Unhealthy Habit: The Listicle

I’ve been thinking a lot about unhealthy habits. I first began thinking about these when I found out about my gluten allergy. It really got me thinking about the things we do to our own minds and bodies that can actually make us unhappy or unhealthy. The one that has been weighing on my mind lately is this:

The habit of living your life by the listicle.

Listicles are a very popular type of blog post right now, and I think they are a great way to deliver content that is easy to read and digest. However, the content of many listicles are what bother me. “How to Know He’s Cheating on You,” or “10 Signs You are an Obsessive Girlfriend,” or even “18 Signs You’re in a Relationship With Your Horse.” No, I’m not making that last one up (see below). So many articles that are targeted to my age group (college women ages 18-22) focus on telling you what is wrong with you, your friends, your significant other, your lifestyle, and more.

this is a caption of real search results.
This is a caption of real search results.

I won’t lie, throughout my life, I have been someone who thrived off of articles like this. I read them feverishly in order to feel like I was normal or to get reassurance that I was doing the right thing. When you are worried about something in life, it is comforting to have someone who doesn’t know you and can’t judge you tell you you’re okay. If you are concerned about what decision to make, it is nice to find an article that tells you you’ve made the right decision – or that you’ve messed up and need to run the other way.

However, I realized that I had gotten into a nasty cycle. I destroyed a relationship that meant a lot to me because I was listening to advice from people who did not know me or my situation. Maybe I felt lost and didn’t have a loud enough inner voice to drown out the words on the web. Each time I listened to this strangerly advice, I became less and less happy. I became more confused, and I couldn’t come up with an answer when I asked myself what I wanted or felt.

Some things you have to feel out on your own. Your instincts, feelings, and thoughts are your best guide. Be confident in your own ability to problem solve. Trust your life’s worth of mistakes and experiences. They have prepared you for everything you’ll face in life, and you really can do it on your own.

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Is Butter a Carb?

I was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease. What does that mean? The way I understand it is that every time I eat gluten, the tiny hairs in my small intense that help to digest and absorb nutrients aren’t able to do their job. Over time, this can be damaging and cause me to not absorb the nutrients I need. It also means that I have an intolerance to lactose because the small intestine can’t produce enough of the enzyme necessary to break down the lactose.

Did I lose you yet? Basically, this means no gluten or dairy products.

Now, those are two pretty huge food groups in American diets. But what the heck even is gluten?? Besides your obvious bread, bagels, and pasta, gluten is also in sauces, and hidden in things like soy sauce and salad dressing. Add “no dairy” on top of that and a lot of the gluten free substitutes are out. Try making a cake without gluten or dairy! Tricky, but definitely not impossible.

… which leads me to the point of this post. I had the choice to see this as a disastrous lifestyle change that would alter my interactions with friends and family and ruin my love of food. Many people told me they were “so sorry” for me, and the way the doctor described it – as a “lifelong disease that has no cure and no treatment besides a gluten free diet” – sounded pretty terrifying. However, I don’t see it as a bad thing. At all. Besides the times where I’ve felt sick from some gluten I accidentally ate, I have really enjoyed finding new foods that I had never tried and creating substitutes for my old favorites. My options at meal times are healthier because a lot of processed foods are out, leaving me with fresh veggies, fruit, meat, seafood, and nuts. When you are really hungry, staring at a salad bar, knowing that this is the only thing that you can eat for the next 3-5 hours, you’ll pick all of the veggies – even the ones you have never tried before. And when you do that, you discover just how flavorful and delicious they can be! You learn to appreciate foods the way they are naturally, instead of how they taste when they are processed or disguised by a sauce. If anything, having Celiac has made me appreciate food more.

Some foods that I have been loving: popped edamame chips, Chex Gluten Free Granola mix, Lara Bars (they taste like dessert but they are made of dates + a few other ingredients), Chipotle burrito bowls (my nutritionist pointed to this meal on my list and told me it was perfect; she was pretty shocked when I told her it was from Chipotle), gluten free Udi’s bread toasted with gluten free sausage on top (YUM), and lactaid milk (it tastes like milk with a little sugar added to it – aka amazing).

I have also been very lucky to have close friends with Celiac disease who have been coping with it for longer than me and have been able to show me the ropes. Shout out to Rachel, Emili, and Mallory! My mom has of course been amazing, showering me with gluten free foods left and right. Judging from her grocery store bills, you would think she was the Celiac! My dad has fallen in love with my gluten free dairy free chocolate cookies – so he has proven to be competition for my gluten free snacks (kidding). My coworker, Kristen, recommended two books: Practical Paleo and Against All Grain. I haven’t had time to try the recipes yet, but they look delicious and the books both have a lot of helpful information about gluten and nutrition as well. A family friend, Lauren, has also given me lots of advice on her favorite gluten free products (via my mom). My other friends and family have been fantastic by looking out for me when we go out to eat (is butter gluten?? jk, you guys have been great) and making me feel better about the fact that I now have to be the “high maintenance friend” at restaurants. I know that all of the support I have had is the reason I have been so positive about this change, so I am very thankful for that.

My one piece of advice: if you are feeling like Celiac is something you could have, don’t simply “try” cutting out gluten. You can actually develop an intolerance that way. Instead, keep eating as normal and ask your doctor. It isn’t every doctor’s first guess because the symptoms can vary, but there is a simple test they can do. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, and a great resource for the technical details is the Mayo Clinic.

Lime & Basil: Phở

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What could be more perfect on a snowy Chapel Hill day than a warm bowl of Phở from Lime & Basil?

My roommate Beth and I are in Anthropology 375: Memory, Massacres, and Monuments in Southeast Asia. Because my Global Studies courses have primarily centered around Europe, I was excited to learn about a part of the world that I was less familiar with.

This summer, my coworkers introduced me to Phở. I had my first meal at a Vietnamese restaurant in Cary and LOVED it! When Beth and I were talking about where to find a Southeast Asian restaurant to try for class, my other roommate Ayesha mentioned that Lime & Basil on Franklin street is Vietnamese. We decided to head there for lunch today because our early classes were cancelled due to the weather.

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I ordered beef Phở and it was absolutely delicious. The dish comes with a basket of bean sprouts, basil, green peppers, and a lime to add to the broth, which contains rice noodles, beef, and greens. The warm broth was perfect for the cold weather. Although I wasn’t the best at using the chopsticks and definitely ended up wearing some of the broth by the end of the meal, I think this beats Chicken Noodle Soup any day! To finish our meal, we each ordered a Bubble Tea. I got the Mocha flavor and Beth tried Strawberry. The surprise of getting a tapioca ball in your straw takes some getting used to, but it was delicious! I’d love to eat here again, so I will definitely be returning sometime in the near future.

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After we finished our meal, we took our leftovers to go. When we were walking home on Franklin St, a man asked us if we had any extra food to spare. We decided to give him our leftovers because it was so cold out and no one should have to go hungry in this weather. Maybe that will be our good “kamma” for the day!