I did something stupid recently.
Have you ever done anything stupid? Like, you knew it was going to be a bad idea, even before you did it, but you did it anyway? Well, that’s what I did. I justified my “bad idea” by calling it an experiment: “If I do this, I’ll just see what happens and I’ll learn from it and it’ll be cool.”
It wasn’t cool.
Not cool, at all.
What did I do that was so stupid? I ate carbs.
Ok, I can almost hear you rolling your eyes at me… BUT, I have to explain why carbs are a stupid idea for me.
I don’t villainize carbs. I don’t think carbs are evil. I love carbs; I want to be carbs… the problem is, I have a chemical reaction to carbs that results in an “altered mental/emotional status.” More accurately, sugar carbs result in panic attacks and starchy carbs result in depression. Put ‘em both together and I get into suicidal territory. Yes, my reaction to carbs is that drastic; I’m not exaggerating here. I’ve tested this over and over and over – and always with the same result. Sometimes the reaction happens within a few hours and sometimes it doesn’t show up for a few days, but it always shows up.
This is just one reason a low-carb diet, like a ketogenic diet, has been so helpful for me, because it all but eliminates my drastic mood swings. Life still has its ups and downs, but I regulate my moods and thoughts SO much better while eating Ketogenically.
So, for the last seven-eight months I’ve been following a ketogenic diet (carbs under 20-30 grams per day, protein based on lean body mass, and fat to round out my calorie needs). I certainly haven’t been “perfect” with it – I’ve had my moments of “carb-loading,” i.e., binge eating, but this time was different. I had bread or sugar carbs EVERY DAY for a week.
So, so stupid.
For the first 3-4 days I was in heaven – tons ’o carbs and no backlash. I thought, “hey, I’m cured; I can totally have carbs now.” But about day 4 is when the cravings started and the “willpower” began to run out. I know the difference between physical hunger and “emotional” hunger and I was becoming emotionally hungry all the time! One poor decision led to another and I just kept eating more and more carbs… Then the nightmares started; waking up in the middle of the night with my heart racing and sweaty from fear/panic; or rising in the morning with a feeling of dread – that if I got out of bed, something bad was going to happen. Then came the depression. Everything in my life seemed bad, wrong, insufficient, an unsolvable problem, hopeless, helpless, like nothing would ever be okay – like I would never be okay. I became angry and annoyed by the slightest things and somehow, I just couldn’t shake hating myself for all of this. After all, I was the stupid one who ate all the carbs. I knew it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway.
I mean, haven’t I lost 70-ish pounds eating low-carb? Yep, I sure have. So haven’t I “earned” the right to spend a week eating whatever the hell I want? Erm… that’s a tough one. I think the problem with that question is in the idea that I can somehow “earn” bad food. Is that the relationship with food that I want? To be “good” so that I can earn the right to be “bad?” And by bad I just mean throw caution to the wind and fly off the nutritional rails… No, of course not! No one “earns” the right to be bad! It’s probably a bad idea (irony intended) to “moralize” food into “good” or “bad” camps, because – for me, anyway – it's too easy for it to become a reflection of who I am as an individual; i.e., I ate “bad” food, therefore I am a “bad” person.
I keep asking myself why? Why would I do this to myself KNOWING it was a “bad” idea?! I think there must be a lot of reasons. I’ve spent so long fighting cravings that I just wanted to give in. I am so tired of fighting the desire for carbs (i.e., emotional hunger) that I just wanted to lose control and not think about consequences or repercussions. I was angry that I’ve been having such bad neck/shoulder pain that no one seems to be able to resolve and I just got angry at my body for hurting for no reason – and I wanted to punish it; as if I was saying, “hey, if you’re not going to work properly and be in pain for nothing more than just moving, then screw you – I’m going to get fat and lazy and just give up on you.”
Which is sad, now that I see it typed out in black and white. What a poor relationship I seem to have with myself. I’m so ready to hurt myself and punish myself as if that’s all I deserved; it’s almost just a knee-jerk reaction at this point. It’s not healthy; it’s not caring, or kind or compassionate. It’s abusive. How did I learn this? Where did I learn this?
Honestly, I don’t think the answers to those questions even matter right now. What matters is improving that relationship. So I’m going to do some really uncomfortable work here and commit to a couple of things:
1. Forgiveness – Yep, I made a poor decision to eat a bunch of carbs (premeditated or otherwise). Beating myself up for it isn’t going to change that, it isn’t going to “pay” for my dalliance(s), and it isn’t going to prevent me from making poor choices in the future. What it will do is reinforce the erroneous belief that I’m an inherently bad/weak person, deserving of self-abuse and punishment. Forgiveness is not ignoring what I did, or trying to remove/avoid consequences; forgiveness is me admitting I made a bad choice, but knowing that I am not a “bad person” because of it. Forgiveness is saying, “I care enough about you that I don’t want you to repeat that behavior, because I don’t want you to hurt anymore…”
2. Embrace pain. This may sound like it’s coming from left field or you may be wondering how “embracing pain” could help me change these destructive patterns. Well, it’s because pretty much all of my dysfunctional patterns are some form of avoiding pain (physical, mental, emotional, etc.). Pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Because of my trauma’s and learned self-abuse, I interpret “something wrong” to mean that I’ve done something wrong or that I am wrong; that I have somehow caused this pain. So when I feel pain, I blame myself for having done something wrong to cause it. Embracing pain means exposing myself to life and being vulnerable; it means challenging my beliefs about myself and more specifically what I’m worth or what I think I’m capable of. Pain is nature’s way of saying something needs my attention, not an indication that I’ve done something wrong or that I “am” wrong. Pain, while unpleasant to experience, can actually be an ally, and one I probably need to stop “avoiding at all costs.” I can be in pain and still be okay.
Deep down I know my days of making stupid decisions aren’t over. I’m certain I have plenty more to make. But my hope is that I can, at the very least, learn from when I’ve chosen poorly in the past and use that feedback to make wiser decisions in the future – especially when it comes to carbs!