Recently my doctor put me on a special diet called the “Low FODMAP” diet, to resolve some stomach irritation problems I have been having for a while. You know those health issues that are minor to moderate that you never go to get checked out or at least not enough to get them resolved because you are a parent and responsible for the lives of small people who are constantly trying to kill themselves, so their health requires your full attention on a consistent basis? Yes — that’s the reason you haven’t gone to get those things checked out — you and me both. But eventually the annoyance of my stomach hurting pretty much every night drove me to my doctor’s office, and like a good doctor should, he sent me for blood work and put me on a restrictive diet to see if that would do anything. And I have been on this diet for a little over a week now, so of course I am already an expert on it. And in my “expert” opinion, it stinks.
The reason for this is that “FODMAPs,” the things I am trying to avoid, are in pretty much everything that is delicious. We’re talking your ice creams, your pastries, your donuts, apples, peaches, mangoes, dried fruits, and of course treats of any kind. They are in many cheeses and creams and milks. They are in many vegetables, too, all my favourite ones, like avocados and broccoli. And the list goes on and on. Even coffee (gasp) and wine (double gasp!) are things which “require caution” for consumption, but as I have told my doctor, those are where I draw the line, because I have to live, dammit, I have to LIVE.
It’s not even like I could just avoid dairy or wheat products, or just eat Gluten free or vegan, because FODMAPs are hiding everywhere. The word FODMAP is actually an acronym that stands for … wait for it … “Fermentable Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides And Polyols.” Pretty sexy, no? But it is not easy, of course, to remember the chemical components of each food and to know what to avoid, so instead, feeling like a real turd, I have to go on my phone and look at my little chart over and over and over again to see what I can and can’t eat. All. day. long.
Almonds and Grapes? I consult the list … hey – I can have them! Oh wait – I can only have a maximum of 15 per day. Cheddar? Only if it is “aged” cheddar. Banana? Yay! Wait — is it ripe? SLIGHTLY unripe? Nope, then. No banana for me. And on it goes, until I have no more friends. Speaking of friends, I recently went out for dinner with some of them, and we all know what a picnic that is when you have any type of restrictive diet. I felt so annoying, asking questions about things, looking at my little list on my phone. People are sweet about it, and waitresses are usually helpful, but it’s no fun. And whatever difference to my health it has made thus far is very small. Some days I get excited and feel like it’s working, and then the next day I feel sick again and I think “I gave up donuts for THIS?! FOR THIS!!?!?!”
But I have found ways of enjoying myself, and ways that I have been able to make this whole thing a little bit easier. For example, I think about how much healthier I will be when all this is over, and I think about the worst times when my stomach felt like it was being stabbed by a thousand little knives, and that helps me to reject the ice cream bar, or the cookie, or the second cup of coffee. I also get to be super snobby about it to my friends, which is kind of fun, because I get to be like: “No … I couldn’t possibly! Do you KNOW how many Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides are IN that thing?” Of course I will soon have no friends to do this to, but in the meantime it’s fun. Especially if I say it in a British accent. I also think about how I am modelling self-care to my kids. I want them to learn that my body is important, too, and not just another jungle gym for them to climb on. Good health helps me to be a better mommy, too, and that’s something for now, not later.
Donuts and ice cream may just be the hardest part of this whole thing, though, because I loooove them. The good news (which is not helping me right now, frankly), is that you only have to do the diet for 6-8 weeks, and then you can start bringing things back into your diet, in modified amounts. Of course there is also the possibility that it won’t help at all, and then I’ll just be put on a different weird diet, with other delicious things that I am unable to consume. Another piece of good news, though, is that this process has given me some compassion for others out there who are living life on a restrictive diet, and dealing with the social, physical, and even moral implications of that. Moral questions that include: what would I do for a donut right now? What about a croissant? What kind of madness am I now capable of?! Ahh!
Anyway, I will keep on keeping’ on for the next four and a half weeks, and pray that in the meantime they will invent a delicious donut made of only ripe bananas and no more than 15 almonds, that tastes exactly the same as a regular donut.
Hey, I can dream, can’t I?