Response to a Friend: Canary in a Coal Mine

Recently a friend from elementary school (thru high school) emailed me on Facebook. She’d read one of my posts and figured it was time to get back in touch. Like me, she had also undergone a radical shift from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a much more hypoallergenic, organic, macrobiotics, and some raw lifestyles. She – lucky girl – also dropped 35 pounds without so much as counting a calorie or measuring a morsel!

But she did express her ire – or maybe sadness or regret – that she often feels like a canary in a coal mine, as she just seems much more sensitive to some/most foods than your typical American. And, like me, eating gluten, dairy, etc. often leads her to experience extreme physical discomfort, as well as psychological distress, and – you guessed it – cravings, binge eating, etc.

When I sat down to write her back, I just dove in. I thought it might be worth sharing that response here:


I absolutely feel the same (being a canary in the coal mine, that is)!

And congratulations on the weight loss and improved health; that’s great!

Sometimes I just sit around in amazement at what other people put in their bodies and get by it!

That’s the rub. But then I think, I used to eat that way, give or take. And it didn’t kill me. I just didn’t know that you could feel better! And chances are, they don’t either.

The thing that is always shocking to me is to see young women who are super thin eating junk food walking around with their mothers, who are obviously unhealthy, and not to mention morbidly obese.

I just have to wonder, don’t they see the connection at all between what they’re putting in their mouths and what they’re going to feel like 20 years from now? What they’re going to look like? Don’t they realize? Don’t they care? I truly do believe that the effects of the typical SAD are exponential…not to mention inescapable for more people than realize it.

I do, however, think that the cleaner that you get (in terms of your diet), the more these things affect you.

Wine, for instance, doesn’t even taste good to me right now (and 1/2 a glass kills me). But if I continued to drink it, I’m sure I’d be just as inured to it as I was two years ago. And chances are I’d be craving it again on a weekly, if not daily, basis. And even more likely, I’d be depressed and about 15 pounds heavier – because I’ve been there and I’ve watched it over and over with other people who have these types of allergies but can’t seem to stick with it.

Take more for example. I am totally addicted/allergic to sugar. It’s deadly for me and I can feel it the minute it goes into my body. It takes me three days of fighting against serious cravings before I’m over it, so I have to really want it in order to have it. The weirdest thing that sets me off is bananas. Bananas! Can you imagine?

And you’re right about my cabinets being stocked with things people wouldn’t recognize as food. My new favorite things are chia seeds (this is my second go around with them), kale chips, this phenomenal seed bread that I make topped with avocado slices, etc. My cabinets are overflowing with goji berries, mulberries, goldenberries, chia seeds, hemp, hemp seeds, nuts, sesame seeds, maca, green powders, spirulina, raw cacao, cacao nibs, buckwheat grouts… It’s crazy.

We are also members of a local organic farm CSA so we are also overrun with all kinds of fabulous veggies (at least right now – now that it’s still summer).

I wish when I had done Weight Watchers all those years ago that they hadn’t been so profit based – hence their reliance on processed food. I can’t remember what your diet was like in school, but I’m pretty sure that I did a lot of damage to mine since I did the whole WW thing when I was a teen and drank Diet Coke and used artificial sweetners for years. Not to mention all of the processed cakes and cookies and chips and fried food and ice cream that I ate PRIOR to WW!

Dairy is something else that I’ve had to eliminate. It’s funny, I used to say, I could never be vegan. But then when I went raw, someone said, “Wow, you’re vegan too?” And I realized, yeah, I guess I am. I hadn’t even realized it!

So, I am curious, why did you start going to naturopathic doctor? I’d love to hear about your journey into alternative health, as well as what kind of feedback/pushback you’ve gotten from family and friends.

In terms of my weight – last time I was on a scale, I was at 132, which is the smallest I’ve ever been. I’m up from there – but I’m still in my size 4s (most days and my girls’ 16 (which I bought because I could never wear girls sizes when I WAS a girl).

I’m at the point now where I am battling my emotional/identity issues more than my physiology. Believe it or not, the latter is a much more sneaky and talented opponent.

I’ve got a great coach, because I think it’s really important to get these underlying issues under control so that I don’t fall off the healthy path. I can’t imagine it, really, because I feel so crappy and out of control when I’m not eating right, but it does seem like it could happen fast.

I think the biggest thing for me is that two years ago I went on antidepressants for what I thought was situational anxiety and depression. It started off a cascade of other symptoms, some of which were worse (in my mind) than the depression, which led to more meds, which led to more symptoms, which led to the OFFER of even more meds.

Talk about being overly sensitive!

I tried to go off the antidepressants and couldn’t do it.

At that time, I had bought an on-line information product from this women I met in L.A. and she was talking about gluten and dairy allergies. It sounded so familiar that I decided to eliminate them – them and processed sugar and all processed food.

Within ONE month I was off the antidepressants. So it wasn’t situational depression per se, it was food allergies!

For some people – me, apparently – gluten intolerance manifests itself as depression, in addition to cravings, bloating, weight gain, inflammation, etc.

Anyway, I could talk about this forever (and would be happy too).

I’m glad you found your way as well and, seriously, I would love to hear your story!


If any of YOU are thinking about going raw (or anything else similar) or if you have done so already, I’d love to hear from you as well!

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