Growing up in middle school and even my first few years as a high school student, I was teased several times for how skinny I was. I was asked by several people if I had anorexia, and each time I was horrified and answered with a resounding “NO!”. I felt ugly. I was ashamed to wear short sleeves at times in fear of others paying too much attention to my bony elbows. Other times, I was confident because other girls were jealous that I was so skinny. My sister has commented several times that she is jealous of my thigh gap. Although if you’ve seen my sister, you’d know how extremely beautiful she is and that she shouldn’t be worried about a thigh gap at all-she’s got sparkling eyes, tan skin, luscious locks, and the best fashion sense to make up for it.
When going out to eat with friends, they would watch as I stuffed my face with fat-filled foods and yet never gained a single pound. As girls worried about the “Freshman 15” my freshman year, I was wishing for the “Freshman 30”! My friends are constantly telling me they wish they could be on a high protein/high fat/high calorie/high sodium diet with me, or that they wish they didn’t have to worry about what they eat.
Most of the time I can smile and laugh right along with them. But what most people don’t know is how hard it is for me to eat all of the time. You might have just said something in your head like, “What?! It’s HARD for you to eat all the time?! I wish I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound!” Yeah. Would you like to step into my shoes for a day?
I wake up thinking about food. Most of the time I’m not too hungry right when I get up, so if I need to go to work or school, I make sure to take something with me. Lately, I’ve been heating up a few slices of turkey bacon to take with me, along with a piece of fruit-like a banana or some grapes. I also really enjoy chocolate milk or a hot chai-I use whole milk for both!
For lunch, I’ve been having a lot of salad lately. I love baby spinach with sliced strawberries, goat cheese, pistachios, cucumbers, grilled chicken, and a balsamic vinagairette dressing. (side note: I’m a huge fan of vegetables and fruit and basically anything healthy. I really don’t like things like cookies or brownies, so I have to make sure I get my fat and calories from other things like cheese, nuts, and the dips for my fruits/veggies) Along with my salad, I might have some celery with almond butter, a serving (or two!) of quinoa, cucumbers with cottage cheese, grapes, chocolate covered pretzels for dessert, and a gatorade to add in some extra sodium. Something else that i have to keep in mind, especially if I’m at school or work for several hours, is how often I eat. I have to make sure I bring extra snacks with me so I can constantly snack on something. I have found that if I don’t eat within two hours (unless it’s a busy Friday night at the restaurant and I’m running around constantly so food isn’t always on my mind), I start to get cranky and may feel sluggish.
One other thing about eating is that I always have to take enzymes with my meals. If there is a lot of carbs/protein/fat in my meal/snack, I have to take 7-8 enzymes. If I haven’t had my fat soluble vitamin (loaded with vitamins A, D, E, and K), I will take that as well. Because I am pancreatic insufficient (meaning my pancreas doesn’t work because of all the mucus that is clogging it), the enzymes that would normally be secreted in a healthy individual to help break down food and absorb the nutrients are not secreted in my body. Therefore, I take synthetic enzymes to help with this. If I do not take my enzymes, “fun” things start happening in my body. If you have celiac disease or you’re lactose intolerant and you eat gluten or lactose, respectively, you know what I mean. I won’t go into details, but it’s a bad night for everyone.
For dinner, my parents cook a lot, and for that I am grateful! I like to add butter and salt to everything. I eat my pizza with ranch dressing. I eat apples with cream cheese and sunflower seeds or with peanut butter. I dip grilled chicken in butter. If I cook, you can bet it will contain loads of butter.
I love to keep a pint of ice cream in the freezer for when I do crave something sweet. I can normally eat the entire pint in one sitting, especially if it’s cookies and cream or butter crunch.
Before I go to bed each night, my stomach has to be full or I can’t sleep. You can ask any friend that has spent the night with me.
So as you can see, my life literally revolves around eating. At this point it may sound wonderful. My goal in life is to gain weight. In fact, my goal weight is 132 pounds. How close am I to reaching this goal? Uh…we’ll just say I am definitely not close. It’s really disappointing to eat a huge meal, five-six times a day (not kidding), only to get on the scale the next morning to see that I haven’t gained a pound. Not even an ounce. Of course, I have to remember to do my breathing treatments to insure that I am not wasting calories on breathing harder. There are a lot of things that come into play in whether or not a CFer is gaining weight.
One thing I have to remember is that my body is a temple, and I have to keep it healthy in order to glorify God to the best of my ability. My body does not belong to me, but to God. So when I’m tempted to give up or when I’m tired of eating, I pray for the strength to keep going and to persevere. I pray for the desire to take care of myself on a daily basis, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I pray that The Lord would help me to fulfill my responsibilities as a young adult with CF, because I know I cannot do it alone.
So yes, eating is my chore. But just as your parents desire to teach you responsibility and independence when they give you chores as a young child, this chore is teaching me the same. It also inspires me on a daily basis to keep studying what I’m studying as a nutrition major. This is what I want to do with my degree. I want to help other CFer’s with their chore. I pray that we all desire to keep our body healthy to use it for God’s glory.
“I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.'” Isaiah 41:13 MSG
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20