Friday, October 11, 2013

If Hugging is Happiness then Can I Substitute Cupcakes for Hugs?

Picture courtesy of Bitstrips and my unnamed friend who shall remain nameless
I have a friend with whom I share an on-going joke:  are cupcakes acceptable substitutes for hugs? She says yes, I say not really, but like a good friend, I accommodate for her idosyncrancies.  And she puts up with my inappropriate attire at public debates (see picture).  When I message her, instead of the usual {{{hug}}} when she needs some comfort, I send her an emoji of a cupcake.

We post things on each other’s timeline’s about the Great Hugs vs. Cupcakes debate and she posts mouth-watering pictures of gourmet cupcakes to torture me…I mean tease me.
It’s all in good fun, but it had me thinking about mindfulness this week…when we eat cupcakes, why we eat cupcakes, who we eat cupcakes with...but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start from the beginning…

So last week I wrote about yoga for a happy life and how I’m so sick of dieting.  I gave you a little assignment: do yoga.  And I gave you a yoga pose/exercise to practice every day.  Did you do it?  I hope so, because it’s really really easy and it’s really really important to take that first step towards being happy.  Its like this:  goals without a plan are just wishes.  And a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And if wishes were rainbows we’d all be a fucking bowl of Skittles.

Mmmmm….Skittles…but I digress, as usual.  What I really want to tell you today is about listening to your body and mindfulness, both yogic practices.  I mentioned this last week and I realized as I was practicing my yoga and trying to listen to my body how damn difficult it is to understand what the body is saying.  Especially if we are new to the process.  Just to get you in the same head space as me, here’s an example of a conversation I had with my body this week:
Me:  I could really go for some wine and cheese.
My body: Yeah, but tomorrow morning I will feel kind of funky.
Me:  Well, if I only have one glass of red with an ounce of Sartori, it’ll be okay.
My body: No, it most likely won’t because you had wine and cheese last night and there’s this building effect I don’t understand, but I certainly feel.
Me:  You’re crazy.  One glass of wine won’t hurt.
My body: You’re correct. One glass of wine won’t hurt, but several glasses of wine three nights in a row most definitely hurts the next morning.
Me: Fine.  Whatever. You’re mean.
My body: *silence*
Me:  I really really want the wine.
My body: *sigh*
Me:  Please?
My body: *flipping through Writer’s Digest*
Me: You aren’t going to speak to me now?
My body: I’ve said what needed to be said, but you always think you’re right, so I’m not going to argue any more.
Me: You’re a jerk and now you’ve upset me, so I’m going to drink some wine just to relax.
My body: *groan*
Me:  A*&hole! *pours wine and drinks* There! :-P
My body: *heavy, lethargic sensation*
Me: See? Isn’t this great?  I feel relaxed already. How about another?
My body: *crick in neck throbs*
Me: Well, I barely feel that because I’m on glass number 3.
The next morning….
My body: *slight headache, bloated, upset belly, stiff joints, swollen, itchy hands*
Me:  Oh, why did I do that?  Why didn’t you stop me?
My body: *gives me the finger*
The long and the short of it is this:  our mind will talk us into ANYTHING, including wine, Ho Ho’s, and –get this—healthy food and exercise.  But our bodies? They are always looking out for us.  There is a truth in the mechanism of the body that transcends both logical and irrational thought.  Is it fool-proof?  Well, that depends.  And this is the thing we need to really pay attention to—what have we done to our bodies that could alter its truth?

Let me give you an extreme example: drug or alcohol addiction.  Have you been abusing your body with substances like cocaine, alcohol, or pain killers?  If so, you have altered your body’s metabolic processes.  Your body is now fine-tuned to demand your substance of choice, which over-rides every other need.  This is a biological fact.  Look it up.  Here’s one article on physical addiction and how it alters your brain and body chemistry: Drugs Alter the Brain’s Reward Pathway

I once heard Dr. Phil state on his television show that if someone is using drugs, then you are not really talking to that person when you have a conversation.  He states it here on his website about Preparing for a Structured Intervention with a loved one who is addicted. You are talking to the drug.  It takes over the mind and body and unless they detoxify and begin a rehabilitation program, they will be held hostage.
I also read (I read a lot, what can I say?) that addiction arrests psychological development at the point the addiction began. So let’s say addiction occurred at age sixteen and the person is still addicted at age forty, their reasoning capacity and psychological development is closer to that of a sixteen year old than a forty year old.  Here’s a great slide presentation that explains this process:  Addiction in Adolescents: The Biological, Cognitive, and Social Emotional Effects.

Having, unfortunately, witnessed the process of addiction and decline, I can attest that this appears to be true.  I once asked an addicted friend why they continued to drink after accruing several DUIs and do you know what they said?  “Well, when I’m out at the bar with my friends and they buy me a shot, I don’t won’t to look like a pussy and not drink it.”

*crickets chirping*

That answer blew my mind on so many levels and I could write a book about it, but today the point I’m trying to make is that addiction holds your reasoning and your body hostage.  And that was an extreme example. Let’s take a more subtle one, but just as powerful.

Food addiction.  Apply everything you've just read to this concept.  People become addicted to certain types of food, and without getting into the why’s and wherefores’ and start pointing fingers and playing the blame game, I just want to say this:  sugar, fat and salt are addictive.  Simple, refined, white table sugar is addictive.  Do you have a soda problem?  How about a donut thing?  Bowl of M&M’s on your desk? Subscription to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Weekly?  You may have a food addiction, my friend.

And it doesn’t have to be refined sugar.  Carbohydrates in general can be addictive.  Got a Dorito thang?  Or pizza fetish?  Salt and fat factor into addiction, as well.  Have you ever heard of someone pigging out on broccoli?  Maybe that broccoli-rice-cheesy casserole thing your cousin brings to Thanksgiving, but just broccoli? Very rare addiction, me thinks.  Think I’m spouting off without any scientific proof?  Here’s a great article on WebMD about Food Addiction.

Which food do you bring into the house that you can’t stop eating? In Weight Watchers they call it a “trigger” food.  Mine? Good’s potato chips.  Not any other brand.  Yes, it’s very specific.  It’s not as bad as it once was. I no longer eat the entire bag in a day, but I still feel the compulsion. What stops me now is I am listening to my body’s cues as I eat those crispy, perfectly salted, fried-in-lard darlings and after a handful, my stomach is a wee bit unhappy. After two handfuls, it is downright sick.

The thing is, I had to give up Good’s Potato Chips for a while. *tear glistens in corner of eye*  Why? Because I couldn’t control myself with them, and my addiction to them had a cascading affect.  My blood sugar was all over the place, leading to 3 pm crashes that required immediate, emergency food-fixes like sugary sodas or hot milkshakes (a.k.a. fancy lattes with flavoring)…or more Good’s.  My body bloated up and my self-esteem took a nose dive.

 I was not happy.  I was a slave to my food addiction.  I am much better, now, thank you, but I still have to be careful.  You know an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, right? Even if he’s not drinking?  They call themselves “recovering” alcoholics because it’s never over, this not-drinking thing. And the same is true for food addiction:  once an addict, always an addict.

*sigh*  Makes you want to go curl up with that bag of cheese curls right now, it’s so depressing, isn’t it?  I call bullshit on that response.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  We can overcome our food addictions, but its going to take some practice.  I do not advocate throwing out all your food right this instance and going out with a grocery list I provide and restocking your house.  

What I recommend is taking a good, long look at what’s in your fridge and pantry and identify your addictions.  It’s easy: which foods do you choose when you’re tired, happy, sad, mad, glad, numb, and not thinking? When you think of NOT ever eating that food again, do you get a chill of horror?

Does it make you ridiculously giddy popping open that ice cold can of soda and chugging the first half?  This is harmless, mostly, when it’s a soda once in a while.  It’s an addiction when you are bringing it home in cases and having more than one every day.  I find that this part of the process of creating a happy life makes people pissed…at me.  Because I’m pointing out that their cherished food rituals are in all actuality creating their unhappiness.  *Shout out here to my trainer at Kellie’s Complete Health, who has endured my dirty looks and childish rebelling against her food advice.*

Bummer. BIG bummer, because you thought you were comforting yourself, didn't you?  You thought you knew what you were doing, didn't you?  You thought you were in control?  You thought you could quit those Ho Hos any time you wanted, right?  Yeah, me too.  Read this article about The Emotional Stages of Addiction and honestly consider if it applies to you and certain foods.

ASSIGNMENT: And when you’re done with that, this is a little harder than last week’s assignment, but I want you to seriously take a look at your food habits. 
Don’t go changing (hear the music?) a thing, unless you feel a sincere desire to do so, but look at what you’re eating.  Jot down the things you eat throughout the day.  Put an asterisk next to the foods that you get excited about eating or have more than a reasonable helping.  And when you are done doing your yoga in the morning, take a minute to either sit quietly or in the shower, clear your mind, and ask your body how it feels about that food.

I kid you not, it will tell you the truth.  I have been doing this for a long time and it amazes me the reactions I get from my body just thinking about certain foods.  The problem was, I couldn’t really hear what my body was saying at first because my addiction got in the way.  The salivation and giddiness is a Pavlov’s dog kind of a thing…look it up…and not a real need on your body’s part.  Remember: Addiction hijack’s your brain’s reward pathway.

If you want to have a happy life, you have to start freeing yourself from your addictions, cupcakes or otherwise. And the first step in that process is to acknowledge that you have a problem.  And really, do you want your happiness determined by a can of soda or a cupcake?  Cupcakes are great and I love one of those gourmet ones with real cream cheese icing and chunks of MacIntosh apple in the center with…um…what was I doing? Oh yeah, *clears throat*  So one of those once in a while is fine, but cupcakes have nothing to do with my happiness.  Now, hugs, on the other hand, are another addiction of mine and they DO make me happy.

And they make my body sing.

Namaste, beautiful people.

Need something to read until next week? Check out my Pinterest Boards.  I have tons of yoga, chakra, healthy living, happy living, and just fun stuff to peruse.

Have a food habit or ritual that you can’t imagine giving up?  Tell me about it, PLEASE! I want to read about it.  It may be perfectly healthy or it may be an obstacle to real happiness. Leave a comment below and I will pick one lucky commentator to give a fee 30 minute consultation to each month.  

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