Posts tagged eat real food
Eating is Hard
I have been working on this blog post for months. I started 6 months ago and then it sat here. I would open it periodically and stare at my screen, type some things, delete them, type some more, delete those. This is a very personal piece of my story that i haven't shared publically, but I want you to know the real and raw parts of my story. Not just the polished bits that can take over when you share yourself online. So I never gave up on this post even though I was tempted to trash it completely. Finally the right words came, but it got really long, so I broke it up into two parts.
Look for Part 2 on Monday.

In late 2007, I couldn't eat.

Seriously, literally, I was UNABLE to perform the act of eating food. Such a basic thing I never knew I took for granted, but there it was. I was in the hospital, unable to chew or swallow and my food was delivered through a tube in my nose, directly into my stomach. Forget room service! I had gastric service that would feed me while I lay in a coma.

On Nov. 24, 2007 I was hit head-on by a drunk driver while driving from the airport to visit my dad in Nova Scotia.

The feeding tube delivered calories (because I can't really call it "nutrition") while I was in a coma and continued to feed me even after I woke up. The tube came out after a few weeks but my body had forgotten how to eat. I remembered what do in theory, but my muscles and reflexes didn't do what they were supposed to. And the empty space where my front teeth had been made it even harder.

In the hospital with a feeding tube, 2007.

In the hospital with a feeding tube, 2007.

My toddler who is learning how to eat for the very first time in his life right now, chews, swallows and drinks better than me at that time. I was severely brain injured, my swallowing reflex was gone, and I had to relearn this most basic skill.

It all began with thickened water.

This gelatinous liquid was supposed to help train my swallowing muscles while minimizing the risk of choking, but my god, it was vile. Solid food wasn't any better. My meat, veggies, and potatoes were delivered in pureed stripes of pink, green, and white, which in my unwitting state, I happily spooned into my mouth. And coughed. A lot. Nothing seemed to go down the right way.

Then came the cups full of paste-colored Ensure, or fluorescent-but-somehow-chalky pink Boost.

Then the day came that I successfully chewed and swallowed a bite of banana.

Oh, hooray! That was such a good day. It meant I could stop eating purées and I was allowed to eat soft foods! REAL food. My missing teeth and broken jaw made anything crunchy a no-no, but oh, BLISS, I could have FOOD!!!!

But it was still hospital food.

My doctors and nurses said I could eat whatever I wanted though, as long as it didn't require work to chew. After being fed through a feeding tube for weeks, and lying motionless in a hospital bed, my healthy, athletic, 6-foot-one-inch, 170 pound frame had dropped to a very skinny and unhealthy 140 pounds. I was officially given the green light to chow down as much as possible because I needed to regain that weight, and I was burning insane amounts of calories to heal.

My first request was for fast food.

There's no way I could bite into a burger, but my seriously loving fiancé would go out and pick up whatever I asked for (often in the freezing Canadian winter weather), come back to my room, and take bites for me, chew it, and feed me like a baby bird. I'm not kidding. Talk about love, and that greasy, salty food tasted so, so good. 

My doctors, of all people, should have known the impact my nutrition could have on my healing, and especially the healing of my injured brain. But all they cared about at that time was the quantity of calories I was consuming. The quality didn't seem to matter and it certainly made my taste buds happy.

Now I know those fast food meals are engineered to excite our taste buds without providing the nutrition we really need, but back then, all I knew was that it tasted good, and made me feel  more "normal."

In the hospital with 8 missing teeth

In the hospital with 8 missing teeth

My Partial Dentures

My Partial Dentures

When I left the hospital, I was still missing eight of my front teeth. 

The ninth was so damaged it was just waiting to be pulled out. I finally had a partial denture made that made my smile appear normal at first glance, but it was anything but functional. I just wanted to feel like myself again so changing my diet was not at the top of my priority list.

Wearing my new partial

Wearing my new partial

I ate mostly home cooked meals, but I still reached for processed comfort foods almost every day. Eating wasn't fun. My partial didn't stay put. One afternoon when I was out with a visiting friend, we went to a popular sandwich shop for lunch and I ordered the roast beef and cheese. When we brought our orders outside and I took my first bite, I found I couldn't bite through the meat and the pressure on my front false teeth would flip them off my molars where the partial clipped on. I ended up picking the sandwich apart and eating it with my fingers. Eating an apple? Forget it. 

I wore the partial denture for 4 years and it limited my food choices in a big way because everything that went into my mouth had to be super soft, or cut up into small pieces. My diet gradually improved, but I didn't know how to eat for wellness and healing. I was wooed by health claims on food packaging and their loud, colorful promises. And my brain injury made me especially susceptible.  And although I was injured when I was 23, I couldn't get dental implants until I was 27 years old.

I just wanted to stay home where I could take my partial out and eat comfortably with a fork or spoon, missing teeth and all. I couldn't think clearly or do much more than get through each day, so I just ate what was easiest. Almost everything had to be cut up like I was a small child. I handled it well enough and I laughed about it a lot. But eating was hard. I was miserable.

When it was finally time to get oral surgery and install my dental implants, I was so happy that I didn't care that I was having invasive, reconstructive surgery. My surgeon removed metal plates, rebuilt my jaw, removed my wisdom teeth, and installed titanium posts that would eventually hold my new teeth. I was given some serious drugs for conscious sedation that made me so loopy and relaxed, I remember seeing chunks of bone leave my mouth and thinking, "oh, there it goes."

I. DID. NOT. CARE.

It was pretty amazing stuff but the elation I felt was completely real and independent of any drug. Throughout my recovery period, I remember being amazed as I ran my tongue over my implants, feeling the new posts that would give me my smile back. My whole face was in agony but I was smiling already.

TEETH. I would finally have teeth again.

READ PART 2: How Eating Became Easy...

 
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Why I Don't Count Calories and You Probably Shouldn't Either

It's Holiday time! This is my favorite time of year with all the good vibes, cool weather and amazing food. It's such a time of gratitude and celebration, and gathering around a table to eat together is something I love. Food is nourishment, for our bodies but often for our souls too. It should feel good. We have senses to experience the taste, texture, temperature and smell of food for a reason. Food is SUPPOSED to feel good.

But too often we just so caught up in the "supposed to" and "shoulds"  of eating and the joy is lost because we've come to care more about how we look, or we guiltily eat junk foods, knowing they're bad for us.

I love food and after having the experience of being "fed" through a feeding tube when I was in the hospital (I can't describe having flavored goop delivered to my stomach, through a tube that went up my nose, as anything close to pleasant), and being unable to bite into anything even verging on firm in the four years I wore partial dentures, I value every moment I get to eat and chew and sink my teeth into something delicious. And I don't worry about Calories. EVER.

The photo on this post is the breakfast I had the day after a full Thanksgiving dinner last year. I am not fat. I just eat the food, provided it's real food, and not too much of any one thing. I strive for balance, not deprivation.

I recently discovered gluten free croissants that I got shipped to my door from Baked2Go.ca in Montreal, and talk about the joy of eating! It's been YEARS since I had a croissant because I have a pretty serious intolerance to gluten. And I had kind of lost hope that anyone would be able to create a GOOD gluten free version of that yummy French pastry. But these... warmed in the oven, that crisp flakiness on the outside giving way against my teeth to the soft, layered, buttery inside... bliss.

Is it "healthy"? Nope. Fattening? If I ate them all the time, probably yeah. But do I care? No. Because it was a treat. And giving myself permission to enjoy a food I love, when I know it's still real food, made in a bakery, is way better for me than stressing, feeling guilty, or hating myself for indulging! All that does is release stress hormones that can contribute to gaining weight probably more than eating the food one time.

*** Obviously if you have medical condition or are under the care of a physician, you may need to take a different approach. And everyone is different. Do what is best for you!

Because of things like stress hormones and many other factors, getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is not as simple as calories in, calories out. The food and diet industry would like us to believe it's that simple though!
Why isn't it?
All calories are not created equal. Our bodies digest, process and use different foods in completely different ways. Take, for example, 100 calories of candy and 100 calories of broccoli. About five Hershey's Kisses would have 100 calories but 100 calories of broccoli (raw) is four cups!

There's not much nutritional value in five Hershey's kisses, and four cups of broccoli is a lot to eat, and requires way more energy to chew and digest. Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 Calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. So while food that contains a lot of fat does have more calories, that doesn't mean fatty food will make us fat. Many fatty foods are also laden with sugar, but healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, while calorie dense, have a lot of nutritional value. Our bodies get a lot from just a little, and it's hard to overindulge on food that contains those healthy fats.

My rule of thumb is to just eat real food that doesn't come with a label or a list of ingredients. If I do that, I don't have to watch my weight because I don't fall into craving unhealthy snacks and my body gets all the nutrition it needs. I like sweets a lot, but I definitely notice that when I don't eat much sugar, I don't crave sugar. And vice versa, if I eat too much, I crave it ALL THE TIME and I have to make myself detox and make better choices. Date rolls (dates smushed up and rolled in chopped nuts) are my go-to to satisfy a sugar craving and replace the junk I might eat otherwise. Dried fruit is awesome that way.

As the holidays approach, maybe you're worrying about "holiday weight gain"? Well I have some good news for you... it's pretty much a myth. If you do gain weight at this time of year, it's probably more of a reflection of your overall lifestyle and weight as a whole, not a once-a-year anomaly, so if you do gain significant weight, take it as a signal that shifts need to happen in your life beyond declining dessert at Thanksgiving dinner.

So enjoy your holidays, and enjoy the food! Don't worry about the Calories, now or ever. Life's too short not to indulge a little bit. Just stay mindful and notice how you feel in your body. If you feel tired and cranky all of a sudden, think about what you ate. That might be more relevant than your previous night's sleep. Eat real food - the turkey, the stuffing, the veggies, the HOMEMADE pie made with real ingredients... avoid the junk - it doesn't serve you. And have a wonderful time!

XOXO Maggie


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