by Amanda Greeley | @AmandaGreeley | @TheBadBitches
In a world full of fad diets and an alarming increase in food allergies (and people who fake allergies to justify being on a diet), I often find myself defending food. Can we not criminalize butter and eggs and pasta and a whole slew of other things that humans have been eating for hundreds or thousands of years?
Can everyone just chill out and have a donut now and then?
Funny enough though, if left to my own devices, I much prefer to eat a very healthy, mostly plants diet - what a lot of people in 2016 would call ‘clean’. Many of my very favorite food flavors come from fruits and vegetables like vine tomatoes, uber peppery arugula, and juicy red grapefruit. I haven’t used bottled salad dressing in more than a decade, always preferring to use some combination of citrus, vinegar, and oil. I also really like quinoa and millet and coconut oil and a lot of other funky ingredients employed by vegans.
In fact, I get downright excited to try vegan and vegetarian restaurants. I’ve been to Café Gratitude and I struggled to order, having difficulty deciding if I should order based on the adjective I wanted to be or the dish I actualy wanted to eat. If you are unfamiliar with this place, take a look at the menu here and see what I mean. It’s one of the sillier menu concepts I’ve ever seen, but their vegan creations were pretty damn delicious.
All of that said, I struggle with people (sparing those who have serious allergies and maybe also those who are on passionately on some deep moral save-the-planet crusade) who declare that they will NEVER eat certain foods. Picky eaters have always been one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s not that I want to tell anyone how to live their life, it’s that I feel like these people are missing out on one of the greatest pleasures of life:
Eating and sharing beautiful food and drink with others.
To me, happiness is a long night spent at a dinner table, whether spent with just one other person or with a big group of people. In my own life, most of the best conversations I’ve been a part of have happened at a dinner table.
I think, because of that, I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t enjoy a little triple-cream cheese or rigatoni bolognese, and I definitely don’t want to live in a world where I can’t have a glass (or three) of wine.
For the most part, I think this mindset on food works fairly well for me.
And then, the week before last I got sick. Really sick. Not only did I have some version of the flu that lasted for more than a week, my immune system was working so hard that it could no longer save my skin. I was having an allergic reaction to something and it manifested itself as a nasty little rash around my mouth.
I came to learn that this rash is perioral dermatitis. If you Google it (I wouldn’t recommend this), you’ll find some pretty gnarly photos of extreme cases. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s something that was virtually unheard of before the 1970s (which clearly says this is something we’ve brought onto ourselves), but these days mostly happens to women in their 20s-40s. A combination of stress and mild allergies leads to a painful, dry, bumpy rash around the mouth (and for some people around the eyes - eek!).
Reading about it can be super depressing. Some people deal with this shit for months before it goes away. I am clearly NOT a doctor, but a lot of what you read on the Internet (because everything on the Internet is true, right?) says that many doctors misdiagnose this and prescribe steroid creams which basically always make it worse and others give out antibiotics that can take weeks to work or might not work at all. What the fuck, right?
So, being the closet hippie that I am, I decided to tackle this the natural way. It’s not that I ‘don’t believe’ in medicine - what I do think is that there are a lot of ailments that are a result of our bodies trying to tell us something.
Last week, my body was saying, “Fuck you, Amanda”.
After several days of trying to power through life as usual, I finally decided that I would take a couple of days to actually try to recover. And, amazingly, just two and a half days of getting proper sleep, washing my face with honey, applying violet extract and calendula cream to the bad spots, switching to a non-fluoride toothpaste and a sulfate-free shampoo, and eating a super clean diet not only made me feel 1000% better, it also completely cleared whatever the hell was on my face.
What did I eat? Well first, this is what I didn’t eat: no meat, no dairy, no gluten, no alcohol, and no nightshades (something I just learned about this week).
If you don’t know, nightshades are a broad group of veggies that include tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers. Apparently, they can cause inflammation. Other than having a general idea of what it means for something to be inflamed, I thought, ‘what the hell does that mean?’.
The short answer is that inflammation is BAD. It basically can control our lives and plays a role in everything from heart disease to stroke to obesity to ADD. This is why, I’ve learned, that people like Gwyneth and Gisele limit how many nightshades they consume. Figures.
Okay, so here’s what I actually did eat: I lived off of a combination of kale, arugula, carrots, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, quinoa, ginger, garlic, olive oil, coconut oil, lemon juice, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, almond milk, sliced almonds, herbal tea, and a TON of water.
Though that might sound grim at first, I enjoyed it. There’s a scene in season one of GIRLS where Adam explains to Hannah that he eats ‘for fuel not for feelings’ and this week, I too felt like I was eating for fuel.
Click Here for the recipe for the Sautéed Vegetables over Spicy Peanut Quinoa Shown in the Post.
Other things I learned:
You can cook with coconut oil. It’s actually a great way to lightly sautee carrots, cabbage, and kale. Veggies cooked in coconut and tossed with sea salt, black pepper, and lemon juice are delicious.
I made a kind of lovely breakfast creation by soaking some quinoa overnight and then cooking it in almond milk rather than water. I mixed in some honey, sea salt, cinnamon, and sliced almonds, and dare I say it was actually pretty good.
I rediscovered some veggies I often overlook. Though they are very mainstream veggies, I often pass on carrots and cabbage at the grocery store, but realized that these simple inexpensive bad boys can do great things for the human body, inside and out, and when cooked properly, they’re great.
I know I’m not ready to declare myself a full-on vegan, but I do think this week served as a reminder for just how important food and rest are for our health. We really are what we eat and we owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies. I also think that I can make an effort to eat more like I did during the past few days when I do cook for myself - maybe a little more quinoa creation vs. pasta creation in my own time. Still, I’ll go to bat for pasta any day.
I also think life is too short to eat crap, especially crap that doesn’t even taste that good. When I do eat things that might not be the best for my heart or for my waistline, I want them to be as good as they can be and ideally, I’d like to eat them amongst good company. Turns out that ‘quality over quantity’ works for just about every aspect of life.
Lastly, if you’ve every dealt with perioral dermatitis or anything like it, first, I’m sorry, and second: here are the products that worked best for me so maybe you don’t have to spend as much money as I did at Whole Foods…
Toothpaste | Jason Sea Fresh Toothpaste
Cleanser | Raw Honey (Raw Honey with a little Baking Soda if you want a gentle exfoliator)
Violet Extract | Apply liberally to affected area. It will burn like a bitch at first, but eventually it will more or less dry up the bad stuff, peel off, and underneath will be new happy skin. This took my face about 60 hours.
Naturopathica Essential Hydrating Cream with Calendula | This stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s the shit.
Shampoo & Conditioner | EO Botanical Sulfate-Free with Coconut, Keratin, and Hibiscus.