Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

I overate for something like 50 years, never feeling that there was enough food in the entire universe to fill the hole inside me. Now, my cup finally runneth over, in the sense of Psalm 23:5 - I have more than enough for my needs.

Psalm 23 is the "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" psalm, nowadays often recited during funeral services as grieving family and friends send the deceased off into the valley of the Shadow of Death. Its message is that as long as we dwell in the house of the Lord, our tables will be filled for us while our enemies watch and perhaps starve. Of course, this scene of a table piled high with food and overflowing with wine is symbolic rather than literal. Christians (among others) seek spiritual as well as physical nourishment. But as in many songs, poems, and stories, the message of Psalm 23 is powerful because the symbols it uses are such important and recognizable ones, at least for me. Few humans can fail to grasp the ideas of "want" (meaning "lacking" rather than "desire) and of plenty ("my cup runneth over") when it comes to food and eating.
But although I was baptized as an infant, confirmed as a Methodist at age 13, and confirmed as an Episcopalian at age 49, I failed to grasp the concept of "plenty" for a very long time, especially in reference to food. It's truly a miracle to me now to feel that I have enough food for my needs.

What has changed? I'm still a well-educated middle-class citizen of a country so overflowing with food that a third of its population is overweight. I've never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, though at times it felt that way to me. What's changed is that I now have an adjustable gastric band that is interfering (in a good way) with the satiety signals that zip back and forth between my brain and my body.

When bandsters complain that their band isn't working because they never experience satiety, I have to wonder what their definition of satiety is, and sometimes I want to say in a quiet, nerdy, Zen-esque way, "You're not listening closely enough." While it's true that a great deal of my weight loss success is related to my conscious meal planning, food choices, and portion control (just like dieting in the bad old days), another big chunk of it is a mystery to me, perhaps beyond my capacity to ever understand. I don't think it's simply a placebo effect (in which the efficacy of my band is caused by my belief in its power to work), because pieces of the mystery are revealed to me in such a haphazard way. For example:

Yesterday I made a beautiful dinner of teriyaki pork kebabs, edamame cakes, and roasted peaches. It smelled divine while it was cooking and I was well-supplied with both appetite and physical hunger when we sat down at the table to eat. The first bite of the pork tasted very bland to me despite the teriyaki sauce and I wondered if I'd forgotten an ingredient. The second bite tasted the same as the first bite, plus its texture was unpleasant. It was moist and tender, but I wanted to spit it out. I think I was probably a toddler the last time I spit food onto the dining table (or high chair). I finished chewing the bite of pork and said to my husband, "I'm sorry, this pork is nothing special." And he said, "What are you talking about? It's delicious!"

Suddenly I heard the flapping of tiny wings in my brain...my band fairy waving her magic wand and singing in a twinkling little voice, "You don't have to eat it!" So I didn't. I enjoyed my edamame cake and roasted peach half very much instead, and although I'd eaten perhaps half a cup of food altogether, I felt very satisfied. I was still a bit puzzled about my "rejection" of the pork, but on the whole, my cup runneth over. I had more than enough for my needs, and the uneaten food on my plate went into the mouth of our electric pig. Throwing out uneaten food is no small deal for me, and I've promised my friend Claudia to devote a future newsletter to that subject, so all I'll say right now is that although I felt a slight twinge of disappointment as I scraped the food off my plate, as soon as it was gone my mind moved on to the next thing (cleaning the kitchen) without any regret.

Hmmmm...I seem to hear some murmuring from your direction...you're muttering, "That's all very well for Jean to say, but I've only had my band for 3 months and I'm not feeling anything like satiety yet!" All I can tell you is, hang in there. You might need more fill, or different food choices, or more frequent meals/snacks. Unfortunately success with the adjustable gastric band is not an exact science. Individual patients don't react identically to the band any more than individual patients react identically to a dose of a pain killer. After taking 30 mg of codeine, some people experience blessed pain relief, some people get high, and some people get sick to their stomach. This is one of the reasons that there is no such thing as DIY bariatric surgery or DIY pharmaceuticals (or legal ones, anyway).

1 comment:

Becky said...

A great read! You're right, we don't live on bread alone... Food will never fill Christ's place in our lives.