Squishyplum

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Tag: avoidance

Stress: That Sneaky Culprit

So Delicious Cashew Milk Salted Caramel Cluster Frozen DessertSo it happened. I wondered if it would. And it did. The stress finally caught up to me: the stress of finishing a big work project while packing to move; moving day, accompanied by the worry of how I am going to afford to buy furniture (I have virtually none); being on my own, alone, in my own place, with everything I own piled up in boxes around me, for the first time since the late 90s. I thought I was handling it. I really did. But last night I snapped and ate a whole carton of ice cream.

The entire concept of my whole-foods mission went out the window. Highly-processed with Iots of sugar and fat, you say? Bring it on. Yep, I scarfed back a full tub of So Delicious Dairy-free Cashew-milk Salted Caramel Cluster. Not all in one sitting, mind you. But all in one evening. Because that’s so much more dignified. Oh, and I quaffed a bottle of rootbeer. Artisanal, family-owned, small-batch brewed, of course—nothing but the most pretentious of rootbeers for me when I’m self-medicating with food. But I’m not fooling anyone; we all know it’s still just pop. Might as well be mainlining sugar. Sigh.

So what’s a girl to do? I thought I had the answer. My first class of Beginner’s Yoga that I had signed up for at my new community centre was the next morning. Perfect. Mitigate the damage with some soul-soothing yoga. Good plan. I hit the snooze button a few too many times but managed to finally drag my ass out of bed and get organized. Not a moment to spare. Then I looked up my registration receipt and noticed that I had the time wrong; there was no hope of making it to the class on time. Arghhh. Best laid plans. “Well, I’m up and all dressed in workout gear,” I thought. “I’ll go for a walk.” But first lemme just lay back down for a few minutes. I’ll just close my eyes for half an hour and then head out. Right. I’ve heard that one before. Finally rolled out of bed at 2pm. Yep, mid-afternoon.

So how does one rescue a shitty day? With cupcakes, of course! I spent what was left of the afternoon exploring my new neighbourhood and stumbled upon a fabulous vegan cupcake bakery. Lemon cupcake? Yes, please. Oh, and a chocolate-vanilla one too. The only saving grace is said bakery is 16 blocks from my house. So there was some walking involved.

Thankfully there is a happy ending to my story. After gobbling up the aforementioned cupcakes, I jolted my body back to a whole-foods plant-based (WFPB) reality with a big kale salad and some quinoa & black bean salad. This is the only strategy that actually works to get me back on the healthy path. Recalibrate. Pressing the reset button. Whatever you want to call it, my body is reminded of what real food tastes like. Because I never feel great after I eat highly-processed foods—whether it’s cupcakes, ice cream, fried foods, donuts, whatever my poison of choice—I’m always tired and lethargic with a slightly off-kilter digestive system afterwards.

Putting suboptimal foods in my body not only stresses my physical body but it messes with my mental and emotional health too. I sleep too much, either sleeping in or napping a lot. Negative thoughts about my body run rampant in my head. Stresses and worries are disproportionately heightened. Obstacles suddenly seem insurmountable. So it’s critical to shake the processed-food blues as soon as possible or I start spinning down a scary vortex. And the secret is a hit of WFPB foods. Kale and black beans to the rescue. Give it a try and see if you can wake up from that processed-food coma.

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What Went Wrong?

The plan was to eat a whole-food, reduced-oil, plant-based diet for a year and chronicle how it affected me. Sounds simple enough. So why, eight months on, did I find myself sitting on the couch beside an empty bag of Ruffles, eating chocolate icing out of a tub with a spoon (you know what I’m talking about), when instead I thought I’d be jogging jauntily along the seawall, feeling great and looking radiant and svelte in my new Lululemons? What the hell happened? Where did it all go so wrong?

I’ve been plant-based for a few years now so the vegan part of this experiment was not the issue. But after a couple months of “healthy”—aka oil-free, whole food—plant-based eating, things began to unravel. I grew tired of making different, often inconvenient, choices than everyone around me. I grappled with the discomfort of planning every meal, being organized enough to have ingredients on hand, and taking the time to cook when I was hungry and impatient to fill my belly. I craved the perceived comfort of cookies and doughnuts and French fries.

And so I went into avoidance mode. I stopped writing my blog. I stopped planning my meals. I made poor choices in restaurants. I let processed vegan foods sneak back into my diet. I let my exercise routine slide. It was a slippery slope that led to me sitting on the couch with the aforementioned tub of icing and an extra 15 pounds to deal with.

I could point to a myriad of factors—lack of planning, laziness, erratic hormones, feelings of deprivation—but what it really comes down to is fear. Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding, strangely enough. Fear of change. Fear of always being the weird one who can’t eat at everyone’s favourite restaurant. Fear of being judged – for what I eat and for what I look like. Fear of not making a difference. Fear of letting my readers down. Fear of not having any readers.

Fear can be crippling. And going into avoidance mode and retreating to a comfortable place – a place with ginger snaps and coconut milk ice cream – seemed like the answer, a way to make the fear go away. But I was wrong.

“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.”
— Harriet Learner, The Dance of Fear

So no, as it turns out, choosing to be comfortable is not the answer – at least not the way I was doing it. Cynthia Pasquella, a champion of transformational nutrition, says, “If you want to transform, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Which scares the shit out of me.

Black panther growling in foilage

In her book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, Susan Jeffers suggests that the only real fear is the one that belies all our other perceived fears: the fear that we won’t be able to handle what comes. But when examined up close, this fear has no legs. I have lived through the illnesses and untimely deaths of both my parents; uprooting of my life to move house, city, and country countless times; crushing, unnerving heartbreak; and the uncertainty and risk that accompanies self-employment. And I survived. Thrived even. So why am I so afraid that I can’t handle this? Why do I find the idea of changing the way I eat so scary?

What if I try living this healthy, plant-based lifestyle and fail? What will people say? What if I succeed and have to constantly live up to people’s expectations of me? How hard will that be? The judgement of others—even the perceived judgement, what we assume other people must be thinking—can make us feel inadequate, like we are not enough. But we are all enough. Just showing up and putting myself out there is enough—a huge accomplishment worthy of accolades, frankly. So I am willing to step into a place of discomfort until it stops feeling so bloody uncomfortable. I can handle it. I am enough, damnit. Bring on the green smoothies.

So let’s try this again. Time to step back into the kitchen and re-embrace the whole food, oil-free, plant-based lifestyle – for the good of the environment, my health, and the animals. Wish me luck!

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