I love old sayings.
Idioms, proverbs, bits of folk wisdom passed down, and basic common sense, they’re all so comforting and familiar, little reminders that other people have gone through similar situations and lived to pass on their advice. Even the ones that are chronically misused – “blood is thicker than water” actually means “screw your biological family, the people you struggle through life with are more important” and “carpe diem” is about not procrastinating – still add to the sense that there’s order in the world, that other people have stood where you stand now.
The problem with the sayings, though, is that no matter how well I think I understand them, now matter how many times I repeat them to myself, by the time any one of them is actually relevant it almost always feels woefully inadequate.
Case in point: “the first step is the hardest”.
Oh, sure, I was expecting the first week or two to suck. Everyone knows that major changes are hard. You just have to stick with them, and then you’ll slowly start to adjust and things will get easier, and – haha, yeah. Right, sure.
The first few days of this major life-changing moment of insanity have not been hard; they’ve sucked.
- I gained weight. Now, I know that’s got nothing to do with what I’m doing right now – weight change, despite whatever the various industries want to say to the contrary, is a slow process where the things you do or don’t do (eat, sleep, stress, exercise) come together to make changes days or even weeks later. That doesn’t actually make it any less discouraging to spend several days exerting every ounce of willpower, only to step on the scale and see the number go up. Knowing is one thing; feeling better is another.
- Food tastes weird and wrong to me, and not in the ways I’d expected. It’s like my metrics for judging flavors has just gotten thrown off whack, and my brain hasn’t figured out how to recalibrate yet. I’m way more sensitive to salt than I was a week ago, and I’m starting to pick up hints of rot or mold in food that my wife says taste totally normal. Some things – tuna, apples – taste oddly flat, while others – mushrooms, bell peppers – are suddenly flavor bombs. Which is fine for the peppers, which are now my new go-to snack, but I already found mushrooms kind of overwhelming and now they’re almost unbearable.
- I’m sore all over, always. Yoga is not easy, especially if you’re new to it, especially if you’re enough overweight that the standard poses don’t quite work the way they’re supposed to. Child’s pose in particular is especially aggravating, because it’s supposed to be this nice gentle transition phase and instead it feels like someone’s trying to make me compress myself to death. I’m learning how to modify my poses, and I’m also starting to get a little bit stronger and more flexible – but that just means that my muscles are constantly aching now, too. It turns out that my hamstrings are basically petrified, and they do not like the idea of learning how to stretch out.
- I’m discovering the worst parts of myself as I’m working through my addiction to sugar and sweet things. I was prepared for cravings – and I’m getting them, and ruthlessly shutting them down each time. What I wasn’t prepared for was the way a part of my mind has turned devious and desperate. I find myself getting excited when I know my wife’s going to leave the apartment, because that means I can sneak a square of peppermint bark – as though Sam’s dictatorial rule is the reason I’m being denied what is rightfully mine, and not my own willful decision to follow my doctors’ advice. I keep looking for someone to blame, someone to punish for my misery. I didn’t know that was in me, and I don’t like it.
It’s not all bad, though.
- My wife is an incredible support. She immediately jumped on board when I told her I was making a huge change, and although she’s not prepared to cut added sugars out of her life the way I’m doing with mine, she has made significant changes to her snacking habits to make things easier for me. (The fact that it’ll help her health out is a nice perk, too.) She takes over food prep when I run out of emotional energy to handle thinking about it anymore, and has put herself in charge of making sure I’m never low on bell peppers. She listens to me, and somehow manages to help me think that maybe I’m not a pathetic fool for having fallen into this position. I don’t know that I couldn’t do this without her, but I do know that I wouldn’t want to try.
- I’m already getting more flexible! Only a little bit, but poses that I flat-out couldn’t do a week ago are starting to be very difficult instead of impossible. It’s not much, but it helps keep me moving forward and makes me think that maybe I’ll be able to achieve some other impossible things as well.
- For the first time in my life, I’m actually learning how to meditate. I’ve tried before, and was never able to make it past the stage where you’re just sitting there listening to people talk about stillness and focus, and wondering what the hell they’re talking about. I don’t quite know what’s changed or why, but now when I try to bring my mind in and focus only on my breath … that actually means something, and I can start to try to do it! It’s really hard (really really hard, actually) but this is brand new to me, so that’s to be expected.
- I’m doing it. With great difficulty, and some stumbling (I forgot BBQ sauce was a sugary thing, it didn’t even occur to me until I was half way through using it as dipping sauce) but I’m not counting those as failures. It’s a learning process, and I’m still trying to figure out what my decision is going to mean to me, where the boundaries are going to lie. This isn’t a short-term diet, after all; I’m going to have to stick with this at least until menopause, so it’s worth taking some time and blundering a bit to get it right.
- Bonus: BELL PEPPERS! They’re one of the only foods that don’t taste wrong to me, and I think they might be single-handedly responsible for saving my sanity. They are fresh and crisp and delicious and I know many people don’t like them, and I’m very sorry for all of you, because they are my new favorite thing in the entire world. I’m sorry, Sam, I love you, but a girl’s got to have priorities.
And that’s where we stand, coming to the end of the first week of this thing. I spend a lot of time thinking I’m an idiot for trying, and even more time wanting to just give up on this crazy idea, but I’ve also made it through the first six days of what I hope will end up being the rest of my life, and I’m really proud of myself so far.
Anyone else trying something similar should also be really proud of making it to the end of the first week! It’s not easy, but it’s sort of impossible to get anywhere else until we get to this point, so take the win and move forward!
Days without (added) sugar: 6
Current mood: Honestly, still willing to trade pretty much anything for a bowl of cheerios.