Electric Shock Therapy

Everybody knows this scenario: a mouse is inserted into a maze. He/she has two choices–go and get the cheese, unharmed. Or go down another path and get shocked. We also all know how this ends: for some reason, the mouse continually gets shocked until he/she is tired of seeing blue and tries another way. It’s a pervasive example in our society for attempting to unlearn instinctual behaviors.

And in a really sadistic way, it’s sort of funny. We all say, What, is that mouse stupid? Definitely doesn’t have a head for business like his cousin, Mickey. 

Yet, if we imply that the mouse is stupid, then we have to admit that we are too, now don’t we?

What do I mean? Well, have you ever had a craving? For food? For an experience? That’s fine. You scratch that itch in one way or another. But what if what you’re craving is inherently bad for you? Craving for a cigarette? Craving to see someone who you have a toxic relationship with? What then?

I suppose you may think that you just need more will power. Or maybe you just need negative reinforcement. (Hey, Oprah, have you thought about giving someone an electric shock every time he/she opens the refrigerator after midnight on Weight Watchers?)

But I bet you’ve tried that, too, haven’t you? (Not the electric shock thing.) You’ve given yourself the equivalent of electric shock therapy. Mentally beaten yourself up. Gone completely cold turkey. Let it go little by little. But you still do that thing.

Take me, for example. I have a food allergy. What happens to me when I eat the foods that affect me is simple and straightforward: it makes me horribly sick. Do I continually eat foods that make me horribly sick, through the idiot property? I not only do, I binge eat these foods.

So, what happens when you’re the mouse? What happens when you keep electrocuting yourself in the hopes for a different result? Does that mean you are stupid?

No. I think we need to start looking at habits not as a lack of knowledge but as a lack of wanting to change. You may know what will help you to lead a better life (so you’re not stupid), but you don’t really want to acknowledge it just yet. You don’t know how to get there.

And shocking yourself really won’t help. But being kind to yourself and trying to find out what you really need will. In the end, you should kick a habit. Not yourself.

Bagels Give Me a Stomachache

You should know that I have an addictive personality when it comes to breakfast food.

I ate Eggo waffles for two years straight. Weekend, weekday. It didn’t matter. I was pouring syrup every morning, while my mother was trying to get me to eat something else.

And then, one day … I didn’t eat waffles. And the day after that? No waffles. And any day after that? You guessed it. I never really ate Eggo waffles again. I burnt myself out by being so addicted to them that I began to loathe them. It was the epitome of “too much of a good thing.”

Now that I have a food allergy, I can’t eat Eggo waffles, even if I wanted to. I have to buy the gluten free, soy free, dairy free, black magic pancake mix if I want a waffle that won’t try to reenact a scene out of Alien and crawl out of my stomach.

But like anyone who has to tell themselves that they can’t eat something, I inevitably eat that said thing. Just a few nibbles here and there. It’s almost like when someone slaps your hand away and tells you NOT to touch the big, red button. It doesn’t take a psychologist to know that your first instinct is to do the opposite of what that bossy person said. It’s alluring in ways that nothing else is.

Of course, I’m not crazy enough to start eating waffles again. My stomach isn’t ready for that and neither am I.

No, I settled for something a little bit more benign: a bagel. No cream cheese. (What are you crazy!? It’s already bad enough the bagel has soy in it. I would be DOA if I tried to eat dairy. Baby steps, as I try to destroy my body one breakfast food at a time.)

So, I ask myself something really tempting of the universe like, “What could possibly go wrong?” and down the hatch.

Probably an hour later I had the worst stomachache of my life. I know, I know. You’re thinking, my god. This woman is like the princess and the pea. But instead of the mattress, it’s her stomach. And instead of the pea, it’s a bagel. And in fact, you are right. (Actually, the pea would have been so much less of an impact on my poor insides.)

Now, this isn’t the first time I have ever eaten a bagel. They were a close second to waffles at one point in my eating career. But alas, no more.

So, what can I take away from this? After doubling over my stomach and sobbing over the fact that it’s so picky about its contents, I realized that there is still something to be gained from this situation.

If you ever worry that you are going to be stuck in a rut or simply stuck for the rest of your life, you won’t. Things will always, always, always change. And though it may sound scary, it’s good.

When I was in the throes of my waffle love, did I ever think I would stop eating them? Even worse, never be able to eat them again? Of course not. But here we are. My body changed that forever for me.

And so it will be for you. If you’re afraid you’ll never find love, you’ll never move out, you’ll never land a job, I can’t tell you what you what will happen. (I’m not a psychic. I just have a food allergy.) But I can tell you that whatever situation you are in now, you probably won’t be in it in a few years. And that’s wonderful and horrifying at the same time. The very fabric of your body is always dying, being reborn (even your stomach). You are never immune to change.

So, if you are going through hell, keep going. And stay away from bagels if you’re allergic. I learned that lesson the hard way for you. You’re welcome.

Lactose Intolerant Living

I’ve been sort of living a lie.

I can’t believe I didn’t know that “lactose intolerant” doesn’t normally have a hyphen in it…

Oh, and I’d like to also confess that I am a lactose intolerant individual, and I have been eating cheese  for about, oh say… my entire life.

Until recently. When my body decided that I should cut out the shenanigans and stop eating cheese forever.

I know, I know. How first world problem can you get? Oh woe is me, I can’t eat pizza. Oh, what a world, what a world, I can never eat ice cream in the summertime. I’ll just have to settle for water ice.

But really, I’m used to it. I ate cheese all my life because I wanted to. It was a lifestyle choice. My side effects weren’t fun, but I could live with them. I’d rather stay mum on what they are, but I can tell you this: they are a far cry from the side effects I had when I was younger.

Once, (I say once because when this happens, you don’t do it again) my dear dad gave me a piece of cheese. A morsel, really. When I was just a wee babe, you see. He could literally see my mother pulling out of the driveway. He was holding me in his arms and then…

BLARRHGHGGHHGGHGHG.

I threw up all over him. No problem, he thought. I’ll just put on another shirt. Except I kept throwing up. And barfing. And retching. And yakking. Until he decided that it was worthless to do all that laundry. So, he stopped putting new shirts on. He just allowed me to throw up on his chest for a solid couple of hours. (Yeah, that’s hardcore parenting.)

So, as long as I’m not projectile vomiting, I thought, what’s the harm in a little pizza once in awhile? And yes, I’d love some extra parm on my three-cheese tortellini. Sure, why not? We can grab some fro-yo.

Until recently. I’ve already lost my gallbladder at this point, which I had previously blamed on an overdose of Nutella, but now I am starting to wonder: Have I been killing myself softly with blue cheese my whole life?

In other words, the take-away from my life’s journey as a lactose intolerant American… and by the way, you think you’re special because you can digest cheese? You’re really just a mutant. Humans aren’t supposed to eat dairy so get out of my face with your Got Milk? ads and your delicious cheeseburgers because if I start, I won’t be able to stop… Ahem…

So, the take-away from my life’s journey as a lactose intolerant American: enough is sometimes really enough. You will come to a point in your life that your habits, or the habits of others, are just going to be too much for you to take, and you’ll make a change. I just hope it’s not too late for one of your organs, like it was for mine.

The point is, you can apply that advice to any area in your life. (For me, I applied it to food, which tells you something about me…) There are going to be times that you will need to push through the hard stuff to get to the gooey center of life. But, there will be times that you will reach your limit. And I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to say, “I can’t do this anymore.” Because I don’t care how delicious cheese is (or how delicious your annoying partner is, or how delicious that job is that sucks your soul but pays you good money), sometimes you just have to say no because it will help you in the long run.

But you have to promise, next time you have a slice of pizza, have one for me. I’ll be over here with my rice milk (which is actually kind of amazing) and some goat milk (which is a bit goaty, but also very good.)

You shouldn’t stop yourself from doing (or eating) what you love, just have the courage to know when you need to mooove your life in a different direction. (Oh, c’mon. Like you didn’t see that coming…)