When the Body Takes Charge

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

There are few things as humbling as suddenly finding yourself at the ER in your underwear, covered by a hospital robe unable to talk because of crippling pain. This happened to me last Wednesday. The pain felt like a contraction that just wouldn’t stop, and there was no way I could turn, bend or twist that made it any less excruciating. Part of me knew that it might have something to do with the heavy meal I had.

I’d had a similar attack one week before, after eating a whole pizza, which was so painful I asked my partner to call an ambulance. He did, but by the time they arrived, the pain had gone completely.

This time, it took an IV with pain medication before I felt any relief, and I was given the order to come in the next morning for a sonogram. They found the culprits quite easily in the form of gallstones. An operation was planned for two weeks from now. Until then, I need to adjust my diet.

Within a time span of 12 hours, my reality had shifted completely. I recognized this from larger events, such as the birth of a child or the diagnosis of a friend with cancer. The focus suddenly shifts to what really matters in life, what actually makes us happy, and the things we take for granted. When I was in the hospital, all I wanted was to just be healthy, to not experience pain.

While I’m waiting for the operation, the doctor told me that the best way to avoid another attack is to eat as little fat as possible. Now, I’m not ashamed to say that I love fat. I live in the country of potato fries, between Holland (gouda!) and France (brie!) and my children survive solely on chream cheese pasta (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I serve pasta with a cheese sauce (and blended added veggies) at least once a week.)

Now, I’m forced to look at my food differently. I used to worry most about the sugars in my food, but sugar is, in this regard, ‘safe’. Now I have to check how much fat is in my crackers, and consider jam instead of peanut butter as a regular sandwich spread. I find myself eating healthier, because I’m not that big of a sweet tooth anyways.

Another shift in attitude is that I pay much closer attention to the amounts that I eat. ‘Full’ no longer means I can’t add another bite, but means I can feel that my stomach is no longer empty. That’s a very different experience.

I’m not keen to go under the knife, even if it is a routine operation and I have faith in the doctors and the hospital. I’m not keen to have an organ removed even if I can live perfectly well without it and it’s more dangerous to leave it in than to take it out. But I’m willing to make the most of a bad situation and see this as a signal: maybe it’s time to turn those eating habits around once and for all. My body isn’t going to stand for this anymore (literally.)

When we don’t listen to the things our bodies are telling us (reflux, anyone?), our bodies will take over in the end. Working too hard? You might find yourself in a burnout sooner or later. Ignoring a throbbing tooth? It could end up hurting so much you need to have it pulled. If we ignore our bodies, they run out of patience eventually.

I, for one, intend to listen more.

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