Leo over at Zen Habits is in the midst of a “Year Without” — where he gives something up for a month to see how it feels when that object of desire is gone (Internet, cellphone, sugar, etc). He’s finding that the fear of losing it is bigger than the actual experience — and I’m sure knowing that you can return after a month also helps!
I like the idea, but I’m not much for goals. Give me a goal and I lose interest after a few tries. However, there are things that I have given up in the last few years that I thought would make life pretty miserable if I did.
I’m a foodie at heart. Give me all kinds of cuisines in all kinds of places. It’s one of the biggest things I miss about my life in NYC. However, I have made dietary choices that have completely changed the way I eat.
When I moved to VT nearly 10 years ago, I started to get terrible allergies for the first time in my life. Figures – I move to a state that has some of the cleanest air in America, and I get allergies. I used to come home to my NYC apartment after a day of exploring and literally blow black stuff out of my nose. Allergies? Never.
Life in Vermont has encouraged me to look at the issues that were causing my allergies — and make changes based on that knowledge. I discovered that my body is in constant communication with me and will point the way.
First, it was wheat. That was 2006 and it took me nearly 2 years to completely go gluten-free. I’m so not into fads but am grateful that the options now don’t taste like dusty cardboard.
Except I was still getting terrible allergies at the change of seasons. I’d give up dairy for a time, take herbs, vitamins, Kombucha, visit the Salt Cave and my acupuncturist. Then when I felt better, I’d have an ice cream to celebrate. C’mon. It’s Vermont! The land of organic ice cream!
However, last year my body was like, “Raven, it’s time”. I’ve been drinking non-dairy since college but still ate and LOVE cheese and ice cream. How I got around lactose-intolerance with my Latin blood all of these years amazes me.
Giving up dairy was tough, but nothing like the days sans wheat. That prepared me and gives my body time to align herself and heal from inflammation. And I have to say, I’ve never looked or felt better.
So, the latest is giving up all caffeine. (If you’re in your 40s and 50s, this is worth a read.) I used to drink a pot of French press every morning — the darkest roast — and then feel strung out by 11, nervous and tense. But man, I LOVE coffee!!! One of my greatest pleasures in life. I wasn’t going to give that up. I mean, after everything else?
Then my heart palpitations started up last month after being quiet for many years. I’d been getting earlier pulls to reduce my coffee so I tried to go decaf but it was meh. Then my body tried another route — my French press coffee just didn’t taste that good. I still wasn’t willing to give it up. I don’t drink soda or sugary drinks. I’ve cut down on sweets. Now coffee? No way!
Once my heart literally started to trip over herself with stress, that’s when I knew it was time. I would never hold onto something that hurt me, no matter how much I enjoyed it. I love my body and want her to be in optimal health for the rest of my life. I can’t savor the “gift of embodiment” if I ignore or resent her. I found a great organic decaf French Roast from Wicked Joe’s that I drink once a week if I’m feeling good, and will cut all caffeine if I’m not.
I believe that my physical symptoms are only signs of underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. However, releasing food or drink that exacerbates them is a perfect way for me to start.
My resistance comes from thinking that I know how it will feel after giving up something that feels un-give-upable. And resistance is just another name for suffering. Stress isn’t the only option. I often say that we can either be happy in life or miserable. Usually the choice is right in front of us. Whether we are ready or feel able to choose, is another matter.
A clean diet is essential for me to do this work. It also makes me happier in life. I thought wheat, dairy and caffeine would hurt to lose — but the pain was temporary, and I’d never go back to feeling creaky and clogged. It’s surprising how little I miss wheat or dairy (and will indulge very infrequently). Was it easy to start? No. But when I could look at my body as a friend who only wants the best for me, that’s when everything changed. She wasn’t against me, so why would I be against her?