Life… you know? Sometimes it can be so hard to write! Let’s be friends on Facebook, then you’ll know I’m still around. And we can virtually hang out– how fun! (Rachel Stankowski, search for me and I promise to accept you… except if you thank me for “excepting” you, I will probably unfriend you. Grammar.)
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m “back,” but I am here today. So let’s talk about the letter N.
Mmmmm… Nutella. It’s delicious on everything and anything, but most delicious on nothing but a spoon. (Or your finger, in a pinch. I’m not going to lie though, I’ll even lick it off the foil covering when I open up a new jar.)
And yet, Nutella does not feel quite the same way about me. In fact, it hates me.
The hate grew gradually, over time, but that whole “made with skim milk” claim right on the front of the jar has most certainly become a big warning label for me.
Made with milk = contains lactose. And I just can’t do it.
Back in my binge eating days (you know, like yesterday, except when those days also included lactose) Nutella was basically my go to substance for the drowning of feelings and rapid intake of calories.
While I was on Weight Watchers,* I even calculated that a full jar of Nutella constituted 24 points (FYI: that was on the “old” points system, so don’t go eating a jar of Nutella and recording it as such if you participate currently)… and I’d save up the extras and work out to “afford” to eat at least half a jar. Because what better to spend 12 points on?!
The extremes to which I would go. I wonder if I can help you to understand…
I would save up my WW points all week and on the day furthest from my weekly meeting, I would have everything all planned out. I’d bring a spoon to school with me, even if I didn’t need one, just so that I’d have it ready in my lunch bag. On the way home, I’d swing by the Safeway on Shady Grove Rd in Rockville and I’d park halfway between the Safeway and the Krispy Kreme because not a lot of other cars parked there. I’d run in, purchase my jar of Nutella and a couple other healthy cover foods, and then head back to the car where I would absolutely DIG IN. When I got back to the apartment, I would pull into a spot close to the grill area near the parking lot, where a cleverly placed garbage can allowed me to dispose of the evidence, and then I’d head up the four flights of stairs to my apartment– moaning and groaning all the way because, let me tell you, there’s just no eating a whole jar of Nutella (or even half!) without basically destroying your insides. Try it when you’re lactose-intolerant and it’s even more catastrophic.
And yet, I did it. Time after time after time. In company, I would eat the Nutella on animal crackers or some other suitable vehicle. But man, as soon as I was alone, or at least unobserved, I would eat it as though I hadn’t eaten in weeks and wouldn’t again for weeks more.
Binge trigger? Maybe. But as the title suggests, I prefer to think of Nutella as a nectar of Satan. Ridiculously tempting and easy to acquire, but just waiting to destroy me from the inside out.
Nutella’s not nearly as tempting to me today as it was before I used up all the lactase my body had to offer. (Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down the milk sugar lactose. Not making lactase is what makes a person intolerant to lactose. The more you know.) These days, lactaid (or as Target brand likes to call it: dairy digestive supplement) doesn’t even help much and I voluntarily avoid things like cheese, chocolate, and baked goods simply because I know what I’m in for if I eat them… and it’s not good.
They say an elephant never forgets. And for the most part, I believe that to be true. Things that have stung emotionally are basically impossible for me to forget. Things that sting physiologically, on the other hand? Those, I forget pretty readily. So I do it to myself again and again with, not so much the Nutella, but other tempting nectars that present themselves… things like alfredo sauce (seriously, lactaid does not work in that instance and I need to stop!), cheese curds (Wisconsiiiin!!! WHY?!?!?!), and hot chocolate (because it’s NOT just chocolate, sugar, and water, FYI).
Lactose isn’t the be all, end all though. I told you that my hands went totally crazy while I was in Arizona and that hadn’t happened since I had the piggy pigs (swine flu) and started getting rashes all the dang time while I was in grad school. At that time, I stopped eating gluten and that seemed to help quite a bit. But the doctor (MD, gastroenterology) told me the gluten thing was all in my head, so I ate it again. And then my hands… and my stomach… and whatever. I am a mess! But, I am also a doctor. Not a physician, but close enough right? And I know how I’m feeling better than anyone else.
Recently, another doctor of the same variety as me (i.e. PhD rather than MD, also her name is Rachel, too, except she’s French** (awesome!) so it’s pronounced Ruh-shell, you know, the pretty way) sent me an interesting article she saw in the Oprah magazine about dietary changes for intestinal disorders and the battle to get to a place that’s healthy, or at least pain- and bathroom emergency-free, in the absence of hard evidence and in the face of everyone in MD-style medicine calling you crazy. It was my story, exactly, except much worse. And it was so validating. Especially because Rachel sent it, and because Rachel likes Oprah’s magazine like I do, and I kind of worship Rachel as one of the most brilliant and thoughtful people I know… so….
So, at this point, I avoid lactose and gluten. When I do, my stomach is (relatively) calm and my hands remain human-sized. Perhaps this food avoidance is addressing something that is merely psychosomatic, but if that’s the case… it’s working!
And here’s some super good news: several varieties of store bought frosting are both lactose AND gluten free. Bring it on, Satan!
*I would like to be clear here that this was while I was on Weight Watchers the most recent time, back in 2010-2011, when I wanted to lose weight before getting married. At the time, I weighed approximately 165 lbs, which is, on my 5’10” – 5’11” frame, perfectly healthy and, dare I say, even somewhat THIN! And yet, Weight Watchers happily took my money and let me participate in full. I even lost some weight! Because anyone can lose weight if they restrict what they eat to a great enough extent and exercise (cardio plus weights!) for a mere 1 – 2 hours per day. Easy peasy, right? But let’s be honest here, WW doesn’t care, they’re getting paid, that’s good enough. And that’s why they let me join for the first time when I was still in elementary school. Nothing better for a little girl… who now eats Nutella by the jar. (Except not really because it’s chock-full of lactose and it would destroy me, but you get my point.)
**I’m sure you’re familiar with the bacteria E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, yes? Well, my friend Rachel (the French way) says it so ridiculously beautifully that because of that pronunciation and the movie Amelie (have you seen it?! SO good!) I would consider myself a Francophile. Science is just better with in French-accented English. It’s true. Also, one time, Rachel complimented my dexterity (with tiny little dishes full of Chlamydia— good reason to be careful!) and it made me feel so ridiculously happy that it’s one of those things that this elephant will never forget.