By January, everyone is ready for a reset button. Carrying around a few extra pounds, staring back at ruddy skin, and feeling lethargic get old after a while. Most people are anxious to return to pre-holiday form, as am I of course, but because weight management is a slippery slope for me, I have to be particularly mindful of the pressure I put on myself come the New Year. After years of torturing myself in January as punishment for a blissfully indulgent December, I finally learned that remedying one form of unhealthy with another, (extreme measures,) results in frustration at best and binging at worst.
In the past few years, I’ve tried to ease myself back into a nourishing, clean diet by slowly decreasing artificial sugar intake and rich foods and simultaneously increasing simply prepared whole meals and snacks. We return to cooking at home more; inventive salads, fresh grilled fish and chicken and pureed vegetable soups fill the menu. When cravings strike, I do my best to remember the end game: clean diet = clean body=clear mind=strong and happy Liz. If I slip up, I try like hell to avoid punishing myself with extra workouts or skimping on meals. I even write post-it notes on the inside of my bathroom mirror with messages like “be kind to yourself” or “health is fragile. Be gentile.” The theme is positive reinforcement. The goal is that within a couple of weeks, my brain recognizes and feels the remarkable difference between a nourishing, clean diet and an overindulgent one. If I can be patient and focus on health above all, I start to truly feel why I’m mindful of nourishing my body first, and indulging second.
It all sounds quite simple and sensible, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the reality is that after years of trying, I still can’t wrap the sins of the holidays up in a neat and tidy January package. It’s as if while my conscious self is focusing on the healthy path, there’s still that little voice deep inside me saying “don’t let that scale keep going in the wrong direction!” The fear of losing control slowly, quietly builds - it’s a seed that starts small and flourishes despite my refusal to water it. Even if I turn my back on it with intentions and healthy habits, it still grows into a Venus fly trap by the end of January. I walk right into the trap and hit the release valve with a regretful night out or weekend of overindulgence, effectively burying a month of “right” with a mindless dose of “wrong.”
I stood in the shower Sunday morning, the scalding hot water bathing me in déjà vu. After a moment of searching my memory I realized that this was the 3rd or 4th January in a row when I’ve buckled under the same old self-imposed pressures right as the calendar turns to February. I looked down at my toes and watched the water rush around them, feeling heavy and rooted to the porcelain tub like a statue. In that moment, I wondered if the strength and wisdom and self worth I’ve worked so hard to arm myself with will always be as fluid as the water rushing at my feet – and if that ashamed chubby girl inside of me will remain as immovable as the feet beneath it. Will I ever be able to drown her out for good?