Angry, insensitive, loud traffic. The southwest desert sun glaring- piercing strained eyes. Bickering children. Sudden notification of son’s multi-part project due the next day. Demands of work, business, home ownership. It goes on and on, of course- as it does for most of us who are responsible adults, especially if we are also parents. If I continue in this vein, I may need to take a nap here on my keyboard. Just for a few minutes…
If I lived in Spain, perhaps my nap-ish tendencies wouldn’t be all that abnormal. After all, the Spaniards do take daily siestas. Or so I hear (I’ve never been.) It’s a cultural thing. Maybe I was born in the wrong country. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had that thought. However, I really want all of my sleep within a 24 hour period to happen in a single spell. I know that for me, the dream portion of sleep is really important; my mind needs to regularly plunge to the depths of that realm of all possibility and no limitations- in order to feel positive and healthy during waking life. Somehow I can feel the subtle, glimmering magic of that mysterious state, supporting me through all the day-to-day challenges, the aspects of life and mommyhood which, at times, feel overwhelming.
In recent weeks, I’ve been following a low-to-no-sugar dietary regime (in addition to the gluten-free diet I’ve been more or less following for about a year.) That is because, in spite of the gains in energy I noticed after going GF, I still observed my brain crashing out on certain afternoons- forcing me to nap when what I really wanted was to get things done. It is so frustrating and depressing for me, when I want to stoke the creative flames and create something artistic, or even simply get housework or graphics work done, but on some days, my brain just shuts off instead. I can literally feel the state of my consciousness descending- plummeting toward dreamland. Mind needs to dream. Period. And I’m out for a couple of hours.
I started to wonder, Could it be the sugar? My sweet tooth. Oh Lord. Have I got a sweet tooth. I grew up eating candy whenever I felt like it, without much thought or concern. Milky chocolate was my favorite (yes, I was discerning and usually chose quality brands, but still.) I never thought twice about noshing on a beautiful, velvety brown brick if ever I was in the mood. I grew up with no restrictions on my sugar intake. My parents weren’t strict about it at all; in fact my mother bought candy for my sister and me all the time. Which may sound shocking or like poor parenting… however, our parents’ permissiveness toward sugar at least prevented the strange backlash experienced by certain friends of mine.
One of my childhood friends (actually there were a couple, both with very similar sweets-related back stories and identical reactions, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to them as one person) was strictly prohibited from touching sugar in any form during her childhood. As an adolescent, she turned into a sneaky little sugar fiend and bigtime candy hoarder. She would save any extra cash, and if we managed to get away from her parents for a while, her greatest delight was to walk to the convenience store and load up on goodies from the candy aisle. Mind you, this girl was not allowed to touch any sugary cereals, or candy, as a child. Cake was only permitted once a year on birthdays- and then it was a miniscule slice. She didn’t have diabetes. Her parents just thought that children shouldn’t eat sugar; that it was unhealthy.
I remember we used to sneak huge loads of candy into her room when her parents weren’t watching… chowing down on the junk until we felt ill and our teeth hurt. This happened rather frequently. Her insatiable yearning for sugar was the driving force for these wacky trips to the unhealthfood store. Even I, who took candy consumption for granted, would never have thought to engage in these almost ritualistic extremes of sugar-filled gluttony. If her parents hadn’t been so strict, she probably would’ve been a lot more casual about the fact that candy was available at the corner shop- within walking distance from her house.
For me though, having had sugar all the time as a youngster, I grew up thinking it was normal to have cakes, cookies, candy, or any other sugary treat one could imagine, just lying about the house. So my attitude toward it was that it was a pleasant, but not tabu, part of life. I don’t think I even had any awareness about sugar being ‘bad’ in any way, except when visiting friends’ houses and feeling uncomfortable about their parents’ scolding and finger-wagging when the topic of sugar-sweetened foods arose.
In retrospect, I’ve come to the opinion that the ideal parenting style is something in between those extremes. Not ultra-permissive, but not too restrictive either. No parent in their right mind could possibly want to produce this dreaded ‘Catholic School Girl’ effect on their child. This is true for most things in which we parents want to influence our children in a positive way: diet, fashion, music, video game consumption, dating, relationships.
I always find it odd when someone says, “I’m not really a sweets person. I don’t care much for desserts.” Or, “I prefer unsweetened, dark chocolate.” Initially, I feel offended and shocked. Then, I think, bullshit. I literally don’t believe them. However, these days I’ve been telling myself, You are not a sweets person. I don’t exactly believe myself, but I’m working on it. Because lately I’ve been aware of a wonderful, new, consistent energy. Something I haven’t felt since childhood, really- when my afternoons were about roller skating around the block countless times, then riding my bike, then going inside and doing homework or playing until bedtime. I was energetic- actually I suppose I could have been described as a rather athletic child (although that energy was never channeled into any organized sport.)
Since I’ve been eating sugar and gluten-free, I’m starting to feel that way again, even though I’m now approaching 40. Because my blood sugar is not subject to multiple daily spikes, my mood, my brain, my muscles… they are all seeming to work better. I feel pretty strong, actually! The weekly yoga has helped, too. I have more stamina now; consistent focus. I’m not flying one hour and collapsing the next. The deprivation is worth it. My brain and body are relearning what it is to feel good, to feel sated. After all, it isn’t natural to consume all that processed white stuff. Addiction to processed sugars, white flour, high fructose corn syrups and the like is an affliction of the modern, western world. None of it was ever an issue for our ancestors.
I’ve defeated other addictions in the past (that is for another post. Or maybe not.) I will say that sugar is the hardest addiction I’ve worked to conquer yet, as almost everyone around me partakes in it. It is so ubiquitous. Not even my husband is not going to change his eating habits for my sake. I will give him some credit, as he has cut down on his cheeseburger intake in recent years. He used to wolf a few of them down every time he went to a fast food place; now he aims to order a grilled chicken sandwich instead. Although most of the time, they add bacon to these fast food chicken sandwiches, so I’m not sure there’s much benefit there.
Regardless, I try not to focus too much on the food he’s eating; or the fact that on some days, he seems to possess the dietary wisdom of a teenager with the munchies. Years of my demonstrating and explaining about nutrition really haven’t had as much of an effect on him as I would hope. Sometimes I even start to feel slightly envious and resentful when I ruminate on the way he chooses to eat. He can eat whatever he wants, and he doesn’t get tired like I do. He is three years older than I am, but he doesn’t have a single gray hair. He is lucky in some ways. Honestly, I do wish he’d mature a little bit in his attitude toward junk food consumption. But, I don’t want to engage in the food policing dynamic that, while growing up, I observed in my parents’ relationship (with them it was my father trying to control my mother’s choices.) I witnessed the ways in which it backfired. She rebelled; again with the sneaking. She became a wife sneaking sweets when she got away from her husband (rather than a pre-teen sneaking them from her parents.) Ultimately, my dad’s self-assigned spousal role as treat watchman did more harm than good.
I focus on my own meals and make sure that the rest of the family is fed. I offer them the healthy fare, but I don’t force it on them. If they don’t want broccoli quinoa stir fry (and they never do), they are welcome to go with ramen noodles and potato chips instead. My kids eat certain raw fruits and vegetables each day. They’ll have apples, bananas, carrots. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, with them and myself. I teach them what I know by word and example.
I offer, but don’t impose. I believe that locking up all unhealthy foods is not wise policy. If they end up with negative associations to foods that are good for them, due to being told to sit and finish a plate full of vegetables that they detest, they very well could become young adults who despise healthy foods. Which to me, equates to a poor result.
Tell me… what are your dietary restrictions? Is your family agreeable? Why do you choose to eat in the manner that you do? Is there anything wrong with the Standard American Diet, (a.k.a., SAD) in your eyes? Hit me up with your comments!