No Appetite: Food Is Fuel

I’ve been sick for a week. I got checked out by medical professionals this weekend, who told me they could find nothing wrong and sent me home with some GI tract prescriptions. I’m mending… slowly, but surely.

What helps you mend? Rest, fluids, proper nutrition. So I’ve been drinking lots of water and being very slothful at home. Eating, however, has sounded like a bad idea for a few days because of slight but persistent nauseousness. So many of my meals this last week have left me nauseated and miserable. Because of that, I’ve been eating as little as possible. Then I wonder why I barely have the energy to make it to the elevator from my car, much less why I had to stop at 10 push-ups during my morning at-home physical therapy.

This morning, determined to put nutrients back into my body, I spent a lot of time in the grocery looking at my options for ready-to-eat foods that would be fairly gentle on my stomach. I figured I’d get hungry if I looked around at enough things, but that didn’t really work; I came up empty, save some grilled chicken from the deli. I read the ingredients for a wide cross-section of chilled smoothies in a bottle, but kept coming across ingredients that don’t always agree with me or aren’t on my diet: bananas, soy, wheat.

At lunchtime, I had to force myself to get all the way through a grilled chicken fillet. Normally, grilled chicken sounds so fabulous, smells so good, and tastes so wonderful that the fillet would be gone moments after it hit my plate. But not even the smell of foods I know I enjoy prods the hunger centers of my brain right now. My empty stomach growled at me a few times over the weekend, so I’ve begrudgingly given it some macadamia nuts, fruit, and a few veggies, and some eggs the other evening.

There’s hunger, and then, there’s want; I’m used to merely wanting food based on aesthetics and the lovely idea of eating, and only rarely being truly hungry, motivated by the growling to give my stomach something to digest.

You have to eat, lest you regret it. When you’re low on energy while fighting off some kind of ailment, you wind up feeling like a wet sock run over by a series of semi-trucks. I’ve got some meds that help me keep my food down, and I’ve been drinking ginger ale and ginger tea as needed to lessen the nauseousness. Armed with these supplies, I’m bravely facing the task of performing a function necessary to my continued existence.

A woman holds a small cup of diet ginger ale

Sickly, yet classy: store-brand diet ginger ale, lukewarm, no ice.

While it’s nice to not be tempted by any of the not-so-healthy food I see – I wandered through the baked goods of the grocery en route to the deli without so much as a yearning look at cookies and cakes – it sucks to not be tempted by anything nutritious. We’ve all heard the mantra that food is fuel, mostly aimed at people who are, like me, overweight and have had unhealthy relationships with food in the past. But it applies to anyone who isn’t getting proper nutrition for whatever reason. You need enough calories to function and enough nutrients to give your cells what they need for performance, and especially if you’re sick, it’s important to keep your energy up and give your immune system as much of a fuel advantage as you can.

I forced myself to eat breakfast this morning. I made it through my chicken at lunch. I had a snack a half hour ago. Lunch is already giving me back some of my sparkle. Tonight, I’ll have some eggs for dinner, throw in a couple of veggies on the side, and maybe even eat some fruit. I expect that I’ll feel so much better tomorrow morning once I have my energy back. I have faith in medicine to put me to rights, but I have to take care of the basics to ensure that that happens.

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