Thursday, January 24, 2013

In Celebration of National Peanut Butter Day

Almost seventeen years ago after receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease, I experienced profound relief that I was not, in fact, dying.  I got one piece of good advice from the nurse who ironically served me a bagel with cream cheese in the recovery room after my first endoscopy…”Don’t eat this bagel, JIF is a safe food.”  I left the bagel untouched on my hospital tray.
I started my gluten-free journey with a jar of JIF Creamy Peanut Butter and a spoon.  When I read stories about Plumpy’Nut, which is a vitamin fortified peanut butter in a squeeze tube for malnourished and starving children in developing countries, I think to myself, of course that will save them from starvation because peanut butter saved me from starvation as well.
I was an emaciated 103 pounds at 5’7” of height, with every bone jutting out and my knees and elbows looking grotesquely large on my stick figure arms and legs.  My abdomen was distended, patches of hair were falling out, my cheeks were sunken and I had horrible dark circles under my eyes.
I had a six month old daughter and a three year old daughter and each night I lay awake at night with worry that I would not see them grow up.
I left the hospital with a diagnosis and a cure, eat a gluten-free diet.  I also got the sorrowful warning from my gastroenterologist that my life was going to be really hard from now on because it was so difficult not to eat wheat.  Um, really?  Did he not notice my current state of health or how I looked right then?
Nope, the diet was not hard and it was a huge relief knowing that it was just a diet that could return me to health.  I just opened up a new jar of JIF Creamy peanut butter and dug right in.  Sometimes I put it on a banana or an apple, but I had scribbled my name across the lid with a Sharpie, so I mostly dug right in with a spoon for a “peanut butter pop.”
I added rice to my diet, a little plain chicken and a multi vitamin and slowly but surely came back to full health.  Today, there is glorious selection of gluten-free food, awareness, GF menus in restaurants and a sense of normalcy surrounding a gluten-free diet.
So in celebration of National Peanut Butter Day, I say “thanks” to a comfort food that sustained me through my worst days of celiac disease.  I still love to eat a JIF Creamy peanut butter “pop” every now and then!
Kendall Egan


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