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.

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Detox: Day 1

Alright, first, let me say that I get just as annoyed as most people when diets talk about “detoxing” and “cleansing.” Most of the people making those claims hold degrees in marketing, not in medicine or nutrition. Frankly, I’m not even sure those claims have any real meaning. What I’m talking about here is straight up detoxing – getting away from an addictive substance and going through the subsequent withdrawal symptoms.

You might have noticed that chocolate appears nowhere on Dr. Allie’s list. It doesn’t appear on the copy I transcribed for you and it doesn’t exist on the original. Trust me. I examined it … at length … with a magnifying glass … and with invisible ink developers. Chocolate wasn’t there neither were low-fat cookies, Oreos, frozen cashew milk desserts, peanut butter, Nilla wafers, Diet Coke, nor fruit baked into pies. Okay, yeah. That makes sense. I’ve been through this before and knew that all of those (except peanut butter – that was kind of a nasty surprise) were on the prohibited list. So yesterday saw my first day of detox from sugar. And my body isn’t freaking out.

Yet.

After party clean upAs we’ve discussed before (a really long time ago) the human brain reacts to sugar in the same way that it reacts to cocaine and sex. The pleasure centers light up and throw a giant party. Once the sugar is all used up, the pleasure centers begin to sulk, fuss and demand another party. My cells aren’t demanding a party yet; but, they are beginning to get a little disgruntled. Here’s what I ate yesterday:

Budget 1,264   Food Intake 1,209
Breakfast: 416
Tofurky Italian Sausage 1 Piece (280 cal)
German Sauerkraut 1 Cup (56 cal)
Beets 1 Cup (80 cal)
Lunch: 154
Creamy Sweet Potato and Vegetable Stew 1 Serving (104 cal)
Beets 1/4 Cup (20 cal)
Plums, Fresh, 2 1/8″ 1 Each (30 cal)
Dinner: 270
Oatmeal with flax meal and chia seeds 2/3 Serving (180 cal)
Banana, Fresh, Sml, 6″ To 6 7/8″ Long 1 Each (90 cal)
Snacks: 369
Deluxe Mixed Nuts 1 1/2 Ounces (255 cal)
Hummus, Roasted Pine Nut 2 Tablespoons (50 cal)
Cucumber, Fresh, Med 2 Cups (31 cal)
Asparagus, Spears, Cooked 10 Each (33 cal)

My nutrient breakdown was about:

Fat – 48.7g, 37.7% of calories (USDA – 20-35% of calories)
Saturated fat – 8.3g
cholesterol – 0g (no animal products means no cholesterol)
Sodium – 3088.4mg (USDA – 2300mg)
Carbohydrates – 117.4g, 40.3% of calories (USDA – 130g, 45-65% of calories)
Fiber – 32.5g (USDA – 25.2g)
Sugar – 34g (There is no USDA number; however, the Heart Association recommends 25g for females)
Protein – 64g, 22% of calories (USDA – 46g, 10-35% of calories)
USDA daily calorie recommendations for females my age:
1800 for sedentary, 2000 for moderately active, 2200 for active

I was a little over in my fat consumption (all those nuts) and a little over in my sugar intake (beets. Beets, man.) However, it was a fairly balanced day. For the next few days, I will likely remain a little high in my sugar intake since I’ll be eating fruits to try to keep my pleasure centers from going into full-on rebellion. After my body gets used to having nutrient- and fiber-rich foods again, I’ll be able to back off the fruit a little.

Until then, I’ve got to go check the refrigerator. I’m just certain I bought blueberries yesterday.