Food, glorious food!

It’s been a while since I put pen to paper, well, fingers to keyboard. Last time I wrote anything was just after my mum-in-law’s death. It has been a very emotional couple of weeks, more so than I expected. And it has brought me face to face with some uncomfortable facts that I think I have previously been able to ignore.

We all know that most people have an emotional response to food. Food is at the centre of celebration, friendship, family events and yes, even funerals. For me too, cooking is an emotional thing. When I feel happy I love to cook, when I am uncomfortable I like to retreat to my kitchen to hide behind recipes and ingredients. I am confident in a kitchen, its somewhere I know I can shine. Food is sharing, loving, joyous.

As you know Nigel and I had embarked on the Blood Sugar Diet – an 8 week, 800 calories a day, plan to stabilise blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics, or pre-diabetics. It requires some dedication and much enthusiasm but the results are spectacular. Nigel lost over a stone in the first week and I lost 6lb. We both felt great, full of energy and keen to continue.

But in between when Mum died and her funeral last Thursday we both felt like we were wading through glue. Everything felt like a huge effort, and time ran so slowly. To be honest all I really wanted to do was to sleep or sit on the sofa and watch mindless TV. Those of you who know me well know that this is not my default mode! I have been so miserable.

People often talk about comfort eating. It conjures up pictures of people stuffing their faces with cake, chocolate, takeaways, and all the things we think of as “comfort food”.  There have been times in my life when I have done this, but what usually happens to me is that I completely lose interest in food and cooking. Again, not my default mode!

The problem with this is that when I do eat it is usually simple carbs that I want. Toast. Cream crackers. Potatoes. All of which are as bad for me as the cake and chocolate. Suffice it to say that with a few exceptions I have not eaten properly or sensibly for nearly 3 weeks. And I feel terrible! Lethargic, with joint pain, bloat and so, so tired.

I did not consume massive amounts of food, but I did eat the wrong things, I didn’t plan meals, didn’t pay attention.

This complete contrast to how I was feeling on the low calorie eating plan, has prompted me to take a brutally honest look at my relationship with food.

Having Type 2 diabetes does not help with my emotional response to food. At times it is as though everything I eat is poison to me. Even though my sensible head tells me that I can eat perfectly well with a little thought and planning.

We all know the feeling of wanting to eat everything in sight the moment that we hear the word “diet” – for a long time I have substituted “eating plan” for the d-word. We also all know that to sustain health, well-being and weight loss, we need to be in it for the long term. The minute that you return to old habits the benefits of a period of healthy eating are undone. My emotional response to stress or unhappiness is always to pull the covers over my head and sleep, or read. I get lazy and introverted. I take no pleasure in food – simply eating because I have to, cooking if I must, taking the easy option with no creativity or joy. This in turn makes me more miserable and tired.  A vicious circle, and raised blood sugar.

So, the funeral was on Thursday. It was a beautiful service. Mum’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were there. The weather was miserable but there was sunshine in our hearts. We shared memories of both Mum and Dad, the flowers were beautiful, there was poetry, music and laughter.

Good Friday was spent mainly huddled on the sofa, in front of the TV, although sunlight was pouring through the windows. It was what we needed. And gradually over the Easter weekend we came back to life, ready to get back to normal, still grieving, but still breathing.

And here is where it gets corny! Although I am not “religious” per se, Easter always seems to me to be about renewal, new opportunities, new futures. So on Easter Monday we went right back to our carb-free regime. Back on track and newly determined! And I think I have a new awareness of my complicated relationship with food. Let’s see how it goes….

 

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the amazing Julia Child

Julia child steak quote

Death and other stories…

Last week my lovely mum-in-law, Barbara, passed away. Not a tragedy, she was 85 and had had a good life. But incredibly sad for her family. I count myself lucky to have found my way into that family and along with Zoe, my daughter, to have been welcomed with open arms and unconditional love.

I first met Barbara and her husband Denis in October 2003, about a month after I met Nigel.  Right from the start they were so kind and lovely to me, although Mum asked me so many questions that it felt a bit like I was on Mastermind! I guess that she needed to ensure that I was worthy of her “baby boy”, (well over 6 foot and somewhat well built)!

My favourite memory of Barbara comes a couple of months later. On a family trip to Centre Parcs over Christmas, to which Zoe and I were late additions. Following a very bad meal in one of the restaurants we were served desserts, and Mum’s choice of Chocolate Fudge cake came out and was frozen! She plunged her fork into the offending item and marched across to the manager of the outlet, to whom we had previously complained, and waved the cake in front of his nose protesting loudly! She could be a formidable woman, but with a wicked impish sense of humour.

Dad died about 4 years ago, and after a few lonely and miserable months in the home they had shared together Mum decided that she would prefer to live somewhere more secure and with care available. She walked into a lovely care home in Hemel Hempstead and declared that this was where she wanted to be, and how soon could she move in?

She was very content there and made the best of everything going on in the home. She made friends, terrorized the catering manager into submission and generally enjoyed her life. My lovely sister-in-law, Gilly visited her almost every day and the rest of the family visited as often as they could – we are rather spread across the country. Her health deteriorated gradually but she was so well cared for, we of course assumed she would go on forever.

Nigel and I went to visit her last Saturday. She looked well and was full of news and gossip about everything in the home. We talked about the imminent birth of her 5th great grandchild and her grandaughter’s wedding in April, but she was very philosophical, talking about Dad and how much she missed him, and wondering what “it was all about”. I cannot say that I knew it would be the last time that we would see her, but Nigel and I did have a conversation about how it seemed as though she had had enough.

So when we got the news on the following Tuesday it was not the biggest surprise to us.

Death, even when expected, is always a shock, and leaves a person-shaped hole in all our lives. All week that hole has filled with memories of Barbara’s life and the effect she has had on us all. Her 4 children and their partners, her niece, 7 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren will mourn her for a long time, and we will share stories whenever we get together for family events. She and Denis were so central to our gatherings I know that we will feel their presence all the time. There will be a lot of laughter whenever we remember them.

For me, I am grateful that they came into my life, at a time when Zoe and I were a little lost. For those Star Trek fans out there, my husband says we were “assimilated”! It was a painless experience.

The next couple of weeks will be challenging, but in a strange kind of way I am looking forward to the funeral. A chance to say goodbye with all the family, and to celebrate their parents.

Rest in peace lovely lady.

Mum throwing confetti at our wedding in 2008
Mum throwing confetti at our wedding in 2008