Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giving Things Up

The last few days, I've been pondering all of the different things people give up or believe in giving up for better health. I've done it myself. I gave up fast food two years ago. I gave up soda this month. Those are permanent changes I have been willing to make. But how much should, or will, I give up in order to achieve better health?

Is there ANY food worth being sick and tired over?

Apparently, there is. I mean, we all keep eating things that make us stay fat or feel icky. Well, not all of us, but a heck of a lot of people truly struggle to give up eating foods they KNOW make them miserable. Perhaps they are addictive. Perhaps there are other reasons. What is it about Heath bars that made them worth a diabetic literally dying over them, leaving a little boy behind motherless? I wrote about that story before on my blog, and it's true. What is it that would make a mother sit down and eat candy bars *knowing* they could kill her? Maybe we just don't believe it could happen to *us.* But it does happen, it can happen to any of us. Bad idea to push the luck that way.

But the problem for some of us is we don't have diabetes, we don't have a peanut allergy, we don't have some urgent medical condition that could cause our death if we eat xyz. Well, I do, actually. Let me tell you about it.

When I was a kid, we used to go out to eat a lot. Often. Like twice a week at least, and I don't mean fast food (although we did that too). We went to nice restaurants and I was allowed to order whatever I liked from the menu. And my very favorite things were deep fried butterflied jumbo shrimp, crab legs, and lobster tails. Oh, I'd throw in the filet mignon once in awhile or have a piece of lasagna or some fettuccine here and there, but 90% of the time I was ordering shellfish. I loved it! Then one day, we were sitting in a restaurant and I was eating my lobster tail as I'd been doing for at least 9 years. I was 14 years old. All of a sudden, my face started swelling up. My eyes swelled and my throat swelled. My Dad, who had allergies of his own, gave me some Benedryl and told me to stop eating the lobster. It sucked. A week later, I ordered shrimp. I had a similar reaction and had to stop after a couple of bites. Turns out I'd developed a very severe shellfish allergy. No more lobster, crab, or shrimp for me, ever. Even into my 20's and 30's it got worse. If I even TASTED something (accidentally) with shrimp in it, my throat would begin to swell shut and I'd have to take Benedryl. And now it is worse still: if someone ELSE eats shellfish and then touches a surface and I touch that surface and then rub my eyes, they swell shut. Once, I walked into a restaurant on the coast and they were boiling fresh crabs and my throat started to swell shut from the steam. I carry Epipens on me at all times, along with Benedryl.

I remember the delicious taste of crispy fried shrimp and fresh crab legs dipped in melted butter. I would love to have some! But I know darned well that if I ate that it would likely kill me. Do you think I eat it anyway? NO. Do you think I want just a little bite here and there? NO! Do I dream about shellfish and wish I could have it and pine for it? NO!!! I have ZERO desire to eat something that I know can kill me, even though I remember how good it tastes.

I hope to get to that point with sugar. With hot dogs. With fried foods.

I am there with sodas and McDonalds and stuff that has trans fats in it. I was able to give those things up when I thought it was impossible, because *something* finally clicked in my brain that made those things literally undesirable to me. I finally internalized the VERY REAL FACT that those things are truly harmful... not just 'bad' but HARMFUL... to my health, to my life. So they have no appeal anymore. They are no longer a battle for me.

I do think I will get there with the sugary, refined crap too. Already, I sometimes will be wandering the grocery store and look at some food I used to love and crave and I think, "no, I really do not want that in my body." Some things really *have* lost their appeal. Maybe hot dogs are getting there... I have started looking at them as well as other processed meats and realizing how unhealthy they are for my body. I mean, I know in my head what is good and not, for the most part, but there is a point when it clicks and you really, truly BELIEVE that eating that food will HURT you. And then you don't want it anymore.

It's a process, a slow one for me. but now that I *understand* the process, I can keep educating myself and making decisions about my food based on how they will truly affect my health.


Amanda said...

I know what you mean trying to change my diet has been the hardest thing for me. I gave up sodas fairly easy because if I can make it a week then I don't crave them anymore and they don't taste good anymore. But food....god it is my failure. I work out quite a bit because I love it but I'm not going to get healthier by that alone. Thank you for sharing and good luck with making those changes. Sounds like you've had a great start already giving up sodas and fast foods!

Sugar said...

yes it just gets easier every day. The thing to do is keep going despite minor slip ups. Just pick up and move onward and forward :)

deezer said...

Hi Lynn,

This is the first post I've been moved to respond to in a while - but i do read your blog daily.

My partners father is a diabetic (T2) as is my own dad. How they approach life is so different. My dad is so careful - few potatoes, few starchy carbs, ZERO candy, chocolate, biscuits, cakes etc... he's so careful. Whereas Marks' dad
just ups his meds and then eats cookies, candy, and sweets! There's more sugar in that house with NO kids in it, than there ever was in my house- bars of chocolate, not just fun size - all sizes!!

This man is massively overweight - all around his middle and his neck and he even puts butter on french fries - obviously, he has all the complimentary ailments that go with T2, and obesity...

My long rambling point is finally coming to an end - there's nothing any one can do to stop him... he doesn't care, and if people talk to him he gets mad and cranky - like its my life, leave me alone.

Any suggestions?

Sassenach said...

I applaud you for your will power. I voluntarily gave up eating ALL kinds of nuts, about 7 years ago, due to a developing allergy of my own. I had a slip up 2 years ago and made myself sick after eating 2 Reese Pieces. I gave in to one of my cravings. It was almost like I had forgotten that allergies have consequences. Unhealthy food really should be considered the same. It's sometimes hard to remember that eating badly has just as awful of a consequence. Sadly benadryl does nothing to take this swelling down. It's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication. Thank you for your post.

Anonymous said...

I went into a very nice grocery store yesterday to buy myself lunch-- I figured it was better than hitting a fast food joint. I saw NOTHING that I could bring myself to eat except a salad-- while the foods were well made, probably delicious, and the store has a reputation for making great lunch stuff, I couldn't bring myself to eat the pasta or bread that came with just about every choice. There does come a point, or so it seems, that we can walk past the things we used to eat so casually.

Oh well, salad days it is.


Tammy said...

I'm one of the dumb ones. I was diagnosed with diabetes and still kept drinking Cokes, even after the Dr. told me they were pure poison for a diabetic. I think the problem was, I didn't feel any different, meaning any worse, after the diagnosis. However, I would quit the Cokes for a while, and then have one and noticed a big change in how I felt. I finally gave them up for good, but it took years.

Kathleen said...

This is a very interesting point. Some people can claim ignorance, but for those of us who know about nutrition and healthy eating it can never be said that we don’t know what we are doing when we eat ‘junk food’! So why do we keep doing it? I love the comparison you made between having a shellfish allergy and avoiding shellfish, and knowing that ‘junk’ is bad for you and avoiding it. The difference here, and the reason people (even nutritionally educated ones) keep eating ‘junk food’ is because of the immediacy of the results. If you eat shellfish, the effect is immediate. You start to swell up; you have trouble swallowing, etc. But ‘junk food’ does not do this. Eat a candy bar, and there is no visible effect. You calm down. “This isn’t so bad,” you think. “See, nothing happened.” So you keep doing the activity. It stops being ‘just this one time’ and starts to be every day, or every other day, etc. etc. Eventually you find that you are really fat. I truly believe that if the results were immediate, a lot less people would be fat. Some people still would be, but it would serve as a deterrent to most. Imagine if a single serving of junk added an instant 5-10 pounds to your frame. It would certainly make you think twice before putting it in your mouth! However, we live in a world in which that is not the case. And you can slowly become more and more comfortable with eating junk, while becoming slowly fatter and fatter, until you reach the point where you ‘wake-up’. Of course, by then, it is like a nightmare to take the weight off, because you didn’t ‘nip it in the bud’. That is why I am an advocate of weighing oneself every day. It is MUCH easier to take off five pounds than fifty! It is true that the more you diet, or eat healthy, or focus on whole foods, the less appealing ‘junk food’ becomes. But I know YOU know this from your own personal experiences – if you choose to eat that ‘junk food’ – it is still going to taste amazing. There is no getting around that. To summarize, because junk food tastes great and when you eat it there is (usually) no immediate devastating effect, people turn to it again and again, even when they know they shouldn’t.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! I don't have much to add, but thanks for writing on this topic and sharing your perspective.

Lyn said...


I think he is going to have to come to a conclusion on his own to make those changes. Maybe it will take his doctor, or a health crisis, hopefully not one that is horribly damaging to him.

If I had a family member doing this kind of thing, all I can suggest is that I personally would go to him with tears in my eyes and tell him how much we love him, how much he means to us (and the children if there are any in his life) and how much we want him around. That we are so worried about his health but know it is his choice. Maybe that kind of love would move him to change, but it may not. I hope he sees the light, I wish you the best in trying to help him. after that all you can do is pray and hope and love him.

Ron from NJ said...

What a great point and something I really need to take in. I guess my problem is I still don't believe any of that stuff will kill me. I know how heavy I am and I know that in the end I will probably get some obesity related illness, no matter how good my genes are. I just don't FEEL it. It can't be good that in my forties I still have that youthful sense of immortality and lack of urgency. That is probably what killed Peter Pan in the end.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand! I can't eat gluten and having the reaction helps me to be diligent and stay away from it - and so many foods have gluten in them, it keeps me "safe" at many places! I need that! But I get so tempted w/ the GF stuff - and there's a lot of that around lately too.

Becca said...

This is such a great post Lyn! I don't have much to add either but I love the analogy with the shellfish allergy. Why can't we remember what sugar tastes like, but make the decision to give up sugar forever because if we don't it will kill us?! *sigh* One choice at a time...

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn

I'd like to add my vote of confidence to those for the Paleo diet. I've always been very active and maintained a healthy weight but it has been a struggle every day. A continuous battle against myself and my body.

After reading a lot of research, I switched to Paleo (I was just so desperate to not be hungry - whether I ate tons or a little bit I still just had this constant itching/hunger for food). It has taken 6 months (I felt awful for the first month), but for the last few weeks I have actually felt full (sometimes even whilst eating!) which is something that has never ever happened to me. I really feel like my metabolism has to a certain extent fixed itself.

I cut out fruit completely but now enjoy some berries or a peach a few times a week. Do I miss them? No - I'm full and satisfied, feel full of energy.

This whole weight loss thing does not have to be hard. Being fat is not a survival mechanism our bodies are determined to implement. Being fat is our bodies dealing with too much sugar, too many carbs and too many grains (in my case dairy as well).

I echo the Whole30 suggestion. You will see how manageable weightloss can actually be (well, you have, on medifast - it's that same feeling of just not thinking about food all the time - complete freedom).

And Taubes (Good Calories, Bad Calories) is a must read.


Anonymous said...

This is such a great post, and really puts things in a different perspective. Thank you!

(Also, my brother has the exact shellfish allergy you describe! So not fun.)

Anonymous said...

how do you feel about substituting tofu pups for hotdogs? (they are high in sodium, however, if that's a concern.) it's funny, I never really liked "real" hotdogs (and it's been almost 20 years since I've eaten meat, but tofu pups are v low fat, and v high protein.