Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sweet Peace #5: The Dog Ate My Homework

Seth Godin puts out a daily message and this morning’s wisdom struck home with the familiar metaphor for blaming someone else for our own failure to do something we had committed to do but for some reason didn’t. He reminds us, not so gently, that we can't blame the dog.

“When we’re actively enrolled in a journey, it’s on us.”

    This is the beginning of the fifth week of my Sweet Peace journey where the brass ring is learning to live peacefully with food, especially sugary foods. In previous weeks I’ve been putting together a plan I thought I could follow. The guidelines were reasonable, however, this week was a “dog ate my homework” experience. It wasn’t full on war, but it wasn’t peaceful. When I tried the sweet pause, it worked. Just as often, I blew right past even slowing down let alone pausing.

    “Enrollment is frightening,” Godin states. “Because enrollment confers responsibility. ‘This is something I’m choosing to do.’”

    This is something I’m choosing to do. Peace with food is something I want enough to take responsibility for making the choices necessary to develop it. One choice is to question all the plans I’ve made in previous weeks and reflect on how they have worked. Answer: not well.

    One guideline I created involved only eating sugar in social settings. This week after a hike with a friend, I enjoyed a truly remarkable chocolate malt. The French fries I paired with it were a slightly different story. The first few were a delight of sweet and salty. “Forcing” myself to eat the entire order left me feeling stuffed and sluggish. However, I gained points for following a reasonable guideline and also recognized the feelings of over-indulging. That gave me some hope.

    Three days later I’m wondering how that malt stacked up nutritionally. I chose the Whataburger malt as a possible equivalent since my Frosty Burger in Pine Valley doesn’t post nutritional facts. Here's the breakdown for 16 ounces: 114 grams of sugar (27 teaspoons or more than 1/2 cup), 16 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein, 670 calories. Definitely not a healthful choice.

   Googling “peace with food” leads to a universal agreement that deeming a food “bad” is not helpful. That somehow we need to learn to understand which foods make us feel good and which don’t. I recognize the truth in this and also that I don’t have confidence in my body to be wise enough to do that. 

   After decades of trying to force my body to willingly follow a myriad of eating plans (i.e. diets), I have reason to believe that, for me, letting my body call the shots is a recipe for disaster. But, have I ever given my body a fair chance to develop that competency? I know the basics … slow down, savor each bite, listen to my body, tune in to what makes it feel good and what doesn’t. While I've read this advice repeatedly over the past several decades, I've never actually done it.

   Be mindful. Why is that so hard? I did succeed in doing this before with alcohol. I used to drink too much and suffered severe hangovers (as well as other negative consequences, of course). When I finally realized that alcohol made me feel bad, I quit. Fortunately, I didn’t seem to be actually addicted so it was a relatively painless change and having an occasional drink doesn't trigger anything. 

   Food is different. It’s not an all or nothing thing. We have to eat; we have to make choices every day; and we have to shop our choices in a Disneyland of sights and smells and tempting new possibilities. Also, for me, food is connected at a much deeper level. It is paired with love or the desire for love. It is a form of self-soothing, self-medication, and also a form of distraction when tired or bored. I know some foods, or ways of eating, trigger a binge mindset.

   For the coming week, I’m going to try to be mindful and listen to what my body wants to tell me. I am going to assume that my body has wisdom to share and it's my commitment to listen.

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