About This Nut-Free Space
This site exists because I want it to, and I want it to because as much as I love what exists in the blog world and believe all successful blogs are serving someone, even if it isn’t me, I’ve got some beef with what’s currently available.
1) Enough with the nuts already! By my (completely fictitious) estimation, 74% of Paleo recipes involve nuts. That number is higher for dessert recipes. Almond flour, ground walnuts, minced hazelnuts, macadamia nut oil…I’m constantly modifying recipes to accommodate my allergy. There must be more of us, right?
2) OMG, the mommy-bloggers. Ladies, I love you. You’re helping other parents raise kids the allergy-safe way. It must be scary to have allergic kids. But it’s not the same as actually being allergic yourself. Totally. Different. Perhaps the general lack of allergy sufferers sharing out there can be attributed to the fact that most of us hate talking about our allergies. Or maybe it’s that food allergies didn’t turn into such a big f’ing deal until recently, so the little tykes aren’t writing online yet. I don’t know what the story is, but for you out there with allergies who still want to nourish yourself, I get it and I’m here to tell you it can be done.
3) Lastly, I’ve had it with Paleo dogma. The part I love about Paleo is that it’s an easy way to identify the generalities of the food you choose to eat – mostly that it’s real food meant to be eaten by people. But let’s be serious: all the “would a caveman eat that?” bullshit is ridiculous. I don’t eat wheat because if I do I get gassy and (almost) poop my pants. I don’t eat cream or other high-lactose dairy because my stomach turns in knots. I don’t eat candy because if I start I can’t stop, and I hate the inevitable sugar-crash I get afterwards. I also don’t eat too many carrots because they give me smelly toots. My husband eats dairy and he’s fine. He can also eat nuts and his body doesn’t try to kill him like mine does. We’re all different. So let’s get this last part straight so that you can decide if you love this place I’ve created, or if it’s not for you:
When I choose whether or not to eat something, I ask myself two questions:
- Will it kill me? (i.e. Does it contain nuts or poppy seeds?)
- Will it make me feel good or bad? (e.g. Will my tummy feel happy or unhappy later? Will my energy levels be stable or unstable?)
Bam. It’s that simple.
Many Paleo proselytizers (I call them “crazies”) will try to tell you that there’s a list of approved foods for the human race. That’s bonkers. Your list of happy foods has so many dependencies (want weight loss? strength? what’s your body type? food sensitivities?) there simply cannot be one answer. I can’t diagnose for you. All I can do is recommend self-experimentation. I’d never be where I am today without trying things via food elimination, re-introduction, fasting, etc. Find what works for you – your body will thank you.
So, this isn’t a Paleo cult site filled with advice I read on some other person’s blog. I won’t tell you what to eat and what not to eat and you won’t find any nutrition advice. I use the term Paleo because it’s accessible and helps people find me. That’s all.
What you will find are recipes that don’t involve tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat/gluten or artificial sweeteners. You also won’t see much dairy or beans outside of butter and green beans. This isn’t because I’m passing judgement on these foods or anyone who eats them. These are the foods that I don’t eat because they fail the above criteria, and this is my site so I do what I want.
When I was a kid I hated any food that didn’t involve sugar. Similar to Elf, if I’d had it my way I would have lived on candy canes, candy corns and maple syrup. Anything spicy threw me for a loop, even yellow mustard. Only orange cheese was acceptable, and it had to be hot and melted. Biting into cold cheese gave me the willies. I hated sour cream, tomato sauce, all forms of chutney, steak, chicken breast, whole grain anything (bring on the Wonder bread!), leafy green stuff, onions, fish and caraway seeds (rye bread made me gag).
Add to this the fact that I am severely allergic to nuts and poppy seeds, and I was quite the treat to feed.
My favorite meal when I got home from school was a box of Mac n Cheese with two hot dogs sliced and stirred into the pot. I followed this up with a homestyle Eggo waffle sandwich – one side smeared with apple sauce, the other with Breyer’s natural vanilla ice cream. It’s a miracle I didn’t weigh three times what I did.
My propensity for junk food worsened when I went to college where a typical breakfast was Pop Tarts and/or Frosted Flakes. My sweet tooth owned me. I swear I lost consciousness a few times and woke up with a bag of Peppermint Patties in my hand, wondering how I obtained them.
By the time I was 19, my body was done being polite about my horrific dietary habits. I gained a solid freshman 25, and my bloodwork results were pathetic (total cholesterol over 280 with sky-high LDL and triglycerides, and crazy-low HDL…um, yikes). After a lifetime of playing soccer and getting away with dietary debauchery, it all caught up to me.
Poor physical health led to interesting mental health issues that I didn’t begin to understand until a couple years after I’d graduated from college. By that time I had lost a majority of the weight I’d gained (my poor diet afforded me Mononucleosis, multiple rounds of strep throat and horrific stomach cramps, all of which caused me to drop weight), but I experienced debilitating anxiety on a semi-frequent basis.
I chalked the panic attacks up to my food allergy. As anyone who has one knows, eating out with food allergies is challenging. Going to restaurants or catered events paralyzed me with fear. I became really good at moving food around on my plate to make it look like I’d eaten something. I often claimed to not be hungry so I could avoid the embarrassing situation in which I take a bite of food, convince myself that my tongue is swelling up and have to leave the table to get some fresh air and calm down.
This didn’t just happen at restaurants. By the time I started my first job, I had taken paranoia to a whole new level. For example, I was so afraid of most food that precisely 75 percent of my diet consisted of cereal. Specifically: Crispix, Life, Grape Nuts and Shredded Wheat. All pretty decent, right? Whole grains, low sugar and low fat – everything you’re told to eat in grade school. With health food like that, why stop at breakfast? I consumed two bowls of cereal in the morning, two when I got home from work (dinner!) and another as a pre-bedtime snack. Here’s the crazy part. I read the ingredients every single time I bought a box of cereal, and I’d often read it again each time I ate some, even though I’d already eaten cereal out of that exact box. When I casually brought this up to a friend during a conversation, she paused before suggesting that maybe I had a problem with anxiety.
After giving some thought to my somewhat bizarre eating habits and increasingly frequent freak-outs, I concluded that I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes. By relying almost entirely on packaged “food” I was making my life more complicated and anxiety-ridden: more lists to read, more companies to trust, more mystery ingredients. I had inadvertently added anxiety into my life where it didn’t need to be. When I cooked at home with fresh ingredients, I never fell apart into a mess of panic and nerves. Fresh meat, eggs and produce required no labels. So all I had to do was start cooking and focusing on fresh, real food without lists to read, and I could get my life back. Bingo!
I found the whole Paleosphere around the same time that I started to explore the world of label-less eating. Here was a whole group of people touting real (delicious!) food, home cooking and healthy lifestyle choices. I credit the Paleo/Primal movement with my intensified interest in food quality, and the many recipe blogs and cookbooks fed my appetite for new fresh food adventures.
But a few outstanding issues (see above) led me to finally throw my hat in the ring and create this space, which feels more like home to me.
As far as where I am today, my bloodwork is so good that the last nurse who gave me my results determined that I’m a superhero, I’m a healthy weight, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and I have a happy tummy. Food anxiety no longer rules my life. I don’t have dreams about allergic reactions, and I eat out at (high quality, chef-run, fresh-food-focused) restaurants without losing my shit (physically or psychologically).
When I’m not staging an elaborate nut-free experiment in the kitchen, I’m nerding out to consumer psychology at my full-time corporate gig, playing with my hilarious dog, Harvey, lifting heavy things at the gym or convincing my husband to go out to sushi.
There you have it. Hope you find something delicious, relatable or amusing here. I always love your emails, comments and suggestions; just leave the dogma at the door.