“Omgee! This has gotten me so stressed out that I want to eat potato chips!” I was laughing, and I was talking more to myself than to my colleague, but I was acknowledging the stress of piecing together one coherent document edited separately by five other administrators. Potato chips? I don’t even like potato chips, but that’s what I’d said.
Potato chips? I wondered why I had even thought of them. After living a very committed very low carb lifestyle, I had not eaten a potato chip in over four years, and I had not been overly fond of them before low carb. The fatty Ranch dressing I liked to dip them in was sublime, and that was truly the best part of having a chip. I could have Ranch dressing and stay low carb, so why did I holler out to my colleagues that I wanted potato chips?
As I took a minute to breathe, I started negotiating with myself as a child negotiates with a parent. “If I don’t have chips, can I have a Diet Coke?” I reasoned, and then I sat there wondering why I would want a diet soft drink, as I know those sweeteners are horrible for me. They make my cravings worse, and since I stopped drinking them some time ago, the taste of one was truly no longer appealing. What did I really want? What did the chips or the soft drink give me?
The word “escape” bounced around in my brain. I wanted to escape the task. I wanted the cessation of pain. Walking out of the office to grab a snack or a soft drink would get me away from my desk. Even a temporary reprieve is a reprieve. There was nothing I really wanted in a chip or a soft drink. In fact, had I buried my face in a bag of salty avoidance, I would have still had the difficult project waiting for me. Not only would I continue the hair-pulling process of wrangling different thoughts and writing styles into one professional and polished piece, but also I would have lost more time to work on it because I was chasing down chips. Perhaps more importantly, I would have then sat at my desk with an empty bag of chips, an empty document, grease-stained fingers, and a guilty heart.The regret would leave a lingering taste of failure that no diet soft drink could wash away. Beyond that, my blood glucose would soar, and, with a history of hypoglycemia, potentially crash until I was tired and sleepy and even less capable of crafting the document that needed my full attention to meet a tight deadline. Indulging in those chips would have pushed me further from my professional goal of completing the task at hand as well as further from my personal goals of staying healthy.
I took a deep breath and decided to escape by completing another item on my checklist—contacting another colleague to arrange a meeting two weeks into the future. As I looked up her extension, I thought, “I’ve never regretted something that I didn’t eat.” I chuckled. That thought had rescued me more than once when I chose to walk away from some high carb temptation. I always heard that thought in my grandmother’s voice. Maybe it’s because she, too, struggled with obesity, and maybe it was because she knew my struggle too well. She always wanted so desperately for me to lose weight. She wanted to see me happy.
My grandmother passed away in 2003, shortly after my first child was born, but she has stayed with me. In many ways she is my good conscience and my determination. It was she who taught me, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” and the similar phrase, “Wishing don’t make it so.” In other words, if you want to make something happen, then you have to act on it. Doing something, controlling the action is often more valuable than sitting back and wishing it was so.
I could munch through that bag of chips and wish that document were done or wish that the task sat on someone else’s desk, but the job was given to me by folks who deemed me competent to do it.
Many times I have wished my struggle with obesity belonged to someone else, but this burden was given to me, and, if I’m going to manage the challenge, wishing won’t make it so. Each day, I have to do the best for my body. I must make food choices that give me no regrets and that empower my body with better health and strengthen my mind with the confidence that I am competent to do whatever task is at hand, even if it’s as simple as refusing a bag of chips.