Make Yourself the Experiment
My older daughter just came up to me, squeezed her finger in a funny way and said in a whiny, pained voice “mmmmoom, when I do this to my finger it realllllly hurts”. That’s when I hear the voice of my own mother come through me “Well, don’t do that.”
If what you’re doing hurts. Stop doing it.
I recently conducted my own painful experiment and I’m giving myself the same advice . . .
Remember how successfully I gave up sugar this spring and summer? I was so happy, life was so good. Sweets weren’t even an option. No bargaining, no cheating, just clean and simple eating. A fragrant bosc pear made my day.
Then, in anticipation of this weekend’s triathlon, I upped my workouts and because our family schedule shifted there were many mornings when I wanted to finish a 30+ mile bike ride or 10 mile run before breakfast and teaching yoga. That meant I needed fast, easy to digest fuel. I have been reading about how during intense exercise you are better off fueling in the moment with super easy to digest high-glycemic foods so as not to create a glycogen vacuum in your muscles and liver that you would be compelled to refill later (post workout) by binging on high-energy food, (that you no longer really need because you are no longer exercising, so it just goes into storage as fat . . .)
Sip nectar like a hummingbird?
What’s the fastest way to consume 300-1200 calories if you’re not a breakfast person? You drink it. Duh. That’s why America is so fat, our love of soft drinks allows us to consume an entire day’s worth of calories in one sitting. So I decided to try a sports drink that several of my sporty friends love, ignoring the obvious (and painful) main ingredient: sucrose. Even though this particular brand is known for it’s less icky-sticky sweet taste its still a soft drink.
Yeah, but haven’t I tried the sugar thing before? Didn’t it make me go “ow”? Didn’t I tell myself “well, don’t do that”. Uh, yes.
To be fair, I started the high-glycemic experiment with bananas and pears stuffed into the back of my shorts. They worked great. Until I couldn’t carry enough. So I added Cliff Blocks. Oooo, that’s good, kind of like candy. Oh wait, it is candy. And candy is a slippery road to “ow” for me.
Going all out
When it came time to take on the Granite Man, I abandoned my tried and true endurance nutrition of soaked almonds, blueberries, pears, beans, quinoa and raw corn salad . . .
Here was the logic that led to my experiment (i.e. finger pinching)
1) How was I going to carry a thousand or more calories worth of food on my 120 mile bike ride?
2) Given that I was planning to hike Katahdin the following day, I didn’t want to create too much of a glycogen deficit in my muscles. Thus I wanted high-glycemic easy to digest fuel.
3) Sugar water and candy are yummy. How bad can they really be? Hummingbirds don’t have any issues with sipping nectar all day . . .
I started the big day with coconut water. We can’t get raw coconuts here so I settled for the pasteurized kind. Which is essentially unrefined, natural sugar water with some electrolytes. After a few hours I switched to my magic sporty-sports drink. I felt great. I cruised along. I did have a bowl of raw corn salad mid-day (dropped off by mom – thanks mom), and after several hours of sticky-sweet gooeyness, I truly savored the savory vegetable un-sweetness. However, despite the yumminess, I don’t think a single scrap of that salad actually got digested.)
I finished the ride in record time and felt great. I still felt great at 4:30 the next morning when I got up to drop off several Thru-Hikers on the Appalachian Trail before we started our own hike up Katahdin.
By 4pm I was sort of bonking, feeling a little tired and also feeling very very sick of all things sweet. Still, I ate my last package of Cliff blocks and within 15 minutes I felt a genuine surge of energy. The last three miles to the car were easy. Like a hummingbird.
Real or Not Real?
OK, so that all sounds like a successful experiment right? But here’s the thing. If pinching your finger in that funny way hurts, you can pretty much guarantee that if you do it again, it will hurt.
The following day I was puffy. The way I remember being most of my childhood. Yes I was sore too, but my main discomfort was the puffiness and water retention. And later, the yeast infection. I know, you weren’t counting on that level of sharing, but the point is, my whole ecosystem was whacked in a way that it hadn’t been for a long long time.
For the next two weeks I was acutely aware of the true cost of sugar on my system.
Sometimes we get used to the owy feeling, we forget we are pinching our finger. Then we stop and we get used to feeling well. And when the pain comes back, it sucks doubly bad because we know how good good can feel. So why would we keep pinching our finger?
Get sensitive, get empowered
Here-in lies the beauty of yoga and ayurveda. But cultivating sensitivity and awareness, we can see the ways in which we inflict pain on ourselves. This is powerful, and empowering. We are not victims to our diet, lifestyle or culture, we are free adults, we can stop pinching our own finger. Ahhhh. See, doesn’t that feel better?
This fall, during my Fall Cleanse, we’ll take time to see ourselves as the self-empowered experiments that we are. It’s a chance to get back to feeling how good good can feel. And to figure out what you are doing that is causing pain.
I promise I’ll find as many nice, creative ways to say “Well, don’t do that” as I can.