Good Enough to Eat

Good Enough to Eat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Good Enough to Eat

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

~Hippocrates

The fast food wrapper crinkled as I freed my roast beef sandwich from its folds. Smoothing the wrapper flat, I placed the curly fry container upon it.

The mixed aroma of fried foods and juicy beef had garnered the attention of my brown tabby. She waddled into the kitchen and climbed onto the empty chair, nearly filling its space.

As I lifted my sandwich for a bite she meowed.

“No, MaMa. You can’t eat people food.”

She looked from my eyes to my curly fries and back to my eyes.

“No fries. This stuff isn’t good for kitties to eat.”

I pondered that statement as I shoved a seasoned fry into my mouth and chewed under MaMa’s watchful gaze. It had been a long time since I had eaten fast food.

As I had been meandering through life checking off big moments like college graduation and getting married, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis had put a hitch in my plans. It was during those years of uncertainty about the future and experimenting with medicines to find the combination that would keep me active and working, when Ginny Dent Brant’s story titled, “It’s a Dog’s Life,” from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You landed in my inbox.

The story was about Ginny adopting a dog and the breeder making a specific request that she not feed it table scraps. The breeder explained that they are high in fat, calories, and processed foods, and low in nutritional value. Ginny scrutinized her eating habits and decided if they weren’t good enough for the dog then they weren’t good enough for her family either.

That story made me take a hard look at my diet. It was full of processed, packaged food. Was I really doing all that I could to be healthy with MS? No. I was poisoning the body I was trying to save.

There are no conclusive studies that show eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, complex carbs and lean protein will slow or halt the progression of MS. There are, however, hundreds of case studies that show people with MS who have changed their diets for the better and went from being disabled to enabled and ready to lead full, active lives.

I needed to get my life back on track so I started doing my research. I learned to ask questions about what was in my food, where it came from and how it was grown.

The first time my husband and I went on our bi-weekly grocery trip after we changed our strategy was our longest ever. We pushed the cart along our usual aisles perusing item after item and turning our nose up at high fructose corn syrup, red dye #40 and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, among others. I felt empowered, like I knew a secret that the woman ahead of me didn’t know as she tossed sugary breakfast treats into her cart. If we couldn’t pronounce an ingredient, we didn’t buy the item.

By the last aisle the bottom of our cart was still visible. We had successfully avoided the bad food, but we didn’t really have anything in our cart other than frozen vegetables, a few whole grain cereals, and yogurt. Then we turned the corner and the vegetable and fruit aisle shone like a gift from heaven. We loaded up on leafy greens, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic and tomatoes, and then decided that apples, kiwis, bananas and pineapple needed to go in too. We added nuts for good measure and grabbed a loaf of fresh baked bread that was preservative free.

In addition to shopping at our usual grocery store we started making regular visits to our local farmers market. There we purchased local produce that didn’t travel hundreds of miles in a truck.

Our effort worked. I changed the direction my life was going and got back on track by changing careers from one where I felt imprisoned to one where the creative juices could flow. As a bonus, I was doing well with my MS and I was down six pounds.

And then I had an off day and went and bought a curly fry that MaMa couldn’t eat because it was bad for kitties. I scooped up the remaining fries and tossed them into the garbage can. And then I drove to the farmers market.

~Valerie D. Benko

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