Since being diagnosed with Diabetes, I have made various attempts to radically change my eating habits in an effort to FORCE my body into having low blood sugar readings. My intentions are always good, but I find it brutally hard to stick to lean protein, low carbohydrate, low fat and sugar free choices. I love food. I love cooking. I love using olive oil and butter and cheese. I love pasta. I love baking bread and cakes and cookies. I love wine. So,while reading one of about 30 books on how to live with Diabetes, most of which have different opinions on the best ways to control it, I read how the author had not had a piece of fruit for about 30 years. I immedietly put the book down. I cannot live like that! What discipline this man had! I have nothing but admiration and respect for him, but it made me sad and it scared me. Is this what I am destined for? To never eat a piece of fruit again? It's not like I am a huge fruit eater mind you. I am famous for spending several minutes picking out beautiful specimans of fruit at the market, only to have them languish in the fruit bowl at home, never to be eaten. (I know I am not alone in this! How many of you throw away fruit and vegetables on a regular basis? Admit it!!!!) So, it's not like I am a fruit eating machine, I just want to have the CHOICE of whether or not I WANT to eat fruit. This is unbelievably hard. Of course I want to do what is best for my body, so, prior to a recent overseas trip, I got all responsible on myself, and without thinking it through, I phoned up the airline and requested a 'Special Diabetic Meal'. I hung up the phone and spent several moments feeling quite pleased with myself. I had turned over a new leaf! I was, once again, taking responsibility for my health! I was going to get this Diabetes under control! The moment lasted for about 20 minutes.
So, fast forward a month, and I of course had forgotten all about my 'Special Meal' request. I had even made myself some 'Diabetic Snacks' for the flight because I wanted to be smart and prepared, knowing the adverse affect airplane food might have on my condition. So, I was somewhat surprised when a flight attendant came to my seat and leaned over, and with great discretion and a very low tone, said,
'Hi, I just wanted to confirm that you ordered a special meal for today's flight'.
My wistful thoughts that she was coming to give a complimentary upgrade to Business class were quickly shattered. My husband looked at me, eyebrows raised, as if to say 'Special meal my ass', and I looked at the flight attendant and smiled and said, with great discretion and an equally low tone,
'Why yes, I did, thanks for asking.'
We shared a conspiratal moment of eye contact and she went off to continue her mission of searching out the other special meal passengers. I gave my husband a smug look and said
'I'm being responsible! I have to get this Diabetes under control!'.
'OK' he said, and I just knew he was thinking about the pizza we had the night before.
'I can change' I said, a little too defensively.
He knows me too well.
So, about an hour later, after the first beverage service, a different flight attendant came down the aisle carrying a stack of what I could only imagine were special meals. He got to our row and looked at me and said, in a not so low and not so discreet tone, 'Special meal??' 'Yes, Thank you.' He set it down in front of me and on the fancy foil cover in black magic marker was a HUGE letter D. D for the Diabetic in seat 27F. I noticed other passengers in the immediate vicinity looking over at me. I know what they were thinking. I used to do the same thing before the big D:
'I wonder what's wrong with her that she got a special meal?'
'She is probably a vegetarian, or a strict kosher Jew.'
And to make matters worse, the meal service for the non-special meal folks had not even started. It was very awkward. I didn't want to be the ONLY person eating in my row. I wondered if all of the other special meal people felt the same.
'You can go ahead and eat' my husband said. He thought I was just being polite, waiting for the others to get their meals. In truth, I was just embarrassed and angry. And getting angrier every time I looked at the big, black D on the foil in front of me. Who was I angry with? Diabetes. Special Meals. The loud flight attendent. The people looking at me. Me, for ordering the stupid special meal.
So, knowing I couldn't avoid it, I lifted the foil and entered the world of the special diabetic meal. Mmmmmmm, chicken. On rice. The brown kind. Broccoli. No sauce, but two generous lemon wedges. My mood was spiraling quickly. I also got a salad. A wholewheat roll. No butter, but some heart-healthy spread. Water and about six red grapes for desert. I couldn't find my salad dressing or salt and pepper, although there was a complimentary pack of 'Mrs. Dash'. I rang my call button and the flight attendant came and I said
'Yea, hi, sorry, but I can't find my salad dressing'.
Without missing a beat she said with a big smile, 'You ordered the special meal'.
As if that answered my query. Then I suddenly realized that nothing was missing. I didn't get salad dressing. This was an intentional part of the diabetic meal. That was apparantly why I was given TWO lemon wedges instead of ONE. One wedge for the salad and the other wedge for the sauceless chicken, brown rice and broccoli. I was poking at the chicken thinking violent thoughts when the regular meal service came through.
'Chicken or Beef?'
'Beef' my husband answered. He got a choice. Beef tips in a red wine sauce with pasta. A salad, but his had a packet of Ranch dressing on the side. Not only did he get a roll, he also got cheese and REAL butter. His desert was not fruit, it was some cake thing. It all looked amazing. Was I hallucinating? Was I lusting over an airplane meal? Apparantly so. I was on the verge of tears, when my sweet, darling husband offered me the Ranch salad dressing. 'What about you?' I asked
'I don't need it' He said sympathetically.
I fell in love all over again. I used that packet of ranch dressing sparingly. It was important to ration it out so that it would last the entire meal and cover everything that I put into my mouth. Against all odds, I achieved my goal and begrudgingly ate the grapes. I did it. I completed my first special Diabetic meal. That sense of pride was sneaking back in, but I quickly tamped it down, less it compel me to consider requests of special meals on future flights.
8 hours into our 10 hour flight, I was starving again and looking forward to snack time. I panicked when I saw the special meal flight attendent heading towards me again. I had nowhere to run. He handed me a tray. Are you kidding me? There are Diabetic snacks? I just thought it was the meal service. It was turkey with lettuce on whole wheat bread, fat free mayonaisse and a red apple with a big bruise on it. Overall not that bad. Then my husband got his 'snack'. Some hot cheesy stuffed sandwich, a bag of Ruffles and some chocolate covered nut thing. I did not want my snack. I wanted his. I proposed a trade. My apple for his Ruffles. 'I'm allergic to apples' he said, as if to imply he would have gladly gone through with the proposed trade had it not been for that pesky allergy. 'Yea, well isn't THAT conveinient??' I thought. I was in SUCH a bad mood at this point. All I wanted was to get off of the plane in Texas and find a Whatabuger. Stupid Diabetic meals and snacks!
Now, isn't this interesting? Countless times in my life I have had meals just like this. In all of my various 'get in good shape' spurts over the years chicken, brown rice and broccoli were a staple in my diet. So what about the chicken, brown rice and broccoli was making me so angry now? Simply put, before, I CHOSE to eat that way to get into shape and lose weight. I didn't HAVE to, I WANTED to. It was no longer a way I COULD eat, but the way I HAD to eat. It was what I HAD to do to save my body from this disorder, that, if left unmanaged, promised horrific consequences down the road. I felt like my choice had been taken from me. My joy in food had been stolen. I was suddenly handed a new set of rules. Rules I had not made nor had I chosen. So i wasn't angry about the meal. I was angry about what it represented, lack of choice. How could I regain control and still find joy in food? Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt this way? Yet somewhere in all of this, I managed to call and confirm that I had a Special Diabetic Meal on the return flight. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.