Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Bad Food Cycle

Photo by Chotda

I am an acupuncturist. Part of my training and my work with people involves dietary advise, so I've learned a lot about food from both a western and Chinese perspective. But I'm not sure it's helped me that much. I have a pretty good idea which foods are good to eat and which are bad for me based on the theory I've learned, and on watching my body's reactions to what I put in my mouth as I'm very reactive to what I eat. If I have a bowl of soy ice cream (unfortunately, I haven't had the real stuff in years), by the time I'm finished my nose will be stuffy. But I often get in a very bad food cycle.

I've never been much good at cooking for myself. I'm actually a fairly decent cook, but I can never think of what to make. My wife has the gift of looking at a recipe and knowing exactly how it will taste. I look at a recipe, even for things I've cooked many times, and it always looks like a list of ingredients to me. I can look at a fridge full of vegetables and have no idea what to cook. So all too often, I'll make pasta because it's easy and known. Or I'll pull out some instant food from the freezer which really isn't good for me.

To put this cycle in energetic terms: food nourishes me and I'm not very good at nourishing myself. I'm much better at forgetting to eat or just eating junk, which then makes me feel poorly, and it makes me crave more junk.

It's the sugar cycle: when you eat good food, you crave what's needed for your body. When you eat sugar, you crave more sugar. Sugar destroys the body's ability to know what foods to eat because it overwhelms all other cravings.

When I'm losing myself in the self-hate, I eat badly and don't nourish myself with good food. Then the bad food wipes out my cravings for good foods and leaves only cravings for more junk. So I eat more junk, which reinforces the negative cycle. And so on into more self-destruction. At that point, I can start beating myself up for not eating well, so I can do the self-hate on another level as well because I know so much about food I really know how badly I'm eating.

So how to break the cycle? It's not easy. The first step is to be aware of it. That the food choices I make are rooted in the self-hate, not in self-nourishment. At that point, it's identifying the foods that create the downward spiral. Decreasing sugar intake, and eliminating it if possible.

And from then on, it's mostly a question of will. Can I get myself to make one good meal or try to get myself to eat one or two good foods. Often, I have to force myself to eat a good food just to try to get in the habit.

Eating is something we do all the time, so it's a good way to know how we are treating ourselves. It's also a great way to feel guilty all the time and beat ourselves up for how we eat. I don't advocate the guilt. Nor do I recommend getting comfortable with terrible food choices. But like all things, this is an opportunity to negotiate with our self-hate and try to learn to nourish ourselves both physically and spiritually.

Photo by Wespionage

On fears for the future

I received a letter today from someone who was asking me about the possibility that taking Copaxone can help reverse existing damage and prevent new damage. I am posting my response because I think these questions are something we all face:

My read on your questions is that you are scared about the possibility of long term disabilities and are wondering if copaxone helps to clear up old damage. Is that a correct read? My answer is many layered and not an easy one.

Over the past 20 years of having MS, I've had to learn to live with the fear that today might be the last day I walk. I could wake up in the morning and find that my legs no longer work. Or the fear that whatever transient thing I am feeling today may be with me for the rest of my life.

Copaxone is a negative drug, like all MS drugs: if nothing happens then it's working. But, at the same time, nothing might be happening in any case so the drug might be having no effect, so there is no way to really know. I hate to say it, but these are the fears and the uncertainties that the condition brings. I could tell you different, but it wouldn't be true.

I spend a lot of time working on my fears, as I'm a person who was completely lost in fear for much of my life. Knowing that these fears are real means that I am aware of them and then they don't have control over me. I suspect that another person (who I have yet to meet) would use these fears to take every moment as special knowing that tomorrow everything might change.

For me, I use the fears to help propel me forward on my person growth. I know that my spirit is very tied up with MS, so I try to use it as a tool to give me clues as to the growth I need to do. But I suspect everyone forms a different relationship with the fear.

I recommend not trying to get to any point, but spend time with the fear and then see what relationship develops, just making sure that the fear is acknowledged without letting it take control.