I believe that one of the hardest things to tell people is that they are making themselves sick.
It’s an implication of responsibility where most of us want none.
It’s a condemnation that gets our monsters riled and defensive.
It feels like victim blaming.
But sometimes, we are making ourselves sick.
Consider my husband. He was told by several doctors and medical professionals that he would have to be on medication for high blood pressure for the rest of his life. That is only the reality if he didn’t stop making himself sick. He has spent the last several years working on reducing his body weight, and he has succeeded in going from 4 medications to one half of one medication. He changed HIMSELF rather than continuing to make himself sick and be dependent on those drugs.
For years, I was told that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the doctors liked to do a little dance around the fact that I was making myself sick. They never outright said it, but there were lots of questions about my mental health, how much I was exercising, whether I was getting enough sunshine. Those don’t seem super relevant to a digestive issue, do they? I always felt they were implying the whole thing was psychosomatic.
Now, I’m not sure if I have IBS, but there is no definitive test for IBS. There is no way to prove that I have it or don’t. So I’m going with a new theory, that the way I was eating was no longer sustainable for my body.
My weight has been relatively steady, but my cholesterol has been on a steady march upward. What I didn’t want to consider was that the food I was eating, the food I most enjoyed eating (because it’s designed to be enjoyable), could be part of what was making me sick. And by choosing those foods, I would thus be making myself sick.
There might also have been an undiscovered food intolerance in there, but I believe the main thing that’s helping me regain some control over my digestion is cutting out the literal crap I used to eat. I love Cheetos. They are my favorite chip. And I miss their taste, and licking the damn cheese powder off my fingers. But I haven’t eaten them in over a year. (Funnily enough, I might have discovered the food intolerance by trying to find a healthier substitute for Cheetos; I tried a vegan cheese puff and the reaction convinced me to try cutting out yeast.)
I’ve eaten fast food once in the last year, and even my restaurant trips have declined precipitously to no more than once a month.
The Food/Industrial Complex is about profit. The only way to profit off of food for people is to make food that is so unsatiating that people don’t ever really feel full eating it, and so delicious that people don’t notice how much of it you eat. There’s no profit in providing proper nutrition in proper quantities. No, they have to make bigger containers (larger people). They have to manipulate flavor and texture so that food becomes as close as possible to addictive.
And it’s all free choice, right? Americans just choose to eat the most aggressively advertised foods, which are chock full of sodium and fat. Freedom! To become a growing waste disposal unit. To end up on a dozen medications for high blood pressure and heart disease and diabetes. To be unable to move functionally. That’s freedom.
I don’t always choose the right foods, but I’m making a conscious effort to make those better choices. To improve my eating with more fiber, including what fruits and vegetables I can tolerate. I’ve even started eating Cheerios, which, while highly processed, are my baby-step towards eating more whole grains. I’m hoping to switch to oatmeal at some point, but I’m still experimenting.
I’m making a choice to actively try and change how my digestive system functions by eating better food, instead of trying to medicate my way out of a syndrome I might not even have. So far, I’ve made more progress in 30 days than I had in the last 6+ years since the original IBS diagnosis. I’m going to stay the course and see where these choices lead me.