Monday, May 4, 2009

How do you stay so THIN?

I always loved food. For as long as I can remember, food has represented comfort, love, happiness, satisfaction and pure joy. Like most everyone else, for me food is connected to so many memories. Memories from childhood - coming home from the city pool to find that my Mom had made my favorite - tacos! Nothing felt better than to come through the door and be greeted by the smell of what I came to know as heaven in a shell.

As the years go by there are new favorites, new memories - all fused together much the way the spices blended together to create something unique and wonderful. Something that can't be replicated by anything on the face of the earth. Eating is the means of getting nourishment into our bodies, but the marriage of food and memories is the very heart of who we are.

I was fortunate to have the metabolism that allowed me to consume whatever I desired and not gain weight. It was a good thing, but it has had its drawbacks as well. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been accused, whether vocally or in a passive-agressive manner, of being anorexic or bulimic.

"How do you stay so THIN?" (I don't know, just the way I am.)

"It must be nice to be able to eat whatever you WANT!" (Yes it is, but I can't take credit for that.)

"Do you ever eat?" (Why yes, I do eat, thank you very much. And I enjoy it immensely.)

"How much do you weigh?" (Seriously? Are you really asking me how much I weigh? Would you mind telling me YOUR weight first?"

And my favorite unspoken question of all: "Are you anorexic or bulimic?" (No, but I doubt you believe me so it really makes no difference how I answer that question.)

I always felt guilty when I had those silent comments running through my head. After all, most people were simply envious that I appeared to have learned some ancient secret for being thin. I knew that most of the time the comments weren't made maliciously or to hurt me. Still, it became more and more of a challenge not to fire back with a retort that would make them understand that this seemingly wonderful weight loss secret was not a blessing, it was a curse.

When I became seriously ill around three months ago and lost 15 pounds I didn't have to spare, I ended up being the envious one. I found myself looking at women on TV who would probably have killed to lose 10 pounds and I was wishing I could somehow take those pounds from them for myself. I looked at butts, boobs, upper arms, calves, thighs and tummies. I longed for some of the fat I saw around me. It was crazy, but it was real.

Food quickly became my enemy. At first it was just the mild stomach pain that I'd been dealing with all of my adult life. I'd been diagnosed (wrongly, as it turns out) with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) shortly after my second daughter was born in 1994.

"Drink lots of water." "Add fiber to your diet." "Use Metamucil or Citrucel."

I did those things and my tummy seemed better. For awhile. And then I'd have those bouts of nausea, light-headedness, heart palpitations and depression. More doctors, more drugs. Many, many tests. Blood tests. Gallbladder tests. Colonoscopy. Upper endoscopy. Exploratory laproscopic surgery. More doctors. More drugs. No real diagnosis.

And then this year when all hell broke loose in my stomach. Everything went haywire. The iron-deficient anemia that took away every ounce of extra energy I might have.

Finally the diagnosis of Celiac Disease which finally gave a name to the mysterious stranger that had invaded my body and my mind. Finally an answer. Finally someone told me something that answered the questions everyone had been asking me, silently or aloud, all these years:

"How do you stay so THIN?" (Celiac Disease)

"It must be nice to be able to eat whatever you WANT!" (It was, but now I have found out I have Celiac Disease and must avoid all gluten. Other than that I can still eat whatever I want.)

"Do you ever eat?" (Why yes, I do eat, thank you very much. As long as it's gluten-free. And I enjoy it immensely.)

"How much do you weigh?" (I weighed 85 pounds when complications from Celiac Disease took me to the mat. Right now I'm gaining weight at a slow and steady pace. My doctor says the weight will come and not to obsess over it.)

And my favorite unspoken question of all: "Are you anorexic or bulimic?" (No. And I never was.)


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