With nine weeks until my wedding, I have decided to cut pastries out of my diet (with one cheat day a week built in). I recently bought size theory-six dress pants (I am usually a thirty-four), and have noticed my belly and thighs plumping up. With my back situation resolving but still day to day, I can’t count on near-daily exercise to keep my weight down. I’m cutting out as much sugar as possible to feel better, healthier- and maybe in the process, I’ll lose a few pounds. If I can manage over a pound a week- which is a secondary effect I can’t help but hope for- the results will be noticeable. But I do know that for me, if I focus on pounds lost rather than habits changed, I will have sabotaged myself.
The rules are: no muffins before work, no sweets from the vending machines, no scones after work, no cinnamon rolls at the coffee shop on days off. Not specified but implied is: no candy, no sugary drinks. Eventually I want to limit my cheese intake, too- but no promises, yet.
This shouldn’t seem like such an unreasonable task. What makes it hard is that both of my parents have sweet teeth, and that for my entire life, food has been a physical necessity and a vital comfort. Obviously, being human means I need to eat – but having Aspergers and sensory dysfunction means for me that I am prone to consuming mass quantities of food. My body lies to me – I don’t feel full until I physically can not fit any more food in my stomach. Consequently, I’m always at least mildly hungry, and those who are close to me know that my life pretty much revolves around eating.
Growing up, when I breakfasted with Dad and Laura, I would eat a muffin and a bagel and maybe something else- or a stack of pancakes and three eggs and bacon and sausage- an hour after having peanut butter and jelly. Sweets have long been cemented into my brain as a reward system, beginning in occupational therapy sessions, after a week of which I could earn a pack of m and ms. After a hard day, I have a blueberry scone. After a hard week, ice cream each weekend night. I know the consequences of sugar consumption, and have been meaning to make a change for a while – but with the constant pressure of my hunger, the unpredictability of every-day stress, it just hasn’t happened. Knowing that there will be a set of pictures to remind us of the big day – that’s more than occasion enough for me.
If tomorrow were a normal day, I would eat my gargantuan breakfast sandwich and then shower and prepare to go to the coffee shop and get a cinnamon roll to horf before writing. Maybe a pack of snack Keebler cookies on the way home. It’s a problem. Instead, I will need to settle for a green tea. I have found that replacing addictions tends to work okay for me. Though I wouldn’t say I was addicted to alcohol in college when I quit, but I was dependent socially and emotionally. In ripping off the band-aid, I drank green tea to the tune of about five cups a day or something. My metabolism shifted. But it kinda worked.
So will I replace bakery items with sandwich bags of almonds, handfuls of blueberries? It remains to be seen. If I can eat more nuts, fruits, salads, whole grains (and if I can make it through my bachelor weekend/trip to Buffalo without going full chocoholic) I should be in good shape. Come wedding day, it will feel worth it and I will wonder why I hadn’t done it ages earlier.
A lot of problems in behavior can be boiled down to a tug of war between short term and long term happiness. Discipline then can be defined as keeping the long term happiness in mind in the short run. I hope that what will happen then is that the short term will get easier . It will be easy to pass up the snack aisle, the Zarro’s stand, the chocolate shop. Sugar will taste almost gross. But before that becomes habit- two or more weeks of daily discipline and distracting monkey brain.
In terms of a reasoning behind my pattern, here’s a thought- I drink coffee and tea iced for the same reason I rely on sweets to satiate my haranguing gut rather than finding a more comprehensive solution: I want the immediate effect of the beverage . It’s more a response to a need (or want in need’s clothing) than a conscious, nourishing experience. This set of behaviors must also be connected to a general lack of patience that remains a persistent factor in how I perceive the world. My breakfast for instance, once prepared and on the table, represents a meditative, fulfilling experience. But feeding cats, getting coffee and an egg sandwich with broccoli and onion and cheddar on a toasted bun on the table takes about twenty minutes if I’m flyin- which in the morning I’m usually not. Every completed task feels tenuous. My grogginess makes me even clumsier than normal. It feels like there is a crank turning where my stomach should be, with pulley systems reaching to my extremities and brain, and with every passing minute without food, I just get tighter, in general, all the wrong parts constricting, my mood dismal and sour. When I go to Starbucks or Zarro’s or the gas station, I am aware of being either in the throes or on the verge of one of these panicked and grumpy hungers, and so the five hundred calorie pair of scones has for now given me a respite. If I can treat my food as preventative medicine, I’ll be in good shape.
At the time of this writing, I’m on day two, the routine still in its newborn infancy. Updates to follow.