Simple Eating

Jars of soup cooling in formation on the counter.

As I type, the cauliflower is steaming on the stove. When I finish this post, I’ll have a bowl of homemade chicken soup and some steamed cauliflower. That will be my breakfast, lunch, and dinner today.

The last time I did this was almost exactly four years ago. It worked for me then, so I’m trying it again.

I won’t go into too much detail about this way of eating. It’s a digestive health diet (“diet” in the sense of “food and drink one consumes regularly,” not in the sense of “eating less to lose weight”) for people who have certain specific ailments of varying severity. And that’s all the detail I’ll go into about my digestive health. It’s somewhat similar to the GAPS diet, if you’re familiar with that one.

Diet is a very individual thing. People like my husband seem able to eat anything with no ill effects (except hydrogenated oils…those make him ill), while people like me seem to get a rash or other ailment from practically everything that modern humans consider treats (sugar, alcohol, wheat, ice cream…). Which is why I’m not going into detail about my particular diet. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

For the first three years after I started the diet the first time, I did fairly well with it. It even saw me through my second pregnancy without the high blood pressure and swelling I’d had with my first. But in the past year, I’ve really stretched the limits of the “allowed” foods. As an example, an all-day sandwich cookie (a half-inch-thick layer of vegan chocolate buttercream frosting sandwiched between two large, vegan, gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies) once a week is not actually on the digestive health diet. Neither is Two-Buck Chuck or Faux Pep Mo. Finally, the mood swings, fatigue, rashes, anxiety, and myriad digestive symptoms led me to re-commit to the way of eating that had carried me so well through those several years.

All of this just means that I’ve been eating what’s basically homemade chicken soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner since Tuesday. Yesterday I added lots of probiotics (liquid acidophilus, probiotic capsules, and a fermented coconut beverage) between meals and steamed veggies with each meal.

It occurred to me that I had inadvertently simplified my diet (to an extreme). I make three days worth of soup in one day and put it in pint jars in the fridge. For each meal, I take out a jar, pour the contents in a bowl, and heat the soup in the microwave. I can’t eat out, so there’s none of the looking through restaurant coupons or trying to get the kids to eat something other than pizza, chicken fingers, and french fries.

I feel a little bored with eating the same thing all the time, but even that has a positive side: after three days of nothing but soup and water, the liquid probiotics taste incredibly good.

As much as I crave variety, I feel great already. I have more energy even when I stay up late (before, I could go to bed at 9 for a whole week and not feel rested), I feel calmer, and many of my other symptoms have already improved dramatically. The eczema I’ve had on my eyelids for the past three months (since I accidentally ate “real” feta cheese) is even clearing up.

In addition, I like cooking large quantities and then just heating them up later. It really streamlines my day. I’m wondering if there’s a way to use some of these lessons in simple food prep when I go back to eating a much more varied diet next week.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on planning my birthday foods. I arranged it so I’m starting the phase with greater variety on my birthday next week. I’m planning meals that are likely not exciting to anyone who hasn’t consumed as much chicken soup as I have this past week, but they’re a source of great anticipation for me. Scrambled eggs for breakfast. Salad with homemade dressing for lunch, either with cooked chicken on top or with chicken soup as a side, if I have some left. Poached fish and vegetables for dinner. Then for dessert: apple slices dipped in a homemade honey/almond-butter dip.

I’m really looking forward to that apple.

6 comments

  1. Lynn · December 4, 2011

    Food tastes SO much better after being on any kind of a restricted diet. I’m still savoring foods after being on a very limited diet while nursing. Incidentally, I’ve had digestive issues my whole life, and by far the best I have ever felt was during pregnancy and nursing. Did you find nursing helped you too? Breastfeeding is wonderful for children and all, but the immediate health benefits to me have given me plenty of selfish motivation for “extended” nursing. 🙂

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    • CJ · December 4, 2011

      I don’t think pregnancy or nursing helped with my digestive issues. Physically, I always felt worse while pregnant, but my mood was much better both times (and my skin was acne-free for the only times in my adult life). I did food challenges while pregnant and while the effects were muted, they were still there and got worse over time. Digestively, the benefits I got from nursing were that I had to limit my diet because of my daughter’s food sensitivities when she was about a year old. It was that limiting that helped me realize just how much diet was influencing these symptoms I’d had all of my life. The nursing didn’t help with my digestive issues except in that it necessitated changing my diet. Pregnancy just felt less bad and was much healthier when I was already on a restricted diet. So I suppose they’ve helped me diagnose the specifics of my digestive issues, but I don’t think pregnancy and nursing themselves helped directly.

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      • Lynn · December 4, 2011

        Interesting! I’ve wondered if cutting dairy and gluten helped me, which it probably has, but I also have had definite changes just from the nursing alone … The most obvious has been with food triggers for migraines. I couldn’t eat much chocolate or aged cheese before nursing, but now I can. That one is probably a hormonal thing. Anyway, good luck getting back to a feeling good place. 🙂

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      • CJ · December 4, 2011

        If you’ve always eliminated foods while nursing, though, how do you know it’s the nursing and not the elimination that’s reducing your sensitivity to migraine triggers? I know that I got migraines every day of my first pregnancy (literally, every day from the second trimester on), but with the second when I’d changed my diet dramatically, I wasn’t troubled by them at all. I only got migraines during bad inversions (the biggest thing I don’t miss about SLC).

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  2. Melanie Meadors · December 3, 2011

    I’ve really been struggling with food lately. I really REALLY want to simplify our diet. We’ve fallen into this really bad pattern, I would say about a year and a half ago (we had some major family upheavals) and while we come out of it for very brief stretches, it’s just really hard to break the bad habits we’ve fallen into. Add to that the fact that my son is 9 and has rather rigid tendencies, and it seems impossible at times to change. I’m trying to figure out some small steps to take. The way we have been eating is DEFINITELY not in line with our personal “code of ethics,” if you will. We don’t really have any dietary restrictions (other than the peanut thing), but we have some moral ideals that we would like to live up to, as well as wanting to be actually healthy.

    Good luck on your food adventure! And I hope you have a happy birthday!

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    • CJ · December 3, 2011

      I’m afraid my moral values around food don’t always mesh well with my dietary needs. When I’m eating my “simple” diet (formerly referred to as my “crazy diet” by my husband), I eat more meat than I would ideally eat. I try to keep it mostly in the poultry and fish realm for a variety of reasons, but I still lament that I’m unlikely to be able to go vegetarian again and feel healthy.

      But I will say that when there are upheavals, the path of least resistance seems to be the convenience type foods and eating out. While I apparently can survive on chocolate Pirate’s Booty and prepared hummus, I can’t thrive. Oh, just to be clear, the change mostly is just in my diet. The kids have been eating more boxed and frozen foods since I started this thing than they had before. Although they did eat broccoli for breakfast with me yesterday.

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