Two summers ago, I woke up in the middle of the night in the throes of a pretty severe bacterial infection in my gut. I spent several weeks eating nothing but rice, white toast, apple juice, broth, and a little boiled chicken, and several more avoiding all dietary fiber. This meant no fruit, no sweet corn, no cantaloup, no tomatoes, or any of the other delights of summer.
This pestilence was visited upon me in the middle of a process of exploring intuitive eating, which involved allowing myself to eat foods that I had not allowed myself to eat "out loud" for decades because they were "bad" for me. Of course, I had guiltily eaten most of them anyway, but one of the most important tenets of the Green Mountain program is giving yourself permission to eat anything, so long as you enjoy it mindfully and stop when you are no longer hungry. I read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Overcoming Overeating by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter, and all of Geneen Roth's books, and was finding the process incredibly liberating.
Then the infection hit, and I was thrown into a situation that demanded that I move beyond being merely mindful of what I ate to being vigilantly restrictive in order to avoid extremely unpleasant consequences. In essence, I was eating the opposite of how I had been learning to eat: no fruits or vegetables, no whole grains, no dairy of any sort, no legumes. And my permission to eat previously forbidden foods was rescinded again, at least temporarily. It was disconcerting, and I confess that there were quite a few moments (particularly as my whole family chowed down on sweet corn and watermelon) when it really felt as though I were being punished.
One thing I've learned about myself in the past four years is that I don't do well when I feel I'm being deprived. And yet during my illness and recovery, if I didn't deprive myself of most of the foods I enjoy, I would be doing myself significant and immediate harm. A conundrum, to be sure.
All these thoughts came back to me last week, when a couple of instances of eating more than I needed were almost immediately followed by periods of gut-wrenching discomfort and worse. To take care of myself, I simply stopped eating, upped my probiotic dose and reduced my fiber intake till things got in balance again. That felt prudent and nurturing, not punitive, and it suddenly dawned on me that this experience was what the gurus mean when they talk about choosing the healthy food option because it makes you feel good, not because it represented a food choice that was morally superior.
I am encouraged by the thought that if I can feel that once, I can feel it again. Maybe someday. Maybe this afternoon. Another small step along my path.
A hui hou (till next time).