(Jan B. is frequent guest contributor here at Cranky Fitness. And don't forget to check out her book! It's “Back from Obesity: My 252-pound Weight-Loss Journey”and you can get it in print or as an ebook on Jan's smashwords page).
On September 11, 2001, at exactly 6:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, I entered a small local convenience store to pick up a cup of coffee on my way to an early morning faculty meeting at the high school.
Several men stood clustered together beneath a wall-mounted television set just inside the door. They were staring up at the screen, open-mouthed. The whole store, usually a hub of activity, was eerily quiet. I could tell by the looks on the men’s faces that something horrible was being projected above their heads. My gut clenched, and I knew I didn’t want to know what it was that had their attention so intently riveted. If I didn’t look, maybe it wouldn’t be real...
September 11, 2001. A day in which we saw, with all too much clarity, the high level of American vulnerability. Our country had been attacked. We had been attacked. None of us would ever feel as safe again as we had when we’d gone to bed the night before.
I stood beside the men in silence. With a growing lump in my throat, nausea welling in my stomach and tears blurring my vision, I gathered some form of small comfort standing there among the delivery truck drivers, the store owner and a few early-rising regular customers. It was not a time to be alone.
Soon, however, I realized I had a job to go to, and tore myself away from the repeated views of the unimaginable destruction on the television screen.
I got my cup of coffee. Then I hesitated in the candy aisle. If the world were truly coming to an end, why not indulge one last time? Couldn’t I at least be “comforted” with the sugar to boost my stamina?
Somehow, I walked out of the store with only my coffee. But the day was young...
Our school staff functioned that morning on a weird type of “automatic pilot.” We talked in hushed tones as we wondered, and worried, about what to tell our students. We abandoned our lesson plans, and did our best to answer their questions as honestly and accurately as we could.
But how do you explain the unexplainable? How do you reassure them everything will be all right when you’re really not sure yourself it will ever be all right again?
My 17 and 18-year-old students wanted to go sign up for military duty and blast anyone who lived on Middle Eastern sand to kingdom come. “All Germans were not Nazis,” I reminded them. “And all Muslims are not terrorists.”
By noon, all I wanted to do was comfort myself with food. Lots and lots of food. Fear for the future, both my own future and the future of my students, pushed me hard to resort to my previous attempts at coping with “comfort food.” I wanted desperately to stuff down those feelings of fear and powerlessness. Those “eat until you can’t eat another bite” pain-numbing strategies that had never served me well in the past were nevertheless pressing my panic buttons. Hard.
And I wanted to press some buttons back. During the lunch break I became fixated on the rows upon rows of candy and cookies and chips in the faculty room vending machine. I wanted to repeatedly press the C-7 button until there weren’t any more bright yellow packages of M&M peanuts left leering at me. They called like sirens.
“You know what I want?” asked one staff member aloud to no one in particular. “I want a drink. Make that a lot of drinks. I want to drink myself into a total stupor and wake up tomorrow and find out none of this happened–that it was all just a bad nightmare.” He sighed heavily. “The hangover would be worth it.”
Many of the faculty present nodded in agreement and expressed their preferences for a wide variety of alcohol beverages.
I knew the man quite well who had first spoken. I knew he had not had a drink in many years. I was relatively certain he would not be drinking that night either, and it floored me when he said he wanted to get shit-faced drunk. Yet I’d be the first to admit that old, outdated coping skills die hard.
Why then, I wondered, did I think a quick “sugar fix” would make anything in my life any better than if this man got drunk? Oh, it “sounded good,” on the surface, but deep in my heart I knew that eating several dozen candy bars would not restore the World Trade Center.
I tried rationalizing that if world war was imminent, and we were all going to die anyway, I might as well die with the taste of M&M peanuts in my mouth. What difference would it make if I died a few pounds heavier? All I wanted was chocolate. Oh, how I wanted chocolate! I wanted it like I had rarely wanted anything in my entire life.
But I didn’t have it.
So what stopped me? I honestly don’t know. Divine Intervention, perhaps. I certainly had enough money in my purse to buy out every package of M&M's, both peanut and plain, as well as several other types of predominantly chocolate candy in the machine. But I didn’t do it.
I chalk it up to God’s grace. God knew I had to be at the top of my form to help my students get a handle on what was happening in their world. And God knew I couldn’t do that if I was in some kind of a freaked-out highly dysfunctional sugar coma. My kids, then and always, came first.
So here we are, 14 years later. There have been many life-altering changes and challenges in my life. In the past two years alone, I’ve had eight people very close to me die, including my mother and my fiancé. And not once did I fall victim to the stinking thinking that not honoring my food plan was going to bring any of them back.
Sugar won’t fix it—never did, never will. I honor their memories by staying the course and more often than not, maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Shit happens, but I don’t have to make it worse by overeating.
Are you with me?