Better & Bolder, the Blog

Fertile Void

A friend asked for a Whoosh class. That’s a Nia class where we whoosh someone from one stage of life to another. In this case, she retired after 29 years as a sign language interpreter for the public schools. That’s a big deal, retiring, and I thought of it in terms of a whole series of life changes, like our kids leaving home or our bodies changing as we grow older. 


There’s a term I read, the fertile void (Suzanne Braun Levine, 50 is the New Fifty), that I’ve been thinking about a lot. It’s a period of time (often right after retirement) in which we feel as if nothing is happening but really, we’re gestating. We’re dreaming or thinking or resting, and instead of nothing happening, on some level there’s a lot happening. There’s integration of where we’ve been, letting go of where we’ve been, and preparation for the next place we’re going. 


I’ve been thinking about this because I turned 50, my daughter is off to college next year, and I’m selling the studio I’ve owned or co-owned for the past six years. It feels like a lot of change. I did not, however, want to spend one minute in the fertile void. I wanted to know exactly what I’d do next. I wanted to line up some plans. I wanted to see clearly what the next decade might be like. 


There’s no escaping the need for rest. The best thing for me to do after the sale of the studio would be...nothing. What might happen, and what might emerge, if I have extra time? I might do what I’ve been doing the past two weeks, which is a whole lot of FreeCell and Solitaire on my iPad. This makes me deeply unhappy. I’m not enjoying myself. It doesn’t just feel like a waste of time and energy; it actually saps my energy. This will, I am positive, propel me to do something else, anything else. I hope that the something else is unproductive yet creative; interesting and unimportant; fun, challenging, and personal. While I am doing those things, I hope to restore my energy and nurture myself. Then the next steps can arise. I’m not sure, though, if I can hold myself back from planning the next thing, rushing into a goal or a project. 


I’m probably not exactly at the menopausal/retirement stage of fertile void as that can last a year or two as a woman reimagines herself. I’m probably at a mini fertile void, small enough to be uncomfortable yet still signaling that I’m finishing some major work. Though my daughter will be away, she’ll be back, and my son is still home. I still identify as, and much of my time and energy goes to, being a parent, and I’ve got a while before that shifts. I’ve got years before I retire from CNM, and goodness knows how long before menopause. 


In 50 is the New Fifty, Levine explains as we hit our 50s, we recalibrate our place in the world. We want to let go and make peace. We build confidence and a sense of mastery. There is an awakening of authenticity. There’s also behaving badly. She calls this decade the Fuck You Fifties. Wow. Is that because of the volatility of hormonal changes? The risk-taking in finding our authentic voice? Or we’re so tired we just don’t make the nice-nice effort we might have some years before? 


There were times when I was younger that I just wasn’t all that nice. I focused more in my 40s on being kinder. I like being kinder. Now it’s time for me to be kinder to myself, too, and maybe Fuck-You-Fifties is about fuck-it-all or who-gives-a-fuck. There are times I think, wow, I want to lose five pounds and then I think, who gives a fuck? Really, who is noticing and if they notice, really, there’s no way they care. There are times I think of something I did wrong or could have done better, but nobody else is thinking about those things. They’re thinking about their own what-they-did-wrongs, the same type of list of things that other people just don’t bother to care about. Let go, and make peace.


I don’t really want to behave badly, I don’t want to cause mischief, and I don’t want to tell anyone “fuck you.” I really don’t. I want the voices in my head that keep me hung up, the ones that say negative things to me, the ones that remember every hurt I’ve been hurt and every misdeed I’ve done and all the ways I was less than kind or calm or gracious, I want those voices to shut the fuck up already. Maybe I’m too early in my 50s to have gotten to behaving badly. I still want, very much, to be good. I don’t care so much about being liked; I can’t do much about that anyway. I still care about being good and behaving in ways that support others. I care about being of good use. Maybe, somewhere in the fertile void, I will find how to do that better or find it’s not so important. I don’t know what I’ll find, if I ever let myself go there. 


This article http://tedxwomen.org/2012/03/26/the-conversation-continues-suzanne-braun-levine/ 

from TedxWomen links to a video of Suzanne Braun Levine (author of 50 is the New Fifty) talking about the fertile void and includes an interview. I’ve excerpted some of it below. 


Braun Levine explains that we have to be willing to let go -- of expectations, of time frames, of grudges, of inhibitions.  If we feel some panic or a desire to control the process or outcome, that’s a reminder again to let go and let it unfold. This is particularly difficult for many of us who want to be actively creating our happy, healthy lives. Sometimes, letting things unfold is as necessary as taking active steps toward a goal. Sometimes, we have to allow ourselves to be still, to receive, and to be in the stages of not knowing, gestating, wondering, and allowing. 


In your TEDxWomen talk, you spoke of The Fertile Void, the time in a woman’s life between her first and second adulthood. Calling it “a life transition as profound and far-reaching as adolescence,” you shared how The Fertile Void is a time to ask ourselves who we are, what matters to us and how we can be engaged in the world. How did you come to the term The Fertile Void?  

I have been moved and gratified by the way the term “The Fertile Void” has entered the conversation about aging. Actually the term is a Taoist concept that describes a step in the process of change, when everything seems lost and nothing yet found. 

That is where we find ourselves as we make the transition from adulthood – a well-documented and well-scripted stage of life – to Second Adulthood – a totally new life experience being defined by living longer and healthier lives and by arriving there as more confident and experienced women (men get there too, but not along quite the same route).

The tricky thing about making this transition is that it takes longer than we would like and, worse, it is all about unknowingness. We multi-tasking magicians, who are used to making a list and checking it twice, find it maddening to be falling down an Alice’s Rabbit’s hole of self-doubt and bewilderment. We find ourselves lost in a void, but the essential insight is that this void is fertile. At an age when so much attention is being paid to women’s lost biological fertility, this spiritual fertility can give birth to a fresh and strong and fulfilling chapter in our lives.

Ouch

Several people have expressed concern that I will hurt myself with barefoot running. That’s legit. I feel the same way when friends join CrossFit and begin lifting weights. Ack, isn’t that just asking for injury? I don’t like that whole Paleo diet thing, either. It sounds like hooey science to me and it would be so so wrong for my body. That’s why I’m not on a Paleo diet - because it’s not right for me. Could be right for you, though, and same with CrossFit and I won’t tell you that you should run barefoot either. Maybe I’ll even tell you that you should not run barefoot. Don’t do it! It’s a lot of work. It might change your life. Don’t go there.


Plus, it could hurt. I’m nursing my right foot, same as I was when I was running in shoes. It’s changed, for sure, yet it’s still challenged. I think that’s what they mean when they say “where ever you go, there you are.” The right side of my body has been asking for my attention, and changing shoes and changing gait and changing my pace and getting rolfed and expanding my awareness are great. But they’re no easy fix. So, no, running barefoot has not yet meant I am running injury-free. I’m also not more injured than when I was running in shoes. 


My feet may be more muscular now. The pads in the balls of my feet are responding to the stress by getting bigger, thicker, and tougher. Perhaps the bones themselves are getting thicker. One study  http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2009/0226-hinton-bone-density.php  suggests running is superior to weight-training for increasing bone density. Livestrong.com explains: “Bone is formed after a stress has been placed upon it. After a mechanical load, such as the extra weight applied when performing the squat exercise, has been applied to the bone, bone cells migrate to the stressed area, and begin the process of laying down new bone. The bone cells manufacture and secrete proteins, mainly collagen, which is deposited in between the bone cells to increase bone strength in that area. These proteins eventually mineralize, giving bone its characteristic rigidity.” 


Running barefoot is stressful. Our bodies respond to stress with supportive growth as long as there’s just enough stress -- enough but not too much. Walking might not do it. Running too many miles too quickly, before the body can respond with this growth, can cause damage. It may be one reason that people wearing transitional shoes are experiencing problems. They go too far, too soon. 


When I run in my bare feet, I can go only so far. Then my skin hurts. My feet hurt. I gotta stop. Running in my bare feet slows me down and keeps my growth gradual. Even then, I’ll run farther and with pain because that’s what runners do (no, really, ask around; we all run with pain and expect that to be normal). If I run and feel better in a day or two, that’s healthy growth. If I run and I’m still sore two days later, I have to consider that there’s an injury that needs some time to heal. Sigh. 


My daughter is appalled that I’m running on concrete; that’s not natural, she said.  She may have a point. However, hard surfaces are great for feedback. I have to be really good about running light. Harvard’s barefoot running site posits, “A common perception is that running on hard surfaces causes injuries, but runners typically adjust leg stiffness so they experience the similar impact forces on soft and hard surfaces. Further, forefoot and some midfoot strikers hit the ground in a way that generates almost no collision forces even on hard surfaces like steel.” I’m not sure who would be running on steel or why. The author cited a study done on six runners to support this conclusion. Guys, guys, guys, six participants? That’s not a study. That’s not even a focus group. It’s a start from which true research may be done. That research hasn’t been done yet, though, so their guess is as good as mine. Is running on concrete good for my form or too stressful and impactful? Or both?

Barefoot Ted runs on rocks. He says, "Learn to move with no hard edges, no pounding, by learning how to have the impact of landing flow through the entire foot, starting in the forefoot and quickly spreading through the legs smoothly. Notice how silent your movement becomes. Imagine the movement of a big cat. Watch your dogs trot. Let them be models for tuned-in, flowing movement that wastes little energy on pound or sound." Thanks, Ted. Right about now, three months in to my barefoot running experience, I sound like this: flap whap flap whap. Whether in bare feet or my running sandals, I'm loud. I shift, I reorganize my bones, I let my spine float, I bend my knees, I quicken my cadence, I think happy thoughts, and I still make the sound of impact, thwhack thwhack thwhack. I'm going on faith here that I, too, can learn to run on rocks, light as a cat.


I won’t tell you not to do CrossFit or Zumba or whatever you want to do. In fact, I’m gonna cheer you on. Anything that has you up and moving and in love with being in your body is great, and you’ll learn something and do your best to keep your body healthy. It’s all good. It really is all good. I’d recommend swimming for everyone, actually, as the perfect way to build strength, cardio, flexibility, and mobility. It’s perfect year-round. It’s just so...wet. I have to put on a suit, get in a car, drive to a pool, you know. So I don’t do it. I’ll run, though, and that’s the thing about fitness: whatever you’ll do is a good exercise for you. 


I know running is a bit crazy and running barefoot is a bit crazier. It keeps me moving and in love with being in my body. I’m learning a lot and doing my best to be patient and keep my body healthy. I’m convinced my body can learn to do this if I give myself enough time to get strong and pay devoted attention to improving my posture, gait, and flexibility. Okay, I'm not convinced. I'm just faking it until I make it, which is what I do with most everything anyway. I will learn something, that part is for sure, and I'm pretty fascinated with it so far. I'm not gonna lie, though. It seems a bit crazy to me, too. 

Bigger

foot on shoe


This is embarrassing. You know how they say most of us wear our shoes a size or two too small? That was me.


The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society said in 2000-something that 9 out of 10 women are wearing shoes that don’t fit right and that 7 out of 10 will develop a foot deformity because of this. Now, let’s walk that back for a moment. Almost all shoes are not designed to fit our feet; we are expected to fit our feet into the shoe’s design. So that’s probably an easy guesstimate: our shoes don’t fit right. 


Soon after I began running and walking barefoot, my regular shoes became very uncomfortable. Much like the toddler who squirms when the socks and shoes are put on or who tears them off at the first chance, I hated the feel of socks and shoes. When it was cold and I had to put something on my feet, I was pouty. It didn’t occur to me that my shoes - and my socks! - were too small for me. I just thought I didn’t like shoes anymore because I preferred to be barefoot. 


This week I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of shoes I can wear on a hike. I really like New Balance Minimus shoes in the Zero series, so I started there. I know my feet have gotten bigger since I started running barefoot. I just hadn’t realized a) how much bigger and b) I probably had been stuffing my feet into a size smaller than I needed. 


I ordered some New Balance shoes online. Ready? I ordered online a men’s 7.5 4E.  A quad E! That deserves a high five, my friends. I’m not just wide. I’m not just extra special double wide. I want the whole fat pony wide: QUAD E. 


You know what I noticed? I didn’t mind wearing shoes so much when they’re freaking big and have almost no structure or support. 


I also went to the New Balance store and tried on some pairs there. I tried on a men’s 8. Now, in my previous life, before barefooting (henceforth to be known as BB), I wore a women’s 7 wide. I wore a woman’s 8 when I couldn’t find the wide sizes. 


Women’s shoes come in a B as a standard width, and some are available in D or extra wide. Men’s shoes start at D as their standard and then may come in 2E or 4E. Since men’s sizes are wider, they fit some women’s feet better, and often women’s and men’s shoes are cut similarly. Women’s shoes tend to be a bit narrower in the heel, though, and there are other differences, so companies are now marketing shoes as being specially designed for women. Here’s a very scientific-sounding article about the supposed differences in shoes for men and women: http://www.asics.co.uk/running/knowledge/running-shoes-reinvented-for-women/


Please take all of this with a bag of salt. Running shoes didn’t used to be the puffed up versions they are now. They didn’t claim to help us with pronation and supination and heel-striking or whatever. They were thin-soled and protected our feet from cold and gravel. That changed in the 1970s as running became more popular and Nike saw a huge market for running shoes. 


Shoes, of course, are big business. Runners are advised to replace theirs every 200 miles or so, though some recommend 300 - 500 miles. For that low end estimate, that’s a new pair every two months for someone who runs 25 miles a week. There’s no data to support this suggestion; there are no studies (that’s no as in zero, nada, zip, zilch) that correlate shoe cushioning and runners’ injuries (see Gina Kolata’s “When to Retire a Running Shoe” http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/when-to-retire-a-running-shoe/ ). Recently Runner’s World asked its FaceBook crowd how many pairs of running shoes each person owned. A few said two and many said 12 and a few said over 20. With many running shoes costing over a $100, shoes are big, big business. 

Here’s the deal. We have a lot more runners since 1970, so we can expect to see a lot more injuries. It may not be the shoes’ fault. It’s not clear that these new running shoes are helping us be better runners, though. There’s no data. There are no studies that show runners who wear X shoes have fewer injuries than the runners in Y shoes. Or no shoes. 


That’s why you need a bag of salt when reading these claims about the running shoes. There’s no proof that they do what they say they’ll do, which is help someone run better and with fewer injuries. Here’s how Christopher MacDougal, author of Born to Run, puts it: “In a paper for the British Journal Of Sports Medicine last year [2008], Dr Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, revealed there are no evidence-based studies that demonstrate running shoes make you less prone to injury. Not one.  ...Dr Richards was so stunned that a $20 billion industry seemed to be based on nothing but empty promises and wishful thinking that he issued the following challenge: 'Is any running-shoe company prepared to claim that wearing their distance running shoes will decrease your risk of suffering musculoskeletal running injuries? Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their running shoes will improve your distance running performance? If you are prepared to make these claims, where is your peer-reviewed data to back it up?'  Dr Richards waited and even tried contacting the major shoe companies for their data. In response, he got silence.”


Sucka. You, me, lots of us. I tried this shoe and that shoe. I researched pronation and supination. I bought inserts. 


Is there evidence that running barefoot will make me an injury-free runner? Nah. There are a bunch of anecdotes. I’m trying it out. It’s cheap! Well, except that my feet got bigger and I don’t fit most of my shoes anymore.


So, back to the New Balance store, where I’m trying on a size 8 in men’s. I put my thumb to the top and pressed down. I asked if there should be a thumb’s width of space between my toe and the end of the shoe, and Mr. Helpful (really, he was very nice) said, yes, that’s just the right amount. We want about a half inch between our longest toe and the end of the shoe. For running and exercise shoes, we may want as much as an inch. We don't want to slide around, yet we do need space for our feet to swell as we get our hearts pumping.


I got that little “uh oh” feeling in my belly. Somehow, over the years, I’d been pushing my feet into shoes where my toe is almost touching the end and thinking that was a good fit and then wishing the shoes were wider. I thought the shoes were too floppy if there was that much space at the top. 


I also got that “Wheeeee!” feeling in my heart. I could wear shoes again! I still don’t want much structure and no arch support. But I’m betting I can find some Oxfords (maybe some men’s?) and perhaps even some flat women’s boots in, say, a size 9. I got that “ah ha!” feeling too. So that’s why all my shoes feel so confining. They’re too small. Duh. 


Aren’t people funny? I mean, that should have been obvious. I got really excited about finding socks a size larger, too. I don’t have to wear things that squeeze my feet. Aaaaaah. 


We don’t even realize that our feet should be comfortable. On www.running.about.com, Christine Luff explains how to find the correct fit for a running shoe, “If you're wondering if your current running shoes fit properly, check the location of your big toe. If it's pushed right up against the front of the shoe, they're too small. Another easy way to check the fit is to remove the shoe's insert and stand on it. If any part of your toes are hanging over the end of the insert, your running shoes are too small. Go up at least a half size next time.” 


Several readers responded to Luff with delight: now they know why their toenails were blackening and falling off! That explains all the blisters and pain. Shouldn’t it be obvious if our toenails are falling off that something is wrong? 


But a lot is not obvious with shoes. I often try on shoes without socks and then guess that I’ll have enough room and they’ll be comfortable when I add socks. This is probably true 0% of the time. It’s a failed strategy that I have employed on a consistent basis. 


Let’s talk about finding the right pair and the right size. 


  • If a shoe fits at the heel, it’s not too big. If it’s slipping at the heel, it’s not gonna work. Put it back.
  • Try on a size larger or two sizes larger. Just check it out. Get outside of your expectations. This is good to do with clothes, too, by the way. You’re interested in the fit, not the size. I have different tank tops from Target in sizes XS, S, M, and L, and each of those fits me just right. Really, use a size as a starting point and do not be invested in that size. There isn’t universal sizing in footwear or clothes.
  • Our feet swell throughout the day and as we exercise. I don’t care when you buy a pair. Just be sure to try it on again at the end of a long day and see if they’re still as good. Take the time to wear them at home for an hour before wearing them outside. Once you can’t return a pair, you’ll keep wearing it, even if it feels yucky. Be patient and make sure you’ll love them.
  • Shoes can be expensive, so check on the return policy.  I’ve bought on Zappos and they say there aren’t returns once a pair has been worn, but they let me do so once. Good running stores often give people 30 days to try out a pair and some online sites do so as well. Check out www.altrazerodrop.com, for instance. If you’re looking for a wide toe box, a firm sole, and minimal arch support, these are worth a try.


Remember that sizing doesn’t mean too much and, whoa, nelly, you’re likely to change sizes throughout your lifetime. "You Don't Have a Shoe Size; You have  foot Size" http://naturalrunningcenter.com/2011/11/12/proper-fit-explained-don’t-shoe-size-foot-size/ is a great article. We’ve been spending our energy fitting into shoes instead of demanding that our shoes fit our feet. The author begins by saying what I’m saying. He’s gone up a size or more since he began spending most of his running time barefoot. His feet are thicker. He also explains why our shoes don't fit our feet in motion.

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella writes, “When a load is applied to a foot by running or with a pack weight your foot will spread in length by up to half an inch. You need at least an 1/8 inch or more space on heel and toe for any sock. You want 1/3 to 1/2 an inch in front of your big toe to allow room for loading and splay. Your foot will splay 15 percent in width under load. Your foot is widest at the toes and unfortunately most shoes are not shaped this way.” 


Did you get that? Our feet are widest at our toes? Look at your feet. Look at your shoes. Look at your feet again. Spread your toes as if you’re digging in sand. Do your toes spread? How does that feel? Look at your shoes. 


Look at the picture at the top of this blog. That’s my foot on top of a pair of Inov-8 shoes. These are for men 6.5 or women 8. I wore them for a year, more for walking than for running. Here’s what Inov-8 says about their shoes:

“We believe in natural running. Natural running involves taking running back to its most innate form, letting nothing alter the natural biomechanics of the foot and body. Natural running relies on the strength of the runner’s feet and legs rather than the cushioning or support of a shoe. The foot controls the shoe, not the other way around. All our products are designed to be lightweight, minimal and functional.”


Look at the picture and see how when I spread my toes, I’m outside the toe box. That’s in a pair of shoes that’s supposed to be minimalist and allow the foot to move as it’s designed to move. Yes, the shoe is too small for me. Yet that’s me splaying my toes but not in motion. How have your shoes been running your life? What don’t you know yet about you and your shoes? 

Addicted


I am an addict. I’m addicted to food.  Not as in “ha ha, I love food so much! I’m addicted!”  This is “I eat until I’m sick, and I don’t want to eat but am compelled to eat again.” 


A friend says I must have great discipline. That’s because most days of the year, I don’t eat foods that trigger my addictive behavior. I don’t cane or beet sugar; I don’t eat anything made into a flour (not from grains, beans, or nuts, no flours at all); I don’t eat milk products. There, that’s not so bad. It’s actually quite easy to maintain. I rarely miss the foods I’ve taken out of my daily diet.


This winter I broke my sobriety when I decided it would be really fun to eat some tamales. It was fun! Yummy! Then for two weeks, I struggled to get my eating back to normal. But that wasn’t like this. That was eating a lot and eating foods that don’t make me feel good. This time, I’m eating until I’m sick with it. I’m eating against my will and without pleasure or desire. This winter it was perhaps 50% compulsion and 50% desire. The food held some pleasure at least some of the time. This time, I am repulsed and still eating. I am physically ill and stuffing it in. 


I am writing this down to remind myself that I am a food addict. There’s no shame to that. It’s how I’m wired and most of the time, I’m abstinent and happy. It’s actually quite easy to maintain: there, I said it again. The bitch of it is getting abstinent again. It’s far easier to maintain than to regain my sobriety.


When I’m abstinent, vegetables are sweet and fruit is fulfilling. I practice eating when I’m hungry and stopping before I’m too full. I practice a lot; I’ll let you know when I get good at it. Not yet. That’s okay. Teaching myself how to eat is a Path. Some people practice yoga or a martial art. I practice eating. It’s a great teacher. I learn humility as I fail and fail again. I learn, slowly, compassion for myself and others. I learn about my body and how my body changes with the season, the cycle, and the ages. 


In case you wanted to know, it’s possible to gain 3 pounds in 3 days. Perhaps some of that is what we like to call water weight, which happens when we’re eating more salty foods. Perhaps it was incredibly high-density foods eaten in amounts far exceeding my usual daily intake. The gluten-free cake sweetened without cane sugar was truly wonderful, and if I’d eaten one piece a day, even every day for a week, I doubt I would have gained any weight. Appropriate eating means compensating for those extra calories. Eat cake and don’t eat nuts and avocados that day. You know, balance it out. I am a food addict, and I don’t eat one piece of cake. I keep eating cake until I am nauseous and then I eat some more. The moment I’m no longer sick, though still not hungry, I am compelled to eat some more. Cake, corn or rice tortillas with melted cheese, agave-sweetened coconut ice cream -- really, it wasn’t “bad” food. There are no bad foods. There are foods that trigger my addictive eating patterns. 


It is no shame to eat birthday cake on one’s birthday. Eating party leftovers is part of the fun. It just wasn’t fun. My husband hopped back on his diet within 48 hours. He’s eating a ton of fruit. He’s having some cake and some chocolate, but he’s keeping his overall calories down each day. That’s because he’s not a food addict. He can eat whatever he wants. He just can’t eat them in any amounts he wants. I don’t worry about calories or amounts when I eat.  But I can’t eat whatever I want.


I’m okay with that. It’s how it is. I don’t mourn it. I used to. I used to fight it too. That’s why I feel not ashamed but just a bit silly. I really didn’t need cake. I would have been fine without the rice and corn tortillas. Perhaps if I could have gone right back to my rules within 24 hours, I would have been fine, but that’s the point, isn’t it? I said to myself, yep, tomorrow, gonna go back to my nutrition rules and then I didn’t. You know why? Because I’m an addict. Because I’ll eat until I hurt. Because it’s not at all about pleasure and desire. It’s compulsive behavior and it feels like shit to be so compelled. It’s a feeling of helplessness so total that I watch myself in wonder. Last night, already sick from that day’s eating, at 11pm, I went to the kitchen to eat the remaining piece of carrot cake. I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want it, and there was no stopping me. Now the cake is gone. That’ll stop me. 


I dread what’s coming. When I stop eating this food, I will feel shaky and ill. Yes, I get withdrawals. If I’m lucky, since I’ve been on a binge fewer than 7 days, it will be only a few days of feeling sick. Sometimes it helps to make fresh juices. It helps to sweat. I can distract myself and I can learn to be a bit more tolerant of feeling uncomfortable. 


Why do some of us become addicted to alcohol and not others? Are our brains different? I ate like a sugar-demon child for years. Was that me not being disciplined so that I became an addict, or was I always an addict and the guilt and shame I carried throughout my childhood was amplified because I didn’t know who I was or what I would have to do to be different?  I couldn’t have given up my favorite foods then. I had to get a bit bored with those foods and really terribly tired of how I feel, physically and emotionally, when I eat those foods. 


Michael Moss has a new book out (here’s the link to his New York Times article  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 and last year David Kessler followed up his 2010 book The End of Overeating with Your Food is Fooling You: How Your Brain is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt.  Tara Parker-Pope touches on food addiction in her New York Times blog http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/craving-an-ice-cream-fix/ “Craving an Ice Cream Fix.” There are numerous rat studies showing that when we feed rats junk food, their brains light up and they act like junkies. Parker-Pope writes, “Princeton University and University of Florida researchers have found that sugar-binging rats show signs of opiatelike withdrawal when their sugar is taken away — including chattering teeth, tremoring forepaws and the shakes. When the rats were allowed to resume eating sugar two weeks later, they pressed the food lever so frantically that they consumed 23 percent more than before.” 


Studies like that comfort me. I feel like I’m doing pretty well overall. I’m doing better than the rats. In one study, the rats were administered electric shocks every time they pressed the lever for more junk food. They pressed and pressed and pressed.  No matter how uncomfortable an addict becomes, getting that fix is like getting air to breathe. We are compelled. We are without will.


Until, that is, we sober up. I’m not sure how or why that magic happens. I know plenty of addicts who go back to the same friends they had when they were using and pretty soon, they’re using again, damn it, and then they’ve got to start over again. They do. They get clean again. Some people never get clean and never live sober. Some people do. 


I’m an addict and that has influenced me to eat an exceptionally healthy diet, which is quite a gift. I wish I’d been able to get a better handle on it earlier in life and I feel silly every time I test it out again. Maybe this time I will eat cake and wake up the next day and not care about having more cake. Eh, no, not this time either. 


So today I went to the co-op and let myself be seduced by the vegetables. The kale is local and organic - yahoo! Oh, the broccolini is so good. And kohlrabi! My favorite strange vegetable. I got excited again about the good stuff and I didn’t buy any more of the stuff that sounds like it’s fun, but it’s not fun. It hurts. 

To Do List

* Do not take myself too seriously.

* Recognize that what’s in the past, both good and bad, is done and gone. Appreciate the good, learn a bit from the less good, and don’t spend too long there. Get over it. 

* When given the choice of focusing on what’s gone right or on what’s gone wrong, dive in, find the lesson, and swim back to the surface. Then sit in the sun. 

* Shame is for suckers. Cross it off my To Do list. What? You didn’t write “Experience shame today” on your To Do list? Actually, me neither. So when it showed up recently, I almost invited it to stay. Then, I thought, nah, ain’t nobody got time for that. It’s not on my To Do list, so out it goes. 

* Get used to being 50. 

* Be grateful, be graceful, be gracious, and let others know their value to me. 

* Look people in the eyes when saying something meaningful. Slow down for a moment when telling someone thanks.

* Ask myself more often this question: what do I need to do to return to my authentic self? Listen for the answer and behave accordingly. 

* Forgive. Me, others, every body, often, in little ways, in big ways, again and again, as often as it takes.

* Keep getting better at the things I do well. 

* For some things, “There’s always tomorrow” is excellent advice. There are only a few things that  absolutely must be done today, and almost all of those few things have to do with love.