(photo by The 5th / Pexels)Written By Meredith Bazzoli
It’s Wednesday night and my stomach groans a threat that it will eat itself if I don’t feed it soon. Hunger manifests in the back of my throat as if my body is starting the process there, sucking itself into a hole at the top of my esophagus.
I’m about 9 hours into the surprise no-sugar challenge incited by my FIT4MOM Body Back instructor, Carly. I consider her a friend, but not today. The moment I had to drink my K-cup coffee without the aid of half-and-half, I sensed my life falling apart. Tonight’s dinner recipe from my meticulous meal planner contains one tablespoon of honey. I stew over this spoonful of sugar and wonder how we will survive the night without concrete dinner plans. Without food, I am not thinking clearly, and the problem compounds with each passing minute.
I did not rebel in my teen years, but in this moment, I feel a rage and attitude that I imagine pulses through the veins of a sixteen year old as they blaze down the road in their parent’s car towards a strictly off limits party. “My plans to eat healthy are futile,” I rage in my head. “Why does my metabolism not just do me a favor once in a while? It’s been on vacation since the age of five.” I fixate on the one tablespoon of honey in my recipe as my singular enemy.
I text my husband and tell him that all I want to do is binge eat pizza. We’re both tired from my daughter’s recent sleep regression, and pizza sounds good to him too. It’s his weakness as well as mine, which is why I chose the temptation. I knew he wouldn’t be able to say no. When he walks in the door, I’m lying on the living room rug shaking a colorful baby rattle in the general direction of our babbling daughter. He calls the local pizza place and we end the night eating piece after grease covered piece of sausage and pepperoni pizza in our bed.
It feels wonderful.
And then it doesn’t.
The self-loathing rushes over me as the elastic waist of my pajama pants pushes into my bloated stomach. Why did I let myself do this? Why did my husband let us do this? Why couldn’t I just enjoy the pizza like a normal person? Why did my dinner recipe have that one stinkin’ tablespoon of honey?
Here’s the thing. This night didn’t have to go down the way it did. What if, instead of angrily sipping my black coffee, I’d allowed myself a tablespoon of organic half-and-half and troubleshot a clean option for a future sugar-free day? What if instead of derailing at the one tablespoon of honey, I realized that my instructor would probably prefer I have a healthy whole food meal with honey than to binge eat pizza? What if instead of freaking out that I couldn’t plan ahead, I decided to make up the sugar free day in the near future to help me to dive in with tools in my arsenal?
I notice that I tend toward all or nothing thinking, and the debris created by this thought pattern can be found all scattered all over my life. I’ll plan a thirty minute run and wake up late. Instead of getting a fifteen minute run in, I don’t go at all and punish myself in my head all day. Observing the grime in the bathroom, I close my eyes and walk away since I don’t yet own the mildew product I want to try on the grout. So often, my alternative to my best intentions tend in the opposite direction of the planned activity. If I can’t be perfect, I surrender to my most base impulses to sit on my couch and neglect all the things I care about.
I react similarly when I see someone else slaying at something. A dear friend of mine prepares lunches and breakfasts for the entire week. She does this for her kids and herself. She shared a picture of her fridge with the neatly stacked Tupperware containing portioned, healthy meals. I ogled at the counted grapes and little salad dressing containers and remembered how far behind I was on my own meal prep for the week. As I wonder where in the world she got those tiny salad dressing Tupperwares, the all-or-nothing dragon begins to flap its wings and blow its fiery rebellion into my bones.
Before I have the opportunity to drive to the closest bacon cheeseburger, at times a worthy pursuit, I try to practice a moment of rational thought. I take stock of what I do have in the fridge: uncooked sweet potatoes, spinach with only few clumps of soggy leaves, baby carrots that could use a rinse, and long stalks of organic celery. I take the bunch of celery out and break off a rib, and I eat it just like that without any preparation. My teeth struggle with the string-like fibers before I rip a chunk off to chew in my mouth.
It doesn’t feel wonderful.
And then, it does.
This stalk of celery was here all along. My lack of grape counting ability does not decide our family’s health. I have slain the dragon with a rib of celery, and I stand on its remains with another stalk in hand. I grab a hardboiled egg that my husband prepared on Sunday, a not so small feat as a young adult. Boiling eggs just right is hard. I head out the door to work with the bounty of my fridge grasped in my hands, not conveniently packaged, but the best I can do at the moment.
I am trying little by little, to find the celery, to look for the better choice, if the best is not available. A two minute run is better than a zero minute run, one hundred words is better than zero, and a tablespoon of honey will be ok when the alternative is pizza. Although, on some days, pizza is ok too. This is mamahood, and this is #reallife.