Body knows best, never mind the rest, the mind is a tether holding you together too tight.
A few years ago, I was on the road for nine months straight, armed with nothing but a guitar and an amp. At a certain point and after all the long drives, long flights, long runs across airport terminals with heavy bags, backpacks, and flight cases, and the erratic hours and questionable food and drink choices, my body started to rebel. I found myself sick and tired, my body reacting badly to seemingly everything I put in it. I'd break out in a rash after a cup of tea from Starbucks or my face would swell up after a little salad dressing. I couldn't even handle my occasional glass or two of wine anymore. My body was on strike.
After some lab tests, I was diagnosed with a severe sensitivity to gliadin and gluten (the protein that makes bread stick together and is found in basically everything -- wheat, barley, rye, and a ton of other hidden places like malt vinegar and soy sauce, to name a few), a handful of other food allergies, and adrenal fatigue. The choice was easy: Either continue to eat like a "normal" person while suffering, or accept the diagnosis, make a few lifestyle tweaks and move on.
Once I eliminated gluten, all of my other food sensitivities started to subside, and I started to feel better. I even quit drinking, cut way back on coffee, and started to meditate, something I never thought I could do for more than 30 seconds.
Where I live in Portland, eating healthy/organic/local/gluten-free/etc. is easy and sometimes infuriatingly annoying to "normal" types (the "Allergy Pride" episode of Portlandia is frighteningly accurate). But I wondered how difficult it would be to take my newfound healthy ways on the road. After all, a musician's hours are crazy, and last time I checked Jack in the Box didn't have a wild-caught salmon burger on a sprouted quinoa bun on their drive-thru menu.
My first attempt to tour with food allergies happened when I did a string of dates opening for Nikka Costa on the East Coast in April. The following few installments are a glimpse at what I ate over the period of a nine-day tour (spoiler alert: a whole lotta chicken salads).
Day 1: Portland --> Boston
The morning of our flight I know I'll be having my last home-cooked meal in awhile, so I make a quick gluten-free, sugar-free protein "cookie" in the blender: sprouted rice protein (by Sunwarrior), a brown rice cake, a few sprouted almonds, stevia, avocado or coconut oil and a little water-soaked chia seeds blended up in my Magic Bullet™. Sounds weird but it's actually delicious, filling, and mostly raw/"living" food. Sometimes I'll throw in some molasses, which isn't too sweet but has a nice consistency and is a good source of B vitamins. I also have a little goat yogurt (with a few drops of vanilla-flavored stevia to cut the goatiness).
During a layover, I get the first of many chicken salads (too often the only available source for lean protein and veggies on the road) at a fast food Mexican place. I ask for it with no dairy, no corn chips-- just lettuce, chicken, black beans, extra salsa and a dollop of avocado. It's actually pretty great for an airport meal, and I make it to the gate in time to board with my guitar!
A bag of peanuts on the plane, and a few bottles of water.
We land at midnight in Boston. My drummer Paulie and I are starving, and the only place we can find that's open is Taco Bell. "Foiled!" I think, but then decide I'll stick with what I know won't give me trouble: protein and vegetables.
Let the record show that the last words I remember saying before feeling -- and looking -- like death warmed over were, "I'll have the beef salad."
(I make a mental note to title my next side project or porn venture "beef salad.")
Sadly, even though I order said salad without the shell or the cheese or sour cream, mystery meat is mystery meat, and soon I am negotiating how not to throw up while driving. The wiser choice would've been rice and beans, but alas. You live and learn. I am fine by morning, but vow to get fresh produce ASAP.
Chicken salad running total: 1
Day 2: Boston
We need to get a keyboard stand just outside of Boston and we have a few hours to kill before our gig in Somerville, so Paulie and I pop into a mostly-raw vegan restaurant in the quaint town of Beverly, Mass. called Organic Garden Cafe. Paulie has just eaten his own normal-person breakfast, so I end up feeling self-conscious when I order a bunch of different things -- a raw vegan cacao chip cookie (made with coconut oil, almonds, coconut, cacao and Himalayan salt), an eggless Caesar salad with flax/sunflower seed crackers and a slice of kiwi lime pie (made from soaked cashews) -- but hey, I'm conducting important research here, right?
I sit down with three plates in front of me while Paulie nurses a cup of water. I ask if he is sure he doesn't want to order and he says he's sure -- he's full (this becomes a recurring theme, BTW). After a bite of kiwi lime pie, I tell Paulie it's too rich for me to finish and offer him some. He gladly polishes it off (also a recurring theme) and gives it a big thumbs up. Nice going, Organic Garden Cafe!
I start to feel a little buzzy from all the agave sweetener in the vegan treats, not to mention my large mug of green tea, and decide I'll need some animal protein for lunch to even out my blood sugar. Several hours later, we find a Chipotle near the venue and get salads the size of newborns. Like a trooper, I order a grilled chicken salad -- hold the dairy -- with beans, rice, two kinds of salsa, and a little guac. I have enough leftover for a post-show dinner. After that, I walk around the block to a cute little ice cream shop called J.P. Lick's, which has a line out the door. They have a host of creative flavors, and I'm overjoyed that they even have sugar-free yogurt and dairy-free ice cream. I get half of each and Paulie and I pack up gear and drive a couple hours to Hartford, Conn., where we spend the night.
Chicken salad running total: 2
... this two-day food diary excerpt was just an amuse bouche, if you will -- something to whet your whistle. Over the next few installments of Adventures of a Lady In Rock, I'll explain how easy -- or not -- it is to stay healthy while traveling. If you're a frequent traveling performer, musician, comedian, I want to hear from you. What do you do to stay sane/happy/healthy on the road?
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