The Ice Cream Sundae

I can still remember these trips like they happened yesterday. When our parents decided it was time for the family to enjoy a big treat, all five of us kids piled into the car and drove out to the Pensupreme Ice Cream Parlor in Shillington, Pennsylvania.

The anticipation was just as thick as you might expect

My mouth watered in the car just imagining what I was about to witness: the worker behind the counter creating the most amazing ice cream sundaes, filling the bowls with heaping, creamy scoops of sweet ice cream, then decking them out with all the trimmings of hot fudge, nuts and sprinkles.

I would devour mine as fast as I could.

What I never seemed to remember before I ate each ice cream sundae was that there was always a price to pay after I ate each ice cream sundae. For days following these family excursions, my stomach would be upset. This simply seemed to be a natural and logical consequence of enjoying my favorite treat. Maybe I ate it too fast, or maybe it was just a nervous stomach. My parents didn’t think much of it.

I was never going to turn down the pure pleasure of fifteen minutes spent consuming an ice cream sundae just to avoid several days of discomfort afterward!

In those days, the medical field did not recognize the possibility of food allergies, and so the only remedy at hand was a little Pepto-Bismol. And yet, after a while, I realized it wasn’t just the ice cream that left me feeling this way. It was after I ate many different kinds of meals.

Until I was thirty years old, I believed that after every meal everyone felt bloated, miserable, and sick to their stomachs.

I truly thought that eating simply meant you had to pay the price.

Traditional medicine wrote off my reaction to meals as irritable bowel syndrome – a catch-all diagnosis, in my opinion, that doctors use when a complaint like mine is nonspecific. At the same time, I had become passionate about health and wellness, and the diagnosis just failed to make sense to me. It finally occurred to me that there had to be a better way.

One day I found an outstanding therapeutic nutritionist who asked if I had ever been tested for food allergies. It was a revelation to me – no one had ever asked me that question. To my surprise, but not to hers, the results of my testing indicated that I was allergic to a number of foods, including gluten and dairy.

I eliminated both from my diet, and within a week my life had changed forever.

I shed tears of joy upon realizing that I could feel so good after eating a meal.

Food wasn’t something that was necessarily a cause of trouble for your body. The right foods could actually make your body feel even better!

My own journey drove home the point that we are each individuals, and we each need to recognize that no one way of eating works for everyone across the board. The foods that best nourish me might not be the best ones for you, and the ones that cause me pain might actually give you strength.

It takes time to determine the best way of eating for each of us, but it’s not a difficult path.

Eating well is actually a way of pampering yourself – taking the time to find the right foods and enjoying them in an atmosphere of community and connection is actually one of the most nourishing and healthy things we can do for ourselves.

Wellness isn’t achieved in one grand sweeping gesture.

It’s not something we attain through the pressure of having to make all the right choices and forgo the things that bring us pleasure and joy. It’s something we build upon every day, with small steps and little celebrations to mark every good choice along the way. It’s something we learn over time, as we discover what really makes us feel our best and brings us joy in all aspects of our lives.

Maybe I can’t find joy in an ice cream sundae. But I find it in so many other foods, in so many other situations, and in the company of the people I love. And to me, that’s where the real key to wellness is found.

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