Photos taken in San Francisco on a Mamiya 645 Pro with Fuji FP-100C (left) and FP-3000B (right)
I recently diagnosed myself with lactose intolerance. The signs had become too evident to miss. I had been baking a lot, and felt more weakened than ever before. I felt drained, had stomach pains more often than not, and when I stopped consuming dairy, the stomachaches disappeared.
For someone born and raised in one of the biggest dairy producing regions of France, the fact that dairy was my enemy came as quite a shock. I could not comprehend why I had to have a food intolerance. After all, I am one of the healthiest eaters you will ever meet. I eat a ton of vegetables, don't eat things that come out of a fast food place or a box (especially if they list more than 5 ingredients), cook 90% of what my husband and I eat at home, cut the (brown only) sugar content in everything I bake by 75%, only eat baked goods I've made myself etc. I've also been a vegetarian since I was 15. And not the kind of vegetarian who will eat meat on pizza. The kind that hasn't touched any in close to 15 years. The kind that doesn't make any exceptions.
I had a little more energy but not enough for someone my age. And I still had ankle pain. I got rid of that problem by getting on an exercise bike a couple of times a week or when I could feel my ankle becoming weak. I was finally able to walk without feeling overwhelmed by pain (and quite frankly, despair, after 5 or 6 sprains that never healed).
Around the same time, I found that when I drank more than one caffeinated beverage a day, my sinuses would get more congested. Because I've been suffering from sinus problems for a year and a half, I limited myself to a cup of black tea in the morning, and switched to herbal tea the rest of the day.
Then I decided to do more than quit dairy, walk and bike. I realized that I could not have energy if I kept consuming empty calories from all purpose flour. I'd been using spelt more, but I chose to change my whole approach to cooking. I cut out all purpose flour when baking, replaced it with whole grains and made sure to use more and more gluten free flours when I baked. I've also replaced eggs with flax seeds in baked goods, so that when I eat eggs, they have the flavor of, well, eggs. Not chocolate or banana bread.
Because my main concern was still energy, I also started walking more, invested in a new pedometer (I had one a few years ago and got a little carried away with the number of steps I needed to take), and I've been doing cardio workouts a few times a week. Soon, I started feeling more alive and stronger, and I had energy to see friends.
I've relearning how to bake and cook, and eating foods that have more flavor than I ever thought possible. My banana muffins have more complex flavors than their egg, butter and white flour counterparts, thanks to coconut oil, spelt, buckwheat, wholewheat pastry flour and flax seeds. My favorite snack is a chia raw cacao oat milk pudding. I make the oat milk myself twice a week. I also put homemade cashew cheese on tacos, and sprinkle ground almonds on almond crust vegetable tarts. Yes, all of those changes take more time, but I love cooking and want to open a café at some point, so cooking is never a chore for me. It is an opportunity to connect with Brent, and be more present (something I struggle with).
Living in this country, I realize that what most Americans eat on a daily basis are things I don't even think of as food, and drinks I only know as high fructose corn syrup. I ride the bus twice a day and can't help but notice the obese teenagers or young adults whose lives are going to be shorter than their parents' because of what they eat and how little exercise they get. I see kids who take the bus to get off two stops away, people who wait at the bus stop for 10 minutes to avoid having to walk for 5. I see parents feeding their toddlers candy for breakfast, or adults mindlessly polishing off a bag of chips in a few minutes. None of it is good for their health, or good for their minds. The brain can't survive on high fructose corn syrup.
Luckily, this city also has an abundance of great healthy food and many people to turn to for culinary inspiration or advice. But those are subjects for another day.
I consulted with my naturopathic doctor to make sure I wasn't going to screw with my body.
I am taking supplements such as vitamins B12 and D (to facilitate calcium absorption)
I'm not saying this lifestyle is for everyone. I do what works for me. When I notice an imbalance (and I am very quick to notice them these days), I reconsider the way I've been living in the few days prior.