"Okay, Kathryn. That is it. No more eating crap. It's time to commit to a diet of mostly celery. And you will love it. Or else."
I don't know how many times I have said that to myself. Maybe not word for word. I probably substituted kale for celery sometimes. The point is: harsh restriction. No more fun. Ever. Rabbit diet.
Pretty much every January, me and I have a chat about this. And then every Monday from then on. All year. I have even written up a pledge to my new diet and signed it. I thought about signing it in blood once, but I figured that would be going too far. Plus, I am sure it still wouldn't have worked.
Its amazing the crazy-intense pep talks and preparations we conjure up in an attempt to insure that we will stick to our goals THIS time, just to get to the end of that very same day and wolf down a half dozen Krispy Kremes with little more than a whispered, "I PROMISE I will start tomorrow" to ourselves.
What have I learned from these countless attempts to finally "eat healthy?" Will power is NOT enough. And the more we bully ourselves, the harder it gets. So what the heck do we do?!
When we are trying to stop over-eating, stop eating crap, or stick to an exercise regime, we begin to see our bodies as the ultimate enemy. It's truly an exhausting battle. And how sad to hate a part of ourselves with such venom!
I have learned that if we are to be successful at any kind of self-change, we have got to be MORE kind and understanding to ourselves, not less. Stop telling yourself that you are some kind of strange creature for loving Ben and Jerry more than your husband (of course this is not true, but when we are in the grip of cravings, it sure seems that way). You have to know WHY you love sugar and carbs. They cause an elevated level of serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for making us feel happy and content. Stop punishing yourself for wanting to feel good. Once we accept ourselves, it is much easier to make a change. Its the same at work. We work harder for a boss who respects us.
I have learned that our bodies are truly our best friends when it comes to making a healthy change. We just have to understand how they work. We have to understand what our intense cravings mean, how we misread them, and how to deliver exactly what our bodies need instead. When we work with our body's natural processes and needs, we can achieve balanced, beautiful health. With that comes weight loss, balanced moods, more energy, and especially peace with ourselves and with food.
I have stubbed my toe on the tip of the ice berg of the importance of insulin and blood sugar (bad metaphor, perhaps. What am I doing in iceberg frequented waters, and why am I swimming feet first? Lets just go with it for now...). I have learned that when I eat a meal devoid of protein and healthy fats (like my go-to green smoothie I used to drink for breakfast every morning. I will post about it and put a link here later), my blood sugar spikes and then falls and I feel like crap. Beneath the crappy feeling, my body is desperately trying to regulate the amount of sugar in my blood. It pumps out insulin. Insulin signals my body to store the excess glucose in my blood as fat. The high level of insulin in my blood also signals my body that it has LOW blood sugar, so within a couple of hours, I get insane cravings for sugar and carbs. And the cycle continues.
Recently I read a book entitled "Potatoes, Not Prozac." I didn't even finish it. I read like one chapter. I have not done my homework on this book, but the basic premise rang so true to me that I immediately made a change in my diet. The book basically preaches the importance of protein/carbohydrate pairing to regulate the absorption of sugar into the blood-stream. I started adding protein to every meal, especially to my breakfast and it was amazing how much more stable I felt. And full. I could go hours without cravings.
I have also learned that I am gluten intolerant, as are many, many Americans, they just don't know it. I could go into depth about why (GMO wheat, run-away leaky guts, etc), but that will have to be for another post. Gluten intolerance has been linked to depression, so I have a special interest in this. Up to now, I couldn't have contemplated a world without wheat, but its amazing how motivating information can be. I also find that when I avoid processed foods, gluten kind of just eliminates itself from my diet anyway.
So! I am going to jump into a new diet experiment with both feet starting NOW. I had to get past the holidays, for there was no hope for avoiding sugar during the season and of joy and fudge.
For several years, I have been slowly cutting out sugar and refined and processed foods from my life. However, I still give in and indulge in mounds of crap when I have a bad day, go out with friends, or just feel like treating myself. My favorite "crap foods" are El Monterey Taquitos (I hate a whole bag after a break-up once... that is like 2000 calories, folks. Don't judge.), The Pizza Factory breadsticks, and Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. I just wanted to list those here so that you can refer back to it when you are reading my other posts in the future where I am praising kale and crap and you can remember that I am a normal person...
My plan is to eliminate sugar and gluten. Its not quite that simple, but if I fail at all the other components, I WILL stick with those ones at least.
I will detail my whole diet plan in a new post because this one got ridiculously long about 500 words ago.