I eat a mess.

Don’t Forget Greasy!

While I’m not immune to the appeal of the trite and its conferred understandings, I like to think I approach most areas of my life with more nuance than clichés will usually afford. In this case, given all things in consideration, I’m willing to concede the allure.

Today, I’d felt sort of defeated by the onset of tasks I was previously able to defer for one reason or another. Whether it was the lack of a clear diagnosis for my ongoing health issues, a series of beloved out of town guests, or simply the weekend there were a slough of excuses this past week to keep me from any sort of practical application toward the undertaking of some much needed lifestyle modifications.

I thought I had come upon a clever solution to skirt the hardest part of the changes I want to make, and was quite pleased with myself on account of it. Upon further inspection and in consultation with both my doctor and a friend who is much more experienced with dietary restrictions (plusalso smarter and more observant) I realized this clever plan was both bad and self-defeating as it actually failed to eliminate several of the components I am trying to isolate from my diet for diagnostic purposes.

Confronted with this information, I started crying.

I have always had a combative relationship with food. I know most people encounter food as a joyful sensory experience to be savored. I generally encounter it with the satisfaction of a well-completed chore I’d prefer never to repeat. Like cleaning out the lint trap; I love when it all comes off in one piece, but better to never have to deal with it in the first place. It has perpetually seemed like a cruel cosmic joke humans don’t run on batteries or gasoline; something one could obtain, of which there was basically only one kind and quality that did not necessitate further planning or preparation than plugging the full thing where the empty one was and moving on with the day. This was why when the Kickstarter campaign for Soylent came about, I was super excited. This seemed like a thing for me! Something I would willingly try and possibly find perfectly suited to the amount of time and energy I would ideally like to expend thinking about, obtaining, and consuming food. 

Things have gotten much better in the past few years as I am both more rational and less cavalier about the results of ignoring the consequences of putting things in my body I should not, as well as depriving it of things it needs. Yet even with that being the case, I am still occasionally brought to a complete halt by the decisions I have to make about eating. The last time I tried an elimination diet to the ends I am aiming for this time, with my very patient and compassionate boyfriend going so far as to prepare meals for me on a regular basis, he was nonetheless baffled by all the tears I shed over what I was – or was not – eating. Without anyone holding my hand or looking over my shoulder this time, I am even more intimidated by this prospect.

Hard experience has taught me how to minimize these occurrences; planning, easy access to acceptable options, and the support of the people I am eating with are all very helpful. However, even bringing all of this to bear, there are still moments – and they are both more frequent and intense when I am trying to defy my natural tendencies in a systemic way – where I feel so overwhelmed by the task of nourishing myself that I simply refuse to do it at all. I have legitimately taken a sleeping pill so I could sleep to avoid making a decision about what to eat.

With a Crohn’s diagnosis, I have an explicit set of challenges to consider with regard to my diet going forward. While the condition itself is autoimmune and not driven by dietary factors, there are undeniable connections between diet and immune response. Moreover, since the gut is the arena-of-action, as it were, there is no real way to extract the process of eating and digesting food from the experience of having Crohn’s. All that being said, there isn’t consensus about the kind of diet that serves a person with Crohn’s best. There is ample anecdotal, testimonial, and promotional advice, but no evidence based, peer-reviewed dietary recommendations for this diagnosis. The most echoed sentiments are things like “Patients must pay special attention to their diets as concerns about nutrient absorption persist with this condition.”

Read: “since whatever food you do eat will likely shoot out of you at both ends in a spray of hot bile and sadness, make sure you take some vitamins, okay?”

Being my particular difficulty with the whole idea of confronting food that isn’t bacon, ice cream, or potatoes as a source of thwarting my attempts to consume more bacon, ice cream, and potatoes, this lack of dietary guidance feels especially ironic and defeating. 

Hearkening back to the Soylent; I thought I might have a simple solution to eliminating some of the main culprits in my diet that might be contributing to the inflammatory response in my guts. I could simply spend a week or so NOT EATING FOOD AT ALL but instead having that decision already made, and a meal just the quick shake of a plastic tumbler away. It seemed likely to remove most of the emotional angst about the process and I was fuckin’ pleased with myself for thinking of it.

Alas, it was not to be.

For you see, in my head, Soylent was dairy, gluten, and soy free. In reality, it is only one of those things, and the other stuff they put in it to make up for it not having dairy are weird and turn out to be pretty counterproductive in terms of providing any kind meaningful information about things I might need to keep away from.  

So then, crying.

Luckily, that smart friend of mine is also someone who cares enough about me to make an effort to suggest some alternatives and offer meaningful practical support like going to the grocery store with me. She may not be my boyfriend, but I still think I can count on her to look over my shoulder if I ask her to. We found another option which really IS gluten/dairy/soy free, and though I probably can’t just survive on it alone, it can be a go-to default option should I arrive in the valley of the hard stop where my options seem only to be defeat or starvation. 

So here begins my attempt to gentle my ileum into complacency again with tender words, good intentions, and apparently nothing that tastes good ever again.

Time to clean up the mess.