How Food Has Taken Over My Life
It's all I think about. Ingredients, seasonality, pairings, cooking methods, experimentation, discovery, education, everything. It's something that I've always kind of thought about, but I think if I weren't diagnosed with endometriosis, I would still be hounding down an egg and cheese sandwich and peach Snapple every morning.
In a way, my disease has saved my life, but in other ways, it has changed me forever. I can no longer just go to restaurants, a friend’s house, work lunches, casual hangouts, a date, anything without feeling anxiety about how the food available will affect my body. I made a decision to treat my endometriosis holistically, which means anti-inflammatory foods, and natural medicine. Most people don’t realize that eating an anti-inflammatory diet breaks down a lot of barriers about food that I once thought I understood. Down to the type of oil that my food is cooked in, where the ingredients come from, what the animal eats before it’s slaughtered…everything. This also means no more of my favorite desserts, or a simple gelato on a hot summer day — one of my greatest pleasures in life.
As always, though, I try to look at the positives. My body now understands good, quality food. If I’m out and eat something “healthy,” that’s actually fried in canola oil, my body can feel that. Being able to feel everything has made me aware of everything I put in my body, which has made me feel the healthiest I ever have in my life. I’ve noticed that the more I talk about endo and how it affects my every day, people around me start to understand, and help people in their lives who may be struggling as well.
Having to explain my dietary lifestyle to anyone in the US or Europe is extremely difficult, and exhausting. In the US, I found it easier to say I was vegan to avoid processed meats, but then would end up with a plate of deep fried vegetables…which endometriosis is certainly not quick to forgive. Once I became more comfortable around my new group of friends in Italy, I began opening up about why I can only have gelato from certain local places, or why I can’t have the delicious fried pillows of bread they eat all the time. To my surprise, they were really receptive to my needs. I hate ever feeling like I’m inconveniencing anyone, but I’m seeing that the more I talk about it, and the more people understand, it becomes less of a feeling of obligation, and more about them genuinely wanting to help me. I realized this when we went to a very traditional northern Italian restaurant for our friend’s birthday. About 30 people with a fixed menu of, wine, fried breads, pasta, lard breads, cured meats, cheeses, etc. One of our friends leaned across the table and asked, “Is there anything here you can eat? Do you want us to order something else for you? How are you feeling?” My heart swelled. It’s moments like these where I feel especially loved. I loath the feeling of obligation, so this struck me in a way that made me feel like it’s ok to be sick. The fear of not knowing if there is an ingredient that may hurt me is daunting, but I realised in this moment that it’s only when I allow myself to become embarrassed of my body’s needs that it become uncomfortable for people around me. I have (often) teared up at the table due to limited options because I allowed myself to be defeated by my fears of inflammatory attacks. I frequently come to fruition with my new reality — that I will never just be able to eat anything without considering the effects. Something so simple in life that so many take for granted. Eating. One of my favorite past times.
I want to rid myself of these fears of inflammation, but it’s much more deeply rooted than fears solely based on pain. With that pain comes shock in diet, painful sex, immobility, self-doubt, and fear…a lot of fear. Fear of it not going away, not being able to conceive, realisation that this disease is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Sure, popping a pill and making it all go away sounds wonderful, but I’m determined. I trust my body to make it right, and moreso, I trust food to help my body get there…to relinquish my fears and be the gateway to living a life without the pain of endometriosis.