Food represents many different things to many people…to me it’s love and laughter! As Joe and I have aged and abandoned many of our hobbies along the way (too complicated; too expensive; too boring) we have embraced the art of preparing and consuming food. In fact, at our recent school auction a six course Italian dinner, prepared by Joe and served in our home, brought in $1400! We are serious about food!
That explains why my recent bout with diverticulitis is such a painful topic. I am accustomed to butcher quality meats and fresh seafood, straight from the garden (or the truck) vegetables, whole grain breads (and lots of them), a wide range of cheeses, nightly hors d’oeuvres, paired wines and desserts to die for. Both Joe and I come from families that celebrated food and we have taken their traditions to a whole new level!
I recently went on a “shake” regime and supplemented my fiber with nuts and a variety of salad choices. I also committed to multiple early morning gym workouts every week. When I felt occasional vague discomfort in my lower abdomen, I assigned it to my enthusiastic sit-ups. That is until I realized the discomfort had become a permanent companion. Expecting a kidney infection or bladder related issue, I called my wonderful doctor for advice.
Because the weekend was near and I had too many events and tasks to be out of commission, I placed the call on my way home from work. After I described my symptoms, he asked me to put pressure on the center of my abdomen and then on each side near my hip bones. Since I was driving in rush hour traffic, the act of palpating my stomach was a bit difficult…but I complied with his request and hoped I wouldn’t pull up next to a tall van or eighteen wheeler. I’m sure the drivers of these vehicles, with their bird’s eye view of the road, could write a book on strange driving behavior.
When the doctor told me I had all the symptoms of diverticulitis, I was crestfallen. My job in college was on a gastroenterology floor at the university hospital. I know a lot more about unhealthy conditions than I want to know. I regretted delaying my colonoscopy exam for the last 2 years. Seems as if there is never a convenient time for that event. He called in a prescription for an antibiotic and told me to follow a clear liquid diet until the symptoms subsided. He suggested I slowly introduce solid foods once I began to feel more comfortable. Check!
I know what he said…but here is what I heard. Eat only soft foods at the Rotary party we were attending that evening. Pinot Grigio is a clear liquid, right? To make matters worse, our school fundraiser was the next evening. Mini Cajun tartlets were just one of the delicious appetizers. A creative salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts preceded the plated filet dinner with…potatoes. As I moved through the weekend I attended to the (mostly) clear liquid regime. However, since the label on matzo crackers says there is no dietary fiber, I indulged in a few with a generous swath of cream cheese. Needless to say, my follow up call on Monday was a sobering indictment of my nonchalant approach to this condition. Unless I want a lifetime of dietary restrictions, I have to take this more seriously.
Have you ever limited yourself to a diet of tea, water and clear broth? I tried to keep a positive attitude and remind myself that this is for my own good. I know that attitude is the game changer. But no matter what I told myself, food has taken on a bigger than life identity. Everything smells delicious. I walked in the kitchen one evening to prepare another cup of tea and exclaimed “Wow! That smells awesome!” Joe began laughing and showed me a slice of bread that he had microwaved with Swiss cheese.
I feel as if I were Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole. Every food I can’t eat captures my attention as if it were irresistible. I never viewed marmalade or olives as being seductive, but, trust me, they are! When I open the pantry the green can of “buy one get one free” hickory smoked almonds consumes my entire sight line. Even the jar of dried beef I have saved for just the right recipe calls to me. I view my kitchen as enemy territory and feel attacked by the suddenly enormous amount of forbidden fruit. My refrigerator is a total waste of time! There is nothing in there I can eat, so why have one? I swear the intricately wrapped cheeses in the cheese drawer are mocking me! Fennel bulbs and avocados suddenly look irresistible! I find myself craving everything on every shelf.
So I have severely reduced the amount of time I spend in the kitchen. But the torture continues in the form of evening television. Commercials that never registered before have me hypnotized when they come on the screen. Every pizza ad (and there are a lot of them) sets my mouth a droolin’. The incessant jingles for fast food restaurants, which used to irritate me, call like Sirens for a late night run to find the closest Wendy’s or Hardees. Since I live thirty miles from the nearest fast food place, I do not acquiesce. But I do fall to sleep feeling like I haven’t eaten a thing all day! Perhaps I can soothe my troubled soul with the fact that the five pounds I have been trying to lose for the last year has suddenly decided to disappear! My perspective may be out of whack, but hopefully my body will not follow suit!