Archive for the ‘I Want to Eat All of the Things’ Category

The hangover week after Halloween feels like an excellent time to reflect on how sugar is like crack. There are still bowls of fun-size crack bars floating around the office, coworkers listlessly, compulsively taking from them. Just one more Smartie, one more Mr. Good Bar. No one feels good about it anymore.

The heady rush of celebration – of eating all the candy with wild abandon – is gone. I even fell prey to the siren song of candy this year. After two years of staunchly avoiding it all, this time I caved. I was carrying around a tray full of mini candy bars (as part of a group “Party Down” costume), and at some point I just reached out, grabbed a mini Snickers, opened it, and ate it. I knew it was a bad idea, but it was also so delicious I didn’t care enough to stop. And oh the happy feeling it gave me – warm and exciting, sending energy coursing through my body.

It really is like a drug.

Which is why I so appreciate this recent study from my own alma mater: Student-faculty research shows Oreos are just as addictive as drugs in lab rats. And while the study is focusing on cookies instead of candy, it’s all the same thing: sugar, sugar, sugar. Here’s just a snippet from the article:

“…his students found rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. They also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s ‘pleasure center’ than exposure to drugs of abuse.”

Not only is sugar like cocaine, it is more like cocaine than cocaine. Which helps explain why it’s so hard to just walk away from the candy bowl.

Soon after eating that “fun”-size Snickers on Halloween, I reached for, opened, and bit into another one. I had broken the seal. No candy for two years and now it was all around me, ripe for the binging. I took a bite and then, in a moment of clarity, threw the rest in the trash can. No good could come from a candy binge. No good did come from it. Later in the day, I ate a mini Three Musketeers bar, but then that was really it. Then I really stopped. For about an hour, I felt amazing: full of energy, happy, running around the office, talking excitedly with all my happy buzzing coworkers. And then the crash hit.

Then I felt tired and gross. By the next day, I was kind of sick, like I was coming down with a cold. But I also felt like if I could just have another piece of chocolate, or maybe a Starburst, it would all be a little bit better. I knew better though. As hard as it was, I resisted. It was miserable at first, but then it was fine. And a week later, I am back on the wagon and off that white horse.


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Sugar. It seems like a good idea at the time. But once it’s in there – and by there, I mean my body – man, is it regrettable.

And to be truthful, sugar no longer seems like a good idea to me when I eat it. More accurately, I know it’s a bad idea, but the desire to indulge in something fun and irresponsible coupled with an almost irresistible need for it compels me. Kind of like a drug. Because that’s basically what it is.

Usually, my gateway is, “I’ll have just one bite.” Often, I am successful at this strategy, but not always. For example, on Sunday I was a dear friend’s birthday party, where two delicious cakes were presented. The goal was to photograph but not eat them. However, I decided to have just one bite. That bite involved marzipan, and oh, how I love marzipan. Anything almond flavored really. It took no time for the situation to devolve into me having enough bites of marzipan icing to constitute an entire piece of cake. A small one, yes, but still a piece of cake.

It tasted soooo good going in! And I just wanted to keep eating and eating and eating it. But then it didn’t feel so good. My body, now better attuned to the food it’s eating, caught up with me pretty quickly and, within 10 minutes, was speaking to its discomfort. The sugar made me feel twitchy over-stimulated, like I’d had to much coffee, while also making me vaguely nauseated. My mouth got cotton-y. I wanted to keep eating that marzipan icing, but I knew my body was telling me to stop. So I did.

There was a time, many years, in fact, when my body would have been so numb from constant sugar exposure, that it would not have sent me these signals, and I would not have stopped. Not until I had made myself ill or social convention made me too self-conscious. Now, my body immediately lets me know what I have done. And I live with the consequences of it. I feel sluggish, tired, and irritable, and I have to spend the next couple of days combating the craving to fend off these feelings with another hit of sugar. My weight goes up without fail.

Beyond my tongue and the pleasure receptors in my brain, my body does not like sugar. It really is a drug and one I am drawn to. But the more I am present with what happens when I eat it and how that makes me feel, the better I am able to stay away.


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I’ve started taking pictures of all the desserts I’m exposed to that I don’t eat, mostly just to give myself something to do around those desserts besides feel fussy. Photographing the food allows me to appreciate its appeal – visual, and emotional as well – while still helping me maintain distance. I have a lot of pictures of desserts already. In just one week, I was offered a lot of cookies, cupcakes, pies and ice cream.

In the moment, I wanted to eat all of it. Pretty much what stopped me was knowing how unhappy I’d be about it afterwards. Because it always tastes good in the moment and then I always feel gross once the moment is gone. Sometimes, if I really eat a lot of sweets, I feel sick to my stomach. Always though, I feel where I have let the desire for a short-term pleasure get in the way of my long-term happiness and well being.

I’m not actually against having dessert as a special treat. I ate my wedding cake, and on our first anniversary, I’ll eat it again. I’m also not against having a couple of bites to appreciate a truly delicious treat. The first two bites are always the best ones anyway. After that we all get diminishing returns on our taste buds. My lifelong response to those diminishing returns is to just eat as much as I possibly can until my taste buds actually go numb. But obviously, this habit has served me very poorly. If I can keep my consumption to “just a taste” – a literal two bites – I am much better off, and I actually enjoy the thing more.

But if I were to have a taste of every dessert that crosses my path, I would still be eating a LOT of dessert. And the truth is for me that it is hard to just have two bites; it takes a lot of will power and only sometimes is that will power in place for me. I do better when I avoid the sweet entirely – or when I sub it for a healthier sweet, like one square of 85% dark chocolate.

So now I’m photographing it instead of eating it. I like taking pictures anyway, but it also gives me a very useful perspective. When I can see almost a dozen pictures of sweets accumulate in the course of a week, I get a clear visual reminder of why it’s important to avoid them: because they are everywhere. They are constant and they are legion. And if I let the treats be in control, they will destroy me. This may sound dramatic, but it’s actually true. The infinite cookies of this world are out to do me – and everyone else – much more harm than good.

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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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Gained, not lost. Let’s just be clear on that. For how lovely it would be if I were writing about how I had lost three pounds in three days (lovely but maybe not healthy?), but no… it’s the opposite. Which also cannot be that healthy.

I was away this past weekend, and I decided that for the three days I was gone, I would be thoughtful and moderate but within that context eat and drink as I pleased. Here’s why I decided to give myself an exception: It was my bachelorette weekend, and I’m only planning to have one those. Because I don’t drink much anymore, I decided I didn’t want to have a traditional bachelorette party. I’m not really so much into da club anymore. Or even crowded bars. It turns out, for me, they are less charming and fun when sober. So instead, a few close friends and I went away to the desert for the weekend; it was wonderful and exactly right for me.

And I did drink. Because you know… bachelorette. The first night, I had a glass of wine in the hot tub. I started a second but realized it was making me feel drowsy and out of it, and I wanted to be present for the evening, to enjoy everything going on. The second night, I had two drinks again. Same deal: a glass of wine followed by a second glass that I realized was making me feel less than fabulous. I had another half a glass at the end of the evening though, back at the house where we were all staying, so it ended up being 2 full glasses. So between three and four glasses of wine for the whole weekend. Not bad considering that two short years ago, three to four glasses of wine would have been my average for a casual night.


As for eating, our meals were mostly heathly: a salad for lunch and homemade tacos with chorizo the first night, eggs with leftover taco stuff for breakfast in the morning, a picnic lunch on a hike, and vegan pancakes and turkey bacon the final morning. We ate dinner out on Friday night at a barbecue place, and I ordered chicken with vegetables. The less healthy food came in the snacking.

Again, it wasn’t the worst food in the world, we weren’t driving through Taco Bell or seeing who could fit the most (recently discontinued) Sno Balls in their mouths at once. But there was dark chocolate, and I did eat it. Here, in sum, is the list of foods I normally wouldn’t eat that I enjoyed over the weekend:
dark chocolate almond bark
dark chocolate covered ginger
dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds (I clearly like dark chocolate…)
corn chips with salsa
mini-cupcakes from a bakery that makes sugar, gluten, and dairy free desserts
mini-cookies from that same bakery
a few steak fries
a peanut butter and honey sandwich on Ezekiel bread during the hike
root vegetable chips
two eggs with yolks

Breakfast eggs

Breakfast eggs

And…I think that’s it. Not a long list at all really. I definitely ate of these foods liberally, particularly the chocolate-covered ginger. But I figured it was one weekend and a celebration at that.

I weighed myself on Friday before leaving town and again on Monday, the morning after I returned. My weight was up by 3.4 pounds. 3.4! In three days! That’s craziness. And also a very clear sign of just how sensitive my body is to sugar mostly, but also to food it just doesn’t need. It’s no wonder I gained weight consistently for years. I ate much more poorly than I did over the past weekend all the time. And I consumed fewer beneficial nutrients too. My body clearly had no capacity to manage all the excess sugar and carbs and refined crap I was giving it. So it held on. Apparently, that’s all it knows to do.

None of us should eat crap food, no matter our weight because it’s still crap and it’s going into our bodies. Some people are able to process that crap better than others. (Side note: I’m not saying the food I ate over the weekend was crap – it was mostly pretty good in the grand scheme of things, but some of it was, you know… pretty iffy in quantity.) I am not one of those people. My body can’t handle it well. Experiments like this past weekend are good reminders of that.

I weighed myself again this morning, and after just one day of clean eating, I’d dropped one of those extra pounds, so I’m hoping by the end of the week I will have stabilized. I know it’s not good to go up and down with my weight, so I’m hoping that keeping it within a week will make it more of an aberration than real weight I’ve gained. And I will say for just three days and not as a way of behaving regularly, but as a special treat… it was worth it.

A beautiful time in a beautiful place

A beautiful time in a beautiful place

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Cheese-Infested Salad

Cheese-Infested Salad

I just re-read my post from last week on why I’m not losing weight and was pained by this line:
I consume no sugar, red meat, fried foods, cheese, or processed foods. I consume very few refined carbohydrates, and the only dairy I eat is nonfat plain Greek yogurt. I have maybe one drink a month.

…Pained because this past weekend, it wasn’t true. I think I ate literally all of those things. The crazy part was that I was still being relatively self-restrained and thoughtful in my eating choices. But man is it easy to go off the rails on the crazy food train.

It looked like this:
Drinks: Margarita (first one in over a year) – check; sangria – check again. Two drinks in one day. That gets me druuunk now, incidentally. I am a cheap ole date. I managed to not drink anything the second day we were there. Virgin Bloody Mary’s are pretty great, as it turns out.
Red Meat: Pork in a potsticker at the zoo. I don’t know what to say – we were at the zoo; we needed a snack; theme parks are impossible that way.
Sugar: Oh, the sugar… this one has always been my favorite, my true drug of choice. I indulged in…
stupid Valentine’s chocolates – 4
some delicious high-end chocolate – 1 and I’m not sorry
that margarita
three bites of my friend’s bread pudding dessert
Fried Foods: This one is the most annoying because I don’t even really care about the fried foods, but it’s EVERYWHERE. I ordered a chicken sandwich, which was not listed as having a side; yeah, that shit still came with fries. And then they were there, and I was hungry… and I was weak. I ate like 10 of them. Also, those potstickers at the zoo.
Cheese: You know what lots of restaurants use to flavor all their food? Cheese. Even when I was trying not to eat it, it still showed up in my dang salads – at three different meals. Also, my friends ordered fondue, and I had a bite (three bites) of it.
Processed foods: I mean… half the stuff I just mentioned. I managed to stay away from my BFF’s CheezeIts, though. So at least I have that going for me.

Total food disaster. I think the only thing listed that I didn’t eat was the Greek yogurt – which is actually good for me. I mean, yes, I was on vacation, with two of my best friends from college, for a bachelorette-type celebration of my upcoming wedding. So really, this is how life goes sometimes. Shit-food happens. And I just have to dust myself off and get back in the game.

It’s just hard when I know I’ll see it reflected on the scale, and that will just be one more week that my weight has stayed the same, inching me towards seven months without a real change. I know what kind of look my trainer will get – even if I don’t tell her the details, because she’ll know from what the scale says. And if I do tell her the details, I know I won’t get understanding. This is a zero-sum game we’re playing. And it’s not really a game. It’s my life. But because it’s my life, sometimes I find it really hard to trade in absolutes.

I did have fun though!

Close enough to pool weather in San Diego

Close enough to pool weather in San Diego

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I will offer you nothing but misery and regret.

I will offer you nothing but misery and regret.

That’s half of a coconut scone. And it’s caption is what I had to tell myself to keep from eating it.

I’m like a dry drunk right now. The halcyon days of extreme focus have slipped away (temporarily), and everything is a decision again. I don’t eat sugar, so a lush coconut scone offered by a lovely inn at its complimentary breakfast should be NO PROBLEM ME, right? It’s not even on my radar – right?! Except there I was, sitting in the thoughtfully appointed main living room, at a cute table eating breakfast to the soothing sounds of classical music, and I thought, “Well, why not have just a bite?”

The fuck is that about?! Here’s why I shouldn’t have a bite: sugar. Also, butter and processed white flour. My body takes those ingredients and holds on to them like a long-lost lover returned. No good comes of me eating a scone. And yet… when we walked in to the eating area, and I saw the nicely arranged plate of bakery-made breakfast pastries, I wanted them. I got myself plain yogurt and a grapefruit a hard-boiled egg, but my heart was not in it. My heart was busy composing sonnets to scones.

I thought I could resist when my fiance brought one back to the table. But then he took a bite and said with disappointment, “Aw, it’s coconut.” Whaat? What’s that you say? Did you say coconut?! I LOVE COCONUT!!! GIVE ME THE COCONUT!

That’s not what I said out loud, but I did reach out immediately, break off a bite and pop it in my mouth. Oh sweet delicious coconut and sugar and butter and flour. Stephen said, “I hate how chewy coconut is.” I said, “Om nom nom nom nom!!!”

And I was about to eat more. I was ready to do it. I had the excuses lined up: We’re out of town! It’s a special occasion! I already ate a huge meal full of questionable ingredients last night (the tasting menu for our wedding reception)! Why not just make a weekend of it?!

I looked at the scone and thought about how good it would taste. And then I thought about the rush of happy feelings it would bring me and how, at least for a moment, those would overwhelm the stress of wedding planning. But then I remembered what would come after: the regret. The sense of disappointment with myself. The eroding of my confidence in my ability to choose what I truly want for myself. So I took a picture instead and tagged it with what truly defines that scone for me.

And you know I was glad I didn’t eat it. Of course. Always.

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