I had a very in-depth chat with my nutritionist last night. I’ve been seeing Alexis for more than two years now because of my eosinophilic esophagitis. She specializes in difficult and weird food cases, and she’s been there the entire time as I transitioned back to eating normal food instead of powdered shakes. I’ve continued seeing her both for maintenance and to come to a deeper understanding about the way I view food as both an enemy and a crutch.
Among many other topics of discussion was the idea that America is addicted to sugar. I asked if I should go on a complete sugar detox, mainly because I’m in love with Cinnamon Chex and eat those crunchy, sweet carbs like I have ten rows of teeth. Additionally, at the time of this writing, I finished an entire bag of trail mix that had 15 servings. I mean, I ate some yesterday, but still! Show some self control!
My train of thought was that excess sugar leads to inflammation, and inflammation is something I certainly do not need on top of all my pain. Alexis — her former-hand-model hands fluttering as she let out a disbelieving sound — said, “You Millennials. Why do you deify foods?”
“Who’s who in the what now?” I replied. (I’m taking some liberties here, mainly because I can’t remember the exact wording of our conversation. Ninety-nine percent sure I said that, though.)
“You all deify foods. Look at sugar on a cellular level. C6 H12 O6. Nothing special. But you Millenials, it’s either kale or acai or sugar. It’s always something. ” Frenetic energy built up in her as she leaned forward, clasping her elegant hands together.
“I love kale,” I said. “Kale is delicious.”
“It’s not about the kale. It’s never that simple. And it’s not about the sugar, anyway. It’s about the processing.”
“What about when foreigners come to America, taste the bread here, and say it tastes like cake because it’s sweet?” I was still in defense of total detox at that point.
More and more, our conversations have been taking place by video chat; we Skype on the nights when I’m too much pain to make the drive to her office. During this appointment I was physically present. We were sitting in her cute little office in Brookline, me on the L-shaped couch, her on the computer chair. She tends to scoot the chair forward when she gets involved in a flow of thought. “That’s because it’s so processed. It has sugar, sure, but America processes the hell out of its food.”
I was teetering on the edge of the All-or-Nothing bandwagon. “Husband will kill me if I say I have to cut out sugar.” We have a ritual, he and I. In the evenings after work when we’re exhausted, one of us will inevitably say, “I want fat things. Do we have fat things? Let’s make fat things.”
Alexis rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to cut out sugar. You don’t have a sugar addiction. Again, it’s not that easy.”
She went on to explain that a total detox was both unnecessary and likely impossible, given my other culinary restrictions. In previous sessions, we’ve talked about anti-inflammatory diets for managing both chronic pain and EE. That’s more in my wheelhouse.
So what is an anti-inflammatory diet, for those of you who didn’t click through the links? Let’s lay them all out here:
- Fatty fish (which is a no-go for me, because of the EE)
- Whole grains (also a no-go)
- Dark, leafy greens (yum)
- Nuts (… I just had easily ten servings… sorry, Alexis)
- Soy (tofu is like a fluffy cloud that takes on the attributes of the food around it)
- Low-fat dairy (off limits for me)
- Peppers (yum)
- Tomatoes (sort of a yum, it depends on the form of the tomato)
- Beets (ew)
- Ginger (delicious)
- Turmeric (I take this in pill form)
- Garlic (offensively delicious)
- Onions (sometimes I wish I was the kid in “Holes” who had to live on onions for a few weeks [I know, that’s weird])
- Olive oil (a staple in our household)
- Berries (perfect snack)
- Tart cherries (I drink this in juice form when I’m in pain, and it’s disgusting)
Meanwhile, what causes inflammation? Let’s take them one at a time:
- Sugar (sigh)
- Saturated fats (can’t eat cheese anyway)
- Trans fats (french fries, nooooooo)
- Omega 6 fatty acids (like corn oil)
- Refined carbohydrates (cake bread!)
- MSG (but Chinese food is so good)
- Gluten (allergic as hell to this)
- Casein (also allergic)
- Aspartame (found in more places than you’d imagine)
- Alcohol (sigh)
I know that I need to revamp my diet so that I’m not packing on additional pounds and additional pain. Added weight on a weak skeletal frame is not a good idea, and inflammatory foods will worsen my situation.
It’s just… Cinnamon Chex cereal is so delicious.