Right now my roommate is pouring a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast. In a sense I am jealous of her ability to (so far) digest a bowl of pressed oats, sugar and commercially processed non-fat milk.

What's for dinner?

Me? For breakfast I’m having a bowl of chicken broth I cooked for at least 3 hours and some butternut squash I roasted yesterday. Breakfast never seems easy. I would love to go back to my simple coffee and pastry, but no more.

For the past month I have scoured the city for the best and most inexpensive organic produce and quality meats and butter. I chop veggies, I soak nuts or seeds overnight. I’m learning to make fermented beet kvass, sauerkraut and kefir. Sometimes I feel like, ‘If only I could just pour my breakfast out of a box.’

On the other hand, I’m not jealous at all. I consider my digestive ‘problem’ a fantastic opportunity to learn about my health and to change my eating habits (which I formerly thought “weren’t so bad”). And the best part? I get to feel better than I have in years. Yes: I am beginning to feel better than I have in years.

My roommate has a shelf full of processed foods. Canned soups, Bisquick baking mix, macaroni and cheese and boxed cereal probably make up 75% of her diet. With a little iceberg lettuce, ground beef, cheese and gallons of non-fat milk thrown in, that pretty much does it.

This is the Standard American Diet.

However, she doesn’t smoke, she drinks alcohol in extreme moderation (two hard ciders once a month are a big night out) and does not drink coffee or tea and rarely soda. She exercises daily with a 30 minute bike commute to work, and pretty much never eats at fast food restaurants.

Now is her diet looking a little better? Yes, according to most health standards, it’s “not that bad.” But even so, she could have allergies (she does) or digestive problems (“I’m never regular”) that are directly related to what she eats (or maybe more importantly –  does not eat.)

Even I used to routinely eat mac & cheese, but thought I was being good because I limited my processed food intake. And, since it was organic and from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s I thought it was superior to the blue and yellow Kraft boxes kept in my roommates’ stash.

However, it turns out my diet wasn’t so great after all.

Probably my biggest error was my traditional morning pastry with coffee or a latte. Here you have wheat and milk, two foods which are among the most difficult to digest and commonly cause food intolerances.

Also, I was guilty of not  taking time to really prepare my meals. I would just snack on sunflower seeds or tortilla chips, or make a sandwich, or drink a glass of juice, considering that no single one of those foods was particularly bad in itself — but when my guts started telling me differently, I knew I had to make a big change.