Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Body Can't

Monday's yoga class had me doing something that I had never done before: headstand, the King of poses. It was assisted, using a stool-like device that prevents you from actually standing on your head while still getting a proper inversion.

When Michael told us that we were going to practice headstand, I was terrified. Noticing my discomfort, he asked me why I was scared. I couldn't say at the time, I was so desperately trying to find a way to flee the room. He assumed that it was because I was fearful of being upside down, and provided me with the physical and emotional support that I needed to give it a go. I completed the inversion with only a little help, and felt fantastic the next day because of it.

It took quite a lot of reflection to identify the reason behind the fear--more like panic--that I experienced when Michael pulled out the stool. It wasn't that I was afraid to be upside down; I actually enjoy it. It was that I was afraid that I couldn't do it. That my 100lb overweight mess of a body simply couldn't get into that position. And, worse, that I would totally humiliate myself trying, not only feeling embarrassed to the point of tears, but making everyone else in the room feel uncomfortable at the same time.

Holding this feeling, I realize how little faith I have in my body. I'm sitting here shuddering, thinking about all of the times I have felt both disappointed and embarrassed by my physical shortcomings: mortifying my father by coming in last during a family fun run when I was a kid; succumbing to exhaustion and collapsing during a trek in Dogon Country, Mali when I was in college; tripping over a twig in the road on a family walk, falling flat on my face, and flipping Ally upside down in her stroller when she was 2. The list is endless.

I think over time, I have just lost all faith in my physical being. Losing weight is no different. I want to so badly, but I've been trying to get my weight under control for the better part of the last 10 years, and have done nothing but fail. It feels hopeless, and so sad, and so frustrating. I just keep thinking about how unpleasant it must be for Peter to be stuck with this body for the rest of his life, how awful it is for my kids to grow up with this role model for healthy.

It's hard not to get swallowed by despair. But what do I have to do but keep going on? That's the trouble with Karma. If you don't get it right the first time, you have to do it again until you do get it right. So better make it right now so that you don't have to do it again later. Or at least that's how I see it. I keep musing this idea that I've heard many times: that the body is simply frozen mind. Well, I sure have a lot of mind frozen. I wonder what's buried in there.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beware the White Menace

One of the most important books I've ever read is Ultrametabolism by Mark Hyman. It's a faddish diet book that, like so many others, could be quickly read and easily forgotten, except that it was my first introduction to the idea of nutrient density in a meal. And, more importantly, to the idea that obesity is a disease of malnourishment, not over-nourishment as is commonly believed.

The idea that, by focusing on eating "low calorie" this and "fat free" that, I could actually be causing my weight problem was utterly mind-blowing. While I've come to disagree with some of the assertions of that book (i.e. that animal fats are bad and soy products are healthy), by focusing on getting the most bang for my nutritional buck in everything I eat (well, almost everything) I achieved some of the first true health that I experienced in my adult life.

Another thing he discusses in that book is how unhealthy white sugar is, in all of its forms. He calls it the White Menace, which I find mildly amusing. I wasn't amused, however, when the White Menace struck at our house this week. Generally, I try to be laid back about food, no rules about having to finish X in order to eat Y, no clean plate clubs or bribing with foods. I tend to think that my job as a parent is to provide my kids with healthy options at every turn, keep most of the junk out of my house so it isn't an option, and let my kids make their own choices.

Unfortunately, this sometimes backfires. With the stress of starting school and the increased exposure to the world (and all the junk in it), Ally recently went through a dramatic healthy food refusal. We were going days at a time, week over week over week, where she was refusing to eat anything but junk. It's amazing how easily it sneaks into the house, too, and appalling really. Oh, a little chocolate rice milk as a treat from the store, leftover ice cream from a family party, Grandma brought suckers when she visited today . . . Every day she had stomach aches and painful bowel movements, but she just wouldn't eat anything healthy that I put in front of her.

So I cut her off. No refined sugar of any kind until further notice, treats being reserved for when she is eating healthily regularly again. For a day or two, it was a total fight, and she was mad, and why shouldn't she be? I'm depriving her of not only a treasured treat, but of her ability to choose what she eats as well. So I let her have her anger and stayed firm, and in two days, both of the kids were eating well: brothy soups, lots of vegetables, good fruits and beans, eggs for breakfast. And REALLY eating, not just picking at enough food to ward of the hunger pangs until the next good thing comes along. Sigh of relief.

Yesterday, we had to make cake for a family birthday party. Sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar. Both of them instantly became listless, lost their attention spans, and tantrummed and whined for the rest of the day. And this morning, neither of them touched breakfast. Back to square one! Even the baby, who gets very little sugar in his usual diet was affected. Amazing what a lick of frosting can do to a child. The White Menace, indeed.