Prandial Problems

bunny jello mold

Pretty close, although not the exact one.

I hated my mother’s bunny jello mold.

She bought it before my brother or I were born, thinking that when she had kids, it would be fun to make them bunny-shaped jello. And it probably would have been, for most kids.

The mold was made of red plastic in the shape of a crouching bunny, with its head tucked between its forepaws. I remember helping her make the jello in the afternoon, setting the mold carefully in the fridge, then helping her unmold it and sitting at the dinner table, looking at the red bunny sitting on a bed of lettuce on a plate on the counter. It softly jiggled as if it were trembling with fright.

Reasonably close to the finished product.

Reasonably similar to the finished product. I think this may be the actual mold.

After dinner, my mom got a knife and picked up the plate. When she did that, the bunny looked like it was quaking with fear of what was to come. Then she severed the bunny’s head and slid it into my bowl, where it looked up at me reproachingly, wobbling and decapitated as if to say, “WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?”

I fled the table and would not eat the bunny-shaped jello.

So much for delighting the children.

***

At a similar age, I can remember making a “Save the Bunnies” sign. I’m not sure why I made it – it seems like it could have been connected to seeing roadkill – but I labored over it, accompanied by my giant Tupperware of crayons, at the small table in my room, affixed it to a yardstick, and then went to stand in the side yard in order to flag down cars to tell them about the important matter of saving the bunnies. Nobody stopped; I think the best I got was waved at. So the bunnies went unsaved.

***

At dinner as a child, I ate my broccoli (one of my very favorite foods then and now) and baked potato, and then had to be told to eat my meat. I just liked the vegetable foods much better. One Halloween, I was picking at my dinner before going out trick-or-treating, not wanting to eat my lamb chop. We were called away from the table by some impressively costumed group of kids, and when we returned, Mitts, one of our cats, had grabbed my chop and was gnawing at it under the table. I was only too happy to have been relieved of the chore of eating it.

***

I recall walking through the kitchen one day as a tween, seeing my mother preparing chicken for teriyaki shish kabobs, which was a dinner I really liked, both for the marinade and the pineapple that went along with the vegetables. My mother was turning the raw chicken over in the sauce with her bare hands. I said, “Mom, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that.” She replied, “You will. It used to bother me when I was a kid, too, but I got used to it.” I shook my head.

***

My dad tried to take me fishing precisely once. I asked him how he’d feel if someone put a hook in his mouth and dragged him underwater. I thought it was horribly cruel to stick a hook through a worm; I was in the habit of rescuing worms from the sidewalk after it rained. I have a vivid memory of the sight of the poor sunfish he and my brother caught gasping out its last breaths on the weathered wooden dock.

***

So, relating all these experiences, it should come as no surprise that in some point in 1990, I gave up red meat. I had never liked the way it smelled when it started cooking – it made me sick to my stomach – but now eating it was doing the same thing as the smell did. I was a sophomore in high school and was deeply involved in both our school’s chapter of Amnesty International and an Ecology Club a bunch of us were starting. The people I admired most in those organizations were vegetarians, and I aspired to be a vegetarian too. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, though.

That fall, several of us went to a student environmental conference in Illinois, and on the way the several vegetarians – which was everyone in the party except me, I think – had a terrible time finding things to eat. I could still have a fast-food chicken sandwich, but they were really stuck when our van broke down in New Carlisle, Ohio. The strip mall the van was towed to was shared by a local restaurant that had, for vegetarians, approximately: bread.

That winter, at my grandparents’ house in Indiana, a couple days after Christmas, we were having our usual casual post-Christmas buffet comprised of leftover festive foods from the celebratory dinner. I put a small piece of ham on my plate. As I sat eating, I cut a piece and put it in my mouth, and the bouncy, fleshy nature of it became totally repulsive. I swallowed it, but I thought to myself, “That’s it. That’s the last piece of meat I’ll eat.”

On the way home, my mom and brother and I were at a restaurant when I ordered a salad and a baked potato, the first of many in an era where there was little but side dishes available for vegetarians. (“Uh…give me an order of fries, an order of mashed potatoes, and a baked potato, please.”) My mom was surprised when I declared that I was a vegetarian now, and asked, “When did that happen?” It’d only been maybe three days. I think she’d missed the announcement while we were at my grandparents’ house.

But from that point both my folks were extremely supportive, willing to add to dinner or shift the menu so that I could stick to my convictions. We had never eaten much meat as a family – it wasn’t unusual to divide one steak between the four of us, and the most meat I’d ever eaten at once was a chicken breast, and we’re talking 1980s chicken breasts here, not the monsters available these days – but now we ate less. My mom bought The Vegetarian Epicure, and we ate lentil soup, pasta e fagioli, falafel, chickpea curry, vegetarian chili, and refried bean tacos.

“Vegetarian,” to me, stood for the person I wanted to be: enlightened, living lightly on the earth, sparing the world unnecessary suffering. It felt wrong to kill animals for food, and having read Diet for a Small Planet, I knew it was also an environmental disaster and did it as much for that reason. I read The Jungle around the same time, and while I recognized that regulation had changed some of the details of the process, there was enough of it still in place that I wanted no part of it.

***

When I went off to acting school at NYU in 1993, we were still in an era in which foodservice support for vegetarians was non-existent. As a result, I chose an apartment-style dorm, and set about teaching myself to cook within my $20-a-week grocery budget. Not going to the cafeteria cost me the social interaction that might have propelled me into finishing my degree there, but cooking – and wandering the city’s food destinations - Greenmarkets, health food stores, Kalustyan’s – was a whole education in itself, and was so fascinating that it set me on the path of making food my career.

One day in movement class, a studiomate asked the meaning of the Fresh Fields shirt I’d picked up during spring break. The store was a revelation for me – I recall vividly the moment the doors opened in front of me the first day the Fairfax Station store was open in March 1993. The wood floors (which I later found out were Pergo) and the fruit! I had never seen such beautiful fruit, or fruit merchandised as if it just wanted to jump into your cart. I enthused about this to my studiomate, and she said, wrinkling her nose with evident contempt, ‘You’re wearing a t-shirt from a grocery store?’ And it was at that moment that I knew I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, with the wrong people. I wanted to be around people who thought that good food was Important, one of the most important things in the world.

***

I went to work for Fresh Fields, which was bought by Whole Foods. I stayed there for five years, doing mostly cheese, though a year of that was as a demo queen. During that time, a mutual friend who knew I was a vegetarian introduced me to an ex-boyfriend of hers who wanted to give up meat. That’s right, I even owe my marriage to Chimp to vegetarianism. At this time he was working on his PhD. After we’d been together a while, I jokingly told people I was getting my ChD – cheese doctorate. I had not been a cheese lover growing up, but I found it a fascinating category and threw myself into it wholeheartedly.

When we moved to Michigan so he could take a teaching job there, we found that the university in the same town as the college he was teaching at had a food marketing degree. So I got one, cramming it in in three years, having had to start almost completely over from my drama major. I worked at the headquarters of an Enormous Cereal Company while I was a student, and after Chimp’s three-year job was up, we moved to California, where I took what I’d learned from ECC and went to work for the organization that supported the growers of California peaches, plums, and nectarines until I was disabled by ME in 2007.

***

The license plate on our car in California read HRBIVRS. I’d had a previous plate that read EAT YR VG and another back in the Whole Foods days that proclaimed CHZ WHIZ. I was one of those people driving a little car wearing more than its share of bumper stickers that over the years said things like VEGETARIANS TASTE BETTER, SUPPORT ORGANIC FARMERS, LEGALIZE TOFU, HEART ATTACKS: GOD’S REVENGE FOR EATING HIS ANIMAL FRIENDS, and I EAT TOFU AND I VOTE.

***

When I was still well enough to be out to eat with omnivores, sometimes they would ask me, “Will it bother you if I order meat?” I always said no, because I’d not eaten meat for so long that seeing someone doing so was as foreign and curious to me as if they were eating a Styrofoam cup. My mental reaction was, “Huh. You can eat that? You consider it food? Well, whatever floats your boat.” It wasn’t my style: Unlike some vegetarians, I never had cravings for meat. No, not even bacon. I love the world of plant foods, and can count six dozen vegetarian cookbooks among my hundreds of books about food.

***

This past summer, I got a new bottle of a amino drink powder that I’d been using for several years. Instead of being plain chocolate, it had been reformulated with a coffee flavor. I can’t handle caffeine – that’s been a problem since I was 18; it makes me bite the heads off of puppies – and I assumed that the weird headaches and unpleasant wired feeling were a result of the reformulation. I had them send me a bottle of another flavor – vanilla – which tasted more like a plasticky vanilla candle than actual vanilla, and I had the same problematic reaction to it. Then I realized that the vanilla was a pre-reformulation bottle, so if the reformulation alone was the problem, I shouldn’t be reacting to it.

I started having reactions to food, and more and more foods were added to the list as the weeks went by. Tomatoes. Aged cheese. Avocados. Bananas. Kale, fresh and organic from our garden. As the evidence piled up, it became clear that the problem was not just the drink powder, but a histamine reaction. I did a lot of reading and checked a number of conflicting food lists before finding this one which seems accurate, or at least reflective of my reactions.

Among the items that list knocks out are beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, most cheese, soy in all forms, and eggs.

Well, crap. That’s most of my protein sources.

At roughly the same time, the Wahls Protocol started making the rounds among my ME friends on facebook. It’s a paleo-style diet with lots of vegetables – each day, three cups each green leafy, sulfur-rich, and colorful vegetables and fruits, with protein from grass-fed meat or fish, supplemented by bone broth and fermented foods. Terry Wahls improved her MS significantly through it. Jamie Deckoff-Jones, a doctor with ME, has also shown marked improvement following the same diet. I had a recent chat with another ME/CFS friend who improved from bedridden to housebound by leaving her vegan diet behind. On the other hand, I know another patient raised as a vegetarian who has shifted to eating meat and remains bedridden.

Backed into a corner protein-wise and seeing those few remarkable transformations, I decided to try to eat some meat. The histamine problem, added on top of all of my existing symptoms, is so much worse that I felt like I had to try something different – if I didn’t try something new, how could I expect things to go any differently than they have been?

Besides those folks above, it seemed like there was enough evidence that eating meat might help me: I’ve benefited slightly from acetyl-l-carnitine in the past; recently I bought a bottle of taurine, and I found that it made me yawn, which is something I have not regularly done since my insomnia first reached its crisis point in 2007. It didn’t help me sleep – in fact, it seemed to make my sleep worse, and it made me tired, too, but it did make me yawn. That made me think that perhaps those substances, naturally occurring in meat but not in vegetable foods, might help me. If eating animals helped me sleep, it might change the course my illness entirely, and that would be…immensely welcome, let’s say.

But it’s a testament to how deeply ingrained my vegetarianism is, that I have, in all seriousness, had the thought that even if eating meat would cure me, I didn’t think I could do it. This is a long way from the girl who thought she couldn’t manage to go vegetarian.

On October 17th, I had Chimp make me a tiny amount of broiled lamb. Why lamb, when I picked at it even when I did eat meat as a child? Mostly because down in our little burgh, the meat at our supermarket is not so responsibly sourced, and among those animals, while they are all equally dead, lamb is the one that’s likely to be mistreated the least during life.

I can’t say it went well. Not wanting to leave me any rareness, which was a dealbreaker when I did eat meat, Chimp blasted the lamb with the broiler. It was done, all right; done to the point that it was nearly impossible to cut or chew. He brought me our smallest bread knife and we laughed about the fact that we lack steak knives – we’ve never had any reason to buy them.

I managed two bites of the lamb. The next time we tried a day or two later, I did about the same. He took the leftovers from the second effort and made them into a very nice hash with potatoes and carrots. I got down about a quarter of the bowl of that he served me, with just a few shreds of meat in the process. I confess I was eating around them a bit, though I tried not to. It was still too lamby.

We tried broiled chicken breast next. That went better flavor-wise, but about the same otherwise. I would put it in my mouth, trying not to gag at the bouncy, fleshy nature of it, move it away from my tongue as much as possible so I wouldn’t have to taste it, chew it the absolute minimum number of times, and wash it down with an enormous slug of water.

Next came some responsibly-raised flank steak from Whole Foods. Beef can be a histamine problem because it’s often aged before sale. I reacted badly to it, with the headache that heralds too much histamine, from just a couple bites.

Fish, unfortunately, is totally out for histamine reasons, unless you can pull it out of the water yourself and eat it that moment.

And there is a diverse collection of at least twenty pounds of beautiful beans and pulses in the pantry that I cannot have.

So for the time being, that mostly leaves us with chicken as the meat I can tolerate, without adornment (citrus, tomato, soy, and hot peppers all being histamine-verboten), about four bites at a meal, before I’m overcome with revulsion and need at least a day off. I want to want to eat meat, but I don’t want to eat it.

Because it turns out that if you eat meat, you don’t have to steel yourself to do it just once, you have to muster the will to do it all the time! Over and over again! Like every single day! Sometimes more than once a day! Ugh.

***

At this point, I’m attempting to triangulate a place between my former diet, the Wahls diet, and the histamine diet. I already had some dietary restrictions – I’ve been on a very low sodium diet since 2007, because my body hates salt and will suffer tachycardia if I don’t keep it way down. I can’t have alcohol or the caffeine I already mentioned. Dr. Cheney wants me to restrict fructose. I’m somewhat lactose intolerant. Because of Wahls, I’m experimenting with grain-free – I’m down to just oatmeal at breakfast, because I haven’t been able to come up with a workable grain-free breakfast arrangement – yogurt and eggs are both out for histamine reasons. I can’t do the Wahls bone broth or fermented foods, because those are both loaded with histamine.

Today's lunch: steamed broccoli and cauliflower with butter, asparagus sauteéd in olive oil, baked sweet potato and fried paneer.

Today’s lunch: steamed broccoli and cauliflower with butter, asparagus sauteéd in olive oil, baked sweet potato and fried paneer.

Mostly, to this point, I’m adding a larger volume of vegetables and fat to try to compensate for the legumes, nuts, and seeds I’ve had to drop. The macronutrients are not the same, I know, but I’m hoping I’m still getting enough of what I need. Thankfully I do have a couple vegetarian sources of protein left: chickpeas seem to be okay, and being unripened (and also unsalted), so does paneer. Those are two foods I like, and I’m eating a lot of them.

I’m still in the process of figuring out what I can tolerate, and that’s going slowly, because you can only introduce one thing at a time, and as tired as I always am, I don’t have a lot to spare on having my equilibrium upset by challenges. With histamine, you don’t always react right away, although I seem to throw a certain kind of headache reliably.

There are a lot of things I love that I can’t have. Tomatoes, avocado, spinach, onions, garlic, a lot of spices, and aged cheese are all out. Just living without tomatoes alone is depressing. Living mostly without grain is likewise. I would really like a bowl of quinoa salad, some tomato-based curry and rice, or one goddamn Triscuit.

***

I must admit that I’m struggling mightily with the fact that I’m betraying my fundamental beliefs. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if I eat meat, to a certain degree I don’t know who I am anymore. “Vegetarian” has been at the top of my identity for so long, and has connected me to so many like-minded people, people I admire, and with whom I feel a deep commonality. I wonder if they’ll feel contempt for me for eating meat, the kind of contempt I’ve felt for vegetarians who ate poorly and gave up the diet for “health reasons” (i.e., subsisting on Doritos and Coke).

It’s not unlike trying to leave a religion you grew up in – there’s a little voice at the back of my mind telling me that what I’m doing is wrong. Twenty-two years of eschewing meat and a lifetime of disliking it is difficult to change. I feel like Inigo Montoya at the end of The Princess Bride - I’ve been in the vegetarian business for so long…

On top of all this, a friend from high school has recently gone vegan and is crowing (deservedly!) on facebook about how good she feels. I remember that experience from my early days as well. My body felt lighter, my digestion worked better. But seeing those posts makes me feel even more guilty and sad, and like a failure. I know that’s ridiculous – twenty-two years is more than a fair trial, and if it turns out I function better with animal flesh as part of my diet, there are more humane, more environmentally sound options than there were in 1990 (besides the whole matter of living beings killed for food in the end). And if it doesn’t help (and if I can resolve the histamine issue), I can always go back to vegetarianism.

In the meantime, I wish science would hurry the hell up with the lab-grown meatThat I could deal with, and wouldn’t feel guilty about. I think I could even put my hands in it, make meatloaf out of it. Maybe in the shape of a bunny.

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32 Responses to Prandial Problems

  1. Vicky says:

    I find myself in the same place. I have developed so many allergies after years of M.E. and then also developing AI diseases, that I have been effectively forced to eat meat or have severe allergic reactions. I feel bad mentally and emotionally for it as it is against my beliefs and I thank the animal for its sacrifice so that I might live. I don’t know if I ever will be able to go back to meat-free… I hope one day if my body can heal and calm down enough , I might.

    • Jocelyn says:

      My sympathies, Vicky, and thank you for saying so. It is mighty challenging to have one’s body fight against one’s convictions. I hope you will find a path where your body will cooperate better also.

  2. Leisa says:

    My condolences on the recent histamine issue. I was vegetarian, mostly vegan even, for about 10 years, and did finally start eating meat again upon recommendation for my energy levels in 2006. ME/CFS has spawned other chronic illnesses, so in recent years I’ve had to be really flexible about adjusting to whatever new thing I couldn’t eat. I empathize with you about it being a big adjustment and forcing ‘who am I’ introspection. If it at all helps, I think pragmatism is a valuable approach to things, and I can say personally that in retrospect, it’s made me way more understanding that different things can be ‘right’ for different people, or even ‘right’ for one person at different times, esp. in regards to food.

    • Jocelyn says:

      You’re right, Leisa. Did eating meat seem to help at all?

      Having been involved with food for such a long time, for many years I’ve read much journalism on meat production – how animals are kept, how they’re slaughtered, how many are eaten for food every year, the wide-reaching environmental impact of it and all the industries that support it. And when doing that, I’ve been able to say to myself, “I’m glad that I’m mostly not supporting all of that.” But now *I am*, and it is much harder to evaluate whether what I’m doing is the best I can do under the circumstances. It’s no longer black and white, and that’s a lot less comfortable for me.

  3. thechimpwhomarriedjocelyn says:

    I’m telling you, I have our solution at hand. You need a source of protein that does not disrupt your deeply-held moral commitments and aversion to the needless suffering of innocent creatures. I have numerous coworkers that… need to be thinned from the herd. We can make this work for everyone.

    Well, almost everyone.

  4. I absolutely agree with you, the swiss list is indeed the best one. However, as you surely noticed already, no histamine list will be accurate for everybody – s for protein, it *could* be you tolerate chickpeas, they are the only pulses I can eat at present (make sure to swap both the soaking and the boiling water several times) and a fairly big number of people with HIT seems to be ok with them. Almonds and sesame could work, too.
    Are you a fast responder or when do your symptoms show? For me they need around 12 hours to build up, which makes it often hard to pinpoint what I´m exactly reacting to…
    Did you check the meds and supplements already. They can cause major problems, too…

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thanks for the tips, Bayou. It’s good to know that someone with experience thinks that I’m on the right track. I would love to be able to add almonds and sesame. My reactions are very fast – almost instantaneous. I get a vascular headache. If I get the wired feeling, that takes a few minutes to come on, but again, it’s pretty easy to tell what’s doing what.

      I have so very many supplements and medications that I despair of being able to come up with versions I won’t react to. I think cornstarch is a problem, and it’s everywhere. Maybe cellulose too, but I can’t say for sure. For now I am solving this problem by taking my drugs/supplements at the same time I take the antihistamines I use for sleep. That way I don’t react.

  5. Susannah says:

    I’m so sorry you’re having such a rough time with your diet hon! Having to cut out things you really like to eat is tough, especially, I’m sure, to the degree you’re having to!! Add on top of that your having to choose to leave vegetarianism behind…. Well, you’re right, it is akin to leaving a religion behind, in some ways. It’s a whole belief system.

    I was never quite so strongly veggie as you were, though I’ve eaten very little meat at all in the last two decades… and almost none in the last few years. I tried eating some bacon not long ago, and though I used to love it, it just felt wrong in my mouth, somehow. I guess it’s about what you’re used it.

    Have you tried searching online to see if there’s any organic/ethical meat sources online that deliver to your area? I live in the city, but there’s a few farm shops that do deliver to my area. At least that way, you’d know not only that the animals are treated right both through life and in how they are killed… But also that you’re not putting nasty chemicals etc in your body. Worth a try.

    I really hope you can adjust to the new diet hon because I do believe its ok, you know? If anyone *would* judge you for it, it’s simply because they don’t understand. When someone’s been as ill for you for as long, if something might help – and especially where really, you don’t have much option because your body needs protein, full stop – then you should absolutely do it, regardless of what anyone else thinks!

    Take care hon xxx

    • Jocelyn says:

      Susannah, thanks for the sympathy and good thought on the local meat suppliers. I have been doing that this week – sent a few queries to people who raise beef cattle nearby. There are folks who do chickens, too, but only in the spring and summer. I did stumble across a local goat cheese maker who also sells eggs, and it would be great if I could tolerate some of either of those.

      The judgment, truthfully, is all coming from me! If anyone else disapproves, they’ve kept quiet. I can supply myself with all the guilt needed. :)

  6. Susannah says:

    Ps you could also try looking for kosher meat suppliers… They’re not always organic, but they do at the very least keep and kill their animals ethically. Might be a second best if you can’t find any other options. .

    • Yocheved says:

      Keep in mind though, that kosher meat is salted very heavily, and it’s not always rinsed well. My husband works in the kosher meat business. (BTW, he’s a really big animal lover, and always tries to make the animals final moments as calm and painless as possible. He actually got fired from his last job because he complained that cows were being kept in a holding pen without water.)

      David Elliott and Weiss Organics are good sources for chicken, and Kohn’s has organic buffalo meat that is wonderful. Insanely expensive, but so much healthier for you than beef.

  7. lisag says:

    have you looked into mast cell disease. ppl find relief on low histamine diets and taking anti-histamines that block h1 and h2: example zyrtec and zantec…..helps with many allergen problems, food, supplements, meds, chemicals, toxins, etc. as well as pots and OI issues. gastro nasalcrom is also used. there are several docs in the east who are experts on this disease…dr. afrin is one who comes to mind. if interested do a google search for a forum that deals with this disease…i read one today and found it very informative. there are tests and treatments that can HELP with this debilitating condition which has many of the same symptoms as mecfs.

    i was a strict vegetarian from 16yo (after reading bless the beast and the children and watching the little black chick on 20/20- both made me cry) until i was felled by mecfs at 42. after 6 months of debilitating illness my dr. insisted i start eating organic meat again…..

    quite opposite from you, my first bite of open range, antibiotic/hormonal free, open range roaming roasted chicken, prepared by my persian mother in law was pure heaven…..i felt extreme guilt as i lifted the fork to my mouth with the perfect piece of roasted chicken but once the delicious meat was in my mouth i had no regrets….i remembering saying aloud to my family watching the fateful first bite: “sorry chicken, it’s me or you…and i win”. unfortunately this did not solve my debilitating sickness but 10 years later i am still enjoying organic free range raised beef, lamb and chicken bought at my local meat shop and lovely dishes prepared by my persian husband and mil (mmmmm good food)…..i live in berkeley though where it is easy to find healthy, cruelty-free, well raised food….expensive yes, but easy to find.

    i hate to say this but i believe those of us who are severely stricken with illness are going to need more than find the perfect diet…though the wrong foods definitely damage us….the right foods are not going to bring us to full recovery……just my jaded 2 cents.

    good luck, my best wishes are with you.

    lisa

    http://mastcelldisorders.wallack.us/yabb/YaBB.pl

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thank you so much for telling your story, Lisa. I have been wrestling with the idea of animals being food…I should say, the idea that humans can in some situations justify using animals for food. I could write another entry just on this subject. It is an idea I have a lot of trouble making peace with, but I’m trying to understand the people who feel that way and why they do.

      I don’t think the odds are good that it’ll cure me, but if I don’t do it, I’ll never know if it’ll help, right? I wish I could just know without doing it…

      Thankfully, Dr. Cheney has good familiarity with this sort of situation and has treated ME/CFS patients with it many times before. So he has laid out a whole plan of attack for me. I am trying to work my way into it. It does involve H1 and H2 blockers and then the cromolyn sodium that you mentioned as well as dropping some supplements and adding others.

  8. Tanya Marlow says:

    Oh man. I really feel for you. I knew that your vegetarianism was really important to you – but -crumbs – this was REALLy important. I totally get that thing about it being like a religion.

    Btw. Your writing, as ever, is stellar. I love meat, but you almost had me gagging at the thought of it by the end.

    I hope you find some meat that agrees with you… We get ours from a local organic farm – it helps with the guilt. :-)

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thank you, and thank you for your understanding, Tanya. I have been reaching out to several farms in our area that raise beef cattle. There are folks who come to our farmer’s market who do chicken in the spring and summer and lamb all year round, and I found someone who does goat cheese and eggs, which would be awesome if it turns out I can manage those. Failing that, we do have a Whole Foods up in Pittsburgh…it’s a half-hour away, but a good option.

  9. Tamara Epps says:

    I’ve been vegetarian since I was 11 and honestly I don’t know if I could eat meat avail. I became veggie because of the inhumane ways animals are kept and killed, but to be honest, I haven’t been bothered about that for years – vegetarianism is just part of my identity.

    I have considered that eating meat could improve y health, but I love t diet and am lucky that I seem ti be one if the few whose M.E. isn’t usually negatively affected, though I’m currently trying to see what positively effects it (turns out cutting out gluten is something my body is not happy about!)

    I hope that you can find what works for you, and remember that even if you are changing who you are it doesn’t mean you are a failure or any less you.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Tamara, it’s self-perpetuating that way, isn’t it? It just becomes the thing you do, growing out of convictions but not totally needing them any more. It’s very hard to divert that. Giving up gluten is no picnic either! I did that when I first fell ill – it didn’t seem to help. Hope you find the right path for you too.

  10. As a fellow vegetarian, that sucks. ME really takes the fun out of everything! Lamb is also one of the least allergenic meats, maybe due to its processing or not. Thanks for quoting Montoya, that made my day. I hope you continue to find yummy possibilities! :)

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thanks, IE. The sympathy from a like-minded soul is much appreciated. I do think I’m going to have to try lamb again if I continue on this path. Funny thing, it tasted mostly like beef to me, which is a testament to how long it’s been since I had either!

      • Beef was the last one I gave up but I haven’t got a clue what lamb should taste like! Would it be easier to serve it as part of another dish like curry or chilli? :)

      • Jocelyn says:

        The easiest thing right now is to keep it totally separate, so I can get my gumption up to deal with it all at once and then go back to the parts of the meal I actually want to eat. If I had to eat a dish where it was mixed in and I might not know if I was going to get it in that bite or not, I don’t think I could do that at this point.

  11. Alison says:

    I also tried coming out of my vegetarianism after I heard about the Wahls diet. I’ve since given up on it, I just do the best I can with what I can eat. But after being vegetarian so long, and converting my boyfriend, and also never having a taste for meat, the Wahls thing did make me realize I am better off if I have meat sometimes. And I will do almost anything to be better off. At least for awhile…I was told I could learn to love steak but it never happened. Maybe because I was only eating grass-fed. From the picture of your lunch it looks like you’re doing a great job of eating well!

    Your jello bunny story was so funny. Reminded me of a story my uncle told me from when he was a waiter at a French restaurant. He was working on Easter Sunday and the special of the day was rabbit. He asked if that was such a good idea since families with kids would be coming in for Easter, but, because they were French, apparently, they didn’t think it was a big deal. So he had to go to every table and say “Our special today is rabbit stew…” or whatever it was. Crying kids may have been involved…I don’t remember.

  12. Zander says:

    Ill tell the biologists to hurry up with the lab meat. And in the meantime, I will look for some paneer prep tips. Love you!

  13. Shirley says:

    I love the way that you tell your story about food, and even though I am not vegetarian I really feel for you having so limited choices in your food to feel comnfortable. Maybe realizing how our identity does change over time according to our experiences and situations will help and that you do owe it to yourself to try to have whatever you need to get better. Pasture raised meat is the only kind I will eat, but being in the SF Bay Area it is easy to get at Whole Foods. Dr. Wahls story is very compelling and now to hear that Dr. Dekoff-Jones is improving on it is interesting. I have been moving toward that goal for a while now, it’s slow going. I have always noted, even before I became ill, that I felt better on a mostly meat, veggies diet, but gluten free hasn’t made much difference. I am wondering now if all grains must be given up. On the histamine issue – a couple of years ago I began to get this swelling feeling in my head and neck; finally thnking that well maybe just maybe allergiy season was coming early I started on anti-histamines, immedialtey felt better plus the burning in my back greatly dimminished which was a great relief. I stayed on them for a year, but didn’t like the idea of being on constant antihistamines so my Dr. recommended isoquercetin. (Isoquercetin is several times stronger than quercetin.) Twice a day didn’t do much, but when I finally added 3x a day it had the same effect of the antihistamine. I can’t make the connection to any particular food yet, but it might be hard to tell on the supplement. I have tested it by stopping them and the back burning does come back so it’s one of my must have supplements now.
    I hope you find the path that works for you. I was thinking fish while reading your story, had no idea it would be high histamine food. Anyway it is hard especially when food is supposed to also be a source of comfort and soothing. Wish you the best!

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thanks for the suggestions, Shirley. I have a bottle of quercetin, another of DAO, and have been playing around with both. As with everything else, it’s slow going so I don’t confuse matters. It’s good to know that I might need more than I think.

  14. Here’s a great article on transitioning to meat, from people who know exactly how you feel. Maybe some of the tips will help? http://www.whole9life.com/2013/02/eating-meat-a-primer-for-the-meat-challenged-2/

    • Jocelyn says:

      Eileen, I actually had come across that article a couple weeks ago! When I went out to look for advice on starting eating meat again, I didn’t find so much out there – most people who eat it just plain like the stuff, and so I think there is little advice for those of us who don’t.

  15. kathy d. says:

    This is a very interesting post. I ate meat, poultry, fish, everything for years. Then I became quite upset at the treatment of many animals in the meat industry or was just turned off to the idea of eating many animal products. So, I stopped eating them. Then, my doctor told me my cholesterol LDL counts are high and I should stop eating red meat. So I gave it all up. Then I began to have moral opposition to eating mammals because of how animals are mistreated along the food chain.
    Additionally, when I first got CFS, for a number of years I could not eat, smell or look at chicken, which had been a staple of my diet for years. I’ve encountered other people who had this symptom. Then I got over that and have eaten poultry since then. But I can’t eat it if there is any fat involved. It has to be lean turkey meat or grilled chicken. The sight of any fat just turns me off. And I do eat salmon and tuna, although the small of canned tuna bothered me a few years ago suddenly, and I stopped eating it for a year or two.
    Now I eat a lot of smoked salmon on a whole wheat bagel, no cream cheese, a New Yorker I am.
    Histamine is a good issue. I have terrible allergies to pollen, dust, mold, weeds, anything airborne. When I got tested for allergies, my histamine reaction was enormous.
    And there are many foods, flavors, herbs, spices that I can’t eat. I had to give up pesto, dill, fennel-flavored toothpaste, and all kinds of plant-based foods because my allergic reactions start. And I meant it’s tightness in the back of my throat and then in my chest. So I do not mess around with this.

  16. Maisie says:

    I was very interested to read this post as I have been ill with severe ME since 1997. I too have been a vegetarian for 22 years since I was 20, but last year decided to try eating free range organic chicken for a while as an experiment to see if reducing foods high in thiols would improve my heath. ( I have since learned that I have a Nickel DNA Adduct and not mercury toxicity). After 9 months I had to give it up as I was getting more and more ill. I beleive ammonia was building up in my system as a result of not being able to digest the flesh and it was essentially rotting in my system releasing large amounts of biogenic amines (I too have major histamine issues). Meat might be okay for some people with MS, but those with ME often have paralysis of the gastrointestinal tract and putrefying meat in ones system does no-one any good. People with other neurological illnesses such as schizophrenia cannot break down and digest animal proteins properly and instead make what Dr Gerson says are ‘funky proteins’. This has been known about evidently since the 1950s. Also we need to restrict methionine, I believe as cancer cells can’t reproduce without it but healthy cells can, and due to immune suppression this is a future danger for anyone with ME. I really believe that unless you can properly digest and excrete meat efficiently you should stay away from it. It does not cure ME and indeed I believe actually makes it worse. Some people feel better on it initailly as the high amount of glutamate in it excites people’s brains giving them a bit of a glutamate induced high, but Dr Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon says people with brain diseases really should avoid eating meat – and that’s endorsement enough for me!

  17. Yocheved says:

    I totally hear you about the comparison to religion. I’m Orthodox Jewish, and I keep strictly kosher. If a doctor of Dr. Cheney’s calibre told me that in order to be cured I’d have to eat a ham and cheese sandwich on Yom Kippur, I would totally do it!

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