Chocolate

My diet is pretty perfect right now (my own world view of course), and has been for a while.

Apart from chocolate.

I gave it up over Lent. And that was absolutely fine. I had no trouble with not eating it at all.

After Lent? Not so much.

The worst bit is, I don’t even like it much anymore. I keep trying new types of chocolate because — well, I’m just not liking it. So rather than celebrating that I am free from the desire to eat chocolate — yippee! — I am buying weirder and weirder types of chocolate in the hope I will find one I like. (Lime and seasalt chocolate: just no.)

I’m perplexed as to why it’s chocolate that is my bete noire. I was reading an interesting piece on the interwebs about the fact that chocolate’s hold over us is almost entirely cultural (ok, ok, that’s not what the piece is about, but it’s in there and is the part I found interesting…). And it’s true: chocolate has mythical, magical powers and it represents so much more than some sweet brown melty candy.

Today, I was reading a blog post about giving up chocolate for ever which I found thoughtful, and thought-provoking. The way she articulated the yearning and emptiness that she filled with chocolate resonated with me.

I don’t really want to eat chocolate. I don’t derive much pleasure from it, and often feel unpleasantly over-sugared straight after consuming it. Duh. And yet. And yet I eat it on a regular basis.

Today I had three (very small and rather unpleasant) chocolates after my lunch because they were there. Mr P had bought them for the children at the weekend, who are still overwhelmed with an enormous Easter egg collection (not bought by us), and I find it almost impossible to walk past the cupboard without them announcing their presence (especially the stray, unclaimed bits and bobs of chocolate). I put them out of their misery by eating them.

Later on, as I was avoiding writing a report for one of my clients, I discovered another unattended chocolate in the cupboard (slightly larger this time — a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup — again, actively not liked by me). Needless to say, that is no longer there either.

It  makes me cross with myself. I am an intelligent, reasonably disciplined person: I know it’s not good for me; I don’t actually like it that much; I don’t like how it makes me feel. And yet I regularly find myself reaching for chocolate because I want … what? It’s not chocolate that I want, so not surprisingly chocolate doesn’t really deliver it.

It’s because I want something different.

I want not to be in the place or mood that I am in.

I don’t want to feel angry, or trapped, or bored.

But those emotions don’t fit very well in my life. (In anyone’s life? In any woman’s life?) And so our culture gives us — and actively promotes as a solution to managing those feelings– chocolate.

 

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The carb thing

What is mostly on my mind at the moment is what I should be doing with my life (oh that small thing!) but I haven’t organized my thoughts in any coherent fashion yet, so today’s observation is something simple and unexpected (to me).

I have been low-carbing on purpose of late. I periodically low carb by accident but just because my food choices don’t include potatoes for a few days. I have recently read Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and found it persuasive enough to deliberately cut out potatoes for a while and see how I felt about it.

I am not fat, but nor am I thin. I eat what I eat because I think it’s important to put food that’s good for you in your body, not because I particularly want to look like a fashion plate (which is lucky really, because I couldn’t even if I wanted to on account of not finding clothes terribly interesting once they have met certain criteria: warm, comfortable, clean, and make me look socially normal enough that no-one looks at me because I look like a bag lady…). So losing weight has never been terribly interesting to me. I like to eat. I don’t think my body weight is unhealthy (although I know there are several who wouldn’t agree with me). But you know, I’m in my forties and I’m OK with my body.

So, back to low carbing.

I have been shocked by it. Not because weight has fallen off me (which it hasn’t: I have lost a little; but nothing untoward — and anyway I’ve only been doing it a couple of weeks) but because of the impact low carb eating has had on my resting heart rate. Who knew? (I know, I know, lots of people probably knew but I wasn’t one of them.)

I used to write marketing material for Polar HR monitors a thousand years ago. I LIKE HR monitors and am very pleased now with having a FitBit HR. I watched my RHR go up and down and could pin point some of what was going on (stress = RHR of 80 bpm which freaked me out but I couldn’t figure out how to reverse it; being on holiday for a week = RHR of 70). I worked out that drinking alcohol had an immediate impact on my RHR, which surprised me and definitely fed into my evening decision of “shall I have a glass of wine” and my answer became “no” more often: not only was it disrupting my sleep, but also having a visible impact on my heart. I also worked out that was where some of my “stress = RHR” was coming from because stress also equalled being more likely to have that glass of wine. Or two. Or three.

What I hadn’t expected was my RHR to fall dramatically when I cut carbs out. And to go back up on the day after I eat carbs (but not wine). It’s like magic. My RHR is down to 65. (It went up a lot over the weekend of the wedding: stress, carbs and alcohol — no wonder!)

I know there are all kinds of indicators that change when you cut carbs out of your diet, but they were all beyond me to easily measure. My RHR, though, that’s easy. And it’s more meaningful to me than my weight. It’s like getting immediate feedback that those tiny things you do on any given day REALLY DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You know, the minute particulars. Whether you have a glass of wine or not. Whether you decide that today, you will eat that chocolate. Well, it’s a wedding. What harm will one piece of cake really do?

It makes a difference to your RHR. Who knew? Not me.

Well. Begin at the beginning.

So. I’ve started a blog. Hallebloodyluia. About time.

What has prompted me to do this TODAY is that I am realising that the time is, indeed, now. I’m not ready. I haven’t mapped out where I am going with this. But it’s something I’ve been tinkering with for years and years and other things got in the way; and if I let it, it will be that way forever.

I do have a sense of embarkation: I am starting on a new journey by starting this long-overdue blog, and I need to do it now because I want to document an extreme (to me) Lent (despite being an atheist).

I’m going to give up alcohol. And chocolate. Ideally forever, but I am framing it round Lent because I think it will stop people challenging me too hard before I am ready to be challenged.

Generally I am good with food: I tend to follow Whole-30 ish guidelines and do really well with it. But. Chocolate. Wine. So I’ve spent some money on some books (I’ve decided I really like books again — so much better than screens) on how to kick chocolate and alcohol and, once they have arrived, I shall dig in and will be my own experiment of one to see if I can do it as easily as the blurbs claim.

It’s not about weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, some weight loss would be great. But my motivators are more about energy levels, sleep and heart rate than weight. (Yes, heart rate. Since owning a FitBit HR which I LOVE I have discovered that drinking alcohol affects my heart rate — which I then Googled and discovered is not some individual peculiarity of mine but is a documented THING.)

One of my aims for 2016 is to get back into books: children have pulled me away, along with the difficulty of keeping a house and some semblance of a life going. My kids are a little older now (starting to be more self-sufficient) and I want to read read read. So my fiction book that is on the go at the moment is The Taxidermist’s Daughter; and I have just finished Better Than Before (see the link?). Gretchen Rubin, though, is a whole nother post.