I started to have trouble eating. Being 5 feet, 10 inches, I’d always enjoyed consuming anything I wanted with few consequences. I was a healthy woman with a healthy appetite.
It was my daughter’s 11th birthday party. I’d made lots of fatty heat-up treats for the sleepover, like Costco taquitos, processed greasy treats. Of course, after removing them from the oven, I had to taste them to make sure they were hot and ready.
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe, and I stepped onto the porch into the cold October air to see if that would help. It didn’t. I stood there gasping for air.
We’d just spent the last three months remodeling our kitchen. The contractor had promised six weeks, but that didn’t happen. We’d devoured a lot of processed junk in those ninety days with no kitchen sink or stove. I’ll never be able to look a Hot Pocket in the eye again.
My GI doctor was flummoxed. He did test after test, trying to figure out my issues. He asked if I’d traveled overseas. Not in twenty years. He mentioned a virus. He threw out words like Scleroderma, Crohn’s disease, Fibromyalgia, and other disorders. He put me on GERD meds and suggested surgery on the sphincter to my stomach.
Meanwhile I was raising three young kids and was dragging myself to all of their stuff. Months went by, and the pounds kept coming off. Parents who had noticed the dramatic weight loss came up with their concerns and comments.
“You can’t go on like this,” they said.
“What can I do?” I said. “Everything comes back up except for soup and smoothies.”
I was the queen of the high-calorie drink. I made mine with vanilla ice cream, fruit and juice. It was only thing I could get down besides Ensure.
I loved Cherry Garcia ice cream but couldn’t eat the chocolate pieces. I would suck on them to get my chocolate fix and then spit them back into the carton.
Everyone was compassionate except for one friend.
Every time she saw me she said, “I wish I had your problem.”
“No you don’t,” I said.
“I can’t lose weight to save my life,” she said.
“I am trying to save mine,” I said.
“But you look so good,” she said.
“I am cold, tired and hungry all the time.”
“Still, you look good.”
Another friend said, “It’s probably just stress. Go for a walk and swing your arms.”
Helpful suggestions and enviable comments were not helpful at all.
The day before New Year’s Eve (14 months later), my doctor asked me if I thought I was fat.
“No, I think I am down fifty pounds,” I said. “I think I am very thin.”
“Just checking to see if you have Anorexia,” he said.
My face was gaunt and pale. My eyes were big. I had the Karen Carpenter look.
The chiropractor adjusted my back and neck. “You feel like an Auschwitz survivor. There’s no fat on your body anywhere.”
One spring day I walked my fifty pound dog, thinking the exercise would do me good. She took off running after the geese, and I went down hard. I didn’t have enough strength or body weight to hold her back.
After fifteen months of existing on Ensure, smoothies and broth-based soups, I heard my GI doctor say, “I can’t help you anymore. You need to see one of the country’s top doctors. You need to go to the Mayo Clinic or Cedars-Sanai Medical Center in L.A.”
It was a six-month wait, but my husband had a work connection that got me into the LA hospital in two. I had to eat a radioactive egg. It took 24 hours to digest. I had to allow tubes to be threaded down my nose and throat without me gagging. I had to drink barium and do all kinds of other unpleasant things. I slept overnight in a lovely hotel and called the kids.
I had a bad case of reflux disease, along with a hiatal hernia, esophagus motility issues, a slow stomach, and allergies (my ears were always plugged up). I couldn’t bend over the sink to spit out my toothpaste without food coming back up.
The top doctors changed all my meds to liquids (I weaned myself off all of them over time). They suggested a list of foods to avoid, which I modified as I experimented: most spices (garlic, curry, pepper), stringy foods (celery, artichoke), acidic foods (coffee, Coke, tomatoes, oranges, red wine), and fatty foods (seafood, red meat, creams, sauces).
I also discovered problem veggies: all peppers, cucumbers, all onions — everything good.
Over time I was able to eat real food again. I still avoid acid, spices, red meat, seafood, and too many starches like potatoes, rice, and breads.
I now eat a bland but filling diet. I’ve gained back every ounce of weight that I lost. I am no longer tired or cold. I am no longer a size 6, either, but that’s okay. I can eat chocolate again, so life is good.
People think I am a picky eater. When I explain, they make comments like, “I’d rather be dead than give up all of that.”
Not me. I’d rather eat a stomach-friendly diet and be alive.
Couldda Wouldda Didda
I figured it out. I don’t take drugs. Most of my problems come back at the holidays with all the rich foods.