So I was all gung-ho on the diet and exercise front during January and then I pretty much did the exact opposite for almost the entire month of February. I’ve now spent a week back in January Mode, and I feel about a thousand times better than I did seven days ago. The growing sense of malaise and inertia and It’s All Pointless, So Why Even BOTHER? has receded.
It’s never been so painfully clear to me that how I treat my body has a direct correlation to my mood and overall well-being. Duh, right? STAY TUNED FOR MY MUCH-DESERVED RECOGNITION FROM THE NOBEL COMMITTEE! Look, I know it’s not exactly breaking news, but while I’ve had plenty of cycles of eating well then eating not so well, I don’t think I’ve ever carried it out like a meticulously-designed (if . . . you know, totally unintentional) science experiment before.
One month of eating healthfully and exercising followed by one month of primarily eating junk and being sedentary. During January I mostly ate lean proteins, greens, nutrient-packed fruits, a relatively small amount of whole grains, and I worked out nearly every day. During February I ate a lot of sugar, processed foods, simple carbohydrates, and I hardly exercised at all.
Here’s what I observed a few weeks into January:
• I stopped taking ibuprofen on a daily basis, as is my norm. I had zero headaches, zero sinus pain.
• I had no trouble getting up before 7 AM, and maintained consistent energy throughout the day.
• I slept like a goddamned log, each and every night.
• I had super clear skin.
• I felt . . . good, you know? Generally upbeat. Confident. No mood swings.
That’s in addition to the weight loss, increased strength and endurance, etc. Clothes were fitting better, I was happier with what I saw in the mirror, all that good stuff.
Here’s how February ended up:
• Back to the ibuprofen for daily low-grade headaches. Back to the sporadic intense sinus headaches that I hadn’t had for weeks on end.
• I started turning off my alarm in the mornings, because I couldn’t force myself to get out of bed.
• I had huge energy dips in the afternoons, and started napping. A little over a week ago I fell asleep on the couch—AFTER drinking a triple espresso and eating a handful of Jelly Bellies.
• I had horrible night sweats, the kind that soak your nightgown and sheets and leave you awake and freezing at 2 AM.
• Clear skin: gone.
• Maaaaaaaaaajor issues with gas and bloating. Enough said? Enough said.
• I felt . . . bad. Increasingly depressed, moody, self-conscious.
And, of course, I gained weight.
Like I said, I’ve only been back on track for about a week. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to pull myself together—to stop with the garbage food and make that first overwhelmingly intimidating trip back to the gym (what’s up with that? It’s like I’m afraid they’re going to scan my card and an ALARM will go off)—even though I knew exactly how much better I would feel once I did so. That’s what’s so fucked about getting trapped in the spiral of what I’m now thinking of as February Mode, it’s like you know you’re in the shit, but all your energy and motivation has been slowly draining away and it just feels so exhausting to try and get out of it.
One of my challenges with food is that that once I get off plan, I invariably end up deciding that I may as well just go all out and enjoy every single forbidden food I can possibly think of, because what the hell, I’ll get back to eating healthy tomorrow. Then tomorrow gets pushed to the day after that, and on it goes while I get more and more bogged down with sugary crap, which makes me crave more sugary crap, and in the meantime my energy and motivation to exercise goes right out the window.
Geneen Roth would say that no food should be forbidden and I know what she means but I have not yet figured out how to sledgehammer my own nature into a more spiritually enlightened shape when it comes to moderation. I guess if I knew how to do that I could have a couple of beers on a Friday night like a normal person instead of knowing that a couple could never, in any way, shape, or form, possibly be enough. It’s the same with cookies, M&Ms, tortilla chips, ice cream, crackers, and bagels toasted and spread with butter and cream cheese—one serving isn’t enough. It is, however, often enough to send me straight on my way to February Mode.
Anyway, I’m talking this all through because it’s helpful for me to do so. I’d like to be the sort of person who spends the majority of her life eating well and staying active, but who still makes room for ice cream and other delicious things because come ON, right? Life should include salted caramel ice cream, for crying out loud. I’d like to learn to indulge without sliding completely off the rails. I’d like to genuinely prefer healthy foods, not because I think that’s what I’m supposed to eat, but because I believe in treating myself well.
Most of all, I’d like to be my best January self . . . without that ever-present nagging feeling that the REAL me, the February one, is barely being held at bay.