Seven Foods that Saved My Life

Tara and I have pulled one another along in the boldness of various faiths — of the inconveniences, rightly considered — that force us to consider ourselves aright and help me, for one, stand as tall as a man can stand and no taller. Several years ago she asked if we could spend a month eating only seven foods. It’s an idea she found in Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven: A Mutiny Against Excess. Jen’s a Christian woman who decided to practice a ruthless simplicity in her life in order to have more to give to the poor she encounters daily.

Well Seven had a chapter that illuminated Jen’s journey in eating seven foods — and only seven foods — for a whole month: avocados, apples, bread, sweet potatoes, chicken, spinach, and something else I can’t remember right now. There’s always one of them we can’t remember. Hold on it’ll come to me….

Anyways, seven foods seasoned with olive oil and salt and pepper alone. Tara loved this idea and decided we’d do it as a family. I’ve learned over the years not to resist her in her ideas when she’s ready to pull the trigger because though I’m very “Ready. Fire. Aim,” she is very “Ready. Steady. Aim. Check your watch. Wash your hands. Aim…” I used to play rushers in Counter Strike and other first person shooters — the guys who would wield small, rapid-fire submachine guns and live up to the line, “The first one through a wall gets bloody.” I liked getting bloody. I liked being the meat shield. I liked taking down a bunch of foes with me in a gory blaze of fire and glory. Tara, had she played, would have played a sniper: camped out, careful, but when she pulls the trigger she takes down ten at a time.


That was the seventh.

When she pulled the trigger and said, “Hey, let’s do this,” I said, “Yes ma’am,” and tried not to put up too much of a stink. I’ve found over the years that shutting her down is like shutting down a blossom: you’ll be waiting a whole year for another chance to see it. If anything, Seven was a sort of shopping therapy in which she saw, for the first time, that food was fuel. The burden of shopping was simple: dump as many of these seven foods into your cart as you would in Supermarket Sweep and then make for the door.

It’s a good thing we did it, too. Without it, I would never have been diagnosed. See we came back with a fury. It was Convocation again at our Alma Mater. Tara worked at the college at the time and we had started the tradition of going to a nice desert joint afterwards with the professors. I hadn’t had any cheese. That night I ate two servings of fettucinni alfredo, two slices of cheese cake, mozerella-encrusted broccoli, and shredded chedder on my salad followed by some sort of creme brûlée dish at a seafood joint called Crabby’s.

Early the following morning, I woke up with the worst abdominal pain I’ve had in my life. I went to the bathroom, had two seizures, and woke up in a pool of blood.

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I told Tara.

It was the first day of school.

She was an administrative assistant for a B-level executive inside the building that offered the highest hospitality to students due to the highest foot traffic.

And I needed the hospital.

So we packed our bags as best as we could.

Turned out the blood had come from the porcelain trashcan I’d been holding to throw up into. It had shattered on my foot, cut it pretty bad, and I had been kicking while seizing, flinging the blood everywhere.

They did testing on me and ruled out Crohn’s and ruled in IBD and a severe lactose intolerance — potentially a full-blown allergy, though certain body systems like skin rashes didn’t get involved, so it’s hard to say. In any case, they told me my entire digestive system had turned into an inflated balloon and the guy said, “I need you to go home and fart loud and fart often. Walk it off until you can’t fart anymore.”

I’ve seized before. It’s happened often, but that’s another post for another day.

For now, let’s focus on the fact that Seven saved me at least a good deal of trouble and discomfort and may well have saved my life. Soon after that, Tara wanted to try Whole 30, which cuts out all inflammatories and puts an emphasize on getting vitamins the normal way: through food. She read this book called It Starts With Food, and asked me if I wanted to try it.

I said, “Sure, let’s do it.”


“St. Francis  his courage was running, in the sense of rushing. With all his gentleness, there was originally something of impatience in his impetuosity. The psychological truth about it illustrates very well the modern muddle about the word “practical.” If we mean by what is practical what is most immediately practicable, we merely mean what is easiest. In that sense St. Francis was very impractical, and his ultimate aims were very unworldly. Bit if we mean by practicality a preference for prompt effort and energy over doubt or delay, he was very practical indeed. Some might call him a madman, but he was the very reverse of a dreamer. Nobody would be likely to call him a man of business; but he was very emphatically a man of action. In some of his early experiments he was rather too much of a man of action; he acted too soon and was too practical to be prudent. But at every turn of his extraordinary career we shall find him flinging himself around corners in the most unexpected fashion, as when he flew through the streets after the beggar.”

— Chesterton

Because I’m too practical to be prudent, that’s why. I threw myself into it and cut out all legumes, all bread, all added sugars, and got the best sleep I’ve gotten in my life. Turns out something else was wrong.

Stay tuned and I’ll tell that story tomorrow. For now, check out Whole 30 cookbook and It Starts With Food.

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