My New Food Home

By Clyde Edgerton

This is a story about a way to get healthier without medicine, through food. No, don’t stop reading, please.

I had 20 migraines between October 2016 and April 2017. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about hitting myself in the head with a hammer, then decided to see my doctor. She gave me a prescription for migraines. One pill made me feel so bad I decided I’d rather have the headaches. I checked in with a neurologist, who basically told me he didn’t know what I should do, beyond keeping a migraine diary to discover my “triggers.” I envisioned a life of diary writing with continued migraines. I wanted quick relief — I wanted a relief app.

A friend suggested a book: The Migraine Brain. I read it. It had a bunch of “Don’t Eat This” lists, and while the lists didn’t always agree, they did overlap on certain foods. I was desperate. I went cold turkey and stopped eating or drinking anything beyond veggies, brown rice, fruit, and water — with beans for protein, and sparkling water for some pizzazz in my life.

I admit that I’ve silently looked down my nose at vegetarians. I once wrote in a book that when new parents get the baby seat all situated and fastened into the car, a cousin is going to come along, say it’s not put in right and then call the authorities. That cousin, I said, will be a vegetarian. If that’s funny, I’ve told folks, it’s because it’s true. Now I are one myself. (From that old joke: “I always wanted to be a grammarian and now I are one.”)

Here I was looking to become not only a vegetarian, but also a vegan — somebody I once visualized as soft-spoken and polite, wearing flip-flops, apt to be found sitting in a dark back room, listening to a podcast about . . . oh I don’t know — animals. 

I was willing to sit anywhere and drink spinach smoothies and listen to even classical music if that would help stop the headaches. I would become a veggie vegan spokesperson. A veggie vegan warrior, maybe — if by chance the headaches stopped.

I cut out all gluten, sweets, dairy products, alcohol, soy, bananas (the only fruit on most all the no-eat lists in the book I read), eggs, coffee and meat. I was that desperate.

Beans and rice, with sautéed onions and peppers, became my first island of refuge — my first meal friend.

This meat/potato/biscuit puppy was surprised that the world didn’t collapse. My fresh food list led to a new — I’ve got to say it — happiness. Because the migraines stopped cold — as if a miracle had descended — and a respite from the pain of migraines made up for any initial worry about food.

During the first month of different eating habits, I discovered excellent gluten-free breads in the freezer section at the grocery store while rediscovering simple cornbread (no gluten), corn chips, oatmeal, and ah . . . homemade granola. Refried beans became a favorite — and in any Mexican restaurant I could find a friendly meal. (Hold the cheese, please.)

More and more restaurants are catering to people who eat the way I now eat. You might be surprised. I’ve found great sushi. Sometimes with sushi I cheat a tad with a little white fish meat, as in the “Lean Queen” specialty roll at Yoshi Sushi Bar on Racine. I’ve called for it for takeout so many times — they see the incoming number and answer with, “Got it.”

When you are somehow restricted, a result may be liberation. Narrowed choices may bring greater enjoyment.

I discovered a bean burger cut up on a salad at PT’s.

I started satisfying my sweet tooth big time with cantaloupe, honeydew melons, and sweet potatoes — two in the oven on aluminum foil, hit 350 degrees and the timer for 1:37. And a rice cake with almond butter and honey is succulent.

And, listen . . . ice cream. I’ve screamed for it all my life. Several non-dairy, non-sugar (or very low sugar) ice creams are out there. Try it before knocking it. I make a tiny milkshake several times a week: a few ounces of almond milk and with a couple scoops of Nada Moo or S.O. ice cream substitute.

I lost 20 pounds in three weeks — and a year later, I’m still down 20. It helps that I’m walking two miles a day.

Narrowed choices have forced my finding really good recipes. I look forward to breakfast like never before: a layer of frozen blueberries, a layer of gluten-free granola with a few roasted pecans or maybe some trail mix for crunch, then a layer of a favorite in-season fruit with a dash of salt. Top off with ice cold almond milk (or hemp milk or flax milk). A dessert for me is often pecans and strawberries with strong decaf coffee. My old molecules have accepted new molecules coming through the door. Did I mention homemade granola? Or toast, avocado and fresh tomato? Gluten free pizza crust — served in many pizza parlors now?

I did try one steak a couple months ago. It landed in my stomach like a hiking boot.

My last physical exam showed lower cholesterol than ever, lowest weight in 50 years (by 20 pounds), and lower blood pressure than ever. You are what you eat.

My impetus to change my eating habits was 20 migraines in a few months. I’ve heard that a new habit materializes in two weeks to a year. I’ve passed the one-year mark. And yes, I’ve adjusted a bit: I’m back on an occasional egg and a serving of fish. But there are many reasons not to yield — not to return to my old-food home. I have a new new, better, tastier food home.

If you think you could feel better — consider cutting the gut-makers. Go lean. At least don’t scoff at us vegetarians, vegans, and hybrids. Consider joining us. Try it for one month.

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.

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