Archive | March, 2013

A Day in the Life of My Brain

22 Mar

http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/tragedy-healthy-eater.html

Did she do it?

18 Mar

Howdy fellow readers!  I thought you may be curious as to how the sugar-free, coffee-free, chocolate-free attempt turned out…

Great!

I haven’t had any sugar, coffee, or chocolate since my previous post in early February.

I should clarify that I may have had incidental sugar exposure.  I’ve had bacon with a tiny amount of sugar as a curing agent and some restaurant foods that may have had a gram here or there, but I’m not worried about those.  My main focus was to eliminate the sources that instilled bad brain buzzes.  If I eat a piece of bacon, I don’t feel the need to go eat a whole pie afterwards.  On the other hand, if I were to indulge in a single cookie, I’d have sugar on the brain from that point forward.  My only option would be to ignore it and try to get back on the wagon or rationalize a few more “treats” until things once again got out of hand.

My first goal was to make it until the end of February.  Once I hit that marker, I decided to extend that through lent (not because I am religious, but because it’s a good excuse).  After that…who knows. I told my sugar-free ally that I didn’t want to set an “end” date for my sugar abstinence.  Setting an official day in which sugar is no longer off-limits will probably just inspire more binging and obsessive eating.  Instead, I decided to do it as long as it felt right.  Deciding to give up sugar for a period of time is an excellent exercise in mindfulness.  Since this sugar restriction is completely voluntary, and I call all the shots, I think it’s been even more beneficial than when I was somewhat forced to give it up during the official experiment.

My understanding of sugar’s power over me is greater than ever before.  Now I understand the natural progression of the beast.  I no longer beat myself up for a lack of willpower as I know that brain chemistry isn’t always a matter of choice.  I recently attended a “Food, Mood, & Cognition” seminar in which a very knowledgeable biochemist discussed the reality of food addiction.  Every time the concepts I live by and spew at you are verified by actual scientists, I get the equivalent of psychological goosebumps.  It’s a damn good feeling.

After the initial withdrawal period (a week or two), I started noticing some real improvements in my health.  My moods are WAY more stable (even with winter still refusing to turn into Spring).  During the chocolate roller coaster, I was mentally wonky (irritable, depressed, mood swings).  I know that the stabilization of my blood sugar as well as the reduction in cortisol (stress hormone) has to be at least partially responsible for this shift in demeanor.  Caffeine, cocoa, and sugar are all artificially stimulating and can be dangerous to a person as naturally high-strung as myself.

I’ve also started eating more Paleo-esque.  Grains, legumes, & dairy are now occasional indulgences rather than daily staples.  For a person with malabsorption issues (such as myself), a modified Paleo diet can offer some real relief.  My compulsive overeating has been improved by eating in this fashion.  I have come to notice that a lot of my binging tendencies revolve around what I am and am not eating.  I have already attributed food restriction (psychological torment) as having a hand in this, and there are other triggers unrelated to food, such as sleep deprivation, depression, stress, etc. that I have found to be relevant.  However, I have finally figured out what one of the main causes of my binges may have been all along: malabsorption!  Check out the (April) archives for my post about FODMAPS if you need a refresher course.

Think about it.  If many of the foods you eat on a daily basis are not being absorbed properly (in my case: hummus, whole wheat bread, fruit, peanut butter, etc.), you are still going to feel unsatisfied and want to shove more food in your face.  I noticed that eating an unripe banana (green tipped) would often cause me to feel MORE hungry than I was BEFORE eating it.

At the beginning of the experiment, I was eating mostly vegan.  After a few months, I commented on my inability to feel full no matter how much protein and fat I ate.  I had speculated that the higher carbohydrate load may have been the causative factor.  While I still think that probably played a partial role, I now suspect the bigger obstacle may have been my body’s inability to utilize most of the foods I was consuming!  If your body is plagued by malabsorption and subsequent malnutrition, it’s gonna tell you to eat…and eat….and EAT!

It’s true that I sometimes overeat for fun.  If something tastes REALLY good, it’s basic chemistry that a little willpower is in order to stop the madness.  Depending on the day, that willpower may or may not exist.  BUT sometimes I would overeat, because I actually felt really HUNGRY no matter how much I ate.  I have flashbacks of eating 4 pieces of peanut butter whole wheat toast at my sister’s place.  She looked at me in disbelief.  “Are you having ANOTHER piece of toast?”  I’m sure it does seem excessive to an outsider, but all I knew was that I wanted to feel full.  Three pieces of toast hadn’t accomplished that, so why not try a fourth?

Well, they say hindsight is always 20-20.  Cruel world!  In any case, all of these revelations and diet tweaks have taught me numerous lessons along the way that I can use to help others as well as myself.  I finally feel as though I am on the right track to feeling like my best self (whatever that might be).  Onward in my health journey!