I had a minor health scare that put me in the hospital last Friday. Everyone at work thought I was having a “cardiac event”, so off I went to the hospital. Believe me, there’s nothing—and I am now an expert in this, so you can take this as gospel—absolutely nothing like spending six hours in an emergency room in the United States during flu season.1

Meerkat
Image courtesy of ekamelev and Pixabay.

Anyway, I was not having a cardiac event, but I am suffering from GERD—gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is every bit as fun as it sounds. (I have actually been dealing with this for a long time, but it’s never been at a scare-your-coworkers level of bad as it was this time.)

I followed up with my doctor, she extended my meds for another month, and then put me on a very restricted diet. Here is everything that is off the list:

  • Alcohol (yeah, she got that one out of the way right off the bat)
  • Anything with caffeine, especially coffee, but not tea (there go my mornings)
  • Chocolate (c’mon, now!)
  • Peppermint or mint flavorings (meh)
  • Garlic and onions (um…hello?)
  • Spicy foods (HELLO? Oh, hell no!)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes, or anything with tomatoes, such as ketchup, chili, salsa, and pizza
  • Fried foods, such as french fries, chips, potato chips, and tortilla chips
  • Fatty foods (i.e., bacon, ham, sausage)
  • Horseradish
  • High fat dairy products such as whole milk and chocolate milk (which I avoid, because lactose), ice cream (ditto), sour cream, and butter (which are ingredients two and three in mashed potatoes)
  • Carbonated beverages of any kind (goodbye Diet Pepsi induced marathon writing sessions)
  • Vinegar, or anything acidic (goodbye, pickles)
  • Strong spices, such as black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, cayenne, curry powder, cloves, ginger, and chili powder

With the exception of “peppermint or mint flavorings” that basically describes 95% of what I eat.

And that’s the problem.

Her other recommendation was to get off my ass and lose some weight—not her exact words (she’s far too nice for that), but that was her meaning, accompanied by a “didn’t we discuss this already at your last checkup and you’re still just a big roly-poly blob eight months later” look (well, not quite—she’s far too nice for that—but I’ve seen that look before on other people’s faces and I know what it means).

She also noted that I had elevated blood pressure, but that was probably due to all the “hello, I may be dying, but if not, I’m sure to be plenty embarrassed about this tomorrow” anxiety. If it’s still high later, I’m sure she’ll mention it.

Anyway, the next two months are going to be challenging from a culinary standoint because most of the dishes I cook start off with chopping onions and garlic and adding rather a lot of spices. But I am determined to stick with this and I’m pretty sure I can, because:

  1. It’s only for two months, after which I can slowly start to re-introduce spicy foods into my diet. (Yeah, I’m not even worried about french fries at this point—let’s just get to the hot sauce!)
  2. This is actually a good opportunity to improve my diet and lose a bit of weight in the process.
  3. Unlike some people, it only takes one health scare to scare the hell out of me and make the changes I need to make.

So yes, it’s going to be bland foods for a while—boiled potatoes, pasta with something other than tomato-based sauce, a hella lotta oatmeal (because also fiber, which lowers cholesterol), more fresh fruits and vegetables that aren’t acidic (broccoli? mushrooms? idk, so I have to look into this), Mexican food without tomatoes or chiles or spices (???), and also millet, which is the only alkaline grain there is (I just need to figure out how to incorporate it into my diet). Half of all struggles are mental, so rather than think of this as a bland diet, I prefer to think of it as a gentle diet.

And since I like to cook (because, hey, I like to eat), I’ll need to research and develop some of these recipes and will probably post them here. Which is cool, because I’ve been wanting to post more about food and cooking anyway. If you have suggestions, please comment. Stay tuned.

1 I have thoughts on this, but hell, they ain’t nothing that I haven’t been saying on Twitter. TL;DR is “The United States has great health care, but health care delivery sucks balls.” 

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