Food, My Old Friend

Well it's been just over 4 years since my husband's sudden and awful death, and today, I am still grieving. 

I am grieving food. I am grieving and mourning potato skins, mashed potato with gravy, french fries, home fries, potatoes au gratin, baked potato with sour cream and bacon and cheese ... shall I go on? There are so many things one can do with a potato. And pasta. My Italian self is mourning and longing for some pasta. I'd really like a nice big ole' plate of spaghetti and meatballs with some garlic bread right now. Or maybe some spaghetti carbonara, or macaroni and cheese (the homemade kind I used to make for company that had FIVE cheeses in it - oh my!). Perhaps I might like some ravioli or my late Nana Mary's famous lasagna cooked with bow tie pasta. Or some fried chicken sounds amazing right about now. A biscuit with honey poured on top. Swedish meatballs. Shepherds pie. Cookies. Maybe a box of Girl Scout Tagalongs. For the past week, I have been craving my glass of coke with crushed ice , and my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee with TONS of cream and sugar. But you see, I have given all of that up. At least for the time being. I have drastically cut all of those bad carbs and sugar and soda and breads , by 90%. So instead of those things, I sit here writing this piece with my giant glass of ice water. Yum! (can you feel my sarcasm?) Welcome to the life of a fat widow, who is trying to make herself better. 

My weight problem didnt really begin until about a year after college graduation, while I was living in my very first NYC apartment, in Brooklyn. During that time, I went through a very traumatic event, and I had no idea how to cope with it, so I locked myself in my apartment and just ate. I cried and I ate. I told myself that if I was fat and large and unattractive, that it would somehow be a shield against hurt and pain, and nobody would ever want me again, and therefore, nobody could ever hurt me again. 

Wrong. I met my husband some time later on the internet, in the late 1990's. We met in a music chat room on AOL. He was living in Florida and me in New Jersey, so I never thought it would turn into anything more than two people who really loved talking to one another for hours. But it did. And so I kept putting him off to meet in person. Because I was huge. I was probably 100 pounds overweight at that time. When we finally met, almost two years later, I had lost some of the weight, but was still very overweight. He loved me anyway. And we fell in love and got married and started to build a life. And then he hurt me. He hurt me by dying. He went and died on me, and as it turned out, my shield of fat wasn't really such a great protector against pain. 

The fact is, grief changes you in so many ways, and that includes your body. So when Don died suddenly, not only was I not taking care of myself once again and going back to my old habits of shielding myself in layers of fat, but my body was (and IS) so exhausted just from trying to live, from grieving, from all the hurt. I developed eczema, vertigo, swollen feet, stomach issues, anxiety, panic attacks and so many other things - all from the stress of the death of my husband. Doctor after doctor confirmed that these things were all caused by stress, and by my body's reaction to his death. I NEVER had any of these issues before he died, and suddenly, I was learning to live inside this new weird version of my body. It was my body, but I was suddenly unfamiliar with it. Everything exhausts me now. Everything is so much more of an effort than it was in my other life.

And so last month, when I went to the doctor and saw the number on the scale for the first time in YEARS, (I avoid scales and full-length mirrors in my home. Most fat people do. Its how we stay in denial.) my brain went into panic mode. And then I got a number on my a1c that was in the "pre-diabetic" range. That had never happened before. The doctor said to go home and change my eating habits. Eat low-carb and low-sugar, and cut out all things white, as much as possible. And walk. Come back in 3 months for more blood work and he thinks I can move that number down with lifestyle changes alone. I know I can.

Because I care now. Yes, Im still missing my husband every second, but I want to live. I WANT to live, instead of feeling like I HAVE to. So, Im trying to make the changes in a way that I can live with. Because I get overwhelmed easily by things that are too much change, and then I quit. That cant happen this time. I need to not quit this. I need to live.

But today, right now, Im a bit irritable and cranky, because water sucks, and it's not iced coffee. Apples are nice, but they arent chocolate cake. Protein shakes are okay, but no matter how hard I try, I cant make it taste like a vanilla milkshake. Im in the middle to final stages of writing a book about my husband , about grief and loss and life - and just months ago, the old me would be sitting here in my home office with an open bag of sour cream and onion chips and a can of Coke, followed by another, just mindlessly eating and drinking crap, over and over and over again. Its so easy to do that when you dont care, and for a long time after Don died, I didnt care. I didnt much care to live anymore. I didnt care that I felt like crap or that I was gaining even more weight - again. I just didnt care. Until one day, I did. And it's a good feeling to be able to say that I now WANT to live again. Even though I miss my husband each second and with each breath. I still want to live and feel joy and have purpose and be something and do something of importance here. So I need to lay off the foods that killing me. 

But holy shit is it ever hard. 

I have to go now. I need to daydream about the cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. 

Showing 6 reactions

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  • commented 2015-09-16 14:02:52 -0700
    What a lovely post, one that I can relate-as I often turn to food now, just to hide from the sadness for a bit. Like you, I am trying to care.
  • commented 2015-08-16 07:15:05 -0700
    I felt the same way last year when I started Crossfit… it felt so good to CARE again. About living. About myself. Yes. I cannot imagine going through what you did, and I can completely understand the logic of how you coped with it. Sitting here with my healthy breakfast and my boring water down south and cheering you on in solidarity! To living and giving a shit again!
  • commented 2015-08-15 10:27:11 -0700
    Thanks Marissa, but I really really hate ANYTHING in my water except ice. No lemon, no fruit, no nothing. And I dont like seltzer/club soda, yuck. So thats out. Ill just deal with the water lol. Its boring as hell, but oh well.
  • commented 2015-08-14 22:17:24 -0700
    If you haven’t done so already, try putting lemon and/or cucumber slices in your water. That may help you drink more. Try seltzer water as well. Maybe you can fool your brain into thinking it’s more than just water with bubbles. Some of the sparkling mineral waters taste like Alka Seltzer to me and some even have added sodium for taste so stay away from those.

    Good luck and I’m rooting for you.
  • commented 2015-08-14 11:20:43 -0700
    Thanks Mike! The doc basically suggested that I eat low carb, low sugar, high protein, and try to drastically decrease soda and drink tons of water. And do some form of exercise. I need to do slow stuff right now cuz my legs hurt , and we are still trying to figure out why, but he thinks once I lose 50 pounds or more, the joint pain should stop or get better, and he wants me to come back in 3 months for another a1c reaading to see if I can get it below 6.0 . Its very hard. Ive never been a drinker, so food is my addiction. Potato skins comfort me way more than wine. lol. Anyway, Im trying best I can but man, the cravings …….
  • commented 2015-08-14 10:34:45 -0700
    Great writing Kelley! I’m not going into various diet plans, because they all work differently for different people (PM me on facebook if you want to know mine, it would jive with your goals and worked EXTREMELY well for me).

    What I will say is this…cravings are natural. Changing a diet (especially one based on pasta and carbs in general), while not as extreme as losing Don is still a life changing event. You can try to substitute things, but it’s never the same. You hit the nail on the head; you’re grieving the loss of the foods you love.

    Keep at it! Results take time, but once you start to see some progress, it will get that much easier.