Seeing as how I am (at least momentarily) back in the writing habit, I thought I might take this opportunity to update those few readers who might be interested on the progress of my battle against The Call of All Things Yummy. And the first thing I want to say is that it has not been easy – but not for the reasons that I might have expected. But then, that’s Demon’s for ya – always got a sneaky trick or two up their nasty little sleevies.
I was prepared for the obvious, head-on attacks to my Grand Resolve, so when Simon returned from Canada and proceeded to continue with the munching of the sweet and tempting carbohydrate bundles right in front of me, I knew what I needed to do. Simple really – Just Say No! Which is fine when you are operating consciously and mindfully, and are focussed on your Noble Aspiration to Not Eat Crap. The problem comes when you get lazy or distracted and slip into those well-worn habits that come soooo naturally to you, you don’t even notice them happening.
So, there I am, lovingly preparing Simon’s breakfast toast from the first loaf I have set eyes on in two weeks, loading on the layers of butter and deliciously plump home-made jam, cutting it into halves and noticing how the tempting aroma of hot butter and sugary warm fruitiness, and the sweet sound of the crunch of the crumbly granary crust are making my mouth water, and all the while reminding myself of why I am not going to eat any. Yes I crave it – but that’s what I expected. And that’s the whole point of it all. If I didn’t crave it so badly I wouldn’t even need to be trying to resist it.
I feel strong and noble and full of righteous resistance. Get thee behind me, oh Satan of Toast! Yep – I can do this. I start to feel pleased with myself. I think about the fresh fruit salad I will concoct for myself when I’ve taken Simon his plate of temptation. I think about the sunshine warming the butter in its glass dish on the kitchen work top. I think about what a nice day it is, and my mind begins to wander to the walks I might do later with the dogs. I finish cutting the toast and turn to drop the knife in the sink and, before I even know I am doing it, the knife is heading into my mouth so I can lick off the excess jam and butter before plopping it into the sink bowl. Argh!!! Habits! Habits! Habits! The bane of the Aspirant Mindful.
There is no short cut to this. The only way to deal with it is to make new habits – to learn incompatible positive behaviours. And habits, by their very nature, are not built in a day. You really do have to be on the ball with all this shit! Take the knife-licking for example. It never even started from a desire to eat the buttery-jamminess. It actually arose from my obsession with not getting a sticky, fatty mess all over the washing-up bowl which would need to be effortfully washed off later. (Yeh! I know…. I have an OCD for every occasion.)
Now of course some people might take the view that Life’s Too Short, and, anyway, how much harm can there be in a little bit of knife-licking now and then? But the Devil really is in the Detail. It’s the Small Things that will conspire together to drag you down and pull you under. A little giving-in to impulse here. A little indulgence of a craving there. And before you know it, you’re back where you started with a fat belly and an additional helping of self-loathing smeared on top. So now when I make Simon’s toast, I am ready with a piece of tissue to wipe off the knife. And actually it only took a couple of weeks for the new habit to kick in. Not bad really.
Except that is only one tiny tactic in the huge on-going battle. That bloody Demon is always around somewhere, lurking with sugary intent. Fancy a cup of coffee before walking the dogs? Oh but.. oh how I neeeeed a digestive biscuit with it. Feeling a bit peckish, but too early for lunch? Just grab a cereal bar or a Twix. Ah! Dinner’s eaten, washing up’s done – time to sit down with a cup of tea and a delicious piece of lemon tart.
And that’s just in a normal day. Go to England to visit the kids and All Sugary Hell breaks loose.
“Sorry I didn’t get a chance to shop before you arrived, but there’s bread for toast tonight, and Frosties for breakfast in the morning.”
“But, Mum! You have to eat the flapjack – Jennifer made it specially for you.”
And so on….
Oh, and did I mention that as part of my strategy to cut my sugar craving I thought I’d cut out eating all cereals too? Yes – I mean all. No wheat, no rice, no oats, no corn. No nothing that’s gonna fill my belly with unnecessary carbohydrates and my blood with unnecessary glucose. So not only no cakes and biscuits, but also no bread, no pasta, no nothing that makes up at least 50% of most people’s daily diets. Well I guess that was an ambition too far. The trouble with demonizing things, like cereals and sugar, is that admirable aims can all too quickly transmute into unhealthy obsessions. And whilst, for all sorts of reasons, I really would rather not be eating any grains at all, the fact of the matter is that I might very likely starve to death if I don’t. Because it turns out that, even when I am still eating bucket-loads of protein and fat (bacon and eggs for breakfast anyone?, strawberries and double cream for dessert?) and carbohydrates from all manner of fruit and vegetables – and indeed spending an absolute fortune on healthy and nutritious things like oily fish, and berry fruits, and unsalted nuts – I keep losing weight. Who’d have thought the Demon of Glucose could be so sneaky as to trick me with my own success in overcoming him?
So, feeling reasonably secure in my Victory over Craving, I have decided that the time has come for the Middle Way to rear its moderate head. I have spent long enough without eating refined sugars that my taste-buds have recovered their sensitivity to the natural sweetness that exists in all sorts of ordinary foods. Bananas taste like sugar cubes to me. Unsweetened natural yoghurt tastes creamy with a delicate hint of sweet, rather than sour and yucky – and certainly doesn’t need honey to make it palatable. And 85% cocoa dark chocolate tastes like the sweetest, sugariest thing one could ever hope to munch. And I have to assume that my blood sugar levels are more stable these days because when I feel hungry, I feel just – well – hungry. I don’t feel that overwhelming desire for something sweet and sticky to transport me to the dizzying peaks of another sugar high.
So, rather than fade away to become an even skinnier bag of (albeit very strong) bones, and risk blowing all of Simon’s newly acquired income on even vaster quantities of expensive fruits and organic proteins, I have decided that I will eat the occasional bowl of (unsweetened) porridge oats, and have a proper helping of rice with my chilli, and maybe even eat the odd rye crisp bread laden with salty butter and creamy cheese, along with my smoked mackerel and avocado. And I will of course do as the Romans do when I visit Other People with more conventional eating habits, because I really don’t want to be a bore.
And because, once again (Houston), I HAVE CONTROL.