Greens and Body Building Machines
To me, food is fuel. It has not always been as such, but four years ago when I went gluten free and dairy free to combat a severe respiratory infection without having to take any antibiotics, I discovered there was more to it than I had expected. For years it had been suggested by doctors to do elimination diets, to cut out sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, food dyes and foods with more than a few name-able ingredients in attempts to combat GI and respiratory problems, and possibly help my anxiety and depression, but I was stubborn. I didn’t want to do it. Let’s be honest, giving up all your favorite foods? Hell no I’m not giving up this delicious cupcake for yucky bland tasting awful textured bread and pasta to maybe feel slightly less anxious and happier and less stomach achy. Absolutely not worth the satisfaction. Until I was incredibly sick. And then, giving up the foods I loved seemed nothing compared to having to go to the emergency room for nebulizer treatments to open my airway, to be able to talk again, and to be able to get out of bed. So I did it. Almost cold turkey.
Houston, We Have a Problem
When I was younger I was the queen of junk food. I hated eating vegetables. I only consumed white bread, hot dogs, mac and cheese, a little meat, lots and lots of ice cream, and pastries. While I wasn’t way out of proportion in the weight category, I was sick. All the time. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, I was itchy, my mood was out of control and I struggled with severe anxiety to the point I couldn’t even walk the halls of my school without my throat constricting a bit, my heart racing, or without feeling overwhelmed and panicked.
While food can’t all be contributed to these issues, I realized, with the change of my diet, the profound connection between my gut, and my mental status. I also realized the transformative effect food can have on a human being to reconstruct their system. I think a quote by Aristotle once said “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” and I could not agree more.
~A Whole New World~
After that period of sickness I have never gotten a severe respiratory infection again. I haven’t gotten the flu. Yes, I’ve had small viruses, a cold here or there, but NOTHING compared to the severity in which I used to fall ill.
After this realization, my world transformed. I began to view my body as my vessel, my sacred space that housed precious cargo. If I wanted to go out and pursue my dreams, I was being given the choice how to feed my body. I knew if I wanted to stay well, to do all the things I dreamed of accomplishing, my dream required the proper support with food as my fuel, and learning self care mechanisms that would support my being and keep me well. The more I eliminated process foods and junk food, the more my body couldn’t tolerate them when I would try to incorporate them again. Soon enough I stopped craving most of them.
Stop Yo’ Cryin
People often pity me for not being able to enjoy the same foods they can because they make my body feel sick. Honestly though, I could almost care less 90% of the time. My mom and I have a saying that “put crap in, get crap out.” Your body doesn’t know what it’s like to run on good, clean energy when it’s currently living in a dumpster station. That’s why I could eat junk food like a fiend without having the reactions I do to the junk food now. When I started feeding my body lots of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, grass fed meats and whole grains, it stopped being able to process the junk. It only wanted to eat foods to fuel. After I changed my food choices, my body craved kale and leafy greens consistently for a year. I’ve been hooked ever since. People look at me and what I’m eating and ask how I can eat “so healthy” and be “so good” with my food choices. To me, it’s just a lifestyle. I eat for fuel, for nutrients because I’ve seen in anatomy and nutrition class the nutrients the body needs to function. So when I eat, I aim to meet the nutrient density requirements, and generally my body craves the foods with the highest nutrients.
I love to cook. I can’t imagine a better way to share love for yourself than by preparing a meal out of reverence for the vessel that houses and transports you around each and every day. It’s like offering your body a hug and a gift of thanks for running so well for you. Or offering a pick – me – up when your body is feeling a little more sluggish than normal. Why do I enjoy preparing food so much for myself and for others? Because I’m being given the opportunity first hand to share nutrients that will support mine and other peoples’ vessels. Because I can infuse my food with love, with nurturing, with gratitude for the hands that are preparing it and the hands receiving it. Because it’s an expression of love, sharing in the nutrients, in wanting to share vibrant health and amazing jet fuel food to get myself, and those I share food with to even better homeostasis within our vessels.
So please don’t pity me for having “food allergies.” Because I don’t pity me.
I am grateful everyday for the opportunity my dietary needs provide me to nurture my body with every meal. Yeah, it’s going to suck sometimes not being able to pick up ramen or instant cheesy mashed potatoes along the trail for dinners. It would be so easy compared to me agonizing over how to prepare 6 months of food drops, possibly with or without grains. And yeah, I do miss the taste of real cheese sometimes. That’s life.
The health I feel now is way more important to me than the simple satisfaction of the taste of a delicious food. I freaking love to cook now, as I mentioned above. And having restrictions provides me the opportunity to prepare foods that can support my vessel, especially since my body is going to be hiking so many miles a day on the AT. Because my body is working so hard, it deserves food that is extra nurturing and supportive to its prime functioning.
Eating this way is an option, but it also really isn’t. If i don’t eat that way, I will get very sick (again). But I make the choice every day to eat this way because I love my vessel, and so fueling it appropriately is my way of thanking it for every step, every breath, every tear and drop of sweat it shed that day. Healthy fueling is my way to give back to my body what I’ve taken away from it due to the physical toll of the day.
Does this mean I don’t have gluten free/dairy free ice cream or treats now and then…. absolutely not. I love pumpkin pie, gummy bears, and fudge as much as the next person. And I do enjoy them within moderation! I just tend to use different ingredients that fit my “Em’s food-friendly-protocol”. Will I ever touch a soda on the trail? Probably not. Will I crave and possibly cry every once in awhile over not being able to have fresh kombucha? Quite possibly. I’m human, friends. I just eat a little differently than what I’ve heard other hikers might eat.
It wasn’t just food that transformed my being, it was a whole lotta loving, guidance from above (and within) guidance from those surrounding me, lots of hard work, lifestyle changes, self care lessons, therapy, time and much more. If you’re considering a similar change in diet or lifestyle please know I am not a doctor. While this kind of intervention worked well for me, every individual is different, and it would be beneficial to consult a professional for medical advice before jumping into a similar change to see what is most beneficial for your vessel. I am not trained to diagnose, or treat, I simply learned how to listen to my body and honor its requests for fuel, and listen to how my body asks to be cared for. Baby steps are key. This is simply what worked for me, and why I’m choosing to eat (and live) the way I do on the trail.
Love your body and remember to be gentle with yourself.
Love and snap peas,
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