Monday, September 7, 2009

Part 2: Childhood Food Clues

Fortunately for me, my mother did cook daily when I was a child, and she did it well. She used real, whole foods and it was rare that anything came out of a can. Mostly, we ate beef roasts and two vegetables for dinner. Rarely did a dinner include wheat as an intricate ingredient, but sometimes slices of white bread were available on a plate. This is one of the blessings of my childhood that probably kept my symptoms from being even worse. I was having one meal a day that was relatively gluten, starch, and sugar free.

My mother cooked as long as my father was home for dinner. When he was not, we ate microwaveable meals, pizza or fast food as a treat. Unfortunately for me, my father lived separately from me and my mother for the first time when I was 13 and my mother ceased to cook. My sister was already long gone out of the household as she has almost a decade on me. I was content to eat Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s microwavable meals. If my mother wanted to be liberated from the kitchen, then I wanted her to be free. After all, food is food, no matter what it is or where it comes from- or so I thought.

My lunches were the same as they had always been in school, a sandwich (white bread, processed deli meat, pre-sliced processed cheese) with corn chips and juice. They started to include Little Debbie snacks, too. I had discontinued breakfast as any kind of routine in junior high because it caused me to feel ill. I settled for a glass of orange juice. In elementary school breakfast was usually milk and cereal and it never really sat well. I would often feel nauseous if I smelled cooking fat smoke in the morning. I would snack on corn chips or cake snacks after school. I had a real sweet tooth, otherwise known as an addiction to sugar, as well. I consumed candy whenever I could. So, once my mother quit cooking, I was eating almost all processed, industrial food. My symptoms gradually got worse the more of these foods I ate, but I did not make the association. Food as the source of illness wasn’t even close to a thought in my mind.

My mother and I lived with my father again for my freshman year of high school, and most of the time she cooked again. He left again at the beginning of my sophomore year and I expanded my range of microwavable foods. Every year I was missing more school because I was ill with one thing or another, acutely and chronically, labeled and treated or not. I occasionally tried my own hand at cooking, a lot of times vegetarian, but I wasn’t very good at it and the lack of reward meant I could count on both hands how often this happened. I also began to eat out with friends once I had my driver’s license. I would get a home cooked meal every now and again at my friend’s house. Late in high school, I was tested for allergies, received shots for a year or so, but never followed the direction not to eat citric acid. This was the first food clue. I ignored it completely. I mean, citric acid seemed to be in everything, and it couldn’t be making that much of a difference- so I persisted in denial of even trying to eliminate a source of conflict for my body. I chose to stay ignorant to feeling good.  


  1. Your way of eating was almost identical to mine when I was growing up! Sometimes I'd even eat microwave burritos for breakfast because it was easy to prepare. No one was even thinking that things like this was bad for me because food was food and seemingly harmless.

  2. Isn't it amazing how much expedience dominates so much of our food culture? Now I wish I could trade all the time "saved" for my health and all of the time I have spent sick!!!