Tuesday, July 13, 2010
My son and I went to Family Camp at a Meditation Center in Vermont
last week. Along with 50 or 60 other families, we slept in tents, used
the outhouses, ate in the dining tent and tried to not melt in the 95°F
heat. In the mornings, Griffin would go to the "Tiger Tent" for games,
art-making and even meditation for 5 year olds, and I would go to the
shrine room for 3 luxurious hours of shamatha sitting meditation,
walking meditation and captivating discussions on the spiritual rigors
We could have spent much more than a week on parenting and the 6
Paramitas (Generosity, Discipline, Patience, Exertion, Meditation and
Wisdom.) But of course the spiritual path of parenting is hands-on, so
after getting all blissed out and calm, I would go pick up my son and
brace myself for the big fight we would have over lunch.
"I am NOT eating ANY of that!"
First I would try to find some low-nutrient-density carb to entice
his taste buds into allowing his body to feel hunger on a swelteringly
hot day. Then came negotiating, cajoling, playing, demanding and
eventually bribing and bullying.
There are some kids that can just play and play-- graze just a
little-- then happily play more. My son is not one of them. He will play
and play, get a bit uncoordinated from being so hungry, hurt himself,
then go ballistic, usually on me.
So not-eating was not an option.
Although they served quinoa and kale, and even gluten free bread, it
was all unseasoned and unfamiliar. Most meals were concoctions he had
never seen before (meatloaf, lentil-cauliflower soup,
quiche-but-no-ketchup.) I had very little control over how it would
So in the first few days I filled our plates with the amount he would
normally eat, he would eat a small fraction on his plate, and
then I would eat the rest so as not to waste it. I was stuffed
after every meal, until I caught on.
By then, I was already off-kilter foodwise, myself.
We took to having fruit juice "pospicles" after lunch everyday,
because they were cold, because they were calories and because they were
slightly more effective than thumb screws to get him to eat 5 bites of
I had them too, sometimes had some chocolate as well. Slowly it
careened into a sugar binge where we'd have corn flakes together at 4pm
and by week's end, gluten-free was a futile aspiration. We had the wheat
chocolate chip cookies that were on the buffet. I was drinking bad
coffee with abandon.
Gluten makes Griffin cranky and rashy, but hell, he could hardly get
crankier and he was covered in bug bites, scrapes and mud. As for me, I
was so far off kilter, I was just riding the roller coaster now.
I had not relinquished that much control over my food since I went on
food-service as a freshman in college. That was the year I gained "the
Freshman 15" so fast that I got bright red stretchmarks on my inner
(I'm turning 40 this year, by the way, and reminiscing like this
makes me anti-nostalgic for my youth. You could not pay me enough money
to turn back the clock and go back to being 20 years old. Just so you
know. All those people who'd like to pay me to be 20 are just out of
So just to help myself remember "the good old days," Griff and I
stopped for a slice of pizza and a greek salad for lunch on the way
home. The pizza wasn't gluten free, but the chocolate chip cookies we
had in the car afterwards were, for whatever that was worth, which
He had 2 or 3 cookies. I sat there next to the bag in the car and ate
probably 20 cookies right in a row. I was just watching myself do it.
Saying "this is the last one," then --op!-- there's another one in my
mouth! How did that happen?!
Partly I was morbidly curious as to how many cookies my unbalanced
body wanted-- so I went with it--and partly I wanted to literally make
myself feel sick in order to have motivation to clean up my act.
Does that sound nuts?
This leads to my theory of the Fast Way or Slow Way of getting Back
The Slow Path Home
In the slow version, I work with the sugar and caffeine cravings I
have cultivated in my body and rather than denying them (which makes me
crazy and eventually leads to some sort of backlash,) I allow myself 5
more days of having sugar and caffeine in diminishing amounts.
In this scenario, I'm pretty clear about the difference between my
emotional and my physiological cravings. I'm working with my physical
cravings here. (If I have emotional cravings come up during this time, I
try some other and usually more effective emotionally nourishing
strategy [calling my dad, watching a movie with a cup of hot sweet tea,
I will try to get the TOP QUALITY chocolate or coffee or whatever I'm
craving for this 5-day transition time. I mean go for the good stuff.
The good stuff has fewer ingredients and less chance of creating
confusion in your body with thickeners, preservatives and chemicals.
(note: Godiva used to be the good stuff, but read the label, it's
not anymore!) The top quality stuff also helps you savor it more
because it's so good AND expensive. (That's good! you want to feel the
You enjoy your treats everyday, being very sensitive to eat it only
until the point you are satisfied and not beyond it. You are
allowing the pendulum to stop swinging slowly and if you eat past that
magic point, you give your pendulum another push.
It helps very much if you have a clear and regular feeling of what it
means to be balanced in your body. Balance feels calm, bright,
vital and if largely free of cravings. If that's not a familiar feeling
to you, then it can be hard to aim for it.
The Fast Path Home
This is what I took yesterday. Ahem. I got SO far out of balance and
then I got some kind of food poisoning. I will spare you the yucky
details, but suffice it to say that at 4am, that pizza and those
chocolate cookies opted for an alternate route.
I am prone to digestive upset, it's true. But it's also probably true
that I can handle more "adventure" when my body is balanced and strong.
Something got past my defenses yesterday and probably because my
defenses were in sad shape.
So the Fast Path involved drinking only juice for a whole day or two.
Apple/Blueberry with ice, rice milk, bee pollen, B12 and Blue/green
algae for breakfast, Banana/blueberry, ice, almond butter for lunch and
carrot, daikon, cucumber, lime and maple syrup for dinner.
I woke up this morning feel MUCH better, and voilà, my sugar and
caffeine cravings are gonzo! That's a nice bonus to feeling crappy for a
But the Fast Path is, I think, what I was aiming for when I was
eating enough cookies to bring on a feeling of being sick. I
believe deeply in the wisdom of learning from your pain, even to the
point of calling it into your life.
**Caveat**--This does NOT work for people with true food
addictions! But for many of us, pain is the quickest possible way to
reconnect with our formidable motivation to feel better.
The exasperated, frustrated feeling of "I'm SO DONE with this!!
ARGH!!" is the gold at the bottom of the downcycle. (Note that this does
not include shame or self-loathing or disgust, which are feelings that
keep you stuck.)
So, the week of camping, junkfood and meditation was a rousing
success, especially if Griffin and I can pull out of the tailspin within
a week or 10 days.
I have a headstart on him in the race back to being balanced. But
with a little food magic, the kid will be back to his mild and constant
sugar cravings in no time!
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