I hated all things green. Mushy orange food revulsed me. So naturally at my first Suppers meeting we had kale, sweet potato hash and lamb (which I like). I arrived at Suppers planning to hate the food. I also arrived with a health history that opened my mind to trying healthy eating, and the short story is that I’m shocked; I love the food.
My health history includes Lupus (a dreadful autoimmune disease), cancer, brain tumor, emotional trauma, and disordered eating. My coping mechanism for just about everything involved starch, milk and cheese. While other emotional eaters described running into the woods to find solace, I described running into the pizza shop.
I’m a research librarian. I’m online all the time gaining the vocabulary around “food is medicine,” but parlaying that into the higher order of diet and lifestyle changes I needed to make required something a lot more powerful than the internet. It required small, intimate, experiential supports. It required Suppers.
When I was diagnosed with Lupus, I wanted to do more with lifestyle, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to argue in favor of learning more about inflammatory foods. I was too sick to fight the system. In the period of a few years, I dealt with the removal of a brain tumor, pulmonary hypertension from the Lupus, stage IV lymphoma and a supremely ill-timed car accident in which I broke my arm. At this point, I was learning about the anti-inflammatory properties of food and trying to embrace my new green and mushy orange way of eating at Suppers. I had one foot in the door.
My second foot made it over the threshold, but only just barely when I attended a special Suppers for women with cancer. I literally fell into the host’s house, so weakened by cancer and treatment that I literally crept to a bench to pull myself up and attend the meeting. To make a long story shorter, the effects of treatments were so severe that I ended up in hospital for 40 days because of all the flaring inflammation. The cancer team, the heart team, the pulmonary team were all monitoring me as I almost died. I got C-difficile, a life-threatening colon infection of bacteria that can cause the collapse of normal gut flora and happens when people take lots of antibiotics.
My home Suppers meeting became a weekly Monday lunch meeting. The nourishment wasn’t limited to the food. I was accepted. Got that? I was accepted as I dealt with my dislike for healthy food, shingles, the throes of the insurer’s denial to approve disability coverage, and the exhausting treatments. I arrived gray-skinned and hairless. At that point in my life, I had no interest in being around other people. I was joyless and skeptical, and still I was embraced.
It was hard to find a reason to live. At times, all I could think of to live for was my 11-year old son. But — as if my life wasn’t complicated enough already — I had this nagging sense that my family was living in the wrong town. My unhappiness with the high pressure my son was facing at school became a big motivator for me. I researched and found the environment in which I was satisfied that two essential needs could be met: I could heal and he could grow. Remember, I’m a research librarian, so even in my enfeebled state I was able to scout out the right place. Eventually, I found a quaint, friendly, small, artistic river town that just felt right. And fortunately, my husband went along with it.
We moved. I changed my name to Skye. I was creating the environment in which healthy lives grow. The teenager inside me who needed to be thin, pretty, and fun to be acceptable yielded to the focused survivor, impervious to the pressure of those early, sick assumptions as long as I had Suppers friends for support and the right town to grow my family.
It’s only recently that I’ve made enough progress to have a personal understanding of the words “how you feel is data!” I had been on so many drugs for so long, I had no memory, no baseline for comparison. I felt like shi!@#$t every minute of the day. No food could compete with the effects of the drugs. And then…
The move did it. I had trusted my instincts in spite of my fears to disrupt the entire family. But once we established ourselves in the town that felt right, my body was finally able to do the Suppers food experiments and my son was happily singing to himself. My sense of deprivation around food — the feeling that drove me to the pizza shops — vaporized. We joined a CSA. Our plates piled high with vegetables.
Today, my energy is higher than it’s ever been since high school. It was a leap of faith and acts of radical support from friends at Suppers that made me eat kale and mushy orange foods until my body became the terrain where joy grows. The social support I got from Suppers made it possible — not easy, but possible — to create a happy future for myself and my family. My logical miracle was eating as an act of faith until my body realized the healthy food is the delicious food.