Junk food junkie

A few times since I started writing this column I have questioned my own judgment on the matter. I mean, a journey from a sedentary lifestyle toward physical fitness is bound to dredge up some old issues.

But many of you have told me that this column helps you, so I persevere, even when the subject matter is personal. And so it is today, as I have to write about a rough week for me and confront binge eating, and mindless eating. You know, those times when you just chow down with eyes glazed over and brain disengaged.

Most of the time, my diet is healthy, mostly organic, high in fresh fruits and veggies, and very low in processed foods. I like this diet, and it has been my mainstay for many, many years. For a long time I was a vegetarian. I have always been a from-scratch, whole-foods cook.

But periodically I crash and burn into a frenzy of processed food, most recently that lasted several days this past week. (The mental image I have of this is like film from old car races, the kind where the cars were still made of wood and a crash meant a splintered ruin. Not a pretty sight.) That state of mind is difficult to admit, even to myself, let alone to every person reading this column. That loss of reason and self-control, that unnecessary self-punishment, that slide from omg-I’m-so-happy-let-me-post-every-workout-online of virtuous action into the worst kind of action. Ugh. Not only did I stop taking care of myself, but I was actually hurting myself by making poor choices. Who wants to be that person? Not me, but I have to admit it to get past it.

I have used this strategy on myself: I pretend that I’m my 4-year-old grandson’s age. That’s because I won’t let him eat anything he wants, would limit him to a small piece of cake (and only on a special occasion), and I make sure he gets plenty of sleep. That’s because I love him and I don’t want him to be sick. I try and apply the same kind of care to myself. My inner child, however, is a recalcitrant brat—accustomed to getting her own way and not above tantrums when she doesn’t—not a sweetheart like my grandson. My inner child gets away with stuff that none of my kids or grandkids would have gotten past me. Therein lies my struggle.

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I got down and got silly with my daughter at the gym last week. It was supposed to be an ab workout—which if you count the sore muscles from laughing, it was. Photo by Trisha Castle

The good news, if you can call it that, is that I felt like crap after eating junk food for a few days. I mean, I felt really crummy. So awareness of that has to factor into the equation, right? Surely I will remember that the next time I have a craving for junk “food.” I sure as hell hope so.

If you read this column regularly, you know that my first rule is, “No beating myself up.” I intend to stick to that word, although times like this are when that is the hardest for me. I mean, I know better, right? Of course I do. Everyone does, even little kids.

But no beating myself up.

The big picture is that I am grappling with underlying issues about me not taking care of myself properly. For the past 30 years or more, I put my own needs behind the needs of my kids, my spouse, my job, my friends, in fact, behind almost everything. Of course it has been more than motherhood, and I couldn’t blame my kids anyway. I am the one who prioritized myself last, not them.

It’s good for me to wrestle with the vestiges of what once seemed like demons but now seem merely like self-sabotaging behavior. But saying all that doesn’t make it easy to change decades-old patterns of behavior.

Now there is a bit more good news for me in my junk food extravaganza. I still made it to the gym. And not only that, today I went to the gym with my son; my daughter and I now have a nice routine, usually twice a week. They both make great gym buddies. My point is, I may have lost my footing a little bit, but I have not fallen off the path.

At the end of the day, my plan is the same as it always is: Stick to the plan. I know what I need to do and I have my support systems in place. I need to act according to the plan and carry on, each day a new day to act again, and maybe this day to care for myself, my health and my wellbeing.