It started off simply enough.
I had an infection and went to the pharmacy to get over-the-counter medication (as I have before, no biggie).
Then the infection returned while traveling. Sigh. Oh well, still, no biggie.
Then it returned.
Then it returned again.
Now, I may not be the quickest to get myself to the doctor, but four infections in about a month? Um, apparently another approach was needed. Praise Jesus for people who sit in labs and have no social life and figure out how to make pills that cure what ails the rest of us with social lives and jobs and people counting on us!
Until said prescription ends and the infection returns. Why do “emergencies” always happen after hours or on a weekend?! (I put it in quotation marks because I get that my situation is not life-threatening. I often think a situation is an “emergency” when in truth it is more distracting or uncomfortable or just plain annoying. I also notice how these situations make my vernacular choice a tad dramatic).
According to the internet, cutting out a few foods would help me feel better.
I would have said that I was an overall healthy eater. Oh sure, I like a piece of chocolate after dinner. And if pizza was a food group, I would have had no problem meeting the quotient. But, hey, there is “bad pizza” and “good pizza.” You know, with only veggies and no silliness like stuffed crust.
So began the change in my relationship with food. No carbs, no problem! We will kick this infection and move on with life. After all, I like tofu and hummus and Kalamata olives.
I was referred to a specialist and put on six months worth of medication. But—oh people—my body doesn’t really seem to be responding to the medication, so he said, “You will need to starve it out of your body. Anything it eats, you don’t.”
I’m not proud of this, but I cried as I walked out. I thought, “I don’t mind giving up pizza for a while. After all, the side effects right now are so awful, I don’t want to eat it. But if I had known the last time I ate pizza was THE LAST TIME, I would have enjoyed it more. I would have savored each bite. I would have been more present. And now I can’t give pizza a proper goodbye.”
It is easier to say what I can eat than bore you with what I can’t. Plain greek yogurt, meat, and most veggies are sustaining me. It is still surreal I haven’t eaten fruit since November (other than lemons and limes). My new party tricks are actually annoying food facts.
Did you know there are moldy and non-moldy nuts? And mold likes to make things grow? So, no peanuts, cashews, or pistachios for me. Did you know vinegar is in yellow mustard? And vinegar is processed in yeast and yeast likes to make things grow? Did you know soy sauce has soy which is a bean which is a carb which is VERY ANNOYING? Did you know that the “ose” in “lactose” refers to sugar and sugar likes to make things grow? Did you know chicken bullion is 1% sugar?
Oh, I had lost track of the time too. It is getting late. I can totally understand why you and the kids need to go to bed at 6:30 p.m.
Food has moved from being comforting to part just-for-survival and part medicine as I try to cooperate in my healing.
I go through waves of fear. Fear?! I have never been afraid of food. But it is so much easier to eat at home and know that I am not risking setting my healing back by months.
To waves of gratitude. My mind wanders to my friend Mike who died last September. If all Mike had to do was alter his diet to stay with his family and feel better he would have done it. All I have to do is alter my diet and my life goes on pretty much as it has.
I have learned how much food is woven into culture. Be it holiday baking or a favorite meal for a birthday to casually hanging out with friends, food is often the center. It is exhausting to have a part of life that is usually a bit player take center stage.
It turns out that food, even in Western individualistic countries, is far more communal than I thought. My diet restrictions have impacted my family. It has impacted get-t0gethers and what I can and cannot eat. It makes all who come near me think through menus and restaurants and rituals. I wish I did not have to take so many on this path with me.
And yet, the kindness shown also comes wave after wave. The research people have done. The recipes people have tried. The thought and effort put into not merely keeping me alive, but also finding ways to thrive in this new land we find ourselves. The Psalmist said to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
His goodness has also come in comments. “Amy, what is tricky is that you are sick, but you don’t look sick so you have to get all of your work done while finding time to go to the doctor and learn a whole new relationship with food. All the while you need more rest and to slow down and listen to your body.” I teared up when a friend said this. “I see that you are sticking to this. I know you are not eating what you shouldn’t be.” Sometimes all it takes is a witness. Someone to say, “I see you. What you are doing is not un-seen.”
It started off simply enough, but isn’t the same true for many of life’s profound lessons? When I signed up to write about food, I thought the infection was dead and I’d be reporting more from the “after” side of these lessons. Instead, this is a report from the front lines. I am still in process of learning and leaning into the not-as-resolved-as-I-would-like parts of life.
I know you can relate.
What has been impacting your relationship with food recently? Any new loves? Or foods you are needing to avoid?
Have you listened to Looming Transitions? A version of this post first appeared on Velvet Ashes. Image by Karen Huber. Happy weekend friends! Any fun plans?
Amy, I’m not dealing with anything as serious as you, just the general knowledge that I’ve been coasting for too long and I NEED to lose some weight. My brain can’t quite reconcile my actual age with the age I think I am, and can’t quite acknowledge the fact that it’s time to be a grown up and eat healthy. Not like vaguely healthy, but actually healthy so I can get weight healthy and get blood pressure healthy and get all sorts of things stable before they do cause a problem. Which takes way more discipline than I thought – to change my habits now in order to reap benefits in the future. Turns out I’m much more like a 2 year old in the cookie aisle. I just want to eat what I want to eat! :( Anyway, I had a good week of eating well. Here’s hoping I can turn it into habit and not decide to celebrate by backsliding. :)
One of the biggest things I’ve learned in life is we are not in competition! So, your food thing can be legit hard with down playing my legit hard :). Let me say, this has been the easiest/hardest diet :). Turns out, when my hand was forced, I CAN live without far more that I thought when the main thing keeping me in check was will power! :)
Yes, Amy, I can relate. Unfortunately. As I read your post, part of me smiled in recognition, and another part of me wept that you’ve had to join the ranks of those of us who no longer have the luxury of eating whatever we want. For me, it’s saturated fat. Yeah, try to figure out all the foods that fit into that category!
I wish I could count the times when someone has said to me, “But you don’t look sick!” And like you, I’m blown away by the people who go out of their way to make sure I feel welcome, rather than feel like my presence is an imposition on their food preparation. And then there are those other times when I know it’s just a better choice to bring my own meal, which allows me to at least be part of the group, even if I’m not eating what everybody else is eating. And every now and then, someone says, “Wow! That looks better than what I’ve got!” :-)
It’s been four years now. Four years of treating food as medicine. Four years of making sure there are enough leftovers in the fridge so that I can go out with a group of friends. Four years of explaining to people WHY I’ve brought my own food. And four years of knowing that the alternative isn’t worth going off-diet. Because it’s also been four years of Not. One. Relapse. (plenty of annoying, frequently fatiguing, sometimes debilitating, symptoms, but no relapse) In the MS world that I now live in, that’s practically unheard of! So yeah, it’s definitely worth it!
And oh, how I’m yearning for the day when I will be home, completely healed and able to truly, with no distractions, worship the One who loves me most!
Oh Mike, how you are missed!
I echo what LeAnne said! And one of the upsides of this is it helps me to have empathy for people with different but similar relationships with food. Like you, leftovers have become my friend and I haul food to basically everything :). Worth it though, to be a part of most things! I miss you too, Mike.
Oh Amy, what a pain to go through this but thankfully there is a plan and you are working through it with “glee”. :) Praying for healing, indeed!
I (very) often wonder WHY so many people are having food allergies these days. It seems they were unheard of, or at least uncommon, when we were kids. Did people have some allergies and just suffer through them (like my cousin that was lactose intolerant but still had to drink milk as a kid) or is it what’s now in all of the food we eat, mainly processed food, I suppose. Peanut allergies everywhere (some deadly)! I knew no one as a kid with such an allergy! Well, I look forward to sharing a wrapless falafel or hummus with tons o’ veggies -yum!- some time soon.
Oh for the day of our perfect bodies! Endure on!
You know, my sister was saying something similar this morning — it is very hard to find people “our age” (adding a good few years to you!) who have the allergies that are so common these days. Hmmmm. I don’t know why. But it has made me be grateful and frustrated and trying to learn more about food. Hugs to you up the hill!
What I don’t understand about the whole situation is that I grew up on corn and eggs, and I’m not talking about every once in a while; my parents planted a half acre of corn every year. We ate it every day for dinner (and lunch on the weekends), and then we cut it off the cob and froze it for winter. And yes, they have a coop of chickens as well. So, then, a couple years after moving to a country where they have fewer preservatives and most people survive on corn and eggs (and black beans)…I go and develop some sort of allergy/food sensitivity to both of them! *sigh* I wish I knew why as well.
Oh I am so sorry!!
Marilyn A. says
Amy, I can so identify with what you are going through. I too have just found out in the last five months that I have health issues related to food and must avoid so many of the foods I loved. The discipline required and the need for awareness of label reading can be so exhausting, however it has given me a respect for all who must look at food differently. As you mentioned food is what often times draws us together as we share our joys, struggles and love in our lives and so much more. Some days I struggle with jealousy when I see others who can eat most any food without any affect on their health. And at times I do feel excluded. Yet I am so thankful that I have discovered why I have felt so terrible for such a long time. So I am beginning to look at this as a new beginning that will add more of a healthy life to my years that are left on this earth. Holding you close to my heart as you journey in this new normal. Jesus tells me that He is the bread of life, when I look more to His nourishment He sustains me. Hugs
Marilyn, how interesting how many of us are on similar paths :)! I remember being at a football game and becoming aware as people walked up the stairs past me to their seats carrying food — there truly was not one thing I could buy. Not one! (I never buy food at sporting events because I am cheap, but it has always at least been an option.) I am learning to not only be sustained by food. To quote Eugene Peterson, this feels like a long obedience in the same direction :)! Praying for you as I type this!
Lisa Z says
You know my tortured relationship with food these past few years…the pain, fear, frustration and exhaustion are all real, if not always seen by those on the outside. I wish we were walking the road to the Yongxing Garden gym together for kickboxing rather than this road to food wilderness :).
Strength and peace to you as you starve those bugs out of your body.