I need to talk about food today. Let me begin by saying that I haven't eaten a proper dessert in 7 months. Not one piece of candy or apple pie. I haven't touched a piece of bread or anything containing wheat or gluten products. I have not intentionally ingested anything that contains soy or soy derived products. That means that almost anything that comes in a box or a bottle is off limits. The entire middle section of the grocery store is enemy territory, plus most of the refrigerated and frozen food aisles. Practically everything has gluten or soy in some form. It's almost unbelievable.
I have been staying away from processed sugar. I'm not sure that I have to avoid it in the same way I have to avoid wheat and soy but it seems to make a difference in how my stomach feels at the end of the day. I have essentially cured a very painful and chronic stomach/esophageal problem by making better food choices, but it has come at a price.
I limit white potatoes because they tend to upset my stomach but I am finding that I can tolerate them far better than I used to. That is a blessing. I am still careful but it is a great relief to be able to allow another food in a limited way.
Thanksgiving dinner was difficult in a way that I had not yet encountered. I ate turkey, potatoes, and corn. Twice. One of the blessings of my diet is that I don't tend to stuff myself because the food is self-limiting. I mean, how much turkey can a person really eat before the body says enough? So when the dessert table rose up from the heart of fairyland, all sparkly and encrusted with sugar and gorgeousness, I still had plenty of tummy room. And it was a terrific battle.
Just one piece.
No... why work hard every day just to throw it away on a piece of pie?
I'm pretty healthy, this is not going to kill me.
But it will be the beginning of the end. You will not be able to say no next time. As soon as that blackberry pie touches your lips, you will remember... and you're done for.
I turned to my husband:
"Dear, I really, really, really want dessert."
He looked at me with compassionless eyes and said: I'm sorry.
I searched those cold eyes for a hint of approval.
I passed on dessert.
As I sat in church last week, I was distracted by the thought of dessert. We were standing (maybe the Our Father?) and I recall thinking about food. I wondered if I would really have the courage to keep eating the way it seems my body prefers to be fed. I was thinking this because I do not receive the Eucharistic host, but only the Precious Blood, and the time to receive our Lord was approaching. This complicates daily Mass. I approach the Lord's table, make a sign of reverence, and move along without receiving. I wait until Sunday when the Precious Blood is made available.
There is a perpetual dialogue running around in my mind. On the one hand, I recall the many, many years pain and tears from my intestinal problems. The thousands of dollars spent trying to diagnose a mystery illness that caused my joints to swell, stomach to spasm, and esophagus to malfunction. On the other hand, the trials of living in a food-centric world with very little whole or pure food available can get a little intense in individual situations.
I sit at another gathering and wonder why every celebration or achievement or moment of rest must be marked by food. And I wonder why we are all so content eating so much garbage. We don't even know what we're eating. We just buy cans and boxes and throw it all into a pot or arrange it is a pan... and eat it.
As the holidays approach, I have been salivating over the beautiful recipes on Pinterest. I have been pinning dessert recipes like mad and planning on making them for others. I will be making a First Communion cake and some lovely desserts. A few days ago, I made pizza for the kids and when they left the kitchen, I stuck my nose into the crust and breathed it in for at least 60 seconds. We pulled through Wendy's last week for some emergency kid food and I fantasized about eating a bag of fries. This holiday season is definitely food-centric. And I am struggling.
I am not overweight. I am not underweight. I'm 5'6 and I am usually somewhere between 112 and 123 pounds. We don't own a scale so I don't monitor. I don't have to because my food choices are so obnoxiously healthy that it is somewhat self regulating. I am not starving. I have plenty of food options and my options increase as I become accustomed to this way of life. There really are endless possibilities. But the rest of the world doesn't eat like I do and that is the primary struggle.
When visiting, I eat before I leave or I just wait until I get home if there is nothing for me. It is sometimes hard to believe how frequently food is served which I cannot eat. Sometimes, there is nothing in an entire meal that I can eat. For example, a common meal of casserole with processed ingredients, bread, salad already wearing manufactured dressing, and dessert. It is embarrassing sometimes. I do not wish to stand out or be particular. Incredibly, my body has adjusted beautifully to its new energy sources and I do not need to eat as frequently as I used to. My body used to crave carbs every hour. I thought that was healthy and normal. Now, I can fast for long periods without much discomfort. But it feels rude. Because eating is social and celebratory and abstaining feels like a form of selfishness. It is not understood and thus, not accommodated. In short, it is lonely. The hardest part is not passing by the table laden with beautiful and delicious food. The hardest part is watching other people eat it while I sit with them or turning down food that my host or hostess has lovingly prepared.
I don't struggle all the time and am happy enough with the lifestyle to continue it, but I confess that this is a difficult season. I made it through Thanksgiving, which is an eating holiday if there ever was one, but I keep coming back to the question: Can I do this for the duration of my life? As I stood in church thinking about food instead of praying, I thought: Yes, I can. Life is short. My life belongs to Jesus. My health belongs to Jesus. If I never eat another piece of red licorice in my life *sigh* it will not take away one bit from the joy and fulfillment of an eternity with the Lord. I am no longer a slave to food. Thanks be to God.