Food…it seems like it should be such a simple thing. It provides the fuel that we need to keep our bodies going and thriving. But it is so much more than that…at least it always has been in my life.
Who doesn’t love food…it makes you feel good, it tastes good, it is the center of many social gatherings and family gatherings. I never gave a lot of thought to food before I lost my stomach. If I was hungry I ate. If I wasn’t hungry I would eat later. Some foods I loved and some foods I hated. It didn’t really matter as food has always been readily available and I could choose what, when and how much to eat.
I grew up and my mom stayed home the majority of my childhood. She made us breakfast, we ate lunch at noon and we had supper at 6:30. All of our meals were homemade. I didn’t even know the existence of frozen dinners or frozen pizza until I stayed the night at a friends house in grade school. The grade school that I attended was a “country” school and we also had homemade meals there as well.
Meal times were spent around the table and we all talked about our day, lives, etc. During busy times on the farm, mom cooked everything up and we took it out to the field to feed my dad, grandpa and any hired help. I also learned to eat fast. You only have so much time to eat lunch at school. The guys only have so much time to eat and get back to the field.
When I was 18, my best friend and I decided to move to Phoenix, AZ and stay with some friends that were in a band and other friends that had gone out a year before us. We only had $400 between us and we took off. That’s a whole other story….who knows what we were thinking. But that was the first time in my life that I truly felt hunger. We had no food, no money and no prospect of either in the near future. I can remember laying on the floor and my stomach cramping because I was so hungry. I mixed flour, sugar and water together and made some nasty paste but I was desperate to get something in my stomach. Obviously, I did not starve to death and learned that you can survive on ramen noodles, spaghettios and box Mac n cheese.
As I was preparing for my partial gastrectomy in January 2016, I had to do a strict diet of protein shakes and soft foods to prepare for surgery. I lost 19 pounds in that two weeks and got my first real taste of what restricting my food intake was going to consist of. From that partial removal of my stomach to finally losing my entire stomach in June of 2016 was a constant state of trial and error and a whole lot of vomiting.
Have you ever sat and thought about every bite of food that you put in your mouth? every sip of water? I know that I never had and I absolutely sucked at learning to pay attention to these things. All of a sudden it seems that everything revolves around eating and food. Going to lunch with friends, business meetings with food, kids activities with concessions, snacking in the car on a long drive, having friends or family over for dinner….it suddenly felt as if everything that I did had food involved in some way and still does.
I also like to talk. Talking and eating together are a big challenge for me. If I am talking, then I am not thinking about what I am eating, or chewing, or how much I have had. I am getting better about eating around others but that is when I most often tend to overeat.
I use to gain enjoyment from cooking, eating and going out with friends to eat. I no longer enjoy cooking or eating but I do still love seeing friends. I have developed almost an aversion to food. I know that is not the words I am looking for, but I no longer enjoy food. Throughout this last year I have had a lot of time to sit back and really watch people eat. It is actually pretty disgusting.
The speed at which people are shoving in there food, taking another bite before the first bite is even swallowed, gulping down a drink and never relaxing. Don’t get me wrong this was totally me and still would be if I had the ability.
I am so limited now as to what I can eat and how much I can eat that it makes eating enjoyable. It is just another task that I have to take care of to make sure my body is as healthy as I can make it. I know that if I decide to “cheat” and eat ice cream or something with sugar in it that I am going to have to pay for it. Racing heart, sweats, dry heaves, diarrhea, high blood sugar then hypoglycemia, feeling faint for several hours. On a rare occasion I can eat some sugar and have minimal to no side effects.
I am still in the process of learning to rethink food and eating and it is getting easier all the time. Sadly, I still feel my best when I don’t eat at all, but that is not an option either. I know more about nutrition than I ever wanted to and have also learned that the digestive system is much more complex than I ever thought.