Strategic Thoughts of a Bubble Girl by Terri Pham

I’ve known Terri Pham many years and she is just awesome! She was telling me about one of her Paleo Recipe Exchange groups. Every Sunday, members bring their cooked recipes and everyone goes home with an assortment of delicious, nutritious food for the week. She has valuable tips for healthy living and I am proud to introduce you to my first guest writer, Terri Pham!

Strategic Thoughts of a Bubble Girl

by Terri Pham

I was coined “Bubble Girl” by a very dear friend.

For those of you who don’t understand the reference, the 1976 movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, inspired the 2001 movie Bubble Boy. In both movies, the main character was born without an immune system, was confined to the bedroom in a sterilized dome, and was restrained from the outside world to protect him from germs.

For me, I have food allergies. When I first found out, I was sensitive to 65 different foods, including black pepper, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and many more. For a moment, people felt so bad for me and just wanted to confine me to a bubble for my protection, hence the nickname “Bubble Girl.”

After years of a clean diet, I can eat everything except gluten, dairy, soy, and peanuts. Gluten is my leading arch nemesis and will continue to be the antagonist in the story of my life. Black pepper, garlic, broccoli, and about 40 other foods have been reintroduced with success once my body healed from the years of toxicity.

I can hear your thoughts now. “Gluten, dairy, soy, and peanuts? Soy is in EVERYTHING. So what do you eat?”

My answer is the same every time. I eat a Paleo Diet: Meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Your mind is probably racing with the foods you love that contain gluten, dairy, or soy and how you would feel if you had to give all that up. You are probably thinking of the foods you ate today or at social settings and wonder how I deal with it. You probably feel empathy or feel bad for me. Well, I will stop you there and say, “Don’t, but thank you.”

So let me divulge some tricks and strategies when I am traveling or at a restaurant with friends, co-workers, or clients. Hopefully, you can take these same tricks to live a healthier life when traveling or eating out. Hopefully, these tricks help you realize it is all in how you look at it.

  1. Go for a salad. I love salad! I love the crisp of the greens, the sweetness of any fruit, and especially the full-but-not-so-stuffed-it-is-uncomfortable feeling after you are done. I always order mine with some protein like fish or chicken and no dressing, no cheese, no croutons, or no bread.
    1. A DRY salad with no dressing?” Yes. You never know what is in the dressing so I don’t risk it. Plus, you’ll be amazed at how the crispiness is refreshing to your mouth. Remember, I don’t eat chips or anything packaged so I’m a fan of crunch.
    2. You LOVE salad? How?” I never eat salad at home. I don’t allow myself to make it or buy it. So getting salad at a restaurant is a welcome treat. I have caught myself completely content with a pre-made salad I picked up between flights at an airport. With that airport salad, I didn’t use the dressing, didn’t eat the cheese, and savored the crisp sweet apples and tart mandarin oranges that came in the salad. It was glorious.
  2. Go for seafood or anything steamed, grilled, or boiled. I love crabs, shrimp, oysters, and anything seafood related. I probably was a sea creature in a past life. When I don’t see salad on the menu, normally, there is always fresh oysters, shrimp cocktail, or grilled fish on the menu. These are easy staples that you can find on any menu and even at a local pub. I just order the seafood with no butter. I remember eating 2 orders of shrimp cocktail with no cocktail sauce, ordered off the appetizer menu at a birthday party which was thrown at a bar. If not, stick to grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. This is normally super plain, so personally, I don’t do this often. I’d rather the flavorful seafood.
    1. But I don’t like seafood, what do I do?” Did you not read the second part? Go for something grilled, steamed, or boiled. Most restaurants have steamed, boiled, or grilled menu options.
    2. The menu has good salad choices and good seafood choices. What do I do?” Order both! I recommend the oysters on the half for an appetizer and the really good salad, no dressing or cheese, for your meal.
  3. When in doubt: Go for a Steak. You can never go wrong with steak. This normally comes with some type of steamed vegetable or a baked potato. I just order it with no butter and no bread. Some people with food allergies go to this step first since steak can be found on every menu at any type of restaurant. Just ask if it is marinated in anything. Most really tasty steaks are not marinated since it is a culinary crime. My whole first year when I was avoiding the 65 foods, I ordered steak with no butter at every restaurant I went to. It was a safety blanket, but it worked.
    1. I thought red meat was bad for you? I cut out all sugar, processed food, gluten, dairy, soy, and peanuts. With a diet like mine, red meat is actually very good. It’s all the sugar and gluten that is bad for you.
  4. When traveling to a different country: you’re safe with a salad. Before I go to any country, I make sure I know the translation for my allergies and even the word salad. I even carry a food allergy card with the translation of my allergies in that language. You can order food allergy cards online at http://www.selectwisely.com/. If not, knowing salad in that language helps with ordering if there isn’t an English menu. Salads are very common in other countries. They definitely got the healthy memo before us Americans.
    1. Salad in another country? You miss out on trying different foods. This is just the safest. Because I carry a food allergy card, I normally still eat the food of the country and not a salad. Again, seafood is normally what I get.
  5. When you are driving: stick to real food. Rethink the term “fast food”. Most people think a burger from a drive thru is the option. My fast food stop is the grocery store, if not a convenience store, if not a pharmacy. At the grocery store, you got everything. There are so many easy, portable finger foods. Vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes are easy to eat. Add protein like a can of Tuna or chicken, some smoked salmon, or even some cured meat like salami and you got a complete “driving” meal or snack to hold you over until dinner. At the convenience store, there are apples, bananas, almonds and plenty of healthy snacks. I have stopped at a pharmacy to get a can of chicken and then pulled into the convenience store next door for an apple and to fill my gas on my way to the airport to return a rental car.
    1. Grocery store as fast food? I never thought of that! I have my moments. Welcome to my bubble. It’s cozy, huh?

In closing, I still travel, date, go to social gatherings, eat at pizza places, go to birthday dinners at restaurants, eat bar food, and participate in the many activities that involve food. I make smart choices with food, and I don’t really worry about it. Eating is not complicated, even with food allergies. The interesting thing is, this “Bubble Girl” loves food and hopefully these tricks help you live in a healthy traveling bubble too.

Terri Pham works in the hospitality industry and resides in Houston, Texas. Three words to describe her are: passionate, energetic, and positive. She is a Level 1 Crossfit trainer, a volunteer for the Gluten Free Society, and a part of many Paleo Recipe Exchange groups. She loves crossfit, animals, helping others navigate their personal food journey, and food.

You may contact Terri at terri.pham@yahoo.com and on Facebook.

Terri Pham

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