“But if I have no cheese in the house I’ll feel like I have nothing to eat!” “Just go off dairy for two weeks,” my doctor implored, “Just two weeks.” I did. After only four days, my constantly tearing eyes stopped tearing – like someone had waved a magic wand. That was the catalyst that compelled me to make one of my most profound life changes, clarifying my muddy relationship with food.
When it came to food I was a pretty normal kid. No crust on my bread, chicken wings only, very crispy. My love affair with food grew as I got older and traveled the world, tasting and loving and eating everything, because I could! I was slim, had no food allergies; and aside from the occasional tummy-ache from over-indulgence, eating was joyful.
Fast forward to menopause. CRASH! My once great friendship with food was OVER. I started to put on weight, lots of weight. My bra size went from a pretty vavoom to vavava-voom. I became lactose intolerant, began to have allergies in my ears, eyes and sinuses; and sensitivities to food were cropping up out of nowhere! I was confused, sad. Most of all, I was pissed. Weight Watchers, Atkins, daily hate fests at the gym. Nothing lasted and nothing helped my changing biology. Who was I? And how was I going to cope with devastating depression, anxiety that kept me up most nights, horrible hormonal fluctuations, and tummy troubles made worse from stress – not to mention dealing with one serious life trauma after another. Among them, I lost my second son at three days old. Living in Israel from 1967 to 1986, I lived through two wars, divorced, almost died from pneumonia, almost died from meningitis, and I had to have a kidney removed. When I returned to the States with my 13-year-old son I also became my elderly parents’ only care-giver. I had landed smack dab in the “sandwich generation,” and it was devastating physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t know how I did all this while working around the world in a time-crunch, deadline-oriented business. Whew!
I ended up in the ICU two years ago, hovering close to death for the fourth time in my life. I was diagnosed with not one but three life-threatening conditions: sepsis, double pneumonia and five abscesses in my lower spine! Seven weeks of hospitalization and rehab left me weak and incapable of dealing with brutal trauma from yet another crisis, this time a family and financial crisis. So weakened, in fact, that I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis! Yikes!
My rheumatologist recommended I join Suppers and she gave me the website and a brochure. She knew I would find great value in the program and it really was exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to learn.
I am fortunate that both my rheumatologist and my primary care physician incorporate alternative therapies into their practices and are experts in nutrition and treating “the whole you.” That and the fact that I love the kitchen and have always eaten whole foods gave me a good basis for success at Suppers. Besides, I was RIPE! But knowing is not doing. I knew I had found a goldmine in Suppers, but I didn’t have all the tools I needed to navigate through what I would understand in hindsight was to become a slow process for me. A process of letting go of stubborn streaks (me, stubborn!!??). I had to let go of emotions and learn how to become more rational about my choices, whether related to food or anything else. Instinctively I recognized that I was on the right path as every food choice produced pride, commitment and kindness to myself, perhaps for the first time in my life.
Gluten, dairy and sugar free, that was the task. I did it in part when I started Suppers a year and a half ago. I say “in part” because I cheated all the time, every day. But now I had rheumatoid arthritis so there was no screwing around anymore. I was suffering from debilitating fatigue, sore hands and feet, and pain. The all-elusive weight loss was staring back at me from every mirror and shining glass window. When my rheumatologist said I needed to start on meds, I finally swallowed my spit and went gluten and sugar free; that was about four months ago. I was already dairy “free” but stopped cheating with that too. After about eight or nine days I got terribly sick. Stomach pain, horrific nausea coupled with nauseous headaches. That lasted almost three weeks. I was beside myself not knowing what was going on. When I later began a group cleanse and was comparing notes with other members, I learned that I had gone through what is called a “healing crisis” as my body uncomfortably cleansed itself of toxins.
After those three weeks of misery I rebounded. I felt GREAT and still do. My energy is much improved, as is my mood. And the weight is finally starting to come off. Twelve gorgeous pounds – gone!!! I never thought I’d live to wear my favorite jeans again and I don’t give a!@#$ if they’re still in style or not!!
It took a year for me to “get it,” but I feel pretty good about that because the Suppers journey is for life. In the long run it doesn’t matter how long you may be stuck in one place, as long as you keep moving toward your best self. The fact that I get encouragement with deep understanding and nonjudgment contributes more to my overall health than anything I’ve experienced before joining Suppers.
It’s now time to share the wealth! I’ve brought several friends to varied Suppers events, friends who really, really, really need help. I quickly learned that no matter how well-meaning I am, they will embrace the help on their own terms, in their own time. Now that I’m confident in my own results, my plan is to co-host meetings for seniors who might think their days in the kitchen are over. It would be delightful to engage them socially and healthfully around a Suppers “family table.”
In retrospect, I can’t believe my life revolved around that piece of cheese. If I had that magic wand, I’d make it possible for people to get a glimpse of their future, to feel how fabulous life is when you find your personal best way to eat. But that’s not how it works. It takes a leap of faith and a community of support, no judgment, and no time clock.