I become such an asshole when I’m hungry. I love food. Food forms part of my life. I love the experience that food affords – from cooking at home to catching up with friends over a meal. From creating memories over a carb-fueled pasta evening to breathing in overseas culture through food.
I recently underwent a surgery on my jaw to remove three yucky tumours that had decided to make my mouth home for a few years. I’m sure they were very comfy there as I took them around the world and ensured they enjoyed only the finest food and drinks. Thanks, guys. Appreciate that. I’m not going to go into the emotional shit I went through when I heard the word “tumour” given my family history with cancer, but it wasn’t an easy period.
The surgery was a “unique one” according to my maxillo-facial dude, Dr Chettiar – who is a rock star of epic proportions. They split my lip and removed a tooth at the back of my mouth to cut into my jaw and remove those fuckers.
Baz took this pic as I was wheeled out of surgery. All I remember is being in an extreme amount of pain.
My doctor informed me that I would need to go on a liquid diet for a month following the surgery, because the tumours had eaten away at my (now paper-thin) jawbone and it needed a chance to relax and grow back, so chewing wasn’t going to help. I was told that chewing could cause my jaw to fracture, and that would mean having to have a steel plate inserted to replace it.
I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. I mean, I love soup. Little did I know I only loved soup if it came with a soft Portuguese roll.
I was a little nervous because my body struggles without meat. I figured this out when I tried to a be a vegetarian twice and proceeded to faint, even with all of the supplements and minerals that you’re meant to take when you quit meat. I knew that I had to take it really easy and fight the natural urge to kick ass at work and live an active life.
A typical day looked like this
- A cup of cold coffee (Oh, that was the other thing… Nothing I consumed could be warmer than room temperature)
- Half a cup of custard (Woolies trumps Ultra Mel by the way.)
- Jelly and custard (Pick n Pay comes out tops here) or FroYo (Thanks for the big tubs of goodness, Marcels!)
- Room-temperature soup (Oh, and did I mention all soup had to be further liquidised within an inch of its life?)
- Chocolate mousse (Again, Pick n Pay wins this round)
- Painkillers and a protein shake. Boet.
- Soup and custard
What a Shit Show
What I learned through this was that we take for granted the experience of eating. Textures and temperature play a major role in enjoying a meal. I missed chewing so much and the feeling of hot food jiggling around. I also missed being able to finish a meal in less than two hours. Ugh. My mouth was extremely swollen and I couldn’t open it properly to fit a spoon in.
I joked with my surgeon about getting skinny, and my body took me very seriously. I lost a lot of weight – four kilos within two weeks. I hated it. I felt crap. Also, I didn’t want to lose weight. I’m happy with my body. Always have been. I love how I go about having the body I love – exercise and a healthy diet. Starving myself was never an option. I’m very fortunate to be in the position to choose.
Seriously, why would you voluntarily do this to your body? I felt faint. I couldn’t focus. I fucked up a pitch (thankfully, they understood). I couldn’t do decent cardio because I couldn’t give it my all. My skin sagged. Thankfully, my ass didn’t (thanks, squats.)
What it did teach me is that you can say no to that slab of choccie every night, you just have to be in the right mental state. However, any diet that completely deprives you of a single food group or food type is bullshit. End of story.
But such is the maze that is dieting, fitness and nutrition. Depriving yourself of something may make you feel in control or it may help you lose a few stubborn kilos, but it’s not a long-term solution, nor is it healthy.
We do, however, eat too much or eat the wrong things because it’s accessible. “Oh, hey there, chip bag… You look too full. Let me help.”
I went out for dinner and to braais and people would pity me, but the fact was that, if I ate, there was a chance I could fracture my jaw, so not eating that perfectly-cooked, succulent, juicy steak wasn’t an option. I was in the right mental state to say no to something that was bad for me. Of course, my situation was more serious than others.
Onto Soft Foods
Thankfully, the liquid diet was cut a week short and I was put on a soft diet. I walked out of the doc’s office and the first thing I reached for? Mac and cheese! HOT mac and cheese. There was something about that texture that I was craving, and let me tell you that it was one of the most satisfying meals of my life.
I didn’t know when I’d be able to munch on some biltong or bite into a crunchy piece of toast because I have to monitor my jaw for up to ten years, but for now, at least I’m not a hangry asshole.