Food: The Best Bad Boyfriend I've Ever Had
I love food. Food doesn’t love me back. It’s complicated.
Eating makes me happy when I’m in a bad mood. I know you’re not supposed to say that, or whatever, because then you’re admitting a dependency thing, but where can I be horribly honest if not the internet, where everyone can see it forever?
As a Midwesterner, my potatoes come with a side of potatoes. A hot dog is a snack. Cheese from a can is like, a fairly acceptable thing to ingest. Food is a huge part of my middle-class, Chicagoan culture.
After a bad day, I don’t want to run off my frustrations on a treadmill. I don’t want to do some meditative yoga until I’m more zen. I want to lay in my bed and watch "Broad City" while I eat chicken nachos out of a styrofoam container that’s resting on my boobs. That’s all I want. And it almost always helps.
So what’s wrong with that, other than a future filled with heart disease? Well, the problem develops when food starts to be both the savior and the enemy. I was about 17 when it really starting biting me in the ass (pun intended).
For most of junior and senior year of high school, I could not eat a meal without almost immediately becoming violently ill. Like, the kind of ill where digesting food feels like tiny needles working their way through your body. I lived on ginger ale and saltines. It is a testament to how publicly I adore food that no one thought this was a sign of an eating disorder. My parents are blue collar Baby Boomers, so their answer to any and all medical problems is, “take a Tylenol, you’ll be fine!” After a 50+ pound weight loss, they finally agreed the Tylenol solution wasn’t going to cut it.
The problem was that food was no longer my friend, and I missed it. So after being officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and getting on medication I found to be magical, I told myself I was all patched up and could immediately commence shoving french fries in my face hole anytime I wanted.
I was sadly mistaken. The thing about Crohn’s is that it’s not like a food allergy or a temporary infection. You can’t just say “stop eating pine nuts and you’ll feel great!” Some days, I can eat my beloved cheeseburgers with only mild discomfort. Other days, eating a cheeseburger can mean having to cancel plans because hi, I’m suddenly doubled over in pain.
So why not just STOP EATING CHEESEBURGERS, you ask? Well, quitting delicious things like cheeseburgers, or alcohol, or really greasy pizza, is like dumping a really bad boyfriend. I know I need to, on a logical level, but then just when I’m about to I remember all the good times me and burgers have had, and I’m sucked back into their cheesy hypnosis. It's also hard when even the healthy foods aren't healthy for you–– when I'm in a flare, a salad is actually more likely to make me sick than some chicken nuggets. Diseases are wacky unpredictable like that.
What I’m saying is, it’s confusing when the thing you love is also the thing that hurts you the most. Due to a particularly bad flare of my disease, I’m currently on a bland diet. The bad boyfriend that is food got so bad that I could no longer write off his behavior–– my body’s inability to digest food is causing me to miss work, to not be able to see friends, and to have to go on medications that make me an insane, round-faced insomniac. I’ve met some amazing burgers in my life, but no burger is worth that.
It’s hard to give up stuff you love, even if it treats you badly in return. I know myself, and I know that I will never fully give up burgers, and nachos, and cheese fries. After this flare is over, I will return to them like an ex-boyfriend whose influence I can’t seem to shake. But hopefully, the hold has lessened–– maybe I’ll only eat cheeseburgers every once in awhile, when I’m drunk. Like a cheeseburger booty call. That’s progress, right?