Food Challenge Round 9: Cindy vs. Sunflower Oil

Given the sunflower oil pre-glamping snafu, this week’s food challenge was a bit easier to prep. I just defrosted some potentially poisonous food and brought it over to the doctor’s office. Well, it would have been easy, except I needed a costume…

I challenged the food on Halloween, which is a big deal at my allergist’s office. But I’m not much for dressing up, so I didn’t quite know what to do. The night before, something hit me: I could dress up as the essence of a sunflower, since I was challenging the oil (aka essence) of a sunflower! Super easy, really meta, and seemingly creative.

i’m totally a sunflower…can’t you tell?

I threw on green pants, a black shirt, and a yellow sweater, with a little sign that read “Essence of sunflower.”

It was nothing compared to my doctor’s costume. He was dressed as a full blown chassid. The nurse was a vampire cat, complete with ears and makeup, though she’d removed her fangs because they were irritating her. My costume was not good enough.

Luckily, though, the food was! I ate the turkey and sweet potatoes that I’d accidentally cooked in sunflower oil, and it was totally fine. It felt more like breakfast (a big breakfast, but still) than a food challenge. And now I can eat sunflower oil!

You might be thinking, why sunflower oil? Who uses that?

Sure, it’s rarely used in home cooking. But go over to your pantry — go on, I’ll wait — and look at an item in there. Some sort of processed food, dried fruit, etc. Chances are it says sunflower oil. Or canola/vegetable/safflower/sunflower. Because that’s helpful.

My diet just totally expanded. I can eat so much more that I don’t cook myself. This was evidenced even further when I was shopping for a party this past Saturday night and needed to grab party snacks. BevMo had no Fritos, which was the only chip/party snack I was eating (corn oil!). But then I realized I could have more chips! And while most are still off the table for other ingredient reasons, I found a bag of Kettle chips and Pirate’s Booty that worked. Pre-party in aisle 7!

Now the trick is to make sure I continue eating healthily. Just because I can grab a bag of chips, doesn’t mean I should. But that’s where the 3 times a week rule kicks in. Why trade in a baked potato for a bag of potato chips? I’m thinking snack food is now in case of an emergency — which is way better than snack food being the cause of an emergency.

Food Challenge Tally

Cindy – 7

Allergens – 2

Up Next: Cottonseed oil (aka Bagel Factory bagels)

How Long Is this Allergic Diet Sustainable? Thoughts on the Diets and Willpower.

It’s now July 19, and I have yet to try a new food or a processed food or anything that my 30 days would have allowed. The nurse at my allergist’s office suggested holding out until my wheat challenge on Thursday (ONE WEEK!), and then with the whole nuts-in-my-raisins incident, it seems best to just wait at least a few more days.


Part of me feel silly complaining when I had great meals today. Ivory teff for breakfast, turkey leg and delicata squash for lunch (oh, how my office dog — yes, my new job comes with a puppy — was jealous!), and lamb and japanese yam for dinner (a rhyming dinner? so money). If I wasn’t on this diet, I imagine my day would have been no breakfast, Starbucks white mocha, a few cherry cokes, leftover pasta with sauce and cheese for lunch, a bag of potato chips as a snack, and a baked potato with melted cheese for dinner, or maybe like rice and chicken. (~1600 calories)

Obviously, my current diet kicked pre-allergic-craziness diet’s ass.

But still, I am done. I’ve reached my limit on how many times I can eat lamb, teff, sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, green beans, corn, zucchini, chicken, turkey, bison, and millet. And the fruit. My god. I am done with raisins, pineapple, cherries. When I type it all out, it seems insane. How have I lived 4 1/2 months like this?  For perspective: I have had three different employers since this diet began. (I know people have it worse. But this is America in 2012, so I’m spoiled).

Soon by me.

I wonder if I’m cranky about it because it was supposed to be over and it’s not, or if it’s because it’s been over a 1/3 of a year, or what. Probably a little bit of both. But honestly, what gets me is that the diet was easier when death was on the line.

The doctor assured me that any of the foods I tested negative to could not set me into anaphylactic shock. I might get sick, I might screw up the challenges, but I will not die.

The immediacy of death made the diet easier to deal with. Is cheese worth your life? Chocolate? No. On some days, I debated those questions, but I always quickly realized I should just eat what I can and not be tempted. Those particular foods were not food to me, and there are some things I stopped even seeing as food – like chips. The other day, I saw some bags of Lays, and I could not fathom eating them. Previously, I would eat a bag of chips every day or so.

I understand now why diets are hard to keep. Non-allergic ones, I mean. Sure, you know the food is bad for you. You know it will interfere with your health down the line. But right now, it won’t hurt too badly. So why not just eat it?

That’s how I felt tonight about chocolate. I want chocolate so badly. I know it will not kill me. It will potentially ruin the challenge (but do I want wheat or chocolate more?), and it might make woozy and itchy and swollen if the nuts aren’t gone yet (that could take 72 hours, maybe a week), but I won’t die. So how bad is it?

Luckily, a conversation with my mom convinced me to stay true to the diet. But I understood diets in a way I previously hadn’t. I understood willpower. It’s not easy to stick to a diet. It hurts. It involves breakdowns in Whole Foods (2 in a week, woohoo!). It involves bitterness. It involves hunger, and hunger leads to anger. My body is so pissed at me for giving it too few calories (1046 today!!!), so it wants more.

And yet. It doesn’t, really. It will reject those foods, and be unhappier for longer. Immediacy is not the ideal here. If I can hold out just a little longer, if I can keep this willpower for just a few more days…maybe even a week…I’ll be healthier in the long run.

So for now, it’s about creative problem solving. I want chocolate because it’s sweet and fun. What else is sweet and fun? Soda. What soda do I have in my house, 4 1/2 months later? Sprite. What’s in Sprite? Lemon/lime flavor.

Excuse me while I go try homemade lemon/lime ices. If they’re good, I’ll post the recipe. If not — well, at least nothing’s swollen. And if it does swell, ice reduces swelling right?*

*disclaimer: do not use ice to reduce allergic swelling. use benedryl and/or consult a doctor.