the battle between my inner food junkie and my inner health coach

There are two personalities dueling inside of me. I’m speaking metaphorically, to be clear. Apart from the fact that there are not two people fencing inside my body, I also do not mean to imply that I honestly do have multiple personalities as diagnosed in the DSM-IV. But sometimes, I still shock myself after 32 years of being me with just how much incongruence I have.

 

Specifically, I’m referring to my eating and culinary habits. One day I’m sprouting quinoa, brewing kombucha, and craving dandelion greens. That’s when I feel my best. During these golden days of health, I’m mostly decaffeinated with the exception of my green tea and I’m feeling Zen about life. I wake up feeling calm and happy to greet my day, and I have a genuine sense of well being and vitality.

 

The greek word εὐδαιμονία is what comes to mind; living well, well-being, a good life…impossible to universally define, but in these golden eras I’ve found it for myself. And not just because my jeans fit better. Not just because I have a heightened sense of self-efficacy that I can set out to do something difficult and stick to it and do it well. Not just because my teeth look whiter when I smile and I’m smiling more often because I just feel better.

 

It’s also because I’m more mindful. I consider my choices–food and otherwise–with a more steady spirit and mind. My mind is also better able to screen and filter the thoughts that scroll across the space in my thoughts–accepting the good and throwing out the bad. And one huge factor–my sleep quality improves like nobody’s biz. And for some reason I still don’t understand, so does that of my children. Maybe because I tend to pass out with them during their nap and then this co-sleeping nap helps them experience a deeper, more restorative sleep (that’s my off-the-cuff speculation, but  who knows?).

 

So, you see, there is a lot to LOVE about these golden eras of enlightened eating. It’s like a personal renaissance every time I go into one of these personal clean eating commitments.

 

But then…something derails me. It starts with something like a severe craving for a cup of strong, dark coffee. “I’ll have it black. No cream. I can work that in to a healthy lifestyle.” This is the voice of the food junkie that lives within.

 

“But it’s too soon!” My inner holistic health coach tries to tell my inner food junkie. “You’ll fall right off the clean foods wagon if you go back to something like that now. In time. In good time, maybe you could have black coffee without it snagging your health habits and unraveling them like Weezer’s sweater. But not yet. Not YET! DON’T DO IT!”

 

And usually that’s when the food junkie part of me plugs her fingers in her ears and starts singing the sweater song at top voice volume until the holistic health coach—the trained MS level health promotion graduate—part of myself wistfully sits down and just waits for certain ruin.

 

Then I tap into this hedonistic part of myself. And BOY! Does that part of me know how to bake! I have all sorts of signature recipes from these lapses of clean eating. Sticky buns, cheesecakes, home made donuts with a variety of custards (vanilla, chocolate, coconut) and topped with ganache or cream fondant. Decadent, rich layer cakes with frostings and fillings that range from lemon curd to true buttercream frosting. It’s just insane. It’s hedonistic madness turned into something edible, and it’s sensational.

 

So then I bake these things, and no. I can’t just “work it in” to an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Some people can and do. And oh, how I admire them. The food junkie says, “Oh, it’s such a work of art, this cake. Come on, let’s just have a little cake. And a little more cake. And just some more frosting now. And more frosting…” And then next thing I know, there’s been a food homicide and I’m staring at a cake carcass, with the fork still in my hand. Aw, shoot.

 

How did I go from dandelion greens to THIS?

 

Anyway, then there’s this educated part of me that thinks…this is just clean foods yo-yo dieting. And this is the worst thing you can do to your self efficacy. It disempowers you and leaves you feeling like a failure. The food junkie usually says this and has her head in her hands and is apologizing and promising change, blah, blah, blah.

 

And the inner health coach kindly offers the suggestion that this is probably somewhat of a brain chemical thing. Just like an alcoholic. The carbohydrates, sugars, fats…these types of foods have been known to allow the serotonin in the brain to pool…causing an effect of actually feeling high. Dopamine too. Not everyone actually responds this way, but some of us do. Some of us actually do get high from food. That really makes the war against obesity a LOT more difficult (the obesity threat level has moved from “fight” to full-on “war” please note).

 

If I could just keep the trigger foods out of my life, then I wouldn’t be overdosing on them. My whole brain chemistry changes. I feel it. It’s Zen and mindful when I’m eating clean. It’s maniacally food-obsessed when I’m not. So, moderation doesn’t really seem to be a feasible answer in terms of the kinds of foods that I eat. I think I’m going to have to switch out the trigger foods. But maybe I can work moderation in on some other levels so that it doesn’t feel so restrictive or entirely disinhibited into crazy town. I’m determined to figure it out.

 

So, here I am. Stating this all here. Because I’m going to write about this journey toward well being. It’s not about jean size. It’s not about weight. It’s not about whether I’m loved or valuable. I am. I know that through and through. This is about finding true health and well being. This is about practicing what I learned in my Master’s program on my most difficult client: myself. So, beginning Sunday, September 1, I will set out to do a clean foods intervention that I am going to design for myself. The intervention will begin on September 1 and run until January 1. I will post about that journey here.

 

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