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WIAW: You Choose Your Battles

One facet of following the low-FODMAP diet is that it’s restrictive enough that I don’t feel comfortable restricting my diet further in any way. I try to eat as wide of a variety as food as possible.

For instance, I used to be mostly (although never 100%) vegetarian. And there are so many really important reasons to go veggie. The environment, your health, food sustainability around the world. Your budget. The meat industry is a pretty ugly beast. (No pun intended–not that that was funny. I’ll quit now.)

But my plant-based protein sources are limited so severely by IBS. Tofu is great, peanuts are okay, almonds and hazelnuts–gotta be careful, and most legumes are out. I feel that if I want to make sure I’m eating an adequate variety of foods, I really need to be including some meat in my diet. That doesn’t mean I eat a ton of meat–if you check out my recipes, you’ll see that I find a lot of ways to make the low-FODMAP diet vegetarian-friendly–but I also have some organic beef patties in my freezer, and I do eat meat a few times a week, sometimes more or less depending on the week.

There was also a time just a few months ago when I considered cutting sugar mostly out of my diet for my IBS. Sugar (including artificial sweeteners!) can lead to overgrowth of gut yeast, which can cause icky digestive issues. But I had severe anorexia for several months of my life, and disordered eating for a long time before then, and I know I’m still struggling to have a joy-motivated, rather than guilt-motivated, relationship with food. Cutting out sugar just felt too close to going back to that disordered place. I do still eat a sweet breakfast most days, and one or two sweet treats throughout the day. I know that’s more than the CDC or whatever recommends, but I’m not drinking soda or giant frappuccinos every day, either.

There are so many dietary options out there, touting their benefits: paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, keto, low-FODMAP, whole 30, “clean” (whatever the heck that is supposed to mean). High-carb, low-carb, high-fat, low-fat, high-protein. We’re also supposed to eat organic, local, fair trade, and minimally processed. No wonder so many people struggle with orthorexia and EDNOS!

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of these diets in and of themselves. (Except maybe the low-carb, high-protein thing. That one I take issue with.) And of course, some of these diets are absolutely required for people with certain conditions, like celiac or ulcerative colitis, to thrive. What makes me nervous is when we start stacking all of these restrictions on top of one another, so that this food is bad and now that food and that food and that food until suddenly, all that is allowed is lettuce and rice cakes!

As for myself, I eat modified low-FODMAP for IBS (which in and of itself cuts out a lot, although I’ve also been able to re-introduce a lot.) I also eat more vegetarian meals than meat-based, I try to eat more healthy than unhealthy foods, and I try to eat local foods, when I can.

This is what works for me in terms of mental and physical health. And though I’m sure there are plenty of other battles–good battles–to fight, fighting off a disordered relationship with food and severe IBS is plenty for me.WHAT-I-ATE-WEDNESDAY-NEW-BUTTON-PEAS-AND-CRAYONSAnd without further ado, here’s what I ate Tuesday. Thanks to our lovely hosts, Arman, Laura, and Jenn for the What I Ate Wednesday linkup!


Tahini Sweet Potato Pancakes from Katalyst Health. This is actually a stack of three. Bad photography, but delicious pancakes!


Elevensies (More like 10:30): banana and peanut butter before a quick run to Trader Joe’s after I realized I had nothing in the house to pack for lunch.


11:30 tea on my way to the bus stop


Lunch (Post spin class): Two Trader Joe’s chicken tamales (thank you, FODMAP reintroduction for letting me eat moderate amounts of onion and garlic so I can have these delicious tamales in my life!), mini sweet peppers and an orange


My creative nonfiction workshop was canceled because the professor was injured, and so I spent the afternoon grading. When I got home, I cooked up an organic beef burger I had in the freezer–they were on sale at Whole Foods–and heated up some Warm Carrot and Kale Salad with Creamy Maple Dijon Dressing from The Smart Kitchen.


After supper snack? You guessed it–popcorn!



Evening snack part 2, because I am always really hungry on days I go to spin class–hot chocolate made with lactose-free milk, topped with marshmallows


What decisions guide what you mostly eat or mostly don’t eat?

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  1. I hope you are enjoying that carrot salad!

    I can so identify with you. I have just had to come to the conclusion that I am ethically and morally a locavore vegetarian, but I also need to be healthy and feel well, so my body needs meat more than it used to.

    Reintroduction for FODMAP has helped me a lot, too, even just for saying “OK, the symptoms will be X Y and Z and I’m OK with that over the next two days”

    1. Joyce says:

      Yeah, reintroducing FODMAPs is an arduous process. But you can’t follow a strict low-FODMAP diet for life, either. It’s just too restrictive. I’m glad that you’re continuing to feel healthy and well, even though I know that it can be compromising.

  2. Cora says:

    The amount of organized “diet” trends out there are pretty overwhelming. And, for most of us – definitely like me – the thought of placing yourself under one of them is so alluring. For some really whack, strange reason. Why are we so attracted to boxing ourselves under a diet title? Ugh. I guess part of it is all the statements we get bombarded with telling us how to be healthier.
    I’ve accepted that I don’t think I can ever dedicate/restrict myself to any titled diet. I eat mostly vegetarian due to money, environment and ease, but the decisions that guide me right now – and hope to guide me for the rest of my life – are simple what is the purest form of real, whole food with the least amount of ingredients. As long as it is real and whole, I feel good about it.

    1. Joyce says:

      I hear you–it’s super-overwhelming just how much information there is out there about how to be healthier. Good for you for not letting yourself subscribe to any title!

  3. I have been wanting to try to make sweet potato pancakes, they look delicious.

    There are so many different diets and trends. I choose not to label myself, I also don’t suffer from any food intolerances or conditions. But I do find that I feel my best when eating Paleo, but I by no means restrict my diet. I try to eat what I’m craving and/or feel like making.

    1. Joyce says:

      Cool–I agree that there are some benefits to some special diets if we’re careful about not letting it become about restriction. Glad paleo helps you feel good!

  4. Kat says:

    I think that it is awesome that you recognize your past and help it to decide which path to take for the present and future. I’ve also considered cutting back on sugar once or twice but in the end I had to really analyze my “whys” for doing so. Obviously with IBS your situation is different, but we both have disorded pasts and whether we want it to or not, that disorder will ALWAYS have an affect on our food choices. The main reason why I don’t do fitness comps [not bikini ones, but powerlifting ones] is because of the focus on numbers. Numbers [calories, pounds, etc] is what got me into my ED in the first place, so I know that focusing on them will only result in triggering things that I don’t want triggered. Good job on staying focused on your overall HEALTH!!

    1. Joyce says:

      Numbers…ew. That’s another issue!

  5. Alysa says:

    Love your mindset with food despite having IBS and being on the food-map diet. You are still keeping such a good mentality which is admirable! Love TJ’s, and those tamales sound soo good. Also Kat has the best recipes. I wanna try those pancakes!

    1. Joyce says:

      Kat does have some pretty awesome recipes!

  6. Goodness, no, you absolutely shouldn’t eat rice cakes. Don’t you worry about arsen and the many carbs? … Kidding! I fully agree that all the – often contradictory – health dietary advice out there is insanity. It really makes me wish we could go back to the state of our grandparents’ time when you -just- ate. Actually, grandparents -unless seriously ill, obviously – are the people to look at. Would they have gotten as old as they are if the foods now deemed devilish that have been around forever were harmful? The answer: duh!
    While I as a vegetarian would obviously like as many people as possible to pass the meat I’m all for taking care of your health first. So try not to feel too guilty for eating meat. It’s the thought and your consciousness as well as trying what you can that count.

    1. Joyce says:

      Ha! Yes! My grandpa’s a great example. He eats all kinds of things that would make health nuts cringe every day, and he’s healthy as a horse! I didn’t realize that you’re vegetarian. That’s awesome–yes, there are so many great reasons to go veggie. 🙂

  7. The FODMAP diet is a tough one for sure, I know I am quite sensitive to FODMAPS because i get pretty bad bloating very often. However, I am just not ready to cut out those foods because the bloating isnt always so bad !
    With that being said, I understand your struggle. I think as long as food is not hurting you, then eat it, and I can tell by your blog you already do :).

    1. Joyce says:

      Yeah–I think there are definitely pros and cons of the low-FODMAP diet. For me, it actually in some ways helped me to recover because feeling stuffed and bloated was so incredibly triggering. But I also think it’s totally valid to reject that route and choose to deal with IBS in other ways.

  8. woah i totally need to check out those tamales from TJS! I never knew there was such a thing!

    1. Joyce says:

      Oh my goodness they were so good! I just found them in the freezer section.

  9. Great post! I have decided to eat mostly vegan because of my health, environment, and ethical reasons. That being said, I don’t label myself strictly vegan because of my other restrictions. I can’t have dairy or gluten, so I sometimes eat eggs and fish. Especially when I’m out to eat, the only dairy free gluten free option is often a fish dish! I’ve learned to go with what’s best for my body and keep things mostly vegan when possible!

    1. Joyce says:

      I’m glad that you’ve found a balance that works for you, Heather!

  10. I also have IBS (and I’m lactose- and soy-intolerant) and it can be hard not to feel like my diet is super restrictive, similar to the ED days. I’ve found that upon occasion, it’s worth it to me just to go for the gluten-y sandwich or the creamy dessert, even though I have to deal with a stomachache later, kind of like you and sugar!

    Hehe, nice to meet you, fellow popcorn addict 😛 That’s something I can’t get enough of lately!

    1. Joyce says:

      Such a great snack!

  11. I’m always curious about a low-FODMAP diet. Vegas has IBS and I know this would help her… she just isn’t the best at any kind of “food rules.” LOL! We’ll see… gluten first, low-FODMAP next. 😉

  12. Quill says:

    There are all these named-diets, fad diets, and “new revelation” ideas I see around, often with the suggestion of what is “best” flip-flopping seemingly every couple years. I know a few people who are into them, including my Aunt. I personally see it as absurd, at the very least I won’t go with any “scientific” suggestion of what to eat until it’s been around a few years without changing. The human body and digestive system evolved over millions of years, it won’t change year-to-year. As for how I eat, I literally go with my gut. For most healthy people, the body is very good at knowing what it needs at a given time, and I trust it. I might not eat the “healthiest,” some (my mom in particular) sometimes say that I should eat better, or could be thinner. While they may be right, I don’t care, I’m healthy and content with my body. Between this blog and talking with the student athletes I tutor who complain about their restrictive diets (complaining is something they do a lot of I notice) I’ve really come to appreciate my ability – internally and externally – to intuitively eat whatever I want. As for meat, I’ve been eating a lot less of it lately, mostly due to cost and living with a vegetarian roommate.

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