Things Learned

It’s three months and counting until the wedding and two months and change until my birthday, which means: introspection time! It’s also summer, and as I noted previously, this period of transition from dry to violent storms and growth seems a much more natural time for renewal and change than the new year ever did.

So, naturally, I’ve been looking back over the last year and picking out all the bits I feel that I’ve done right, that I’d like to keep with me, all the bits I fell down on and can safely discard, and more importantly, all the bits I’ve learned.

And the one thing that sticks out the most, the one most important thing I feel that I have learned this year, that has changed how my worldview, that will likely affect the rest of my life is this:

It’s next to impossible to overestimate the importance of good food.

And I mean that in all its nuances. Food that is good because it’s tasty. Food that is good because of quality. Food that is good because of it’s impact on the environment. Food that is good because of it’s interaction with our communities. Food that is good because of it’s impact on our bodies.

They say you are what you eat, whoever “they” may be, but that saying does not quite convey the very real consequences of the stuff you put in your mouth. That shit is potent. And as you may have noticed if you’ve been reading this blog at all over the last year, I’ve gone from a food skeptic to a full on food proselytizer. I could go on at length – and again – about the Whole30 and paleo and how shying away from certain foods has helped me lose weight, gain energy, get rid of persistent neck acne, not to mention curb my depression and ongoing anxiety attacks and give me more than one period a year for the first time in eleven years. But instead, I think I’ll just write a bit about what I have termed, The Sticky Bun Revelation.

Lady was gone for a week, away at a conference, and I was home by myself, wallowing in stress and depression. I didn’t want to go out and I ate poorly and I was letting the stress of wedding prep get to me. It all came to a head on Thursday when I couldn’t stave off the crying and the flaring bouts of irritability at work. I wanted sugar. I craved sugar. I could picture in my head the coying, lush sweetness of a sticky bun, one that I could conveniently purchase just down the street. I knew I shouldn’t have it. I wasn’t even hungry. But it called to me and I found myself wavering at the crosswalk during my lunchbreak, still trying to resist its call. I could have, easily – its grip was not that strong. But I was tired and stressed and depressed and I knew in my head and in my bones that eating that damn sticky bun would physically make me feel better.

So I did. I bought it, secreted it to my usual lunch hiding place, and ate it. And, almost immediately coinciding with the very first bite, I began to relax. My brain edged off. I perked up and the threat of tears dissipated. But, even though I wasn’t hungry when I started eating it and was thoroughly not hungry a third of the way through, I couldn’t stop. It lingered in my mind, calling to me, even when I had stuffed it in my bag and tried to read. I returned to the office without any of my irritability, but a sick lump in my stomach.

And that’s when I realized just how powerful food can be. A week later I read an article confirming what I had experienced and breaking it down into science. When you’re stressed and addicted to sugar, eating sugar will alleviate some of that stress. For reals. And the scary thing is, that can easily set you up for a cycle of dependence, since you can be stressed by not eating the sugar you crave. That cliche pint of ice cream you have when you’ve been dumped? It works. Mentally. Physically. But then you’ve just dug yourself a deeper pit of dependence.

So food, man. That shit is powerful.

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