Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Morri behind the Meals

In retrospect, I should have probably started my blogging adventure with this post.

I mean, here I am, unknown to the gluten free community, both virtual and physical, and I have the audacity to post a recipe. About pancakes. Without even introducing myself. Though you have to admit, those were some tasty pancakes.

Hello there. My name is Morri. And this is my blog.

So now you’re probably wondering, why isn’t she putting this information in her “About” page? Because, my friends, that "About page" isn’t necessarily about me, nor do I want it to be. It’s about the site and what you should expect when you visit my modest abode in cyber space. This post, on the other hand, is like a blind date. Before you read this, any preconceived notions you have of me may or not be true. But this is why I’m writing this, now, while I am waiting for my latest quick bread/muffin recipe to bake in the oven, eating my favorite snack of all time (Granny Smith apple with peanut butter, hemp protein powder, and chia seeds. Looks weird, tastes amazing.). And like a blind date, after you read this and try out my recipes, you can decide whether or not we’re compatible.

I am what people call an “acquired taste.” I am also a Conflict Analysis and Resolution major at George Mason University. So it evens out, I suppose. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Let us get started, shall we?

I was born C. (Morri)gan Sands twenty-one years ago on a stormy day in November. As a 5 lb 9.5 oz bundle of joy, I was called Morri from the start. It’s the baby name I never grew out of, a name that is as unique and often misspelled, often pronounced MAW-REE similarly the way one says Maura. The way I get people to remember, though, is to say: “It’s like ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, only without the ‘e’.” For a while I resented the fact that even my very name was different. But I embrace my difference now, for you see… It is a miracle that I am even alive.

From the moment I inhaled deeply my first breath of life, simply existing was difficult. I was a toxemia baby, a long tiny bug of a thing with a large head and transparent skin. In my first two years of life, I was in and out of the hospital with kidney infections and fevers and other things I don’t remember. The doctors told my parents I wouldn’t live past toddlerhood.

But I was persistent. I demanded to be part of this world, and I wasn’t going without a fight.

From the ages of three to nine I had the most terrible migraines imaginable, ones I rated to hurricane intensities. Puberty was not kind. I was a butterball despite my active lifestyle (being on my neighborhood swim team in the summer and my soccer days in the fall). I had poor body image, wishing I were like popular girls in my class: slender, developed, the ones all the boys had crushes on. I didn’t like myself, though I was social enough and had many friends. Disordered eating took on many faces from then to now. Food was regarded as a necessary evil, something I hated to enjoy, something I hated having to consume in order to survive.

I was such a silly girl then.

Does anyone ever wish they could go back in time and tell their younger selves it’s all going to be okay? Does anyone ever wish they could change some key points in their past so their future is different, but ultimately you’re still you? Sometimes I do, but they’re fleeting fancies. It’s what I know now that matters. Without that little sickly butterball I used to be, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And I think I’m a pretty bangin’ person.

Speaking of which, the muffins are done. :)

Mmmmmm… Delish.

You know, I feel this BGF (before gluten free) eulogy of the sad times has gone on long enough. That was the old Morri, the girl who was sickly, frustrated, and angry. The old Morri doesn’t exist anymore. The old Morri was merely the caterpillar that decided to take matters into her own hands, become a chrysalis to prepare herself for the joys of being a butterfly, and embrace this beautiful world of ours and be seen the way she was always meant to be.

That’s not to say life was easy. I don’t have celiac disease, but I am gluten intolerant. I know how it feels to be glutened, and let me tell you, it stinks. I am also unable to handle refined sugars very well, even when it’s organic cane sugar. As for soy, my body seems to do better without it.

I think the thing that really affected me was that, within this last year specifically, I seemed to be failing somehow. I was eating healthily, working out regularly (as in, three to five times a week), relatively a healthy and happy young woman. So then, why wasn’t I feeling like I should be? Was it the stress of going abroad to Sweden to study in the Peace and Development Program at Linnaeus University in Växjö? Was it the terror of the unknown, as my upcoming graduation in the fall looms closer and closer? Was it that everything in my life was changing and I couldn’t adjust?

Why was I obsessed with calorie counting? Why was I limiting my food intake to less than 1200 calories a day? Why was I so tired all the time? Why did it feel like I was losing my mind? Why did it seem like my body was failing me?

The endocrinologist who administered and reviewed my blood work in February said I was fine, even though my T-cell count was low, my cholesterol was high, my average body temperature was under 97°F, my hands and feet were like ice with yellow coloration, and my hormones were imbalanced. And what was I prescribed? A low glycemic diet, plenty of exercise, and an assurance I was “normal.” I already did those things, but if how I felt was normal… Sometimes what is normal isn’t always right. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t do “normal”.

Though I respected the endocrinologist and her hard work to help me, I sought out another professional opinion, a holistic and alternative practitioner’s opinion. After hearing my story, she leans over her desk and looks at me squarely in the eyes.

“Did you know that those are symptoms of a hypothyroid?”

“But what about the blood work?” I asked her.

So she explains it to me like this. Consider your body to be this 72” widescreen television and the cable to watch these amazing shows on your television to be your blood. Cox communications is much like blood work, where it records that you have a television to watch these amazing shows, sometimes having the ability of showing the company that your television is indeed working. Typically however, it doesn’t; the only ability the company has is seeing you have a television, not if it works or not.

Basically, you could have a smashed television screen, pieces of glass and plastic scattered all over the living room floor, wires sticking out and sparking, but the company still only sees what the cable is outputting.

They would say your television is working fine, that it’s normal.

I left her office relieved. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, I was given a clear and honest diagnosis. What’s more, I was given a way to fix it.

It’s been three days since I’ve been on the Armour Thyroid, and I feel… amazing. Incredible. Marvelous. Ecstatic. I feel all these things and more. Living is effortless, like the universe is my partner in crime and, together, we can do anything. I am more aware than I have ever been of my body, my surroundings, my existence. I not only like myself; I love myself. My disordered eating tendencies seemed to disappear overnight. I’m not obsessively counting calories in my head. I’m eating what my body wants and not feeling bad for it.

This blog initially was to heal my relationship with food, to rid myself of orthorexia and other types of disordered eating once and for all. Who would have thought that a hypothyroid was the cause of all this internal chaos and physical dissatisfaction, and how much of a change a mere three days has brought. I can’t wait to see what three months of feeling exactly as I do now brings.

I know now that healing isn’t just a one-time fix. It’s a process made and intended to last a lifetime, one that requires frequent evaluation and tweaking. It took me all of my twenty-one years of existence to get to this point, and oddly enough, much of my healing has taken the form of cooking.

But despite these so-called restrictions, my palate has certainly evolved into something of a novelty. Being gluten free was merely a gateway into way of healing I could hardly imagine. It was just the beginning, and I’m learning new things every day. I am often regarded as the “hostess with the mostess.” Nothing makes me happier than creating nourishing and uplifting dishes for my loved ones to enjoy. Cooking is healing in all of its phases: the individual ingredients, the preparation, the time, the devotion, the outcome, the eating, all of it.

Daily I am asked “With all those things you can’t have, what do you eat?” Though I am jokingly said to eat nothing but rabbit food (I like bunnies… as in, a lot), I do in fact eat a plethora of things. I am eating things I never would have believed possible, simply because my diet is  “restrictive”. The meals I eat are balanced in flavor and nutrition, and although I am not officially vegetarian (let alone vegan), eating vegetarian or vegan meals is not as hard as it seems to be. Without refined sugar and all those artificial additives, I can taste the natural sweetness in everything. When baking, instead of restricting myself to wheat-based flours like someone who typically eats gluten, I am able to make thousands of flour combinations, never making the same recipe twice.

Does that sound “restrictive” to you? I didn’t think so. If anything, I have limitless possibilities. That’s the very thing that I like about this lifestyle. It’s all about variety. It’s all about stepping out of your little box and daring to go farther than you ever thought you could go.

This so-called “restrictive living” is the total opposite. In actuality, it’s freeing, it’s enlightening, it’s inclusive. It’s one huge adventure that anyone can be a part of, that my family and friends have been such wonderful influences (and great sports) in trying my recipes and accommodating theirs to my needs. This blog is as much about people coming together as it is about the recipes. The people in my life inspire me more than I can ever articulate.

That is what it’s all about, what this blog is all about, and what I am all about.

Compromise and variety, two things I never leave the house without.

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