This story touches on the struggles I've overcome in growing up having never, ever eaten meat, fruits or veggies!   YES!  Surviving solely on carbs & grains, mainly bread, fries, cereal, chips & milk!    Imagine the difficulties you would encounter regarding business meetings and any and all social situations.   Anyone and everyone that's ever felt "different" can relate...

Okay, “picky” is an understatement for this unique (unheard of) diet of the past 54 years. This site explores the life of a woman that has managed to thrive her entire life on nothing more than french fries, cereal, bread, potato chips, cookies & milk! Oh……that woman is me!

The mystery that surrounds my inability to eat most foods continues to astound even me. By no means do I advocate or condone this diet, it’s an issue I’ve dealt with since birth…. never able to make it past 1st stage baby foods without gagging (or worse). This story is the history of the ups and downs of living with this “condition“, of having to hide from people the fact I’ve never, EVER eaten a steak, a hamburger, a salad or pizza (any fruits or veggies), and the joy of finally “coming out” to the world.

Crazy as it may seem, I’m a picture of health, with cholesterol (184 last week!), triglyceride & full metabolic blood panel numbers of flying colors. My children are healthy & I continue to have consistent annual health exams of a world class athlete (without all the muscles & accolades).

Imagine you’ve never eaten meat, fruits or vegetables in your entire life. Now, imagine, you’re invited to an momentous, elegant wedding with a lavish & extravagant dinner and the only item that seems appealing to you is the plain white French rolls. Welcome to my life.

TEARS THROUGH THE YEARS

Contrary to what many people say/feel/believe about my eating habits, it is not something I choose nor have control over. It truly feels like a curse, and I’d do anything to change it. There have been many attempts over the years to learn to eat “normal foods”. Here is just one attempt, and the story behind it:

It was Southern California, 1989, I had a well paying, high level position in new construction real estate working directly with builders and developers in Southern California. Lunch meetings were an integral part of my daily routine. It was nothing short of magic that I found ways around eating at these meetings, but it started to get old, and it was important that I learn to eat something “normal” to make these meetings less stressful and more beneficial business wise. Trying to come up with one item I could learn to eat that would work in most social situations, a salad seemed the obvious choice.

But, how will I learn to eat a salad? Smelling lettuce, licking it, nibbling & touching it….nothing worked. Hitting a wall, I opted to research hypnotism as a way in which to “learn” to eat a salad. After hours of collecting info and data on the various local hypnotists available in the area, I finally discovered a reputable clinic.

Six weeks of hypnotherapy and I was “ready” to eat a salad. Clearly, my mistake was not doing a “test run” and actually eating the salad with the therapist. Instead, I chose to eat it (cold turkey) at an actual luncheon meeting with a client.

There I was in Marie Callendar’s restaurant at a luncheon meeting with an important client. Walking to the salad bar, my head played an orchestra of triumphant music encouraging me to grab the salad plate, fill it with salad and join the “normal people” of the world that can eat and enjoy a meal together. I walked so tall, felt so proud, all the time realizing how ironic it was that no one around me knew the importance of this moment. Silly, sad & fun all at the same time. It was a proud moment.

Filling the plate with only simple pieces of lettuce, some sprinkles of cheese on the side (of which I had no intention of eating, but added nice color), and some croutons, which is a great little food for this bread eating gal! Would have much preferred to devour several handfuls of croutons for lunch. Salad dressing was not even an option at this point. Just to sit and eat a somewhat “normal” meal with this client was a monumental event towards the beginning of “normality” for me.

Overwhelmed with pride, I walked back to the table with salad in hand, once again hearing the celebratory music lifting me up into the real world of “foodies“.

Sitting down with my client, business small talk ensued. Smiling and nodding, I began to eat my salad as if it were an every day event. Again, the thought of the client across the table from me having no idea that this was the first time (in my 30 years of life) that I would take a bite of a salad (or in this case, a simple piece of lettuce in this “poor excuse for a salad“). This client was a witness to a lifetime achievement and didn’t even know it!

Stabbing the lettuce with my fork was awkward, as the only food ever consumed by me requiring utensils had been pancakes and waffles, and that was only on rare occasions. Once again, this “utensil usage” is giving me that warm, fuzzy feeling that I was beginning the journey towards joining the “real world”.

The lettuce, now successfully on the fork, makes it into my mouth. It’s an unusual sensation, chewing, crunching, swallowing. Crisp, crunchy, light and airy, the salad tastes somewhat bitter, but I’m confident (after the hypnotherapy), I can do it!

Having successfully chewed & swallowed the salad, I feel like I’ve won some sort of championship. Wait! Stop! Within about 10 seconds after swallowing, suddenly, out of nowhere, my body had a violent, involuntary shudder, with an overwhelming, gut wrenching sensation of eminent projectile vomiting. Fortunately for me, and my lunch guest across the table, all food stayed within my body. It was shocking. Thankfully, during the episode, my client had looked down to take a bite of his meal. Looking around with embarrassment, no one had noticed this spasm, and that was the end of my attempt to eat a salad. Not even sure what transpired after that, but I do know the salad was left uneaten.

YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT TO 30

Throughout my life, it’s interesting how everyone has pretty much the same reaction to my eating habits, and they all say the same annoying things. “You’ll never make it to 20, to 30, to 40, to 50”…and so on.

In fact, if I get so much as a sniffle (which is rare), well meaning (negative) friends/relatives say, “Oh, that’s because of the way you eat.”

 

Just RECENTLY explained my situation to a woman my age, and sure enough she said, "Oh, but early 50's, that's "the" age when things start happening, you've got to eat right!"     Well, of course what you put in your body is your "fuel", but do these people NOT understand this is NOT something I can control?   I would LOVE to eat like the rest of the "foodies" in the world!


Ironically, many of these people that are so SURE I'm about to drop dead have serious debilitating health issues that I don’t come close to suffering from….. Surely, I’ll croak sometime between now and 98 years old and one of those well meaning (negative!) people will stand over my dead body and say, “I knew the way she ate would KILL her!”

On a serious note, I’ve learned that worrying about possibly becoming sick can MAKE you sick. Therefore, it's important to maintain a positive mental attitude, take a multi vitamin, get 8 hours of sleep each night, exercise, don’t (can’t) drink coffee or (much) alcohol….and focus on the good things in life.

If you listen to all the negative things people will tell you, you could “worry yourself sick.” Ignore the toxic chatter.

My least favorite response people have is, “You don’t know what you’re missing….Variety is the spice of life!”. I do agree, but there is nothing I can do! My kind & understanding son equates this response to someone telling a person in a wheelchair, “You don’t know what you’re missing - snow skiing is awesome!”. I love my son.

 

LAUGHTER THROUGH THE YEARS

It was sometime between 1977 and 1978 that my now husband, Carlos and I were on a summer vacation in Palm Springs. Palm Springs was the Palm Desert/La Quinta of that time period. We would visit Palm Springs regularly, bringing our bicycles and enjoying long, hot days poolside.

Of course, a gourmet dinner for me was (and still is) any little café, IHOP or Denny’s, so Carlos begrudgingly sucked it up, and took me to Denny’s. He would have much preferred a steak dinner a local, PS (Palm Springs) fine restaurant, however, sadly there usually isn‘t a crumb of food that I could eat at such an establishment. Yes, I was a cheap date but, believe me, back then, I made up for it in diamond & jewelry requests!

Especially hungry this hot summers eve, I scanned the menu for any kind of white, plain bread products offered at Denny‘s (fine dining).

When the waitress arrived, with great enthusiasm, I ordered a side of white toast (lightly buttered), a side of sourdough toast (also lightly buttered), 2 dinner rolls, an English muffin and a croissant. The 30-something Palm Springs waitress scanned my tan svelte, teen body and, with a questioning grin asked, “Are you joking? Is that your order, really?”. Searching my mind for an answer as unique as the order just placed, quickly and confidently I stated, “Yes, this is my order, it’s the ‘bread diet’”.

After she had left, as we awaited our order, we were suddenly descended upon by the entire wait staff of 30 something-year-olds, each wide eyed and interested, one blurting out…. “Tell us about this bread diet!”….

All we could do was laugh.

 

GROWING UP


Born in 1959 in San Pedro, California, a middle class suburb of Los Angeles, located near the LA Harbor, I was the third of four daughters. Both of my parents are have formal educations (Berkeley & UCLA), my mother, a writer (much better than I!), and my father, an electronic engineer.

We were the typical family of the 60’s, my mother staying home to raise us, eating dinner together each night around 6pm. Or, at least, we were supposed to. My memories of supper time are of finding ways in which to avoid the dinner table, staying outside roller skating until 8pm, or visiting with friends.

My sisters all ate like “normal” folks (aka: “foodies“), as well as my parents. Therefore, my parents had no idea what to think about this child that wouldn’t eat anything except for Cheerios and toast!? Apparently, they took me to the doctor in 1963, at 4 years old, claiming I wouldn’t eat anything (every parents concern)….the doctor told them not to give me desert! Like I would eat pudding or cake!? Because I continued to thrive and grow, as one of the healthiest McWilliams girls, they didn’t worry too much. Annual physicals & blood tests showed healthy and normal growth.

This is not to say my parents didn’t try encourage me to eat, they did. I wanted to eat “good food” (to be a “foodie”) as much as they wanted me to, however, everything other than my ‘safe foods’ would cause a strong gag reflex, and simply would not stay down. Consequently, the following is everything I have ever eaten from birth until now…

* Corn Flakes and Cheerios

* Toast, lightly buttered (white) & corn or flour tortillas

* Pretzels & Plain potatoe chips

* Plain crackers and Sugar cookies

* Chocolate

* French Fries

* Popcorn & Plain pastries (donuts)

* Peanuts

* Ice Cream

Into my 20’s, I began to expand to:

* Baked Potato

* Garlic Bread

* Cheesy Bread stix

* Bacon (extra crispy)

 

BEVERAGES:

 

* Milk / Cranberry juice / fruit punch / occasional soda/wine/hard liquor

 

NEW FOOD as of late 2012:

 

* Scrambled Eggs (well done) 

 

After 20 years of making scrambled eggs for my son and smelling them, I was able to try it, eat it and like it!!!   I feel somewhat like a Dr Suess character in GREEN EGGS AND HAM!!!      SAM I AM!!

Clearly, this isn’t normal. Seems to be the diet of a 4 year old, short the wine! As a child, I had an enduring self esteem, yet I knew that what I was eating wasn’t right, and I longed to be “normal”. I remember often thinking to myself, “If only I ate ‘normally’, I’d be perfect”.

As a young girl and into my teens, I desperately searched for help, for a “cure” to this issue. My doctors insisted I got all my nutrients from potato’s and milk. Once I wrote a detailed letter to Dear Abbey expressing my concern with my predicament and diet. She responded with a brief letter that said, “Dear Marla, If your doctors aren’t concerned and you’re thriving on your diet, don’t worry.” That was everyone’s answer as no one could explain it. Yes, I was thriving, but yes, I was worried. After all, we are all taught in school that you MUST have the four food groups in order to live a long, healthy life. I lacked three of the four groups! Ouch!

In my 20’s, I reached out to Oprah Winfrey, sending several requests to have studies done, to search and find others like me. All to no avail. Further on in the book, you’ll find through personal studies and hours of research at the USD Bio-med lab I’ve self-diagnosed my condition as “Sensory Integrative Dysfunction”, a tactile defensiveness issue that affects many autistic children. This is a physiological and neurological condition one is born with, although so many of the symptoms appear psychological. I present no other traits of autism.

Sadly, all of the doctors I’d talked to over the years took little or no interest in this ‘condition’, as it didn’t appear to be life threatening. At one point in the 90’s I sent out the story of my diet/condition to medical schools throughout the Country, hoping to find a med student with an interest to study this for his/her thesis. No takers. So few people suffer from it (although, thanks to the invention of the internet, I’ve located others!), and there is no money in it!? Another reason there may be little interest in the condition is that it seems many of the people that I’ve met that suffer from SID (Sensory Integrative Dysfunction), and have the identical diet as I, have so MANY other physical/mental issues that the priority of their strange diet is drowned out by several other problems they have….(Hence, I’m on my own!). Will I become a lonely “cat lady”? Thankfully, in 2010, Duke University finally decided to study this severely limited diet and the possibilities of a genetic link.

Due to the lack of support and help from the medical community as a child & teen, as young adult I sought help from hypnotherapists, psychologists, nutritionists, family physicians and anyone else sthat would listen. After batteries of tests over a period of years, each professional said almost the exact same thing, “It’s clear that you’re healthy, happy, energetic & leading a normal life. It appears your body has adapted to what it craves, and you are getting the necessary nutrition from what you eat. Don’t worry about it. People in other Countries live long lives on less.” That’s all fine and good, but what do I tell my client(s) at my next business meeting? And forget about Thanksgiving! At 54, it might be a tad odd to hide out all day roller skating...

**** NO PART OF THIS CAN BE REPRODUCED, SOLD or COPIED.    PROPERTY OF MARLA LOPEZ ****

 

I've been referred to as the "World's Pickest Eater"!?   Probably close, I know there are some that eat LESS variety than I do!?  Imagine THAT?



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