By O. R. Marv
Last week we discussed why I feel it’s so important that physical exercise be a part of your Recovery journey.
Hopefully you took some time to define what you want your physical health to entail and brainstormed a few ideas of how you are going to make that happen.
If you didn’t do so, don’t worry…the sky isn’t falling and the ground isn’t opening up to swallow you whole…but I strongly encourage you to take some action and at least jot a few ideas down on paper.
No matter what your distinction of physical exercise includes, eating SMARTLY should be a key cornerstone of repairing and rebuilding your physical health in your Recovery.
Notice how I didn’t say “healthy” – I said “smartly.”
The reason why I make this distinction is using terms like “healthy food” and “junk food” automatically implies a connotation of good versus bad.
Since we as individuals in Recovery tend to be very quick to assign morality to ourselves and others, refraining from using these vague terminologies should, in my opinion, be avoided.
Not only does using the terms “healthy” and “junk” unnecessarily divide everything to be either good or bad, they can murk the waters of the biggest hurdle when it comes to eating properly, which is this:
FOOD QUANTITY MATTERS!
If we decide a food is “healthy” we tend to get carried away with eating way too much of it; especially if we are relying on clever marketing and food packaging to be the basis of our eating patterns.
Just because something is advertised as “healthy” doesn’t give us free reign to eat as much of it as we want.
The best example of what I mean by this are nuts:
Nuts are actually nutritionally balanced as hell – they are full of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and a variety of healthy fats.
I don’t think anyone would argue with this notion of nuts being good for you – especially given aggressive marketing campaigns that really focus on the “heart health” aspect of eating nuts on a daily basis.
Yet mindlessly snacking on them can lead to big time waist size issues since they pack an extreme amount calories in a very small serving size.
Again, quantities of food matter and that is something we really struggle with as society as a whole!
Sure, we innately know that minimally processed meats and a wide array of colorful vegetables are “smart” choices when it comes to food, and yes, we should make an effort to stick to those “smart” choices for the majority of our nutrition.
But the second we demonize a food group as “junk” (a.k.a. bad) we are immediately going to crave it or obsess over it…especially if it’s an old-time favorite.
It’s the pink elephant phenomena:
Ok I want you to follow my instructions. No matter what you do….DON’T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT!!!!!
See what happened?
The second I told you not to think about the pink elephant I guarantee an image of one flashed in your head, even if for a brief second.
That’s what can happen with food choices.
If I tell you that never again can you eat a piece of chocolate cake or pizza, and by golly those are two of your all-time favorite foods, chances are you are going to want to eat them.
You will fight this craving for some time; but let’s face it, odds are that eventually you are going to give in.
My guess is that experience will go something like this:
Somehow you will convince yourself it’s acceptable that you eat ONE piece of pizza or chocolate cake – either you earned it through your hard work, or that you’ve been so “good” for so long you deserve it, whatever it may be – the key is because you had demonized that food you are going to have come up with a reason why you can “go to the dark side.”
“Just one piece,” you tell yourself.
Well, you have that one piece.
And you sit there.
And sit there.
Then odds are you have another piece.
And then the “F--- IT’S” start to appear as you start to beat yourself up for being “bad” and eating all that “junk” food.
Before you know it you are 3 more slices in, feeling guilty, and shaming yourself for being “weak-minded” and a “bad” person for purposefully eating “junk.”
Hell, you might as well go crazy and eat every other food you demonized because, “What’s the point? I’m already off the rails of eating “healthy”…I’ll just keep going because TOMORROW I’ll start my perfect healthy eating again so let’s get it out of my “system” TONIGHT.”
THAT is not what I call a healthy relationship with food, and ye,s full transparency on what characterized my eating habits for years and years and years.
I was so focused on eating “healthy”, (Well, I used the bro-science term “clean” that you find in muscle comics…I mean, “magazines.”) and whenever I deviated from perfect adherence I was off binging on “junk” and then sitting there in physical and mental anguish afterwards.
What kind of self-serving, self-victimizing nonsense is that?!?
Again…I did NOT get sober and quit using drugs and alcohol to find new ways to torture myself mentally and ultimately emotionally over stupid, trivial hogwash!
Yes, we need to make a concerted effort to make “smart” choices…meaning the majority of items we eat should be prepared by us by hand, but it also means limiting the amount of pre-packaged foods we eat, as well as avoid binging episodes.
“But I don’t know how to cook!”, you might say.
Well I am pretty darn sure you didn’t know how to go about scoring your dope, or all the tricks you used to drink on the job and get away with it, hell even driving your car from day one (if you are really being defiant here let’s say simply tying your shoes)….but you learned!
Same goes with preparing your own food.
Just like anything in life – if it’s important to you, you will learn; you CAN learn.
Look, if becoming fit and healthy was an overnight, simple process, don’t you think that everyone in the world would be a picture of great health and fit as hell?
Similar to repairing your mental, emotional, and spiritual health…this is a process, not an event.
It takes time.
Anything worth a darn in this life takes time.
A huge benefit of cooking your own food is that it magically fixes a lot of the “nutritional short-comings” that our society typically faces from relying on pre-packaged and fast foods.
For one, your sodium intake is going to drastically lessen, which is extremely important for your cardiovascular system (and bloating).
Secondly, you are going to reduce the amount of blood sugar spikes that you experience on a daily basis.
Limiting your blood sugar spikes will not only have major implications for your cardiovascular system and cholesterol levels, but it will prevent the multiple “crashes” you experience every day and give you better control over your hunger and subsequent ability to make “smart” food decisions.
Those are two huge improvements that most people today never have a chance of improving upon if they buy their meals already prepared (or frozen).
I know this may seem daunting, but please don’t forget – nobody was immediately great at exercising or great at cooking meals from day one.
They practiced, practiced, practiced, and practiced some more.
Because it was a priority, they developed these “skills” after doing them over and over again.
And before you start to make the excuse of how you can’t afford to cook your own foods, let’s look at the excess amount of money you spend every day eating out at every meal, the multiple energy drinks and sodas, or getting that extra-fancy coffee “milkshake” from Starbucks on your way to work.
It adds up, right?
You’d be shocked with just how much money you can save by bringing your own food to work, or cooking your dinner at home versus picking something up along the way.
The only thing I want you to be wary of is the unnecessary judging of yourself when it comes to just how often you cook your own meals.
If cooking is a totally foreign concept to you, odds are you are not going to display perfect adherence from day one.
Be gentle on yourself – progress, NOT perfection!
Make every effort to start cooking more and more of your own meals each week, but if you fall short, don’t hang your head in disgust and call yourself a failure.
Sitting on the pity-pot never got me anywhere – it just left me with a ring around my butt and a bad taste in my mouth as a resulting of beating myself up.
I’m pretty sure it won’t do anything positive for you, either
We are miracles for having overcome our disease and we should treat ourselves as such!
We are striving to improve ourselves on a daily basis.
We are striving to take better care of ourselves on a daily basis.
We are striving to recover on a daily basis.
Part of this Recovery process involves our physical health, which clearly means making exercise and proper nutrition a priority.
Don’t neglect this aspect of your Recovery, as it will actually enhance your new way of life.
One day at a time we can do this.
One meal at a time we can do this.
One snack at a time we can do this.