Trisha has been at war with food for so long we clapped when she said, "I’m at peace." She had embraced weighing and measuring her food and always packs meals for work. She used to resent the box she’d placed herself in. But after a few months of just doing it to make good on her promise to herself, she started to love the box. "Hunger started to feel more like a normal sensation, not an enemy to be vanquished with urgent eating. My box feels more like a puppy crate now, not confinement but comforting as it becomes my routine."
After suffering for nine years with rheumatoid arthritis -- hiding my swollen feet, trigger fingers, and staggering chest pain -- the smiling faces around the Suppers table gave me the hope I needed to turn this thing around.
I hated all things green. Mushy orange food revulsed me. So naturally at my first Suppers meeting we had kale, sweet potato hash and lamb (which I like). I arrived at Suppers planning to hate the food. I also arrived with a health history that opened my mind to trying healthy eating, and the short story is that I’m shocked; I love the food.
I was a food scientist working for a major candy manufacturer. We attended mandatory in-house training to be taught how to reply when people expressed concern about the consequences of eating our products. Specifically, we were schooled to foil questions about how eating candy causes cavities in teeth and contributes to obesity. We were told to say, “Chocolate isn’t sticky and doesn’t stay on the teeth.
I was morbidly obese from the time I was a small child, weighing 200 lbs by the time I was 10. Every year I exceeded the allotted sick days allowed by my school. I was an unhealthy child, continually on antibiotics, steroids or some other medication. As an adult, I maxed out at 310 lbs on a 5-foot frame. All of my attempts to lose weight were unsuccessful following a calories-in-calories-out model. I worked out endlessly without results. I had chronic pain all over, bowel problems, skin problems, a binge eating disorder, extreme anxiety, and depression.
Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions!
At our autoimmune Suppers meeting, we were invited to challenge our assumptions and share personal stories about times when we arrived at the wrong destination because the roadmap of our assumptions was incorrect.
I am not sure which gift of Suppers has more meaning for me: learning to be less judgmental or learning to prepare healthy food. In a way, both are about nourishment. The food part is obvious. But learning to not judge feeds me just as much as food because it has changed how people relate to me. The less fault finding I am in my relationships, the more people respond to me with acceptance, love, and understanding.
“Seeker” is probably the word that best describes my image of myself in recent years. Casting about for ways to explain and tame my raging mood swings has been a humbling experience. Most of the time, I’m a pretty nice, rational person. But when I snap, I’m a lunatic. Being in seeking mode has helped because it makes me feel like I’m solution oriented. As soon as I feel like I have it all figured out, I’m more likely to slip, sugar binge, and get hostile.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in recovery it’s that I have a disease of disconnection. Even though I’m not the best connector, I know I need the support of other people, especially when I’m making uncomfortable but necessary changes. For a while, my identity hinged on the not doing of something – not drinking. I celebrated one-week, one-month, one-year anniversaries of not drinking. While there was considerable satisfaction in these milestones, I felt bad that so much of my energy went into the not doing of something.
If they asked for a poster child for dietary solutions to mental health problems, I would volunteer.