When food becomes a problem

March 1, 2008

That’s a fairly open-ended headline. Once you sit and think about it, one can think of many ways that food can become a problem. The first one that pops to mind is when there’s a lack of it, as is the case in many places around the globe, and people go hungry. Then, there’s the flipside over-abundance of it, where we have so many choices that we consume everything we can get our hands on (it’s safe to say we lean this way in America, yes?), losing sight of the true luxury of nourishment. We struggle with eating disorders and cyclical dieting, where food becomes a method of control, or lack thereof, and becomes a panacea of deeper emotional pains. Then there’s allergy and sensitivity, where what someone eats can make them suffer pains, rashes, or even death.

Food has effected me negatively in some of the above ways, in the past. But for the most part, over the course of the past decade or so, food has primarily provided me with sheer enjoyment. It interests me in ways both scientific and artistic, and can excite all five senses (hearing isn’t involved quite as often as the rest, but still plays a part). It is a constant test of both form and function, and while one might trump the other according to specific needs and desires, both should be considered as often as possible.

At the moment, however, for me food is a problem. I am in the first trimester of my third pregnancy, and just as with the previous two, I suffer from moderate to severe morning sickness. I’ve found that the feeling is difficult to explain to those who’ve not had the displeasure of suffering in a similar manner; and while I don’t want to bore you with sickly details, I would like to share a thing that I’ve been struck by in the past week or so: it quite simply turns my eating world upside down. I become Bizarro Katy (not suggesting superhero status here), doing everything the exact opposite of what is normal in my gastronomical world.

I don’t want to eat what I prepare. This means that if I cook, I can’t eat it. I have not the slightest desire to eat anything in my house; it’s almost as if the very virtue of entering my house deems something inedible; something I would probably eat in abundance if it were at a friend’s house. My morning coffee went by the wayside about a week ago, not to return until sometime in April or May. I have turned up my nose at anything leafy or raw vegetable in nature, and shunned my usual cereal-topping soy milk. I began consuming vast, unheard-of amounts of dairy, including cow’s milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese, cheesy cheese. I am driving through fast-food joints to get sweet iced tea, making special trips to a local bakery to get a cinnamon bun, spending much of our month’s eat-out budget on daily California rolls (ok, that’s not too much of a stretch, but still… daily?).

Can I stress here that this is not a cute phase of pregnancy “cravings” — I’m not the woman in the tv commercial who just gets this itch for sardines and ice cream and sends her husband to the corner store (yet). This is survival, and it is miserable. I spend much of my energy each day trying to think of something — anything — that I could consider eating without gagging. And it’s just so freakishly weird!! I know that hormones are to blame (and those are powerful little suckers), but it is still hard to imagine how one’s body goes into such full, violent revolt.

I was talking to my sister earlier today, describing my various pangs of pickiness, and she replied, “Welcome to my world.” (She has, for her entire life, been what most would consider to be a severely picky eater.) And I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s a singular positive thing that I can garnish from this season of life — perhaps like so many of life’s bitter experiences, it can help me to empathize with someone who lives in a similar manner (though the circumstances are different). I’m not usually an optimistic person, but I’ll take that little glimmer of value-added and hang my hat on it.

But this is what I’ve really meant to say all along: it’s hard to write about food. The only way I was going to be able to write today was if I was complaining about it. And that might be the case for another 6 or 7 weeks (I’ve tended in the past to carry this thing a little into the 2nd trimester). So, please bear with me as I vent, and perhaps occasionally praise a food item that was edible for a moment or two. Of course, by publishing those thoughts I’ll necessarily destroy the magic that enabled its consumption, but so be it. The temporary devotion would’ve gone by the wayside soon enough, on it’s own.

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