If our homes are filled with candy/cake/chocolate/brownies/ice cream/cookies is the act of eating it really an indulgence? If we give into desert on a daily or weekly basis? What happens when your child gets multiple food allergies and whole group of foods are taken away without a say in the matter?
These are questions I’ve pondered as of late because I’ve been binge-eating baked goods, like cookies, to “handle” the stress (and responsibility) of my son’s life-threatening food allergies (and current, on-going asthma crisis). When I’m without him; either at home during a nap or after bedtime or on those occasions when I’m out “in the world”, I eat almost non-stop. I stop and grab a coffee and a gigantic walnut chocolate chip cookie. At home, I’ll munch on cookies, brownies, a cup Stewart’s ice cream. My husband and I have started a weekly, if not daily, tradition of eating a dairy or nutty filled treats once Miles is in bed. Mostly this happens because for my husband, food is all around his daily work life. EVERY meeting is catered or at a restaurant. So he brings home the leftover carrot cake, chocolate cake, cookies, brownies. I don’t think we’ve talked about it, but I think its our way to feel less “without” or “restricted” by Miles’ medical diagnosis. Without discussing it, we’ve turned it into a way to bond with each other after a long day.
In addition, I’ve trained myself to believe that I “deserve” to indulge due to the high stress and responsibility I feel every day. Food allergies are an interesting medical condition. There are no treatments or a cure. Many people don’t understand the diagnosis (I knew NOTHING until the diagnosis came pouring in). It is the sole responsibility of the caretaker to practice strict avoidance of whatever food the child is allergic to. That’s a lot of pressure, especially when a handful of goldfish crackers spilled on a slide in a public playground can turn into an emergent trip to the hospital if I’m not watching my son like a hawk. Or sippy cups at a playdate have milk in them. Or a relative comes over to play and forgets to wash their face and Miles ends up with kiss-shaped hive break-outs on his face. Or most of the “food” in boxes are processed to an inch of their life with soy and dairy proteins to aid in shelf life. Or at the public library, I allow Miles play with the train table, play kitchen, puzzles and on his way home he wipes his eyes and they swell shut because his hands are covered in peanut/walnut/dairy dust from the 100’s of kids who’ve played with the toys before him -I drive home crying because the guilt is heavy- I forgot to wash his hands the moment he stopped playing. The scenarios are endless because…well…food is everywhere and omnipresent and can be confusing (have you read a food label recently?)
I do have perspective that life with his allergies will get easier to deal as he grows and matures to understand and play apart in his own safety. He “might” also grow out of some of them. Or a cure or treatment will be found. But in the meantime, I’m left with weekly “two steps forward…four steps back” feeling, as we’re good for a few days then he’ll be exposed to something, emergent care by me is needed, and then my heart will tear and I’m back to level red. He’s also more aware that something’s going on in his body, so he’s starting to scratch/tear at his skin and cry the moment he feelings tinglly and heat from the hives…. or worse. On the outside, my reaction is calm and reassuring as I give him a gigantic dose of Benadryl but on the inside I’m a wreck. Due to my extreme “helicopter” parenting, Miles has not had an anaphylactic reaction since his first, due to a teaspoon of plain organic yogurt on December 9, 2009, but that pressure of “been anaphylactic free since December 10, 2009” can be overwhelming….so I eat. and eat.
Due to Miles’ severity to these foods- dairy, soy, tree nuts and peanuts- we don’t have these ingredients in our home. At all. Nothing. Again, this rule might change as Miles gets older. But in case anything was to happen to me or my husband, ANYONE could come into the house and be able to feed Miles without worry. In addition, I want Miles to grow up knowing that his home is a safe home. Miles will have endless occasions where he will have to say “no I can’t eat that it will make me sick” that I feel home is not a place that needs to happen. So Charles & I are left without much gastronomical contact with stinky cheeses, tofu, edemame, peanut butter, or the many glorious things that contain tree nuts that we;ve been accustom to eating.. So bring-on those catering leftover carrot cakes and cookies! Thank you catered meetings- Yumm-o!
Last Friday night, a lightbulb finally went on. Without even thinking about it, I ate half of a container of Newman’s Ginger & Cream cookies. After I was done. I sat very quiet and thought- what am I doing to myself? I started thinking about all those times (every day) that I indulged in a triple-cheese pizza or gigantic cheese plate or cookie or brownie. I was supposed to run a local 5k the next morning but decided my time would be better spent re-joining Weight Watchers. I can run and run and run but if I’m eating enough for 3 people, then I’ll never see a healthier me. You see, I’m a lifetime member, a true believer in the program because if you use it correctly its simple a way to manage what exactly you eat (their point system encourages you to choose high fiber low-fat choices) and the portions of said food. You don’t have to buy their stuff- which I never have. So on Saturday morning, I got my anxious ass to the morning meeting. I filled out the forms and cried uncontrollably when the WW staff member said “194.4”. I almost collapsed to a puddle of fat and tears. But knew I needed to move on into the group room…
NOTE: This is the first installment of my monthly series, my binge eating secret, documenting my Weight Watchers journey …stay tuned. – Christina