The personal trainer at my gym tells me to hold a little machine that looks like an x-box controller. He is calculating my BMI which tells you how fat you are in percentages. I don’t know how this machine calculates my fatness through my fingers. They don’t even have any crumbs on them. He asks me if I want to get serious. I ask him what getting serious will entail. He tells me to give up carbohydrates for a short period of time and then add them in moderation.
“I’m sorry,” I stammer. “I couldn’t hear you over my heart palpitations.”
“Just try it,” he says.
“For how long?” I ask.
“Twenty eight days,” he says.
“Oh, ok, I can do that,” I say.
“Those days have to be in a row,” he says.
“Oh.” Well that’s a very different story. Twenty eight days with no bread? And it isn’t just bread, he says. No white products of any kind. Sounds like discrimination to me. But, ok, I could do that, I’m figuring I can still have my raisin bran, granola, wheat bread with peanut butter, whole grain tortilla chips, maybe even Frito’s.
“No grains either, no wheat, not even whole wheat,” he adds. Now, I’ve given up things before. There were periods of my life when I gave up smoking, drinking, coffee. I’ll stop there. But bread? My sister is with me and has also been handed the same recommendation, but she is smiling.
“Let’s do it,” she says, and before I can think it through, we’re shaking hands. Then she starts saying things like, “I’m pumped, this is going to be awesome,” and some other shit like that. When I get anxious, I lose my hearing so I’m looking at her and although I can’t hear what she’s saying, she’s still smiling.
We do ½ hour on the treadmill but I can’t concentrate. My hearing returns and my sister is rattling off all the yummy things she plans to eat for the rest of the day.
“I’m gonna make some boiled eggs, fresh veggies on the grill…” She’s tapping her fingers on the treadmill in time to the music, bopping her head back and forth, having a good old time. I reach over and turn up the speed on her treadmill to see if she’ll fall off. Damn. She looks at me, again, smiling. “Thanks, you’re right, I should go faster.” Ten minutes later, she turns to me and says, “That was awesome, what should we do no?”
“I’m going home,” I say. I picture myself in black clothes and a veil because as far as I can tell, life as I knew it is over.
“What’s wrong,” she asks. “It’s only 28 days, right?” she asks.
Did I mention that she’s a therapist? People go to her with problems, like, for example, someone might go to her and say “I can’t eat bread for 28 days and I feel like my life is over.” She, in turn, might explain to them that this not a normal reaction. She may say something like, “Gee, who-ever-you-are, it seems like thoughts of food might occupy a large part of your life” or something to that effect. So I skip the conversation, put on my game face and say, “Yea, totally pumped, let’s lose some fat!!!”
As we are heading out of the gym, the trainer waves and says, “You know that includes sugar, too.”
It’s a beautiful sunny day. I can go to the lake and kayak. Take the dog for a walk. Read a book on the beach. I go home and sleep for two hours.
And all I can think about for the rest of the day is bread. And potatoes. And crackers. And the chocolate I eat every night. And more bread. I just never realized how much I depended on the stuff. I don’t check with my sister, but I believe this is what therapists would call obsession. I would never have imagined I was obsessed with carbs but faced with having to give them up, well, that changes everything. Well rested from my nap, Emma and I go food shopping. We stick to the outer limits of the grocery store. I pause at one aisle and tell Emma that there is not one item that is not a processed carbohydrate in that entire. She’s decided to try this venture as well. She, too, is smiling. My sister calls and tells me her son is on board, too. And, yes, he is TOTALLY PUMPED. I spend the rest of the day looking for food to eat that doesn’t involve bread or anything else on the banned list. I go to bed at 9p.m. telling myself I made it through the day and tomorrow I can wake up and eat a loaf of bread if I want. This is a trick that 12-step programs for addiction use. The 24-hour rule. You tell yourself you can drink, drug, whatever, tomorrow, just not today. But in the morning, you’re back where you started. It’s always today. Clever, right?
And of course there’s the other side of this food thing. The side I really don’t want to explore. Am I still using food to feed the hunger that exists somewhere in my body other than my stomach. Could it be? Is she still around? That fat little girl who found solace in Apple Jacks? I thought I got rid of her. But, here she is again. Or still. That chubby little girl that just wanted to be loved. That girl who thought that if she just lost weight someone would see her worth. I have to admit that even just one day into this no bread lifestyle, she does seem to be peering around corners at me. We’ll see. A wise friend of mine who got sober after years of alcoholism and drug addiction told me that the substances we use are anesthesia for the pain. So, I ask myself, am I ready to face whatever it is that I mask with food? Just the thought of that makes me want a muffin. A chocolate chip muffin. A chocolate chip muffin heated with butter…. I’ll have one tomorrow J.