A Winding Path of Improvement: Nutrition

I have good days and bad days. A great month is followed by a nutritional disaster. I rave about my success getting off sugar and then plummet into despair over yet another lapse in my good eating habits. I have learned that eating healthy is not a straight-line journey. It’s a twisting, turning path that somehow keeps going in the right direction after taking many wrong turns. I used to get frustrated with my inability to stay on track, but now I just keep waking up and encouraging myself to start again on a new day or a new meal or a new moment.

I have been off sugar for about 26 days (with the exception of one lapse where I indulged in some fabulous chocolate). I am feeling so much better. My energy is more stable. My mood is happy and content. I am sleeping through the night as long as I don’t start obsessing about work. I can even enjoy coffee with little issue when I’m off the sugar roller coaster. I am once again reminded how bad that sweet stuff is for me and how much better I can feel if I’m off it. And yet I still have a hard time committing to a long-term abstinence.

I started a nutritional program called Precision Nutrition. Jessica, my personal trainer, is a coach of this program, and I’ve had a taste of it in this year’s Fit Camp. It asks me everyday to “do a habit” that is healthy. I just started this week, so they are teaching me about getting prepared to change. Today’s reflection was on my resistance to change. I am resistant to eating healthy on a long-term basis. If I wasn’t, I’d already be doing it.

While writing about my resistance, I realized that my resistance is rooted in my fear of giving up my “best friend”. Food – and unhealthy food in particular – has been my companion on nights when I come home from work tired. Treating myself to a high-fat meal or a bag of sugary chocolate would perk me up and get me through the night. When I’m bored hanging out by myself, a big piece of cheesecake will satisfy a sense of adventure. Stopping for coffee and a cookie at a coffeehouse provides a great excuse to stop and talk with the people who work there. As long as I have money or food, I have built-in entertainment.

But it’s only entertaining for the 15 minutes or so it takes me to eat it. After that, I have to either eat more, or I sink into regret for once again choosing a short-term solution to a longer term problem. And then I have to spend more time working out or improving my diet for damage control. I have gotten better, but this friend is really hard to release.

As I wrote, I realized that food was not really a great companion. I don’t have memories of that food. I might remember some meals, but usually they are accompanied by wonderful memories of the people who dined with me. I remember the people or the scenery or the presentation. Those nights and days of eating while alone in my living room are not very memorable. When I have enjoyed a lovely time with good friends, the feeling lasts longer than 15 minutes. I can’t stop smiling. That kind of afterglow never happens with food.

Of course I knew all of this. This was not news to me. I’ve been on this journey long enough to have discovered this before. But there’s always the hope that this will be the time when I truly turn the corner. I have committed to exploring this for a year. I will have gone through four seasons, all the holidays and grown another year older by the time I’m finished. Perhaps nothing will change. But what if everything changes? I think it’s worth the risk. There isn’t any destination anyway. May as well enjoy the journey.

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50 Something single woman in Michigan who loves the outdoors, people, running and hiking.

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