I’ve spent the last six months building a brain-healthy lifestyle by adjusting my diet, exercise and sleep routines, building cognitive challenges into each day, and trying to spend more time socializing. It came together bit-by-bit, day-by-day, until I had a system that pretty much governed every aspect of my existence, right down to monitoring and controlling the quality of the air I breathe in the apartment.
I’m more than happy to talk with people about what I’ve been doing and why (to whit, this blog), but I try really hard not to proselytize, for there’s nothing worse than the zealotry of a new convert who corners you in a conversation. So if I start going down that path, please let me know, as it is not at all my intention.
On the flip side of that coin, I’m uncomfortable when friends and family feel obligated to protect my journey by adjusting their behaviors to accommodate my lifestyle choices. I bristle whenever I hear, “Will there be anything you can eat if we go to that restaurant?”
It’s not that I don’t appreciate their caring about me. I do. But I don’t feel as though I’ve earned their deference. It’s not as if I have a medical condition and will get sick if I go off my diet. It’s not a part of my religion, either. I won’t be denied entry into heaven if I eat a piece of cake. My body is not a temple and it will not be defiled no matter what I shovel into it.
I’m merely choosing to be a picky eater…and the consequences of that are 100% on me, along with the responsibility.
As far as I can tell, the downside of going off my diet is that I lose a little bit of time in the long-term project of cleaning the gunk out of my brain that can cause cognitive decline. I spent seventy years accumulating it, but I haven’t seen any research that quantifies how much time I have available to me to clean house.
So how much damage did I do over the last four days when I fell off the wagon? We went to the Bahamas to see the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team play in a tournament. I made a half-hearted effort to be faithful to my protocols, but staying at a vacation resort triggered a “you’re-on-vacation-go-for-it” reflex that had me making all sorts of unwise choices.
Alcohol is a no-no (except for about 5 ounces of red wine with dinner), but I couldn’t resist the allure of a Bahama Mama. Just one knocked me for a loop, but that didn’t stop me from trying a different restaurant signature cocktail each night!
Bread. I haven’t had bread in months except maybe to taste a sandwich that Sally had ordered. But there was no way I was going to say “no” to the breads and dipping oils that came with each meal. Same for pasta, which is the only thing I really miss in my new regimen.
Then there was the grotesquely sweet s’mores dessert with vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, marshmallow sauce and graham crackers. I’m surprised it didn’t trigger insulin shock in my sugar-deprived brain.
I didn’t observe my overnight fasting routine.
I had a rough night sleeping the night I had a Coke with dinner. In general, I’m pretty sure my increased sugar intake disrupted my sleep cycle big time.
In general, I over-ate, felt stuffed a lot and got hungry a lot sooner between meals.
Although we did a fair amount of walking, I didn’t really make an honest effort to try to exercise. The only time my heart got a workout was during the games which were all close and exciting.
Finding our way around the sprawling resort was quite the cognitive challenge, though. So was figuring out what to do when the air conditioning stopped working in our room. It took a while, but it dawned on me that perhaps the on-off switch is controlled by the doors to the balcony. Apparently, for the sake of energy efficiency, the air shuts off when you open the doors to the outside. It goes back on when you close them.
On the other hand, I didn’t realize until our third day there that all of our restaurant charges included a 15% gratuity. The wait staff must have laughed all the way to the bank each time I had added 20% to that!
So now I’m home and getting back into my routine. How much damage did I do? There’s no way to tell, but I doubt that I hurt my cause very much. It was interesting to see how quickly my body reacted to the changes…and not in a good way. It makes me more appreciative of the new path I am traveling.