Since my last blog post I just haven’t been able to figure out what to write about. Everything seems so uninspiring. I don’t seem to have anything original or clever to say, no brilliant ideas, no aha moments. What is wrong with me? I’m not depressed, but I just have no oomph.
Then, suddenly, AHA! An aha moment. It’s the end of October, the beginning of November. The days are shorter, and my body has not adjusted. I’m still in “missing the long days” mode, and haven’t yet made it into “cozy and creative winter activities” mode.
So I’ll just slog on this week. A few too many games of spider solitaire, a little too much white food*, a few too many snippy remarks at my long-suffering husband.
But I am getting the garden tucked in, I’ve started a blog about learning to recycle, and I’m experiencing the joys of figuring out what health insurance to go with next year.
All is well.
Send me an inspiring story.
*I still have parosmia, and it seems that almost everything that doesn’t smell bad is white. White bread, white potatoes, white rice. I’ve started making jokes about going to the “white food” section of the grocery store. Sounds vaguely racist, but I can’t figure out exactly how.
I am hardly Miss Meditation. In an early post, I mentioned that I found the idea of Mindful Eating was boring. But my attempts at circling in to better eating behavior were just not working. Sure, I was eating plenty of vegetables, and drinking plenty of water, but the poundage of chocolate eaten on the couch was easily overwhelming my other efforts. And the poundage was sticking to me.
So, on my birthday, the day I found I had re-gained twenty hard-lost pounds, I read the first two chapters of Mindful Eating and tentatively began to practice it.
And found it not at all boring. If I really pay attention to the food, the process has its own pleasure, sort of like stepping into a warm bath, or sitting on the porch on a sunny spring day and feeling the sun on your face. Who knew?
The wonderful side effect of tuning in is that I noticed when I’d had enough – way before eating half a bag of Oreos.
I hadn’t yet blogged about this experience. It felt too new, too tender. I didn’t want to crush it by shining too bright a light on it. Nor did I want to have to admit later that I only kept it up for a week.
A few days into these first attempts at mindful eating, parosmia crashed into my life. Nauseated and disoriented, I stumbled around just trying to find where the horrible smell was coming from, and learning what few foods I could eat.
Three weeks into parosmia, I have a list of foods that taste good or at least all right, and have begun to branch out a bit. Added to white rice, potatoes, and French bread, I discovered pound cake and vanilla ice cream. Yesterday I tolerated a bowl of white rice mixed with plain canned diced tomatoes and plain canned kidney beans. The protein felt so good!
But as I re-discover high-fat, high-sugar foods, I’m realizing that parosmia can become an excuse to return to compulsive eating. “Oh I’m sick, I need special treatment…Honey, would you please bring me another piece of cake?”
So, tentatively, I am returning to mindful eating. Yesterday I baked a small potato, added margarine, placed it in my favorite blue bowl, sat at the table without the radio on, admired the hand-embroidery on the table-cloth, took a bite of potato, rolled the rich, soft potatoey-ness around in my mouth, and enjoyed the feeling of food reaching my stomach. A small potato was just the right food, and just the right amount for that meal. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Mindful eating is still new. It’s still tender. I still have parosmia. I continue to stumble around doing the best I can.
Last night I was going through a box of memorabilia and came across a journal of mine from 1982. Gingerly, I took a peek inside. Ick, ouch, ugh, wince, oh dear. There, for all the world to see (at least until I can find the matches), was my younger self, going on and on about a young swain named “Harro”, who, I can see clearly from my current perspective, just wasn’t that into me. Here’s an excerpt:
“I’m glad I didn’t see you again – it wouldn’t have been worth the pain – it would have been too great a reminder that I couldn’t have you. Yet my heart thumps even now at the thought that perhaps you left me a note, or a flower, or somehow showed that you cared…”
Ok, this might not be too bad if I’d been sixteen, and/or if Harro had been the love of my life. But I was 30, and, honest to God, I have no idea who this person is.
In addition to feeling acutely embarrassed, I do have some compassion for this younger self. I spent many years thinking about almost nothing but romance. The happy childhood I recall was actually a bit short on affection, and devoid of any role-models for lasting relationships. Clearly I was working on that.
I also have huge gratitude. At 40 I found Ed, now my husband. I had worked out enough youthful angst to begin building a marriage, and Ed was (and is) kind, steady, and calm. Not to mention handsome, smart, funny, and a great dancer. Twenty two years later, I give thanks every day for him, and for having gained enough wisdom to appreciate him.
There is another struggle mentioned in the journal with which I have had less success. Here is another excerpt:
“I’ve been good about food for four whole days now. It feels great, except when I have cravings to knosh (sic). I notice how much it happens when I’m bored, lonely, and when I’m in transition between one activity and another”.
I have to say, that except for spelling “nosh” correctly, I could have written that sentence last night. Well, and except that I haven’t been “good” for “four whole days”, or even “four whole hours”.
Finding that excerpt gives me pause. All these years of struggling about food, and I’m pretty much right where I started. Since that time I have learned a lot about nutrition, become (mostly) vegan, and managed to keep within twenty pounds of a comfortable weight. Yet the preoccupation with food and the desire for (and over-indulgence in) sugar and chocolate persist.
I could despair about this, or lash myself for lack of progress. Or, having learned how much is driven by genetics, dopamine, and even gut bacteria, I could absolve myself of all responsibility and just give up.
But I think I’ll do something else. Being a lot older and little wiser now, I think I’ll be kind to myself, maintain hope, celebrate small victories, and enjoy the journey.
And Harro, whoever and wherever you may be, I hope you are doing well.
I was doing pretty well, and then I made the fatal mistake. A couple of days ago, out of nowhere, I weighed myself. And discovered that these past two months of blogging and forming new habits has led to a two-pound weight gain.
And it all went straight to hell.
I tried to shake it off, pretending to myself that it doesn’t really matter, I look fine, I’m in it for the long haul, yadda yadda. “Coincidentally”, I went to Costco that afternoon and bought, yes, the dreaded XXL Peanut M&M’s. And a giant box of chocolate chip cookies, nicely done up in sub-packs of six for “portion control”. And one of those big square boxes of chocolate-covered raisins. And a big pack of rice-cake rolls. And a big box of those cranberry-“thin” breakfast wafers.
I’ve mainly been hitting the chocolate covered raisins so far. Raisins make my stomach hurt if I eat too many, so I suck off the chocolate and leave raisin skeletons.
I was lying in bed last night, my stomach hurting, feeling dispirited and wired on theobromine, and decided, “once and for all” (where have I heard that before?), that I just need to suck it up and STOP eating on the couch. After a couple of antacids, I was able to drift off firmly holding to this resolve.
Which lasted until exactly one minute after lunch today, when I licked off a new batch of raisins. (Got that acrostic licked too!)
This is so frustrating and discouraging.
But I want to do two things: 1. Hold Fast to my 52 weeks of trying to improve my eating habits, and 2. Avoid “all or nothing” mentality.
So, I am counting on you, my vast audience of supporters.
This week’s habit goals:
Continue to eat breakfast at the table.
Eat lunch at the table.
Immediately after lunch, meditate for 15 minutes. (THEN I can lie on the couch and get to work on the XXL Peanut M&M’s. The raisins are about gone.)
Are ya with me? Send me your woes, your triumphs, your deep thoughts, the dumb joke you heard at the office.
Namaste (Is that something to eat?)
*This is apparently an old joke, but my daughter used it in context recently and I thought it was hilarious.
Hey – not you people out there juggling school and jobs and kids – I mean you people like me –retired, with a hobby or two but no big obligations. Do you ever have a day where you look up after your morning walk, lunch, and a nap, and say to yourself: “Now what?” I sure do. In fact this blog is named after that feeling.
Don’t get me wrong. I like being retired. I have had enough of fulfilling and not so fulfilling work, of dragging myself out of bed on Monday mornings, of being told to “work smarter, not harder”. But I am still figuring out the rhythm of my days.
Today I got a nice reminder of a technique for figuring out what to do next.
I got up early because I had a garden helper coming at 7:30 to help me re-stake tomatoes. That went well, and then I went for a lovely walk in the woods with a friend of 45 years (Hi Gerri!). I was pretty tired after all that, and took a rare after-lunch nap.
I woke up around 3:30 recalling that I had intended to clean up the kitchen and make something with the 10 pounds of tomatoes we had picked this morning. But I felt logy and unmotivated. An incipient headache prevented me from spacing out on the computer. “Now what?” I wondered uncomfortably.
Wandering aimlessly around the house, I realized I really did need to empty the compost, so I grabbed the bucket and headed out to the pile.
And came back an hour later. Emptying the bucket had led to meandering over to check on the pole beans, which led to finding an over-ripe cantaloupe that had to be composted, to pulling up the dead squash vines, to weeding some morning-glories out of the garbanzos…you get the picture. It was cool and pleasant outside, and I felt refreshed and awake.
Back indoors, washing out the compost bucket led to cleaning off the kitchen counters, putting the extra tomatillos in a bag to be sorted (soon?!!), and setting up a toaster-oven-load of okra to roast for supper.
The only down side to this spontaneous burst of activity is that I didn’t put on my bug repellant, and received a few mosquito bites. A small price to pay for satisfaction and contentment.
So my advice to you if you are wondering what to do next is: “How the heck should I know?” But my advice to ME if I don’t know what to do next is: “Wander out into the garden and see if anything happens.”
This week’s new habit to adopt:
Bring only small quantities of junk food into the house at a time.
P.S. A big thank you to those of you who, on and off the blog, support and/or join my efforts at self-improvement.
When I started this blog a few weeks back, I had high hopes. I was going to change one habit each week for 52 weeks until my overeating compulsion was cured.
To my dismay, I’m barely hanging on to the minor changes I have set so far. And the BIG change, the change I am trying to ignore because it’s just too hard, looms over me, miasma-style.
The BIG change is eating AT THE TABLE.
My big comfort, both physical and emotional, is eating supine on the couch, while doing something else (reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching Netflix). It’s my go-to behavior, and always carries with it a huge sigh of anticipatory contentment. Its ill effects (weight-gain, loss of physical conditioning, chronic neck pain, esophageal reflux), don’t hold a candle to that first bite taken with kitchen towel around my neck, shoes kicked off, salt-shaker at the ready, and puzzle-book in hand.
Oh, what to do, what to do? Talk about first-world problems. If only thinking about people who don’t have couches, salt-shakers, kitchen towels, or puzzle books, (let alone food) were sufficient to change my behavior.
Given my lack of progress, I have had a hard time making myself put out another perky blog-post.
But I’ve decided not to dessert. [sic]
I’m going to try to stick out the 52 weeks, and continue to make the changes as I can.
So here’s a report on how the goals are going so far:
Ensure availability of prepped fruits/veggies at all times: 85% success
Include fruit/veg with every meal or snack: 75% success
Prepare thermoses of water with breakfast: 60% success and improving
Eat breakfast at the table: 10% success and going nowhere
And for next week:
Suck it up and eat breakfast at the table. If I’m on the run, a portable smoothie is ok.
Blogger simplelivingover50.com (I shall call him Tom) is a very different person from me. He’s into power work-outs, measuring his biceps, and eating meat. I suspect he has a secret yen to drag his woman into his cave by the hair to ravish her (only with her consent, of course — Tom is a nice guy.) I want to be lithe and aerobically fit so I can hike, garden and dance. He weighs himself daily. I weigh myself seldom, at random.
Tom’s garden pictures show wide boards creating perfectly rectangular raised beds, with a neat two-inch border around them where the carefully manicured lawn dares not tread. My garden looks like a mash-up of an abandoned tomato patch, some hummocks of compost, and a weedy lawn. Tom is Mr Paleo; I’m Ms Vegan.
My husband Ed and I just returned from a visit to his mom in Iowa. My mother-in-law and I are also quite different. When you look up “mid-westerner” in the dictionary, you’ll find her picture. Mine is likely in the Brattleboro, Vermont section.
As I ponder my differences with these two people, I realize that we have one very important thing in common: we all have food issues. All three of us are addicted to simple carbohydrates, and we all sometimes eat in secret.
At home I don’t have to eat in secret. My husband never makes snarky remarks or nags. If he has any judgmental feelings, he has managed to keep them to himself for 22 years. But when I am in someone else’s home, I maintain a secret stash of goodies to eat in my room after the household has gone to bed.
I feel an affinity with these two folks. We all want to eat better, we all love treats, we all struggle.
But in addition, I think we have a more profound thing in common.
My mother-in-law talks about herself a lot. Tom and I blog, which is a way of talking about ourselves a lot. Each of us wants to be heard, to be understood, to be accepted.
And oh yeah…to be thinner.
Perhaps you do too. I’d love to read your comments. Join me!
Goal for next week:
The “eat breakfast at the table” habit needs more glue, so I am going to make it this week’s goal as well. And I’m reinforcing previous commitments in case I start forgetting:
Ensure the availability of prepped fruits/veggies at all times
Include fruit/vegetable with every meal or snack
Prepare two thermoses of water/tea daily with breakfast
Last week I set a goal of listing (and posting) habits I have improved. Now why would I do that? Why don’t I concentrate on what I still need to change?
Well, of course there is the positive reinforcement aspect.
When I was 14, my mom dragged me to a farm in rural Virginia, where she and six other seekers planned to build Walden Two, the utopian society imagined by B.F. Skinner. Reading Skinner, I learned that positive reinforcement is a much more powerful tool for behavior change than punishment. I bought in. So as I work to continue improving, I want to pause for a little self-back-patting.
But there is also another reason to list these newly acquired habits. I need to remind myself that change is possible. Changes seem to come so slowly, after so many tries, that it’s easy to feel as though I’ll never improve. Stopping to reflect on achievements, even small ones, helps me keep striving to improve.
So, here’s my brag list. These are things I used to do less than 50% of the time, and now do over 90% of the time. These are small virtues. A large percentage of the population just does these things automatically. I can only say that I envy and admire you. In that order.
Flossing my teeth daily, even under the bridges
Making the bed first thing in the morning
Maintaining a sparkling toilet
Keeping the contents of my purse organized in pouches
Keeping my keys in the same place
Replacing my glasses (I use three different kinds) in their cases so I can find them
Waiting for my husband to finish fixing his cereal without nudging him out of the way to get at the spoon drawer
Getting some daily exercise
Keeping the living room within 10 minutes of “good-enough” company ready
I am fascinated by the notion that my body is simply a cosmos for supporting my bacteria. When I read that our gut flora may be affecting our behavior, I started feeling a warm fuzzy feeling about my microbes. Especially when I watched this cute little NPR animation: http://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=244526773&mediaId=245227995 . So now, if my GI system seems a bit off, I think of it as my gut bacteria trying to communicate with me.
This week has been a case in point. From a recent post, you may (or may not) recall that one of my goals is to include fruit or veggies with every meal or snack. I mentioned that cherry/blueberry season makes this a breeze. I can whip through a pound of cherries a day easy as pie. (Pie? Did someone say pie?)
So I ramped up my summer regimen of radically changing from the XXL Peanut M&M’s to blubes, salads and cherries, only to have my junk-food loving gut bacteria start to bellyache, gripe, and raise a stink. They immediately began picketing (with sharp sticks, I could tell), carrying signs like: “Sugar YES, Fiber NO!” and “New Dietary Practices Unfair to the Masses!” I could feel the rumblings of revolution. In fact, for a day or two, we had outright war, with Kamikaze bugs becoming flushed with fervor. Quite a few bombs were detonated.
Well in order to calm the waters, I needed to give the fruit-troops time to grow, so I continue to eat fruit, but in much smaller quantities. And sure enough, as balance is achieved, things are settling down. What I’m hoping is that they will learn to live in harmony and quit all this ferment.
But I’m there to listen. And obey.
Goal for week 4:
Make a list of habits I have improved. Report this list on the blog next week. Receive praise from my thousands of blog fans (or at least from my gut bacteria.)
It’s been 11 days since my last confession… uh… I mean blog.
How did the “week” go by so fast? Oh yes, I remember. A friend went on vacation and lent me his pick-up truck for a week, and I was busy getting load after load of wood chips and composted leaves for my garden. Sheer unadulterated happiness!
Then it was time to wash the truck, fill it with gas, say good-bye… and experience “post-truck-let-down”. I’ve been moping around the house for three days recovering.
To remind my thousands of readers, I am working on a 52 week list of new and improved habits around my addictive eating behavior. Weeks one and two set goals to have prepared fruits and veggies available at all times, and to include a fruit or vegetable in every meal or snack. I succeeded in both so far except that today I was in the car and remembered to take a granola bar (all right, all right! It was TWO granola bars!) as a snack but forgot to take fruit or carrot sticks.
The fact that it’s now cherry and blueberry season pretty much makes “prep” a done deal, and yummy summer fruit is real easy to remember to snack on. Check back with me in January to see how this is going.
Each week gets harder, of course, because each week requires a new desired behavior added to the previous weeks’. So…what’ll it be this week?
Prepare two thermoses of water or tea while making breakfast.
This isn’t because I believe in “getting in my 8 glasses a day”. It’s because my body has trouble distinguishing between hunger and other feelings like boredom, fatigue, sleepiness, and thirst. It is common for me to eat a chocolate bar because I am thirsty. Obviously, a couple of gulps of water instead of a chocolate bar is a good thing. And a couple of gulps of water in addition to a chocolate bar at least doesn’t leave me any worse off than I was before.