Sally M’s Story: I Am The Steward

Circling round and round, our Suppers group was examining the question: What role does planning play in moving me into action on a change I know I need to make but resist? We wondered how we can get more motivated.

For one thing, it’s really hard to give up something you love (let’s say, to pick a totally random example, ice cream) if you don’t know for a fact you’ll get relief from pain or lose the weight as a result. I want a signed guarantee. One of our group wondered, “How much time do I have until I have to start eating healthy,” which led to our imagining a wrist band device that would give us the countdown: “1.2 years until pre-diabetes, 8.5 years until first signs of dementia.” Wouldn’t it be great if that existed? Then we could continue eating as we please, right up to the day before we have to turn it around. I understand there are some flaws in this logic, but that’s how the conversation went.

It’s really hard to give up favorite treats that might be inflammatory foods when they provide marvelous services like reducing pain, being a substitute for human company, or even just providing a hit of our favorite legal substance. But many of those treats are triggers too and lead to over-consumption.

I decided to approach the question from another angle: I am the steward of my brain. I am the keeper and protector of the body that was given to me. I have friends who have entered dementia and in my profession I work with people whose brains have been damaged. I watch the suffering and yet I still comfort myself with my favorite foods, the sweets that provide fleeting comfort but set me up for crashes. Given what we’re seeing even in the mainstream press, these favorite foods are the same foods that escort us into diabetes, obesity, and by some estimations cancer and dementia too.

The woman in our group who has chronic pain has taken a much longer view. Pain is highly motivating. In her case, identifying and then avoiding her inflammatory foods did contribute somewhat to pain reduction, maybe 10 to 20% overall. So in her case, it was pretty motivating and she has managed to greatly reduce her sugar intake, although not without challenge.

We went home with the assignment of journaling how we feel in response to foods. If we don’t get some immediate, major reaction like pain, asthma or a rash, we can look for the subtler ones, like fatigue, sadness or forgetfulness.

I have a body with a brain that can work in ways that amaze me and works well when I give it what it needs. I am watching myself honor it part way. I don’t know if fear of dementia will help me or stress me out so much that I end up doing even more anxiety-driven eating. I do know that having a safe place to talk about the issues and a group of friends who have similar challenges helps motivate me to change.