With the upcoming holiday, food is on my mind.
Having SPD affects my digestion and overall gut health, so I have to eat mainly gluten-free and plant-based in order to feel good. Which is really difficult during social events and even more difficult during holidays.
No one, including me, really wants to eat a tofu turkey.
Around the holidays, I am surrounded by things I want to eat, but know I shouldn't. Like breads, cheeses, dips and desserts. Or, there isn’t enough for me to eat. I have to eat before I leave and bring a dish to pass that will not only be something I can consume, but also something that pleases others. And in the worse cases, I inadvertently trouble or offend others because of what I am or am not eating. Salad and potatoes, is that really all you’re eating? Is there anything else I can make for you? The stuffing is gluten-free. How do you get protein if you don’t eat meat or eggs? Oh, just have a little dessert, it’s not going to hurt you. And on it goes.
Food has always been difficult for me. As a baby, I was vegetarian, bordering on vegan, pushing the meat out of my mouth that my mom would put in spaghetti sauce and hide in my mashed potatoes. I even used to peel the cheese off of pizza. Somehow, I instinctively knew what was good for me. And what was not.
I ate vegetarian until, at 16, I fainted and hit my head, and when I came to, I craved meat for the first time in my life (I’m not kidding; this really happened.). Consuming meat made my life easier, for both myself and for others. No one had to worry about what I was going to eat. Including me. I could eat at restaurants and at social gatherings. I could eat when I traveled. It was easier to stay trim. It was easier to fit in. It was one less limitation I had.
But, as with most things, my disorder soon got in the way. My level of processing made it more and more difficult for me to digest animal products. The textures and smells of meat began to make me nauseous. Not to mention once my mind got ahold of it and began to remind me of what I was consuming, each time I consumed it.
Now, when I eat things I'm not supposed to, like cheese or eggs, I become uncomfortably full. Not because I overate as much as because I swell. And I bloat. And I have heartburn and reflux. And I am stuck that way for days. Until I can clear out my system enough for the inflammation to subside. And that isn’t even the worst part. I get moody. Broody. Angry and upset. I lash out quicker and am in a constant state of discomfort. Like a rabid animal.
And I forget every time what happens to me. That it’s not worth it. That eating what I want has a price. A high price. A price that, for some reason, I'm always willing to pay.
Often, I need to eat soft foods because they are less difficult to digest. Foods that are also gluten-free and plant-based, so they don’t disrupt my sensitive system. I find that pureed fruits and vegetables are the easiest to digest. Like a baby. I used to crave baby food when I was old enough to ask for it. To pick it out at the grocery store. I voluntarily ate it all the time. Perhaps there was something to that. Maybe, I knew.
Many times, if my environment is overstimulating, I shouldn’t eat at all because the overstimulation takes all of my energy to digest my surroundings, which makes it difficult for me to digest anything else. If there are too many lights and sounds, smells and touches, conversations and interactions, I need to refrain from eating until I feel more centered. Calm. So I have a chance of digesting my food properly.
Other times, I consume alcohol to try to dull the overstimulation I feel. Considering alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it makes sense. I am trying to depress my nervous system. To under-stimulate it. To slow it down. To numb the pain with a shot.
After events, in an attempt to ease my system, I take digestive enzymes and drink kombucha and chamomile tea. I put lemon and ginger in my water. I do yoga, particularly twists, to massage my internal organs.
If I really overdid it, I get leaky gut where I feel wall-less inside. Boundless. Gutless. When this happens, I am unable to eat for lengthy periods of time, sometimes days. When I do eat, I need to eat orange and yellow foods. Foods that are, arguably, good for your gut health. Good for your second and third chakras: your sacral plexus, where your sensory nerves dwell, and your solar plexus, where you have a network of nerves reaching out to the rest of your body.
My food issues are a lot to process, especially when I already have a processing disorder. Especially when I’m out, trying to enjoy the company of loved ones. Getting caught up in the moments. Forgetting my limitations. But I know that I am blessed to have loved ones. To have warm clothes and warm food. To have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. To have the ability to finally understand my limitations so I can learn to enjoy life a little more. And that, my friends, is something to be thankful for.