A person wired to process sensory information in non-traditional ways may not always pick up on subtle clues announcing the need to snack. Or, conversely, that she does not need to finish off a quart of Moo-lennium Crunch just because it currently resides in her freezer.
Oddities like the above are an example of why certain sensational people are so fond of structure and routine. And why I have written rules for food sanity.
Rule #1: Do not stock the pantry or refrigerator with foods engineered to induce a feeding frenzy.
For reasons that may or may not have to do with SPD, my brain is quite attracted to substances that light up its dopamine reward pathways. (The list of such substances is too long to go into here but, trust me, it will be revisited in the future.) Sugar, fat and salt are three of the top offenders. In certain combinations The Badass Lizard of Homeostasis finds these substances absolutely irresistible. If she gets a taste, just one little taste, she becomes an eating machine. The only way to stop her is to run out of the offending substance.
Unfortunately, my particular manifestation of sensory processing disorder magnifies the negative effects of too much sugar, fat, corn sweetener, MSG and salt. After a food binge, my body becomes lethargic and my mind dulls. My muscles tense and my mind swings wildly between anxiety and depression. This makes me so miserable, I become willing to do almost anything to relieve the pain, even temporarily, like zooming to the drugstore for a one-pound bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s.
The kindest thing I can do for myself is to avoid the thousands of fabulously delicious combinations of sugar, fat and salt. This takes heroic levels of self-restraint as our culture spends a fortune making sure we are reminded just how delicious and easily obtainable these substances are. Invitations to indulge scream from billboards, internet, television and radio. No venue of popular entertainment or even ordinary commerce is free of the sight and smell of sugar, fat and salt stacked up in ways guaranteed to induce a momentary illusion of perfect love.
Rule #2 Eat real food, not a lot, mostly plants, OFTEN.
Yes, I stole the first 8/9ths of rule #3 from Michael Pollan’s best-seller In Defense of Food, but the last word is equal in importance to all the other words combined.
I have learned from decades of trial and tribulation that I function best when I eat healthy food at three-hour intervals starting with breakfast. When I am in my normal routine, these little bursts of comfort-sustaining nutrients are squirted into my system at regular intervals and my life is infinitely more manageable.
Rule #3: When leaving the house for any reason, bring a healthy snack.
This does not require a huge production. I just have to make sure to have a serving of fruit and crackers or nuts for every three hour period I’m away from home.
If I break this rule, I will fall victim to smells and visual cues highly skilled marketeers use to lure the susceptible into fast food eateries. In order not to belly-up to the trough, I must never become “red-zone” hungry.
In a stable environment I register hunger cues while they are still safely in the yellow and orange zones.
However, in a non-stable environment – meaning I am distracted – the subtle cues that would advise me it’s time to break for a snack get overwhelmed by other stimuli.
I am caught off guard when the physiological foghorn announces Lizzy has twisted the hunger dial into the red zone.
A word on Lizzy’s behalf: In first world countries it has only been a few generations since starvation stopped being a common way to die. Even today – with our global abundance of technology and resources – in many parts of the world, starvation is as common as bad weather and corrupt politicians. No matter how badly Blog Writer wants to look good in her skimpy swim suit, to Lizzy, hunger will always mean life and death.
Rule #4: When homicidal rage blurs your vision, ask, “Could you be hungry?”
Watson and I rarely argue. Thirty years of wedded bliss has given us plenty of time to compromise on and respect our differences of preference and opinion.
But neither of us is perfect. Sometimes while feeling around in the gray area for compromise, one of us may stumble upon something unbearable.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That one. You just did it again. You always do it when you think I’m…”
Something is terribly, terribly wrong and every instinct says it’s the other’s fault.
This is where simple rules based on years of experience can avert a crisis.
I learned this in much the same way I learned an important rule of the road in the time before antilock brakes. When the car slid sideways, every instinct said to stand on the brake pedal and steer away from the skid.
After the first time I slammed my car into a light post and had to endure my brother and every other male I came in contact with telling me what a moron I was, I remembered – the next time the car slid sideways – to pump the brakes and turn into the skid.
So now in the middle of the “It’s high time we addressed your shitty attitude” discussion, a small voice asks, “Are you hungry?”
“Are you hungry?” I blurt out accusingly.
“No!” beleaguered husband yells back. He wouldn’t know if he was.
And I’m certainly not. I’m simply sick to death of the way he always…
This is where training ingrained to the level of body memory comes in handy.
I walk to the refrigerator and open the fruit drawer. Stuffing grapes in my mouth, I force myself to offer him some. We stand in the kitchen, ravenously eating grapes.
Grapes hit stomach.
Stomach sends message to brain.
Homicidal feelings subside.
Husband and wife are reunited in love and harmony.