Monday, January 12, 2009

Nutritional Assessment

Today I had a "nutritional assessment". I talked about what I eat every day and my entire history with food while a thin woman took notes about it. (In all fairness, I liked her--she was nice, easy to talk to and very helpful.) It was actually kind of exhausting. (Did you have to clean your plate? Was food used as a reward? Do you have religious restrictions? When you say you have a bowl of cereal, how big is the bowl? What kind of milk? And so on.)

There were these pieces of crazy, wobbly rubber food everywhere--some of it looked frighteningly real, while some of it resembled cat vomit. I've been to a nutritionist once before, and this one did the same thing as the other one--picked up pieces of the rubber food for emphasis while she spoke.

I was reminded of this movie I rented years ago called "Eating". It came out in the late 1980s or early 1990s; I believe it was a Canadian film. One of the characters in the movie was filming a documentary about women and their relationships to food for her thesis. The "mockumentary" parts of the movie were what made the movie good, in my opinion--women talking about what their specific comfort foods were, among other things. Fiction or nonfiction, much of it was incredibly personal. Even though it was a scripted film, it felt very intimate. I checked a few years ago, but was unable to find it on DVD.

I have watched that movie with different female friends two or three separate times, and it always provoked conversations that were every bit as interesting as those included in the film (which was probably the whole point). I think everyone's relationship to food is incredibly personal (how could it not be?) but I don't know if it's as fraught with conflict for men as it is for women. I suppose it could be argued that the issue transcends gender and just depend on the individual, but a lot of women like to eat when they get together--happy, sad, or otherwise. One of my female friends and I used to have what we called chocolate parties--everything we brought had to have chocolate in it somewhere. Another of my friends--who is an amazing cook and loves food--asked me, "Who will I eat with [after you have surgery]?"

"Me," I answered. "I can still have a couple of bites." (I can also inhale...deeply.)

I didn't learn much about nutrition growing up. I know a lot of people didn't, particularly if they are my age or older. As a friend of mine in his 60s put it, "It just wasn't done [then]." Nutrition is truly a luxury item when you are worried about being able to afford food to eat at all.

I have a vague recollection of a food pyramid being addressed in school at some point. I also remember, as a child, ferociously coveting the picture of the breakfast pictured on the side of many cereal boxes of the day. The photos included the cereal in question, but also juice, toast, AND eggs, if I remember correctly. It was a veritable fiesta of cholesterol and sugar and more food than I could imagine having to choose from at one time, then or now.

I have a couple of assignments to do before I see the nutritionist again next month. I have to write about my relationship to food in quite some detail. I also have to keep a food and exercise journal for the next six months and probably the indefinitely foreseeable future. It includes what vitamins I take, how much water I drink, and what exercise I do every day. The nutritionist told me that the main concern of insurance is to track my weight over the six-month period, ensure I show up for appointments, that sort of thing, but they say they require this journal as well.

None of these specialists can tell anyone what surgery to have, but they can make recommendations. The one I saw today also recommended gastric bypass for me, due to my sweet tooth and several other factors. She thought stomach sleeve gastrectomy might be even better, but insurance isn't covering it yet because it is still considered experimental.

Truthfully, I'm already annoyed by the food journal, and this is DAY ONE. I'm writing down how many calories is in the food if I know it, and a lot of the amounts are still branded into my brain from my eating disorder days. I really, really, REALLY hate being told what to do when it comes to diet and exercise, for obvious reasons. "Chafe against" would probably be more accurate. (This is why, in part, I believe this surgery will work for me. If I eat the food and the food makes me sick, I have enough respect for my body to listen to what it's telling me to do and do it. After all, I live in there. Listening to someone tell me what they think I should do, when they have no concept of what it truly means to live in there, on the other hand...)

The drill sergeant approach to weight loss absolutely does not, will not, cannot fly with me, and I was open about that with the nutritionist. I don't think humiliation motivates most human beings to do anything but self-destruct and/or rebel, and I think the medical profession is just beginning to figure this out.

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Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other
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