Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Starving Myself and I can't Stop

That's not a topic I ever expected to write about. Before coming to India I loved food. I loved all the flavors, the smells and the excitement of savoring each bite. Food was seriously better than sex to me. I liked almost everything. Fruits, veggies, cakes, pies, Chinese, Mexican, Italian and so much more. Food was my chance to interact with the world without any expectations. Friends and I could enjoy a meal together and chat. I could cook for friends or family and I knew they would love it, even if I made up the recipe as I went along. I loved to cook and create things in the kitchen. I made up quite a few exciting recipes. Some I just may share here someday when I can get back to this love of food I used to have.

My first trip to India in 2009 I still had that love for food. I was so excited to take in all the sights and the smells and I ate everything put in front of me. I tasted it all, and some I found I didn't like which was kind of new for me, but exciting nonetheless. I loved most of the flavors. So many of which I had never tasted before. The food was such much more real and flavorful than at the Indian restaurants I had been to in the states. I didn't turn down anything, including the water, even though I had been warned about some of it. It was an exciting experience.

After I arrived home from that 10 day trip I noticed changes in my body. I had lost 4 lbs. and for months I felt better and my body seemed healthier. I even went to the doctor to be checked because my body had never functioned so well before and I was a little concerned about what had changed. I hadn't caught anything, I had no parasites, my hormones were level. I was the picture of health. It lasted for about three months then things went back to the way they were before.

So, anticipating this trip, I had lots of happy feelings about losing weight, enjoying the rich flavors again - minus the few I didn't like. I thought I was ready for this trip. I had health checkup a few months before I came, before my health insurance ran out and everything was fine except my thyroid. I'd had Hashimoto's Autoimmune Hypothyroidism for 14 years at this point so that was no big deal. I got my dosage adjusted and a clean bill of health otherwise. My stress level was through the roof but the doctor assured me that I could manage that without medication. She was right and I managed to only have one massive anxiety attack.

Fast forward till now. I've been here almost 6 months. I started out sick from something I picked up on the plane. No big deal, these things pass. I ate the food and dealt with the flu-like symptoms I was having. I drank the chai to keep warm. Everything was pretty much normal and I got over the flu or whatever it was. Then something new came along.

I've been sick ever since. Sometimes it gets better for a short while and then it comes back. It's exhausting. I thought last month it was just the culture shock that was causing me to have a negative attitude towards Indian food. I simply refused to eat it. A few weeks ago I started ordering Indian food again and actually wanted to eat it. But now, now things have again changed.

There's a lot going on. Hubby and I are trying not to waste all our money eating out or buying things. I can understand that but he's wanting to spend even less on groceries. I've been buying stuff at the mall because it's the only store he takes me to for groceries and the only one that carries a good selection of international goods. Well, then he saw how much I paid for Feta cheese there. (God that was the best salad I've had in a while though lol.) He got a little discouraged. Now he's back on his kick of not wasting money. So this week all I bought was 2 packs of cookies.

It's okay though. I haven't been eating the foods I brought home two weeks ago because, thanks to this sickness, I'm too weak to go cook them. I sit in the kitchen near that gas stove more than 5 minutes and my legs are getting weak to the point I hold both walls going back upstairs. And the heat has the added benefit of making me too sick to my stomach to eat. I get nauseous and my head spins. The cookies were the only thing I could find that I could pick up and eat in the whole store. We already have sandwich stuff.

So here's my dilemma. Whether it be because I'm sick or because the medicine that Fortis Escorts put me on made me sicker, I barely have any appetite any longer. What little bit of hunger I do feel is overridden by the weakness and fatigue I'm having. So I don't go downstairs and try to make myself anything because the whole process is so physically exhausting by the time I get back upstairs I can't eat. I can't talk to his mom good enough to ask her to cook something for me and I'm a little scared of her food. (It just seems that no matter what she cooks it burns my mouth, throat and tummy and makes me feel worse - even when there is literally nothing in it. She made me fried potatoes once and didn't even put salt. My face was burning!) I used to call hubby and ask him to call his mom and translate but he says that is gonna make them feel like I don't want to communicate with them or something...either way, I just quit because it's not worth it to me to feel like that comment made me feel....hopeless.

So most days over the last two weeks I've noticed that I don't eat at all. No breakfast, no snacks, no lunch. Hubby comes home and doesn't want to go out because we need to save money. He offers sometimes to go pick stuff up but the only foods he goes to pick up are loaded with grease and spices and again, make me hurt and sick. When we do go out he doesn't like to go to the places that have food I can eat, he only wants Indian food. I try to order, take a good look at the food and barely touch it. It's always swimming in oil and it just disgusts me and makes me not hungry anymore.

I've developed a mental block and I just don't want to eat grease, oil, or painful spices anymore. So I just don't eat. And there really are a very limited amount of foods available that I can keep in my room. I'm not a big fan of cookies and junk food anyway, but that's all I get now. His mom used to keep plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers in the fridge for me but for the last month or so that hasn't been happening. For the last 3 days I've been asking for tomatoes and haven't gotten any so sliced tomatoes is out of the question. (Tomatoes and cucumbers are the only way I survived the first 2 months here.) The bread here is really dry and hard and it's not motivating me to eat pb&j either.

I've gotten to the point I don't even care if I eat any more or not. I'm emotionally distraught and depressed over being sick. I'm just recovering too slow and it's worn on my nerves. I can't go get the things I would normally get in America to make myself feel better because they don't have them here. I've been wanting some candy for weeks but I can't find anything but chocolate or mint (I'm allergic to mint). I ate all the skittles I had my mom send me. I swear I'm going to wind up with diabetes because all I ate is cookies and candy and ice cream this past month.

I'm trying to overcome this but my mind is too stubborn. For example I refuse to eat the half rotten tomatoes that are left in the fridge. Which is why they probably aren't picking up more. They think there are tomatoes left. It's just odd...no one else is cooking with them either and nothing ever sits here that long. I'm not going to eat leftovers because I think that's just inviting the chance for more sickness, especially since I see how they keep them here. Things left sitting on a counter when they know there is a mouse that keeps getting in the house, the ants they don't treat the house for, etc. And though I broke this rule last night out of sheer hunger, I refuse to eat anything that the grease drips out of and ruins my clothes.

My Indian family is trying. I can't really blame my MIL. She didn't teach herself to cook and I know for a fact she hasn't got a clue how to cook without oil. She gets all mesmerized every time I do and I have to enlighten them as to how I made something without oil. Hubby gives me these looks and questions what kinds of foods can be made without oil. I really think he's gonna go through oil withdrawal when he gets to the US. This just leaves me with fresh fruits and veggies and ice cream. Which I can't get until hubby gets home late in the evening. I'm stuck.

I try to keep things in the fridge so I won't have to go all day without food but they disappear quick. I'm guessing that's because the general consensus is that food must be eaten immediately until it is all gone, lest it spoil. So my whole jar of strawberry jam was gone in 2 days and there went my pb&j sandwiches as I had no way to get anymore. The store was even sold out. It makes it extremely difficult for me to keep food that I can eat here. So, then I'm back to not eating. It's a vicious cycle that I don't know how to get out of. Now it's even getting to a point I don't want the cookies because I'm sick of them.

I just weighed myself and after a pb&j and half liter of water I've lost 6kgs in the last 2 weeks. Something has to give because my digestive tract, with all the problems I'm already having, just can't take the grease. So eating it isn't an option. I'm paying dearly this am for the grease I consumed last night that caused me to refuse to eat this morning. Hubby went in late to work to go get me fresh, soft bread so I would eat a sandwich. He forgot my tomatoes. I only eat when he makes me now and I'm not sure what to do.

Please, I need advice. Don't be harsh because I'm overly emotional this morning over this already. I'm really starting to worry which is not something I'm used to. I always wanted to lose weight, but I know this is not healthy and is not the way to go.


  1. Its not possible for anyone to eat the normal indian meals when the are sick.

    The alternative in these times is to eat 7-8 "rotis" with a sweet dish like srikhand.

    Rotis are made from wheat and can have no taste at all but they are healthy. They retail for 3-5 rupees/roti in hotels. If you live in a joint punjabi family then rotis must be common in daily meals.

    It is made from milk and can be found in any milk/dairy store. It is flavoury in taste rather than sweet.

  2. All Indian households will have yoghurt (or curd as it's called in India). Yoghurt is great for digestive problems. Why not have that with rice or rotis? Shrikhand as mentioned above is good with rotis but very very sweet.

    Btw, I'm a blog lurker of yours, finally coming out :)

  3. Oh dear it sounds terrible. I would suggest eating idlis (normal or rava). They are typically south indian steam dumplings of rice and lentil, zero fat and usually eaten with a mild chutney but I like them on their own.
    The Indian bread but toasted isn't that bad and try to make sure to get your tomatoes. What about fruit? Watermelon must be available and I'm not sure about mangoes.
    What about a simple veg soup with peas, carrots and whatever you find and powder chicken stock?
    I can really understand your predicament. You are not feeling yourself and the weakness is getting to you. I hope you get better and the bug or infection you have subsides.

  4. I'm going to try some of your suggestions in the morning. This has me really scared. I've just mentally decided not to eat on so many occasions. Even tonight we went out in search of something different (I think Rohit snuck on my blog because he went overboard with groceries and such today). I took a few bites of plain roasted chicken and started to eat a piece of stuffed naan with no chilis. Well after 2 bites the smell of one of the spices hit my nose and I dang near threw up. Then I couldn't eat any more. Rohit was taking me for ice cream and I was too sick to even pick it out. I did make it home and rested for half an hour before I finally felt better. This has just gotten out of hand.

    The only things my stomach can usually handle are fresh ripe veggies and fruits. I try to add things to them like cheese for extra nutrition but that's not always possible. I don't think I realized how much this was spiraling downhill till I got on that scale this morning out of curiosity.

    Thank you all so much for the support and nice to meet you anjana!

  5. I've been reading you in my reader for a week or so. You've helped me realize so much about about culture shock and I need all the lessons I can get.

    I'm sorry you're sick.

    I eat oatmeal when I'm sick. Funnily, the spices aren't doing me much good lately. I add salt and asafoetida to it. Works wonders.

    Eat a banana a day. It's the only fruit I consume. It's wonderful that you like your salad.

    Yogurt? I don't know to cook much, but I add tonnes (not literally) of yogurt to all my recipes when I do. It just neutralizes my inability to gauge the amount of spice/salt to be used.

    Boiled rice and watery yellow dal, maybe?

    Rotis (without the grease) and jam? I went through hostel life with that. I hate jam though. Shrikhand sounds good, too. You'll need to like it though. I don't think peanut-butter will do your gut much good if it's already distraught.

    Home-made juice, if someone can do it for you because you're sick.

    Eat maggi/ horlicks foodles with a tiny hint of spice when you're bugged with eating sickness food. :) That's in no way healthy, but it's something. The love for it goes way back into my childhood, so use that tip with discretion. :)

    EAT, girl! I'm sorry my country hasn't been too pleasant for you, lately. Hoping it gets nicer.

    Get better.

  6. BlogWriter...thanks for your support and ideas. You may be right about the peanut butter but it was that or the kulcha he brought home sopping with butter. I couldn't bear the thought of eating that and just looking at it made me sick. (Normally I like them, so I know this is getting bad.) If it wasn't for the sickness, I would love India lol. It's not bad here other than this....well and the heat, but I have AC. ;)

    I'm glad you're finding my blog helpful. That is my only point in writing it and sharing some of the things I do. I know that if I talk, someone else will be more prepared and therefore suffer less. I just didn't see this sickness thing coming or I would have packed plenty of my own meds. These Indian meds are way too strong for me.

  7. Have you tried taking a vitamin/nutrition suppliment like Ensure or Complan? I have seen them at all the decent pharmacies I've been to in India, just mix the powder with a glass of bottled water. This might help you feel less weak and regain some of the nutrients your body is missing, and at least you are getting a few calories if you can't eat anything else... I have taken chocolate Ensure and kesar badam Complan, both taste fine to me, and neither one has upset my stomach.

  8. Thanks Saathi! I do take some supplements. One is Liv52 and that takes away the naseau I feel throughout the day and I take Triphala for digestion. I'm going to write a review on both soon because I'm impressed at how well they work. I spoke to hubby and he's now making me eat, which is good in ways but I'm getting sick after hardly anything I eat. Even chocolate cake heaven forbid....I must be doomed! But I'm working on finding something because I have to. Thanks hun and have a safe trip ok!

  9. Could it be the fresh fruits and veggies that are making you sick? When we went to visit India we were not allowed to eat anything that was not cooked because it could make us sick.

  10. I got that information too Mandi. I only eat those at home where I can control the washing and such. They don't believe in wasting half rotten or old veggies here so I'm very careful with that. I think maybe the differences in the dirt and the bacteria that is here as opposed to our home countries makes the difference there but I had been here before and eaten them. It's possible that caused some of my earlier digestive troubles but those weren't serious. After seeing the doctors here in several places they all gave me the same advice, to eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as I could, but only in the home where I could wash them myself.

    The produce is so fresh and flavorful here. I really love it. I'm glad they didn't take that away. Plus I think they recommended them because I was losing so many nutrients, losing weight fast and I needed the extra fiber. I don't think it helped much but at least I don't feel pain after eating them.

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