My Nutrition Paradox

 Roasted Beets and Carrots

While the toughest part of recovery from intestinal surgery has been my restricted diet for the past month, the best part is the reawakening of my taste for simple food.

I’ve been on a low residue diet, which means that I shouldn’t eat foods that leave residue behind. The list of food I have to avoid is longer than the list of food that I can consume.

Here’s a sample of both:

Avoid: Dried fruits, fruits with skins, blueberries, pineapple, citrus fruits, all raw vegetables, cooked vegetables such as corn, peas, bean sprouts, green peppers, lettuce, mushrooms, spinach, greens, coleslaw, legumes, whole grains, seeds, tough meats, luncheon meats, hot dogs and brats, foods with seeds, nuts, pickles, olives, popcorn, gas-producing foods.

Allowed: canned fruits, apples and peaches and pears without peel, applesauce, melons, strawberries, cooked vegetables such as asparagus, beets, carrots, potato without skin, squash and sweet potato; refined white breads, fish, tender meat without skin, creamy peanut butter.

My body needs nutrition to heal, but many of the foods I generally go to for nutrients—raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains and those high in fiber—are the ones that can cause problems during recovery. How do I get what I need from eating white bread and soft foods?

Likewise, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the television and lying in bed or on the couch doing nothing. My body needs rest to recover, but the activities that nourish my mind and spirit—reading, writing, studying, serving—have been difficult to do. How do I grow when my lack of energy limits my ability to think?

The paradox is that while I need physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment to heal, I can’t go to my usual foods, activities or routines for that strength.

Just as my taste for spicy curries or complex salads has been replaced with simple foods like beets and avocados or scrambled eggs and tuna fish so, too, have my emotional and spiritual needs adjusted.

I read in short segments of 10-15 minutes rather than commit to an afternoon with a book. I ask in prayer for spiritual experiences with my limited opportunities to worship. I ask more questions and allow conversations to go quiet rather than rushing forward with my answers.

One of those areas of adjustment has been a release from my responsibilities as the director of public affairs for the St. Cloud Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve served in this calling (the word we use to identify this unpaid service in the church) for four years and three months. A release is often a relief, especially in my current circumstances, but it can also feel like a dismantling of normal routines, roles and relationships.

In all of these changes, I have my days of breakdown when I feel like an observer of life rather than a participant. But most days I do remember that this is a temporary and I should spend it collecting observations and not wishing for participation.

That’s the trick about a lifetime of nourishment. Our bodies and our spirits change. Sometimes we recognize the need and initiate the changes. Other times circumstances force them upon us.

Either way, the change or need for change exists.

We can fight it. Or we can embrace the beets.

And like the beets, which are on the low-residue list, that change is bound to leave something unexpected behind. 


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