There’s Always a Reason to Cheat

On your diet, that is.

Last week, I told you that I had given up ice cream for my OktoberFast. I don’t really know that you can appreciate just how big a sacrifice that is for me. I used to say that Little Debbie was my homegirl; but, y’all, Debs ain’t got nothing on Ben and Jerry. If you don’t understand that, then I can safely conclude that you either: 1. don’t like ice cream (and what kind of mutant are you?) , or 2. have never tried either Phish Food or Karamel Sutra. (Side note: this Spring, I started cheating on my boys from Vermont, though, by taking the High Road. Their Aztec Chocolate is transcendent. Seriously.)

But….that’s not really my point, plus I’m drooling on my keyboard.

My point is that I love ice cream and that I notice its absence acutely. In spite of this – or rather, because of this – I gave it up for OktoberFast…..totally not thinking about my friend’s birthday being in October.

Traditionally, what do we have for birthday celebrations? Cake and ice cream! Yes! So, when discussing his birthday dinner, we agreed that I could take a “time out” just for that one night. After all, it was just one night. And it was his birthday, for pity’s sake!

Right. It was still cheating.

I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of October that I would keep the sinks clear of dishes and that I would not eat ice cream. Neither commitment really matters to anyone else but me; so, who really cares if I lapse? No, not lapse. Cheat.

I care.

We were celebrating. That’s a good reason to have something special, right? Sure. It’s as good an excuse as any to cheat. So is having a bad day, having a good day, or Thursday. There’s always an excuse to cheat if you look for one.

I’ve regained 80 of the pounds I lost six years ago with just that kind of thinking. “I can have it just this once.” But it wasn’t just once, was it? That one cheat day became a cheat weekend, then a cheat month, then fat pants with elastic waistbands.

It’s just like several of the times I quit smoking. I would go for months and even a couple of years without a cigarette. Then I would be with a group of smokers and I would think that I could have just one. BAM! I’d soon be back up to a pack a day on regular days and over two packs a day on the weekends. The truth I had to face was that I couldn’t have just one. I was (and still am, I suppose) a nicotine addict. One hit of that Camel Light and I was hooked again. Intellectually, I know that my body responds to all addictive substances in basically the same way – the pleasure centers of my brain go nuts. And my brain doesn’t really care if the cause is a cupcake or a crack pipe. It just knows that it’s getting something it likes and it wants more of it.

Ultimately, my addiction isn’t to ice cream. It’s to sugar and to casein, the protein in milk that, when broken down during digestion, releases opiates called casomorphins. To be fair, there is some debate on how much of an effect casomorphins have on the human body; however, sugar is still there so my issue remains. In the end, I have to break my addiction to sugar by drastically reducing my intake of refined and added sugars. Ice cream is just the first step.

And, just so you know, I bought the container pictured above for my friend to enjoy ice cream with his cake while I limited myself to cake. Hey, it was chocolate ganache and I never claimed to be a saint. I obeyed the letter of the law. Obeying the spirit of the law will come later when I’m a little stronger.

As for OktoberFast? I’m still faithful and going strong.

 

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So Tell Me What You Want

What you really, really want.

(I know and you’re welcome.)

The problem is that I don’t know what I really want. I’ve been hungry for something; but, I don’t know what it is. Normally, when I have this kind of gnawing feeling for something, I can usually think about different things to eat and arrive at whatever it is my body is looking for – usually, it’s a pork chop or chicken salad. Weird, I know. But I just cannot narrow it down this time and it’s maddening!

Last night my friend showed up with nearly every side dish Bojangles Chicken sells trying to help me. While I certainly enjoyed the Cajun beans, cole slaw and mashed potatoes (in a small portion), none of those really scratched this itch either. I’ll just have to keep bouncing around in my safe foods until I find what I’m looking forward. In the meantime, I’ll be as puzzled about this craving as I am about the song’s lyrics:

Ha ha ha ha ha
Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah

If you want my future, forget my past
If you wanna get with me, better make it fast
Now don’t go wasting my precious time
Get your act together we could be just fine

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah….

Zigazig ah? Wha?

Spring Greens and the Emotional Eater

It’s 6 o’clock in the morning and I’m sharing a salad with one of my cats. Not from the same plate, mind you, that would be gross, but I’m taking leaves off and giving them to Wallace, pictured above, who has vegetarian leanings. Seriously, he will bug you to death if you have a salad or beans of any kind. He doesn’t care that salad is not a traditional breakfast food and, at this point, neither do I. You see, I’m fighting a battle this morning.

There’s a great deal going on in the larger world and in my smaller world that have me on edge. I’m tense. I’m frustrated. And, I’m a little angry. You know where feelings like that get you if you’re a woman like me? To the Dairy Queen drive-thru, that’s where. As an emotional eater, I head right for those calorie rich, nutrient poor foods. But, it’s 6 AM. Dairy Queen isn’t open and I don’t have any ice cream here; so, I just ate a giant plate of mixed spring greens, spinach, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and a little ranch dressing. I know that meal isn’t going to scratch my emotional craving itch. I’m just hoping that it will fill my stomach up enough to turn off the Feed Me Now switch.

That hasn’t happened yet.

I know that it takes awhile for my stomach to message my brain that it’s had enough. Since I know that, I’m going to wash my dishes and maybe read a little for the next few minutes to stall until the message gets delivered. If it’s not delivered in an hour, I’ll have a hot cup of tea and see if I can survive this episode without grabbing my keys and heading to Sonic for an Oreo Blast.

I saw this meme this morning:

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That’s much easier said that done, Dolly; but, still sound advice, I think. And advice that I’ll follow as soon as I’m past feeling like I want to storm the freezer section with a spoon.

Dawn is Coming

We’ve all heard that it’s darkest before the dawn. Frankly, I don’t know that means; but, I know that things were pretty dark for me last night. Twice I had my keys in my hand to go get some french fries. Twice I put them down. The fries themselves wouldn’t have been too, too terrible; but, I couldn’t lie to myself. The fries would have brought along their friend Frosty or McFlurry. And that would have been bad.

So, I sat back on the sofa, continued to watch Band of Brothers (amazing, by the way) and ate a bowl of frozen mixed berries. My craving wasn’t satisfied; but, I skipped the feeling of morning-after guilt, which is worth a fair bit.

These bouts with cravings are becoming less intense and further apart. Thank goodness! Although I can tell a big difference in my taste buds, they’re not finished changing and I have to hold out long enough them to finish changing. As they change, my cravings become easier to manage. For instance, in my cabinet I have some Heath toffee brickle that I use in brownies. There have been times when I’ve just eaten the brickle like it was a crushed toffee bar. When I though about doing that on Monday, my taste buds fired back – “Nah! The chocolate will just taste waxy and the toffee will be too sweet.” I had some frozen mango chunks instead and I was okay.

But, as I remembered last night, the cravings aren’t done. I have to keep hanging in there. Dawn is coming.

Two Weeks In

And, frankly, I’m more than a little discouraged. I don’t see or feel much difference at all. I have a little easier time getting up off of the floor; but, that’s really kind of it. I almost wish that I had stepped on the scales two weeks ago so that I could see if I have lost any actual weight. But, I didn’t; so, I can’t. I can’t even point to measurable progress to keep myself motivated. I’m just having to trash talk myself through.

I know. I know. Weight loss isn’t the end game, the Why. But it’s certainly the road to getting to the Why and I can’t see that I’m any further down that road.

Because I’m on leave, I don’t socialize much, which is certainly not helping the situation. I’m alone a great deal of the time and I’m being bombarded by cravings from a sugar addiction. Okay, maybe it’s not a bombardment anymore – maybe it’s more like an incessant tapping. Still, I know the cravings are there and there are times when it’s really difficult to overcome them. To this point I have pretty well, though. No Blizzards. No Frosties. No frozen cashew milk. No chips. No candy. I did have some wine and a serving of the carrot flan cake Saturday night; but, that’s been my only step off the straight and narrow.

It’s hard, but I have to keep the faith that if I continue making healthful food choices and continue exercising that I will begin seeing results. Clearly I’m not seeing them as quickly as I’d like; but, I am confident they are coming.

weight-loss-is-hard

 

 

But That’s Cheating!

Years ago, like 15 or so, I had some weight reduction success following the Body for Life plan. That plan allows for one Cheat Day each week; but, it banks on the dieter moving further and further from really bad cheating because eating healthfully the other six days makes them feel so good they don’t want to lose that good feeling. Although I stuck to having a single Cheat Day for awhile, I never really reached that point of wanting to stay on the straight and narrow because I felt so great. Being nutritionally good for its own sake has never been my strong suit. My  diet flow chart looked like this:

Cheat Day → Cheat Weekend → Cheat Once a Day → What Diet?

This is clearly a sub-optimal result.

However, I realize that this is not everyone’s result or everyone’s experience. I said when I started this blog and I’ve said it several times since then: I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a doctor. I am an expert only in terms of my own experiences. While I’m certainly presumptuous, I’m not presumptuous enough to say that I can speak to every dieter, every emotional eater, every overweight or obese person, or even every sugar addict. I can speak only to my own experience as someone in every. single. one. of those categories.

I tried to quit smoking several times before I was actually successful at it. Each time I failed, it was because I allowed myself to believe the lie that I could have just one. “I’ll just have this one while I drink this beer.” “I can just have one with a cup of coffee.” Just “one in the car on the way to work” became one on the way home, too. Then it became another one at lunch, then another at home after work. The non-smoking flow chart looked like this:

Cheat Drive → Cheat Commute → Cheat Relaxation → A Pack of Marlboro Lights, Please

Bam! I was a smoker again.

It was not until I was honest with myself about my condition as a nicotine addict that I was able to successfully quit. No, I cannot have just one. I won’t stop there. It’s the same with my sugar addiction and the sumptuous Oreo Blizzard, I won’t stop there.

As I mentioned yesterday, I know people who can binge smoke twice a year or smoke two cigarettes a week. I am not one of those people. Similarly, I’m sure that there are people who can successfully manage a single Cheat Day or Cheat Meal a week. Clearly, I am not one of those people, either. If I were, I would not have regained more than two-thirds of the weight I lost.

The trick that let me successfully quit smoking and lose weight before wasn’t giving in to the cravings, it was by-passing or short circuiting them. If I wanted a cigarette with a beer or a cup of coffee, I just didn’t drink beer and I had my coffee in different locations and situations than I had when I smoked. I stopped working crossword puzzles sitting on my back porch because that was a time when I smoked a lot. I changed my routine so that those situations when I might normally have a cigarette no longer occurred. It’s harder with food; but, I believe that it is still manageable.

no-food-memeI pay for my gasoline at the pump, avoiding going into the convenient store where I would normally buy a snack. I change the route that I drive to work, avoiding driving by Dairy Queen and Popeye’s Chicken. I stick to the outside aisles at the grocery store, avoiding the siren call of the frozen food section. I am finding different food choices to mitigate the effects of cravings. I keep lots of whole foods and meals made from them on hand, avoiding hunger panic and the poor food choices it brings.

It’s been only a week; so, these things are not habit yet. I’m still working on them and I’m still struggling; however, I know that changing my habits worked before. And I know that it will work now.

If you are using a Cheat Day but still struggling with your weight or your health, I would challenge you to map your own diet progression. Does your flow chart look like the one the diet book recommends? (Cheat Day → Six Healthy Choice Days → Cheat Day → Six Healthy Choice Days → Better Health) Or does it look like mine above? If it looks like mine, perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach. Because if it looks like mine, it’s not a Cheat Day. It’s just cheating.

 

The Belly of the Beast

After a full week of making more healthful food choices and avoiding nearly all processed foods, I feel fantastic! My energy level is up. My eyes are sparkling. A song perches on my lips the moment my feet hit the floor! I am practically Cinderella.

Yeah. Right. What a load of crap.

“And the noise was in the beast’s belly like unto the questing of thirty couple hounds” (Book 1, chapter XIX) -Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, circa 1469

“Thirty couple hounds” is, I think, what my mother used to refer to as “forty, ‘leventy dozen.” Ever how many it is, though,  it is still the number of dogs that sound like they’re in my belly looking for something to eat. Maybe not dogs, but something else that’s growling and looking for snackage, for sure. Like Jabba the Hutt’s sarlacc (from its holiday portrait above), my stomach feels like an open pit ringed by teeth and tusks, ready to consume all ice cream, cup cakes, or Kaminoan bounty hunters that happen to come my way. I have been eating whole, plant-based foods all week and am jonesing for an Oreo Blizzard so hard that I’ve even dreamed about it. Seriously, I’m ready to make my way to the Crossroads to make a deal with Ole Scratch. I woke up from the dream feeling guilty even though I hadn’t actually done anything. It reminded me of when I quit smoking seven or eight years ago. I had the same kinds of dreams and the same kinds of guilt.

I was a moderate to heavy smoker for the better part of 20 years. I liked the ritual of tapping a new pack five times on each side before opening it. I liked the smell of the pack when I first opened it, particularly if the cigarettes were really fresh. The tobacco smelled wonderful! Then I’d put that first one between my lips and light it. The sulfer dioxide smell of the match entered my nostrils just as the sound of the sizzling tobacco burning reached my ears. Then I’d inhale and the nicotine would hit the pleasure centers of my brain, lighting them up. Fantastic. Just fantastic.

I know people who are social smokers. They can smoke a whole pack while out drinking with friends, then not pick up another cigarette for months. That’s not me. I’m a nicotine addict. I love the feeling of when that nicotine hits my brain producing the buzz and calming my nerves. (See? At least seven years after my last smoke and I can still remember the exact feeling.) Because I enjoy that feeling so much, I never experimented with hard drugs like heroin, cocaine or ecstasy. I was always afraid that I would like them too much. For the same reason, I steer clear of opioid pain killers. (Even with as bad as my foot and ankle have hurt these months, I’ve stuck to various NSAIDs.) What I have not steered clear of is ice cream. Or cake. Or chocolate. Or pastries. Yet, the sugar in those items hits the pleasure centers of my brain exactly like those other drugs would. And the lack of sugar causes withdrawal issues exactly like the lack of those other drugs would.

I have no doubt that heroin withdrawal is FAR worse than anything I’m going through right now; but, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still going through my own thing. I’m cranky. I’m hungry. I’m unfocused .But mostly I’m cranky. I want a hit of Phish Food. Badly.

But I’m not going to go get one.

I’m not because I have my eye on my Why – to become able again, rather than remaining disabled by my own hand.

While I may never reach the happy nirvana of our morning songstress Cinderella, I know that my days of feeling like a subterranean Tantooine carnivore are limited. Just as surely as better health and (hopefully) healing are coming, so, too, is relief from the cravings.