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The Hidden Truth Behind My 'Picky' Restaurant Order

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The stress from losing my parents to cancer created a host of digestive issues for me. I was always so careful to make sure they had the foods that would nourish them as they navigated chemo and radiation treatments. Dad liked small portions: sandwiches cut on the diagonal, a bunch of grapes, crackers and cheese and mugs of steaming hot soup. Mom had that tinny taste in her mouth from the chemo. A bottle of Coke that had gone flat would serve as her aperitif, coating her tongue just long enough that she could take in a little sustenance. She, too, liked small portions… tapas if you will. Too much food on her plate quickly overwhelmed her, and she would push the plate away and grab for the chilled bottle of chocolate Boost that served as a quick delivery of nutrients. No matter the meal, they would always ask that I sit and eat with them. “What are you eating?” Mom would ask. Typically, my response was that I would grab mine in a minute or placate her that mine was in the kitchen. It wasn’t. I just didn’t eat.

I called myself a “stress non-eater.” And it became true for me. My weight declined to the point that my favorite ring slipped off my finger and my hair thinned and fell out. And still, I didn’t eat. I had it that if I gave everything to them and took nothing for myself, I could stop the progression of the diseases that ravaged their bodies – that I could, in fact save them. I lived like that story was true. It wasn’t until they died that I realized I had made it up. In my desire to take care of them, I had neglected caring for myself. The role of caretaker I had taken on so readily for them now needed to apply to my own self- care.

It wasn’t as easy as just eating again. My body wouldn’t accept the food I ate. No matter what I ate, it left me bloated and nauseous. I decided I had to start from scratch, eating only whole foods and cutting out all the common sensitivities and allergens. There would be no sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, corn, grain, beans, soy, eggs, peanuts or dairy in my diet.

This is what you don’t know when I order steamed veggies and unseasoned grilled chicken at your restaurant and then inquire as to the makeup of the seasoned coating on the chicken, only to be told it’s gluten free and the coating is egg and cornstarch. My order of unseasoned grilled was heard as “gluten-free.” Not the same thing. I send it back to the rolling eyes of the server. I used to feel like I was being difficult and sometimes I would just eat it anyway knowing full well the discomfort I would feel later when the heaviness in my gut would balloon into that bloat and the nausea would find me sleeping upright in a chair. I used to feel the need to explain myself to the waiters and waitresses as if I needed a reason for my order, as if there was something wrong with me.

A left-handed compliment of being high maintenance by a dinner companion is what got me off the self-pity train. Of course – high maintenance! That’s me! Who would want to be low maintenance and just settle anyway?

I like my water with no ice and no lemon, because… well… that’s the way I like it. After all, healing can look any number of ways.

Editor’s note: Please see a professional before starting or stopping a diet plan.

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Originally published: December 26, 2016
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