Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hold the Mayo...and the Dessert

Sugar makes me crazy. Not crazy like my toddlers get crazy when they have one too many spoonfuls of sprinkles on their ice-cream sundaes. No, this is a slower, more insidious crazy. The kind of crazy that you know is taking over, but still you keep going with it because, well, that's what the crazy is, after all...crazy.

Now, you have to understand something about me. I grew up in a house with two parents who grew up during the height of the Great Depression. They ate mayonnaise sandwiches and made tomato soup out of ketchup and re-used teabags when they were kids. Let no one ever tell you that growing up poor doesn't do something to the way you look at food as an adult.

What it did to my parents was make them what they considered a healthy meal. If it was filling and home-cooked (my mother never did and never has prepared a meal out of a box), it was nutritious. Which is why I spent my childhood fervently believing that a big ol' piece of apple pie , warmed up just enough to melt a slice of American cheese on top and served with a nice, tall glass of whole milk was a perfectly acceptable breakfast. As both my parents attested, it had all four food groups: fruit, grain, dairy and -- since pie crust is made with lard, yanno -- meat. Bill Cosby does a famous bit about how as a father he fed his kids chocolate cake for breakfast because it covered all the food groups. Well, in my house, it was no joke. All our food was home-cooked from the best of the full-fat, high-calorie foods around. None of us ever thought anything of it.

We were also a family of late-night eaters. Oh, we had our meals early and like clockwork. Since Dad worked nights, Mom got up at the crack of dawn to get breakfast on the table by 6am, when he got home. We had dinner together every night at 5pm exactly, never any earlier (except for Sundays, when "dinner" was served between 2 and 3) and certainly never any later. But eating that early means you tend to get hungry again right around 9 or so, and that's when Mom would bring out the cookie jar. Or the frozen Sara Lee. Or the ice cream. You get the drift.

It didn't hurt that Mom was naturally skinny. When she got married at 22, she weighed 99 pounds and had a 22 inch waist. As a kid, she was under doctors orders to drink a milkshake every day to put some weight on her. Naturally skinny my dad was not, and I definitely take after him in the metabolism department. Thanks, Dad.

So, junk food and eating late at night have always been the bane of my existence. For a long time, I didn't even realize that this was a problem. I was teaching crazy hours at a bunch of different colleges, getting home at 10pm or later, and either picking up fast food on the way or raiding the fridge for whatever I could grab. So what if I ate it at midnight -- dinner was dinner, right?

Wrong. Of course, wrong. You know it's wrong. It took me years to figure out it's wrong. And, boy, is it hard to change something so hardwired.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to lose close to 50 pounds. I'd put on weight before I got married, then kept on weight after each of my girls was born, and quite frankly, I was sick and tired of seeing a fat, middle-aged lady in the mirror every time I looked. If I'm going to be middle-aged, dammit I'm at least going to be svelte. I don't have to be skinny. I just don't want to be fat.

I did well for the first part of the year. I lost a solid 15 pounds. Then, the bad habits started creeping back in. For one thing, I started eating late at night again. I'd been really good about eating dinner, brushing my teeth and not eating again until breakfast. I'm not sure when that all fell apart -- maybe when I started postponing brushing my teeth until bedtime, giving myself a whole 4 hours or so of eating time after dinner? -- but I soon found myself snacking away at night with my naturally-thin husband. (A man, I might add, so naturally thin that he actually loses weight when he doesn't exercise. What the hell's with that?) And so , while I managed to keep off the 15 pounds I'd lost, I certainly didn't lose any more.

I also realized that I'd gotten the sugar crazies again. The sugar crazies start when I exceed a certain amount of sugar intake -- what that amount is exactly, I have no idea, and maybe I'm just fooling myself by thinking that there even is an "acceptable" amount for me -- and fall into a cycle of eating sweets because I crave them and then craving them more so I eat more.

Over the past couple of weeks, I realized I'd hit that point. Not only because I found myself sneaking the kids' chocolate-chip cookies and raiding their stash of leftover Halloween candy when they were asleep, but also because I was getting violent headaches.

Every. Day.

So, I quit. Today was Day 2 of no sugar for me, and Day 2 is always the hardest. Day 1 is tough because the cravings are the worst, but since it's Day 1 I'm also always full of motivation: I can do this. I can do this. Boo-yah! On Day 1 I'm also full of Cheetos or some other salty snack since I realize there's only so much I can cut out at once without going head-scratching nail-biting nuts. Yesterday I ate an entire bag -- that's six full servings for those of you counting -- of Brand-X cheese puffs because that's all the Rite-Aid in Grand Central Station was selling. But, at least I didn't eat any sugar.

Today, I felt the sugar cravings starting to subside, but I also felt the boo-yah subside as well. Now it's more like a "boo." I found myself opening the fridge just to see what was in there and wondering if a glass of chocolate milk before bed would be a good idea.

And so, I logged on. And here I am.

And I didn't eat any sugar again tonight. And as soon as I post this, I'm heading to the bathroom to brush my teeth and get to bed. Because the hardest part of this won't be getting through tonight or tomorrow night or even the next. The hardest part will be getting through every single moment when my default mode is to eat badly when I should be eating well or not at all.

At least I don't have to eat mayonnaise sandwiches.

1 comment:

Rachelle said...

I'm another sugar addict, for me I tend to fall down towards the end of the first week; "just one can't hurt". Unfortunately it always does and I'm back to needing it again.
I tend to reach for it when under stress too.