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This is a Potato.

It’s a potato.

A potato has changed my life.

Well, ok, that’s an exaggeration. I’ll elaborate:

A little while ago, in another post, I wrote about my struggle with Depression.

(Shhhhh! LaLaLaLaLa….)

And in it, I posted a list of 6 rules that I use to keep my dark side at bay. And I also talked about how difficult it is to, you know, talk to people, to socialize, to function, to just bloody well LIVE my freakin’ life, when I’m mired in one of these depressive episodes .

And looking back, I think that post (when I read it now) has a kind of here-are-the-rules, now-suck-it-up-and-let’s-get-on-with-it feel to it. A resignation on my part.

And ordinarily I would have just left it at that and moved on — which was kind of the point of the post — because I can honestly say that I don’t really love talking about this. It makes me feel…I don’t know. Stupid. Ridiculous. Embarrassed.

But, whatever. I’m going to talk about it anyway.

Again.

And I gotta say: if it’s been said (and it has) that every blade of grass has its angel that stands over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!” then apparently mine lives in San Diego.

Because that’s where my über-amazing friend lives who, after reading that post, immediately emailed me to say she could very much relate to what I had written, and to pass on the title of a book she believed would really help me.

The book is called Potatoes Not Prozac.¹ And yes, I know. It’s kind of a dorky title. It’s also a really misleading title because the book isn’t really about depression per se. It’s about sugar addiction and compulsive eating.

[Huh?]

Yeah. Sugar addiction and compulsive eating — neither of which I would ever have thought applied to me. In fact, a lot of the time I was reading the book, I was thinking, “What? But that’s not me….” After all, I am not a compulsive eater, I don’t have a weight problem, I don’t hide candy bars in my dresser drawer, or stash donuts in the closet under the pillows. I don’t feel guilt about my eating habits.

In fact, I’m actually a pretty healthy eater. So, I didn’t really buy into it at first. But, I kept reading because I trust my friend.

And I discovered that the book does apply to me. Because, even though I am not a compulsive eater per se, and have learned to exercise a modicum of control, by NOT bringing certain things into my house — potato chips, ice cream, cookies — I still have to watch myself (quite closely actually), and those kinds of foods still have an adverse effect on me, if I do eat them, in that they pick me up and drop me down very fast. And they screw with my mood. And they kill my appetite in the short term so that I forget to eat, and then my blood sugar plummets. Yada, yada.

In general, I never really paid a lot of attention to my eating habits and how they might be affecting me.At least, not until I started the food program in this book.

On the surface, the program seems pretty easy to follow — especially if you’re like me and you’re already eating pretty well, having breakfast each morning, and not eating a lot of sweets and stuff to begin with — but as you get into it, and start to discover all the secret ways that you have been fooling yourself, then all of a sudden it becomes this huge eye-opener.

The material is quite complex and there is some important science behind the suggestions, but the key points to the program are these:

  1. Always eat breakfast.
  2. Keep a journal of what you eat, when you eat, and how it makes you feel.
  3. Eat three meals a day at regular intervals with adequate protein at each.
  4. Shift from white foods to brown foods (from simple to complex carbohydrates) and reduce or eliminate sugars.
  5. Eat a potato every night before bed (Yup. Uh-huh. A potato).
  6. Enhance your beta-endorphin levels naturally through beneficial activities like exercise, meditation, music, nature, etc., etc.

Now, basically, I’ve been in like flint with the first and last points, but the middle four? Not so much. I never kept a journal, I rarely ate at regular intervals (and often forgot to eat altogether), I always kinda feared eating too much protein (Ahhhhhh! Eggs! RUN!), I certainly ate some brown stuff, but I LOVED the white stuff more (the pasta and sourdough bread), and I really enjoyed cream and sugar in my coffee, and I positively loved red wine.

And no, it never really occurred to me that I should eat a potato before I go to bed.

But I tried it. I followed the plan:

I’ve severely reduced all sugars (including simple carbohydrates).

I drink my coffee black.

I’ve upped my protein.

I try to eat only three meals a day and I eat them at regular intervals.

I’ve cut out sweets (except for very occasionally, and only with a meal).

I rarely eat white bread or pasta (though I still do, a bit).

I keep a food journal.

And I eat one small potato every night before I go to bed.

But here’s the big one: I’ve stopped drinking alcohol completely.

And oh, boy. If that doesn’t all sound like a honkin’ amount of personal-sacrifice….

But you know what? The price for not doing this — at least from what I can tell so far — the price I pay for not making these changes is fucking huge. Right? HUGE.

I mean, some of this is easy and some of it’s hard, but nowhere near as hard as what happens when I don’t do it.

Yes, it’s hard to keep a journal — I really don’t want the bother of writing down what I eat all the time, and recording how it makes me feel.

Yes, it’s hard to avoid the white stuff. It’s everywhere. And I really like sourdough bread.

Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to have to plan my meals so that I don’t get caught out-and-about and hungry. It means I always have to think ahead and make sure I’m packing a wholesome sandwich or something, in case I get caught unawares.

And, let’s face it, eating a potato before bed is just plain weird.

And it’s really hard to not drink red wine. Because I’ve discovered that I have this huge emotional attachment to it. Not only do I enjoy the taste of it, but it’s also become a part of my identity.

That’s right. I am Kim the Red Wine Drinker. I’ve bought into the history and the romanticism of it. I enjoy sitting around with friends, swirling my glass, and discussing stuff. Making plans. Creative brainstorming. I like the very idea of it.

Oh, yes! It is the red wine symposium. We eat. We drink. We be merry. And we mastermind huge, all-encompassing, creative endeavours. And we feel oh-so-invincible and oh-so-unstoppable.

Until the next day. When I feel oh-so-NOT invincible, oh-so-NOT-unstoppable — and I’m not talking hang-over here, because it only takes a couple of glasses to trigger this — the next day, when it doesn’t really matter what amazing and creative endeavours I’ve dreamt up the night before, because I am so full of self-loathing, and feeling so completely unlovable, that it’s all I can do to convince myself to keep going, let alone get out there and live my life like a normal person.

And THAT is a monstrous price to pay. A REALLY monstrous price.

But, I admit that I’ve only been at this for a couple of months, and I still feel a bit nervous about assuming that this will last — that the real reason behind my feeling good of late is this food plan (knock-on-wood, knock-on-wood, here’s me forcefully knocking-on-wood), but it’s been working so far, and I’ve been recording relapses in my journal and they seem to be associated with falling off this plan, so I’m sticking with it for now.

And, you know, if a little birdie were to alight on my shoulder right now and whisper, “Keep eating this way and you will never have to go there again,” then I would be totally sold on it. I would absolutely, positively, eat this way for the rest of my life.

No problem. Sufficient motivation? Checkity, check, check.

But I still can’t quite believe that it amounts to this.

That after struggling with this for more than twelve years, and having been on and off anti-depressant drugs for eight of those twelve years, and after reading a ton about it, and after yapping away at several different psychologists, that after all that, the solution comes down to what and when I eat.

That all I needed, in the end, was a potato.

One motherf*cking potato.

And yes, I realize that’s an oversimplification. But that’s kinda how it feels. Given what I’ve gone through in the past? Yes, in comparison, it does seem that simple.

So yeah, I really hope the day comes when I can unequivocally say, “Uh-huh, I can live without wine, but don’t you even think about taking away my spud.”

Oh, how I look forward to that day.

Thanks for reading.

~kim

¹Potatoes not Prozac was written by Kathleen DesMaisons. She also has a website which you can find here.
Image by libraryman on Flickr, licensed under a Creative Commons.

6 comments on “This is a Potato.

  1. J
    September 2, 2010

    Interesting.

    Like

  2. Pingback: It’s Pixel Fix Friday! | simply kim

  3. nanci
    September 4, 2010

    I am so touched, and pleased you are finding the book helpful. I am totally off the wagon. I wake up, the first thought being how much guild and self loathing is on board based on the sugar I ate the night before. It is a hard habit to break. But your experience inspiring me to get out the book, get out the spud, and get off my ass.

    By the way, Kimmie, you are a brilliant blogger. And photographer. I look forward to each and every post!

    Like

    • kim
      September 4, 2010

      Thanks Nance!

      And yes, get out the book! Get reacquainted! It does take effort, that’s for sure, but it’s not necessarily as self-sacrificing as it sounds. I’ve noticed, in fact, that if I’m not careful, I’ll swing too far the other way–my OCD side will take control and I’ll start bashing myself for any little deviation from perfection. Not good. The whole thing is a process and it’s about being aware of the choices we make in each individual moment and how they affect us–a point DesMaisons makes again and again in her book.

      I still eat a little sugar and white stuff (in fact, today I succumbed to a ginger cream cookie) and I may even still have the odd glass of wine, who knows? I’m just more aware of the effect these things have on me now, and how I can limit that effect over the long haul. Plus, when I do choose to eat them, I do so consciously, so if things start to spiral out of control I can go back to the basics and tighten my eating habits. Complete abstinence is unrealistic, and opens up a whole other realm of problems for me.

      Anyhoo, thanks for hanging out here! And thanks for being such a supportive and helping friend. Now if I could just cultivate that 32/5 discipline thing….THAT is really a challenge!

      Like

  4. Sarah Heyman
    September 17, 2010

    Been there, am still doing that. Not making light, just relating. Was diagnosed a few years ago with bipolar disorder. Fun. Am no longer medicated, just coping by watching what I eat, running 3-5 times a week, cutting way back on the alcohol ( two glasses of wine every evening is NOT a good idea ) and trying to pay more attention to the little things that make me smile. Pixel Pix Fridays is one of those things. No pressure, just wanted to let you know that you make a difference in my life. You always have. I admire you and care about you. I am here if you ever need me. xo

    Like

    • kim
      September 17, 2010

      Thanks, friend. For your kind words, for your courage, and for all these years of friendship and support. I really appreciate it.

      Like

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This entry was posted on September 2, 2010 by in Long-winded Existential Angst and tagged , , , .

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