After the last post where I talked about how I had fallen off the weight loss and exercising wagon, my best high school friend G (not to be confused with my best college friend G) wrote me an amazing e-mail. I asked G if I could use the e-mail in my next post. G, very kindly, said yes.
One of the most interesting things I have learned from your blog is your relationship with food, which is very different to mine. At first it was very hard to wrap my head around it, but slowly I began to get it. I used to not understand smokers. I was like, why don’t you just stop. Since I have never had an addiction, I couldn’t get it. Then someone explained to me how difficult it was. I still don’t get it 100%, or at least I can’t find an equivalent in my own body, but I understand their explanations.
Like smoking, alcohol or drugs, food addictions can be very powerful. I never thought of myself as someone with a food addiction. I love food. I still do (though I am realizing that I don’t enjoy eating as much as I used to. But that’s another post.) The thing that makes smoking SO terrible though, is the additives the companies add to the cigarettes. (As an aside, cigarettes are bad by themselves. No question about that. HOWEVER, the additives that are added make them a ton more addictive and dangerous.) This is much like food, for what it is worth. A soda is delicious, when it is made with sugar and natural flavorings. Sarsaparilla, when it is made with the actual root and real sugar is so delicious. And not habit forming. Name brand cola, made with chemicals and high fructose corn syrup, has been proven to be addicting. Since HFCS isn’t really sugar, your body demands more of it to conquer those sugar cravings that we all get from time to time. Just as when you eat a sugar-free cookie or candy to curb that sweet tooth and it only gets worse (because your body wants some sugar, real honest to goodness sugar, and you give it chemicals instead), when you give your body HFCS you aren’t helping it. It is, honestly, the single biggest contributor to the obesity epidemic in our country. In my opinion, the second contributor is technology. Video games, iPads, TV, YouTube and the parents that let their kids use them ALL THE TIME, instead of going outside and riding bikes. But, again, that’s another post. So, if you eat food that has crap injected into it, you’re only making the addiction worse. Just as with any other addicting substance. When was the last time someone told you they had a real problem with carrots? Or beets? Or spinach? Never, right? (Except me. I do have a problem with beets. I LOVE them. It can be dangerous when they are in season.) The good stuff, the really good stuff, doesn’t perpetuate it’s own addicting behavior. That’s where the emotional and psychological shit starts to happen. And that’s where we are when we talk about folks with addictions. I’m not talking about someone who drinks soda because their body demands it, demands the chemistry like it’s meth. I’m talking about the person who numbs their feelings with ice cream or crackers, or wine and tequila, or heroin and cocaine. Because they don’t want to deal with it. They are escaping.
I never considered myself an addict, because when shit got real, I didn’t turn to food.
I honestly believed that lie, to my core. I joked that my two best friends were Ben and Jerry. And truly believed that I didn’t have a problem. I’ve always found some solace in a delicious piece of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream. But, only 3 times in my life have I sat down and eaten an entire pint of ice cream in a desire to escape. Mostly I use food to celebrate. A nice dinner out as a reward for making it through a week. A brownie or cupcake to celebrate landing a big client. A tasty coffee beverage because I made it through 6 weeks of going to the gym without failing. I’m probably not a food addict. But I know I have a weird relationship with food. Made only weirder by surgery.
I think my relationship with food is very different, and perhaps too much to another extreme. If I find out some type of food is bad for me, I just stop eating it. Psychologically, I just can’t stomach (no pun intended) eating it. Tasting good doesn’t come into play. I don’t really crave foods that I stop eating, and giving up a specific dish or ingredient has never been an issue for me. My grandmother used to ask me “don’t you crave sweets?” and she might as well have been asking me “don’t you crave writing with a blue pen instead of a black pen?” I just didn’t get it. Over the past few years, in my quest to eat healthy foods, I have “given up” dozens of different foods and to me it’s like changing socks or like changing the dial on the radio. This actually can be bad. A few months ago I began to eat meat again because I think I had cut out SO MANY things that I wasn’t eating properly. I was hungry and tired ALL the time. I’ve been on a meat frenzy the last couple of months, and my energy levels are back to normal.
Let’s get back to “eating crap.” I love carbs. I love bread and pasta, cookies and cakes, sugar and frosting and ice cream. Oh god how I love them.
I know they are so bad for me. Especially the processed ones. So, instead of having an Oreo, I have a Back To Nature sandwich cookie. Almost all organic ingredients, real sugar, no trans fats. It’s good for you, right?
Nope. It’s a better choice than an Oreo, but it is still not as good as an apple. Or some nuts. Or a glass of water. Or listening to your feelings and trying to decipher why it is you want a cookie.
If I want a cake, I’m going to make it from scratch. That’s just who I am. I’ll use local organic butter, free-range eggs, organic flour, the purest chocolate from Fair-Trade certified makers. It will be amazing. And it will still be bad for me.
It took a long time to realize that even though I was making awesome choices about what was in my food (I haven’t had HFCS, to my knowledge, in almost 3 years), if I was choosing crap food (ice cream, cookies, pasta, frosting) I was still making a crap choice. And that’s where I began to think like G. I started realizing I had to just stop eating those foods that were bad for me. Period.
But the thing is, I can hear them calling to me. I know how good they taste in my mouth. I know that I feel so good when I eat them. I hear the cupcakes from Sticky Fingers bakery (vegan baked goods) calling to me when I’m grocery shopping. “But Kyla! We’re good for you! We love you! We want you to eat us and be happy!”
Oh, cupcakes, I love you too. I want to be with you. But, honestly, we’re bad for each other. If I eat you, then you cease to exist. And I feel gross later, both intestinal and emotionally. And I won’t lose these last 50 pounds. So I’m breaking up with you. I’ve got a new love, and it’s apples with cheese. It’s cucumbers and hummus. It’s strawberries with cream. It’s water, and plenty of it. I know there’s someone out there for you, cupcake, it’s just not me.
It’s easy to sit here and type the conversation with the cupcake. It’s easy to say I’m going to avoid them from now on. What’s hard is having the conversation EVERY TIME. And staying strong EVERY TIME.
Am I never going to have those sweets I love?
Of course not.
I had a delicious beignet and homemade cookie just last week for my birthday. They were amazing. And they were the only crap food I had all week. And I still lost a pound. Because I stopped at one indulgence. And I didn’t let it bump me off the wagon. I got up the next morning, went for a run, ate my good foods all day, and then did the same thing every day since.
Sure, I’ll stumble. But what will make it different this time is getting back up and making a conscious effort to not stumble again.
Making better choices every chance I get.