When the Apple Cart is Overturned {The Grove: Food}

It started off simply enough.

I had an infection and went to the pharmacy to get over-the-counter medication (as I have before, no biggie).

Then the infection returned while traveling. Sigh. Oh well, still, no biggie.

Then it returned.

Then it returned again.

Now, I may not be the quickest to get myself to the doctor, but four infections in about a month? Um, apparently another approach was needed. Praise Jesus for people who sit in labs and have no social life and figure out how to make pills that cure what ails the rest of us with social lives and jobs and people counting on us!

Until said prescription ends and the infection returns. Why do “emergencies” always happen after hours or on a weekend?! (I put it in quotation marks because I get that my situation is not life-threatening. I often think a situation is an “emergency” when in truth it is more distracting or uncomfortable or just plain annoying. I also notice how these situations make my vernacular choice a tad dramatic).

According to the internet, cutting out a few foods would help me feel better.

Fair enough.

I would have said that I was an overall healthy eater. Oh sure, I like a piece of chocolate after dinner. And if pizza was a food group, I would have had no problem meeting the quotient. But, hey, there is “bad pizza” and “good pizza.” You know, with only veggies and no silliness like stuffed crust.

So began the change in my relationship with food. No carbs, no problem! We will kick this infection and move on with life. After all, I like tofu and hummus and Kalamata olives.

I was referred to a specialist and put on six months worth of medication. But—oh people—my body doesn’t really seem to be responding to the medication, so he said, “You will need to starve it out of your body. Anything it eats, you don’t.”

I’m not proud of this, but I cried as I walked out. I thought, “I don’t mind giving up pizza for a while. After all, the side effects right now are so awful, I don’t want to eat it. But if I had known the last time I ate pizza was THE LAST TIME, I would have enjoyed it more. I would have savored each bite. I would have been more present. And now I can’t give pizza a proper goodbye.”

It is easier to say what I can eat than bore you with what I can’t. Plain greek yogurt, meat, and most veggies are sustaining me. It is still surreal I haven’t eaten fruit since November (other than lemons and limes). My new party tricks are actually annoying food facts.

Did you know there are moldy and non-moldy nuts? And mold likes to make things grow? So, no peanuts, cashews, or pistachios for me. Did you know vinegar is in yellow mustard? And vinegar is processed in yeast and yeast likes to make things grow? Did you know soy sauce has soy which is a bean which is a carb which is VERY ANNOYING? Did you know that the “ose” in “lactose” refers to sugar and sugar likes to make things grow? Did you know chicken bullion is 1% sugar?

Oh, I had lost track of the time too. It is getting late. I can totally understand why you and the kids need to go to bed at 6:30 p.m. 

Food has moved from being comforting to part just-for-survival and part medicine as I try to cooperate in my healing.

I go through waves of fear. Fear?! I have never been afraid of food. But it is so much easier to eat at home and know that I am not risking setting my healing back by months.

To waves of gratitude. My mind wanders to my friend Mike who died last September. If all Mike had to do was alter his diet to stay with his family and feel better he would have done it. All I have to do is alter my diet and my life goes on pretty much as it has.

I have learned how much food is woven into culture. Be it holiday baking or a favorite meal for a birthday to casually hanging out with friends, food is often the center. It is exhausting to have a part of life that is usually a bit player take center stage.

It turns out that food, even in Western individualistic countries, is far more communal than I thought. My diet restrictions have impacted my family. It has impacted get-t0gethers and what I can and cannot eat. It makes all who come near me think through menus and restaurants and rituals. I wish I did not have to take so many on this path with me.

And yet.

And yet, the kindness shown also comes wave after wave. The research people have done. The recipes people have tried. The thought and effort put into not merely keeping me alive, but also finding ways to thrive in this new land we find ourselves. The Psalmist said to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

His goodness has also come in comments. “Amy, what is tricky is that you are sick, but you don’t look sick so you have to get all of your work done while finding time to go to the doctor and learn a whole new relationship with food. All the while you need more rest and to slow down and listen to your body.” I teared up when a friend said this. “I see that you are sticking to this. I know you are not eating what you shouldn’t be.” Sometimes all it takes is a witness. Someone to say, “I see you. What you are doing is not un-seen.”

It started off simply enough, but isn’t the same true for many of life’s profound lessons? When I signed up to write about food, I thought the infection was dead and I’d be reporting more from the “after” side of these lessons. Instead, this is a report from the front lines. I am still in process of learning and leaning into the not-as-resolved-as-I-would-like parts of life.

I know you can relate.

What has been impacting your relationship with food recently? Any new loves? Or foods you are needing to avoid?


This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesFood. You can add yours!


  1. Carrie March 2, 2017

    Ugh! I can relate to this unfortunately. For the first time in 40 years of life this past year started me on a journey of health issues that caused food restrictions. I used to be able to eat anything (even though I normally chose to eat healthy). I prided myself on avoiding the parasites and being healthy! Goodness, I made it 9 yrs before I got the dreaded giardia. But 2016 taught me that my system wasn’t invincible. I haven’t had a peanut butter & jelly sandwich since July. I’m afraid of how my body will react if I eat out where I can’t control everything that goes in the food. I still don’t exactly understand my problems so I feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark without knowing if my dietary choices are helping my body to heal. But like you said it’s a gift to keep living and if we really can adjust our diets to help our bodies then it’s worth it.

    1. Amy Young March 2, 2017

      Carrie, I so get the stress of eating out! When I am home, I at least know what has gone into food and can relax a bit more when it comes to eating. I hope you can find a doctor or a nutritionist you can talk to (but I know it can also be frustrating and the desire to give up can be easier because of the amount of time and effort). to help. One thing I have learned through this unexpected (and unwanted) adventure is that each body is different 🙂

  2. Elizabeth March 2, 2017

    Amy, if you’re fighting what I think you’re fighting, I have fought the same thing, over and over and over again, while and nursing my first kid and while pregnant with my second, and then not for years and years until just a couple years ago when it started happening again with fair regularity. I hit a point earlier this year where it seemed to be recurring more often and I was so so so frustrated. I was feeling really broken. Over the years I’ve often been desperate for healing, and it has done strange things to my psyche at times. I think I’ve now found some ways of dealing with it better, but it does require lifestyle change 🙁

    Love you and sorry this is happening to you right now.

    1. Amy Young March 2, 2017

      One of the others in VA leadership also faced this when nursing and in desperation in late Nov/early December I texted “HOW LONG did it take you to kick it?! I just need to know there is hope!” Oh my, I have had periods of feeling crazed and betrayed by my body. Since mid-December I have watched my food like a hawk, so having any symptoms these days makes no sense . . . there is nothing to for it to eat! And yet, and yet. One doctors basically said, “Well, clearly you DID eat something. So it is your choice, do you want to feel bad or not?” I felt so shamed and betrayed. The next time it flared up and I was desperate for relief, I thankfully saw a different person in the office as he was booked that day. She said, “I believe you. I believe you are watching your diet the way you say you are.”

      Turns out “I believe you” are three of the kindest words.

      I am sorry YOU have had to face this and maybe currently are. These bodies are amazing and I marvel at how God has wired us. But when things are off, they can be a source of frustration and desperation :)!

      1. Elizabeth March 2, 2017

        “Betrayed by my body” — YES. That is what I always felt when I had other postpartum complications too. I would think, my body has always been strong and good to me, why is it doing this NOW?? At times I also felt crazy, and my best friend can attest to some of the crazy things I said in those times (and my husband can attest to some of the crazy things I DID at that time).

        “I believe you.” How beautiful, and how healing. At different times I could look back and see something I did that contributed to my problems, but other times I honestly couldn’t see any connection at all, which of course added to the madness!

        It can also be hard to not “look sick” but be feeling so sick and be so mentally distracted by your symptoms and whether they’re getting better or worse (sometimes imaginarily so) and by trying to remember when to take your meds and supplements next. The money’s a factor too — we didn’t have insurance when my babies were young and I know even now medical costs are sky-rocketing.

        So yeah, it’s rough and I’m so sorry and I’m hoping and praying all these months will be paying off for you soon.

        Sending love.

        1. Amy Young March 3, 2017

          Oh the craziness too of “am I getting worse? Or do I just THINK I am do I am misreading signs my body is sending :)!” Trying to be wise and in-tune without inadvertently making things worse by misreading them 🙂

      2. M'Lynn March 3, 2017

        I’m sad you had to feel shamed and betrayed in a doctor’s office. I’m hoping you will continue to be led to the right people God has lined up to help you in this season. Also, I’m rejoicing that there are ways you can fight this thing. I also know how it feels when food discussions become your party trick. I try to keep my food allergy issues on the DL because when I bring it up I end up explaining myself and it just takes too many words and I feel the same about that as I did when I had a newborn and the poop became all I could talk about. 🙂 I’m thankful for friends who listen anyway despite the seasons when I’m single minded about the thing that’s dominating my life!

        1. Amy Young March 3, 2017

          I try to be aware and not have my food stuff become the center of conversations — but I also understand that most are truly curious and want to learn. Finding that balance 🙂 . . . if only I could “eat normal” than it wouldn’t be so noticeable. But right now, yeah, not something I can really hide :)!!

  3. Annalisa March 2, 2017

    It’s actually 6:45, not 6:30. 😉

    But do I know what you’re talking about. In 2013, I was going through something similar except that it wasn’t an infection, it was vomiting and bloating and lots and lots of pain. What it ended up resulting in was an elimination diet…in a country where you can’t verify the source of most anything you’re eating so you don’t know if you just tested oats or if you were also testing gluten. I actually dedicated an entire blog to it (not just a post) as I struggled to find things I could eat and things I couldn’t. Some things I already knew, such as corn kernels. (My body does just fine with ground corn; I don’t think my husband would have married me if I couldn’t eat tortillas. 😉 )

    My complete list of foods I cannot eat is as follows: Caffeine (i.e. chocolate, coffee, Coke, Pepsi, energy drinks, Mountain Dew, and some other pops which I have to read the label on them if I’m not familiar with them), eggs (tiny amounts in baked goods are *okay*, but the less the better), corn in kernel form, black beans (can, but not advised), potatoes (currently…pregnant and the baby doesn’t like them), chicken (also pregnancy related), and tortillas (also pregnancy related), and most fish I can get in the market (concerns over mercury content due to pregnancy). I also try to limit my dairy intake (which isn’t hard as most delicious dairy isn’t readily available here at an affordable price) and my gluten intake because “excessive amounts” of either one of them doesn’t make me feel very good.

    Yesterday I repurposed that blog, but I left the elimination diet posts there. In case you want to read it: https://gringaplant.blogspot.com/2013/09/introduction.html is the first post of about 10.

    1. Amy Young March 2, 2017

      6:45 🙂 . . . at least we haven’t lost our sense of humor!! And for a while, this was influencing my sleep too! At least now I’m a bit more rested :). Not knowing what is in food can be so maddening, can’t it! Even though I am currently in the US and can read labels, going out to eat is pretty much a nightmare. I will ask and ask and ask questions of the server and no matter how careful I am, it seems that I eat something that aggregates what is going on :(. Praying for you as you teal with you food stuff without labels!

      1. Annalisa March 3, 2017

        I remember those days. They thought my dad had Celiac disease; so whenever we went out, it would be a serious interrogation of the server over half a dozen dishes that seemed like they shouldn’t have gluten in them but might incidentally have it. And then there was making sure the server knew to tell the cook (and pretty much all of the kitchen staff) that there couldn’t be ANY gluten–even incidental–in my dad’s dish. And, like you said, it never worked. Fortunately, we almost never went out unless it was their anniversary or we were on a family road trip, but it was rough.

        Most things on my list can’t easily be hidden (or accidentally contaminate) in quantities large enough to cause me serious harm/pain Praying that you’re able to identify exactly what is causing your trouble and have a happy diet without it.

        1. Amy Young March 3, 2017

          Thanks for the prayers. In the last two to three weeks I’ve needed to travel more than normal (will board my 5th plane in a few hours) and the food has been, by far, the hardest part. On this next trip, I have just decided to bring all my food and not eat restaurant food :).

          I”m glad you had the joyful reason of growing another person (!! so cool!) to help offset all you can’t eat now 🙂

      2. Annalisa March 10, 2017

        Oh, hey…label reader. Next time you’re in the grocery store, try reading the labels on some of those mustard bottles. I happened to have a bottle of mustard and was enjoying some hot dogs for lunch today and my computer battery was low; so it was in my room charging. So, to pass the time, I read the mustard bottle.

        Ingredientes: Agua (water), harina de trigo (wheat flour…seriously?), semilla de mostaza (mustard seed…understandable), sal (salt), acido acetico (not sure, but not “vinagre”…it says it’s to regulate the acidity), curcuma natural (not sure either, but it’s something for natural coloring), y goma tara (guar gum, probably; a stabilizers whatever it is).

        There is no vinegar in my Ana Belly brand mustard. Doesn’t mean you can get this brand there. Doesn’t mean there is a brand there that doesn’t have vinegar. However, I’m now convinced (mostly) that mustard without vinegar exists. Thought I’d share. 🙂

        (I would have taken a picture of the ingredients list, but it was so small of text that the camera would not focus on it.)

    2. M'Lynn March 3, 2017

      Your pregnancy related food woes remind me of the time I was pregnant in China and felt completely horrible and had a huge aversion to Chinese food! At that point, we hadn’t begun cooking like we do now because all the food was just so good and why cook when you can eat out for the same price?! However, suddenly everything we were eating was beyond disgusting to me. I had to hide in a different room if the team gathered for takeout. I ended up making big batches of spaghetti or keeping a big splurge of a pizza in the fridge (which is not advisable for my previously mentioned allergies)…I have no idea how my toddler or my husband (or myself for that matter) survived that season. I threw out the entire food budget during those months and ate whatever I could which was extremely hard being in China…too exhausted to learn how to cook and hungry only for horrible options like McDonald’s breakfast (which beyond Pizza Hut was the only western option in the vicinity at the time)! Someone sent me instant mashed potatoes and blue box macaroni and cheese. Ugh. Gotta stop thinking about it. I still vividly remember how bad I felt. The hardest part was feeling so misunderstood. My team was so helpful, but there were times I felt like people around me wanted to say “Just suck it up and get over yourself already! You can’t possibly feel that bad.” (my perception…probably not my reality… Because I was definitely saying that to myself)

      1. Annalisa March 3, 2017

        Fortunately, the smells or sights haven’t been a problem. It’s only an issue when the food hits my stomach. So, I can still share a meal with people, just not necessarily the food. 😀

        Gotta love those internal anti-pep talks. Most of mine currently center around clothes and body image:
        “I’m fat.”
        “You’re not fat. You’re pregnant.”
        “None of my clothes fit, and I don’t even look pregnant yet!”
        “Your sweatpants fit. Scrub pants fit. Athletic shorts fit.”
        “Well, that just makes me look all kinds of frumpy.”
        “Some people would love to have enough clothes to look frumpy. Get over yourself.”

  4. Lydia March 3, 2017

    My biggest current food struggle is probably a very common one — getting my 11 month old to eat anything more than bread, cheese, meat, and the occasional chunk of banana. She started off as a very adventurous foodie-baby, but about a month ago realized she could spit things out. 🙁
    For myself, the phrase “betrayed by my body” hits home. Like Elizabeth, I’m going through postpartum issues (which we’ve talked about, Amy) and it”s hard enough to find energy to make good things to eat without also fighting with a pre-verbal toddler over food. Maybe the pre-verbal part is actually good though, lol. I find myself reaching for caffeine and sugar to make it through the day, and I know that’s a terrible example for my daughter, as well as not being good for my body! I see her having some of the other problems that I have… and I know that fiber is our friend. 🙂 I keep thinking “it’s just so hard!” but I know that’s a mental block.
    Thanks for the conversation…. I’m gonna go steam some broccoli now.

    1. M'Lynn March 3, 2017

      I have a kid like that. It’s a victory for me if the child eats a vegetable over the course of a week. I have another kid who eats all the veggies…So I always say that between the them they eat a balanced diet! And…Hey! Meat. Good! Cheese. Good! Banana. Good! 🙂

    2. Amy Young March 3, 2017

      Lydia, you hit the nail on the head! I can’t believe how much thought, intention, and time now have to go into food. Sometimes I just want “comfort” food and by that I mean something that doesn’t make me have to be “game on” all the time. I’ll be thinking about you and your little food spitter 🙂

  5. Jules March 5, 2017

    Three words. Gestational Diabetes AGAIN. And three very picky boys..one of them being my husband. I’m so thankful for my 5yo foodie girl who enjoys sharing my diabetic meals with me!

    1. Amy Young March 7, 2017

      It is the AGAIN, isn’t it :)! Picky eaters can be so draining. Glad you have a little food solidarity, though 🙂

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