A few years ago, my doctor told me that my blood sugars were inching up and recommended I eat lower on the glycemic index. This means eating foods that release their nutrients slowly, rather than flooding the body and causing a quick rise in blood sugar.
Choosing appropriate foods is not rocket science. Lots of fresh things: veggies, fruit, beans, whole grains, meat, and fish. Cook only with olive oil. Use reduced-fat dairy products and mayonnaise. Avoid potatoes, white rice, white flour, and white sugar. Avoid fried foods and stuff made by huge conglomerates that care about their profits but not their customers’ health.
Intellectually, it’s real easy and I know exactly what to do. On an emotional level, though, it’s a different story. I just don’t understand eating. I don’t get that what I do this minute will have consequences in an hour or a day or a week. Perhaps that’s because my sense of time is so distorted that things don’t seem connected. If I plant a package of morning glory seeds, it doesn’t feel like I will have twenty cute little plants in a few weeks and magnificent morning glory vines in a few months. It feels like I’ve just wasted $2.19 by burying those little brown thingies.
My favorites comfort foods are all bad for me. Pasta, white bread still warm from the oven, donuts, potato chips, Coke. Sometimes I want all of those at the same meal, and lots of them.
If I get anxious, I tend to eat quickly and thoughtlessly; therefore I over-eat. If I get really upset, I stop eating entirely. It isn’t a decision:; I have no appetite and just can’t wrap my mind around the idea of putting stuff in my mouth and swallowing it. I get all freaked out by the idea that I am hollow inside. (Wonder where that came from?)
I know that many people without abuse histories have some of these same attitudes. I also know that many, many abuse survivors have far more severe eating problems than I do, often to the point of being life-threatening. But these things still bug me on a daily basis. My attitudes, beliefs and behaviors around food all feel choppy and fragmented, rather than integrated into a smoothly working system.
I’m also reminded on a daily (minutely?) basis of another result of my abuse: a life-long depression. Back in the days of tricyclics I put on eighty pounds that have stayed with me for years. I try to think of my extra weight as a battle scar and to remind myself I won the battle against suicide many times, for I am still here. Of course I would rather not have battle scars – I would settle for a nice medal that I could wear on special occasions.
I’m proud of myself, though, because I don’t throw up my hands and say, “It’s useless. I’ll never change.” I keep on trying, meal after meal, supermarket run after supermarket run. I’m not a fanatic about eating healthily, for life without chocolate is not a happy thought, but I keep moving in that direction.
It is paying off, too, because my blood sugars are normal. I’m very pleased, for I sure wouldn’t deal well with diabetes. And I have slowly lost forty-five of those eighty pounds. How? By eating smaller amounts of wonderful Italian breads and pastas, and eating them rarely. Coke has been replaced by tea. I eat fruit with a tablespoon or so of ice cream (yum) and make sandwiches with high fiber flax seed bread. Lots of vegetables, lots of chicken and fish. I don’t feel deprived, and when I do, I eat a small amount of whatever I desire. Because I made changes slowly, I don’t get cravings.
It may be this way with most parts of healing. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, baby step by baby step. You don’t have to understand completely, you don’t have to completely believe in what you are doing. You just have to decide it’s worth a try and then keep plugging away at it. It’s not dramatic – but it’s doable.