Food is a ridiculous sounding word if you say it enough times in a row. Try it. Food. Food. Fooooood. (Note the close resemblance to Moooo … but I’m not gonna go there).
Let me tell you about my relationship with Food.
Not to pin the blame on my parents, but as a family, we enjoyed eating out a lot. I grew to love Food as a sensation. Taste, smell, visual presentation. It also became an Event. Imagine all the fuss that goes into dining out. You dress up, you drive, you wait to be seated, you wait to be waited on, you wait to be served one course – and then the next. It’s quite a process, but it’s a welcome break from the stresses of the day that happens to include a delightful mouth orgy.
As I got older, I started to lean very heavily on Food as Therapy. In fact, after a particularly emotional transition in my life, I literally gained 40 pounds in one year. Mealtime was a light at the end of a tunnel – a Jimmy Johns sub on a stick dangling before me as I toiled away – or, often the easiest answer I could find to those depressing “What am I doing with my life??” questions. Answer: Ordering Pizza?
With this came a plethora of problems. Dieting was excessively punishing. The hole left in my soul by French Fries and Chicken Tenders was filled with self-loathing and frustration. What’s worse, most of the time – scaling back on what I ate didn’t really seem to impact my weight. How could I convince myself to forgo the simple and immediate pleasures in life for the highly uncertain promise of results somewhere long down the road?
The Turning Point
One evening, I chowed down on some Jimmy Johns prior to Choir Rehearsal. As was typical, I was immediately hit with what my family calls ‘The Jimmy Shits’. For months, I’d been dealing with increasingly more abrupt stomach issues after eating, so this was nothing new. Unfortunately, in this moment, I had 90 minutes of a rehearsal to sit through before I could make a break for the toilet. As the burn and ache built in my gut, I began to put pieces together for the first time in my life.
First off, as a kid, I’d been through the wringer of GI issues. I’d gone through every medical test in the book – living with a ph probe down my nose, eating radioactive Dinty Moore chili prior to X-Rays, and trying a long series of ineffective medications. In fact, my toddler sister once got into my chocolate-flavored laxatives and produced more feces within her footy pajamas than could have come from a grown man ten times her size.
They diagnosed me with Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome and prescribed a pill that controlled the monthly cycles of horrible pain and vomiting. Still, I had a very sensitive stomach and despite the fact that I felt sick after every meal, I kept eating the same way. After all, what’s the notion of horrible stomach cramps when you’re looking at a cheese pizza or a dish of ice cream? Maybe that’s a price I was willing to pay.
On that night, as I bore the brunt of my price, my bowel finally shouted ENOUGH – loud enough for me to hear. It seemed pretty obvious that as much as I loved my various glutens, milks, cheese and fats, my particular bowel was probably unable to process them. I’d never thought of myself as an allergic person, but it kind of made sense given my history. Not to mention, two years ago I’d developed a mild form of asthma that came and went, hooting like an itinerant bassoon player in lungs. Didn’t that kind of fit into the same category of oversensitivity to the things I love? (i.e. Potatoes, Cheese, Air).
I also did some research and found out that all the dieting attempts I made in the past would have been useless if I was still consuming the food my body reacted badly too. So, finally – something new to try!
Suddenly, this was no longer a mission of “dieting” but “healing.” Now, it wasn’t about finding a meal that I could tolerate mentally, but one that my body could tolerate physically. Game on!
Since the moment I made that decision (exactly 16 days ago), my body has let go of 9 pounds of fat and water bloat. I’ve stopped falling victim to that 2pm stupor that had me falling asleep at my desk. Better yet, I haven’t had a single stomach ache.
I’ve begun to see each meal as a Science. Now, instead of looking forward to a meal as an opportunity to self-medicate my psyche, I’m solely looking at the nutrients. There are days when I’ll stand in my kitchen just grabbing things out of the fridge and eating them like a scientist mixing chemicals in a reaction. Add a big hunk of deli roasted chicken breast. Some red bell peppers. A handful of kale. What am I missing? Fruit carbs? Grab an apple. Done.
I eat more often and only when I’m hungry. I only drink water and I’m sure to always have a glass on hand throughout the day. When I have more time to cook, I’ll try to prepare something more interesting, but for the most part, I can be satiated simply by balancing the books when it comes to vitamins, nutrients, fats, carbs and proteins.
No more wondering “What do I feel like tonight? Italian? Mexican? Burgers?” I don’t “feel” food that way anymore. The spell has been broken, and it doesn’t even cross my mind. Now I have other things to look forward to in the day. Like working out at Barre Code, going to my dance rehearsals twice a week, or kicking back and enjoying a well-earned Netflix binge while munching down on My New Crack – frozen bananas.
Restore to Factory Default
Bottom line – my body was not meant to be bloated and fat. Yours wasn’t either. So what do you do when something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to? Well, if it’s anything like your Internet router, you hit reset. Once it boots up again, the problem is usually solved. Whatever it ‘thought’ it was supposed to be doing has now been overridden by the original rules and settings.
Now your story may be different than mine, which is why I encourage everyone to try a variety of nutrient balances until they find what works. When your body starts to behave the way it was designed, you’ll know you’re onto something. You’ll drop excess weight, gain energy, and flip the internal switch that puts you into ‘hunt and fight’ mode (vs. ‘rest and digest mode’). Moreover, your brain will reward this satisfactory behavior by flooding your psyche with the chemicals related to pleasure and fulfillment.
Hey Jimmy, can your sandwich do that?