I love Thanksgiving. I can't say I've always loved the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal and I know I didn't like the parade when I was little ("GEEZE, do we really have to watch that AGAIN? And eat that AGAIN?? And have turkey and dressing with gravy the next day, too??") But, with only one exception (that I can remember), I have eaten the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal my entire (food eating) life. Although I was about two months old for my first Turkey Day, my grandmother probably still fed me off her plate, so I could be talking about 41 out of the last 42 years (tomorrow will be 43).
Traditional meal means: turkey (and for the last 10 or so years that means injected with Cajun Butter and deep fried!), dressing (NOT stuffing...), gravy, deviled eggs, sweet potato casserole (with toasted marshmallows on top), cranberry sauce and rolls with butter. The "extras" have varied slightly...mac and cheese, pecan pie, oreo pie, banana pudding, mashed potatoes, 5 Cup salad, peas, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie...you get the picture.
Well in November 2009 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an auto immune disorder. I started doing some research and (because of A LOT of different factors) I got tested for food "allergies"/intolerances. I did a test run, (VERY STRICTLY) cutting every single thing on my "list" of "bad" food out of my diet. About a week later I had lost three pounds and was feeling better than I had in a long, LONG time. No more sinus issues, no more headaches, no more bloating and gas, no more diarrhea, no more swollen joints. And...my run times started getting faster because I could breath better. The first time I had a little bit of something on that list, I had an immediate reaction. (It was butter, my nose started POURING and then I started coughing from the drainage.)
For the last two and a half years I have tried being very strict, just eating a little of this or that on the list every now and then. I've also completely fallen off the food wagon for several days at a time. I've tried to pretend it's not that bad and all in my head, but it's really hard to ignore what ends up coming out of my body when I eat "poorly"...just saying. It's interesting because I'll eat something I think is fine and my nose will start to stop up. I'll go back and look at the ingredients of the thing that should have been just fine only to see some form of milk in there.
I've had constant confirmation it's not psychological...and yet, I don't WANT to believe it. I wake up with a terrible headache and think, "people have headaches for other reasons..." but...how can I ignore the fact that when I'm eating "well" I don't usually have headaches, or gas (yes, seriously)?? How can I ignore the fact that when I am eating "well" (the right amounts of the right kinds of food), I can move my joints freely and have energy but when I have a "treat" my hands swell up and the scale shows an extra three pounds? (Yes, seriously, three pounds...and, no, I didn't eat 10,500 extra calories to gain them!)
Thanksgiving 2010 was at my sister-in-law's house for the big FOOD day; I brought my own lunch. Salad greens, no-butter turkey, raw almonds, salad dressing with no garlic, egg or dairy (do you have any idea how hard that is to find without making your own??), and I had Skittles for desert. I was so proud of myself. I resisted and I felt great, physically. But it came at a cost. I missed out on the TASTE of all that good food!! Sure, there are substitutes, but they aren't the same. No-cajun-butter-turkey, and sweet potatoes with no marshmallows are NOT even close to the same.
Sometimes I think I "need" to eat "bad" to remind me why I restrict myself 90ish% of the time... You know, "remember, THIS doesn't feel good..." The problem is, the worst of the effects aren't immediate but the good taste of the food is. Sure, it may only there for a few seconds (until the next bite goes in), but it's instantaneously rewarding. However, the fall-out on my body is far reaching. Not just heartburn, headaches, gas, bloating, diarrhea, three extra pounds for a few days (due to inflammation...yes, sometimes it really is "just water"...), irritability, pimple out-breaks...there is emerging "evidence" that these immune responses** are the "cause" of auto-immune problems (including the one I have, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis).
**Let me be clear. I had a blood test (which some experts have said is not reliable, and others swear by) that showed a list of foods which cause an IgG immune response in my body. An "allergy" in the traditional sense of the word is an IgE response. I'm not saying headaches and gas are immune responses...but it's interesting that the foods on my list cause bodily "issues" that I don't see with other foods.
Last year I ate the Thanksgiving meal. I was very careful leading up to the big day because I had a 5K race that morning and I wanted to do well (and I did!). But that afternoon, I thew caution to the wind and ate the turkey and dressing and eggs and banana pudding and Oreo pie. And it all tasted delicious. I knew the effects would pass, and they did.
Last Friday night I ate PIZZA. It was delicious. I got up early the next morning and ran 12 miles and it hurt WAY more than it would have if I had eaten plain grilled chicken and steamed veggies. As I ran, I thought about that pizza and tried to decide if the temporary taste was worth what I was going through. And, I tried to decide how I could really KNOW that particular run would have felt better otherwise. Maybe it still would have felt just as bad?
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I feel like either way I'll lose. If I don't eat all the yummy food, I lose the desired experience of delicious food but I also lose the undesired ill effects (all temporary, unless it really does trigger the immune response responsible for preventing my body from fighting off cancer.....yes, seriously, that's what some people are saying). If I eat the food I lose what I view as self-control and honor for my body. (And I as I type this my taste buds are SCREAMING, "WE ARE PART OF THE BODY TOO!!! WE COUNT FOR SOMETHING!!!")
Yes, there are substitute foods, but they aren't the same. Keep in mind, we aren't talking about gluttony and I'm not talking about wanting to snort cocaine. It's food. "Healthy" food. (Hey, banana pudding has milk and bananas in it...). I work out A LOT. WAY MORE THAN AN AVERAGE PERSON. Let's be clear, I work out enough that I "should" be able to eat WAY more food than I really do. I have the metabolism of a snail....maybe of a rock. But I'm not talking about amounts of food, and I'm not talking about eating a "treat" (like no-milk chocolate chips or an occasional spoonful of no-milk cake frosting). I'm talking about eating "normal food" that my body doesn't like as much as my taste buds do! Is it worth it?? More to the heart of what's going on inside of me...is it a sin?