Revisiting an old theme: Food, comfort and the D-Mom (or Dad I guess too!)

December 19, 2011By 1 Comment

Note: Since I’ve finally gotten back to being on a good fitness plan and eating quite well, I decided to look back to what I was writing in my recent “epic fitness year,” 2009 (I won my club’s “Fitness Challenge” which was like the Biggest Loser only it included tests in fitness and strength improvements too. Bummer . . . I let myself slip recently, but I’m heading back in the right direction again (partly thanks to the food and fitness diaries I kept back then — just following them all again!) But I learned then this was an emotional journey too. What does all that have to do with being the mom of a girl with diabetes? Well, everything. (At least for me). Food was comfort in a time that was (and sometimes still is) difficult. Here’s what I decided then, and I’m deciding it again now:

As I’ve spent the last month re-adjusting my body and mind to life with less food, better eating and better health, I’ve come to see a few things more clearly. First, simply: I think I’d made food my new best friend.

I honestly never thought of it until this effort. When I’m alone at night, it’s food that keeps me company. When my husband travels for work, it’s food (eating out) that my youngest daughter and I fill our time with. When I have one of my many long car rides for work, it’s not just XM radio but food that keeps me company along the way.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before. The trick here is having absence make the heart grow less interested in that companion.
So where did it start? I mean beyond the usual that everyone faces down? I think back to being sick when I was a kid. It was a lush experience. My mom would hunker me down on the family room couch with a comfy blanket and then get me whatever food made me feel best: a sub from Maria’s in Scituate Harbor; KFC; when I was younger, Spaghettios. But that couldn’t have been it: I was thin, athletic and not at all obsessed with food well into my early 30′s. (Okay. I thought I was fat once and went to Weight Watchers where I learned I was just four pounds from goal weight at the start. Oh, those were the days).

Clearly, my mom using food for comfort didn't impact my fitness back then -- that's me in the green. Yeah. Just looking for an excuse to run this TOO FUNNY photo . . . and remember my abs.

I think the point that food became my best friend and most reliable comforter had to be 12 years ago, the very day my youngest daughter, then a brand new kindergartener, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Because I promise you, nothing, not anything at all, can prepare you for the excruciating agony of accepting a life of constant fear, worry, medical intervention and wavering health for your child. A friend’s son was diagnosed with Type 1 recently, and we’ve talked a lot. One day she called me, almost in tears and said, “Moira. All those years you struggled with this, I thought I got it. But I never did. I get it now.” How could she? I told her (and that I wished she never had). It’s a pain that’s (thankfully) unrecognizable to most.
And for me, from the start, a pain that could be smoothed somewhat with food.
Think of how we use food to smooth things out. Bake a cake and pull it out of the cake pan, only to see it crumble in spots. A few swipes of thicker frosting here and there and: voila! Perfect cake. You can do that with your life too. Have to spend an entire day struggling with shots and finger pricks and charts and boluses and graphs and hospital phone calls just to get your kid through a day? Simply smooth it out with some Chinese food. or a Clark Bar. Either works well. And that, I think, is what led me, over the years, to the point I’ve found myself at.
And it was all so comforting. My weight was like my security blanket, or my shroud of grief as I’ve come recently to think of it. Under it, no one could see the crumbled cake of a heart I was carrying around. (Do you see the irony here? My daughter’s body uses carbs to attack her without the proper medical intervention; I’d be using carbs to insulate mine. Not to go all Dr. Phil on you but . . gosh).
So this shedding of weight that I’ve been relatively successful with this past month has come with pain other than the pain related to the awesome workouts I’m taking part in almost daily.
At night, when it’s quiet, instead of smoothing over my rough spots with food, I’m facing them and thinking them through. It’s not easy. I’ve cried a few times. But the shedding of this shroud of grief can only be a good thing. First, I need to be strong and live long for my daughter (and the rest of my family). Second, only by facing down these feelings can I move on to a better place with them. Twelve years of mourning is more than enough thank you very much, and perhaps it’s time to move on to a next level. Acceptance? No, I’ll never accept that my daughter’s life cannot be better (and thus my work for a cure). But I can accept that with a happy, healthy mom who faces it head on and with no crutch, she’s only going to do better.
These days, I’ll be keeping company with my new friends: a crackling fire (I light one every night now, alone or not), a good book, some on line Scrabble with my far-away friends and the knowledge that I’m shifting — personally and physically — to a better place.

For me, skiing is a great reason to be fit. That's me second from right -- my goal is to feel good enough to want to treat myself to one of those amazing Gorsuch ski outfits. Perhaps in spring?

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  1. gigi golato says:

    wow… the mom of a Celiac….I agree on so many levels…..I realised our life is so focused around food…and I also comforted with food. trying to make those comfort foods without wheat and gluten (makes them taste like crap!) and i felt something was missing..but at the end of the day, its just FOOD..and memories are what counts, feelings, songs, fun, its just re learning a new thing..and, its hard…….

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