The great food philanderer: Finding love in the produce section

Some of the best rewards in life come after you’ve had to muddle through and conquer something, according to a fortune cookie message somewhere in aisle six of your local grocery store. This can be said about relationships, too.

It’s been a strained journey, but Healthy Food and I have grown a lot closer in recent years. It’s become my one and only – at least, that’s how I know it needs to be.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve cheated various times with bits of Cheese (not to be confused with chèvre, goat cheese, which is acceptable), refined Sugar, and that great philanderer of all, Gluten (it also goes by other names, like Wheat, Barley, etc., the trickster. You’ve probably met it on the street corner, at a hotdog stand).

Let me start at the beginning, when Healthy Food and I first met. I’d always heard about it growing up. We even met on occasion, although I had a skewed view of it. From an early age, I associated it with those floozies, Whole Wheat, Whole Grains and Dairy. I always knew Sugar was not to be trusted, but I still kept it close to my side, like one of those good-for-nothing high school friends you hung out with because you didn’t have any better options, besides your inanimate stuffed animals.

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t realize what a poisonous, abusive relationship I had been in with Wheat. I stopped seeing it in November of 2011, vowing never to grant it admittance into my home or stomach again. I pined for it. I craved it. I NEEDED it. It was my addiction, or one of them. I recalled all the times I’d savored bread, muffins, cakes, coffeecakes, strudels, donuts, cookies, biscuits, sauces, gravies, crackers, breading and the like. They were all such good memories, though they were edged in poison, spreading through my body like an infection.

It wasn’t long after I broke up with Wheat that I had to break up with another love of mine, Dairy. I remember saying to myself months prior to dumping it, “Getting rid of Wheat is hard enough, but I’d die without Dairy. Thank goodness, I still have that.” Two breakups in less than five months was heart wrenching, and everything that had once seemed familiar to my taste buds was gone. I’d practically survived being a poor college student by eating cheap crackers, cereal and milk for every meal.

Like most breakups, I cried a lot, didn’t want to eat (because I didn’t know what I could eat) and felt like the world was out to get me. I couldn’t go anywhere without being constantly reminded of them. I went to the grocery store, and in every aisle, there they were. I went out to eat, and contained in every menu item, there they were. I’d go home or visit friends, and there they were, sitting on the counter or dinner table taunting me, reminding me of what I’d given up. My friends and family kept forgetting that I’d broken up with Wheat and Dairy, and when I’d have to remind them, they’d get a little embarrassed. They still had seemingly pleasant relationships with them, but I knew the ugly sides of Wheat and Dairy better than most. I’d seen them charm and ruin me.

I was in love, but I was hurt, time and time again. My body couldn’t take it. I was inflamed by the memory of its touch. (Literally. Gluten causes inflammation.)

Though I was still a bit hesitant, due to the skewed connotation of Healthy Food I’d had in the past, associating it with Wheat, Dairy and all, I decided to try to get to know it better. We went out on quite a few coffee dates. (“Straight-up black, please.”) It turns out that Healthy wasn’t related to those skanks very closely at all. Yeah, cousins, but I couldn’t put that past it. You can’t choose who you’re related to, after all.

Though we continue to have some misunderstandings, every week, we’re growing closer. We’re working through our problems. We’re learning more about each other as time goes on, and I can’t live without it. I wish I’d met Healthy years ago.

To end this confessional, I would like to let everyone know how completely sorry I am for my past food philandering. I didn’t know any better, most of the time, and if I could take it all back, I would. Turning from one’s old ways is difficult, but I now understand the importance of steering away from that SAD (standard American diet) house of sin.

I can’t forget to add that Supplements, its best friend, is now one of my closest friends, as well. My life would be miserable without them.

Excuse the corniness (another thing I shouldn’t eat) of this all. Earlier this week, one of my friends popped into my office to pay me a visit. We somehow got on the topic of how I turned down chocolate lasagna the week before, and how it wasn’t a counting-calories problem, but a food-allergy issue. As I spoke of how I feel when I have cheated in the past, we realized that it sounded like one of the messiest relationships possible – one even a dime novel or a soap opera would find extreme. He then encouraged me to write a column about my dysfunctional relationship to food, so here we sit, reading about my food philandering.


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