My diet has changed for life. Literally, in every meaning of the word life in that last sentence. Not only has the way I eat changed, but also the way I view food. I had a long love affair with food. There were times in my life when I couldn’t afford anything but instant ramen and now I have reached a point in my life where I am able to finally afford fine dining. I am fortunate enough to live in a city that has amazing food, with many new restaurants to try and it has been a habit of mine to try a new restaurant nearly every week and I have done so for the last 3 years.
It has all changed. Right now I don’t have an appetite because I don’t get hungry. Eating is more of an obligatory function I have to do every 2-3 hours to, you know, stay alive and not feel like shit. Even when I do eat, I eat much smaller meals and have to chew my food to a paste consistency to ensure my food is properly digested and I don’t get abdominal cramps. It’s still only been a couple of weeks since I had surgery, so this may get a little better. I hope this gets better. Well the cramping part will likely get better, but the chewing my food to a paste bit will be with me for the rest of my life.
The few times I have gone out to eat since this has started, I have ordered very small portions and have not been able to eat it all. Even when I do eat, I tend to pick at the food to make sure all of the food is soft enough, easy enough for me to eat and digest at this early stage. To the person sitting at the table eating next to me, they see a super picky eater. They also see a thin woman barely eating anything. If it were me sitting in their seat, I would think anorexic. The funny thing is, I would love to hork down all my food, but I can’t. I would love to order a normal size portion, but I won’t be able to eat it. Maybe there have been times I was sitting next to someone being overly judgmental of their eating habits, when they could have had a condition that prevented them from eating normally. This is the problem with this mutation. Aside from not having a stomach, I look like a normal, albeit thinner, healthy woman. I don’t look like someone who is sick or someone who has medical issues. I know it is my former self conscious teenager self that thinks every one is looking at me, judging me while I eat, but I can’t help it.
As I have to eat small portions, when I have braved going out to eat, I usually stick to the appetizer section of the menu. When I order the waitstaff give me the “Is that all your eating?” look. Sometimes they will actually come right out and ask the question and I say “This is what I’ll be having as my main course.” Without fail my food comes first. Why? Because I ordered from the appetizer menu of course. I often sit there awkwardly picking at my food while my table mates sit and wait for their food. I have since learned I need to tell the waiter to have all the food come out together, but this is still not fail safe. I could in theory order a full meal, but my diet is so limited and sometimes I think I want something, but then end up not really liking it. I hate to order a full meal and then waste what I don’t eat. I also have yet to have enough of an appetite to order a full meal. Besides, my diet right now is so restricted it makes eating out difficult. The pleasure of trying new restaurants or going to old favorites and ordering my go to dishes is gone. Hopefully only for the moment.
The other thing I have noticed, since I have to chew my food so thoroughly, is how little other people chew their food. It’s kind of disgusting to watch other people eat sometimes because they will stuff a huge bolus of food in their mouths and chew, maybe 5-6 times, and then swallow. It pains my stomach, oh wait, it pains my intestines to even think about eating like that. Heck, I remember eating like that. I remember eating a piece of grisly beef and just swallowing it down thinking I don’t need to chew that because my stomach will take care of it for me. I no longer have that option and everything at this point has to be soft and pasty to go down properly. Chewing ones food to paste consistency takes a bit of the pleasure of eating and on some level destroys the taste. Also, because I have to chew my food so well, as my surgeon called “mindful eating,” it takes me twice as long to eat half as much. Eating right now has become a full time job for me. It takes 30 plus minutes to eat a meal and as soon as I am done, I know I have to eat again in 2-3 hours. My days at this point are planned around my meals and when I will eat. I know this will get better with time, but in the meantime, it is a bit of a drag.