Sweet Release

There’s that saying about the freshman fifteen, and perhaps due to the fact that I didn’t live on campus my freshman year, I never experienced it. Even when I did move on campus the start of my junior year, I began working out more at the gym and made healthy food choices at the dining halls, so if anything, I lost weight.

The first-year-teacher fifteen, though? Now that’s a real thing.

Some combination of a lack of energy to exercise, stress-induced hunger pangs, unexplained cravings, a breakdown of better habits, and laughing (while suppressing uncontrollable sobs) in the face of knowing better has gotten me here.

The worst shape of my life.

At least the worst physical shape of my life. Mentally, emotionally, while I may not be the highest I’ve ever been, I’m still at a good, relatively steady and happy place.

But my waistline has been expanding, my energy levels decreasing, and my yearning for the sweet and sugary side of life skyrocketing.

Up until about a year ago, I had cut out most sugary drinks from my diet. Then during Institute, I began binging on chocolate milk to charge up in the morning and recharge in the evenings. When I moved to Milwaukee, strawberry milk and Powerade or Gatorade (whichever was on sale on any particular day) became my go-to after-work refreshments, and soda slowly (then suddenly) began creeping back into my daily consumptibles. Now I went weeks without having any more water to drink than the sip I had to take my morning medications and whatever I foolishly swallowed in the pool.

Not to mention subsisting off of microwavable meals for lunch five times a week, only occasionally making a home-made dinner, and treating myself to pizza far too often because “it was a rough day at work and I deserve it” (damn you, moral licensing!).

All of this is my long-winded way of saying I want things to change.

I’ve tried getting to the gym more consistently to swim, and while I’m getting there somewhat regularly, there are still too many days that pass when I don’t go and don’t even do a bit of yoga or pushups or running that I can do in the ease of my own home. Instead I plop on my couch, turn on the TV, or pick up the nearest handheld.

Most days, weather permitting, I do take a brief walk up and down Mitchell St to collect Poke Stops and take down any gyms I can (and challenge raid battles I come upon, such as the Lapras I ran into today that obliterated my entire party–twice!), so playing Pokemon Go has definitely improved my activity level. But by itself, it’s not enough.

So if gymming it isn’t enough as a first step, then it seems my next angle of approach is going to be adjusting my diet–because if I change how I fuel my body (and by extension, my mind), then I can hopefully find myself more eagerly energized to go to the gym.

(Or at least exercise at home.)

A few months back, I read an article about a three-day sugar reset. The idea is that as we eat more sweetened foods, we become desensitized to sugar–we need to add more strawberry syrup to make our milk taste as good, water becomes more bland (if that’s even possible), and worst of all, we crave sugar more poignantly than before.

And apparently, a three-day sugar fast is enough to reset the palate.

Of course, it’s not only a matter of eliminating those clear crystals of sucrose, but also avoiding incredibly sweet fruits, vegetables like tomatoes, white breads, pasta, and even white rice. All of these simple carbohydrates turn to sugar the moment they hit our tongues–okay, maybe not that instantaneously, but enough to keep the cravings coming.

With the Fourth of July weekend giving me a whopping four days before I’m back in the classroom, now seems an auspicious time to make this change. I can cook every meal at home, avoid eating out, and I can make sure I’m free of all tempts at failure.

I mean, there is that Dunkkin Donuts I pass on my way to the gym, but I promise, I’ll be good. They’re tasty from time to time, but not every day. I speak from experience.

I went to the grocery store this afternoon and purchased about as many green vegetables as I ever have in one go, along with some beef I plan to make into jerky. It’s a healthy-ish snack, at least not overwhelmingly sugary, and store-bought jerky is way too expensive. I’ve got turkey and chicken in the freezer, I picked up some brown rice, and I even bought some poblanos to stuff. I purchased a ton of beans I can turn into chilis or other dishes, since beans are a good carbohydrate/protein combo on a sugar-reset.

Tonight I’m having turkey tacos wrapped in chard (corn tortillas? nope). Tomorrow, and  Sunday, and Monday, I’ll whip something up, make it taste good, keep it healthy.

And in a week, I’ll report back with reflections on this release-of-sweets.

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