During times of stress, most people have a harder time keeping up with healthy eating habits. For me, though, I don’t really have much choice but to try and keep up with my meal plans because my body suffers too much if I don’t. It used to be that if I forgot my lunch, I’d be able to grab something to eat on campus, and I could generally find something that was relatively healthy and tasty.
Life is different now, so I am always planning ahead and obsessing about meals. If we forget to pull something out to defrost, it generally results in a meal with eggs and potatoes (because we never seem to be out of either of those items). My partner works full time and is working on her doctorate. I’m an assistant professor on the tenure track. Our schedules are insanely busy and I frequently wish there was someone who could cook for us. Or that I didn’t have food restrictions.
My best pal told me about the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker and said it was a life changer. I wasn’t convinced. I asked if it was going to make my life easier than a crock pot. She assured me that it would, and said that she found her food more flavorful than when she used a crock pot. I became a little more interested. Then she told me it cooks frozen chicken in fifteen minutes. Hallelujah! So we caved and bought one.
I am in love with it.
The first thing I made with it was chicken, and I used frozen chicken breasts. A quick internet search turned up this video:
I followed her instructions (thank you, Busyzgirl), added a little broth, some roasted red pepper sauce and a bit of broth, and some basil.
In just a few minutes I had a yummy dinner. I used the leftover liquid to make a yummy sauce for the chicken. It was super delicious.
Make life easier for yourself. Buy an Instant Pot. Or ask someone to buy it for you.
Many years ago when I was visiting Vermont with my best friend and her family, her father made a comment that stuck with me (for a variety of reasons). I was eating something, I can’t recall what, when he said “I hope you never gain weight, because you love food too damn much to not be able to eat whatever you want”. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I conveyed my love of eating while I was eating (apparently I make mmm mmm noises as I eat). While I’ve never really worried much about my weight (and really, why bother, there are so many other things in life to get worked up about), now I do have to worry about what I eat. And it sucks.
The diagnosis of IC has been a hard adjustment for me. I already had a restricted diet, since gluten and dairy were already triggers for my belly. I eliminated all the triggers recommended when I was first diagnosed with IC and have been slowly adding them back in. At this point in the process, I’m aware of a number of different foods that either cause an IC flare, or cause problems with my stomach. So far, I know I can’t have soy, citrus fruits, onions, root beer, vinegar, chocolate, blackberries, cheese, strawberries, apples, garlic and tomatoes. I avoid the foods labeled with “caution” on the IC Food List, and sometimes try the ones listed as “try it”. Yet, I still struggle and feel deprived at times.
In reality, I know that I am not all that deprived. I have plenty of food to sustain me on a daily basis and don’t have to worry about going hungry. Yet it is a pain to have to plan meals out in advance every single day. I can’t forget lunch and grab something quickly because that will result in painful consequences that will last a week or more. I can’t just go to a party or out to eat with friends–I have to plan ahead to figure out if there will be food I can eat. And if not, I have to eat before I go. I also have to communicate with friends, acquaintances, and co-workers to clarify what will be served and what I can and cannot eat. Sometimes these conversations are uncomfortable. When I practice mindfulness all of this is a bit easier to cope with. It helps me be more intentional about planning meals, and more aware of the reactions I am having to my food choices. If you are struggling with food allergies and aren’t practicing mindfulness, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Check out these sites for more information on mindfulness practice:
For folks with food allergies and chronic health issues, having a great support system can help to alleviate some of the stress experienced from those issues. I feel very grateful to have such a great support system. In the past, reaching out for help has been difficult. Showing others that I am vulnerable used to always feel like such a huge risk, and I did not want to appear as “weak” or “needy” to others. Various life challenges have taught me the value in reaching out to others and I am getting better at asking for help.
When I was first diagnosed with IC, I struggled. Liz, my fellow blogger, was a huge support. I recall dropping by her house one day and standing in her living room crying because I was so frustrated. We traveled together from Memphis to Las Cruces last December, and it was really easy to travel with someone who had similar food issues. Each time we were hungry, we consulted phone apps and tried to find a place that would accommodate our combined food issues. We crabbed about the lack of choices offered, and celebrated when we found a place that had yummy food AND we didn’t experience any reactions to said yummy food.
My partner is another huge source of support. Sometimes the thought of going to the grocery store will bring me to tears. On those days, she offers to go instead. She knows that I love food, so she seeks out new recipes and tries to modify them to accommodate my food issues. When I am in pain, she tries to find ways to soothe it. There have been a few times when we ate out and I was tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, and she gently asked if I was sure I wanted to risk it.
On Sundays we regularly get together with friends for Sunday dinner. My friends ask me about what food I can have, and are sure to make adjustments to the food so that I have something to eat. They make sure I get salad before any vinegar is put on, they use rice noodles instead of regular ones, and they always ask “hey, can you eat…”. I am so grateful for their attention to this. It’s a small thing to some, but to me it feels like a lot.
Spending time focusing on the gratitude I feel and expressing it to those who have been so supportive helps me feel better. It really helps when I’m having a bad day with food or pain, because somehow it takes the focus off the pain or limited food choices, and replaces it with feels of warmth and love. This doesn’t mean I ignore my real feelings, it just helps me to shift my perspective a bit. If you’re not used to reaching out for help from others, or letting others know what you’re going through, give it a try. It will make your food issues easier to cope with.
Who moved my cheese? is a great book about change, fear, and acceptance. In my case, it is figurative and literal. I love cheese but cheese does not love me. It has been a life long, unhealthy relationship. Initially, after finding out that I cannot have casein my love for cheese grew stronger. Over time I learned to live without cheese. But there are times that most of us with food restrictions go through when all we want is to eat ‘cheese’. I found myself this week eating a lot of cheese. My self pity overrides my common sense (and, frankly, my concern over others’ discomfort around me at these times) and I refuse to change. Accepting change is hard. Maintaining it can be just as hard.
Who moved my cheese? points out that we need to alter our behaviors in order to let go of fear and embrace change in order to survive. If we don’t chaos ensues and our well-being is threatened. So someone moved my cheese. So what? We all need to ask ourselves is it about the cheese or is it about being told I can’t have the cheese. Why fear change? Use the maze you were put in and focus on the positive.
Movement in new direction helps find new ‘cheese’. Life moves on and so should we.
~from Who moved my Cheese?
Liz the lazy, cheese eating – cheating, cook