a new diet, a new year, a new me?

For a number of reasons that I’m not prepared to go into right now, I am about to embark on a low-histamine diet. It’s been a tough thing so far this week, because it seems to be all about the nots so far. There are so many things not to eat, and I’m not eating those things so that I will not be in pain, and even the “good” foods are described in phrases like “any vegetable not on the bad list.”

At lunchtime yesterday, I went to the grocery store to pick up something for lunch and some snacky foods to have at my desk. I started in produce, and I picked up some nice apples and pears – organic, because those weren’t waxed – and did some label-reading. First stop, salad dressings. You must know that I loathe ranch dressing. I don’t know why, but the only thing I hate worse, in the salad dressing family, is bleu cheese.  UGH! No thank you! Anyway, every dressing I checked out had one or more ingredients from the Avoid list, things like soybean oil, vinegar, parmesan, and artificial stuffs. I checked out bread before remembering that yeast is on the Avoid list. I found a cracker that passed muster – yay! Up the frozen aisle, I checked the Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones, and they all had Avoid stuff in them. Multiple avoid stuffs – MSG and soy and tomatoes and aged cheeses. Frustrating. Well, I know that canned soup (or rather, canned anything) tends to be high in sodium, but the stores have nice organic products that might be good. I was so excited to finally find one soup that was safe… until I looked at the sodium. More than 900mg in each serving, with “about 2” servings per can. I don’t know any adult who doesn’t eat the whole can of soup, so we’re looking at an entire day’s sodium in one meal.

I pushed my cart to the cash register lines, utterly discouraged. I had apples, pears, crackers, and thin pretzel crisps. Wanting to cry, I snapped a photo of my pathetic lunch and sent it to my partner. What am I going to do? What am I going to eat? How is this going to work?

My symptoms are far from terrible. Yes, they affect my daily life, at work and at home and in hobbies. But I don’t need to carry an epi-pen for my nut allergy. I don’t get raging hives when I eat strawberries. I get spasms and inflammation in my bladder, and I get airway spasms, and I get migraine (often the kind with no pain, but lots of lovely vertigo), and I get system-wide joint pain. I get discomfort, unpleasantness. I don’t end up in the hospital. So do I really get to complain about this new regimen?

Last night, I gave up on the dinner decision. I didn’t have the energy to cook, and I couldn’t think of a damn thing that would be free of Avoid ingredients. I told my partner I didn’t care if I ever ate again.  She thought this was a bad idea, and she tried to help me see the diet more positively.  “The Avoid list is only there to help you find the Good list,” she said. I had a bitter little laugh, because the Avoid list is so damned long.

This afternoon, I got my weekly email from Isabel Foxen Duke, who coaches people who struggle with binge-eating or emotional-eating. She was addressing our tendency to make New Year’s Resolutions, and naturally of our tendency to make resolutions around food or behavior or weight. “These are the wrong goals,” she said. The problem is that we lack “love, acceptance, and connection with [ourselves].”  She challenges us to make this our resolution:

In 2016, I will love myself.
I will accept myself.
I will connect with myself.

And so I am working on reframing the internal narrative that plays in my brain about this low-histamine diet.

I love myself.
I deserve to feel not just good, but wonderful.
I am choosing to eat foods from this menu.
The results are well worth it.

And when I have one of those days when I say, “F*ck it all, I want Chinese food for dinner!” When I have that day, I will accept myself. When I feel terrible afterward, I will love myself and treat myself with kindness and gentleness. When I resent the restrictions that (so far, at least) feel really arbitrary, I will think about how much I love my children, how I would try my best to keep them on track and healthy and happy, and I will try to treat myself the same way.

The results will be well worth it.