A few weeks ago I stood in a semi-fast food restaurant and couldn't pick out a single thing on the menu to order. I ruled out several items from the get-go and then asked the manager to bring out a binder full of nutrition and ingredient facts. I went over nearly every item on their menu, standing there at the counter for almost ten minutes, realizing that I have never had any idea what was in the food I was eating.
It was shocking, confusing, disheartening. I finally settled on an iced tea and a fruit cup. That would have to be lunch that day.
Then I went out to my car and cried a little. That day, it was just a little. But there have been a few days since I started seeing an allergist to get to the root of my stomach issues that I've cried a lot. I found him through an online doctor-finder program provided by my insurance company. He had positive reviews, was close to my house, and was accepting new patients. When I went to see him, I was taken back to a room relatively quickly and the staff were friendly. I explained my symptoms and concerns to him and emphatically said, "I would do anything to feel better. I would stop eating anything."
And he very seriously looked at me and said, "Do you mean that? Because I will be asking you to give things up."
And he did ask. He asked me to give up a lot--for three straight weeks. And for three straight weeks, I followed every single guideline he gave me. I went without. I felt better. I also had blood drawn and was tested for all sorts of things. Nothing came back irregular. No food allergies. No diseases (like celiac). My body is simply intolerant to certain foods.
I saw him again, just a few days ago. When I told him how strict I'd been with the diet, he praised me. "That's wonderful!" he said, "any issues?"
There was one day where I'd eaten something specific and felt ill soon after. "Ah yes, we'll have you avoid that too. For one month."
Now I'm going on four weeks of food restrictions. I've managed to dine out a few times, but I order plain steamed vegetables or a simple salad with no dressing. Once I even brought my own dressing since I could guarantee it fit my restrictions. I've packed my lunch to take on trips, and I've found a few fairly convenient restaurants that can accommodate my restrictions, though I think Tim is sick of both of them already. In another week I will get one food I've been living without back into my diet, and hopefully that will go well because I surely miss it.
There's also a big holiday coming up--an eating holiday--where I will likely sit around a table watching my family eat foods I love. I felt guilty last week when I spoke to my mom about my restrictions and requested that some foods be prepared without certain ingredients. I even felt badly for offering alternative ingredient suggestions. How could I ask someone to go out and buy an unusual item just to accommodate me? Then I remembered that she loves me. And that gives me a little courage to speak up. To at least ask. My mom was happy to look into some small substitutions, and I also offered to bring a side dish to share. Something that everyone will enjoy and that will guarantee I have something good to eat.
Even though I have had a few moments where I am exhausted with reading labels and researching menus and looking up recipes to the point where I would rather just eat nothing than continue researching safe foods, I know that it's worth it. Eating this way has helped me start to feel better. And that's all I want.
I will tell you all the nitty, gritty details of what I can and can't eat someday, but for now I'm still figuring out what restrictions are temporary and what may be more permanent. You may see me post recipes and talk of dining out from pre- and post-restrictions. When I get answers, I will let you know. I can only say for sure that things--internally speaking--are on the up and up.