being fat doesn’t cause diabetes any more than male-pattern baldness causes prostate cancer, and that as much as we might like to prevent prostate cancer, we’re not gonna cure it with hair transplants.

The dietary changes I’ve made pretty much require me to learn to cook all over again, learn to grocery-shop all over again, learn to eat out all over again — in other words, all the things they tell us we have to do if we want serious weight loss. (Fifteen pounds is not serious weight loss for someone my size.) So yeah, I’m capable of doing that, if there’s a clear and imminent benefit to doing so. But here’s why it usually doesn’t work (especially in people who don’t binge) for losing and keeping off any more than minor amounts of weight, if that: people get hungry. Very few people are capable of ignoring constant, gnawing hunger for decades, and very few people can endure the disorientation of forcing themselves into ketosis for years at a time, either. If I pass a pizza place, I might lament the fact that I can’t have a slice without giving myself a terrible tsura, but I don’t have to keep telling myself you’re not hungry you’re not hungry nobody your size can be hungry you just think you’re hungry don’t eat don’t eat don’t eat don’t you want to be liked? Instead, if I’m hungry, I can reach in my bag and pull out some almonds or GF crackers and a portable squeezy tube of hummus, and have something else.

And if I want the pizza bad enough that I’m willing to endure the attending asplodey, I’ll have it. This is where “intuitive eating” becomes a process that incorporates left-brain knowledge about what I can physically handle and what I can’t (as opposed to “demand feeding,” which basically means giving the right brain whatever it’s clamoring for and trusting that I can handle it, whether true or not). I can have what all of me wants (and can afford, of course). And so can you, whatever that is.


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