Me versus food

My relationship with food has always been a difficult one. As a child, I was picky beyond belief. If given the choice, I would have had the same dinner every night: chicken, rice, and corn. Every now and then, maybe I'd switch it up with some mac and cheese, or chicken nuggets instead of regular baked chicken (plain, mind you).

When I got older, things became more complicated. At fifteen, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which in a way may explain why I was always deferring back to plain, unseasoned meals as a child. Apparently, everything I was eating was making me sick. No wonder I was falling behind on that little pink growth scale my pediatrician always showed me. It was difficult to gain weight because the food I was digesting was slowly poisoning my system, and the longer it went on, the worse it got.

Suddenly, anything with gluten was off the table. Literally. No wheat, no flour, no barely, no malt. Do you know how many things have gluten in them? A lot. Do you know how much I suddenly wished I could have a regular sandwich, slice of pizza, piece of cake? And then when I got to thinking about all the food I had never tried before, and now would not get the chance to try, I started to really hate that I wasn't a more adventurous eater at a younger age. Now, when we go out to eat, I have to stick to things like salads or fruit mixes which, don't get me wrong, are delicious but not exactly exciting. Or filling. A beautiful snack, but not a satisfying breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Hence, I eat home. A lot.

Here's the thing about food allergies: they're usually pretty serious. If I had gone undiagnosed, I would have had a majorly increased risk of cancer, along with other potentially fatal health problems. It's great that gluten free is now becoming more main stream (yay for better, tastier options than they had back in 2006!), but unfortunately not everyone understands that eating GF is not only a trend. For me, it's essential if I want to live a somewhat normal life. If I don't, I'm incredibly sick for a substantial amount of time. Even the smallest amount -- say, if my "safe" pizza was cooked on the same pan as your regular pizza -- will keep me down for weeks.

Something particularly frustrating with having Celiac Disease is that I know I will never truly get better. Like my anxiety, this is something I will have to learn to live with and manage. Managing it, though, is proving to be difficult, especially when I'm attempting to live on a budget. Buying gluten free is more expensive, and often the packages of food are smaller than non-gluten free options. Beyond the financial annoyances is something more significant: it's still affecting my health.

This might sound like a humble brag since our culture is all about being fit and shedding pounds, but it's nearly impossible for me to gain weight. Because I ate so much gluten as a child, and was always so profoundly affected by it when it came to stepping on the scales, my system doesn't know how to properly absorb food anymore. My stomach will chew it all up, sure, but it doesn't seem to want to keep any of the nutrients. Or, rather, it keeps only a very, very small amount, which means to absorb the proper amount of nutrients I have to eat 10x as much as a normal person. FUUUUUUUuuuUuuUuuuuuuUUUUUNNNNnnnnnN!

So I eat. And eat and eat as much as I can on my budget. But even though some companies are claiming to be gluten free (*side eyes Cheerios*), they still have enough gluten contaminants to make me ill. I'm constantly on alert about how I'm feeling while eating my food, with an endless amount of noise and internal chatter. It's even worse if I try to go out to eat. Because, sure, I know it's gluten free, but is it "gluten free" or gluten free?

I watched a TedTalk about eating disorders a few years back that mentioned something similar to that "internal chatter." It's a great watch, and I highly recommend it if you like expanding your thinking, but beyond that it got me thinking about my relationship with food. I don't have a classic eating disorder that you would normally think of -- like anorexia or bulimia -- but I do believe that my eating is disordered. I can't just eat and enjoy food. It makes me anxious, and then my anxiety makes me feel sick, which makes me more anxious. Am I feeling sick because of my anxiety, or am I feeling sick because what I'm eating has gluten in it? I guess we'll wait an hour and see...

My relationship with food is as complicated as most girls' in the world. I'm taking this year to make a more concentrated effort to eat better, to eat more, and to work toward my goal of gaining more weight. I don't like being as thin as I am, but for now that's the way it is and I am learning to accept that. There's only so much I can do, and since my anxiety and food issues seem to go hand in hand, I think I'll set about fixing them together. I wanted 2016 to be my healthiest year, and I think I can make that happen if I try really, really hard.

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