Friday, July 13, 2012

Welcome Back

I sat in the drive through line at McDonalds; barely comprehending the truth of where I was and what I was about to purchase. Am I really about to support this fake food empire? Are the $3.92 that were once in my bank account now going to be in the hands of fast food industry that I find repulsive? Yes and yes. When my nephew, Ricky, asked for lunch and I said sure I didn't say "sure, if it isn't McDonalds." And so when his request for a double cheeseburger, medium fry and sweet tea came about I had no place to go but 26th street to fulfill his desires. As we sat in the drive thru line the smell of grease, oil and hamburger patties saturated the car and stung my nostrils. The fact that this food is beloved in this country baffles me. I know I used to once eat it, and I can understand teens and children falling in love with cheap food and Ronald McDonald. But the fact that grown adults who, by all measures, appear to be intelligent, still devour the grease laden meals is beyond my comprehension. Don't we know enough about health and wellness to know this food is destructive and an assult on our bodies? I must admit I know that I am an extreme case of eating healthy. For months on end I lived off of Panera Bread, sweet potatoes, apples and eggs. I ate the same thing on repeat day after day, week after week, month after month. Who could blame me? I had no appetite. Most food looked downright unappealing - and most still does although now it is because most of what we eat in this country is unhealthy. Healthy foods, even those I didn't touch for months, are starting to look good to me again. I went almost a year without a sandwich; not because sandwiches are corrupt and evil but because they looked unappetizing to me. Now sandwiches look fabulous. In fact, I'm digging sandwiches. Yesterday I had a breakfast sandwiches at Panera Bread at 7:00 am. Yes, you heard me right. I woke up, threw on a pair of pants and drove to Panera Bread to get breakfast. And it was delicious. This afternoon I ventured into panini making at home. It wasn't the greatest but the flavor was good and I learned some "what not to do" tips for next time. The combination of mustard, artichoke, turkey and tomatoe was delicious. One worth repeating for sure. After my home made cafe lunch I had the hankering to keep exploring more options. For so long I have stayed away from all sorts of foods. For over a year not a bit of gluten passed my lips. Doctors had told me I had an allergy or Celiac disease - something that made gluten off limits. I heeded the advice with strict do-diligence. I've also stayed away from all things dairy except yogurt. I love my yogurt but other dairy never settled right in my stomach I'm not sure if that is still true or not, I haven't wanted to test it out. The last dairy product I had - a coffee ice cream cone - made me feel violently ill afterwards. Since then I've taken the better safe than sorry approach. That was over one year ago. Since then not a single ice cream, brownie, cookie, cake or other "treat" has passed my lips. Today I decided to change that. I had purchased some frozen greek yogurt bars the other day at the Whole Foods Co-Op. When I bought them I was feeling the need to introduce new foods, and once again gain an appreciation for things that I had sworn out of my diet. Nothing crazy. Ben and Jerry's is a bit too unrealistic. That would be like asking a vegan to a pig roast. But a frozen greek yogurt bar is reasonable, and not too unhealthy either! These little bars have 6 grams of protein, 70 calories and only 12 grams of sugar! Plus no corn syrup or other mystery ingredient that someone formed in a chemical lab and sent off in a test tube to be labeled as "all-natural". These bars looked pretty good. So I bought them. And there they sat in my freezer for one week, and then two. Until today when I decided I was ready to venture into the world of healthier frozen treats. And you want to know what? I enjoyed it. I enjoyed every single bite of that raspberry frozen greek yogurt bar. What I'm realizing is that my appetite is coming back. Slowly but surely foods that once didn't even catch my eye are now in my fridge. Some of them I haven't eaten yet, like the cinnamon pecan cereal, but others have become part of my diet like the organic turkey breast slices. I hadn't consumed or even entertained the idea of consuming foods like that for over a year. To be eating them now is a step is a good direction. There were days I never thought food would look good to me again. I wondered what had happened to my taste buds and worried that they would be stuck that way forever. Thankfully, the lack of appetite was temorary. There is hope in the return of tastebuds. If their absense was temporary what else is temporary? Low weight? Poor digestion? Extreme fatigue? My body isn't going to stay this way forever. This has been a time in my life but isn't me and my existence. It will pass, the weight will come back and I will be my active, vibrant self again. My tastebuds are just one little piece of evidence to prove it. In the drive through line at McDonalds I realized how different the way I eat is from the rest of the world and from my old self and I'm okay with that. Ricky shook his head, "I can't believe you never eat anything like an ice cream cone." I nodded in agreement. I'm an enigma. Even though the appetite is returning a lot of foods still don't do anything for me. I don't crave ice cream cones. Bad experiences have left a bad taste in my mouth - literally. But I am expanding and venturing into territory that I didn't know I was missing out on. You never know the things you should be thankful for until they're gone - like an appetite for one. Until this health crisis I never thought about my appetite exactly. I just took it for granted. I knew I loved food and never considered that I could lose that love. My passion for food and ability to eat could have won good eater awards - oh, wait, it did. My first boyfriend gave me one as a joke. What can I say? I was a girl who really, really liked to eat! Then that all went away. I didn't want anything beyond the few life sustaining foods I ate in abundance. The tides of food choice are once again changing. I'm enjoying more of the foods God gave. He provided such a vast array of options, colors, tastes and textures for our enjoyment. Incorporating those foods into my life and new ways to use them is a welcome change that I want to embrace. And I'm eating treats again. Make fun of me if you will because I know this all sounds silly to people who are used to spending their money on fast food and ice cream but to someone like me this is a step in the right direction. One small frozen greek yogurt bar, one huge step for Stephanie Rice.

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