necessity is the mother of invention {& that's why we're here, friends} we dance to the music, we play in the kitchen & sometimes that means one of us breaks the wine glasses {we're not saying who} the cook is a cubicle-warmer/learning & development specialist by day, & a writer/photographer/kitchen goddess by night who has fun inventing healthy things she can actually eat we seriously both need capes & a kick-ass theme song & the baker is a catering delivery superhero; no job too big or too early or too floral not to come home & make magic with a mixer & an oven we are always gluten-free, dairy-free, & magically delicious now, somebody turn up the music! we're about to get our dance on!

30 August 2008

getting back on track

Based on the lack of posting here, one might think that I stepped out of the kitchen for awhile. Rest assured I'm still eating healthy and delicious food, and I've been eating it with equally delicious people (I hope my girls don't take offense to being referred to as "delicious", but they just are!). Summer is frequently a busy time as -- at least here in the Pacific Northwest -- we shed our fleeces and raincoats and expose our skins to sunlight and warmth, letting the ice thaw in our veins and feel the tingle of summer in our blood. Aaahhh ...

I know it's usually all about my almost-recipes and food in this place (with the occasional exception of poetry inspired by my bodily functions or lack thereof), but I just wanted to mention something that I've overheard and been thinking on lately.

It's the idea of getting back on track.

You know how it is: a health scare, whether our own or that of a close friend or family member, shocks us into "good" or "healthy" new habits. But then it starts to wear on us. Though once frightened enough to adopt healthy habits, the desire to stay within the limits of what we know is good for our bodies slowly gives way to guilt and finally wanes toward apathy. We start to feel hedged in by internal lists of shoulds and should nots. We abandon the list in favor of satisfying ourselves with what we want most in the moment. Out with a group of friends, we don't want to be the one to ask for something on the side or to hold that sauce or ask what the ingredients are. Eventually the motivation and any remaining vestiges of the fear that inspired the initial change lose presence in ourselves altogether and well, it's just so darn hard to do it, so I'm just going to eat and do what I want.

Maybe we notice that, once back to our old ways, we start to feel sluggish, tired, or just a little "off". Maybe we don't notice a change at all. The change might be so slow and gradual that we really don't notice it at all.

Far from mocking the line of thinking that says I'm just going to eat what I want, consequences be damned, I affirm that it is one I know well. For the most part, now that I know what my dietary limitations are, I feel free to roam wide and free within those boundaries. Most of the time, they do not limit or constrain me. But I'll admit, there are times when it gets old. I recently lamented to a friend that sometimes I just get so tired of having to maintain a heightened awareness of what I'm putting in my body and then once consumed, maintaining a mindfulness about how it is affecting me. I get tired of how much supplementation I require just to feel normal and to ensure I don't end up in the land of scary and dangerous deficiencies again.

When my girlfriends were here visiting, we had a big dinner on our last night together. I made turkey burgers with grilled onions and all the fixings, sangria, and a variety of salads. The whole evening was just yummy. Spirits were high and the room was rolling with laughter. When it came time to pass around the dessert, I didn't want to ruin flow of things for myself; I took my portion of the banana pudding with whipped cream (dairy and dairy) and crushed vanilla wafers (gluten), which I did my best to avoid. It was delicious. I had only a small portion of what was served to me and enjoyed the remainder of the evening with my friends. Even so, it was a transgression of boundaries that I know and understand well.

I'll spare you the gory details, but today was the first day in a week my body didn't suffer the repercussions of that choice.

I know other food allergy sufferers who, having decided that staying within those limits are just "too hard", eat those things that not only cause them momentary discomfort, but that also have the potential to cause serious deficiencies and in the long run, chronic and painful illnesses like anemia and osteoporosis, and possibly seizures.

I will never forget one day when a friend and I waited in line waiting to order our coffee at Starbucks. I took a long and mournful look at the pastry case and remembered with nostalgia yummies like pumpkin scones and marionberry muffins. When asked if I wanted anything to eat, I told the barista, "I would love to have something, but unfortunately I'm allergic to gluten."

And then she told me a bit of her story. In her late forties, this tall, lean, athletic-looking woman had been diagnosed with celiac disease just six months earlier and had also more recently learned that she had advanced osteoporosis. This is common for celiac sufferers who, unaware of their allergy, eat the gluten that damages their villi of the small intestine, compromising its ability to absorb nutrients effectively.

I always remember this when someone tells me how hard it is to avoid gluten or other foods that might be harmful to them. It reminds me that while it's difficult to stay on track, the consequences of going off track have the potential to cause discomfort in the short term and chronic illness in the long term. Personally, osteoporosis is something I'd rather avoid.

There will continue to be times where I'll have to pass on the homemade bread and say "no thanks" when the dessert is passed around. Sometimes that's really going to stink. But staying on track means in the short term that I'll feel energetic and healthy, maximizing my chances of engaging fully in my own life. In the long term, passing the plate means I'm doing everything in my power to enable my body to remain healthy as I get older.

I know that there are no guarantees. I can't control every factor that contributes to the state of my overall health and I certainly can't stop the aging process. It's humbling and frustrating, but I've got a limited amount of control when it comes to managing my health. I can control my diet and exercise: those are the small pieces I can manage, trusting that the small sacrifices I make in the short term will have long range benefits.

For me, what it boils down to is this: my health is mine alone to manage. Whether I do so well or poorly is up to me.


Sarah said...

OOO, bummer! And after you thought it hadn't bothered you...suck! This all reminds me of how we sometimes find our greatest freedom within limits...which is something I HATE! because I can't really explain it and, well, there's something in me that would prefer to be unlimited. Here's wishing you digestive bliss!!

kirsten said...

yeah, it stinks! the one thing i always forget about me & dairy is that it doesn't hurt, but it does have an unpleasant aftermath. :o)

and i was totally thinking around that concept of true freedom being within limits ... we're tracking, sister!!

Sarah said...

You know, I wonder if that whole concept (freedom being within limits) ties to the thoughts you and I have both been having about work and jobs and calling. I know that I feel like I'd have a lot more freedom if my job functions were at least closer to...well, to me. Does that mean that I can't choose to do *anything* and be happy? It appears to...and I don't like that...even though I feel like I am getting a better and better sense of what will make me happy. I think I'm whacked...this overactive sense of needing to be able to to anything I want might be the death of me yet!!

Christianne said...

Oooh, I'm with Sarah: I'm bummed that the yummy dessert, which you thought your body had accepted miraculously, really did end up having deleterious effects. (Did I just use deleterious in a sentence? Oh yeah, you bet I did. Rolled right off the tongue. I'm a smart one, I am.)

You raise some good thoughts here about freedom within limits. I love how you expressed it in your post -- how you feel free to roam wide and free within the constraints of a few boundaries.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend once about freedom. She said freedom isn't about doing whatever we feel like it, but that it's having the ability to choose what is good for us.

Christianne said...

PS: Love you, girl.