I haven't posted with my usual frequency because, frankly, I've been avoiding it. I'm usually the first to advertise my sins on cyberspace, but after proclaiming how I'd turned over a new leaf last week, it's a little embarrassing to fess up for the world to witness.
See, though I really have been making sure to feed my body plenty of nutrients, and have been following the Mrs. Alley formula more or less consistently, I've also been doing something not quite as commendable: I've been eating mindlessly.
The term "mindlessly" makes me sound like some clueless stereotype, shoveling in Lays Ruffles from the party-size bag propped on my protruding stomach as I zone out to trash TV. But (a) I don't like potato chips, (b) I'm too poor for cable, and (c) I know exactly what I'm doing. Stopping the calorie count hasn't freed me completely from consciousness; I do remember every handful of that supposedly 6-serving bag of mixed nuts. My eating has been "mindless" not because I unaware of what I'm doing, but because I'm not really paying attention to what my body needs when I do it.
For example, because I snacked a lot the night before, I'll resolve to make absolutely certain that I'm hungry before I eat anything the next day. By the time I do consider myself hungry, I'm in such a funk that I reach for meals that require no proper appliances and all of 2 minutes to prepare. Plates like these:
Smart Dog and corn on the cob
Portabella soy burger with ketchup and lettuce on homemade whole wheat & flax bread
These are not unhealthy choices in and of themselves. The problem is that because they're so quick and commercial, I don't feel satisfied after eating them. So I chase the meal down with a spinach smoothie. Also a nutritious choice, but it feels so healthy and I'm supposed to be eating whatever I want, right? So along comes the cake.
This is the same coffee cake recipe I used with the Stoll's apple butter, only made with this instead:
Pureed jackfruit. This stuff is addictive. It doesn't help that I put it in a baked good topped with sugarsugarsugar+cinnamon.
Anyway, you can see how this all adds up after awhile. And if I was truly hungry when I ate all of it, it wouldn't be a problem. But I'm not--I don't physically need all of this food. Sometimes I start eating when I'm not even hungry. But I'm not bored or stressed or any of the other traditional excuses either. The truth is--and I just figured this out today--I'm scared.
Researchers (and anyone with life experience) warn that prolonged restriction leads to binging because people feel the biological need to "stock up" on foods they're finally "allowed" to have, before the next famine arrives. When I was 18, I did a lot of this because I was coming out of a really long and intense "famine." Though I haven't dieted as extremely as I did in high school, over the past few years I have become accustomed to a constant simmering hunger in pursuit of that elusive size 6. My eating lately hasn't contained frenzied binges like those scary ones from long ago, in which entire boxes of SlimFast snack bars would disappear in the span of five minutes. But I have had a kind of a low-key, extended one, in which half of the aforementioned bag of nuts disappeared over several hours. Out loud, I proclaim that this intuitive eating pattern is for life. But the niggling voice in my head says otherwise: "Soon you will gain weight, freak out, and go back to your old restrictive ways. Better enjoy the party while you can."
I don't know the origin of this weird notion that I can't control my own behavior. For some reason I think my essential nature will get the better of me, that some dark future Tamara will rob this temporary hunger-and-worry-free happiness from me in my sleep. For an exaggerated portrait of my mental state, or for some light bedtime reading, you can peruse Kafka's Der Bau (or just the CliffsNotes version I linked, because the actual story, while unfinished, is very long and needlessly distressing).
After identifying what was really going on in my head, I did manage to behave more or less sanely tonight. I've come up with some tricks to make myself feel more secure, so that I don't go running for the cheese sandwiches that invariably make me ill:
-Clean. I hate the act of cleaning, and always thought that "environment" gauge that affected the Sims' moods so strongly was silly, but a little vacuuming and organization really do wonders for my estimation of self-worth.
-Bathe. I didn't have to go anywhere today, because the university closed to celebrate the 4th, but lounging around in my billowing cover-up while slogging through papers on classification did not make for a happy morning. With a little hot water, a slimming pink dress, and deodorant, the world looks a lot brighter.
-Go outside. Yes, it's horribly hot out there. But five minutes to the mail box and back was all I needed to rid myself of the guilt from the post-dinner encounter with the jack-fruit cake.
-Plan. Vacation destinations. Finances. Potential internships. Whatever. I'm an unabashed control freak who feels most at peace while researching and categorizing obsessively (hence, library school). I embrace it, and now have a lovely stack of bookmarks and Excel sheets to gaze upon.
Do you guys ever battle that fear-of-future-self? Do you have any tips to recover the zen?