Sunday, October 26, 2014

I'm a quitter.

I’m a quitter.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.  I think from now on, if I post, it probably won’t be often.  My life as it is currently isn’t going to be as interesting to anyone who found previous posts interesting.  There will be no more posts about losing weight, since I stopped weighing myself over a year ago.  There will be no more dieting posts, or counting calories posts, since I quit dieting a year ago as well.  The truth is, I decided to take my health and my life, much more seriously.
Did I post when I was counting calories and losing weight for my wedding that I also was losing my hair?  That was the first sign to me that something needed to change.  My hair was never exactly full, but it had never fallen out before.  At that point in my life, I thought I was so healthy.  I was running several miles almost every day of the week, I was restricting my calories to about 1200 a day, I was consuming low-fat, low-calorie foods.  I was making sure to eat breakfast, the most important meal of the day, and I was eating 6 small servings instead of 3 big ones.  I had tons of recipes on how to make chicken breast taste good without adding any calories or fat.  I had a drawer full of low-calorie snack bars to take with me just in case I was starving.  
I had headaches all of the time.  I blamed it on the sun, on too much coffee, on too little coffee, on job stress.  I wasn’t sleeping very well.  Almost every day, driving home from work, my stomach would hurt, it would be pressing against my pants.  I felt gassy and bloated, even though by the time I was driving home I had probably only eaten 700 calories.  
Worst of all, I was depressed and anxious.  I was worried about my job, money, my husband, my dog, my family back home.  So I cried a lot.  
Funny, I didn’t sit down to list all of these side effects.  I was just going to say that my hair was falling out, and I’ve made changes to my life in response, but then I started to remember the rest.  Healthiest in my life?  Nah.  I was skinny.  That’s about it.

Is it any wonder that nobody wants to “eat healthy?”

You may have read in previous blogs about how doing a whole30 challenge changed my life.  Very briefly, it is a 30 day challenge in which you remove from your diet a bunch of different types of foods.  I had accepted just because it was a challenge, and hell, I can do anything for 30 days.  I am glad I just accepted because I didn’t read about it first.  If I had, I would have declined.  It sounded so unhealthy.  Some of the rules made sense, like cutting out sugar (I could see how sugar can make you unhealthy), but among the “healthy” foods that I would be cutting out of my diet included: peanut butter, whole grains (all grains!), oatmeal, quinoa, milk and cheese, beans, corn, peas, soy,  anything processed and sugar substitutes.  The first question that everybody asks is “what can you eat?”
Turns out that there is a lot of food out there.  There is a lot of healthy food that I had to find.  I had to fight some major misconceptions and beliefs that I held about food.   
Here’s just a few:
  • “Fat is bad!” Truth: There are good fats and I was probably starving my brain by avoiding all of them.  I began adding them to my life.  Avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, fat from pastured beef, chicken and pork.
  • “You need to drink milk for the Calcium!” Truth: You get a ton of calcium from vegetables.  Most people just don’t eat enough of them.  But you certainly don’t need to drink milk if you are going to be eating your leafy greens.
  • “You should replace most of your food with “healthier” versions like low-fat mayonaisse and sugar and calorie-free cookies and “lean cuisines.”  Truth: The real thing is going to kill you a lot slower than the low-calorie versions.  What the hell is even in a sugar-free, low-calorie cookie?  I am astounded now when I read labels.  If you do nothing else, start reading labels.  And if you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a real cookie.  With flour and sugar and salt and stuff not laboratory created.  That low-fat cracker is poison.
  • “A calorie is a calorie.”  Doesn’t matter if it comes from a banana or from the sole of your shoe, they are the same thing.  How do we even allow ourselves to believe this?  Do we really believe that our body digests and uses a brownie exactly the same as it uses broccoli?  I mean, we are not stupid.  If you give a child a helicopter puzzle and tell them to create a giraffe out of it, they will look at you (rightly) like you are crazy.  Why then are we asking our bodies to do the very same thing?  Take that sugar and flour and make lean muscle mass and create blood and fat and all of the vitamins and minerals that your eyes and ears and brain need.  Try to make it out of that lean cuisine.  Try to make it out of that diet soda.  

These are just a few.  I’m sure you can find a better list somewhere else, these were the big ones for me.  

And so, I gradually became a quitter.  For 30 days I got rid of soy, alcohol, dairy, grains, sugar, processed foods and felt awesome.  After the challenge I inevitably added most of that back, because factory processed foods is so delicious.  I wasn’t ready to say no when offered donuts.  I went through several phases of guilt-ridden “binges” where I ate tons of crappy food and felt bad about it, then went back to “healthy” eating.  I didn’t realize quite yet that I was dealing with addictions, not motivation problems.  I didn’t realize that every time I quit alcohol or bread it was practice for the next time.  I made many, many mistakes.  Then in December 2013, this last year I was drinking a lot.  Maybe not very much compared to other people, but for me, it was a lot.  My husband had quit drinking years ago when his mother got a liver transplant and he never went back.  So I was drinking by myself.  And not just a glass of wine to relieve the stress or offer my heart some healthy resveratrol, but a couple of glasses.  Or a couple of tequila or gin drinks.  By myself.  And then, there I would be at 8pm.  Drunk.  Watching tv or playing on the computer.  I didn’t want to live that way, I didn’t like it.  I was going to quit drinking for the New Year.  I asked myself if I was ready.  The surprising answer was “no.”  So I listened to myself.  I decided I would wait until it actually felt right.
On January 4th it did.  I stopped drinking.  It was strange.  I’ve quit drinking many times in the last couple of years.  It might not have the same effect on you, but I easily get hangovers, and when I’m drinking I eat tons of crap.  It makes me feel bloated and nauseous and tired.  I don’t sleep well.  In fact, after drinking I would fall asleep fast, but wake up at 3am in a feverish sweat.  With the air conditioner on I would be so freaking hot.  For all of these reasons I quit.
And this time, I was ready.  I can honestly say I don’t want to drink anymore.  That’s not to say that someday something will change that, I don’t know, my life has changed so many times.  This is right for me right now.  
This blog is about the things I’ve quit.  
  • I’ve quit soy (that was easy, except for soy sauce.)
  • I’ve quit drinking alcohol.
  • I’ve quit running or doing any distance cardio (paddling, jogging, bike rides).  Your body might be able to.  Mine was screaming for me to stop.
  • I’ve quit sugar substitutes.  Which, I figured out later, was the reason for my headaches.
  • I’ve quit peanut butter.
  • I’ve quit weighing myself.  I seriously have no idea what I weigh right now, and it is immensely freeing.
  • I’ve quit judging myself by the size of my waist.  It might sound conceited, but I am a good-looking lady.  It’s stupid to spend my time shaming myself about some muffin top over my usual jeans when my stomach is in a bigger phase.  You know who cares about that?  No one.  Or stupid, judgmental people.  They are not my friends anyway.  Why was I trying to impress them in the first place?
  • I’ve quit eating meat and eggs from unethical sources.  I’m doing my best with this one.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks they know my body better than me and will tell me I can live without meat.  Sure.  If I want to feel sick all of the time.  I’ve tried it.  So I have pledged to get my meat from local farms, the farmer’s market or Whole Foods, which, at least out here, tells you where it’s sourced from.  I can’t pretend like I don’t know what’s going on at mass producing CAFO farms.  I can’t unsee the images.

On my list to quit for good:
  • Bread.  (Including cookies, donuts, all flour) Turns out that this is way harder than quitting drinking.  If you tell someone that you’ve quit drinking, I think they assume you have some kind of alcoholism that has destroyed some part of your life, so they don’t bother you too much.  But if you turn down a donut or a cookie, it’s like you’ve slapped them right across the face.  The reactions that you get from people are astounding.  “Just one, it won’t hurt you, but it’s so good!”  I have literally had to lie to people at work and tell them that I am grain and dairy intolerant.  I have to tell them that I am allergic and that it will make me sick.  Even though I’ve just told them that it will make me sick or possibly kill me, they will continue to offer.  Or they will give me this sad look that says how sorry they are for me.  Quitting bread is HARD.
  • Dairy.  It’s on my list, but not high priority right now.  My biggest problem is that it gives me acne on my chest.  It’s annoying, but so far not annoying enough that I have stopped.  Some day, maybe.
  • Judging myself for eating bread and dairy.  Nobody is perfect.  I am still stuck in the cycle of shame that comes every time I “break down” and eat bread of some kind of fried food.  I’m working on it.

And to those people who say “everything in moderation,” screw that.  I don’t enjoy hangovers in moderation.  I don’t like headaches in moderation.  I don’t want to feel bloated and gassy or depressed or anxious in moderation.  I would still prefer to eat a cookie if I want a cookie, but that doesn’t mean my long-term goal isn’t to quit.  I know that I’m not ready yet.  Some day I hope to be. This blog isn’t about you.  However you want to eat or drink or exercise to be healthy!  Awesome! Doing something, anything is better than nothing.  I have just moved past wanting to be skinny.  I don’t want to be skinny and unhealthy.  I want to be curvy and clear-headed and happy.

Is there anything in life you would like to quit? Share your story here!
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