Tuesday, March 9, 2021

With Gratitude for the Joy of Good Food and the Gift of Peace with Food / The Foods We Eat / A Long Story with an Auspicious Ending for Today

After it was discovered last summer that my kidney function is minimally compromised, I requested a  referral from my primary care provider to a registered dietician.  The dietician helped me to create the following basic list of delicious foods that are felt to support good kidney function, when eaten in moderation.  There were numerous other foods that she suggested which I am unable to eat due to intolerances that involving itching, headaches, and upper respiratory symptoms.  My complicated relationship with food has been a long story with an auspicious ending in each telling.  Every so often I feel compelled to tell this story with updates.  Today is the day.  We all have our stories.  What works for one person doesn't work for another.  We are all free to find what works best for our unique body chemistry.

I love the good food that I am able to eat.  I loved reading what Sabine (see the comments that accompany that link) has found that she can eat freely with thorough enjoyment of the gift of food.  So much of what she and R eat sounds incredibly delicious and satisfying.  As I thought about writing this post, I recalled an article in The Guardian some years ago that had photographs of what people around the world were eating on a weekly basis. Although, my weekly menu is much greater in quantity, in its simplicity it most resembles that of the Aboubakar family from Darfur, Sudan, in the Breidjing refugee camp in Chad.

How did this come to be? 

Brown rice:


Green cabbage:


Romaine lettuce (I don't enjoy eating salads.  I stir-fry a head of Romaine at a time in olive oil and add salt):

Unsweetened rice milk:

Ground turkey:

Wild pink salmon:

Olive oil:

Kosher salt (unlike many table salts this brand contains no sugar):

and 8-9 cups of cool clear water throughout the day (-:


Beginning in early childhood, there were foods that I was occasionally forced to eat despite the fact that they made me gag.  I was not forced to eat those foods at home but was forced to eat them on the rare occasions when my family ate at other people's homes.  When I was 3 years old, I was shamed by my grandmother when I refused to eat the lightly cooked white of an egg, eating only the yolk because it alone tasted delicious to me while runny egg whites made me gag.  I remember hearing my grandmother tell my mother that I was spoiled.  That was one of the two times I remember seeing my grandmother in person because she lived far away in Minnesota, while my family lived in California.  

I remember being a young child and having a strong natural aversion to the taste of black olives, cheese, honey, black licorice, fresh tomatoes, and to the texture of okra.  In my early childhood, much of what my mother served came out of cans or was frozen ("fish sticks").  We ate a variety of boxed cereals for breakfast with a glass of orange juice.  On Sundays we might have pancakes or waffles or French toast or scrambled eggs and bacon with a half-grapefruit with white sugar on it.  We had Campbell's soup and a variety of sandwiches with white bread for lunch -- often peanut butter and jelly (my favorite sandwich -- sometimes I would secretly make my own version with the addition of chocolate syrup and spoonfuls of white sugar).  For dinner, our plates contained a small portion of baked chicken (which I loved) on Sunday and during the rest of the week we had small portions of pork chops, lamb chops, steak, hot dogs, occasional fresh fish or spaghetti out of a can, meatloaf or tuna casserole.  On special occasions, we had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  On a daily basis, our plates also contained potatoes, peas or green beans, with a small salad with iceberg lettuce and Thousand Island dressing in a bowl to the side of our plate (I was allowed to decline the sliced fresh tomatoes). We drank a glass of milk with most meals.  

In the later years of my childhood, I loved when my mother would buy the fresh seasonal artichokes which grew locally and cook them in her pressure cooker.  We ate those artichokes with generous amounts of Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.  I loved San Francisco style sourdough bread which we ate with fresh locally caught crab when it was in season.  Our meal portions were small, leaving room for high-calorie desserts and the cookies and ice cream and chocolate that were available between meals.  We also always had a bowl of seasonal mostly local fresh fruit for eating in between meals -- apples, oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, Thomson seedless grapes, apricots, and occasional pomegranates.

The only foods that I couldn't get enough of were those that contained generous amounts of sugar.  There weren't enough cookies, ice cream, or donuts in the world to satisfy my cravings.  As long as I can remember, I craved those foods the way an alcoholic craves alcohol.  I semi-consciously used sugar to numb myself from the anxiety that was ever present in my life.  I didn't feel safe in the world.  Food containing large amounts of sugar was one of my few comforts, acting as a sedative.

Our home was well-stocked with those foods.  Both of my parents turned to sugar, as well as moderate amounts of alcohol, for comfort.  Both of my parents, concerned with their weight, began dieting in 1960 when I was 10 years old. My youngest sister spent all of her allowance at the candy counter of what we used to call a "variety store."  As I recall, the "variety store" was a small store next to the small locally owned suburban supermarket where my mother shopped for groceries.  The "variety store" featured all kinds of candy and gum and inexpensive toys.  Curiously, my middle sister refused to eat sugar or much of anything, to the point that she was given a diagnosis of failure to thrive.  She insisted that she wasn't hungry.  It was a point of pride and identity for her.  Our family doctor suggested to my mother that she give my middle sister Jersey milk for its high fat and calorie content.  My mother would make milkshakes with Jersey milk for my middle sister to drink after school.  My sister grudgingly drank them but remained underweight for her age.  Although I was only 18 months older than my middle sister, she remained smaller in size than my youngest sister who was 5 years younger than I was.  In photos when I began dieting at age 10, I appear to be a giant next to my sisters, although I was at a normal weight and height.  I felt acute shame about my size.  I began to hate everything about myself.

Throughout my childhood and for much of my life until I was almost 40 years old, I suffered from frequent itching, a constantly runny nose, frequent sinus infections, frequent headaches, depression, and an undiagnosed eating disorder.  I went on my first calorie-restricting diet when I was 10 years old (not overweight but tall for my age, weighing more than anyone else in my grade school class) and unsuccessfully attempted to severely restrict my calorie intake until I was 37 years old.  From age 17 to age 37, I suffered from bulimia and bouts of anorexia.  Whenever my anxiety became unbearable, which was a regular occurrence, I would binge on massive amounts of foods containing sugar.   It was a nightmare from which I thought I would never awaken.

Miraculously, just before my 38th birthday in 1987, some ideas were introduced to me that helped me to make a decision to stop drinking alcohol and to stop eating sugar, except for that sugar which occurs naturally in whole food, and to eat as much as I wanted of all foods that I enjoyed eating.  No one forced this decision on me.  I didn't know anyone else who had made the decision I made.  All I know is that once I made that decision and took the action, my bulimia disappeared and my belief that I needed to severely restrict calories disappeared.  The craving for more and more food that had been a daily companion throughout my life was gone.  For the first time in my life, I experienced the feeling of satiety.

My lifelong anxiety, itching, headaches, respiratory symptoms, however, did not disappear.  I found that there were foods that seemed to help keep my anxiety in check -- nuts, potato chips, popcorn, tortilla chips, and whole wheat bread smothered in olive oil.  I continued to eat large amounts of these foods when under stress and continued to experience bouts of itching, headaches, and respiratory symptoms.  I would refrain from eating those foods for extended periods of time but when I couldn't tolerate stressful situations,  I would turn to those foods for relief, unable to give them up, willing to accept the negative physical consequences.

It is only since last summer when I saw the dietician and made a decision to let go of nuts, potato chips, popcorn, and tortilla chips, that I have experienced peace with food on a daily basis.  I stopped eating whole wheat bread years ago because I lack a tolerance for yeast.  When I was tested for food allergies in my 20s, yeast was first identified as something I was allergic to.  Foods containing yeast, as well as the delicious fermented foods that I used to love to eat give me headaches and nasal congestion.

For someone who loves good food as much as I do, one might think that I feel deprived. Nothing could be further from the truth.   Of course, I wish that I could enjoy the foods other people freely enjoy but that wish is balanced with the unequivocal experience of peace with food.   One might feel moved to pity me for what I can't eat.  Please don't  (-:


O my goodness.  When I looked up from my laptop, I saw that the first Abutilon flower of the season has opened this morning!  When I looked out the window, I saw a pair of Canada Geese at the far end of the cattail marsh -- too far away for a photo but close enough to hear!


Celebration for this partly sunny, partly grey nearly spring day in Northwest Washington State:


My life so far said...

I love sweets too and have always craved sugar. When I was a kid I was very thin, I think because it was the only thing I could control. Both my parents were very controlling and I was a very picky eater, something which runs in our family and seems to have a genetic component to it. My mother was tall and slim and never dieted that I know of so I was saved from diets. I still eat what I want, in moderation now because I've found as I've gotten older I have gained weight and can no longer eat a whole pan of brownies whenever I feel like, which is probably a good thing. I sometimes feel a little embarrassed by my pickiness but mostly I just accept it and never expect anyone to cater to me. I wish I liked more foods because I love most flavors but it's the textures that get me and make me gag, like your runny egg white. I runny egg white still makes me gag.

Sabine said...

This is really interesting and I have the feeling there is more to come from me on food and eating and health.