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Archive for May, 2013

I am still clawing my way back onto the wagon.

We’ve been home for a little over two weeks now, and I have struggled to get back to my good habits. As I mentioned before, it’s hard when special time ends. I experienced a singular moment in my life, and I did so in the company of all the people I love best, with much celebrating, in many beautiful places. The return to work and daily routines is a real come down in excitement. I didn’t want all that specialness to end, and even though Stephen told me that special times would be all the time, as long as we were together (I know!) and even though I agree with him, I still felt the post-wedding blues people talk about. And food felt like one part of the celebration that I could keep going.

Or rather, I knew as soon as we got back that I needed to return to my healthy habits, but knowing did not translate to doing. I intended to eat well, and then I ate treats anyway. Over the course of our first week back, I found myself behaving in ways I hadn’t in almost two years. Work had several needless food extravaganzas, and instead of my usual habit of saying, “I don’t eat that” and moving on, I actually ate a cake pop. A cake pop! Because it was there and it was delicious. Just like the Chinese noodles, the cookies, the cheese, and the chocolate I found to eat.

It turns out, I can’t jump on and off the wagon as easily as I might like to think I can. The jumping off part is easy enough, but it is not such a simple task to climb back on. It should be. After all, it is only choices, and I know how to make good ones. But I am a food addict. My vacation from healthy eating reminded me of this. I struggle with moderation. It like the saying regarding alcoholism goes: “One drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough. Substitute drink for cookie, and that’s basically me.

Or it can be me. I actually have managed moderation for all the months of my plateau, I suppose. In this time, I’ve had treats here or there, but just little bits and bites. But the goal in this time was always to be absolutely healthy. Once I allowed myself to “just not worry about it” for a week and do what I wanted, I really went crazy. I didn’t know how to just enjoy a piece of cake and then let it go. Because once the sugar was in my system, and the idea of cake was in my heart, I bent my thoughts and efforts toward it. I thought about it; I sought it out. I felt myself sliding back into my old ways of always thinking about the next opportunity for treats, the next fix.

It is not how I want to live. And so, with help from some dear friends and my new husband(!), I took sugar off the menu again. I had to put money on it to keep myself from eating it. But whatever it takes to get this monkey back off my back – one step at a time – they’re steps worth taking.

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I ate all of the things.

Oh hello, delicious cake.

Oh hello, delicious cake.

At our wedding, in the days before, and on our honeymoon afterwards. It started as a trickle – some chocolate here, a margarita there, a piece of cheese at breakfast – and became a thundering torrent, a river unleashed. Chocolate croissants and coffee with milk for breakfast every day of our honeymoon in Sausalito. Pasta for dinner one night, steak another night. Desserts with every meal. I actually shared Stephen’s ridiculous mountain of ice cream, chocolate and peanut butter sauce at the shop at Ghirardelli Square. Normally I scoff at that kind of brazen, advertising-encouraged consumption. I also don’t really eat ice cream anymore. Except that I did. And french fries too. And also some salt water taffy.

I was not having a moment of “a few nibbles here and there” or “the appreciation of a special meal” or even “a day off to enjoy what I wanted within reason.” Ho no. I just WENT for it.

It didn’t start out that way, of course. I arrived in Santa Barbara on the Thursday before my wedding, eyeball already spasming, recent cake-eating indiscretions having been committed, but still mostly intact. I ordered fish and salad for that first dinner with my family and had plain yogurt with fruit for breakfast the next day. But that afternoon, when I started to really feel the intensity of being less than 48 hours away from my wedding and still needing to meet with our florist and take care of random things that had been forgotten, I began to slide. An hour before dinner with 20 friends and family members, I was buying votive candles at CostPlus World Market, and I decided I needed some chocolate. Dark chocolate, because I was being reasonable, of course. Except that I bought three bars.

Saturday morning, I had a full-on breakdown, crying on the deck in front of my room, overwhelmed by thoughts the enormous step Stephen and I were taking, the transformation it would create, the loneliness of that passage despite being surrounded by so much love and support, the desire to see everyone and the pressure of it too, and the fact that my damn eyeball spasms were getting more insistent and frequent. I was still feeling raw and vulnerable when I got to the lunch family friends were throwing an hour later. And then I saw my cousin’s margarita. All icy and cold with salt on the rim, it seemed like possibly the best idea ever. And really? It was. Two margaritas later, my eyeball was spasming a fraction of the amount it had been before, and I felt much better.

From that point on, I pretty much did what I wanted. Ate pastries for breakfast, ate chocolate, drank. On our wedding day, I was too busy and emotionally full to really eat in any real quantity. But when Stephen and I sat down with some friends at a booth in a bar at 11:30 after the reception had ended, I happily ate half the tiramisu he ordered. And half a basket of bread. The next morning, at our day-after brunch, which had been rained out of its original outdoor location, I ate mini-croissants and bacon exclusively.

It wasn’t like my trainer always said it would be: that once I had changed my palate, I wouldn’t enjoy really sugary or rich foods. Or if that was the case, it took very little time to override that truth with consumption and return my palate to the state of MORE SUGAR MORE SALT MORE FAT MORE YUM NOW MORE it had known for so many years.

And because I was going off-plan and off the wagon, I really went. On our honeymoon, I actively looked for foods I hadn’t eaten in almost two years because “What the hell? I was eating now!” By the third day, I had eaten an entire box of chocolate-covered ginger, and Stephen was worried about me. I told him not to worry. It was special time, and when it ended, I would rein it back in.

But it’s sad when special time ends. It was hard to go back to regular life after 10 days of being surrounded by beauty, joy, and celebration. All the delicious food and special meals were the proverbial icing on the literal cake I was eating. I knew I had to get back to normal, but normal was a lot less shiny and fun.

Still, we came home, married, happy, and definitely fatter. I weighed myself the day morning I left for Santa Barbara and found I was already up two pounds from where I had been the week before. When I weighed myself the morning after we got back from our honeymoon, I found I had gained another five pounds. In all, I gained seven pounds in two weeks. Half a pound a day.

And so the lesson is as clear as any of the others, which all have been the same: I can eat whatever I want, but there will be consequences. Also, I am a dry drunk with food. I abstain, but my mentality has not changed, at least not as much as it needs to. This is a bigger issue. The more immediately digestible truth is this: My body does not handle empty calories or sugar-laden, carb-filled foods well. It’s a shame that it should be that way when all those foods taste so good, but on my best days, I know it’s a blessing too. Because I clearly struggle to be moderate with my consumption, and I need the outward indicator as a reminder to care for myself. For years, even that wasn’t enough.

But now that I know the benefits of being in good shape and good health, I know it’s worth it, that it’s better – even if sometimes just barely – than a bowl of warm pasta on a windy night in Noe Valley or a sangria at happy hour with my new husband. Because I know it would have been harder to enjoy all of those things if I didn’t already feel so good about myself and the changes I have made in my life. Plus, I know that in the end, what matters most of all is the company I share those meals with.

 

 

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Chocolate was an important part of my wedding. I did not go into the weekend with the intention of stocking my room with chocolate bars and then steadily working my way through them, but I’m glad that’s what I did.

The plan had been to eat reasonably but indulge some and enjoy myself because obviously, it was my wedding. This plan started to crumble the Wednesday before the wedding when Stephen’s coworkers threw us a wonderful wedding shower in their school library, complete with one of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever eaten, made by one of Stephen’s dear coworkers.

It was worth it.

It was worth it.

Still, I managed to keep it together for my first 24 hours or so in Santa Barbara, ordering fish for dinner and eating yogurt and hardboiled eggs instead of croissants at the inn’s breakfast.

But planning and executing a wedding is some of the most intense stress I’ve ever experienced. By the time I got to Santa Barbara on Thursday, my right eyeball was spasming every few minutes, which continued until the day after the wedding. There was just so much: so many people I loved, all of whom I wanted to talk to all at once, so many details still to get into place, so much to coordinate.

So Friday afternoon, eyeball spasming all the while, I went with my dear friend (and our officiant!) JV to meet with the florist in the hour or so gap we had before dinner. And there I learned that I was incorrect in my belief that she was providing the tea lights. I wasn’t mad or anything, as my florist was amazing, and I’m sure it was a detail I did not make clear. But suddenly it was the Friday before my wedding; family and friends were meeting soon for dinner; and we did not have little candles to go in the 30 some-odd lanterns, 22 of which Stephen had taken the time to paint to match our wedding colors. So JV and I went to CostPlus World Market, one of my favorite stores to buy tea lights. Because it was another detail that had to get handled.

It’s a memory I love, wandering through the store with my dear friend, finding random things I suddenly realized we might need. One of the items I decided we needed was chocolate. I bought three bars of orange and ginger infused dark chocolate and I did not feel bad about it. My other dear friend, D, met us back at my suite with two more chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s and I was glad for them.

Food had been my comfort through much of life and many challenges. There is a part of me that appreciates the benefit of having a major life transformation without relying on food for comfort, that understands how that would be beneficial. But also, it was a weekend, and it was okay to eat some chocolate. It helped ground and center me. It was part of the celebration. It is a joy to remember running through that store with one of my best friends and then sharing squares of chocolate on the drive back to our inn. It is one of the many moments that made the weekend so special.

And the flowers were beautiful

And the flowers were beautiful.

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I am married.

ourwedding

Just over two weeks ago, in front of family and friends, I made a declaration of love and commitment with my now-husband. Our wedding day was one of the most full days of my life: full of love, my favorite people, beauty, intense emotion, music, cloudy skies, adrenaline, bright colors, and so much joy. The intensity of it – the strength of my emotions and the gamut they ran, the feeling of being surrounded and supported by so many people and so much love, the multitude of precious, memorable moments piling on top of each other – is something I could have never imagined in advance, and I replay it over and over. There is so much to uncover in what felt like one of the most real, most full days of my life.

I am deeply grateful for all of it.

Getting married resembled but was nothing truly like what I have been shown – through stories, images and media – the experience to be. Much like the experience of being in love, our wedding was grittier, truer, more detailed and infinitely more meaningful and precious than the glossy visions I was brought up on. Images of weddings, ideas of weddings have surrounded me since childhood in movies, fairy tales, magazines, and pictures of my parents and other family. And I’ve been inundated for months by them as I’ve scrolled through Pinterest and blogs – the detailed shots of mason jars and place cards, ethereal shots of brides in sunlit fields, festive shots of carefully coordinated flowers and centerpieces. It’s all so lovely, and we had most of those elements at our wedding (although I was a bride on a lawn, rather than in a field), but none of them where the truth of the wedding.

The truth of it was in moments and feelings. Waking up next to my best friend and having her say, “It’s your wedding day!” My parents stopping by my room in the morning to kiss and hug me and chat with my bridesmaids. My brother driving me in my massive dress to the courthouse with classical music playing on his car radio. The freezing sea wind at the top of the courthouse’s bell tower and the warmth of Stephen when he arrived for our first look pictures. The cool and dim light of the courthouse halls where I waited with my mother and bridesmaids for the wedding to start, the adrenaline and rush of anticipation as I peered out the window and saw people gathering on the lawn. The words I shared with my dad before starting our walk down the aisle. The smile on Stephen’s face. The boisterous swell of mariachi music after the ceremony. The faces of so many people I love all around me. The gleeful walk to the restaurant with a parade of family and friends shaking maracas behind us. The moments before we entered the reception, just Stephen and I making jokes as we hid on the balcony. The rush of the reception, of talking to so many people, being surrounded by so much joy and love. Maracas being shaken at us all night. My eight-year-old goddaughter dancing among all my college friends. My one trip to the bathroom, which was an event of its own. The dancing. The sangria. The laughing. The joy. The last dance with Stephen, surrounded by friends and family, the love we were held and lifted in. These and so many other small moments were the great blessings of our wedding, the gift for the beginning of our lives together.

It was all so beautiful, and the best example of how true beauty comes from within and radiates out, just like the love we feel.

weddingdance

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