Moms, friends, don’t tell me the stubborn belly bloat doesn’t sometimes descend on you too. It makes you feel tired, icky, ugly. Stay tuned because by the end of my story, you will have the exact tools and some easy tips to figure out the culprit in your diet. Plus learn some simple steps that can help you feed a kid with food allergies.
Beauty and diet, aaaagh!
This morning, when I woke up and looked at myself in the gigantic full-length bathroom mirror, I was pleased with what I saw for the first time in a long time. Ever since children happened to my body, I have felt self-conscious of a belly pooch that won’t go away. But today I feel like the belly area is acceptable. Not amazing, but acceptable. Because of this I find myself heading into the very unfamiliar territory of beauty and diet with this post. I can’t even believe this is happening to me, the one who has had one single salon manicure in her entire life. The one who is too lazy to make an appointment to get her hair done. The one who has literally spent approximately 2 1/2 hours for the entire year of 2017 so far clothes shopping for herself. The one who likes comfortable earrings that match everything so she can go 2 weeks without changing them. Well, here I go. Bear with me. Please don’t judge. But you may be surprised where this post ends up.
So, I’m wearing a skirt today. While showering I mull over the various basic black skirts I have in my closet, and I find myself settling on a full volume skirt I bought about 10 years ago. Way pre-child days. To spare you the trouble of trying to understand the descriptions of someone so fashion challenged, I’m adding selfies here. (The horror, I’m sorry. If you keep following my blog after all of this, you are a true friend.) And then I thought to myself, why is it that when I am comfortable with my body, I am comfortable wearing styles that add bulk, but when I’m not, I opt for more form fitting silhouettes? I wore the bulkier one, and I felt good. It just goes to show, beauty is not necessarily in how you look, but also in how you feel.
I’m not counting calories or dieting. I haven’t been exercising more than usual. By that I mean chasing my girls around or carrying laundry baskets and groceries up and down the stairs. This is not because I’m satisfied with my body. It’s pure laziness, *please see my previous explanation of my beauty philosophy. So, while showering I also started wondering why my belly blob seems to have gone away, finally. This is when the swirl of thoughts and recent conversations rolled together in my mind to come up with the substance of this blog post. I believe this miracle of belly fat disappearance is because I recently pinpointed a food allergy. Enough time has gone by for my body to regain it’s health since I started strictly cutting my allergens out of my diet.
Allergies and intolerances
Now here’s something I know more about. I feel entirely comfortable with this subject, because I have had food allergies all my life. I have a severe tree nut allergy, and as a child I was also allergic to eggs, dairy products, legumes, and coconut. My parents once dreamed of being vegetarian. Then I was born. Try getting any plant protein into a kid who can’t have nuts or legumes. Oh, that’s OK, just give her cottage cheese or eggs. Nope, never mind. She just threw up. Legume allergy meant no soy. I challenge you to find a pre-made salad dressing, non-dairy spread, pasta sauce, or store bought loaf of bread with no soybean products in it!
My mom was amazing! She made homemade whole wheat bread the entire time I was growing up. She taught me words like whey and lecithin. Ingredient label speak for milk and soy products. Even when I was 3 years old, an adult could read me a label and I could tell them if I could eat that food or not. She became an expert at adjusting recipes to be allergy friendly. Keep in mind, this was the 70’s. I was still the weird allergic kid that everyone was afraid to inadvertently poison. Allergy awareness was not a thing. There were no rice, soy, or almond milks in the section next to dairy. (Weirdly again, I am not allergic to almonds or peanuts.) So my mom made almond milk for me with a blender and a cheesecloth. She made me peanut butter and carob balls as a substitute for chocolates.
Of course, I took this all for granted as a kid. I knew, eat that, you may end up in the ER, so don’t even go there kiddo. My favorite food on pizza night was Dinty Moore Beef Stew. (anyone?? I thought not, lol)
And I didn’t feel deprived. I was the kid eating fruit leather from the Whole Foods store before that was the cool thing to do. Looking back, I realize how wonderful it is to have a mom like that who was able to roll with the punches. She kept me fed, healthy, and even happy with what I could eat.
Once in my volunteer work I met a mom who’s infant had just been diagnosed with several food allergies, and she was distraught. Her mind was zooming ahead through her baby boy’s life, and she was envisioning all kinds of issues and problems. Then, there I was in front of her. A living specimen of a functioning, normal adult with food allergies. My tips about how my mom dealt with it as well as my reassurances that I had a truly happy childhood calmed her fears. That was the first time I had thought about this subject from a parent’s perspective.
So if you are a parent of a child with food allergies, take heart. I survived. So did my mom.
In my adult years my dairy and legume allergy went away. I was able to eat any dairy products I wanted for about 15 years until I started experiencing sudden digestion and fatigue issues. A couple of years went by before I connected them with dairy. I know, duh, right? Just wait. I quit eating yogurt and cottage cheese, stopped adding milk or cream to my coffee. I felt much better. Fast forward to earlier this year, another 7 years later. Once again, digestive issues and other mystery symptoms were plaguing me. Things like clenching my teeth in my sleep, wheeziness, sinus headaches.
I was a little baffled. So I went into battle mode, allergy sleuth style. I decided to do an elimination diet of all potential culprits. I gathered my tools: a bullet journal, a couple of allergy cookbooks, a calendar for scheduling when to reintroduce certain foods. I went all out. I cut out things I never had an issue with in the past, because I was going to get to the bottom of this.
My bullet journal. Not pretty, I know. Nothing glamorous is happening in this post 😛
Five weeks later after many baffled evenings contemplating my growing pile of conflicting evidence, there was an epiphany, a light bulb! I read the label on the English muffins I usually eat for breakfast and guess what? Yep, dairy! Duh! I had forgotten about breads, cereals, granola bars, crackers, dressings, sauces. I spent five weeks sleuthing out what I already knew I was allergic too. Grr, (eye roll) whew! I dusted off my ingredient label skills and I have now weeded out all hidden dairy (and soy was causing the wheeziness, so I’ve also gotten stricter with that). Good morning to a day of poochlessness. Yay!
What you can do
Do you have unexplained fatigue, headaches, digestion issues, bloating, sinus problems, etc, etc? I highly recommend doing a little detective work yourself. I suspect many, many people would feel much healthier (plus happier) if they were able to pinpoint hidden food allergies or intolerances. It is much simpler than it seems. I felt overwhelmed too, even with my extensive food allergy experience, when I started my elimination diet. But it has been so worth it. It’s not just the belly. It’s your mood, your well being, your pain level.
Here are some suggestions that may help you get started.
- Do you have any health conditions? Start by researching diets geared toward that. For example, if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, many experts recommend restricting dairy and/or gluten. For some conditions a vegetarian diet is recommended.
- Make a list of foods or food groups that you would like to test.
- Make a list of symptoms you feel.
- Make a menu plan. In my case, I did better using a general plan versus writing out complete menus with recipes, but do what is easiest for you. Aim for at least 3 weeks of NO suspect foods at all.
- Go shopping. Make sure you have plenty of allowed food in the house. No one needs to starve!
- Read food labels. Don’t make the mistake I did and keep eating products with the suspect food in the ingredient list.
- Using a calendar, plot a plan for reintroducing foods one by one, with a 2 day gap in between for noting symptoms. This way you will be completely certain which food causes which symptom.
- When reintroducing foods, take careful note of how you feel the next couple of days. Don’t worry, it will be pretty clear if something bothers you.
- Get answers, and hopefully a little relief.