The design of food 🍔


A few months ago, I blogged about how I have intestinal dysbiosis.

TL;DR: I got a parasite infection & the antibiotics wiped out my entire gut micro-biome. I recovered shortly thereafter. This April, I had another bout of food poisoning. I receive yet another round of antibiotics. This time, there was no recovery. My gut bacteria had been altered one too many times.

Well, I’ve now had dysbiosis for 5 months. It’s led to countless doctor’s visits, lab tests and breakdowns. After months of denial, anger and depression, I’ve finally accepted that my diet will need to change for the long term. No more gluten, lactose or sugar.

That means every single place that is convenient to eat out is no longer an option: cafes, sandwich shops, burger joints, the bread before the meal, the 3-min ravioli at Safeway, the breakfast table near the conference room filled with an assortment of muffins, croissants and danishes.

At first I was devastated. I thought, how could this be? I resigned myself to never eating out to stop thinking about macaroni and cheese and cookie dough ice cream. Slowly, I’ve come to the realization that I didn’t grow up craving these foods. My mother didn’t and doesn’t bake. I hardly ever ate sugar except on vacation. We actually never really ate out. There weren’t actually that many restaurants in our small town.

So I started thinking about why I liked these foods. It wasn’t until college that I start eating sweets. The college cafeteria didn’t have many vegetables, but they had tons and tons of desserts every single day. I switched over into eating these foods, because they were often better than the vegetables they served, which were undercooked, over-steamed and bland. I gained 15 lbs during college. I joined that club.

When I graduated, I found a job in Boston and slowly went back to the diet that I grew up on – rice, vegetables and seafood. As a result, I lost my college weight almost immediately. However, I also ate out more often, as my friends opted for restaurants as the main arena of socialization.

Later, when I moved to San Francisco I started traveling for work, which entailed eating out as much as every single day for a whole week, something I found unnerving. I ate a lot of foods that were deep fried, heavily sweetened and chock-full of salt.

Perhaps, the worst part of this, is that I got used to it. So naturally, when I put myself on a more restricted diet, I started craving these carbs and sugars. I would look for excuses. I would seek out cookies that were gluten-free, instead of cutting out cookies altogether. I would look for cereals and snacks made of brown rice instead of wheat.

But when my symptoms got worse, I realized that I was only fooling myself. I decided to stop eating these processed foods altogether. It was a real turning point for me.

I had to do undo about 6-10 years worth of social influencing, marketing, and lifestyle habits. I had to look at the places we often cling to as forums for conversation – cafes and ice cream shops – differently than I once did and ask myself: why do these places mostly sell sweets and carbs? Because they’re cheap to stock and profitable.

Sugars and grains can last for a very long time and often don’t need refrigeration. Salmon and bell peppers have finite shelf lives and need to be kept cold. So businesses look for cheap options that can be transported and stored easily. 

Dr. William Davis describes in Wheat Belly that we used to only eat seeds of grass in periods when it was hard to find vegetables and meat, because they could be stored during times of famine. We’re not even supposed to be eating them. 

Many food businesses will add extra sugar and salt to their products so that you’ll buy them again and again. They don’t promise a healthy meal. They promise a good time (think about Coca Cola ads). They’re not looking out for me, so I need to look for me. I want to know exactly what I’m eating. 

I wasn’t planning on making a lifestyle change when I became sick, but it’s taught me so much about how we can take care of ourselves. It turns out that the restricted diet I’m on for my dysbiosis might be the one I should be on forever. (I’m on the Whole30 program and paleo diet by default, so I reckon it’s not a bad way to go.)

It’s been 3 months, since I’ve had any processed foods or added sugars. While, I still crave carbs and sugars from time to time, I no longer feel sad about not being about to have them. I feel more okay about sticking to my choices, which are exactly that. I can have all the sugars and grains in the world if I want, but I know that they’ll worsen my dysbiosis.

Even if I recover 100% from dysbiosis, I would still refrain from my former way of eating. This isn’t about getting back to the way I used to be, this is about living better. So it you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make my plate of shrimp, tomatoes and zucchini. 


Great User Experience in Real Life

Demilked had a great article on products that have well-thought designs. I want to highlight 8 of my favorite ideas here.

  1. Actual towels for makeup removal. It’s useful, because I hate ruining really nice, white towels with dark mascara.


2. This shower knob has the temperatures on it, so you’ll know what your favorite showering temperature is.


3. This highlighter finally lets you see what you’re highlighting.


4. This bench can be cranked so if it’s wet, you can still turn it to get a dry surface.


5. More fruits and vegetables could use stickers like this one.


6. Color-coded baskets that indicate to staff whether you’d like help while shopping.


7. Chair with slot for bag handle.


8. This carton tells you how many more glasses of juice you have left.




A digression

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For the past few months, I’ve been struggling with intestinal dysbiosis. It means that there’s an imbalance in your gut flora. I developed this condition from a number of different things – a parasite infection and it’s anti-parasite medicines, food poisoning abroad and antibiotics. I’m not entirely sure which one really did it.

Some days are ok. Many days are miserable. On these days, everything I eat gives me intense abdominal pain, and I can’t focus on work or design or really anything. It stops me from traveling for work, eating out, being comfortable in a variety of social situations.

Most of my energy now has been focused on which foods and probiotics I should be taking to get better. Every day is an experiment. I learned that grapefruit and avocados makes me feel worse but chia-millet bread and eggs are ok. I no longer eat anything containing wheat, milk, onions, and a plethora of other foods. Eating one wrong thing will undo all the right things that I previously ate that day. I get scared when I have to go somewhere that doesn’t have the foods I need.

Quite honestly, I’m scared all the time.

My parents ask me whether my stomach has improved every time I talk to them on the phone. My answer is always “not really.”

I don’t want to give up. If you know anyone who’s gotten better from dybiosis, tell me their story. I need to get better.

Things I learned in Japan

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  • Having one card that works for all public transit in different cities is such a blessing
  • Bento boxes are amazing, because they let you try many different foods in one box
  • Japan is not a great place if you’re vegetarian (I’m not, but a friend is) – there are only a few restaurants in each city that will work out
  • Service delays for local trains do happen occasionally. In such cases, it can be difficult to leave the train station, because most of the time, the system requires you to tag in and out of your departure and arrival station in order to work.
  • Water bottles get more expensive the higher up Fushimi Inari you climb
  • Vending machines with beverages on streets are remarkably…considerate when you’re feeling thirsty.
  • The Shinkansen takes 2.3 hours to go from Tokyo to Kyoto which are 318.6 miles apart. Compare that with the Acela, which takes 3.5 hrs to get you from Boston to New York which are 214 miles apart
  • The phrase for Good Morning is exceptionally fun to say: Ohayo (Oh-hi-oh)
  • Cardholders from the US generally fare better with 7-11 ATMs than others where you’ll get an error message
  • Don’t eat too much tempura or you’ll end up with stomach problems for weeks after you get back home
  • Women sometimes wear kimonos in the summer in Kyoto when they go out
  • There are beautiful places in every corner of the universe

5 fun places for artists in SF

SF Art Institute

  • What: Free figure drawing every Friday. 5:30–8:30 pm | Studio 13
  • Why: Most spots in the city will charge you for figure drawing, so this is a pretty great deal. The room is also well-lit and atmospheric, and you get a nice view of Coit Tower if you walk around the SFAI buildings.
  • More info

23rd street studio

  • What: Also figure drawing ($18)
  • Why: Because the guy who owns this is really, really charming. He’ll invite everyone to the dining table during the long break in the middle of a session AND  bakes treats and makes everyone tea AND we’ll talk about our favorite movies from the week. On top of that, the poses that the models do here tend to be more dynamic than what I’ve seen elsewhere.
  • More info

Clay by the bay

  • What: Ceramics!
  • Why: Because their classes are great (says my friends – I haven’t been). I keep missing their classes, because of work trips
  • More info

Case for Making

  • What: Well-curated art supplies
  • Why: Because it’s really pretty, because it’s next to Trouble Coffee, because the owner has workshops during the week, because she got a commercial license like a decade ago and decided at some point that she would sell all of her favorite supplies there.
  • More info

3 fish studios

  • What: Print-making studio/store
  • Why: Because they made the print with the bear hugging the state of California piece that’s now on every other tote bag in Valencia. This is another place I haven’t been to. It’s hella far, but close to Case for Making – so recommendation would be to check them out together.
  • More info