Food history

Every one has their own journey with food. It differs from culture to culture and between socio-economic groups. If I had to pick one word for my food journey it would be: disrupted. Or maybe inconsistent.

My parents didn’t divorce until I was three. I assume that the first three years of my life involved fairly normal eating. When I was a kid I would look at my mother’s recipe book and look at the menu plans she had in the back. Pot roast, lamb chops, roast chicken. I assume I ate just fine for the first few years. The main thing my mother and my sister had to say was that I was very picky about my eggs. I would ONLY eat them if they were scrambled and cooked hard–basically to the point of being burnt. Both of them would tell me stories about that throughout my childhood in that way that made it sound like they accommodated me endlessly.

Then the divorce happened. We stayed in the house for a while. My mom started working and my sister was supposed to be my caretaker. My sister was a teenager dealing with extreme trauma so she wasn’t a very good caregiver. I knew how to cook my own ramen before I was four.

Then we moved out of the house and into our car. I don’t know what I ate. My mom worked at Denny’s and I remember long hours sitting in the car during her shift. I had nowhere else to be. Eventually I was sent to Auntie’s house for the first time. While I was gone my mom got married.

With Auntie we ate either rice or potatoes and beef every night. That is what Uncle Bob wanted. There would generally be a side of canned vegetables: corn, green beans, or peas.

So the malnutrition didn’t start that early.

I think things got bad when we moved to Oklahoma. We were very poor. We moved there to get away from my mom’s abusive second husband. My mom worked at Jack in the Box and we lived in a double wide in the middle of the woods. We ate a lot of game. I’ve eaten squirrel, chipmunk, fox, venison and I don’t know what all else. Her boyfriend was a pretty good hunter. Other than that I’m not sure what we were eating.

Then we moved to Texas and lost the game meals and my mom got another job (I don’t know doing what) and we lived in a trailer park. My sister moved in with us. We ate junk food, period. My sister was pregnant and mean as a snake. (Drug withdrawals combined with the ick of pregnancy wouldn’t be fun.) I ate food from bags: chips, etc.

Things didn’t get really bad until Tommy was hit by the car. That’s when my mom stopped feeding me. Realizing that right now, I feel very sad for her. I’m not sure I would be a better mother under such conditions.

My mom came back to California while Tommy was in a coma. Things were tumultuous during the five months he was in a coma. I was bounced around all over the place. My mom wasn’t capable of seeing me or taking care of me. I stole a lot of food to eat. I lived with people I didn’t know and I got very rigid about my food preferences. I would eat ramen or nothing in many of the houses I lived in. Food became very traumatic because I was dropped on these random mothers and they had different food culture. I wasn’t familiar with anything they served and I was punished if I didn’t dig in with gusto. I learned to be very difficult about food in order to ensure that I ate food that felt familiar to me. My pickiness was actually very self-destructive, but I didn’t understand that.

I didn’t eat green things, except for pickles and I ate pickles like a banana–I left the skin. I told my mom “green means mold–I’m not eating that”.

I also found weevils in the Nissin ramen packets guaranteeing that I have never been able to eat this brand again. You’ve never experienced horror until ramen is the only food in the house and every package is full of bugs. I ate them. I had to or starve. I cried while I did it.

I was seven when Tommy’s accident happened. I turned eight while he was in the coma. When I was eight or nine we moved to Whittier, in a house my father paid for so my mom could be close to Tommy during his recovery. We were there eighteen months.

Whittier was bad. When I think about the height of my hunger, that’s the period of time I’m thinking about. I was with my mom full time and my sister lived with us. My nephew was born while Tommy was in the coma. After he woke up from the coma he moved in with us and things got worse.

My mom and my sister and Tommy ate food. I ate ramen. They ate out a lot. I remember my mom coming home from work with Orange Julius cups. To this day I experience irrational hatred and anger when I even see the brand name. To be fair they were happy with “food” like liver and onions. No I didn’t fucking eat it with them. There wasn’t much food in the house. They didn’t cook very much. Grocery shopping was a nightmare–we had to go a long way and we had to walk or take the bus. I remember pushing an empty stroller to the store so we didn’t have to carry our things home.

I remember my mom crying as she counted out my packets of ramen. She got things like Lunchables. She told me they were too expensive for me. She wasn’t willing to eat ramen–she thought it was disgusting. Lunchables were palatable to her and about the cheapest food she would eat.

Fruits and vegetables didn’t exist.

We moved to Apple Valley after that. I stole a lot of food in Apple Valley. We moved there to be close to a group home facility Tommy could live in–the only one in the state that would allow adolescents. There are surprisingly few facilities for treating long-term brain injury issues.

My mom worked in City of Industry. Her commute was 90 miles each way. I was alone. I ate ramen.

We moved back to the bay area after that when things became untenable in Apple Valley. My dad was harassing my mom and I was getting beat up in school so much that even my mom couldn’t ignore it any more. We came back to Auntie.

I had diarrhea through most of my childhood. I missed so much school because my belly hurt. My mom read some stupid astrology book that told her that Virgos are prone to stomach complaints and she decided that my whining about my belly had to be that. She didn’t take me to see a doctor. She didn’t talk to me about my food or health. We did not have conversations about nutrition in my family of origin. I’m not sure my mom knew anything. She thought Pepsi and Snickers was a dandy breakfast.

My mom ate other foods. I ate ramen. When I was a kid I rebelled by not having a sweet tooth. I didn’t want to be like my mom.

I got to middle school and for some reason my mom didn’t apply for free lunch at school. I had eaten nachos every day for lunch through most of my childhood. Almost every school across the nation offers shitty nachos as a free lunch option. Mmmmm shitty free nachos. That was my primary school lunch. So in middle school I mixed it up. Every day I took one baggie to school and in it I placed a piece of string cheese, two pickle spears, and beef jerky. That was lunch for a few years. The scary part is that is a more balanced lunch than I had ever eaten previously. (Ok, I’m sure I had individual meals that were more healthy, but not often.)

High school I switched to instant noodles at school. It was a $1/day. Nachos were $2.50/day. I had $20/week for food. Oh, in Bakersfield I spent one semester at a school that had pastrami sandwiches for $2/day. Those were so good.

I started buying baguettes and blocks of cheese. That would be my food for the day.

For some reason, I feel like my mom rarely had food stamps. I think she just didn’t do the paper work. My sister had food stamps on and off throughout my childhood. I ate government cheese at her house. She was the asshole who insisted on fucking Nissin ramen “for variety”.

I don’t like peanut butter nor hot dogs because fucking everyone was always trying to get me to eat one or the other. No fucking thank you.

So I got to adulthood having eaten very little vegetables and even less fruit. My boyfriend at seventeen is the one who forced me to start eating vegetables. It wasn’t acceptable to him that I eat ramen at every meal. He made me eat broccoli. Really, he was a good guy to me.

We moved in together and I started trying to cook because I wanted him to like me and stay with me. If you want a guy to stay with you, you have to be good at cooking–right?

Eventually I decided I didn’t want to stay with him because he was too uhm conservative for me. So I left. I had broadened my food palate enormously. I ate Thai food for the first time. I tried Indian. I ate dim sum for the first time. (My previous entire Chinese experience was Mr. Chau’s fried rice, chow mein, and sweet and sour pork.) I ate Ethiopian food. I started eating vegetables of all kinds.

Then I moved in with my Owner. (He wasn’t my Owner to start with and really there was over a year of moving around and couch surfing and staying with friends in between the fiance and the Owner.) When I was couch surfing I ate out several times a week (it felt like magic–I had the settlement money so all of a sudden I felt like I wasn’t poor any more! I had over $200/month I could spend on food! *swoon*) and I still ate a lot of bread and cheese.

Now I think it is hilarious that $200/month felt like being rich. I spend more than $1200 every month on food now. That was how much money I lived on every month for years.

I got to know more vegetarians and vegans and pescetarians. I learned to feel enormous guilt and shame over my lack of “healthy” diet. When I spend time in a raw vegans house I walk out feeling like a monster who doesn’t care about animals. I tried really hard to add vegetables in my diet. The result was even more diarrhea.

Having kids has been the real kicker though. I eat vegetables now. Daily. We eat 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. My kids often eat more than that by choice. We go through so much fruit it is kind of bizarre to me.

I live with a lot of pain. It doesn’t make being nice easier.

I have done food diaries at various points. I was a champ at Weight Watchers. I have done them for the purpose of bringing them to doctors. What I was told was, “Wow you have a healthy diet! Maybe a little less sausage.” (That happened to be a slightly sausage heavy week… but the sausage isn’t why I have chronic diarrhea you asshole.) A different doctor said, “You need to eat more Fiber 1 cereal.”

So a casual food diary with notation of symptoms isn’t going to be real effective at this stage. I’ve done that. Repeatedly with no resulting help. I can’t narrow down what is causing the problems that way.

My mom spent my childhood mocking me because I knew where every public toilet in town was. I had chronic diarrhea. Why in the hell do you need to make fun of me for needing to shit fire every day? Ok, and I have a small and urgent bladder. I am lead to believe that is exceedingly common amongst people who experience early childhood sexual assault. I suppose that’s another great reason to make fun of me.

Yesterday I went to the store and spent a bunch of money on foods that fall under the auspice of “clean foods”. I feel like such an asshole. Then a friend pointed me to FODMAPS and I feel that is a slightly better focus for my upcoming journey. Let me tell you, elimination diets look like a big fat pain in my ass. The recommended lists of foods contradict one another. I suspect I should stay on the end of the IBS recommendations, regardless of the fact that I don’t have a diagnosis.

I can’t get a doctor to give me a diagnosis. Decades of diarrhea. I hate doctors. I don’t know how to work with them. I don’t know how to get help. And apparently this is a big failure on my part.

I’m not entirely sure what my next steps will be. I know that I go to Hawaii in 24 days. I know that Halloween and its candy bacchanalia is coming up. Thanksgiving is coming. Christmas. I would like to have a better idea what is hurting me. If I wait until a convenient time then I will never do it. I have gotten to 33 years old without ever doing an elimination diet because it is never convenient.

Several people have told me to switch to Soylent. The thing is… at some point I will have to eat again. And if I just switch to Soylent without trying to figure out the problem… it will still be there waiting for me. Even if Soylent did cure my diarrhea… what do I do when I need to eat food? Just suffer the whole time because I don’t know how to treat my body right?

I need more information before I can make different choices. If I could have the option of deciding that diarrhea is worth it for a specific event… that would be different than dreading every meal with friends who are vegetarian or vegan because I will be sick for a week afterwards. We had a vegan meal last Thursday? Wednesday? I’m still shitting fire. Did so this morning.

I’m not saying my diarrhea is anyone else’s fault. I picked the menu for the meal. I don’t know what is hurting me so I don’t know what to avoid.

I get so much conflicting information about “health”. I am at the point where I believe that any and all population wide beliefs about health are not that applicable to me. I need to figure out what health is *for me*. That is going to take data mining. Good thing I’m a control freak.

4 thoughts on “Food history

  1. Les

    Wow. I don’t think I knew your GI issues were that severe or persistent. I will agree that sorting them out is crazy hard and annoying in just so many ways. I have learned *some* things about mine, but still a lot of unknown, and I am scared to try an elimination diet again.

    Reply
    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      I can understand why you would be afraid. I’m one day in and I kind of feel like I’m about to die. My body hurts so much. I feel so sick.

      Yeah, my body has bee unhappy for a long time. I don’t talk about it much because… how do you bring up poop? 🙂

      Reply
  2. P.

    I have so many thoughts about this.

    IBS isn’t a disease, it’s just a catch-all term. So it is totally legit to say you have IBS when you just have frequent GI problems. (“Frequent” means at least once a week, some people with less are frequent.)

    I lived with someone for years that had food issues. He couldn’t deal with sulfites (asthma), MSG (migraines), dairy (IBS), spice (IBS), alcohol (IBS), and I think something else. So I spent years auditing ingredient lists in order to avoid harming the person I loved. It’s honestly good practice and helps frame things. Learning to read the labels is seriously useful and helps with everything, if you can’t eat everything from scratch.

    I’ve gone on several different elimination diets. I tend to use lent for this: I like lent as a construct and it’s a fixed period of a good length and I tend to know when Mardi Gras and Easter come, so that’s convenient. Usually it doesn’t give me reason to change long-term but at least I learn things.

    A few years ago, I was in a symptom-heavy periods. (I had problems after having tea at dim sum and thought I CAN’T EVEN DRINK TEA, WHY AM I SO CURSED.) I had potatoes for breakfast, like I sometimes do, and immediately had problems. So I decided to give up on potatoes for a few weeks (after doing a web search that suggested all nightshades at one go) and bizarrely enough it worked enough to be able to find the other problems. My body was constantly full of toxins which meant that removing a small thing wasn’t noticeable.

    There are many different kinds of elimination diets. It could be that one works for you and another doesn’t and that’s okay. There are so few hypoallergenic foods (turkey and sweet potatoes?) that it’s kind of hardcore to sign up to eat just that for a month. (Some people see results in a week but sometimes it takes a month to cleanse, its an imprecise art.) It’s easier to eliminate one thing at a go, even though that means that it will take longer to work out if you can find the problem. In my case, I’d already accepted that I was going to be constantly having this problem until the end of my life.

    This was super useful for me: http://www.diarrheadietitian.com/?p=234 . There is a growing microbiome community, where people can cultivate gut flora by tweaking their diet and get it tested to see what is there/missing. I think it’s an interesting idea.

    Reply
    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      This is all very interesting to read, thank you for sharing.

      I have tried remove-one-thing before and had basically no luck. That’s why I’m removing as many things in one go as I am this time. I suspect I have layers of irritation, like I can have dairy but not with x like other people have mentioned and I think that is why I haven’t had much luck with one-at-a-time elimination diets.

      I can’t do turkey and sweet potato for a month. I will lose my mind. I haven’t taken potatoes out yet. Maybe after week one if I haven’t gotten any progress on the diarrhea. This is hard and frustrating.

      Reply

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