I just wanted to be a vegetarian. As I withdrew from the pork chop and meatball diet of my childhood, it gave me quiet pleasure and a sense of self-approval. First the red meat went, then the poultry, then the fish that had faces, and ultimately all flesh. I ate lots of rice and beans, and green vegetables when I had the time to cook. And I still allowed myself my favorite treats as long as they were produced by companies whose ethics matched my own. The only problem was that I didn’t feel well.
My way of eating blocks emotions.
Recent activity surrounding the suicide of a friend’s daughter has driven home for me the extent to which I eat in order to not feel. In the present situation, the emotion was grief. But I have a long history of dealing with loneliness, boredom, and dissatisfaction with my work life in the same way. I eat to fill myself, but when my stomach is full I still feel empty.
If the bariatric surgery office hadn’t made me wait for several months, I would have had part of my body removed. I was that desperate. I know people who think the surgery is heaven sent, and I am happy for them. Personally I think having part of your body removed because you can’t stop eating is nutty, but I was about to do it myself because I was entirely enslaved to food and saw no other way out. Desperation is not a strong enough word to describe my situation. I’m so grateful a nutritionist steered me down another route.
I attended a Suppers meeting where we were talking about how planning is essential in practicing nutritional harm reduction, especially while dealing with food-related holiday festivities. During the discussion I observed that the type 2 diabetics were generally assumed to have caused their condition through weight gain and improper eating, while type 1's were “off the hook” because it happened to emerge when most were children, so they couldn't be blamed for their role in developing this condition.
I am a registered nurse and have enjoyed working in medicine for over 20 years. At the age of 50, I developed type 1 diabetes, and entered a world I was completely unprepared for in spite of all my experience in health care. The people at work all know I have diabetes but they are clueless as to what that means in practical or personal terms. I haven’t hidden the diagnosis, but I do conceal many of the details of what I have to put up with. There is no help at the hospital for people who have to maintain high standards of professionalism while living with a chronic disease.
Rob was age 11 and attending a private special needs school when our story begins. His diagnosis included ADHD -- combining impulsiveness and inattention -- sensory processing disorder, dysgraphia, dyslexia and more. He felt agitated and a little heart racing too, even on the lowest dose of his ADHD med. It was Concerta, and he had been taking it since age 7. He wanted to be off meds. He was upset that he was never hungry and also underweight. He was tired of people at school asking him why he didn’t eat his lunch.
This is not my idea originally, but I got a lot of credit at our meeting for bringing it into our group. It’s an activity called “Play It to the End.”
For me, Suppers turned out to be all about experiments. Eat this, see how you feel. Don’t eat that, see how you feel. Eat this and don’t eat that and see how you feel. Eat this first, then that. See how you feel. Add vegetables. Subtract sugar. See how you feel. Eat brownies on an empty stomach (I wouldn’t recommend it). Then see if you can have one after a good meal (much better). I was willing to do these experiments because I didn’t want to give up all my favorite foods.
I have been attending a weekly Suppers meeting that started as a group focused on our relationship with carbohydrates. It has been interesting to observe where the conversation goes aside from food. We had been meeting for about six months when we started talking about therapeutic friendships and discussing Birdie’s story, Liar, where lying and authenticity, and bingeing, and self-observation were all tangled up.
When I first arrived at Suppers it was fear that drove me. There is way too much breast cancer in my family, and I’m at an age where I’d be foolish not to pay attention to my diet and lifestyle.
I am no newcomer to eating healthy whole foods: I’ve known what to eat for years. My problem was not lack of good information but lack of the wherewithal to do what I know is best for me. Even fear hasn’t been enough to make me stay on the right path consistently.