Saturday, June 28, 2008
See Food Diet
When I first came home from the hospital, I really struggled with what to eat. I had a green sheet from the dietician about non-constrictive diets, but since it covered everything from seeds in kiwi fruits to mastedons, I found it less than helpful.
And besides, I wasn't feeling in an entirely trusting mood given what they had offered up as "food" from the hospital kitchen. I don't know how trained people can look at what's on those trays without a deep sense of shame.
So what to do, what to do? My guts were struggling. I was taking steroids to reduce inflammation, so I started looking for the kinds of things people with celiac eat. If I was already producing too much mucous, maybe I should eat less gluten and dairy and more---well, more of what celiacs eat, whatever that would be.
The quest was on, and I tried really hard to balance proteins, carbs and soluble fibre. I ate every couple of hours (pathetically) so my stomach wouldn't fill up too much, and I ventured into new territory: goat cheese, quinoa, rice crackers. Rice for breakfast. Discovered that sushi and Chinese sticky rice were great, and mashed potatoes not so bad at 9 in the morning. One week I ate almost nothing but.
But I was falling over with hunger. I kept snacks on my bedside table, snacks in the fridge, snacks beside the bathtub. I have never cried very much at any stage of this cancer journey, but I sometimes sobbed with fatigue and hunger.
Got so bad I even tried the Boost-type fake food the hospital dietician had sent home. It had sort of awful connotations for me, because I once lived next door to a crack house, and I discovered that crack heads live on Ensure and throw the cans all down your back alley when you're not looking. But when you get hungry enough, you'll eat like an addict.
Bad mistake. That stuff might be chemically fortified to help, but my guts didn't want it inside and showed me in no uncertain terms what I could do with those cans.
It was my psychologist who introduced some sanity to all this. "Look, kiddo, you are thinking about this all wrong. In your state, nutrition isn't the point. You gotta get some calories into you."
"I thought that's what I was doing."
"Nope. First thing off, get some Ben and Jerrie's full fat ice cream. None of the diet stuff--get the richest you can find. Ice cream will digest in the high gut, so even if you have diaerrha 20 minutes later, you'll have got some cals into you already."
"Then start thinking French. Dollops of butter on your scrambled eggs. Put cream in. Gonna have a little cake? Forget the icing--put straight whipped cream on. Gravy. Just push those calories till you start feeling a little stronger."
I started hallucinating a barbeque burger--with cheese. Fat glistening on the top. Mayo. Potato wedges.
All of a sudden, life seemed possible again.
And I felt like a kid. See something I liked? I'd eat it. It was surprisingly easy to flip the bird at a life-time of dieting. I needed that fat.
Now, I have no idea about the physiological soundness of all this--but I do know that when I followed the cravings, I stopped crying. And I didn't eat only this stuff. I wanted meat and rice and little bits of veggies. Had 8 avocados in one week.
It was fun to munch on popsicles when I got tired of drinking incessant glasses of water. I wanted to go to the grocery store and load up on wicked things and see if some skinny minnie would look down over her bifocals at my cardiac central basket. I think I'll get some Cheerios.
And hey, I found out that the fastest way to restore electrolyte balances when you are dehydrated is chips and coke--the salt, potassium and sugar work like hot damn, and taste way better than Gatorade.
Found an article on a science blog from a 2003 issue of Gut. Gotta love that title! It suggests that people with colorectal cancer who eat a high fat diet after treatment actually live longer.