On the eve to New Year’s Eve, I spent the most amount of time sitting than I ever have in almost two years. From morning until evening, I was sitting - in the pickup truck, in the house, in the truck again, and then briefly and succinctly, at home because I had to eat dinner.
My legs felt stiff and my bones felt sore. My abdomen was distended, stomach on fire, as if the lack of motility exacerbated the backup in my intestines.
I was expected to eat every meal as I always do. Without an appetite, or an option to stick to my schedule, I tried to adjust - less carbs and less calories - which I accomplished without much effort since I wasn’t hungry. By evening, the time I reached home, I had to eat dinner and I ended up deviating from the original null-carb plan by eating one of the best sweet potatoes I had ever had in my possession.
Smaller than usual, so less carbs and calories, but still satisfying, the sweet potato’s innards were like custard. The flesh was a bright, deep, opaque red-orange. I could almost touch the detoxifying affects that came with its promise of vitamins A, C, and other. As I swallowed it with regret because of my lack of hunger and therefore appreciation, I could almost feel the pores in my skin contract so that the much talked about beauty effects of the low-glycemic root vegetable seemed to be working its magic as I was consuming it. That is how amazing that sweet potato was.
But yesterday, as tortured as I was with my protruding stomach jutting out of my 80-pound frame, and my complete and utter lack of movement, was also blessed.
I saw my brother and I reflected in my baby cousins: An older brother and younger sister. I saw us growing up. I saw me gathering my dolls, and he sitting on the floor, legs sprawled beneath him as he fiddled with plastic figurines and video game controllers.
I saw us in our pajamas on a day off from school watching cartoons.
I heard my mother when my aunt asked if they were hungry and wanted pancakes for breakfast.
I saw them eat with abandon. They had chocolate marble coffee cake and cereal. They had apple juice and chicken nuggets and a cheeseburger with fries that were actual potatoes fried in oil derived from something other than olives, avocado, or coconut. They chomped on m&ms and sipped on soup. But they were mobile- running back and forth: She was pushing her cabbage patch doll in a stroller and he was running to and fro, crouched, to pick up pieces of his toys. They were both so volatile, almost levitating above ground in spite of the food. The food was their fuel.
Why couldn’t it be mine?
My parents and I left the house before sunrise to travel to the off-the-grid location of my aunt’s place where it snowed every few hours. I packed up a hard boiled organic brown egg and snack pack of dry roasted edamame for breakfast. They stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts to buy coffee and breakfast. My mother picked up a coffee roll - a serpentine piece of fried and glazed dough shaped into a circle. My father picked up a coffee cake muffin - a spongy body that was spotted with caramelized cinnamon sugar and a muffin top laced with confectioners sugar, the crumble most likely solidified into clumps with butter.
“I always used to buy these,” my father said. I remembered eating them once in a while as well- feeling full afterwards.
We all reminisced about the days my father would drop my mother and I off to work and high school. The Dunkin’ Donuts employees of yesteryear knew our orders by heart. We spoke about how amazing the bagels we had in the deli next door were. They were slathered in butter and roasted on a metal flat top, lending an old school flair of toasty goodness from the antiquated heating mechanism.
I couldn’t believe how many more calories they were consuming for breakfast. I grew anxious- was I sabotaging my recovery? I never questioned my more holistic choices of food and never once considered having what they did, but I did question whether or not my decision to eat less calories was warranted.
At lunch, my mother had a carry out fish sandwich with the same French fries my cousins had. I saw my aunt carving through the on-site-baked cake we brought from our local farmers market.
Everyone was eating and for the most part, sitting. I reluctantly swallowed my pumpkin spice-spiked 0% Icelandic yogurt and then my 2 Tablespoons of raw cashew butter. The flavors were delicious, but I lacked an appetite and there were at most 12 g of carbs.
That’s why I opted for the baby sweet potato for dinner: balance, I thought.
This entire week, I have sat it out. On New Year’s Eve, I decided to wear something other than the joggers and Johns Hopkins Medical School crew neck despite the fact that I had no intention of removing my new heavy wool coat. I put on a boxy heather gray cable knit mock turtleneck and a pair of white and grey printed sweater leggings.
Perhaps due to the massive bloat or the significantly less movement over the last eight days due to my lack of privacy at home with people having off from work, the sweater leggings were not slipping down, instead slightly contouring themselves a little more to my still underweight figure.
But then my parents left for less than an hour and I bolted outside, walking with abandon but stressed, racing against the clock to arrive home before they came back. The nausea and bloating were dissipating with every step I took along the winded paths of the town where I lived. And for the rest of the day, the leggings were not only threatened, but were slipping down, my hand permanently fixated at my left hip bone to prevent a wardrobe malfunction. Most likely the leggings’ waistband stretched out a bit during the day, but I still feel I gained.
I gained energy to walk. I gained a clarity that enabled me to go through the motions of New Years Eve relatively unscathed by the usual arguments. I gained an inkling of faith: I made two pit stops, one at St. Bernard’s where I dabbed my forehead wth holy water, knelt in prayer, and lit a candle, and one at Gurudwara, bowing, folding my hands in prayer, and serving sacred offerings to other Sikhs before braving the task of consuming a bite-size of the offering made from equal parts ghee, sugar, atta - a stoneground wheat flour, and water.
I planned to consume less than what I should be having for dinner today. Treatment keeps being brought up, but I’m adamant to not undergo it. This all begs the question then, with only a little more than an hour to spare until dinner: will I go through with eating less than I should be? Or will I recover sometime this year?