What happens when you’ve been eating really healthy for months, and then you go back to eating “normal” food?
Well, I can’t speak for others, but holy hell!
Let me back up a minute to give this a little perspective.
Five months ago, I was a mess: overweight, grumpy, tired all the time, achy as hell, foggy headed and generally without energy. In a word; miserable.
Then I embarked on this journey to get fit at 45.
The first 3 months were not easy.
I battled food cravings, came to terms with my very real food addictions and overhauled my whole life.
I went through weeks holed up in my house feeling very unsociable. I declined invitations to just about everything because I could not trust myself in a setting where there were snacks that were on my no-no list. Especially at social functions.
You know why I say especially?
Because social functions are the social excuse to go off whatever diet, lifestyle, etc. one is trying to establish. And there’s so much agreement in a social setting “that it’s perfectly okay to cheat or whatever”, that it practically takes the resolve of Job* to survive it successfully. At least this holds true while whatever lifestyle or diet is still in the process of being established.
You know why that is?
Because of the food addictions.
It’s not just the food itself, it’s everything that surrounds the culture, experiences and sensations of food. And before I could successfully navigate this sort of function, I needed my addictions sorted out for real.
I almost succeeded.
Then the holidays arrived.
I have to tell you that I did brilliantly through Thanksgiving, and felt better than I’ve felt in years up until Christmas. That’s when it all went to hell.
I’d gotten to a place over a 6 week period where I had no food cravings.
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
I could sit there and you could eat a pastry right in front of me, and I experienced absolutely no desire to partake in it, nor even the faintest measure of deprivation.
I’d lost almost 40 pounds, had no aches or pains to speak of, no mood swings, was thinking clearly and resolving problems without effort and creating like crazy. I helped my husband build two outdoor farm style tables from scratch, designed the yummiest Thanksgiving Table Scape and then another awesome Christmas table setting, made my house into a Christmas wonderland, hosted friends and family in my guest room, enjoyed a fairly effortless Christmas shopping and gift wrapping extravaganza, and all the while, felt pretty calm and joyous.
Is this what normal feels like?? I’ll have another helping of THAT please.
So, what happened?
Well, I decided that I should fully participate in ALL the festivities surrounding the holidays, that’s what.
I went to all the holiday gatherings I could squeeze in. I ate a bit of this, a bit of that.
At first, I had to actually force myself to indulge in all these holiday “treats”. They tasted plastic and unappealing to me. But I persevered and dined out with friends and family—after all, it’s the holidays!
That’s what you do, right?
But the food always tasted like it was missing something and it left me wanting for something more. Weird, but tangible. My husband and I even discussed this because he felt the same way about the food he was eating.
Still, we marched on.
We had Christmas dinner, then my daughter and her husband came down and we had second Christmas complete with a whole family dinner. Then it was her birthday, and since we were all on holiday, why not?
My husband and I started fighting a lot. Nagging each other, and just being bitchy about whatever. Neither of us felt like doing anything productive, and my creative energy seemed to be swamped in a sugar and carb-induced fog. The joy of the holidays were over, replaced by aching joints, restless sleep and 10 pounds of fat.
That’s what I meant when I said I almost succeeded.
I was pretty close to that sweet spot, and the world was mine. I sabotaged my own success, but I’m okay with that.
I get it.
And let’s be honest, if I hadn’t experienced this for myself, I would never have understood it enough to master it for myself. For real. For life.
See, the food game works like the cigarette or drug game. Absolutely.
I quit smoking over eight years ago.
I’d smoked for more than 20 years, and had tried to quit so many times, it became painfully awkward whenever I proclaimed that I was quitting again. But then I did quit. Fully. I don’t miss it either. I can sit with a smoker and they can smoke my old brand, and we can even share a glass of wine, and I don’t have the faintest desire or urge to partake in the smoking bit.
What would happen if I talked myself into having a cigarette anyway? What if I decided to indulge just a little to “be more social” or “fit in”, wouldn’t that be cool? Um, no. That would be stupid.
So, why in the world would I do that in a social setting when it comes to food?? Yet, I did just that.
I get it now. I have a lifetime of “traditions” and habits related to food. And that’s okay. Now I just need to create new traditions, habits and situations to suit a new way of approaching life.
The food game is an addiction just like any other, and once I’ve extracted myself from that game, there’s no reason to participate in it.
Christmas Eve was where it started this year, and it went on through Jan 2nd. My mind went from sharp and creative to foggy and useless.
I can’t believe how fast my body reacted to this daily dose of poison disguised as food. I can’t believe how quickly I started craving again once I got past the initial revulsion. And I can’t believe how insidiously it took over my everything.
But I get it now. I see it so clearly that I’m almost embarrassed that I missed it when it happened. Eating healthy isn’t about deprivation, but it is about disagreeing with the culture to a large extent.
I have a rule when it comes to cigarettes: I just don’t ever have to have that one cigarette. It’s the easiest conversation I ever have with myself. I don’t miss it or crave it, but in some settings, it feels like I should indulge, you know, “for old times sake”. But I remind myself that I don’t play that game anymore, and I don’t indulge that passing feeling. It’s that easy.
I know food works the same way now.
So, I’m back to eating foods that nourish, balance, strengthen and heal.
Only this time, I get it. For good.
*Job is the name of a man in a story in the Old Testament. He is an upstanding character with unwavering faith in God. He is tested by Satan through some pretty unspeakable trials as Satan attempts to shake his faith in God. There’s also an amazing satire by Robert Heinlein called Job: A Comedy of Justice on his story which is pretty awesome.
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