COMING CLEAN: Not-So-Fresh Start

A sweet food memory doesn’t sit so well in the present for senior editor Courtney Lewis Opdahl.

Several titles came to mind as I thought about composing this post: “Oops!” “(Mis)treats” or “Pure Humiliation by Way of Cookie Dough” came to mind. And I thought about it these past few days post-incident as I reviewed pages for our June issue, all about discovery.

On my road to better health, I’ve discovered a lot about myself: I can’t tolerate gluten (it makes be bloated, tired, gassy and sends my stomach into somersaults) and dairy (similar effect as what I get with gluten — my poor GI tract! — and I’ve noticed my skin will break out within a day or two of eating dairy [read more on the link to acne and dairy here]). I don’t dig long-distance running, although a good long walk is lovely, especially with the right company. I love lifting weights. And I won’t be deprived if I skip sugar. Really. It’s not the end of the world.

Sometimes, still, I don’t think before I eat. I’ve been practicing some aspects of mindful eating for a while, and really got on board after my visit to Kripalu, but I still face temptations. I fondly remember the yummy homemade meals Grandma made for Sunday dinners, or the Chinese takeout we’d get as a special treat on Fridays. Some of those choices I’ve been able to alter to healthier options, but some I’ve had to let go of altogether.

But not cookies. Which brings me back to my headline quandary for this post. I wanted April to be, as this issue’s cover states, a Fresh Start. I love a new month, new week, new day for all the possibilities it brings. And now it’s really starting to feel like spring here in Minnesota, so I’ve revved up for another detox (or recalibration, as cover subject and nutritionist Darya Pino Rose, PhD, calls it), which I’ve been fond of doing each spring and fall.

Even though I eat fairly cleanly and simply now, I still have a soft spot for certain indulgences. Making cookies reminds me of my youth, of a time when my younger brother and I would hover over a big silver bowl as Mom turned a wooden spoon filled with flour and eggs and sugar. We’d pour in the chocolate chips, then the butterscotch chips, and before we’d set each mound on the baking tray, we’d “test” out the batch to see if it was acceptable. (It always was, but better take a little bit more to double-check.)

I don’t recall ever getting sick, although I wasn’t as tuned in to my GI tract as an 8-year-old.

So when we passed the prepackaged cookie dough at the store on Saturday, I thought it’d be a great idea to make cookies for Kyle’s Grandma Vi. She’s in her 90s, and loves sweets, so it seemed like an Easter gift she’d enjoy. And I’d only have one cookie, or maybe just a piece of the dough — just like I used to do as a kid, when all felt relatively normal.

I sampled the dough on Saturday night, then fell asleep without issue.

But at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, I woke up from some strange dreams and rushed to the bathroom to vomit. I won’t say much more about the violent reaction I endured, but it lasted all day and into Monday. It was a sad, gross 36 hours. I missed all of our Easter celebrations, and even had to miss my friend’s birthday party.

While my body took a physical beating, I raged against my own willpower. Why did I eat the cookie dough? Why?! You fool — an April Fool! Shame, shame!
(Note the message on the package below, which I circled. This clearly needed to be in larger font for me.)

Cookie Dough

Really, I didn’t even want to tell you all. I thought long and hard about it as I recovered. I was embarrassed: Here I am, now down 58 pounds (yes!), armed with all the tools and resources of Experience Life, trained in a new mindset of love for the body I have now and going forward — a love that fuels my choices for nourishing, wholesome food.

But I’m still human. It’s in our nature to want to eat the high-calorie foods that will help us survive, lest a predator chase us from camp and we’d roam the wildness for days without food. (Our instincts are the same, even though food, and “food-like items” or food imposters, are abundant in modern times.) I have a good 30 years of bad habits and confusing messages about health under my belt. There’s still a part of me that hopes for the magic weight-loss pill to appear. I’m a sucker for ease. And I’m sweet on the past, when making and eating cookies didn’t create days of pain and regret.

I’m armed with knowledge now, yes, but sometimes it can be scary. (They spray my food with what?! Genetically modified salmon?! That’s how they make chicken nuggets?! Eeew!) The more I’ve discovered, the more I find myself shopping only in the produce section or finding good farmers at the market to get my meat and eggs. (I wonder if I would’ve become so sick from homemade cookie dough, made with eggs and dairy from farmers I trust, instead of the Big Brand, prepacked preserved mix?)

In some ways I’ve become a better shopper, but in other people’s minds, I may just be picky. But I’m OK with that. We’re not talking about purchasing a clock radio, people: This is the food that fuels my body, which I need to run optimally so I can work and play as I’d like. I’m cool with being picky if it helps me avoid the dramatic scene I faced recently. It’s a terrible event that will haunt me next time I see prepackaged cookie dough — and one that will serve as a reminder to eat well and live well for life.

If you’ve fallen off-track with a healthy-eating plan, don’t despair! And don’t wait to reclaim your health. Take a walk, drink lots of water and eat lots o’ greens. Find more great tips in this post, “What to Do After Eating Badly,” from the folks at Mind Body Green.

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