Day 170 “Elimination”

“I’ll have the summer berry salad without the candied pecans and dressing on the side please.”

Yes, I am one of those.

The candied pecans have gluten which I have eliminated from my diet.  The cheese is goat, so I can eat that, as opposed to cow’s milk, which I cannot.  I have also eliminated meat.

“I think your problem is that you don’t eat meat,”  my friend Petra says.  “You need the protein.”

Not eating meat is a choice that I made years ago, because I was finding it hard to digest.  “My naturopath says meat and dairy create inflammation in the body.  I quit because of my fibromyalgia.”

“But you still get sick after eating! You should see a proper doctor.”

“I’ve been going to doctors about my health problems for years.  All they do is prescribe medicine that my body rejects.  Doctors don’t appreciate the relationship between food and health. It’s not part of their education.”

“Well, something is wrong.”

I don’t disagree with her there, and I know others get frustrated by my choices, but I also know my own body and it is even more frustrating when I get sick after eating.

“You’re not celiac, are you?”

“No, I am not.  After my last colonoscopy, the doctor said I have an inflamed bowel, or IBS.  I took myself off gluten after reading about it.  It has made a huge difference, and when I do eat something with even a little bit in it, I know it.”

“Well, I think you should be talking to someone who knows.”

Petra and I can never agree on my diet.  I am also allergic to shellfish, coffee, melon and alcohol.  It makes dining out a challenge.

Today’s reflection, in The Joy of Tao Every Day, by Derek Lin, is about the dangers of elimination and black and white thinking.  Lin is referring more to ideals, and psycho-babble, but it got me thinking about my relationship to food, and wondering if this could be part of the riddle of my ongoing battle with weight.

When I was a kid, my stay-at-home mom spent her days in the kitchen, cooking and baking.  Everyday I would return home from school to find fresh baked cookies, muffins, and usually a pie or cake.  There was no limit to the sweets we consumed in that house.  Ice cream was another favourite in our home.  I loved ice cream so much, I remember thinking I would die if I couldn’t eat it.

At the same time, I suffered from severe allergies as a child.  A trail of balled up kleenexes trailed me everywhere, and a constant runny nose and puffy eyes earned me the nickname, Snickers.  Summer was the worst, and back to school always an embarrassment.  I asked my allergist once if he thought there was a connection between what I ate and my affliction, but he said not likely.

Then as a young mother, I stumbled upon alternative medicine and attended a conference at which my seat mate was an allergist.  A maverick, he called himself.  He believed that food had everything to do with allergies, and suggested I try an elimination diet.  I went one step further and found someone who could do alternative allergy testing.  Bingo!  I eliminated the foods that he pinpointed and immediately improved, which was wonderful, but I had to give up my beloved ice cream.

Elimination of foods has not been easy, nor has it been fun.  Food is at the center of most cultural and social experiences, so participating for me is not as simple.  It is yet another way in which I feel left out, or outcast.

I have been questioning, in my most recent posts, the role that food plays in my life, and why it is so difficult to not overindulge.

I suspect, for me, it has to do with all the limitations I feel.  Eating was the one area as a child that I didn’t experience constraint.  Eating was reward, comfort, indulgence, and satisfaction.  Do I overeat now to try to recreate those feelings?  Is it the little girl in me that needs that reassurance?  And if so, is there another way I can give it to her, because the adult me feels awful after indulging in junk.

Lin writes:  “absolutes are impossibilities, while moderation is the practical reality.”

Moderation.  I like that word.  I also like the concept.  Forced to eliminate so much from my diet already, maybe what’s needed is an agreement to practice moderation instead of what feels like further deprivation.




Day 169 “Intention and Results”

Every so often, life has a way of taking over, and sending me spinning off balance.  These are the times where I reset goals in an attempt to regain equilibrium.

Now would be one of those times.

So I take inventory and line up my priorities once again:

1.  To work 90 minutes per day.  (Even though I am still technically on holidays, a teacher’s workload is intense, so I can always work.  Here, I am trying to minimize it so it doesn’t take over.)

2.  To spend 60 minutes per day writing.  ( I see writing as a luxury because I do it mostly for self-serving reasons, therefore; I tend to undervalue it and it is the first to go.)

3.  30 minutes of exercise per day.

4.  Choosing to eat healthy foods that support my well-being.

Number four is the clincher.  I have some food allergies and a lot of sensitivities, so eating properly becomes really important for my health.  Why then, is this goal so difficult to keep?

The intent is good, but what is it about food that makes it so difficult to control?  If I had the answer, I would be rich, especially in this age of health and weight consciousness.

Yesterday, for example, I ate a healthy breakfast, and an equally satisfying lunch, and had planned my dinner ahead of time.  I ended up being out longer than I expected, and felt the temptation to grab something “snackish” to fill in the gap, but I managed to hang on till dinner.  Then the cravings started.  I wanted something sweet to compliment dinner – a habit that dates back to childhood.  So I ate the remainder of a chocolate loaf.  I didn’t stop there.  I had an errand to run and thought about stopping to pick up a chai tea latte, overlooking the fact that I had eaten dessert.  I talked to myself about my goal, and settled on coming home and making a low-fat latte.  I enjoyed my treat, and felt sated, but then remembered that there were potato chips in the cupboard.  I convinced myself that a bowl of chips was better than eating from the bag, but of course, I wanted more.  I was far from hungry at this point.

The resulting indigestion and inability to settle down for a good night’s sleep was not a new experience.  Neither was telling myself that I won’t do that again!

The results speak for themselves.  As much as I want to think I am conscientious about what I eat, I remain overweight.

What is the food replacing? I ask myself.  What function is it serving?

A number of things come to mind.  First, I am an emotional eater.  I eat when I am upset, but I also eat when I am happy, especially if I have accomplished something and am proud of myself, such as keeping on track for an entire day.  It is easy to see where this habit derives from by watching my grandchildren.  Food is an easy way to console and celebrate.  I have no doubt that is how my mother handled me.

Sometimes I eat to suppress needs.  Now this is getting personal, but because of Thor’s condition, there has been no sexual intimacy for some time, yet the urge remains for me.  Potato chips have been my go to food when feeling lonely for a long time.  I know it, but still go there.

Overeating creates a cycle that is difficult to break.  I feel good about myself, I self sabotage, I eat junk, I feel bad and indulge more.

There is also the problem I wrote about the other day:  instant gratification vs long-term gain.

I have no self-control in the instant.  If there are no chips in the house, I can usually talk myself out of the need for them, but if they are on hand, I have no self-control.

Why is it so difficult to shift my focus to long-term gain?  Herein lies the complication.   In order to be able to commit to something in the distance, I have to be able to believe in the future.  (Boy, this is tough stuff!)  Truth is I stopped believing in the future a long time ago.  I have chosen, instead, to live for the moment.  That way, I have convinced myself, I won’t have as many disappointments.

As a child of parents who were never able to follow through with promises, I first learned the pain of disappointment, but it didn’t end when I left home.  I chose partners and built relationships that repeated the pattern.  And then I took over.  I proved again and again to myself that there is no gain in setting my sights on the future.  The future is too intangible and unpredictable.

What I failed to tell myself is that not all of the future is foreseeable or predictable, but planning ahead (in the moment) can help prepare the way.  Choosing not to eat those chips in each moment helps secure a healthier self in the long run.  Eating the chips, conversely, will ensure that my goal is never met.

If I ever hope to see results from my intentions, I will need a new, and responsible attitude.



Day 149 “Meridians”

By the time I took myself to Emergency, human touch was unbearable.  I could get no relief from the swelling that affected me head to toe, and my heart was continually racing.  Emotionally, I felt out of control:  cranky, teary, and desperate.

The heart palpitations got me admitted directly, but the tests they ran showed the problem was not my heart.  An IV drip was started, but the painkiller they were infusing me with did not touch the pain. Two doctors came in and touched me in certain places, setting off cries of agony.

“Your blood tests showed that your liver counts are out,”  one young doctor explained.  “We don’t know why that is, but it is consistent with someone experiencing your level of pain.  We suspect you have fibromyalgia, but you will need further tests.  We are referring you on to Urgent Care.”

A battery of tests and doctors followed, checking my kidneys, my heart functioning, and so on.  Always the liver counts came back as suspicious.  No explanations.  Fibromyalgia, each doctor deduced.

“Take pain medication,” the Internist said.

“Your heart can’t tolerate pain medication,”  the Cardiologist countered.

“Go see Dr. Li,”  a good friend advised.

I called Dr. Li.  A tiny, Chinese woman, half my size, Dr. Li had a reassuring presence.  She listened intently, and asked specific questions.  “I don’t know fibromyalgia,” she said in her broken English.  “I will check your meridians.”

I held something in my left hand, while Dr. Li ran a rod connected to a computer over my right hand.  The machine squealed and reacted as she clicked buttons, and read the computer’s reactions.  At the end, she handed me a printout.

“The body has many lines of energy flow,”  she tried to explain.  “This tells where there are problems in the flow.  Green is good.  Red means there are danger spots; yellow is chronic.”  I had two green lines; my printout was a sea of red and yellow.

“Each imbalance is scored 1-4.  A four means you already have cancer.  You do not have a four, but your numbers add up to four.  Not good.”

Thus I began my course of treatment – weekly acupuncture, a drastic change in diet, and cleansing with Chinese herbs.

My health improved.

I continued to see specialists, ensuring that I wasn’t missing anything.  A year after starting my treatments with Dr. Li, they found the abnormal cells aggressively growing in my right breast.  Surgery followed.

I asked Dr. Li about it.  She confessed that she had been a medical doctor before coming to Canada, but that she found that by the time traditional medicine finds something, it is usually too late.  She prefers to work on preventing disease, where she can actually help the patient.

I escaped the threat of cancer with only a fading scar to remind me, and I credit my work with Dr. Li.  Her knowledge, combined with an uncanny instinct for what a body needs, promotes well-being.

It’s all in the meridians, apparently.