Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The healthy oxymoron?

For me it has been. My health was always one of the things that got ignored when I was working on a project. We've all heard the stories of authors writing with a bottle of wine or whiskey at their side. But my drugs of choice were caffeine and sugar. And for good reason: Our brains run on glucose (sugar) and caffeine opens up pathways in the brain. So I'd eat "writing vitamins" (M&Ms) and drink lattes by the bucket. I pumped out 4 books that way.

But over a year ago, I was forced to stop drinking caffeinated coffee because I was having a tiny little problem with my heart. Instead of going thump, thump, thump. It started going thump...thump...thump.................(terrified gasp!) thump. Or sometimes, THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! Took me many months and trips to the doctor before I was willing to hear her when she said, "Do you think it might be the caffeine?" Finally I was desperate enough to give up coffee...and what do you know? My heart started beating normally. Sort of. For me.

Sort of normal heartbeats were good enough for a year. But then, (well hell, in for a penny in for a pound) I started taking Prozac. And my anxiety level decreased so much that I was able to really, deeply, truly relax for the first time in ... possibly forever. All the cells in my body went, ahhhhh in deep ocean breath. My shoulders dropped from my ears. My hips unclenched. As the soul singers used to say, my back bone slipped. And I had what my friend Marion calls an "IFI," an incredible fucking insight: this is how I was supposed to feel.

Unfortunately, my body didn't believe that and very quickly adjusted to the extra serotonin in my brain and back up went the anxiety. But I had had a taste of paradise and I wanted it back!

Enter my new acupuncturist, Dr. Yu. I've had acupuncture before from 2 different people, and they were good and helped me with different aches and pains. But this is at a whole nother level. Dr. Yu looked at my tongue and took my pulse and knew me. You know what I'm saying? Instead of asking me questions about my health, she told me things about myself. One of the things she told me was that sugar had to go. Actually, she gently suggested avoiding it. But I knew as soon as she said it that it was time.

So 5 weeks ago I stopped guzzling sodas and stopped with the "writing vitamins" and the cookies and donuts and Starbucks classic coffee cake and chocolate chip muffins and all of it. I have to say that anybody who knows me knows this is HUGE. This is like saying that for 5 weeks I've been learning to live without air, without water. And it's been hard. But I'm making it. Just like the recovering alkies and junkies, one day at a time.

I started doing what every good writer does: research. It turns out there's a connection between sugar and anxiety and weight gain. They all fuel each other. I won't go into it here--I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on my blog--but if you have questions or want to chat about it, email me.

Do I feel better? Well, that's hard to say. I'm still shall we say a little crabby sometimes. And I haven't gotten back to the all-over ocean breath state. But I've lost a lot of weight (don't know how much because I haven't weighed myself because this isn't really about weight loss, even though, trust me, weight loss is a good thing). Even better, I feel empowered by this very new idea that I am stronger than my sweet tooth.

At least I have been so far. The novel I'm working on is going to test me. I don't know how to write a book without mega doses of caffeine and sugar. But so far grapefruit, apples, dried cherries, cashews, garlic hummus and decaf with cream and Splenda are getting me through. And I've found a really tasty no-refined-sugar, no-wheat, no-dairy, no-eggs, chocolate chip cookie ("air cookies," both my boss and my husband called them, but they're really good!). I should say it was really good, because I've had one so far. Oh my God, I've had ONE COOKIE IN A MONTH! And it was an air cookie.

Hmm. I just might be okay.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know how it goes.

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