Plant-based, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Naturally Sweetened Wholefoods.
I come from an alcoholic family. When I was a child I ate a lot (and I mean A LOT) of sugar. (On more than one occasion I ate 2+ packs of jelly crystals in a day…). I loved raw cake batter, pizza and rice pudding, and my family dad Weetbix eating competitions. For the record, my mum was a big proponent of healthy eating and did her darn best creating dishes to cater to my fussy tastes, and those jelly crystals were unauthorised. That said, I drank Demazin straight out of the bottle to deal with my runny nose. By my teens I was chocoholic (one day at school I won seven free Mars Bars in a row and ate them all), insomniac, moody, with an aching body. I developed chronic stomach pain which would leave me trembling and unable to function. The doctors prodded at my belly, and prescribed the contraceptive pill (suggesting endometriosis). At 18, I moved out of home to live on bread, pasta and alcohol. With tonsillitis every other week; the doctor prescribed back-to-back courses of antibiotics to suppress the symptoms.
Skip ahead two years and I am coming up positive on both lactose intolerance and milk allergy tests. Skip ahead another 3 years, and I decide to stop eating animals. Six months later, on naturopath suggestion I completely remove gluten, and then finally cut out refined cane sugar to stop cravings.
I lose ten kilos (not that I had a spare ten to lose, it did help with belly and hip fat). I get very tired, and don’t know what to eat. On the plus side, my bowels are regular, and my stomach stops cramping. My body stops aching so much. I do a lot of yoga, and go through a heavy emotional purging. Without all that protein, I struggle to control blood sugar swings. I still don’t know what to eat, relying on takeaway thai stirfry. Moving to Melbourne to work as a stewardess, I find myself in vegan town with money to buy angela-friendly food. I slowly put back on eight kilos, but in a different way. My stomach stays flat.
‘The Hip Chic’s Guide to Macrobiotics’ marks an awakening. I start to COOK, for myself, foods that don’t make me sick. I share pictures. Friends request recipes. I keep cooking. My skin stops breaking out. The niggling sore throats, coughs and colds skip over me at winter time. I find foods I like. I read, and learn a lot of really surprising, and really common sense things about food. Like, that pasteurising milk makes it indigestible to humans, and that we don’t need to eat so much meat. ‘The Naturopathic way’ leaves me with a pearl of wisdom: all health, and all disease, begins in the belly. I begin the journey to heal my belly.
There are set-backs. It takes some trial and error to stabilise my body weight. Tempeh has soy sauce (which has wheat) in it, causing my iron to drop stupidly low. It’s challenging to remain fed while away from the safety of a well-stocked vegan gf cupboard. There’s white sugar, flour and dairy in EVERYTHING convenient. I am sometimes careless, and must learn how to ease the symptoms of allergy: stretching, massage, pressure pointing, hot showers. Time. It’s easy to feel frustrated and neglected at Christmas, or overwhelmed at the conflicting information in circulation about food. Trial and error. I learn to cook more than enough for leftovers. I bring food with me. I cook for others, fine tune my dishes, share and learn to say ‘no, thank you’.
I come home and stay awake late into the night reading journal articles about food. I have a wide variety of conversations about food everywhere I go. I hear about experiences of feeling isolated by their food choices, frustrated they don’t understand their bodies, and confused about what to eat. I learn to navigate awkward social situations and everywhere I go, I’m repeatedly asked ‘so what DO you eat?’.
So I write it all down into the guide I would have liked to be given when I was a teenager.