Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sugar highs, sugar lows

Part of successful weight maintenance is learning how to manage the various foods and social situations that inevitably surface.  This weekend, my challenge was my sister-in-law's baby shower - more importantly, the cake, and ice cream, and brownies, and rice pudding (two kinds!), and cookies, and fillozes (Portuguese doughnuts) that were served at the baby shower. Portuguese folks sure know how to make some tasty sweets, and they're super hard to resist.  So I planned to have a modest amount of cake, skip the ice cream, and have small bites of everything else just to taste it.

That was a pretty good plan, and I followed through on it all right.  There are two problems for me, though, when it comes to eating sugary foods.  The first is that I'm "out of practice" of eating them, so even a small amount hits me like a ton of bricks.  Don't misunderstand me here - I have no desire to get back "into practice" of eating them!  I'm just much more aware of how they affect me now than I ever have been before.  The second problem is that sugar makes me want more sugar.  It seems to have the same disinhibitory effect on me when it comes to sugary foods as alcohol does on pretty much any kind of food.  So not only do I want more sugar, I'm much more inclined to have more sugar.

Then if you add on the fact that many of the sugary foods I had I like a lot, you can see where this is going.  I'm sunk.

So yesterday I had my cake and tasters of everything but the icing.  And then at dinner out at, I ordered dessert.  And after that, another fillozes.

My reward?  A sugar hangover this morning which made me feel like my head was packed with wool and my stomach was tied up in knots.  I felt so awful this morning that I slept two hours later than I intended to, and missed my opportunity to go running like I planned.  I realized this morning that how I felt when I woke up today was how I felt pretty much every morning before I started on the MNP program.  Every day before I began losing weight, I felt physically awful and I couldn't think clearly.  That realization was very sobering.

But not sobering enough, apparently.  Today, I brought home some cake and rice pudding that my mother-in-law gave me as a care package for my husband.  He had a piece of cake, I had a piece of cake.  And then I started obsessing about the cake - specifically the icing.  And then I caved and ate the rest of the icing that was left.

Fortunately, I realized that things were not going to get any better if the cake stayed in the house, so I put it down the sink garbage disposal before any more craziness could occur.  No, I've never gone into the trash to take out something I have thrown away, but I didn't want today to be that day.

There's a reason I don't keep sweets in the house.

In the grand scheme of things, I probably haven't done myself any lasting damage - as long as this doesn't turn into a pattern.  What's frustrating is that, once again, I need to feel the pain of these bad choices more than once in order for the lesson to sink into my thick skull.  Lots of refined sugar might taste good, but it doesn't feel good.  It makes my stomach cramp and my head light and achy, and a little buzzed right after I eat it.  Then I feel bloated and sick.  The buzz wears off quickly, and I'm left with just the discomfort.  Which lasts.

I can't decide if I'm hoping to wake up tomorrow with another sugar hangover or not.  Part of me, the part that thinks I need to be punished for my bad choices, is rooting for the sugar hangover.  The more merciful part wants me not to have the hangover but to remember how icky I've been feeling for the last day and a half.  The temporary pleasure is definitely not worth the pain and discomfort!  And it's not worth the risk of losing the health and fitness I've gained over the past year by losing all this weight.

So at my next meal (which will be breakfast tomorrow), it's back to my healthy eating plan.  Back to what I know works.  Lots of veggies and salads, lean proteins, healthy fats, and sugar free drinks.  Back to food that makes me feel energized and empowered and in control.  Back to exercising for at least an hour a day.  And back to the new life I'm building for myself.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some thoughts on Fear*

This has been an emotional day. Not just for me, but for everyone in our country. The memorials of 9/11 have been wide and varied, and I suspect every single one has brought tears to the eyes of the viewers or participants. Even watching something as simple as a trumpet player play "Taps" on TV before the football game started this morning made me cry. Yes, I'm a notorious sap, but today has brought that to the stark forefront.

As my husband Mike and I reflected on where we were, what we were doing, and how we felt when 9/11 happened, it hit home to me how much our lives have been impacted by Fear*. Fear of outsiders, fear of being hurt, fear of not being good enough or smart enough to prevent problems from happening, fear of the unknown. And Fear can drive us to do crazy, foolhardy, vicious things - both to ourselves and others. I listened with increasing horror as Mike recounted a story about one of the customers who came into his shop shortly after the Twin Towers fell. Apparently this customer was so full of Fear and Rage he was talking about going to a nearby Muslim school and burning it down. Fortunately, Mike was able to talk the customer out of that plan by reminding the customer in no uncertain terms that he was talking about hurting innocent children who had absolutely nothing to do with the tragedy in New York, but the level of fear and anger that man felt was all-encompassing and led him to plan an action that probably never would have even crossed his mind previously.

It isn't just fears about 9/11 that impact our lives. As I was thinking about the story my husband was telling me, I began to think about all the small and seemingly inconsequential ways Fear eats into my life. Fears about managing my food intake, about whether I'm getting enough (or too much) exercise, about not being good enough in my chosen field or letting down my supervisors in some way that only I could imagine. Fear is a box that keeps me trapped when I'm not careful about how I let it affect me.

For me, weight maintenance is an exercise in managing Fear. The scale fluctuates from day to day and week to week. It varies with my monthly cycle, with what I ate, with how much and what kinds of things I drank, with how much sodium was in my food, with how recently I went to the bathroom, and a million other factors I have no idea about. I've had to learn to give myself a window of acceptability when it comes to looking at the scale, and I have to remind myself to think in terms of trends, not in terms of any one particular moment's weight. However, when I get on the scale and see it up a couple of pounds (especially if I had a less-than-stellar week of managing my food intake), the moment of Fear strikes me and I have to consciously battle it down and remind myself that it's not necessarily a problem. Yet. Then I have to decide what, if anything, I need to do differently to make sure it doesn't become a problem - without getting sucked into Fear. Because when I get sucked into Fear, I start thinking crazy, extreme thoughts about how little to let myself eat, or how much I'm going to make myself exercise in order to "make up" for my perceived failures.

At our bi-weekly coached runs, our head coach Alfonzo Jackson always starts us out by giving us a pep talk and reminding us of the reason we train the way we do. Sometimes he also highlights current events that tie into our desires to make the world a better place. Yesterday, his message was simple: remember the people whose lives were sacrificed on 9/11 not by mourning and wailing, but by bringing more love and light into the world. Not to say that we shouldn't grieve their losses, but there's more to remembering them than just sadness. He pointed out that before 9/11, there was a much lower level of "us versus them" feelings within our own country. Since then, it seems like people who could be put into a "them" category have been threatened, ostracized, wounded, and had their rights unjustly taken away. Fear, leading us to do crazy, foolhardy, vicious things.

So here's my vow, and I hope you'll consider it too: I will pay more attention to Fear. I will not let it lead me blindly into snap judgments or thoughtless actions. I will not let it use me as a vessel to unjustly hurt myself or others. I will honor it when it's real, and soothe it when it's not. And I will do my best to show love to myself and others despite Fear's strongest intentions.

* You'll notice that Fear is capitalized in many places in this post. In keeping with the Narrative Therapy tradition, it's capitalized because in those instances, I see Fear as an outside force acting on me, rather than being an integral part of me. It helps me remember that I can control the impact I let Fear have on me.