This is second in a series of blog posts about how my autoimmune disease led me down the path of healing my relationship food. You can read the first post here.
When I first moved to San Franciso, a friend of mine from Seattle wanted to introduce me to a friend of hers. She meant to send my contact information to her friend, but she accidentally copied me.
Did I ever give you Erica’s contact info? She and her hubby Chris moved to your city maybe 3 months ago. She’s pretty tough to get a commitment out of and has a tendency to bail at the last minute. But she’s pretty hilarious, and also very artsy/crafty talented.
I still have this email. I can still remember where I was sitting and the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach when I opened it. I had been suffering from severe autoimmune disease symptoms for over a year. It’s hard to commit to happy hour when you’re unhappy. It wasn’t news to me that I was flaky, but it was hard to see it in print like that.
I called my friend, told her about the email mix-up, and explained my condition. For my sanity, I needed her to know that’s not who I am. She was horrified, apologetic, and empathetic. After our phone call, I spent a long time mulling over her email. Before I got sick, I had prided myself on being committed and reliable. I was the one pointing out other people’s lack of commitment.
Six months after this incident, I started my first round of the autoimmune protocol. For over a year, my entire life revolved around what I could and could not eat. I dreaded the planning, prepping, cooking, and clean up. Even though my symptoms had started to subside, it wasn’t motivation enough to mitigate the inconvenience of it all.
When I started the protocol, I had no idea how to cook. My husband and I lived on non-perishables and take-out; nothing about meal planning and cooking was intuitive for me. Every week, I would flip through the cookbook, choose our recipes, and painstakingly copy every ingredient to a grocery list. Every evening, I would drive home from work trying to muster the energy for the 3-hour cook-a-thon ahead.
Do you know what I hate? Recipe times.
First, a recipe time doesn’t include the time it takes to write down the ingredients and go to the store to buy them. Second, a recipe time doesn’t account for the 13 spoons, 4 forks, 3 bowls, 2 pots, and 2 measuring cups you’re going to have to wash when your 15 minutes of prep time is over. Lastly, recipe times have no consideration for the cook’s skill level.
Do you know how many times a technical, detail-oriented, novice cook has to look back at the cookbook to check if the recipe calls for a teaspoon or a tablespoon of turmeric?
I was so appalled by the texture of the skin on the chicken thighs that my efforts to use forks to avoid touching them tripled my cooking time. I forgot ingredients, I overcooked vegetables, and I undercooked meats. I was going to great lengths to prepare gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free, preservative-free, nightshade-free, egg-free, organic foods, and I couldn’t even enjoy them. I spent more than half my dinner staring at the mess in the kitchen in resentment. Even if the meal was delicious, the disaster canceled out the delight.
When I first started the autoimmune protocol, everything was new and everything was challenging. I resented having to cook and clean for three hours while the rest of the world was enjoying Chipotle. I often felt unlucky.
Now, four years later, I have started my second round of the autoimmune protocol, and I’ve noticed those same feelings creeping up on me. I stopped to contemplate them this week. I know how to cook, and I’ve been cleaning up after dinner for four years. Why am I still feeling this way?
I’m feeling this way because it’s human to see the unfortunate aspects of life. While I may know how to cook now, it’s still inconvenient. I have spent the last four years getting creative in the kitchen. I have go-to meals that are delicious and healthy. I love bell peppers in my salad and nut flour on my chicken. Even though it’s technically all “healthy” my body is rejecting it and betraying me, so I can’t have my favorite “healthy” foods anymore. Instead of breezing through the planning and prepping with ease, I have to pause and think about how I’m going to do things.
And pausing is annoying.
If I dwell on how annoyed I am, this round of the autoimmune protocol feels even more unjust than the first one. I’ve been eating nourishing foods and moving my body every day. I’ve been doing what I thought I needed to do to feel vibrant, but I don’t feel vibrant. I feel sick; meanwhile, the guy across the street drinking a milkshake with his Shake Shack burger appears to be doing just fine.
The thing is, even the guy across the street with the milkshake has something in his life that he doesn’t want to pause to think about. We all do, and it’s not serving us.
When I pause long enough to mull over why I’m doing this to myself, I remember the email from my friend in Seattle…
She’s pretty tough to get a commitment out of and has a tendency to bail at the last minute.
I’m reminded that I don’t want to go back to the point in my life when my friends were saying this about me because it was true. It was true because—at the time—my symptoms overode my values.
When I pause long enough to practice gratitude, I acknowledge that my body has changed with age, and with that same age, I’m bolder, wiser, and more joyful.
I’m reminded to highlight all triumphs instead of just the trials.
When I pause, I see the value of pausing. I acknowledge the very real things I feel, and the power framing my current circumstances in the context of my BIG goals, rather than the mundane things that distract me.