Tag Archives: Self-care

There’s More Than One Way to Be Happy

Sometimes, I think, we get an idea in our heads and we lock onto it as the way to make us happy, despite being somewhat arbitrary. It could be owning a certain thing, accomplishing a certain goal, being with a certain person, or having a certain job. But from what I’ve experienced so far in my life, there are infinite ways to be happy.

I’ve had my eye on a beautiful floral muslin throw blanket for months, but haven’t bought it because it’s a bit expensive. Maybe buying that blanket will make me happy — I do find looking at pictures of it beautiful and pleasing — but maybe I’ll be just as happy without it. Or maybe I’ll be happier. Maybe loving that blanket so much will make me upset if something gets spilled on it or if the cat scratches a hole in it.

I was extremely happy with my MacBook for the 11 years I used it. I was so happy with the computer that I thought when it needed replacing, I would just replace it with the same yet newer model. It didn’t work out that way, but I am still really happy with my Chromebook. And it doesn’t feel like a different kind of happiness either. I was happy with what my MacBook could do and I’m happy with what my Chromebook can do. I’m just happy. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just made myself easy to please.

The movie “La La Land” is a good example of this, I think. SPOILER ALERT. The first time I saw the movie, I enjoyed it very much, but hated the ending. Why couldn’t they be together? I wanted them to be together! Why tell us their story if they don’t end up together? Years of perfect cinematic bliss have conditioned me to want the story arc with the predictable ending. But life is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean we still can’t end up happy. Just like the characters in “La La Land”. They went separate ways, despite agreeing they would both still love each other, and they were still happy.

Is it just that we think we are so wise we could absolutely know what was best for us to make us happy? I mean, there are infinite possibilities in this world. How could we possibly know what will make us happy? Why would we limit it to just one or very few things?

What if being happy was just a choice we made. No matter how things were going in our lives — what we owned, who we were with, the work we did — we just decided to be happy anyway. Or found a way to be happy with what we had. Gratitude, I believe, is a big part of this. And also giving up a bit of control. Giving up trying to control every aspect of our lives and instead focusing on controlling how we react. Letting stress go in favor of trusting in the universe to give us what we need (not necessarily what we think we want) and figuring out how to be happy no matter what we’re dealt.

I’ve heard stories of it happening. People who have had real shit cards dealt in their lives, but who are happy, warm, kind, and generous anyway. Maybe we can all try this, no matter how (seemingly) small the circumstance. Instead of driving ourselves crazy to get to that 1 holy grail of happiness we picked out, let’s be happy with all the little pebbles that cross our paths.

Or let’s just try to accept that there is more than one way to be happy. Reminding ourselves of that is sure to help us get over disappointments more quickly than if the stakes are always high. A little prompt that’s more concrete than indistinct optimism: There is more than one way to be happy.

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

What’s In My Hospital Bag for Baby #3

It’s nice to have some extra clothes and home comforts in the hospital with you when it’s time to deliver your baby. And of course there are the things you need, which is actually a lot less than you might think (especially for a baby born during warm weather).

I’m speaking from the vantage point of delivering a baby in a hospital as opposed to anywhere else because a hospital is where I birthed my previous two babies and plan to birth my third. I really have no idea what other situations might be like or the accessories they might entail. Judging from experience, I like how easy my hospital makes it for me.

First, a list of what is in my bag.

The Essentials

  • A postpartum outfit. For me, this summer, this means maternity waisted (as in not full-panel elastics) shorts and maternity waisted jeans (I highly doubt I’ll wear the jeans, but who knows, maybe there will be a cool night); a loose v-neck t-shirt; and one nursing bra. I will have the shoes I wear to the hospital – either sandals or flip-flops. A nice summer dress would also do nicely, but I’m wearing them constantly pre-delivery and I don’t want to take even one out of rotation to make sure it’s clean and packed and ready to go.
  • 2 outfits for the baby. Outfit 1: A Newborn Size short-sleeve onesie; tiny shorts; a thin cotton hat; and Outfit 2: a Size 0-3 Months short-sleeve shorts romper; with previously mentioned thin cotton hat.
  • Baby mittens. So the silly baby doesn’t scratch himself up with his newly exposed fingernails.
  • 2 thin baby blankets. Many people take the blanket from the hospital, but they really don’t want you to. I use hospital blankets whenever possible, however, so if they get messy they will be laundered right away. I wrap my newborn in one blanket for a while and then send it home with visiting family so they can introduce the scent of the new family member to our cats. The other thin baby blanket should be more than enough to keep the baby warm if his outfits aren’t enough.
  • Extra contact case and solution. I am in the habit of removing and cleaning my contacts every night and I suspect my eyes would hate it if I kept them in for 2-3 days straight in the hospital. I just don’t like sleeping with contacts in either. I want to be able to put them back in during the day, though, because my glasses aren’t comfortable enough to wear all day.
  • Eyeglasses and case. Okay, these aren’t technically in my bag yet because I still wear them every night. But I have a Post-it Note next to my bag reminding me to grab them out of my nightstand before leaving for the hospital. As it gets closer to my due date, I will just store them in my hospital bag, taking them out for whenever I need to use them at night.
  • My purse. This includes my wallet with all necessary ID, insurance cards, and money, and my cell phone.

The Comforts

  • Nursing pads. At home I use washable organic cotton nursing pads. A cousin had given me a box of disposable ones that I kept forgetting to use at home when Pigpen was nursing. I’m packing them mostly so they’ll get used, and somewhat because I think they might be convenient to have.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Camera and charger.

Now a list of things I am not bringing.

  • Diapers/feminine pads/disposable underwear. The hospital provides all we need and more to take home with us.
  • Toiletries. The hospital provides it all. And I’ve actually never showered in the 2 days spent at the hospital after giving birth. I’m too busy sleeping, nursing, interacting with doctors and nurses, and generally recovering. I’ve already established that I don’t need to shower very often to feel good. You may want to shower, but the hospital should provide all you need to do so.
  • Slippers or socks. My hospital provides comfy, fuzzy, grip-y socks with my gown as soon as I get a room.
  • Baby socks. Summer here is quite warm and, again, the baby blanket can pick up any slack.
  • Book or magazine and journal. I’ve brought these before and never used them. During the day, I’m busy. At night, I try to sleep. For entertainment, I talk with my husband or we watch the luxury of cable tv, which we don’t have at home.
  • Snacks. The hospital provides me with all the food I need. Andrew isn’t included in the meal plan, but that’s up to him. I’ve got enough to worry about. If I get hungry, I send Andrew out to bring me extra food.
  • iPod.

All that I am bringing fits in a medium-sized backpack with room to spare. I am a minimalist so I am not bringing much. But I will definitely have everything I need. I’ve learned I don’t need other “comforting” items, because as long as my husband is there and my baby is healthy, I’m good.

2-3 days is not a long time and there is actually a lot to do. Mind you, I believe that rest is a very important thing to do in the hospital. (Especially before we bring our tiny new infant home to two toddlers.) I don’t need my hospital room to emulate a luxurious hotel room or spa experience to accomplish the simple act of resting. We are there to get our baby safely from my belly into the world and to ensure he’s healthy enough to go home. Then we get comfortable, in our family home, together.

Making Every Day a Good Day with My 5 “Daily Do’s”

I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.

I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.

There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.

There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.

But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:

  1. outside
  2. move
  3. write
  4. gratitude
  5. zen

Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.

Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.

Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.

Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.

Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.

I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.

It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.

O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.

Making Religious Holidays My Own

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I went camping. Being Easter, it was a holiday for only some. I grew up celebrating Easter. Andrew grew up celebrating Easter. But neither of us would call ourselves religious now and don’t believe in Jesus as the one and only messiah. So why continue to celebrate it? Partly because our families still do, but we’ve come to see it a little differently.

For Easter, Andrew and I have decided to celebrate the arrival of spring, specifically with the first camping trip of the year. We share meals and traditional foods (pufek [spelling??? which is a German bread], liverwurst, and strammer max for me) with family. We don’t dress up or go to church. We spend time together outside, enjoying the freshness of spring, and send the children out on a little egg hunt just because it’s a fun game to play outside. And of course we eat chocolate. Easter, for us, is not about Jesus, but about family and nature and getting out to enjoy the warmer weather.

It’s similar with Christmas. I don’t celebrate the coming of our lord and savior or whatever. But I do like a lot about the holiday, such as the sharing, coziness, warmth, and love. So when I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate the coming of cuddly winter with the closeness and coziness of my family and friends. Since it’s also so close to the end of the year, I reflect back on that year and celebrate it for what it was. Then I celebrate the coming of the New Year with new beginnings.

It didn’t take a lot to get here — just a little shift in thinking. It helps that Andrew and I are on the same page with these religious holidays, too. Celebrating in this way, I am able to comfortably share traditions with my family and friends without feeling like I’m sacrificing my own beliefs or pretending to follow others. I’ve come to enjoy these times again instead of constantly questioning the history and purpose, as I did a few years ago. I am now at a good place with them and feel content.

Perhaps a shift in thinking is all it would take for you to have a more enjoyable holiday?

Children and TV | Minimalist Kids

I limit the amount of tv that my children watch. With my firstborn, Wingnut, we waited until he was 2 years old before letting him watch any tv. With my second, Pigpen, it’s been harder. If Wingnut wants to watch some tv and it’s a good time, I don’t want to deny him just because Pigpen is around. If our tv was in a different location where I could keep them separated, that would help, but that’s just not the situation in our house right now.

At first I was worried about Pigpen being exposed to tv before he was 2. After all, that was the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (now you can see that it is 18 months). But in reality, Pigpen really didn’t end up watching that much. I would set up the tv for Wingnut with some “high-quality programming” and Pigpen would sometimes hang around and watch. But he usually only watched for about 10-15 minutes before wandering off to hang out with me or play somewhere else.

I understand the purpose to limit time spent watching tv. There needs to be time for family interaction, for quiet, to be alone, for creative play, music, reading, etc. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with forbidding it altogether.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on children and I am not an expert on television. But I do think that it’s hard to prove that tv is totally detrimental. There are studies that conclude that children under 2 years old should not watch tv because it may inhibit their learning and development. But by the nature of this activity, we could only compare children to other children. We could never compare how a child turned out after watching tv to how he would have turned out if he didn’t.

No two children grow, learn, and develop at the same rate. Add in the millions of external factors that could influence a child at any moment during their day to day life and extrapolating the effect that something like tv watching could have seems impossible. I’m not saying that these studies are completely invalid. I’m saying we should watch and monitor our own children and how tv effects them, be mindful, and decide how extreme to be with the regulations we place on them.

Some researchers have even found that watching tv can be good for toddlers. Even accepting that children may learn less from tv than from live interaction, it doesn’t mean that that learning isn’t worth it. The stories children hear and see from tv can enhance their lives, just as much as books I would say, depending on what is understood and how the rest of their life experiences grow and build on them. Hearing stories and seeing different parts of the world expands the mind, opening it up to more curiosity and acceptance of differences.

Perhaps that is where the idea of “high-quality programing” comes in. What is high-quality programing and who decides what does or doesn’t fit the bill? I have a few of my favorites (that I will list below) and I have a few that I really don’t like (here’s one example). This is a totally personal choice I have made, though, and the views you may have for your children may be different. As parents, we need to pay attention and be involved with our own children, deciding what tv — if any — is best for them just like we decide what is the best for them out of everything else.

Too much tv, like too much of anything, is not a good thing. But balanced well into a week full of diverse, stimulating, and restful activities, I think tv is okay for children.

Also, I must add here, that I benefit from the hour Wingnut is engaged watching tv. It gives me a much-needed break (2 year olds can be very attention-demanding) where I can rest and recharge or be productive, where I can concentrate completely on something for a whole hour. This is very important for my sanity — a stressed-out mama is not pleasant for anyone. When I am able to receive the self-care that I need, I am better equipped to provide the care my family needs, and that is better for everyone.

 

Some of my favorite “high-quality programming” on tv:

  • Puffin Rock -A young puffin and her ever-curious little brother explore an island off the coast of Ireland – Netflix
  • Mouk – Young Mouk and Chavpa discover the world on their bicycles, making friends along the way – Netflix
  • Kazoops – A imaginative young boy and his pet pig explore home life and encourage children to challenge the workings of the world – Netflix
  • Stella and Sam – Sister and brother have many adventures, mostly outside, because they know they have more fun when they’re together – Family Channel and Netflix
  • Wild Kratts – Follows the adventures of animated versions of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery – PBS Kids 
  • Sesame Street – Bridges many cultural and educational gaps with Muppets teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities PBS Kids
  • Peg + Cat -Inspires preschoolers’ natural curiosity about math and helps them develop new skills and strategies for solving problems creatively in their daily lives – PBS Kids
  • The Muppet Show – A medley of sweet and mischievous, a weekly variety show with songs, dances, and comedy featuring a range of famous guests – DVD

Dealing With Overwhelm

I get overwhelmed sometimes and I must admit that I’m not always the greatest at dealing with it. But I’m working on it. I have identified where some of my weaknesses are, and I’m trying new things to better handle it.

Right now, when I get overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start and it practically paralyzes me. So when I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed, I immediately take a step back and decide to take some time to relax instead. Letting my body rest and relax is better than accumulating the negative affects of stress, right?

Except, relaxing in the face of overwhelm is just a form of avoidance and it makes the problem worse in the long run. I need to relax, of course, but I need to be mindful about it, too. I can’t just relax when things get too hectic because then I would just relax more and more while the chore pile grew and grew to ever more unmanageable heights. I need to take steps toward the top of my to-do mountain with realistic mental-health breaks along the way.

I’ve tried scheduling things out during the week to help spread the busyness. Budget balancing on Mondays, vacuuming on Tuesdays, appointments on Wednesday, laundry day, etc. But I had trouble sticking with it. In reality, the circumstances of my life right now are just too unpredictable to fit in daily boxes. So I created weekly task-lists instead.

I find using a Bullet Journal helps in determining what is really important. If it gets written down, it is priority. (I only allow 1 page for my weekly to-do list, with items written on every other line. That creates a max of 15 tasks per week, or an average of 3 per day.) This helps clear some of the mental clutter. If something doesn’t make the list, it’s easier for me to remember that I don’t have to give it any mental thought power — at least until a later date. This gives structure, but isn’t too rigid. A rigid structure is inherently fragile; When there is more room for improvisation, there is more room to succeed.

When things get to be just too too much, and I find my frazzled mind is affecting my mood, I find stream-of-consciousness journaling helps a lot, too. I’ll take some time — maybe 20 to 30 minutes — to just write about how I’m feeling. I’m not consciously trying to figure out why I’m feeling a certain way, but sometimes it emerges on its own. I mostly just complain. I write about how things are (not great) and how I want them to be instead (wonderful). Just getting those concerns (complaints) out somewhere helps me get past them and move on. I no longer feel bogged down by the weight of the suckiness and feel free enough to do something, anything, and that sets me on my way to a more productive day.

I must say, though, that I don’t only journal to complain. I probably complain for a few pages once every few months. But I compile a list of daily gratitude every night before I go to sleep. I think this is important to note as gratitude journaling is also beneficial. If complaints are the only thing we’re writing into our expressive universe, our energy is unbalanced. Daily thankfulness (or other affirmative expression) tips our expressive energy scale to the positive, making it more likely for the wonderful to come into our lives.

Learning how to successfully deal with overwhelm will be a lifelong feat. As we grow, we learn, we change. It is important to adapt as we realize certain practices are no longer serving us and continually explore ways to cultivate the best lives for ourselves.

Sweet Talk: Where I Am Now?

There’s a bit of a [huge, glaring] discrepancy between my post this past Wednesday and the post of my September-October sugar journal. As in, Wednesday I admitted I was still struggling with sugar, but I claimed to have given it up for good at the end of October.

I honestly don’t even remember making that decision. That obviously wasn’t very mindful of me. Now I’m thinking that it wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but one born out of my frustration at the difficulty of introducing moderate sugar back into my life. It was kind of like, this is hard! I give up! Instead of re-evaluating where I should make some changes to make things work better for me.

I doubt it was the next day that I started eating sugar with abandon, but once I stopped tracking what I ate, I just didn’t pay as much attention. I paid attention, just not as much. Not enough.

It was a gradual slide from the end of October to now. I still don’t feel addicted anymore, which is very good. But I’ve given in to cravings and I’ve had bad days where I felt like crap because I didn’t realize how much sugar I was consuming throughout the day.

I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not an all-or-nothing type of person when it comes to food. Cigarettes? Definitely. I’ve never had one and never will because they are proven bad, bad, bad. Alcohol? I have some. It can be harmful, but it has some benefits, too. So I drink in moderation. But I’ve never struggled with either of them like I struggle with sugar.

I like my original Rules and am going to follow them again. I won’t track everything I eat, because as long as I’m avoiding sugar that’s NOT

  1. part of a whole food or
  2. honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or
  3. the occasional exception
    1. ice cream, when there is walking involved
    2. homemade desserts (i.e. dinner parties)
    3. restaurant desserts (rare)
    4. anything I want on my birthday

I will be fine. Those 3 sweetness circumstances are hard to come by in my suburban New Jersey area, believe it or not, unless I’m cooking at home. It allows sweetness in my life (fruit, honey, syrups, birthday treat) without the likelihood of extreme excess (half a box of cookies, cake icing, jars of candy, etc).

It’s an ongoing experiment. I will not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good here. I will be mindful, while still enjoying small pleasures. I will try to be better. I will do my best.

Sweet Talk: My 6 Week Sugar Journal (9/16-10/16)

[This is a companion post to Sweet Talk: My Battle With Sugar]

The Rules

  1. Eat whole foods.
  2. Accepted sweeteners are:
    1. honey
    2. maple syrup
    3. brown rice syrup
  3. On my birthday, I can have whatever kind of ice cream I want.

Reminder — Sugar per day = 6-9 teaspoons or 25-37 grams

[Food list has been omitted for brevity.]

DAY 1

Went quite well. Good start. Actually quite shocked about the amount of sugar in the Taco Bell stuff.

DAY 2

A little nervous today because I have work and there are treats here. I have gum for intervention. And, whoa, that bread! Gotta stay away from certain brands.

Whoo-hoo! I did really well today! If I had a different brand of brand it would have been even better. Selfie-high-five! I did have 2 pieces of [sugar-free] gum at work though. I remember gum tasting better when I was younger. Now it seems… sensational. Like, sensational in the bad way like U.S. cable news stories are. I guess gum is not good because it is formulated. It is not good because it is not a whole food.

DAY 3

The sugar level of that jam is so crazy! I was soooo close to the limit, too. I’m learning, though. And I’m still proud of myself for today because I didn’t have any dessert at the German buffet. None! I resisted all the cakes and puddings — even the fruit. Good thing, too. I mean, damn, jam!

DAY 4

I can’t believe it’s only been 3 days. If I wasn’t keeping track, I’d have thought I had been “good” long enough and deserved a treat. Then I would have kept treating and treating, being addicted again. But I’ve really [barely] just begun.

I helped my mum make peanut butter bonbons today. Specifically, I did the chocolate melting and dipping part. And I didn’t eat or lick any of it at all!

I resisted salt water taffy, cookies, and grapes at work today!

DAY 6

Whoo-hoo! I did it! I got nervous there with that drink with dinner. I only drank half. It was a treat from Andrew. He brought pizza home for dinner and I saw he brought a 2 liter of soda home with it. I knew I wouldn’t drink it, but was a little disappointed because I wanted some. I really like the flavor of Dr. Pepper. Then he pulled out a bottle of Izze for me. And for a moment I got even more upset. He thought of me and my ragus aspirations and got me a special drink. So thoughtful of him! But I still didn’t think I should drink it. But I checked out the ingredient list and the sugars were from all natural juice. If I only drank half, I could fit it into my day.

And it was a very special treat. I wanted to drink more, but I was just really thirsty so I had water. Lots of water. I don’t know what Andrew did with the other half of the Izze Maybe I’ll find it [flat?] in the refrigerator tomorrow. I’m really, really appreciative of his help, support, and love.

DAY 7

Lot and lots of sweets at work today because of our supervisor’s return. I just enjoyed their ascetics. 🙂 Belly feels a bit bloated and squishy — just my monthly hormones? Or that drink yesterday?

DAY 8

I’ve been in quite a good mood for the majority of this past week. Could it be less sugar-fueled mood swings? Or the slightly cooler weather? Even Andrew noticed my good mood tonight.

DAY 9

Alright! Success, even with some cake in there. I treated myself to a big portion since I controlled the sweetness. Not too sweet at all. Sweetened by maple syrup and brown rice syrup. (The coconut whipped cream I attempted was a total fail, though.

Although I must say that after such a big portion so late at night, it’s sitting pretty heavy in my belly, and even up my throat a bit. I guess after 9 days I’m a bit detoxed?

Still in range for today so that’s good.

DAY 10

Oh, no!!! 2 teaspoons over. 🙁 It turned out I got the wrong kind of coconut cream and there was sugar added. 🙁 Won’t be making that mistake again. Back on target going forward.

DAY 12

Nice! Super low! I hope I didn’t forget to write anything down… Oh yeah, I had a slice of cheese to distract myself from a sweet craving.

DAY 13

Today I really wanted a rich, sweet, buttery cookie (more like a box of cookies), but I did not. So I felt deprived today.

Andrew offered me a bite of the rice pudding at the diner after dinner. I refused (even though I wanted some!) and Andrew said, “Good. That was a test. You passed.” I must admit I was proud of myself for “passing” his “test”. I mean, I can do it! I’ve been doing it for 13 days! That is quite the achievement for me. Honestly, I don’t know how I am doing it. Being mindful, I guess; paying attention to what I eat. And honoring myself.

Got quite the headache at the end of dinner until even now, though. Don’t know if it’s related to what I’ve been eating or something else.

DAY 14

I felt kind of deprived again today. Wanted… something. Sugar, I guess. That satisfying sensation in my mouth. Although, I guess it’s not “satisfying” because I never could get enough.

DAY 17

I was a bit lazy with tracking my food today and did it all tonight. Eh — it’s a Sunday. And I erred on the side of caution at dinner because I wasn’t sure where my numbers were so c’est bon.

DAY 18

Another headache tonight. 🙁 Upset stomach, too — too much coconut oil on popcorn?

DAY 23

Mother-in-law brought over freshly baked chocolate chip cookies today. Homemade! Warmish and smelling delicious! Chocolate chip cookies, especially homemade, are my favorite. This is quite a test. I will pass.

DAY 26

I found lunch to be really sweet today. Can you imagine? Me! Thinking half a kiwi and a few slices of orange makes a meal “really sweet”!

DAY 34

Really wanted a little Hershey chocolate bar today. I even had Andrew bring one to me. He said I shouldn’t deprive myself. Recent event highlighted the “life is short — enjoy it” argument for me. But sugar does not equal an enjoyable life. My self control is something I am proud of. I am not depriving myself — I’m teaching myself to be responsible, starting with a rigorous test.

I did not open that candy bar. I didn’t even smell it, ha. It sat next to me on the couch and I forgot about it — that would have been inconceivable a little over one month ago. The power is shifting back to me, away from sugar. I am proud and I will carry on.

DAY 38

I’m really doubting whether I want to go on with this or not. Part of me wants to just continue for 3 more weeks to complete the 8 week detox program designed by the writer of I Quit Sugar, but another part argues that she just made that 8 weeks up, it doesn’t mean anything, except, perhaps, that that’s what worked for her.

I feel good. I feel in control. I feel more confident when it comes to sweets. Wasn’t that my goal? To not be addicted? To not be a slave to cravings? Is wanting to do 8 weeks or 100 days just a silly quantifiable measure?

I never planned on quitting sugar for life. It, especially in chocolate, brings me great pleasure. I want to learn how to live in harmony with it in my life.

Aha. I will continue while introducing sugar back in my life, tracking what I eat and its sugar grams for the 3 more weeks, to learn how it looks like in my diet and practice moderating it.

DAY 39

Wow. Looks like I overdid it already. 🙁 Those little bits of sugary chocolate have a lot of grams and add up fast!

DAY 40

Wow, I’m bad at this.

DAY 41

Boo me! Well, no, boo frozen yogurt. I can’t believe that! It is SO much more sugar than ice cream! Give me fatty creamy ice cream — fro-yo is a disaster!

Boo me, this whole this is a disaster.

THE END

I am not going to track my sugar any more because… I have decided to give it up forever. (!)

I’ve tried to reintroduce sugar into my diet during this past week and it’s been horrible. I have noticed my moods were not as stable, my skin is broken out, and I’ve felt awful on the days that I’ve gone overboard. And it’s SO EASY to go overboard.

So I’m just giving it up. I won’t worry too much about ketchup and fruit, but I will be mindful. And perhaps on special occasions I will indulge. But I mean super special occasions. And I will indulge in good stuff, that’s worth it. The end.

Sweet Talk: My Battle With Sugar

I love(d) sugar. Too much. I was dependent on it. If my children didn’t nap, I went crazy, and a big reason for that was that I couldn’t have my sugary snack. I would only eat sweets while they were napping because I didn’t want to give them any. I know the effect sugar can have on a child. It’s something I’m battling 20 years later. I want to spare my children if I can.

First, I read I Quite Sugar by Sarah Wilson. I also flipped through her The I Quit Sugar Cookbook, but it is not great for anyone who wants to be mostly vegan. For vegan sugar avoiders, I would recommend Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr.

If you don’t want to read an entire book, there is this extensive, yet un-definitive, article by Gary Taubes for The Guardian.

As for my own story… it is disappointingly incomplete and failure-ridden. But it is a pursuit that I am still very interested in. Avoiding sugar is a very, very tough battle to fight on the American food-front, but I want to get strong enough to win it. Or at least survive through it.

I first became interested in quitting sugar when I realized I was addicted. I craved it and ate as much as I could, even though it left me feeling like crap. I needed it every day, usually at certain times, or else I would be irritable. I didn’t like being dependent on it to stay out of cranky moods. I wanted to be free of the addiction and I also knew it would be healthier for me.

I kept a journal, as suggested by Sarah Wilson, for 6 weeks — from last September to October — to track my sugar intake and how I felt. I will post a summary of those 6 weeks in another post.

Right now, I can’t say that I’ve quit sugar. I am much more aware of how much sugar is in foods, though, so I am better prepared to lower my intake at meals. It’s a lifestyle change, for sure, so I think it may be something that I can never complete. But I count being more mindful as a step in the right direction.

“If you are fighting to overcome an unhealthy addiction in your life — you are doing a noble thing.” – Joshua Becker