turn and face the strain

Among my nastier personality predilections is the terrible combination of being both

almost completely resistant to any kind of change

and

unusually pessimistic about a perfectly good life.

So basically, it’s a chronic case of

Life sucks but I don’t want to do anything about it because nothing would help anyway.

(I am being dramatic. My personality is not that terrible. In fact, the above statement is not often true: usually I vacillate wildly between being ecstatic about my life and being despondent. Which is another sort of unpleasant, but I’m not walking around with a storm cloud over my head 24/7.)

Anyway. My little crisis last week led me to a few days of deep thinking. I was thinking about ANOTHER annoying personality duality that I possess, one that is definitely related to the first:

1) I am a creature of habit.

I’d always suspected this of myself, but it became glaringly obvious when my Lance and I moved in together last fall. Take, for instance, a random Sunday. It’s time to do some grocery shopping…. but Lance doesn’t want to go. “I’m too tired.” “Maybe this afternoon.” “In an hour.” That kind of thing. I want to go because I am hungry and want to have time to cook something that evening, but mostly I just want to know that it is Sunday at xxx o’clock and that is when we buy food.

And I’m sure Lance remembers fondly one afternoon when he pulled out of his parallel parking spot and went straight through Bynner and Huntington rather than turning right… I probably screamed. He thought we could just go to the Stop and Shop in JP rather than truck it out to the Trader Joe’s, but failed to inform me that what I thought was a carefully laid routine was about to crumble.

Ahem.

2) I am a constant self-evaluator, lifestyle-manipulator, dreamy-dreamer.

I want a lot of things for myself, for my life, and I spend a lot of time trying to make them happen.

However, here lies the conflict:

I shy away from any change that threatens my routine.

I know, this is such a White Girl Problem, but it’s getting to the point of silliness.

Let’s say I read an article saying that eating a giant bowl of oatmeal is the Best Breakfast.

I like oatmeal. I can make oatmeal. I would like to eat the Best Breakfast.

But I probably won’t do it because if I ate oatmeal for breakfast, then I wouldn’t be able to eat any eggs for breakfast. And I love my breakfast eggs.

I love them so much, in fact, I’ve been eating eggs for breakfast practically every day for a year and a half.

I can’t even change what I eat for breakfast because I am such a mother$#&^ing STICK IN THE MUD!

It makes me kind of mad at myself.

But then, yesterday, while I was tidying up my kitchen, I had one of those still, small voice moments, when my best self – the self who is immune to personality dualities and other terrifying deficiencies – said to me:

You keep thinking that you will wake up one day and be changed, that it will suddenly be easy to be the person you want to be, to do the things you want to do, to make those hard decisions. You’ve got it backwards, my friend. If you just do the things you want to do, the doing will change you. The discipline gained, the results observed… the change will be your new routine.

Whenever I’m mired in that state of Life-Sucks-and-I-Can’t-Do-Anything pessimism, I feel like I’m waiting for a cognitive leap, for something to click in my mind that will make me understand my situation and what I need to do.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever received one, until now.

So my first battle,

Jessica vs. Her Crippling, American Sugar Addiction

Take a look at this cake.

I MADE that cake!

But I don’t need to be a SLAVE to that cake.

I’ve taken notice of how excessive sugar effects my mood and physical well-being for quite some time now, but some of my “routines” have been standing in my way to making any significant changes.

Then I read this article about how sugar is, apparently, going to kill me.

This may or may not be true, but I am still a hopeless slave and would like to be released from my shackles.

So here’s my game plan to, over time, shift away from these routines and maintain a more-or-less sugar-free lifestyle.

~

Routine #1: Breakfast

It’s my favorite meal of the day. I’m attached to my eggs… but I’m also attached to something sugary:

cereal, honey, preserves, maple syrup, that cinnamon-raisin bread from Trader Joe’s that’s so good it makes my teeth hurt.

I’ll even munch on a cookie or a leftover dessert. If I have to.

Changes:

Appeasing morning sweet tooth with fruit. This morning, I had a half a banana with a little peanut butter for protein and flair. It was completely satisfactory

Sticking to natural sugars, like honey, if they are absolutely needed. Honey is still as sugary as white/brown sugar or maple syrup of my favorite raspberry preserves, but if I limit myself, then I’ll have have less opportunities to sweeten things up. Plus, it’s easy to drizzle just a little bit over something I would otherwise not want to eat, like boring old peanut butter.

Increase non-sugar breakfast foods to make up for lost calories. I’m not trying to diet here, and cutting out my bowl of yogurt (with jam and honey and fruit) is going to create a serious calorie deficit. I don’t want to fall prey to the perpetual box of cookies in my office because I didn’t eat hearty enough in the a.m. So where I was eating 2 fried eggs with cheese for the past few weeks, I am now eating an egg sandwich – three scrambled eggs, cheese, and two slices of sprouted whole grain toast.

Routine #2: My On-The-Go Lifestyle

This isn’t so much of a routine as a condition… but my techniques for feeding myself during the day often falls back on sugar, sugar, SUGAR.

Changes:

Evaluate those “healthy” snack bars you are always eating. I can eat 2-4 “health bars” a week, depending on how busy I am. I like to toss them in my bag in case of a low-blood-sugar emergency in class or on my long days at work. However,
I noticed last week that my Odwalla Bar had a first ingredient of ORGANIC CANE JUICE and had too many grams of sugar for comfort. I will be trying not to rely so heavily on these guys for regular sustenance and making sure that the ones I choose are natural and fairly sugar-free.

Resist the Siren Call of the Diet Coke (or, who are we kidding, The Afternoon Energy Drink). I’ve been getting tired lately around 2 or 3 p.m. This is unfortunate, since three days a week, I have either class or 7 more hours of work ahead of me at that time of day. I need to stop indulging my urges. Energy Drinks – especially those emergency cans of high-fructose-corn-syrupy Monster – are not necessary, and Diet Coke supposedly makes you crave sugar more. Plus aspartame is bad for me/makes me feel kind of crappy, and Lance is worried it might kill me.

Be adequately prepared for the day. The days I’m sneaking cookies from the box or Riesens from the basket (that is currently 2 feet from my head… yuumm) are the days I forgot my lunch, didn’t pack enough food, or don’t want to eat the food I packed. Try to avoid the office-sugar-pitfalls by packing that lunchbox full of tastier, healthier options.

Routine #3: Sweet, Sweet Caffeine

This has been the big problem keeping me from quitting sugar altogether. I have a major caffeine addiction, fueled entirely by Starbucks mochas, Doubleshots in a can, and the occasional fruit-juice based (but still hella sugary) energy drink from Whole Foods.

I haven’t felt prepared to battle two major addictions at once.

But I’m trusting that the doing will make me change my mind about my worries, and maybe I’ll find a compromise along the way.

Changes:

Learn to love the latte. Today, I skipped my usual mocha and ordered a double-shot latte. I sprinkled it with cinnamon for flavor and grabbed a Sugar in the Raw packet in case it was totally undrinkable. It wasn’t… but I’m still working on it, two hours later. Not delicious, but not totally disgusting.

Mix it up. I also bought a Doubleshot. I will drink it tomorrow. I don’t want to rock the boat too hard. I will probably alternate these two for a few weeks, then maybe try making coffee myself at home.

Get more sleep… drink more water, eat healthier, etc. Basically, consider kicking the caffeine habit to the curb. Maybe I’ll try after finals are over, and I have a month or so without academic pressures. Although we’ll see how this goes as I will also be spending a week with my Caffeine-Fueled-Family in May…

~

So cheers to readjusting your baseline,

building new routines,

and cognitive leaps.

I’ll be posting about this more in the coming weeks.

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6 Responses to “turn and face the strain”

  1. Recent history promises us to be ware of charismatic voices promising change.

  2. I love this post – I’d definitely love to hear more about it in the future.

  3. Realized just now how SPAMMY that last comment sounds (if only I’d put something in about British escorts). I am working on reading that same article about sugar and wondering where to cut back. As I eat rice pudding, of course.

  4. The thing about habits is that there is comfort in them. They are habits for a reason; we like to do them. It’s kinda that simple. It’s only when habits are stopping us from doing other things (like a change in the routine) that it becomes an issue. Of course we want the bus to show up on time and the dinner to be ready when the hour strikes 6; but as we are very painfully aware, life doesn’t work that way.

    My only unsolicited advice would be to consider really working on some of these changes once the semester is over. You really don’t want to push it while you are in the throes of academic turmoil.

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