I’ve always been interested in nutrition and the digestive system. The first year in science class that we started to learn about the human body, I knew I wanted to be able to have a job that made me learn more about it. Specifically I was always interested in the digestive system. And now, I’m continuing to learn! My story will give you some insight into why it’s always been of interest to me, and why I have a passion for helping others with meal plans. Yes I love food – but it’s more than that believe it or not. : )
My Allergies As A Child
Aside from having eczema from when I was born, I also had a lot of ear and sinus infections. Although my eczema was something that was bad and was painful at times, I didn’t have it as bad as I could have. When I was 5 1/2 years old I had my first allergy test done. They usually didn’t test on children that young and it was a struggle to get me in. My parents wanted to make sure that I was tested before I started school so that I could concentrate. Thankfully, they made an exception.
My back was so small that they couldn’t finish testing so they had to do the rest on the back of my arms. I just remember the itching and couldn’t wait until I got the calamine lotion rubbed all over me! The results came out inconclusive. My reactions were so bad and too close together for them to tell which was which. So another test had to be scheduled.
The results from that showed a huge list of allergens. Environmentally I was allergic to basically anything with fur, smoke, dust mites, cockroaches (?), mold, etc. Thankfully we didn’t have to adjust too much there. None of those things were in my house (that we knew of…) and mom dusted all the time already so those types of things were already kept at a minimum. Then there were most trees, all grasses, ragweed, etc. My doctor said to just stay inside in the air conditioning as much as I could. Which, as you’ll find out, I love nature, I love hiking, and I love being out in the sun – so that didn’t go over very well.
Then the food allergies. It’s easier to tell you what I wasn’t allergic to, then what I was. The results showed it in a scale from 1-4, 4 being the worst. “1’s” I could have maybe once or twice a week and be okay. “2s” if it’s in something accidentally I would be okay. “3s” and “4s”, avoid at all costs, some being dangerous.
For grains/starches I could have oats, potatoes, and rice. Fruits I could have watermelon, blueberries, apples, and citrus fruits. Vegetables I had carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, onions, and cabbage. Meats and seafood pretty much anything other than pork and shrimp. The only nut I could have were pecans. The only legume, surprisingly, that I could have was peanuts. A much shorter list than what I had to avoid. For the longest time we kept my list, but when we looked for it when I was putting this together we couldn’t find it. If it shows up, I’ll make a post to show you.
My main concerns that I would react to right away whether emotionally or physically was corn, soy, brazil nuts (learned that the hard way), and dairy. Cow’s milk and soy in any form would make my eczema a beautiful bright red, itchy, and flaky. Brazil nuts started to close my throat. And corn made me cry along with making my eczema painful and would start to crack and bleed. It would irritate any soft delicate skin – whether it was broken out in eczema or not. I would have to have 2 AM oatmeal and apple cider vinegar baths to calm down the burning from the inflammation some nights just to get back to sleep.
My mother always knew when I had corn chips if we went to a Mexican restaurant. I would always try to sneak a chip here and there. (You’ll find, that corn and I have a love/hate relationship.) If I did have a chip or two, by the time our meal came I was whining about something. If my fork dropped, I started crying. If my crayon broke when I was coloring the place mat – it was all over! My mom would just look at me all disappointed and compassionate at the same time (because mom’s know how to do that) and say something like, “You had corn didn’t you…okay…it’s gonna be a long day. Drink some water.”
At the time there was not a lot out there about allergies, especially food allergies. Eczema wasn’t link to being an allergic reaction, just a skin disease. Allergies couldn’t cause infections or a fever – it’s just allergies. Allergies didn’t effect mood, energy levels, etc. How I wanted to be a case study! My general practitioner didn’t want to believe that my eczema was linked to my food allergies. It didn’t take long and surprisingly he apologized to my mother a year later and said he never saw something like this before. After allergy shots and me sticking to my food allergy diet, I wasn’t sick all the time (just some of the time), and my eczema was calming down and more manageable.
I have to say – allergy medications, nose sprays, etc. They have a point and can definitely do some good. They help to reduce the reactions so that I didn’t have a sinus infection every time I turned around, but the allergy shots is what gave my immune system what it needed to be able to learn and grow so that my body would react to things more normal and I’d be able to grow out of most of my allergies. If you or your kid has severe allergies – environmental or food – allergy shots is what I believe truly helped the most for me and I encourage you to look into it. And then of course doing whatever you can naturally, which I’ll talk about a little bit later on in my story.
I learned from my allergy test onward what to look for on the ingredient list of packaged foods to help my mom try to find foods that I could eat. So looking at the nutrition label became second nature to me. The older I got, the more I learned how to read it and the more I benefited from doing so. After I got my results, there was only one small health food store in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My mother, my grandmother, and the woman who owned the store searched high and low for cereals, snacks, plant-based milks, etc. that didn’t have corn, soy, or nuts in it. My mother came back, after hours of three people searching, with a small box specifically for me. She even had to search for flour that didn’t have corn in it. That’s right – most all purpose flours can have corn in it too.
I have to hand it to my mom. She had me to cook for, then my dad who had other allergies, and then also taking care of my grandmother who had breast cancer and was going through chemotherapy. Only a few things didn’t taste like metal to her, along with watching her sodium because she was at risk of congestive heart failure. We look back now and even looking at my mother’s purse size agenda, and she has no idea how she did it all.
Even with all that was going on, I don’t remember my childhood being bad. I’ll tell you next how we dealt with somethings that had come our way. The next few pictures I’m going to share of me I always look out of it – so here’s proof that I wasn’t. : )
Dealing with Allergies
My mom got creative. She found a rice milk that was truly just rice milk, and then found a small ice cream maker at a garage sale and ta-da! I had my own rice milk ice cream. To this day – it’s the best rice milk ice cream I’ve had. At school when we would have a snack break and kids would have their cookies and milk, mom brought rice cakes (without corn syrup) and 100% apple juice for me to have. That was another struggle. The school didn’t have permission to allow her to bring my own snack. She had to get a doctors note and take it to the administrations office and they had to approve it. Then she had to take that to the school so I could have my snack.
Instead of pop corn, I had sunflower seeds to get my salty crunch on. Instead of popsicles with corn syrup, I’d have frozen blueberries or frozen grapes or frozen juice pops that we’d make. I never felt like I was without. Except for the occasional craving for corn. Because it’s corn and it’s delicious. (Love/hate relationship.)
Camping still happened! Like I said, my list of environmental allergies wasn’t going to “fly”. We were even in a tent! Of course we had a camp site with an electric outlet for my air purifier. Yep! There I was, my parents on the ground, and I was on a pop up cot with the air purifier humming away in our tent in the middle of “no where” with benedryl ready to go just in case. Can you say “bubble child”?
In school I never felt like an outcast. Kids would ask about my skin and if they could get it, or why I had dark circles. But it never was a big deal for me. I was never ashamed of it. It even got to the point that I didn’t even have to say things when we would have snacks given to us by teachers. My friends that I had in grades past would chime in and be like, “Oh no, Amanda can’t have that.” It was the best! I was different, I didn’t care, and neither did my friends. Awesome teachers, awesome friends!
Then there were times adults thought I was lying. I told my friends parents I couldn’t eat the green beans they had as the vegetable and they called my mom to make sure. Once they got off the phone, I remember saying “See! I can’t have it.” And they never questioned it again. It didn’t happen often. I knew what I was allergic to, and I knew what to avoid. I didn’t care if I was going to be called out on it or questioned. And I can see how in other areas in my adult life now that it’s made me be able to stand up as different for good reasons and not be ashamed of it.
My parents always wanted to make sure that I was able to do as much as I could without pushing too hard. They got creative. They took the time to research and the extra time to get the things I needed. There were only seldom occasions I remember being really bummed about because I “couldn’t” go somewhere or do something. My cousins would go walk around in “the woods” and there were days, after already playing outside, that mom told me I had to stay inside with her. And then there was a sleepover party at the end of pre-school that I couldn’t go to because my friend had pets. BUT – my mom took me there early in the morning to take part in the games and other things they were doing for a short time. There wasn’t too many pictures, and this was the best one I could find… oh well. I really do remember having fun!
Between the allergies and then the medications my parents did a great job helping me and tolerating me and my moods. Like I said before there was not a lot out there that confirmed how much allergies effected people emotionally. Depression, irritation, sadness, etc. My parents could tell where it was coming from, and they were really patient with me. Unless I had too much corn. (Love/hate. I’m telling you!) If you have a kid with food allergies, please understand this and please be patient with them. They don’t know why they are acting that way either.
As A Young Adult
I was 10 when we moved from Indiana to Texas, so a whole new set of friends who had no idea who I was and what I was dealing with. It was okay at first but puberty had already started. The awkward feelings about yourself and accepting the odd shape you are now set in. I wasn’t as outspoken about my allergies, but I didn’t have to be as careful as before. I started to get embarrassed about my eczema, but I knew there was only so much I could do. I was still on allergy shots for a few more years and I also had creams from the doctor and allergy medications I took on a semi-regular basis.
I was tested again for my allergies when I was 12. Most of them had calmed down or not shown up at all, and they didn’t have to do two test on me. My major allergies were still apparent, and a lot of my environmental allergies didn’t change very much. My food allergies however, I had a little more flexibility with. I was grateful!
Then came the fact that I was overweight for my age. My new general practitioner, who truly was ignorant, told me not to have any more fast food. I tried to explain to him that most of my meals were home cooked because of my allergies, and he asked me if I was sneaking fried chicken. Really? That was the last time I went to him. So then started my dieting trial and errors. Most of my dieting was without researching much, just what some of my other friends were doing. I tried a low-carb diet and after 2 weeks I remember biting my mom’s head off one day and from the kitchen to the living room she threw me a cookie and yelled, “EAT IT!” And that ended my low-carb dieting.
I soon had symptoms of IBS and learned by default how sugar, caffeine, fried foods, and stress effected it. It was about that time that my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She went through 6 rounds of chemotherapy, and yes, she’s a survivor! But during that time we started to learn about organic produce, whole foods, and getting away from processed foods, especially sugar and how it encourages cancer growth. Our diet took a turn for the better and we starting incorporating more wholesome components to our diets and have tried to keep that up ever since.
When I was about 15/16 years old there was a month we worked out with a personal trainer who wanted us to go on a low carb diet. My mother was scared to see what I would turn into again with limiting my carbs drastically. And turned out after a few weeks, he had me having a small amount of carbs. I’ll get to that in a minute. I learned a lot. I learned that I could push myself and I was capable to going further than I thought, which helped my self-esteem in general. I especially learned about when to eat before a work out. I threw up because I didn’t eat. I threw up because I did eat, but too soon. And then after a week or so, I came in, started working out, and started to feel nauseous. The trainer didn’t believe me and then a few minutes later he saw I was grey and had me lay down. He ran out and came back with apple juice. I took a few sips and it was gone. My blood sugar got too low. So from then on I had a small amount of healthy carbs back in my diet that I didn’t have before. I’ve had carbs in my diet ever since and just kept adding to it from that point on. I realized that carbs are not the devil, and that people obsessed with low-carb diets are missing a major portion of nutrients their bodies need, and the #1 energy source that your body uses, especially your brain and nervous system. With the little I now knew about working out and weights, and started to eat healthier, and had a decent all around healthy routine. I got down to a healthy weight, but I always fluctuated give or take 10 pounds.
As a Working “Woman”
So when I started working, that was probably when my diet became the worst. I started working at the mall when I was 18 and on my break I would have fast food. I gained some weight, but it was more my skin that suffered the most. I never had a lot of acne issues, or really any other skin issues other than eczema, but it started to come on strong because of the grease I was eating, and then the amount of caffeine and not as much water. Soon after I also got a job at a natural grocery store in the vitamin and supplement department. Aside from the retail hours, that has been my favorite job because of the job itself and what I was learning. I was on my feet all day, I was drinking more water, I was taking my multi-vitamin, and I started to learn how to aid my allergies naturally.
I only had part time jobs and being 18, I no longer had insurance. So I was all about what I could do naturally for my skin and my allergies. I had learned a lot about detoxing in general and how that helps your allergies and skin in the long run because of cleaning out the inside. I also started using natural body products (other than shampoo – I have yet to find a decent natural shampoo) and using neem oil and other things to spot treat my eczema.
This was about the time when I also started to learn what my metabolism would easily burn up. At lunch if I had a chicken sandwich or something kind of heavy and more bread and meat, I’d be cold after and kind of tired for a little bit. If I had a green salad, no matter what kind, with or without meat, I was on fire and bursting with energy – which is definitely something you want when you are on your feet. I also started noticing how sugar was effecting me. I was fine with things here and there, but if I had a rich dessert I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. It was like there was never any sugar high and I went straight into the crash. I stopped having as much desserts and processed sugar, and if I did have it, I’d have a glass of water to chug down after it. It helped, but not enough.
Married Life Begins
When James and I got married I was about 150 pounds and then slowly gained weight because that’s what happens. I tried to keep an eye on it, but eventually 5 years later I had gained 30 pounds. You know what really bites? I gained 30 pounds and some of my clothes still fit. Most didn’t, but some did. Depending on how you loose weight, you can lose/gain 20-30 pounds and still fit into those pants you thought would be falling off of you. I can’t gauge my weight gain by my clothes all the time. It can be irritating.
Anyway – in 2010 I had started a desk job which didn’t help my weight gain. And James and I were still having the typical 20-something year old food. Fried boneless buffalo wings, fries, soda, pizza, etc. With healthy home cooked meals during the week, but on the weekends it was whatever we wanted. It didn’t really effect him as much as it did me at that point. By 2012 anything I ate caused cramping. I had a sandwich, cramping. I had Mexican food, cramping. I had a salad, cramping. I had a dairy free smoothie with no added sugar, cramping and running to the bathroom. I had had it!
I went back to my allergy diet even making my own rice milk at times, and it helped a little. But I was still having a lot of issues. So I started a food journal to see what I could find out on my own and tried to eat healthy whole foods. That only helped a little bit more. About 2 weeks later while getting my “plan” down as far as what I was going to do next, I put a documentary on.
Being Plant-Based, & Blogging
It always starts with a documentary. The classic Food Matters and Forks Over Knives happened to me. I figured why not? What’s it going to hurt? I’m already pretty much dairy free, why not try cutting out eggs and meat and seeing how it helps? I was still trying to keep with my allergy diet as well so I knew I couldn’t have soy, beans, or nuts, and like most people who never tried vegetarianism – I was worried about my protein intake. I watched it like hawk making sure I had what I needed.
I was watching it so intently, that it was a week later that I realized I hadn’t felt cramping or pain in 5 days. It took only 2 days for the cramping to stop, and a full week for there to be no issues with IBS at all. Within 2 weeks I was sleeping HARD and dreaming regularly. Within a month I noticed a huge increase in energy and not getting as bad of a slump in mid-afternoon. It was awesome! So what started as a 2-4 week trial, became everyday.
I started testing my other food allergies to see if anything had changed, because why not? I realized that some of my other plant allergies like beans, other vegetables, and some nuts I was not reacting to any more or much less. I guess my body chemistry changed and my body didn’t go right into an inflammation shock. I decided to truly test it out one night.
We all went out one night and I had corn chips and salsa. The WHOLE bowl of corn chips. Usually after something like that I’m usually at least itching. I wasn’t itching. Awesome! The next day I STILL wasn’t itching and my eczema wasn’t breaking out and no part of my skin was red. Could it be that corn and I can finally be together?! I get to work and everything is going as normal. I’m writing down my list for what I needed to get done that day and my pen stops working. I wanted to throw the pen on the ground violently. I started tearing up and thinking about how worthless I am like this pen that was no good anymore. Complete emotional freak out moment! Flashbacks of me having an emotional meltdown and crying on my mother after a crayon broke at some Mexican restaurant. I calmed down. Texted my mother and asked her, “Hey mom! I know that my allergies would effect my mood right?” and all she text back was, “Yeah. Corn makes you cry.” And then I started laughing and knowing where it was coming from helped. I could deal with it the rest of the day (or two) and I knew – although I wasn’t itching, burning, or breaking out, corn was still not good for me especially for my emotional health.
Even James knows it. I told him about this story and since then if I accidentally forgot to ask for flour tortillas and not corn on my spinach enchiladas, there’s something I’ll be crying about later to him. He’s gotten more understanding of it. However, the second we get corn chips served at our table he just looks at me. If I start reaching for one he’ll ask me, “are you sure?!” It’s.that.bad. The struggle is real ya’ll! – Yes, I’m Texan. And chips and salsa are everywhere. GOOD chips and salsa are everywhere. Why?!
My major allergies – dairy, corn, and soy are still very much there and I stay away from it on a regular basis. Of course there’s those times for the occasional cheesy veggie pizza from one of our favorite places, and that cup of corn kernels in the veggie chili that makes it all come together with that sweet juicy pop in your mouth can’t be skipped! The love/hate relationship continues… Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be more stories of corn and me to come to my husband’s demise.
Meanwhile Blogging Begins
It was in the spring of 2015 that I started my first blog, The Shared Skillet. It was to share what I’ve learned about plant based cooking and the meals that I made for our “mixed food family” with me being plant based and James – still just eating whatever without consequences. I’ve always wondered what that feels like. The blog was more of a hobby than anything else. It kept me focused on something positive and it was something I could control when there were other things I couldn’t. It’s served it’s purpose, but it was time to hang up the hat.
In 2016 my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s in the beginning stages and she is now on a program that seems to be helping. I am the only child, so to be able to help them around the house with chores to make sure my parents don’t exhaust themselves, and where James and I were in our life, it worked out that we moved in with them in 2017. Since then we’ve helped them fix up their house, taken care of the more tiring chores, and I’ve been doing meal plans for dinners, (and for a while breakfasts and lunches) for the whole family.
My father is starting to feel his age and gets tired easily and is needing to watch his heart health. My mother, with her MS, has had some areas start to heal but still deals with numbness, weak legs, and some days or weeks is just exhausted. Which is something rare for my mother. She has always had more energy than me, and still does some days I might add. She’s the person who takes a 5 minute nap and crashes, and then is ready to go for the next 8 hours. For example, I got up one morning at 5:30 am, barely could open my eyes, creeping to the bathroom in the shadows, and I saw my mom in the living room. Lights on, fully dressed, hair and makeup done, and crocheting on the couch, legs crossed and popping her leg up and down. I just peaked around the corner and asked “WHY?” and she just looked at me and smiled and said, “Oh, I’ve been up since 4 am.” That is definitely one thing that I did NOT get from my mother. I like to sleep. I’m sure you’ll be hearing stories about our family life throughout the blog.
James had started to get a gut and started to feel the effects of fast food, processed foods, red meat, and sugar (finally!), so he’s now wanting a healthy lifestyle as well. So it’s been nice that now in 2018 we can both have healthy goals to work towards together although still with different diets. I still have my goals of being a healthier weight, and keeping with a healthy work out routine. I still have goals of staying away from corn and dairy as much as I can for everyone’s good. And I can’t wait to be able to help anyone else who is wanting the start or maintain their healthy individual goals.
I’ve started Nutrition and Wellness Certificate in July 2018 and should be completed sometime in the beginning of 2019. There will be other certificates to come, but that’s the start. I’ll be posting what I’ve learned, more stories (family, fails, or otherwise), and healthy recipes I make at home. Once I have the certificate I want to help people with their goals by helping them with meal plans. Specifically those with food allergies or other necessary restrictions that makes it a challenge for the rest of the family. I’m sure I’ll be adding to my story, and I hope you will be a part of it.