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.

Post Script

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,

E

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Comments 12

  • Lauren : Oct 20th

    Great article! I think about this stuff all the time. It is hard to faithfully follow it on a daily basis, but I know that it is possible. I make little efforts, even when I am not smart enough to make the big ones. Every morning I take a spoonful of raw apple cider vinegar and a spoonful of LOCAL raw honey. As often as possible, I drink Kombucha, and take morning shots of fresh, organic, juiced turmeric, ginger, and lemon. My family sometimes doesn’t understand why I don’t want to join them at the local diner for a family get together. Patience is the key for people who don’t want to understand! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  • Dustin : Oct 20th

    It’s very inspiring what you’ve been through. You manage to accept your condition and adapt to it. Not everyone can do that, including me, lol. My body developed this lactose intolerance during my teenage years. Always end up with diarrhea after drinking a glassful of fresh milk. Yet, I can’t tell myself to stop liking milk. It just feels great when I drink it that I’m willing to endure the aftermath effect. Maybe if my state grows worse like yours, only then I can convince myself that milk is not worth it, lol.

    Reply
  • Karin : Oct 21st

    You are an amazing young woman who God has put here to inspire others!

    Reply
  • Steph : Oct 22nd

    Hi Emily, Thanks for such an inspiring article. I completely changed my diet too, 3.5 years ago, to eliminate my GI problems, and now I feel the same way. “Food is fuel. Don’t pity me because I don’t pity me.” I always travel with food, and once, I even checked onto the airplane a week’s worth of food in a cooler packed with dry ice. But how would I pack food for a backpacking trip? Can you share your ideas on this one, please?

    Reply
    • Emily Bouhall : Oct 23rd

      Hi Steph! Thank you so much! I just outline this a little bit in a comment above, but I’m still learning too! Traveling is hard. I think the best thing I’ve found to prepare foods for backpacking is dehydration and shipping drops out ahead of time. I plan to come up with a mix of meals, and then make them in bulk and dehydrate them as I get closer. Also hoping to eat lots of veggies when I’m in town to make up for lack of fresh, and possibly supplement with collagen protein or bone broth protein powder and coconut oil/butter and coconut milk powder for extra fat/calories. I plan on posting a more detailed outline of my food in the future once it gets time for me to start the food prep process next spring!

      Reply
  • David Manning : Oct 22nd

    Great post! My wife has nearly identical food challenges and has solved her issues in nearly the same way. She uses the SCD diet. She switched her diet so radically (and it worked!) that she has started her Masters in Holistic Nutrition. She teaches cooking classes and helps people with food restrictions on their diets.

    We are both curious as to what your menu will be on the trail. Clearly, you won’t be sucking down noodles and Snickers. Will you be dehydrating your own food and shipping it? This can’t be an easy task.

    Best of luck. We live close to Snicker’s Gap Parking Lot on VA Rte 7 (1185.9) and would love to check in with you when you walk by next year. If you can reach out to us when you get close, we can figure out a way to enjoy an SCD compliant home-cooked meal with you (my wife is a great cook).

    Reply
    • Emily Bouhall : Oct 23rd

      Hi David! Thank you so much. I’m currently finishing up a nursing degree, but hoping to get further education in the holistic realm. I didn’t even know there was a masters degree in holistic nutrition offered. Where is she studying?

      I plan on posting a meal prep outline once I get a better idea of what I’ll be eating. I have an old dehydrator, so I’m planning to dehydrate lots of free range chicken and grass fed ground beef with different mixes of veggies and spices. I’ll probably eat dinner for breakfast most days too. If I can find dehydrated eggs that are free range hoping to stock up as well. While lots of gluten free carbs are not ideal, during the treks I took this summer I was ravenous with the grain free food I had. I plan to at least have one meal of grains a day to help with satiety and cut down on costs. Right now thinking about either a mixture of grass fed butter, coconut oil, soups with powdered coconut milk, veggie bouillons, dehydrated meat and veggies, and possibly adding collagen protein powder to all the meals. Maybe Dr. Axe Bone broth protein powder too since dehydrating the bone broth for soups was a fail. I will be shipping all meals ahead of time as drops along the way. I’d love to check in with you guys next year when I’m in VA! Thanks so much for the support!

      Reply
  • David Manning : Oct 22nd

    Too funny; I just realized my wife posted just above me 🙂

    Reply
  • Marty Bouhall : Oct 25th

    Fantastic Post!

    Looking into the future, I see a smash hit book called “Em’s Food-Friendly-Protocol” and I’ll want the first signed copy!
    Keep up the great articles.

    Love, Dad

    Reply
  • Tammy M. : Oct 28th

    Terrific article! I too have to eat gluten free and have concerns on how to best do that on a long distance AT hike. I would love to read more of your thoughts on this matter and would welcome some recipe sharing as well! 🙂

    Reply
  • Ruth Morley : Nov 5th

    I was really excited to see your posting. I have a lot of the same digestive concerns as you do, and will be starting a flip-flop hike next August, SOBO from Harper’s Ferry to Springer Mt. After taking the winter off, I’ll do the northern portion beginning April, 2018. After a bad case of “leaky gut,” depression, anxiety, etc., in 2015 and early 2016, I’ve finally got things much better under control, thanks to careful eating (the Paleo Approach), supplements, meditation, etc. Everything you said about your plans for eating on the trail rang true for me, as well. I suggest you begin now with the dehydrator and fall veggies at the markets, because I’m finding it’s taking a huge amount of time buying, preparing, dehydrating and packaging these foods for myself, and I expect the packaging and arranging mail drops to be equally time-demanding. As I type this, I have 9 trays of green beans drying in my Excaliber dehydrator, with broccoli and apples waiting their turn the next few days. As I say, it takes a LOT of time! But it will be totally worth it when we are able to do the AT with the proper nutrition fueling us.

    Since we’re both doing SOBO hikes, I hope I see you along the way. Watch for my upcoming blog on this site. I just haven’t found time to stop dehydrating and start blogging!

    Reply
  • Billy Boerner : Nov 14th

    Hey Emily ,I hear you.I have too many to count food /exercise induced allergies.Drove allergists and doctors crazy for years.Now I just live with them.At 57 yrs.old ,after loosing my wife to cancer in 2015,I completed the AT NOBO on Sept 6 th 2016 .No junkfood ,very little trailmagic, but only lost 15 pounds total. I relied on a lot of prepackaged freezedried food from home(lots of maildrops).I plan on doing another thru in 2018.Hopefully using the knowledge I’ve gained to use far less maildrops.Protein , veggies,fruit(non-citrus) certain powerbars and lots of nuts are my mainstays.Extremly difficult but doable.Goodluck and can’t wait to here more about your hike . SIMPLEMAN

    Reply

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