I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not a diet girl. I don’t count calories nor do I really exclusively watch what I eat (which I’m not proud of admitting). I do, however, enjoy food. I adore it! And who doesn’t? I’ve had this relationship with food where I am all in, like a summer fling on an exotic island. You know it’s probably bad for you, but you’re throwing caution to the wind. What happens, happens.
Well, what inevitably happens in the context of food is that I eventually hit that proverbial wall, usually in winter, where nothing fits and I am x-pounds overweight with a skin breakout and absolutely zilch energy to function. This is what happened around Thanksgiving last year, where I successfully (and again, not proudly) ate an entire pie by myself. In light of celebrating the American holiday where we apocalyptically eat to death, I joined in on the fun, and then I took it too far. One pie led to a plethora of honey buns and chocolate, with no balance in sight. I wasn’t even equaling the scales with a savory-sweet ratio; I was just going to town on anything that was coated in sugar. And then I really hit the wall. It felt like a kind of sugar shock, where my depleted body finally threw down the red flag, and I couldn’t stomach one more sliver of anything sweet. In fact, every time I even threw a glance at a piece of food, my body would jolt. So I took that as a sign. It’s worthy of mentioning that other sub-signs included no pair of pants left in my closet which could now fit, save for anything stretchy that I had to wear casually, formally, and pretty much anywhere.
I received a sugar detox book from a mailing subscription that I love (Yogi Surprise, check ’em out!), which I now grabbed and flipped through like my life depended on it. Like I said before, I am not a diet girl. I hate downsizing my meals to almost nothing to save a few inches around my waist, but I went overboard with the whole pie fiasco. We’re not talking a few inches anymore; I felt like my insides were turning into molasses, so this detox was an emergency. What I learned, however, during my two-week cleanse became so much more than just losing weight and de-bloating.
I became aware of my post-dinner, mindless snack habit
This observation was huge for me! Typically, after dinner, I would sneak into my pantry and pull out the package of soft-baked chocolate chip cookies that I loved more than my parents. I would intend to eat only one, but that eventually turned into a lot more. Those damn packages only have about 5-6 cookies, which, if you’re like me, doesn’t equal to that much when you’re mindlessly grubbing away. Those cookies were my post-dinner treat, and I would plop in front of my TV and eat without a second thought.
The sugar detox cut that out immediately. The menu consisted of a breakfast, lunch, ONE SNACK, and dinner. There would be no snacking after dinner, no matter how big of a fit I threw. After the first day or two (after I survived the sugar withdrawal headache from hell), I stumbled into an observation that truly put this entire detox into perspective: I fill my gaps of boredom with food! And we’ve heard this saying before, but when you actually catch it in action in your own life, it takes on a deeper meaning. I wasn’t hungry after dinner, and let’s be honest – no one is hungry for dessert! We don’t wake up one day or come home after work in starvation because we haven’t had a cookie (no matter what we tell ourselves to the contrary). This mindless eating is just that – Mind Less. It fills a gap, so what happens when we start to pay attention to that gap?
I became aware of my thoughts and where they go
Well, when the mindless snacking stopped, I became aware of my thoughts. It’s funny how much louder your mind becomes when you take away the food that feeds it to stay quiet. You get fidgety and restless, and usually, you tame those sensations with food. When that stops, however, you have to fall into attention and feel those sensations, whether you like them or not. But there is healing there, when you do that! I began to look at my mind and thoughts in those moments to something like a little child throwing a temper tantrum. There’s nothing inherently wrong with me. I am not starving, I am not hurt, I am not in danger. I’m just bored and distracted. Maybe I’m overwhelmed with work that I still need to get done – errands for my cat, articles to write, yoga classes to plan – but I can’t find the energy to do them because I’m really afraid to commit to that Tuesday class or that 2,500 page post. Maybe I’m lacking motivation to work out or go for a walk because my ego is hurt that I can’t bust a headstand anymore, so I justify my sluggishness with a snack, and then I just stay there, on the couch.
My point is this, and it’s what I noticed in my own gaps – we have a million thoughts and sensations per day, and we’re also fearful as hell, deep down. These sensations, thoughts, and yes, even fear, are important because they allow our body to give us signals so that we can healthily process what comes up. Mindless snacking puts a lid on those fearful thoughts and sensations, until we’re so out of tune with ourselves, that we’re getting sick, injured, and depressed.
When I became aware of my food, I felt clearer in my day
It’s really easy for me to disconnect from myself. I’m a girl who likes to daydream and plan my life to the finest detail. Oftentimes, that kind of energy becomes overwhelming and draining. Naturally, mindless eating of any kind became a way for me to unplug and put that thought or sensation or fear way down below into the background. And naturally, that kind of disconnection would eventually arise as pain or fatigue or depression that I could never really explain.
I never thought changing my food would start to lift this mental fog, but if you want to take it from me, this step works and it’s crucial. Within the first week of my cleanse, I started to see immediate changes: bloating gone, fatigue gone, 2pm energy crash gone. The list goes on, but what I want to highlight the most is that I became clearer about how I manage moments of silence and pause in my day and life, in general. If I can fill those gaps with food when I’m not hungry, how does that make me feel? Hint – crappy. But if I can listen to my physical sensations that I am full, and then proceed to stay present in those moments of silence and pause, I can really learn something about myself! Another hint – when you’re not mindlessly eating, you get this slew of extra hours in your day. EXTRA HOURS! I can get so much done!
It’s worthy to note also that I am writing this not because I hate sugar, but because I love to learn about myself through means that are sometimes challenging. Cutting out sugar is no joke. After all, sugar is in everything and we’re so dependent on it! But noticing what food I take in becomes almost meditative for me; it gives me space to see how I nourish my body, but in that space, I also find how I nourish my mind. It’s all connected, this being that we are!
I won’t tell you to quit sugar. I won’t even suggest that you begin a cleanse. I don’t want to be that girl who pushes her experiences onto someone else, but I am compassionately vain, and I do love writing about myself 🙂 If you relate to my story and are interested in how this experience can affect you, give it a whirl! It’s incredibly fulfilling to get to know yourself.
Now it’s your turn – in the comments below, share your story about food, detoxes, or any similar experience you’ve had. I would love to hear from you! I also think it’s important for us to talk openly about food and our relationship with it. After all, that kind of open communication is often the key to de-stigmatizing nourishment as we see it today, and can lead to much healthier, happier people. I believe that!
Experience yourself, today and every day