Alley’s Story: The Diagnosis May Be Inconsequential

The first thing that flashed on my screen when I was checking out Suppers was the quote “The diagnosis or name of the disease is inconsequential compared to identification of the biochemical and environmental causes.” This was followed by a list of all the problems you can have due to poor blood sugar and mood chemistry regulation. Several of the medical conditions mentioned pose a threat to me, and all – every single one – of them occur in my family. We have alcohol intolerance, obesity, ADHD, depression, anxiety, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), diabetes (both types 1 and 2), and finally Alzheimer’s. I feel all of those conditions lurking over my shoulder. It is just a matter of time before some diagnosis grabs me. (By the way, paranoia ought to be on the list too).

When I started the program I weighed more than I wanted. I was a little anxious, often depressed, and I slept badly. With age, I had become increasingly aware of a sensitivity to sugar and alcohol and my skin was a constant source of pain.

The first time I attended a Suppers meeting I loved it. It is just plain fun to be with all those people cooking up … whatever is in season. The week’s subject – “health relatives” – was particularly relevant. This refers to the blood sugar and mood chemistry problems that tend to cluster within individuals and in families, just like mine. I was frightened to know that there is so much lurking in my genetic makeup, and it gave me some comfort to hear that everything might be helped in the same way ... by eating better. It seemed too simple. Look what I was up against.

I love to cook. As much as I love the program and want to get this right, that ADHD part of me and that “food-is-art” part of me conspire against my self-control. I demand creative freedom, and won’t be denied cooking with a particular ingredient. That’s like telling an artist not to paint with blue! My lifelong devotion to sugar, wheat, and dairy was not to be toyed with. While I am willing to try anything, I am not charmed by tricky substitutions. I can spot artificial sweeteners in a heartbeat. And when butter or wheat is called for in a time-honored classic, that is precisely what is needed and nothing else will do!

Another problem: I have no self-discipline and I don’t stick at anything for long. As much as I knew I needed to make changes, I also knew I would resist them. If changes were going to be made, I had to find strategies that I was willing to try.

The strategies that work for me have mostly to do with disrupting patterns. My well-honed ADHD skills make me very good at disrupting things! Rather than denying myself the old foods I love, I began eating the healthier foods first. (God bless that fennel slaw that I always keep in my refrigerator!) I could eat the old favorites later if I still wanted them – and I wanted them less and less.

I began to look for “bad company” foods that I tended to abuse in combination, like bread and cheese, or sugar and cream. I would avoid eating them together, which helped to make them less interesting. And I worked on discovering new foods, often buying things I’d never tried. (This is where my impulsive behavior skills came in handy.)

As time went on, I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t eating so much sugar, gluten, and dairy. I spaced that my skin had stopped hurting until one day I had a very sweet sorbet. Suddenly I felt all zingy and dizzy and my skin had that old prickly ache that used to keep me awake at night. Other sensations arose when I tried eating white flour and dairy again. I had lived with these discomforts my whole life, not knowing all I had to do was eliminate a few things from my diet and listen to my body. All my diagnoses over the years meant nothing compared to my real issue: I have no tolerance for most processed foods. What guides me now is not martyrdom. Increasingly when I look at these foods I find myself thinking, “Oh, I soooooo don’t want to go there.”

Working with the Suppers group is definitely where I want to be. I’ve lost a few pounds, and hope to lose more. I don’t yet say that I’ve gained the discipline to avoid certain foods; I just happen to eat less of them ... and less. I’m not feeling in much of a hurry about changes; it’s just that my taste buds are starting to make the connection between what I eat and the real pain.