As a self-proclaimed foodie, much of my social life in New York revolved around exploring all the tasty nooks and crannies of the city. There were date nights at BondST, where the sushi was always tasty even if my date was less than scrumptious. I looked forward to splurge meals as mini-vacations, like the time I dressed up and gleefully took photos with celebrity chef Eric Ripert at Le Bernadin. Eating out meant getting together with friends to break bread, have a drink, and catch up on life.
But all that came to a screeching halt when years of digestive problems finally came to a head. Terrible bloating haunted me after large meals, and sharp pains that felt like someone stabbing me in the abdomen finally led me to seek help. After an exhausting series of tests with a gastroenterologist that included blood work, ultrasounds, and even stool tests (that was a fun one), the final verdict was that I seemed healthy. The doctor recommended that I come back if my symptoms got worse and suggested that I start taking a probiotic. Incredulous, I could only grumble that I didn’t want to wait until I’m worse to figure out what’s wrong with me NOW.
When western medicine failed me, my next alternative was to seek out a naturopath recommended by a friend who had suffered similar digestive issues. Along with a strict supplement protocol, I went on an elimination diet, which meant I had to cut out common inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, corn, soy, nightshades, processed food, refined sugar, alcohol, factory farmed meats, and fish with heavy metals like tuna. As I read through all the foods I had to avoid, my first thoughts were aghast: “no way!,” followed by denial: “I don’t trust this,” and finally to dread of the imminent pain: “when/how can I eat out again?”
The next few weeks were difficult, to say the least. I stopped going out to eat and cooked everyday with fresh organic produce and quality pastured meat from local butchers, supplemented by small fish like anchovies that had less heavy metals. At first, cravings for sugar and the effects of detoxing caused low energy on some days and mood swings on others. It was socially isolating to not to eat out, and I felt sad, mourning the days when I could eat cookie dough ice cream and dine at any restaurant I wanted.
But then I started to feel better…much better. My pain, bloating, and diarrhea went away, I lost the extra weight around my waist, and best of all, my energy, sleep, and mood improved dramatically. I slowly reintroduced certain foods but continued to stay away from foods that caused problems like gluten and dairy. I could now dine at restaurants but each visit required scrutinizing the menu with an impatient server as we went through the items I could or could not eat. Dining out was now fraught with dietary minefields.
I researched the plethora of often conflicting information about health and diet, while experimenting with different eating styles that ranged from vegan to paleo, Whole30, ketogenic, intermittent fasting, and eating for your blood type. I finally came to one conclusion —everyone is different and you have to figure out the diet and regimen that works for you by LISTENING to YOUR body.
Some people do very well on a plant based diet, while others (like myself) feel much better on a diet with animal protein that’s low in grains and legumes (unless they are soaked, sprouted or fermented and only eaten occasionally). When I was feeling particularly puffy and inflammed, I tried a version of the Paleo diet for people with auto-immune disease called the Auto-immune Protocol (AIP). While my doctor said my thyroid panels were in the normal range, I have a family history of hyperthyroidism and always felt like my hormones were out of whack. I had all the telltale signs of auto-immune disease like joint problems, fatigue, rashes, and hair falling out. AIP recommends eating healing foods such as bone broth, organ meats, and fermented vegetables, which together with a healthy anti-inflammatory diet slowly healed my gut. I threw myself into making bone broth and got liver and other offal from my local butcher. I began to follow bloggers and influencers in the auto-immune support community like Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Angie Alt, and Mikey Trescott who wrote books for navigating the AIP path.
I was so inspired by my journey to get well that I decided to create Piicked, a community of healthy eaters that relies on trusted recommendations from experts and influencers. It also leverages aggregated data for wisdom of the crowd and machine learning/AI algorithms to cater to how YOU want to eat. In an age where everything from our news to our vitamins and hair care products are personalized, deciding where and what to eat is still largely a one-size-fits-all approach. We want to create a place for you to discover and share the dishes, restaurants, recipes, and products that work for you, and to find people you can connect with or even meet in real life over a meal. This post goes into more detail about the app, which we are launching in private beta now. If this sounds like an app that could help you or someone you know, sign up to be notified when we launch.
In my journey from oblivious foodie to health conscious diner, I learned that food is indeed medicine and eating out can be healthy too, if you’re diligent. We hope that Piicked can help you on your quest to eating healthy. Because, you know, eating out should be enjoyable. Even if your date is less than scrumptious.