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In Pursuit of Happiness and a Flat Stomach (TheEscapeArtist's Journal)

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  • #31
    Falling off the wagon, rolling in the dust awhile, and climbing back on

    So Part II as promised. After I got back from my meditation retreat (with both limbs intact but not feeling as relaxed and refreshed as one might think), I had four days to recover and catch up on all my work before leaving for a long weekend with a friend. This was to be immediately followed by a weeklong workshop. In a previous post on the topic of my first business trip after going primal, I said I was worried the trip would propel me into a downward spiral of out-of-control drinking and eating from which I would not soon recover, well...

    Beginning to lose my footing
    On the surface it didn't start out too badly. For our long weekend, I'd found an apartment for my friend and I so that we could cook instead of eating every meal out. And this worked pretty well, despite the fact that my friend is a vegetarian. I was cooking my primal meals and walking a lot and getting plenty of sleep and even doing Tabata burpees and meditating for 20 minutes a day. Actually sounds like I was doing great, doesn't it? In reality: my knees were already beginning to tremble from the effort of staying on the wagon.

    Three things made it hard:
    1) I was feeling stressed and guilty because in the four days before the trip, instead of catching up on my work (which was a pretty impossible task it must be said) and preparing for the workshop, I'd been indulging in Japanese bed therapy. Stress + guilt = strong desire for instant escape and nothing provides an instant escape quite like a smooth, velvety amarone or a dry, aromatic pinot grigio or [insert favorite wine here].

    2) Also this friend and I have a history of drinking together. Most of my friends are not true drinkers; I mean they drink, but they are the sort of people who will leave half a glass of wine on the table, which kills me. I have to fight the urge to drink it for them. This friend is not like that - she really knows how to tie one on. But pre-trip I'd 'fessed up to her about my 1 - 2 bottle a day habit and asked for her help and, being a good friend, she agreed to no drinking, at least in front of me. But I missed it, the drinking. We hadn't seen each other for a while and she was also somewhat stressed and so we were both a little grouchy and I missed the easy camaraderie that comes with alcohol.

    3) We were in Italy - the land of pasta and pizza and gelato. 'Nuff said.

    But despite all this, I was still standing when I arrived at the conference center. I did not, as I did on the meditation retreat, pack my own food supply, partially because all those cans of fish are seriously heavy and would have put me over the weight limit on my flight, and partially because I'd thought it would be OK - I'd put that I was gluten intolerant on my registration form and had written in the comments "as long as you have protein and vegetables, I'll be fine." I should have known better and stocked up in-country. Hindsight 20-20 and all that.

    Falling off
    As it was, I had little to no control over my food supply. Aside from breakfast, all of the meals were plated. You could still choose not to eat what was set in front of you of course, but that requires cast-iron control, which I do not have. Lunch was usually vegetarian - a risotto or potato pie or some other concoction of white carbs and veggies. This left me in a serious slump in the afternoon, invariably just when I was supposed to be presenting or leading a breakout group or contributing insightful commentary.

    Dinner was OK...except for desert. It wasn't that I ate any - the waiters would bring out these gorgeous, mouthwatering confections, including, my favorite, tiramisu, and for gluten-free me: an apple or if I was lucky a nectarine. I tried telling myself, "this is so much healthier than what they're eating." You can imagine how well that worked. I would go back to my room feeling sorry for myself and devour the package of complimentary cookies that the housekeeping staff kept leaving, which weren't even that good and still left me feeling horribly deprived not to mention bloated.

    But my real downfall: booze. They served wine with lunch and dinner, and before dinner there was prosecco on the terrace and after dinner there was brandy and Italian liquors with intriguing labels. I held out until prosecco on the terrace that first day when one of my fellow workshop attendees asked if he could get me a glass. I said (teetering on the edge of the wagon, arms pinwheeling), "Oh, no, that's OK." And he said, "Are you sure?" And of course I was not sure. I felt ill-prepared for the workshop and I was finding it difficult to put on my charming, "Hi, nice to meet you" face and so I was not sure at all. He got me a glass. And I was telling myself that I was only going to have that one glass...ok, maybe two, but that was it.

    And amazingly, I stuck to it - gritted my teeth and made it through seven opportunities to imbibe without touching a drop. But by number eight, I was exhausted. When they popped the cork on that bottle of prosecco on the third day, I was there, glass in hand. But I was still exercising some measure of restraint: not drinking at lunch and restricting myself to a couple of glasses on the terrace and at dinner. In other words, I was being dragged in the dust behind the wagon while I struggled to hold on by my fingernails.

    Rolling in the dust
    By the time I got back home, I was a white knuckled mess. That's when I lost my grip completely. I went out and bought a bottle of my favorite cava, a pizza, and a package of gingersnaps, and got into bed with my laptop - all the shows that I'd missed while I was away queued up in iTunes. I told myself "OK, you can have the weekend; get it out of your system; come Monday, you're getting your act together." Come Monday I did not get my act together; come Monday I did not get out of bed.

    What followed:
    Japanese bed therapy + binging on carbs, alcohol and bad TV-->
    feeling horribly guilty and lame for my lack of self-control-->
    resolving to climb back on the wagon-->
    pouring any booze left in the house down the sink + buying lots of healthy food-->
    feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to do (or think I have to do) to climb back on the wagon-->
    a retreat to Japanese bed therapy + binging on carbs, alcohol and bad TV while healthy food rotted in the crisper.

    I felt terrible most of the time - except when I was drinking. I was ostensibly working from home, but wasn't producing anything. Co-workers were beginning to send concerned e-mails. It got to the point where I was ashamed to even leave the house because I didn't have the energy to wash my hair. I decided enough was enough. I reminded myself of how good I felt when I was on the wagon. How within just a couple of days of going primal, my energy levels and my mood improved.

    Climbing back on
    And so I did it. I managed to get out of bed and stay upright for most of the day. I washed my hair and did some laundry and went to the market. I started cooking for myself again. I stopped drinking. I started returning my friends' calls and answering e-mail and reading Mark's Daily Apple again. I stopped lying (by omission) to my friends and my therapist. I asked for help. I made a list of work things I needed to do and started ticking them off.

    And so the past week or so I've been doing pretty well, although I still feel kind of shaky. For example, I told myself I would work this weekend to try to minimize some off the fall-out from my three weeks of Japanese bed therapy. Probably not a good idea (as I noted before, stress + guilt = strong desire for instant escape). The cravings have come back and last night I ate half a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate and drank a glass of wine from the small bottle I'd intended for my venison marinade. Not terrible slips, but if your footing isn't that steady, before you know it, you're rolling ass over teakettle in the dust.

    So why did this business trip go so differently than the first one?
    1) I went in to it feeling stressed and guilty, i.e., already teetering on the edge.
    2) I had no control over my food supply, which made me feel out of control generally.
    3) It was longer - a day or so away from my routine is doable, a week apparently is not, at least not at this stage.
    4) I didn't have a good support network - on the first trip I was with colleagues whom I know pretty well and like a lot, on this trip I was with a facilitator whom I know and don't like and a bunch of people I didn't know.

    This is a monster of a post and it's been hard writing it all down, but I'm glad I did. I want to be able to go back and read this to remind myself of how bad it feels to fall off the wagon and how hard it is to climb back on and of the things that help and the things that hurt.

    One of the things that helps is this forum, so I've decided that I'm going to try to post every day, at least to report on what I'm eating and drinking.

    So for today:
    Brunch - goat's milk latte + 3 egg omelette with asparagus and goat cheese (cooked with ghee)
    Snack - goat's milk yoghurt (really hitting the dairy today) with dark chocolate, blue berries and walnuts
    Appetizer - 3 pepperoncini stuffed with tuna (discovered these delicious little mouthfuls on my trip and found some here at an extortionately high markup)
    Dinner (actual) - venison steak marinated in red wine and herbs (btw cooking venison - more challenging than one might think - kept stabbing it with a meat thermometer and it never did register above 45C/113F but turned out medium-well instead of the medium-rare I was aiming for), broccoli sautéed in ghee and garlic, green salad with tomatoes and vinaigrette.
    Last edited by TheEscapeArtist; 10-07-2012, 01:19 PM. Reason: updating food diary
    My primal journal:


    • #32
      I'm glad I just found your journal today, EscapeArtist, so I wouldn't have to be missing you for five weeks. Great writing. And I'm glad you're getting back on track.

      I noticed one omission from your list of why the business trip didn't go well: eating well. Number 2 was close, but not quite the same thing. Not having the right food for your body makes it hard to maintain your mental balance, so that all those other things become harder.

      Which makes it more impressive that you hauled yourself back by force of will. Good for you for stopping the spiral.

      Looking forward to reading more from you.


      • #33
        Originally posted by Sabine View Post
        I noticed one omission from your list of why the business trip didn't go well: eating well. Number 2 was close, but not quite the same thing. Not having the right food for your body makes it hard to maintain your mental balance, so that all those other things become harder.
        Thanks Sabine. You're right. I think I still have a tendency to confuse cause and effect when it comes to food, e.g, I feel like crap and therefore eat badly vs. I eat like crap and therefore feel bad.
        My primal journal:


        • #34
          An ah-ha/no-duh moment

          This morning as I was brushing my teeth, I found myself thinking about yesterday's post and in particular why sitting and watching other people eat desert every night at that workshop while all I got was an apple bothered me so much. It seems kind of ridiculous how bad that made me feel. I mean I was taking charge of my own health by rejecting gluten and sugar, right? Then I connected the dots...I don't know whether to call it an ah-ha moment or a no-duh moment, it seems so obvious why I had such a disproportionate response given the massive button that situation pushed.

          So shortly after I hit puberty my mom decided that I had inherited "her body". She's struggled most of her life with her weight and spent her teen years on the chubby side. In an effort to spare me this fate, she developed an ingenious strategy: she would continue to buy chips and soda and candy and bake cookies and cakes, but she wouldn't let me have any, and, what's more, she would hide these things from me lest I be tempted to indulge when she wasn't there to guard the larder.

          Actually, worse than watching my father and younger brother and sister eat things I couldn't have, was knowing that they knew where these things were hidden. At various points, I swallowed my pride (since there wasn't anything else to eat) and attempted to threaten/cajole/bribe my younger siblings into revealing the location of the secret stash. But to no avail, they were sufficiently afraid of my mother's wrath to keep their mouths shut (at least when they weren't stuffing them with chips). In retrospect, I can't say I blame them - Mom could get some serious wrath going - but at the time I felt like everyone was against me...I also felt deeply ashamed...and somewhat crazed.

          So for about a year or so we played this game, my mother and I: I would tear apart the house looking for the hidden junkfood stash and upon finding it, would gorge myself; then she would move it, and the whole process would start over. Some of her favorite hiding places: the liquor cabinet, the laundry basket, my father's sock drawer, in the box with the Christmas ornaments, in a tarp-covered wheelbarrow in the garage, and locked in the trunk of the car (which meant I became an expert at stealing the car keys long before I learned how to drive). By the end of the year, I'd gained weight (I'd started out well within the normal range) and demonstrated to my mother and to myself that I had no self-control when it came to food. So fast-forward nearly 30 years, there I was, watching those other people get served desert and feeling like that shamed, crazed, deprived preteen again. No wonder I made a bee-line for binge town as soon as I got out there.

          Mom, I know you meant well, but worst idea of ever.

          Today's feed:
          Breakfast: coffee with a splash of whole milk + 3 boiled eggs - consumed on the train despite the fact that I don't like eating boiled eggs in public...makes me feel a little bit like Cool Hand Luke
          Lunch - Big Ass Salad with lettuce, watercress, roasted duck leg, steamed asparagus, red and yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, semi-dried tomatoes, walnuts and homemade vinaigrette. In my lunch meeting everyone was looking at their sad sandwiches and then looking at my lush, colourful salad and feeling a deep and abiding envy
          Snack - dried sausage (pork, salt, piment)
          Dinner - leg of lamb (felt very primal sucking the marrow out), cauliflower salad (red wine vinegar, fresh chili pepper, salt pepper), a very small serving of goat's milk yoghurt with dark chocolate crumbles (achieved by hitting chocolate bar with a hammar - very satisfying), sparkling water with fresh lime juice, spice tea (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger)
          Last edited by TheEscapeArtist; 10-08-2012, 03:20 PM.
          My primal journal:


          • #35
            Today's feed
            Pre-workout breakfast: Goat's milk latte w/ sprinkle of cinnamon
            Brunch: 3 egg frittatlette made a frittata with onions and yellow and red bell pepper then stuffed it omelette-like with avocado, tomatoes and tomatillo salsa. My avocado by the way was the perfect degree of ripeness. I'm 2 for 2 now! So how did this avocado ignoramus turn into an avocado whisperer practically overnight? A colleague told me to gently press the tip of the avocado (the stem end) - if it's ripe, it will be only slightly less squishy than your nose. It works! I think my mistake previously was squeezing "the body" of the avocado to test for ripeness.
            Snack: dried sausage & olives
            Dinner: Hungarian goulash (Mark's recipe) w/ sauerkraut and spice tea to round everything off. I recommend the goulash - turned out well despite the fact that I sautéed the peppers (aka paprika in this country) instead of the paprika with the onion - don't know where my mind was - and I think I browned the meat for too long. Apparently it's a pretty forgiving recipe and I suspect would adapt well to the slow cooker (oh how I love my slow cooker). And it went great with the sauerkraut, which despite being store bought contained only cabbage, salt and spices...I don't know if that means it contained the "traditional (and naturally occurring) lactobacterial-salt slurry" that Mark spoke of in his post on the benefits of fermented foods but I do know it tasted great with the goulash

            45 minutes of single-leg squats, step up-backwards lunge combo with 12 and then 16kg kettle bells, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, Romanian deadlift-clean-squat-press combo with 20kg bar, horizontal chop with chest press, kettle bell swings middle-side-middle-side (for obliques, which I'm feeling now) plus a few other exercises I can't remember, all carried out under the beady eye of Mr. Clean (not his real name), my personal trainer/cheerful torturer. Aside from the 16€ I shelled out for the Primal Blueprint, he is the best investment I've made in my health.
            I also walked for around 90 minutes - running errands, walking the dog, etc.
            Last edited by TheEscapeArtist; 10-09-2012, 01:12 PM.
            My primal journal:


            • #36
              Not much time for posting these days, but true to my promise to myself still doing the minimum reporting...OK a bit more than the minimum.

              Today's feed
              Breakfast: 3 boiled eggs + single serving package of tamari almonds (30g) consumed on train + a cup of coffee
              Lunch: BAS with mixed lettuce; watercress; roast beef; red, yellow & green bell pepper; broccoli; tomatoes; bacon; walnuts and homemade vinaigrette (olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, herbs).
              Snack: dried sausages, also more coffee (meetings all day)
              Dinner (planned): packet of tuna + cauliflower salad to be consumed on train between work and the class I teach...I couldn't do it: A) the cauliflower salad is too mushy (I overcooked the cauliflower - Marcella you let me down) so I wasn't enthusiastic about it to begin with and B) it smells too bad to eat sitting wedged between strangers. By the time my class was over, I was starving. Came home and ate what was left of lamb (only a small piece unfortunately), more dried sausage, half an avocado and a pack of tamari almonds (that's all I got in the way of convenience food). I may have to break out the eggs and bacon before the night is over - looking at a long one.

              Sprinting for trains/trams. Pacing up and down waiting for trains/trams. All performed while carrying at least 10kg's worth of laptop, papers and food. Would have thrown in some squats, maybe some overhead briefcase presses - in an effort to stay warm as much as to get in some exercise - but felt too self-conscious.

              Triumphs (cause you gotta celebrate the little things right)
              • Instead of my usual latte went for black coffee today with a dash of cinnamon. Have decided that if I can't get to my neighborhood cafe where they stock goat's milk, that I will go without milk. Who knows maybe this is the first step in breaking my latte addiction.
              • I was starving after my class but I resisted cookies - and not just any cookies but cookies with a milk chocolate tablet attached to a shortbread base. I love those cookies, but I resisted, pretty much fled the premises to escape from the cookies. What I told myself: not as in days of old, 'they will make you gain weight', but 'they will not make you feel better; and they may even make you feel worse.' This seems to be a much more effective message, at least judging by the speed at which I hot-footed it out of there.
              Last edited by TheEscapeArtist; 10-10-2012, 02:10 PM.
              My primal journal:


              • #37
                Hello there, just found your journal and really enjoyed it. I hope you keep at it because it is interesting and fun to read. Also I hope you find it motivating to post here and build your own community. Lots of nice people here in the journals, a real variety of lifestyles and experiences.
                My Primal Journal:

                “"Freedom from fear" could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights. - Dag Hammarskjold


                • #38
                  Originally posted by Siobhan View Post
                  Hello there, just found your journal and really enjoyed it. I hope you keep at it because it is interesting and fun to read. Also I hope you find it motivating to post here and build your own community. Lots of nice people here in the journals, a real variety of lifestyles and experiences.
                  Thanks for encouragement Siobhan. I do find it motivating and am looking forward to the weekend when I can spend more time exploring others' journals - so much to read and so little time.
                  My primal journal:


                  • #39
                    Burning the midnight oil without frying myself

                    Last night I stayed up working till 3 to meet a deadline. Unfortunately, this is not so unusual for me - it's how I manage not to lose my job despite all the Japanese bed therapy. Pre-primal I would have fuelled myself on liters of diet coke and whatever I could find in the fridge. Sometimes I would use late nights as an excuse for a binge - I felt like forcing myself to work late took so much willpower that there wasn't any left for activities like guarding the cookie jar (not that I have a cookie jar - cookies don't hang around my house long enough to need storage).

                    But last night was a bit different - instead of diet coke I chose green tea (green chai in fact) and OK, I did continue to nibble into the wee hours, but on an organic, free-range, nitrate-free pork sausage instead of cookies (cookies were my favorite working binge food - I'm sure if you turned my old laptop upside down and shook it, a bunch of crumbs would fall out). In retrospect, I probably should have gone ahead and eaten a proper dinner when I got home from my class even though it was late, instead of taking a more tapas-like approach, but all in all a vast improvement. Out of curiosity, I plugged everything I ate yesterday into a calorie and nutrition counter - 40 grams of carbs and around 2000 calories, which considering it was a 21-hour day seems entirely reasonable.

                    I think I worked more productively, although brain was obviously beginning to shut down because instead of sending off the finished product to my colleague, I accidentally mailed him a much earlier draft, basically random natterings at that stage, so this morning he was thinking I'd finally gone completely off my nut. I was kicking myself, but gotta let it go. I was able to send the right version and now everyone is happy.

                    And I definitely felt better today than I would have expected. The usual post-all-nighter symptoms, such as bloat, irritation with...everything, feeling like my head is ready to fall off at the first puff of wind, did not materialise. Today I was not as sharp as usual, but I was sharp enough to make it through the day without fatally injuring or embarrassing myself. And I tried to be extra kind to myself - made sure I took the time for vitamins, and dog cuddling, and healthy food preparation. Speaking of which...

                    Todays feed
                    Breakfast: goat's milk latte

                    Lunch: BAS w/ mixed greens, watercress, a can of salmon, steamed asparagus, red and yellow peppers, sun dried tomatoes, walnuts and homemade vinaigrette + black coffee with cinnamon (I brought my own)

                    Snack: dried pork sausage (will I ever get sick of it?)

                    Dinner: left over goulash and sauerkraut (even better than the first time around) + spice tea

                    To compliment sprinting for trains, added stair climbing (probably about 20 flights over the course of the day - my organisation is spread out over 4th, 5th and 6th floor).

                    Today's triumph
                    I wore a new dress today. I bought it last week - a size smaller than I have been wearing and it was tight, but the next size up was way too big. I debated, but in the end decided to be optimistic. Today it fit! OK, still a tiny bit tight across the bust, but not noticeably. Got several compliments
                    My primal journal:


                    • #40
                      I'm with you on the sausage. Since I found the organic, nitrate/nitriate free, humanely raised, yadda yadda sausage, it has become a staple. I could eat it every day. Maybe I should. And congratulations on the dress!
                      My Primal Journal:

                      “"Freedom from fear" could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights. - Dag Hammarskjold


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Siobhan View Post
                        I'm with you on the sausage. Since I found the organic, nitrate/nitriate free, humanely raised, yadda yadda sausage, it has become a staple. I could eat it every day. Maybe I should. And congratulations on the dress!
                        There's just something about pork, isn't there? Anyway, thanks Siobhan.
                        My primal journal:


                        • #42
                          Today's feed
                          4AM Snack - package tamari almonds (I think dropping blood sugar woke me, guess it's out of wack still from sleep deprivation)
                          Pre-workout breakfast - goats' milk latte
                          Post-workout breakfast - 3 boiled eggs + pork sausage
                          Lunch - BAS w/ mixed lettuce; red, yellow and green bells, tuna, tomatoes, bacon, homemade vinaigrette
                          Snack: three very thin squares of 99% pure dark chocolate (very, very bitter) but was craving some and it was all I had (I like it because it's too bitter to binge on)
                          Dinner: Saoto - basically chicken soup w/ Indonesian spices included actual chicken, a boiled egg and chili (made do without the rice or crunchy things it came with)
                          Snack: 3 more squares of dark chocolate + spice tea

                          Hmm...much more snacking than usual today - either because I was tired and blood sugar was out of whack and/or because I was feeling guilty about indulging in some Japanese bed therapy today. Maybe I was just exhausted - continuing fallout from my half-nighter and because Mr. Clean's workout this morning cleaned me out so to speak (see below).

                          45 minutes of squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, snatches, presses and exercises I don't know the name for; all made more challenging with the addition of bars, bands, and weighted bags. Oh and it wasn't reps today it was do as many as you can do in 2.5 minutes and then 1 minute and then 30 seconds, all with only a minute to recover in between. I accused Mr. Clean of trying to make me throw up. He said we were trying to create a metabolic catastrophe. I said same difference.
                          My primal journal:


                          • #43
                            Okay, I've been sleeping a lot lately, don't seem to want to get out of bed in the morning, and I find myself thinking of it as Japanese Bed Therapy!
                            My Primal Journal:

                            “"Freedom from fear" could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights. - Dag Hammarskjold


                            • #44
                              Siobhan led me to your journal and I LOVE it. I too have been known to use Japanese bed therapy and drink a bottle of wine. I also travel for work and am always looking for tips. I'm going to try and incorporate your hotel room routine the next time I travel! Will be following to see how you are doing.
                              Female 55
                              Starting wt: 198, Goal: 135, Current with PB: 165
                              Started at a size 16 down to loose 10

                              With PB my asthma has improved, low back pain is gone, & I've got more energy

                              My Primal Journal:


                              • #45
                                Hi Pedidoc. Thanks. Looks like you've made great progress, despite all the travel. How do you do it? Will be stopping by your journal to see if I can discover the secrets to your success
                                My primal journal: