Sunday, 6 March 2011

Food Heaven? Or Food Hell?

It's Sunday, the sun is shining and an English citizen's DNA demands fried food.

Hats and mittens duly found, the boys and I took my nephew to Crescent Road Cafe. (Home of Zek, the genius food alchemist from Xmas) We wandered down the road in the early spring sunshine, chatting and singing "Sunny Side of the Street"

I ordered "Yorkshire Salad" and persuaded my nephew to have the same. A heavenly hash of crispy bites of mace-spiked black pudding, perfect fried potatoes, caramelised onion and thick cut bacon chunks. With tea, surely this is the most therapeutic sustenance known to man?

Well, no, not if you have Crohn's. Normally I have to drive there, even though it's only a 5 minute walk away. Normally, I order the very same dish and am lucky to manage a few mouthfuls before the niggle starts.  As I plough on, the niggle becomes an ache and the ache becomes a pain and the pain becomes a writhe. Normally, I leave at least half on the plate and spend the rest of the day repenting at leisure, wondering why on earth I thought fried food was a good idea.

Not today though. Not in the "Look at me Papa, I'm a real boy" stage. No. Today, I happily munched and nommed my way through the lot. I savoured every mouthful, every shred of crispy onion, every puff of fluffy potato, every last plate scraping. This is a wonder, a miracle. Can you even begin to imagine being so grateful for a simple breakfast?

It's a chore I know, but my mission (which I have gratefully accepted) is to put on weight. To recover from the bony and threatening 6 stone malnutrition of Xmas. I must eat regularly - every two hours or so. I must not waste time or energy on piffling salads or low fat light-bites. No, I must search out calories wherever they may lurk and cram as many in during these few short months of "wellness" that I can. Donuts, cakes, hot chocolate with mountains of cream, crisps, pies, pastries. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Before you hate me too much though, remember, in a few weeks, I will start to leave a few mouthfuls, shifting uncomfortably in my seat. A week or two after that it will be half the meal. In a year or so, I will almost certainly be drinking synthetic meal shakes and craving a Yorkshire Salad more than air.

Here's a thought. Tonight, make your favourite food for dinner. Go to town, push the boat out. Buy the best ingredients you can find, get all the trimmings. As you eat it, taste every mouthful. Really chew. Notice the spices, savour every herb. choose a good wine to go with it and sip, don't glug.

Can you even imagine a world where something so delightful, so pleasurable, so sociable does you harm? Real physical damage? I guarantee you it will be the best meal you eat all month. We only ever really appreciate the pleasures of our lives when we risk losing them.


  1. Yes I can! I ate a cream Millifflle as I thought after a hard but productive week I deserved a treat, besides I had got through a lot of stress without turning to chocolate. During eating it the Sudoku I was romping though became impossible, I'd forget what I had planed to do after my tea break and had no choice but to take a nap. I woke up from my nap feeling worse and up set at the reality that I wouldn't be going out, wouldn't even make it the 800m to the Barbican centre.

    So from a bit of wheat and a bit of diary indulgence I became exhusted, muscle pain and brain fog that is still here the following day. My breathing all changed and I struggled to get control of it. It's scary to realize the impact of something so simple as food can have on one's condition. When I've felt a bit of wellbeing it tends to be more obvious what the effects of food intolerances are, as I can see ME/CFS symptoms spring up.

    I've been following a high protein, light carb eating plan, I know your situation isn't the same but as irritating it is to not be as flexible about food as everyone else around, it is worth it for me to start reclaiming something starting to resemble a more manageable life.

    In the summer when my immune system is at its peak I do seem to be able to get away with a few things, so I'll save the ice creams for then.
    If I were you I'd eat all the fat and stay away from wheat and gluten, the effects it has on ones immune system are bizarre! Oh and soya milk is higher fat that cows.

    All the best,

    Emma: Twitter account: EC1ecoem

  2. Thanks Emma,

    Why IS it our immune systems are so much better in Summer? I always wondered that?
    I tend to eat a high protein low carb diet with no additives - over the years, I've found it the best for controlling symptoms.
    Dairy however is fine for me thank goodness, even when I'm flaring, so nice smoothies and creamy soups help to give me some nutrition.

  3. I almost feel guilty in saying that I really enjoyed reading this post, relishing your savouring of every last morsel of the "Yorkshire Salad". I must admit it sounds like a real treat; if only Crohn's wasn't such a distressingly constant companion for you, always ready to put a cruel dampener on such enjoyment!

    My somewhat haphazard gastric ailments, of no substantiated provenance (though perhaps linked to the ME/CFS), are quite insignificant in this context. Not knowing a cause can even seem like a blessing; I can always blame the food, and only for that particular occasion, rather than my own condition!

  4. Hi Sue, I'm not certain but it maybe to do with how body responds, it may go in to a bit of a state of sock in the winter, dealing with the cold and all the extra bugs that love to be sneeky with us going from warm heated places to the cold, aparently they thrive on it! Also there may be a link with vit D levels and the uptake of vit D. Have you ever had those checked? The body is such an interlace of intricate systems, things that are slightly out of kilter can have a more significant impact reacting accumulativly.

    Malcolm some of the foodie things that I tried to avoid aren't because I can't eat them but they are avoided to that I can keep a calmer nervous system and support healing. But I have been taken by surprise by the nasty effects that wheat, gluten and high sugar foods produce. As I've started to experience patches where my symptoms subside they became more apparent, the anxiety type breathing that happens after these foods then leads to a greater state of ME and it's surprising to check in with your self and realize that this is not coming from anxiety thinking but leaving it uncheck it soon follows.

    I have felt some frustrations at some of the food restrictions, esp as eating high nutrition doesn't come cheap but I've learnt to take time to saviour some of the wonderful dishes I've come up with!

    All the best,


  5. Actually I started taking Vit D a while ago. I'd heard links with crohn's though studies were "inconclusive" (aren't they always????)

    Anyway, I have osteoporosis, but can't tolerate calcium supplements. My clever consultant suggested Vit D as I eat a really healthy diet and drink lots of milk.

    Aids calcium absorption AND might help the immune side of things. Win win and not a drug.

  6. Haha. I can sympathise, I have a similar problem when it comes to food (though much less severe). I have wide-ranging, intolerances, that basically mean I feel mildly nauseous on a constant basis regardless of what I eat. It also means my body doesn't absorb nutrients very well.

    Result is that despite constantly eating junk I'm 6 foot tall and weigh 9 stone, and haven't put on as much as a lb in weight for 5 years. It does have the advantage that I actively need to eat as much junk as possible on a near constant basis to avoid wasting away.

    Many girls I know say they are extremely jealous of my total inability to put on weight. I'm not sure they would appreciate the constant nausea though. Bless 'em.