It is Day 2 on Survivor Island (Diet Edition) and the inhabitant is getting hungry. With a scarce rationing of proteins and fats, the sugar addicted brain starts to play out its sneakiest sabotage hits.
It starts with negotiating. “Feed me some simple sugars, no one will find out.” When rebuffed, the negotiations escalate. “Fine, fine, fine.” The addict says. “How about some complex carbohydrates? I heard there is a really good apple in the kitchen. Let’s just take a walk by it…Ohhhhh. See it there? Looks like a good one, doesn’t it? LET’S EAT IT!”
While apples are not unhealthy, they do not fit into this phase of the new regime. Not to be discouraged, the addict brain then transitions into bargaining. “Okay, okay. I see you drive a hard bargain.” The brain tightens, driving anxiety. “How about you eat that apple and then I won’t bother you for a week? You just eat that one apple (and then some cookies, white bread, all the jelly beans and later a shame glass of wine) and I PROMISE no one gets hurt. I won’t tempt you out of your diet until Sunday. Deal?”
Still on track, the brain then becomes more persistent in an attempt to override the system. “We have walked by that apple 10 times now. I KNOW YOU WANT IT!” The brain spurns its host. “You’ve been on the straight and narrow for 36 hours now…it’s time for a break. You’ll never make it the whole way anyway. Why don’t you just give in and hit me up with some glucose!”
If will power is maintained through the first three phases, the brain will become ever more demanding. It will insist on a sugar bath rich enough to soothe the frayed nerves created by detox. The brain, in it’s most basic ID state will shout near constantly:
“Give me all the sugar! I will not rest until I GET ALL THE SUGAR! What is wrong with you?! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!”
And then, as if Ms. Kubler Ross popped out of the refrigerator herself, the rest of the stages of grief will come flooding in.
Anger: “I am so mad at myself for getting here. I cannot believe I did this to myself. This is SO. DAMN. HARD.”
Depression: “I am never going to eat a tasty thing ever again in my life. I feel so horrible. Do I actually have to feel these feelings instead of eat them? Ugggghhhh.” (nicely finished with a full face flop onto the bed).
The only piece I’m not missing is denial. I am not in denial about what is happening. I am completely cognizant of why this is necessary and what has to be done to get better. There is no denying that I need and want to be healthier, stronger, and yeah, sexier, too.
What I can’t quite get my head around is acceptance. I am too caught up in the sugar war to have even dipped a toe in acceptance. The only thing that keeps me on track tonight is writing. My brain doesn’t have the bandwidth to think long-term yet. I can only see the discomfort that is right in front of me. Or rather, that’s all I really want to see.
But I can’t forget that I know how to do this. I must remember that I can do hard things. I have done harder things and I’ve won every time. I have to remember that hard is sometimes what is necessary and that it never lasts forever. I have to remember all the reasons I wanted this. I have to lean in to my strength and move beyond my comfort zone.
If I’m really honest, my brain is crying out to keep me in the safe bubble of a sugar coated serenity. I’m afraid of what is out there without this sheild, without this crutch. What happens to me if I walk forward into all the hurt and vulnerability of my life without being able to drown it out? That is what I am afraid of, and that is why this investment is so critical to me right now. I am making space for strong. I am finding room for brave. I am calling up my courage and I am going forward with this one step tonight. Sugar war be damned.
Give ‘Em Hell