Finally, I confessed to my class, and made a commitment to give them up for one full week. That was several years ago, and that was all it took. One week became two weeks, then a month, and then a couple of months. I added nuts to my list of “don’t-even-think-about-it” foods. I stopped buying them, stopped eating them, and that was that.
Then, about a year ago, I ate some cashews while at a research facility…and it was uneventful. Yes, they were delicious, but once I’d had some, I was done. I could eat a handful from a big bowl and be satisfied without leaving the bowl empty! Amazing!! I still did not buy them, did not bring them into my house, but if I came across them elsewhere, I could eat a reasonable amount and be done with it.
For someone like me, who draws fuel from protein rather than carbs, nuts are a GREAT travel snack. And that’s why, in anticipation of a three-week trip out of the country over the holidays, I bought single-serving packs of cashews and almonds from Trader Joe’s. Between these nuts and the dry-roasted chickpeas I bought online, I had a well-planned snack solution for my time away.
Those little suckers are addictive!! AND, even though I’d moved on, had gotten my habit under control, it’s amazing how quickly old behaviors can come back, when given the chance. At first, all was fine. I had a few mini-packs in my carry-on luggage for the looong flight, and the rest were packed away in my checked bag. The first week, I only grabbed one when I really needed it – between meals, when I was hungry or needed fuel. I’m accustomed to eating 5 smaller meals a day, and that can be harder to do when you’re a guest in someone’s home, AND in another country. But all was well the first week.
The second week, I was trekking in Rwanda in high altitudes, burning lots of calories, and really needing my snacks in-between meals. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was the wonderful lodge roasting fresh nuts over a fire and packing them as a daily snack for me! YUUUUUUUUM!!!! But even that was fine, because the snacks I’d brought along for myself simply stayed in my luggage.
Then I went on safari for 4 days in the South African bush. I’d chosen a posh safari lodge to stay in, since I was traveling by myself. That’s when the nuts invaded my psyche. I was escorted to my cozy little glass-walled cottage in the woods, and given a brief review of the basics – the remote control for the air-conditioner, how to use the in-room safe, that kind of stuff. Then, I was shown the small refrigerator, stored in a latched cabinet on the porch. It was stocked with complimentary beverages -- no problem, since I don’t drink alcohol or soda. I was just glad to see plenty of bottled water there. And then, THEN I saw the complimentary snacks – a quart-sized glass container of gummy bears (yuck), and an equal-sized container of SALTED CASHEWS. I could hear the screeching music from horror movies playing in my head, sounding the warning call: “Don’t go near the cabinet! DON'T GO NEAR THE CABINET!!”
The match had been lit. The fuel on the fire, though, was the very lengthy period of down time at this safari lodge. We’d rise at 5:00am to head out for an early morning game drive after a light meal with coffee or tea, returning @9:00am for a proper breakfast. And then, the day was wide open, until the next game drive @4:30pm. Lunch was served from 1-3pm, and afternoon tea was at 4:00pm. So from 9am until 4:30pm, the only activities were eating, sleeping, and doing whatever other sedentary activity you could think of. There was a pool, but it wasn’t heated, and the clouds kept it from being warm enough to enjoy. And you can’t exactly take a walk or go for a run when you’re a guest at an unfenced lodge on a nature reserve with The Big Five (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos)!
Boredom + cashews = nutfest for me. I didn’t even need my little single servings of lightly salted nuts; I feasted on the free salted cashews. I confess, I polished off the quart-sized jar by tea time on day 2. I found myself feeling both annoyed and relieved when I discovered that the jar had not been refilled the morning of day 3. Truth be told, I was more annoyed than relieved. I dipped into my own snack bag – not out of hunger, just because I wanted more nuts…and they filled the void because I was bored. The next morning, after returning from breakfast, I discovered the jar had been refilled. I was thrilled, and really bothered that this made me happy. I knew this was a bad sign. When I left the lodge two days later, I left half of the container of nuts behind, and believe me – that took a lot of restraint! But the floodgates had been opened, so cruising through my own single serving packs was a breeze.
I returned home with plenty of dry roasted chickpeas, no nuts, and ongoing chatter in my head -- e.g., “I’ll stop and get a little from the bulk section.” “Don’t bring them in the house.” “Don’t buy them.” “They are so good!” “It’s just a little treat.” And on and on and on. This continued for almost a week, until I went back to my weight management class and weighed in. I don’t own a scale; I only weight myself at this meeting, and only about once a month. The 4 slug-like days of safari were the complete antithesis of the 3 days I’d spent trekking in Rwanda, and I walked for exercise every other day of the trip. Still, though, I was nervous about getting on the scale. I’m still working through all of the judgment and stress and baggage that is heaped onto the number revealed by a scale. I had already learned that, other than a surprise nutfest, I could sustain my new way of eating even when the circumstances were radically different from my everyday routine. I wanted to weigh myself to see how that might have translated in terms of my actual weight.
I was up 1.6 pounds. I considered that a victory. BUT, I knew that if I continued the nutfest, my weight would continue to creep up, as well. Once again, I was faced with the challenge of giving up something I really enjoyed. And even though my brain processed this as no big deal (“Nuts, Marsha; we’re talking about freakin’ nuts! It’s not like a horrible medical diagnosis, or breaking up with someone. It’s nuts!”), my heart was in mourning, and I felt blue. Then I remembered the sage piece of advice that had righted the ship for me last winter: “Let go of the things in your life that are not working for you, that are holding you back from being the best that you can be.”
And that was that. No more nuts. One day turned into two days, three days…. It’s been a full week. I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about it; I just don’t indulge in them. I also know that rather than putting nuts back on the “don’t-even-think-about-it” list, I’ve put them on the “out-of-the-country snack” list, because they really are a perfect choice for a low-carb eater like me. So cashews, almonds, I’ll see you in September!