I have the world’s most ridiculous part-time job. It’s four hours a week, I do it from home on my laptop, and the perks associated with the job are as considerable as they are random: I receive a discount on my monthly wireless phone bill. A free flu shot annually.
This semester, I have hit the jackpot: three counseling sessions with a graduate student in nutrition. I tried signing up for this last year, and the response was overwhelming and they ran out of spaces. This time around, I made sure to respond as quickly as I do when I get the email saying it is time to sign up for parent teacher conference time slots (that is, I drop everything else I’m doing and call J and we sign up for them on the spot, as though lives hung in the balance). And I got through!
I will meet my nutrition counselor, X, three times over the semester. I met her yesterday and filled her in on my recent life. Luckily I have plenty of experience encapsulating what has happened to me, so I can do this in about fifteen minutes, if I leave out granular details and just focus on the major events and the timeline. (I feel like the ultimate luxury, for me, would be to live long enough that I eventually get to the point where I no longer remember what month and year specific key events of my cancer occurred, without a little notecard tucked in my wallet.)
I happen to know a lot about eating. I know this from my upbringing, and from observing those around me, and from having dieted both successfully and less successfully. Plus, anyone with half an eye open is aware of the myriad diets and “cleanses” and “reboots” on today’s horizon.
I also know a lot about my body, and the various changes it has undergone and is undergoing since turning forty, and since becoming dependent on certain medications in order to live — medications which are very well understood when it comes to how they stop tumor growth, but far less well understood in terms of their effects on other systems of the body. My recurrent medication-induced iritis is just one example. Amenorrhea may be another. And this weight gain I’ve experienced, since recovering from the blow of immunotherapy-induced colitis? Do we pin that on the steroids, the cancer meds, my typical stress response, pre-menopause… or a combo platter of all of these? There are other issues, too, which even I, oversharer that I am, don’t want to go into.
In order to figure out what I might be doing right or wrong, X asked me whether I’d be able to keep a food journal. The main reason I have not gone back to Weight Watchers, which I’ve found success with in the past, is because I can’t stand the thought of logging my meals. I tried the free My Fitness Pal app for a bit, but I still couldn’t bring myself to write everything down. When you’re setting up a system like this, it can take some time to input all the amounts and the foods you usually eat. Time I apparently don’t have to spare.
I decided to try to keep a journal for X, just for a week. And I’m doing it in an old composition notebook, with a pen. I’m on Day Two, and I find that the implied scrutiny is both good and bad for me. Having to count the number of cashews I eat seems punitive. But limiting the number of them that I eat makes each one taste better. That I am keeping the journal freehand — that is, independent of a system which tells me whether I’ve made a “good” or “bad” choice — is also interesting, because it forces me to make my best guess as to what is a sensible meal.
Because I have had friends with eating disorders, sadly, I am all too aware of how powerful a simple notebook can get. It’s a mute participant in this exercise of trying to exert control over my impulses, but it is hard not to think of the page as silently judging.
Today I suspect I have undereaten, underhydrated, and overexercised. I’m going to take a nap and see if that helps reset me. When I wake up, herbal tea.
What am I waiting for, a freaking halo to show up above my head?! Maybe it will show up. But if it does, it will have to share space with the sword that is permanently there.