Saturday, March 25, 2017

I Haven't Eaten Food In Over A Year

Donuts, cookies, even brussels sprouts...

A meal has not passed through these lips in over a year. Not consuming food is a concept foreign to most. 

I wish it were still baffling to me, rather than a way of life. Standing in front of a plate of cookies, I long for the blinders of gluttony to once again shield my eyes. I yearn to relive the nightmares of a child, disgruntled over the scoldings to finish their vegetables before being excused from the table. I hope to return to the connections that food offers: the intellectual conversations over coffee, the bonding through a shared holiday dessert, or the lovesick concerns spread around the plate on a first dinner date. 

It really has been over a year since I have eaten food orally. My last normal meal was July 2015. Since then, I have had a couple of scanty food trials that were disastrous. Living on of artificial means of nutrition, while being completely NPO (nothing by mouth), tends to spark questions. 

Do you ever feel hungry? Will J tube feeding or TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) curb the sensations of hunger. 

The answer is both yes and no. If receiving adequate calories, no. If not, yes. And sometimes calories are irrelevant, and if disconnected longer than a couple of hours, the body reverts to its natural instincts -  hunger complete with belly growling. 

Do you experience cravings? 

Yes. There are occasions when the waft of someone's dinner instigates the recollection of eating. Weirdly enough, I even have cravings for foods I have not liked and/or had in years! I will not pretend that driving by the McDonalds sign does not create a craving for a hamburger with ketchup only, small fry, and a Diet Coke. 

How do you handle social situations revolving around food?

Currently, my airborne reactions make it difficult to have the food and chemical exposure present in large, social gatherings. However, I did manage in the past. Not being able to eat does not have to be an avoidable, walking on eggshells subject.

The following tips are useful:
  • Be forthright and honest. 
Explain to friends, family, and acquaintances of the diagnosis that impacts eating ability. You would be surprised at the support received. Most are genuinely curious. It is a relief not to conceal such a big portion of life.
  • "I ate before I came."
While contradictory to the first tip, I do understand there are circumstances where you might not feel comfortable sharing medical history with strangers. The above statement is ideal for those situations, like in interviews, etc, when it is best to reserve a medical history explanation
  • Plan events around meal times.
This eliminates the possibility of awkward confrontation. 

The post, How To Feel Comfortable With a Feeding Tube In Public, features additional advice if feeding in public at a social gathering.  

If not strictly NPO:
  • Bring safe food(s).
  • Share a plate with a friend. 
  • Order small servings, kid's meal, senior meal. 
  • Most restaurants are accommodating if made aware of the circumstances. G-PACT offers a free restaurant card that is perfect for requesting to "order off the children¹s menu, senior menu (smaller portions, less expensive), or be allowed to share a plate with another customer."

Does not eating get better with time? 

No. Most assume not eating gets easier with time. That has not been the case. The desire to eat grows stronger. I would love to claim that the lapse of days to months settling in the pit of my stomach is sufficient at quelling the rumbling of hunger, or that the transition of months to a year dulls the emotional and physical burdens. I would be lying if I did. 

It does not get easier. One gets used to it though, adapting. The familiarity of not eating eventually leads to acceptance. The acceptance, while seemingly unfortunate, is not negative. It is positive and freeing. It lends the ability to move forward in this way of life, accepting not eating as a new normal, or at the least, embracing the abnormal. 

"The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him." - Romans 14:3