I’ve been abiding by some set of food rules since I was 15 years old. Fat-free, vegetarian, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Cabbage Soup, starvation. Many of the rules were of my own making. All of them were designed to give me “safe” guidelines from “scary” food. It was insane. But it was my life, for a really long time.
Two years ago, I went to see a nutritionist named Erin Dudley, and she saved my life. That’s the topic of another post. Erin taught me how to eat like a normal person again — a normal, healthy person — because I had totally forgotten how. Her rules replaced my other, unhealthy rules — but they were still rules.
Erin stressed to me the importance of eating the highest quality food you could find. Of course, I took it to the extreme. I remember being at Target and looking at a thing of mushrooms. I needed toilet paper, socks, toothpaste, light bulbs and mushrooms, but instead of buying the mushrooms at Target, I put them down, paid for my other stuff, and drove to Whole Foods. To buy organic mushrooms.
It was at this point that I became a food snob. I subscribed to a community-supported agriculture program and toughed it out through the fall and winter, when all you get is root vegetables and pears. If a recipe called for a tomato in February, I just didn’t make the recipe.
I also liked to evangelize my “new way” to anyone who would listen — and to people who really couldn’t have cared less. I lectured my mother about the importance of eating local. I sneered at her Foster Farms chicken. I remember having impassioned conversations with my mom friends about only buying organic, BPA-free canned foods. Also, about how much better a carrot tastes when it’s fresh from the ground. I’d kind of like to go back in time and punch myself.
Five months ago, I switched to a (mostly) grain-free diet. I didn’t do it to lose weight; rather, I hoped eschewing rice and pasta and bread and pizza would help correct some long-term health irritants that I won’t go into. My doctor suggested outpatient surgery as one route to alleviate my symptoms, but told me that other women had seen great improvement going grain free. I wasn’t thrilled to give up my carbs, but I didn’t want to do surgery, either.
So, I waded into the Paleo morass, with its unique cross section of food rules and food snobbery. This could have been dangerous territory for me: I could have backslid into an eating disorder, or I could have become even more tiresome with my endless food yammering. But somehow, I managed to take what I wanted from the diet and disregard what I didn’t.
Yes, I bowed to the god of coconut oil. I made my own grain-free granola. I made bone broth. I tried, unsuccessfully, to make pizza crust out of cauliflower. I spent a shit-ton of money on food and more time in the kitchen than a celebrity chef.
However, I also ate dairy. I drank wine. I ate deep-dish pizza in Chicago, because DUH. I ate bread in Paris, for the same reason. Actually, I did more than eat bread — I had two pains au chocolat in one day, and felt not the slightest bit guilty.
The rules of the Paleo diet bugged me, but I think the sanctimony bothered me more. (Probably because I recognized myself in the tedious lectures about legumes.) Well-meaning Paleo people will post recipes on blogs and get taken apart in the comments for their use of almond flour or agave nectar. The universe does not need another online argument about whether or not sweet potatoes are “allowed.” And then, there were the lasagna noodles.
One day, while looking for a use for leftover chicken, I found a recipe on PaleoOMG, for Creamy Rosemary Chicken Lasagna. Yes, lasagna. I have two other people to feed, and though they’ve been good sports about the grain-free thing, sometimes they just want some freakin’ pasta.
Anyway, I was going to use the $6 gluten-free noodles they sell at Whole Foods, but just for fun, I clicked on the link for lasagna noodles in the recipe. They cost $55. That’s not a typo. To be fair, it’s $55 for four packages, but that works out to over $13 per package. For noodles. Over 47 million Americans are on food stamps, but I guess it’s OK if poor people eat cheap food, isn’t it?
There are people, and a good friend of mine is among them, who have genuine food allergies. She cannot eat dairy or gluten or fibrous vegetables or garlic because if she does, her body will revolt. People like my friend need food rules. I get it.
But other people are just bored, I guess. They need a hobby, something other than making Paleo mayonnaise. They need food rules to feel safe, like I did. They need food rules to feel superior.
I chose to go mostly grain free as an experiment, and it was an experiment that worked — in more ways than one. My aforementioned long-term health irritants are much improved, so I avoided surgery. For now, anyway. And also, I proved to myself that I could restrict what I ate without getting all crazy and extreme. I’m restricting because it makes me feel better. But if I want a damned cupcake, I’m going to have one.