I love food. Grilled food, fast food, fried food, Italian food, food on a stick, food in a carton, food on a plate, food from a greasy bag in the front seat of my car. I have very few vices; I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, and I rarely drink. But I love food…….I love it so much that I hate it. I hate what it does to my body, I hate the control it has over me, and I hate the impact it has on my bank account. My dysfunctional relationship with food began as early as puberty. I became responsible for preparing 2/3 daily meals and stopped participating in all the outdoor activities that had kept me thin in grade school. In high school, I had a job and a car, therefore unlimited access to fast food and transportation.
College was more of the same, except now I had the excuse that I was working full-time while carrying a full class load. Once I graduated from college, and moved out on my own, I found the weight falling off. I hadn’t chosen to eat healthier; I was just eating less frequently because I couldn’t afford the same food I had while living at home. The weight came off, and I found a serious boyfriend, who was accepting of me regardless of my weight. Marriage came next and then babies (and baby weight). Once the children came, everything became about simplicity. I work full time and never made time to prepare myself meals, so I ate fast food almost daily. Then my youngest’s food aversions prompted making at least two dishes at every meal. That became another excuse. I found the scale slowly creeping up, until I realized that I weighed the same as when I was 9 months pregnant with my youngest. I still found excuses to not eat healthy. Subsequent doctor’s visits demonstrated a slowly elevating blood pressure, but I always claimed it was due to white coat hypertension. They would ask about symptoms, none of which I seemed to have, so I assumed I was fine. Until I wasn’t.
Initially, I went to the dentist to have a root canal, but was turned away when they took my blood pressure. They instructed me to call my primary care physician immediately and have it addressed. I casually called my doctor’s office and advised the nurse that I was having issues with my blood pressure. I made an appointment for several weeks out. And then one Sunday night 10 days later, I was lying in bed with my husband when I began coughing up a lot of phlegm. I tried clearing my throat, to no avail, and suddenly became nauseous. I made it to the bathroom in time to get sick, but continued to have phlegm I couldn’t disperse. My heart started racing, and I found breathing to be laborious. I called my doctor and the on call nurse instructed me to go to the emergency room.
Once I got there, I was hooked up to monitors of all kinds, my blood pressure, my heart, my oxygen levels. I explained my story over and over to different members of the hospital staff. My blood pressure was out of control. I had x-rays of my lungs, where they found fluid. My blood pressure wasn’t responding to the pills they had me take, so I was hooked up to a nitro drip. The doctor came in with some answers.
“Flash pulmonary edema.” My lungs started to fill with fluid because of my blood pressure, she surmised. She was admitting me, and recommended I not go to sleep until they were able to lower my pressures and I was able to breathe normally. That’s when it hit me. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, I could have died. I almost left my husband and my children.
It was a rough 36 hours in the hospital; the nitro drip made me vomit and gave me a horrible migraine. The sleep I so desired was interrupted continuously by nurses and doctors taking vitals. More tests. My oldest cried when he came to visit. Then they came in with more news, I was diabetic. My heart healthy menu was replaced by a carb controlled menu. My pressures finally started to become normal. They started slowly weaning me off of the nitro. I consulted with a nutritionist and received a glucometer and more pills.
That is where my dysfunctional relationship with food led me. And that is what it took for me to break the cycle. I’m sure there are dozens of psychological reasons why I struggled with my diet and my body, but none of those mattered in that hospital room. I needed to move past them for my family, and for myself.
It has been 5 months, but 5 months of consistent good choices, 5 months of being challenged and winning. My blood sugar is dropping, as is my weight. I stepped on to the scale yesterday and cried, because I was down 43 pounds. I was down to the same weight I was when I got married. I hadn’t seen those first two numbers on the scale in over 10 years. But it’s been hard work. I’m reading labels and tracking my food. I’m conscious of what I’m putting into my body. I’m being a good example for my kids. I’m also not striving for perfection. I know that I may stumble, but that I’ve got hundreds of reasons not to stay down, two of which are quietly playing in their rooms……