...Eggs, butter, coconut meal, nut flours, honey, and etc.In about two weeks, on October 3, I will celebrate my second anniversary of being a GAPSter and celebrate my closure on the "Formal GAPS" chapter of The Life of Jenn. That's right. Jenn's coming off GAPS ~ but that is for another post. This post is about me sharing with you ten things I did (whether consciously or not) to not only survive but enjoy being on the diet, while getting better to boot! What is more, Jenn was the girl who never really managed to introduce some of GAPS's staple foods until much, much, much (aka reaching-the-finishing-line) later in the diet. So this is a list of things to keep in mind while striving to stay on this crazy thing called GAPS for two years when you can't have half of the main foods people resort to in order to hang in there.*
1) Admit monotony. First of all, just admit that, well, you are going to be limited in what foods you can choose from. A huge component of disappointment is entertaining wrong or unrealistic expectations, so the first step for victory on GAPS Version Limited is contentment: want what you have and enjoy what you've got! Instead of brooding over what others, even other GAPSters, can have which you cannot, decide to skip over all that by simply knowing that, hey, the reality is that you cannot have some stuff and that is okay. Like what you have and be creative with how you cook/serve/eat it. It is fun after a while, really!
2) Embrace variety. So, sure, you cannot taste caramel or have that GAPS pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but you can have other things! And, once you start thinking about it, you can have a lot of other things! Name all the veggies you can eat, count all the types of meat you can eat, think of all the ferments you can make. Later on, think of all the fruits that do not make you break out into rashes, and then consider alllll the recipes that can come out of those components. The possibilities are, if not endless, at least exciting. Embrace variety in another sense, too, though. Once you have an idea of what you can have, make sure to use it. Sometimes on such an intense diet we are tempted to fall into eating a lot of one thing, or repeat the same recipe over and over again. As appealing as that may sound work- and mental energy-wise, don't do it. Eating the same thing, no matter how easy that thing is to grab or prepare, is neither good for your health nor your staying power. Believe me, your body will get sick of it and your mind will get sick of it and your eyes will get sick of it, and you will not be nourishing yourself. Embrace variety.
3) Seize the spices. Along with Point Two comes the flavour factor. On GAPS, we are welcome to use all the organic herbs and spices our bodies can handle, and that proves an enormous boon when our diets are so strictly limited. Using different herbs in an old recipe adds interest, reduces boredom, whets the appetite, and thus goes a long way to spread mealtime cheer. Once you have learned a technique ~ say, how to make meat stew or blended vegetable soup ~ you can change up the stew's flavours by swapping spices and herbs every time you make it. That way, your poor tired brain only needs to think of one technique while you get to enjoy a number of different tastes. In short, learn a few base recipes and then swap ingredients and seasonings to create an interesting GAPS life.
4) Fall in love with ground meats. Seriously. Ground meat is like GAPS fast food. It defrosts quickly, it cooks up in a matter of minutes, it carries well, it satisfies hunger beautifully...it is magic. When you cannot munch on almonds, or raw anyveggie, or those GAPS muffins which only work with eggs, then, for a snack, ground meat is your best friend. Bake a lot of meatballs and freeze them for whenever you need something to eat or simply brown some in a skillet for a quick fix. By using your variety of seasonings, ground meat will never have to be boring again. It might just become your best food friend.
5) Eat your veggies! This one is a little trickier because all of us GAPSters have a very different set of "safe" versus "unsafe" veggies. I may be fine with cucumbers but crumble before radishes; you might be the complete opposite. Whatever your veggie case may be, if you can eat vegetables, you are blessed and ought to eat them. They are colourful (which suddenly becomes oh, so very important on GAPS), they are crunchy if raw (another virtue utterly taken for granted), they are portable (are you seeing a pattern here?), and, of course, if they don't kill you they are very healthy. Carrots in coconut oil (raw or cooked ~ really! Just dip a carrot stick in coconut oil!), lettuce cups full of guacamole, caramelised onions, and oven-roasted kale are some of my favourites. Excited yet?
6) Know your fats. Alright, so you cannot have butter, you cannot have eggs, you cannot have nut butters, and you cannot have other foods besides! While possibilities look bleak for eating tasty, healthy fat-full foods, you do indeed have options, and you must indeed use those options for the sake of your well-being. We all know that fats play a huge role in GAPS healing, so where do you turn when you cannot have butter? First on the list is meat fat: lard, tallow, chicken fat (this last one has great healing properties for colds and flus!). To be honest, tallow is not a favourite around here, so we use it minimally for cooking, but lard and chicken fat makes anything taste better. Use these fats for cooking, and be sure to eat them as they already appear in the foods you make! Then there is ghee, or clarified butter. This helps you get a lot of the nutrients found in butter without suffering the consequences that milk solids play in some of our systems! I recommend Kimi Harris's directions for making ghee at home, and I strongly suggest you use Kerrygold butter to make it. The flavour cannot be rivalled. Finally, yes, extra virgin organic coconut oil. It tastes good with anything, in my opinion, and is great for dipping. Throughout the beginning stages of GAPS, this girl ate an insane amount of ghee and coconut oil ~ right off the spoon! Your body needs all of this to repair and nourish itself. And let not your heart be troubled: fat will not make you fat. ;)
7) Savour your sauces and chew your bones. When you cannot have butter or eggs, which apart from broth are basically the two power foods of GAPS and Nourishing Traditions, then you need to get a little creative. That's right, you get to be French Gollum: loving sauces and sucking the life out of bones. And, yes, I know I just ruined your dreams tonight. In all sincerity, though, a sauce is like a condensed, yummy version of soup, chock full of all those vital nutrients from the meat and bones in question. Laced with the vitamin-rich fat from pastured meats and preferably roasted or sautéed to bring out flavour, these sauces are at once delicious and nutritious. You need them. Same goes for bones ~ you know the soft ones found in crockpot chicken ~ and marrow. Especially for people who cannot handle dairy on top of all these other limitations, the calcium and complementary nutrients available to bone-suckers is vital. Try to be a fair lady while implementing this practice, okay? Or else, don't tell anyone it was me who told you....
8) Know you are weird and know it with confidence. This one is pretty simple, particularly considering what I just wrote in point six: don't get defensive. You see, when one has food limitations and must therefore perform edible acrobatics such as we GAPSters do, then one is going to be quite different from the "norm" of others. We should not expect others to understand our antics completely. Come on, folks, we are weird and that is okay! When you are with other people, understand that they might not understand why you are toting salt and a cooler around the globe. But once you acknowledge the weirdness and break the ice with those people who are scratching their heads and staring at you, they generally warm up to you and your quirks. When you treat your limitations as normal, others eventually will come around. Crack a joke about it. Be free. Be confident. Be gracious. When I go to other people's houses, with lunchbox in tow, I let the hostess know, "The problem is not with your food at all; the problem's with my silly stomach." She usually splits a smile and we continue to have a charming evening. So, yeah, go be weird and kind all at the same time!
9) Be realistic and plan ahead. Basically, don't expect GAPS-friendly food to be at the summer cookout or at that restaurant you are going to for your husband's friend's daughter's anniversary dinner. Plan ahead and bring your own food. By the way, most restaurants are now very understanding of special diets and I have never had a problem bringing my own food somewhere.
10) Never ever admit defeat. Yep, the tenth and final secret to not quitting is to not quit. Simple, I know, but in our day and age, it is so very very overlooked. Just say no to the foods you cannot have, always ensure you have foods with you that you can say yes to, and never EVER back down. If you mess up a bit (which you should not do, by the way), you will survive....and so will GAPS. GAPS will still be there for you to follow at the next snack time. You can do it. Really. And you can have a great time doing it. Really.
Please note that on GAPS the idea is for you to eventually reintroduce all traditional food back into your diet. For some of us it simply takes longer. So this is for those of us who have to go a longer time without certain foods; this is not to say that we will never be able to have those harder foods. I look forward to the day when I can drink milk! It just hasn't happened yet (sung to the tune of that one Bublé song :P).
*For twenty-three of the twenty-four months of being on GAPS, Jenn could not have eggs, butter, coconut meal, nut flours, honey, apples, or bananas. She also stayed clear of watermelon, oranges, and, as much as she could, peas due to the sugar and/or difficult-to-digest factors of these foods. A small scattering of soaked beans and soaked nuts made it late into the game, and the list above reflects these restrictions.