My name is Pasqualina Mirabito, and this is My Story:
So before I start, if you find yourself wondering why you are reading a story about changing to a healthy life style but can’t figure out why the heck there are recipes for cakes and pies and the fact that the title has “A Spoonful of Sugar” in it ~ just keep reading, there is method to my madness, I promise.
For most of my life, I have had a very unhealthy relationship with food. Growing up in a big Italian-American family, I was used to big portions and a LOT of pasta. I was always overweight as a kid, as a teenager, and I was made fun of everyday for it. Besides my physical health, it took its toll on my mental health. I was severely depressed and anxiety ridden among other things. I took comfort in food much more than I should have. For me it was like a drug and eating would numb the pain, but really the way I would eat out of depression was basically my own version of self-harm. I developed a Binge-Eating Disorder, which is severely over eating regularly. I tried so many weight loss programs, saw so many doctors, but when I would try to stop, I just became more depressed. This continued through high school and college. As the weight came on, my health rapidly decreased. By the age of 24, I had arthritis in multiple places, severe sleep apnea; I was one more bad blood test away from being pre-diabetic. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t breathe. I lost all quality of life- and the more depressed I became, the more I still continued to eat.
Sometimes when you’re stuck in a hole, you have to hit rock bottom before you can begin to climb your way back up. That’s exactly what I had to do. My Doctor told me that eating wasn’t just a way of self-harm; I was killing myself, a long and slow suicide. I was told that if I continued down this path, I would not live to see the age of 30. That was it- hearing that was me hitting rock bottom. That was the moment when something finally clicked in my brain that I am SICK of living like this, living in constant pain and suffering and feeling sorry for myself. I was at rock bottom, and it was time to start climbing back up and out of that hole.
~So, a Sleeve Gastrectomy: For those of you who don’t know what that is, in the quickest summary, it is a surgery the patient would have about 2/3’s of their stomach surgically removed. The patient is left with that 1/3 of their stomach, a small pouch that can’t hold much food or liquid at all. Basically, it’s an internal portion control.
So a lot of you may think “oh, that’s just a total cop-out, you’re the surgery is fixing everything and you’re not working hard at all, you can still eat whatever you want.” (Yes, people have said that). If you don’t know anyone who has ever had a bariatric surgery, then let me tell you that it is not easy, and it is definitely not a cop-out, IT’S F***ING HARD. No, you can’t eat what you want, not even close.
After surgery, you literally need to learn how to eat again. Your brain craves food you can’t even process; things you used to love to eat either no longer taste them same or just makes you barf. Your brain still hasn’t realized your stomach was chopped off and keeps telling you that you need to eat all this food meanwhile your stomach is begging for mercy because you already ate too much. Here’s the thing that many don’t realize, if you don’t eat right and adapt a healthy lifestyle, YOU WILL STILL GAIN WEIGHT- not maybe- you WILL. ~
On January 2nd, 2020, I began the climb out of that hole. I saw a surgeon for the Sleeve Gastrectomy consultation. I started my diet right then and there. High protein, low carb, cut out all soda and diet soda. I had my good days, I had many many bad days, but this time I knew that if I started to fall I needed to pick myself right back up and get back on track. I lost almost 25 lbs. before my surgery. At the end of February, I got that call that my surgery will be March 11th, and I fell to my knees and cried. I cried because it was finally happening. I was finally getting out of this hole I have been stuck in for so long. I finally would be free from being chained to the food that so dragged me down. I was finally taking my life BACK!
So as I am typing this, today is July 7th, 2020. It has been almost 4 month since my surgery. I am 70 lbs. down in total. I can finally walk without back and knee pain, I can climb the stairs of my house without feeling like I will heave over and die, I can fit into clothes I haven’t worn in about 4 years, and I can finally start to live my life. I still struggle, my brain still wants to devour and entire family-sized bag of potato chips right now, but instead I am eating a plum. It’s like recovering from an addiction. I used to diet and fall back into my old way all the time. But now, I have the courage to tell myself NO, I don’t need those chips, I need my life more. This surgery has SAVED MY LIFE.
~ Side Note: So the healthy side to my relationship with food was the act that I LOVE to bake, always have. Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, I had a specialty cake business in high school and did almost 2 semesters in culinary school for Baking and Pastry. If someone told me I am not able to bake ever again I would probably go jump off a cliff. It’s not so much about the eating (OK, it’s partially the eating… if you tried my spiced pear cake then you would totally understand it is definitely somewhat about the eating), but the fact that I just love to create. I love trying new recipes and learning what new flavors go together, and just seeing the reaction people have when they try my food. ~
Now if you’re sitting there asking yourself “why the hell is she talking about weight loss but posting recipes for cake and pie?!” – Here is why: MODERATION. Julia Child once said “Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.” When it comes to food, I learned that depriving yourself is one of the worst things you can do especially when trying to diet. Your brain will tempt and crave you until you finally give in so bad you say “F this” and blow the whole diet. Being able to taste and eat things in moderation that are not necessarily healthy will really calm those cravings down. But that comes with time! If you just start a diet, having a “cheat day” right off the bat will get you nowhere.
It took about 2 and a half months after surgery for me to have a small pinch of potato chips, and tell myself OK that’s enough you had your taste and then actually listen to myself and close up the bag of chips and walk away. I had my taste, I killed the craving, and my diet was not ruined. Eating in moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy life style. If you can maintain healthy eating and never have to kill a craving, I respect the hell out of you, but that’s something I just physically can’t do. I love food, I don’t want to give it up, and so I enjoy it in moderation. Healthy Food is medicine to your body, but just like Mary Poppins said, “a Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down!”
So if I am lucky enough that you are still reading this, I am making this blog to share my recipes, thoughts, and experiences along this health journey. I know there are many other people who struggled the way I did, and I know there are many who overcame this struggle too. I feel that knowing that you’re not alone is what helps you get though the darkest of times. So if you’re struggling the way I did, and sometimes still am, then know you are not alone and that you will get through this if you choose to do so. There is help all around you, but it is up to you to ask for it. “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” –Albus Dumbledore