The Writing Detox

Writing Myself a Healthy Life

As Long As You Never Stop Starting

Isn’t there a saying about how when you’re quitting smoking, you just have to keep quitting until it sticks? And sometimes it takes a lot of quitting before you stop smoking forever. I forget the saying. I’m sure it’s a thing.

For getting healthier, you have to never stop starting. Every day you have to get up and start living a healthier lifestyle. Even when you fall off the wagon for a few weeks, months, years, decades…as long you wake up and live a healthier lifestyle today, you’re still on the path to success.

Or something like that.

A few weeks ago, all the special events and the travel for work added up to the point where I was eating things on the “special occasion” list every day. It’s not “special” if it’s every day, even if every day is special…you know what I mean, right?

So, after almost two months of being gluten- and refined sugar-free, I’ve now been off the wagon for a month. And it shows. My belly has expanded back to its original position, and the weight that had slowly slid off is creeping back.

What this reminds me is that weight loss isn’t something you check off your to-do list every day and then forget about it. Just like the picture above, motivation, health, bathing, brushing our teeth: these are all things we have to keep incorporating into our routines every day, remembering to do every day, prioritizing every day.

No one said it’d be easy. But I’m starting again, today.

Dinner Parties

Recently, I moved back to the area where I grew up. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time with people I knew in my childhood, especially friends of my parents. Many of my parents’ friends became my friends as I grew older and whenever I visited the area I would stop in to see them all. Now, living here again, they are some of our best friends.

Several times we’ve had dinner with them, and for the most part it’s a lot like having dinner with any of our friends. We talk about beer and food, and travel, and other people, and the politics of the day. I’ve noticed lately though, that often we talk about nutrition. Everyone has their own ideas about nutrition and weight loss and healthy eating. Everyone is on some plan or another and is very proud of how well it’s going. Everyone thinks you should try it.

I, of course, am very proud of how well I’ve been doing at slowly changing my lifestyle. It hasn’t be a quick change with immediate results, but I am developing new habits and I feel good about it. However, I would never tell someone that I thought they should go gluten free just because it is working for me. I’m sure I’m just as guilty as the next person of sharing health and lifestyle advice that I think is valuable, and perhaps it is not always welcome.

Maybe this is just me feeling sensitive about how much weight I’ve gained since high school, but I often feel like these conversations are born from my older friends trying to “mother” me into a healthier lifestyle. Since I have a mother who has always been very good at encouraging me to eat better, I often leave these dinner parties trying feeling like I’ve failed the whole neighbourhood by not adhering to a strictly organic, vegan, high-protein, low-carb, glycemic-index-based, Mediterranean, regularly-spaced mini-meal, no fat-with-carbs, no-fruit-or-any-kind-of-sugar, vitamin-supplemented diet.

You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

I can make small changes, adopt new habits, find my own inner motivations and sustainability plans, and see what works for me. I may not be losing 2 lbs per week like clockwork, but I feel like I am doing something good for myself and I feel like I have made it sustainable.

I no longer think in terms of a timeline (e.g. I will not eat sugar for one week). Now I think in terms of forever (e.g. I will cut refined sugars from my diet entirely except on special occasions). Eventually, I will add new habits, like cutting all refined and non-refined sugars from my every-day life, or reducing the amount of cheese I eat, or increasing my legumes and protein.

I can make small changes, adopt new habits, find my own inner motivations and sustainability plans, and see what works for me.

 

Sweet Slips

Yesterday I kept my word and counted calories. I ate 1500 more than I was supposed to. The stupid thing was that I forgot to eat lunch, so most of those calories were guacamole and chips when I realized how hungry I was, and then we had bison  burgers with goat cheese for dinner, which was delicious, but the cheese was too many calories again. The thing is, I’m a bigger fan of eating less of the good-for-you things that are high in calories than of cutting them out entirely. Things that are bad for you, it’s easier to cut those out, or at least restrict them to cheat days.

Today I took a friend to an event called Empty Bowls, where you pick a bowl made by a local potter and then you have soup (donated by local restaurants). The soup was fantastic. My friend has some mobility problems, so I got up to get her some desserts and tea at one point, and when I got back she offered me the meringue on her plate. I thought to myself “Oh! I can eat that – it doesn’t have any gluten in it!” I was half way through it before I remembered I also wasn’t eating sugar. Luckily it was a very small meringue so there wasn’t any major harm done, but the funny thing was how easily I completely forgot my own rules. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. A few weeks ago I stopped with a bite of a biscuit in my mouth and had to spit it out because I’d forgotten I wasn’t eating gluten.

Apparently reducing gluten and sugar intake will improve my memory. I wonder how long it will take for that to kick in!

 

 

Constant Vigilance!

It turns out that even your tools can become excuses. I haven’t been writing in the blog because I didn’t want to make excuses for any failures – so of course, I had no accountability to myself or anyone else (real or hypothetical).

I was tracking everything I ate, and I lost five pounds. I only ate sugar once in March on the boyfriend’s birthday, and I have been gluten free since the beginning of March. It’s been good. Gluten free hasn’t been too hard. My family is used to accommodating it because my Mom doesn’t eat gluten. Sugar free was harder, but I’ve been managing. I ate sugar at Easter because…well…there were jelly beans. I’m hopeless before jelly beans.

Other than that, I haven’t done too bad. But the thing was that I lost five pounds. And once I started to have some success, I stopped keeping track of my food. I decided that I must have the hang of it, and I gave up writing and tracking – the two things that will really make the difference in longevity on this project. Mad-Eye Moody was right – “Constant vigilance!” is the only way to succeed in life. With a few treat days.

I did go for a run yesterday. It felt amazing. I ran for a full 15 minutes – almost 2 km – and then turned around and walk/ran home. Today the boy and I headed out for a walk and I wanted to run. My muscles were aching to get back into it. Walking ended up being a good switch though. It felt like there were different muscles at play. I will run again tomorrow. I will start keeping track of my food again. I will write here again. I will keep going because this is a long-term investment in my own longevity, nothing less.

Mood Swings

Last week I gave in and ate three cookies. I’ve never been  much for moderation. They were gluten-free cookies, so at least I’ve stuck to it on that point.

The next day I felt very out of sorts. I was grumpy. Anxious. Angry. Moody. I chalked it up to hormones and we went out to dinner and a movie. We were going to see the Hunger Games and I was excited, having looked forward to it for weeks. But I was so grumpy, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to silence, by any means necessary, all the other inane people standing in line with us. Especially the guy in front of me who wasn’t saying anything. What was his deal??

I decided that since I’d looked forward to the movie so much, I would treat myself and have a pop. I stared for a moment longingly at the Yogen Fruz, but the line was too slow and I decided just to go with the root beer. Bad choice. The root beer was unsatisfying and I kept thinking about strawberry frozen yogurt all night. Actually, I’m still thinking about it because they had a sugar-free version.

I drank half the pop and didn’t want the rest. The movie was amazing and I was cheered up for the ride home. But the next day, all the anger returned. I was a grumpy, moody, weepy mess.

I’m not entirely sure that the correlation equals causation, but it was noticeable that after I went back to not “cheating”, I started feeling better again. I’ve been a bit more even keeled the last few days, and every time I think about eating sugar, I think about how miserable I felt on Saturday morning and I decide to wait. Just in case. It’s even made me question whether I will in fact cheat and have dessert at Easter. I may just make some of my chocolate truffles with maple syrup (which, oddly, doesn’t seem to have the same effect – or at least not to the same degree).

Food affects your hormones and your mood. How, exactly, is a different question. But I’m beginning to see a link between sugar and feeling miserable, and I’ll take happiness over candy any day.

Good Alternatives

I have discovered that cutting out major food groups like gluten and sugar (sugar is a food group in my experience, whether the Canada Food Guide admits it or not) requires creative replacements. In order to manage my cravings, I’ve had to come up with treats that are like the better of two evils. I mentioned already that one of my weaknesses is cheese, and while I do try not to eat the entire block in one sitting, sometimes I’ll eat the cheese to avoid eating the cookie and I figure at least if I get a bit chubby, I won’t have osteoporosis.

Other brilliant things I’ve come up with to manage cravings include making sugar-free buckwheat pancakes. My partner found a great recipe online, which if I can find it, I’ll post here. It involves whipping the egg white and folding the egg yolk into the rice milk…brilliant. They are the fluffiest pancakes.

He also made me some chocolate truffle cookies by melting squares of unsweetened bakers chocolate in a pan, adding a few tablespoons of maple syrup and then mixing them together over the heat until they start to solidify together. Drop them onto wax paper and press an almond into the top, place in the fridge for ten minutes and voila! Delicious, chocolatey truffle cookies with no refined sugar. Maple syrup is thought to actually contain minerals that are good for your liver, and everyone knows that chocolate is really good for you.Plus, this takes less than ten minutes and is guaranteed to satisfy any chocolate craving without all the added junk. Interestingly enough, when I eat processed chocolate, my skin always breaks out, and when I eat this chocolate, it doesn’t.

I’m still working on managing calorie intake, and I know I need to up my exercise plan, but I’m really excited that finding alternatives isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Dirty Little Secrets

I keep thinking about cheating. On my diet that is. But then I remember I’m not on a diet, I’ve simply changed my eating habits.

I’ve gone back to eating cheese, and now cheese is the number one reason I can’t stay under 1800 calories per day. Even with exercise, I eat so much cheese that I’m always over budget. Cheese! Dammit. I love cheese.

Aside from that, I have successfully gone three weeks with no gluten (except for the time my brother-in-law forgot and cooked the fish in flour…) and no refined sugar (except for Tyler’s birthday when I made a gluten-free cake, had a slice and stayed up all night…). The fact that these are the only exceptions are big victories. Oh wait, there was also the time I realized there was no good replacement for ketchup so I ate it anyway with my…wait for it…grilled cheese sandwich.

Big victories. I have given up gluten, theoretically for good, and I’ve given up sugar and committed to at least three months without it and the possibility of a permanent extension, at least until such a time when I think I could control the cravings. Ha.

The bigger victories have been the times I’ve stared at the candy that I stashed in the freezer, or the gluten free cookies I bought when I thought that sugar would be a temporary elimination, and I think “no one would know…it wouldn’t matter! It would be my dirty little secret.” And then I turn away, and eat cheese because I would know. I would know that I’d cheated and failed. This isn’t a victory calories wise, but it’s a huge victory for me, for now. I am gaining some control over my addiction to sugar. This is the first step towards avoiding diabetes.

Week Two

It’s been two weeks since I’ve eaten any refined sugar and I’m starting to be okay with that. My visualizations and the fact that I’ve cut it out entirely really seems to have helped with managing cravings – or at least with being able to say no to it.

I was in Toronto last week and I found a restaurant called Rawlicious that has the most delicious food. My friend and I had the lettuce taco wraps which were so tasty and filling that I could hardly eat anything else all day. Have you ever noticed that when you eat something really flavourful it is more filling than bland foods? Maybe that’s psychological, but it’s more satisfying for sure. I also found a number of gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free cookies, including macaroons that rivaled every macaroon I’ve ever had. I bought ingredients yesterday to try making them myself. All of their sweets were made with agave, which is significantly sweeter than sugar and therefore you use less of it in anything you make. I have been eating non-processed sweets in moderation, but I find that often I don’t even crave those. Tyler keeps offering to make me gluten free French toast, but I just don’t feel like eating that much maple syrup.

The habits are the hardest thing to break. For example, we are going to the movies tonight and I know I’m going to want to have a coke and some candy. But I’ll take a bottle of water and have popcorn, and overall I think I’ll be okay.

I have lost a few pounds since I started this, but not as much as I’d sort of secretly hoped. It’s only been two weeks, and I have dropped about 4 pounds, which is the recommended average. I guess my bigger hope, other than losing the weight, is that this lifestyle change results in me being healthier overall and sustaining it long-term. I’d like to get my concentration and motivation back, and I’d like to have more energy. So far, I feel pretty tired and I’m having trouble remembering to eat regularly. When I eat often, I’m okay, but I find that because my meals involve so many fewer calories, I often forget to snack on something healthy in-between and then I’ll get very hungry and get a headache. But on the flip side, I am beginning to notice that I don’t have a three-o’clock slump any more. My sister is a coffee drinker and she’s been staying with us. Often right around 3 o’clock she will need her third cup of coffee, but I’m still motoring along quietly, snacking on this and that. That seems to be a positive result.

Keeping on!

Sugar Cravings

I feel a little bit better today. My head is still a bit wobbly and my stomach still a bit nauseous. Today after lunch my intestines were unsure about the whole procedure and were a bit cramped. However, I enjoyed my lunch of chicken, arugula salad, hummus, carrots and olives. It was tasty and nutritious. My main goal is to eat lots of greens every day, especially while I’m not eating red meat, to keep my iron levels up. The arugula is spicy and delicious, and I squeeze a bit of lemon juice onto the leaves instead of salad dressing and it’s really delicious.

The hummus has been a life-saver for sure. Whenever my energy is down, I just eat some carrots or celery with hummus, and I feel full for longer than if I’m just eating veggies. I’ve been eating a lot of fruit too. I know that some people think that fruit should also be on the give-up list because it’s mostly just sugar as well and because anything that sparks an insulin reaction can lead to fat-storage, it’s not a good idea to overdo it on the fruit. However, I cling to fruit during these times as my only source of sugar. As someone who considers myself a recovering sugar addict, the fruit keeps me from going completely nuts when the cravings kick in.

Today, I’m full-on craving candy. I know myself well enough to know that the first few days of a detox are painful physically, but it’s once the physical symptoms start to abate that the mental games begin. I have to find strategies for resisting sugar.

Some evidence suggests that sugar is a highly addictive substance, even more addictive than cocaine. I have no trouble believing this, as sugar has always held an incredible pull for me.

I have always had an addictive personality, and several years ago my binge drinking led to my body rejecting alcohol. I gave up all alcohol for three years. More recently, whenever I drank, it was usually in moderation and with a more concentrated mental awareness of what I was doing. But it was always a risk that I would slip into enjoying drinking too much and I would start to binge. The thing that helped was that most people now know I don’t drink a lot, and most people don’t make a big deal of it any more.

My goal is to create the same situation for myself around sugar. I need to let people know that I no longer eat sugar. I need to create a mental, emotional and physical response to sugar that is negative enough that I won’t cave and eat it when it is in front of me, or in response to someone else’s guilt or feelings about food (such as the all-too-common idea that food is love and therefore if I don’t eat your brownies, it means I don’t love you). In order to create these associations, I focus on the way eating sugar really made me feel. Not the pleasure of the taste, but the low energy, the hang-overs, the weight gain, the mood swings, the poor self-esteem, the lack of concentration and motivation – all of those negative side effects that drastically reduced my quality of life. And if that doesn’t work, I create an association closer to the above comparison – I imagine myself snorting sugar up my nose. An image which grosses me out intensely, and draws more specifically the comparison between addictions – those considered acceptable and those considered unacceptable in society, but both of which can have devastating consequences, including death.

 

 

Nausea and Headache

What a lovely reward for being so “nice” to my body. A girl tries to do good by herself, by cutting out all of the poisonous foods, and what happens? Well, her body expels all the poison and it hurts coming out. I’ve felt wretched since yesterday. I’ve had a miserable headache, nausea and aching all over. It feels very much like a migraine, which worries me, because I used to get migraines and I was very happy that I stopped getting them about a year ago when I stopped taking birth control pills.

But I’ve been told to expect this kind of thing, and I guess it means that my body really had adapted to surviving the abuse I was giving it. Now that the abuse is gone, hopefully it will start to feel better soon.

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