My Dysfunctional Relationship
Prior to my current healthy habits my relationship with food and eating could only be described as dysfunctional. It was a bad relationship – one I clung to and even nurtured despite how much it was hurting me.
I’d eat out of boredom or depression, to have something to do. I ate things that were tremendously unhealthy almost all the time. Many of the things I ate don’t even really taste all that good – but fried food, cookies, cakes, and meats slathered with barbecue sauce or covered in breading are satisfying in other ways. Foods that are high in fat or sugar actually affect your brain chemistry, making you feel happier. Recent studies show that the average fast food value meal is highly addictive. It certainly explained my cravings. I realized I was an addict, and that I’d have to break my addiction first before I could get on with getting healthy.
So I thought about addiction and the methods that have already been developed to help break addiction and get on the road to recovery. I figured this was going to be difficult enough without me having to become a Magellan-like explorer, discovering new ground. Perhaps there was even a process of some sort, or maybe a series of…
Narcotics Anonymous has a slogan that people in the program follow: just for today. I like it better than Alcoholics Anonymous’s “one day at a time” because it’s more immediate. For me it means “Yes, I can eat this piece of cake if I want to, but I don’t have to, and right now I won’t.” Of course, for me cake isn’t much of a draw. My problem was savory fried foods, ribs, starchy food like pasta, french fries.
Anyway, it helped me to go back to the source, to Bill W. and his twelve steps that have kept many on the wagon. These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
One of the problems I have with this list is that it shuts the door on godless heathens like myself. Without having ever read the actual steps I went from step one to four in a single day. I recognized that I had a problem, and started to take inventory of myself, my life, and my bad decisions and actions during The Long Sunday when I decided to change.
In a way, this blog is my step five. My exercise and diet program are making amends with myself. I haven’t had a spiritual awakening yet, but I have had several mental breakthroughs and discoveries.
A problem that I have that someone in NA or AA doesn’t is that I can’t simply give up food cold turkey (or apparently food metaphors either). You can survive without any drugs or alcohol, but you have to eat, so it makes it that much harder to only eat those that are good for you. Also, while anyone can surely tell that broccoli is a healthier choice than fried chicken, if I switched to foods that were healthy but didn’t also taste good I’d never keep up with a healthier lifestyle.
Sizing Up My Diet
To be honest, I wasn’t really sure how much I should be eating. I used nutritional labels’ serving sizes to tell me how much a “serving” of something is supposed to be. That’s what healthy people eat. You can’t really go by restaurant serving sizes, because most American restaurants serve way too much food at one meal. I browsed diet books, web sites, advice from people, but just because a diet book says something doesn’t mean it’s true or right. A guiding principle that helped me make choices was The Formula – consume fewer calories than you burn.
So, without a guide or plan I simply started recording what I ate into a fitness web site and tallied up what I ate every day. Nutritional labels show percentages of daily nutrients based on a 2000 calorie diet, so that’s where I started. I’d eat what I thought was a healthy breakfast – oatmeal, cereal with berries or a banana, yogurt and granola, etc. I’d record it. I’d eat a decent but reasonably healthy lunch, record it too, then plan my dinner based on how many calories I had left, like they were a daily budget.
When I go to sleep the counter resets – so I can’t bank up caloric credits for several days and then eat poorly all weekend. Sure, the rules that I set up for myself are fairly arbitrary, but they’re better than not having any guidelines or principles to follow.
Here’s another guiding principle that I think about regularly:
“Nothing ever tastes as good as it feels to be thin.”
– Gov. Mike Huckabee in “Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork”
The truth is that so far it’s been really easy to do the right thing and eat right, be more active, go to the gym regularly, drink lots of water, drink very little alcohol, and be generally healthier. It’s easy because I discovered a secret (at least, it was a revelation to me) that changed the way I looked at myself and my health.