One recent morning I was up early—post working out at the gym—running a few errands. While in my car and stopped at a red light, I saw a man on the crosswalk, consuming a large bag of barbecue potato chips. I checked the clock in my car (still before 9 a.m.) and did a double take, surprised that this person apparently could not begin his morning without the chemical-y goodness of artificially-flavored chips (yes, I checked the brand on the bag to see if they were all-natural or not... I'm that person).
Then, as if to emphasize a point, I saw another man nearby—this one sucking on a cigarette as if he were in outer space and needed it for oxygen. I must admit that I was in awe—so much so that a honk coming from behind my car made me snap to and realize the traffic light had turned green.
As I drove on, I thought about these two people. If you had been with me, you would have seen that the looks on their faces indicated their chosen substances were life-giving forces that they needed to begin (or even get through) their respective days. But I assure you I wasn't judging these folks. Instead, I was shuddering—reminded of a time in my life when I needed my own potentially unhealthy substances to begin my day.
When I weighed over 450 pounds, I would wake up with a serious food hangover. And I assure you that "food hangover" is no catchphrase. Back when I weighed more than my scale would even register, I would eat at night until I was literally stuffed and in physical pain. I would then toss, turn and sweat all night long—until finally rising in the morning, barely able to stumble to the bathroom due to being in such anguish.
This is when I would grab for my life-giving force of diet soda. That's right. I would have to consume three to four cans first thing in the morning in order to be able to start my day and actually function. Along with the artificial ingredients (that I'm sure my body mistook for sustenance) and the caffeine, I think that the carbonation somehow helped digest the leftover food from the night before. I truly was unable to function before having multiple cans of diet soda. I was addicted—to this (and so much more).
I'm not proud of this confession—but I make it as a reminder to myself that I never want to go back to a time in my life when, to function, I felt like I had to remain on a cycle of self-abuse (in this case delivered by consuming the wrong foods and/or beverages simply to begin my day). Whether barbecue chips, cigarettes or diet soda, these are not the kinds of food groups recommended to start our day—food groups that can give us a positive (and healthy) outlook.
Letting go of what doesn't really serve us means making a commitment to paying attention to how our bodies feel when consuming such substances. Today, the thought of ingesting diet soda makes me want to barf. Don't get me wrong. I'm human. I want my big cup of black coffee along with my all-natural cereal and fresh sliced fruit first thing in the morning. But all of these things work together to add some pep to my step—rather than clogging my body, mind or organs with unnecessary ingredients that my body cannot process (and that might even cause harm in the long run).
Was this you, too? Or is it you? What do you feel like you have to have first thing in the morning that might give a nutritionist a panic attack? By paying attention to how you feel (how you really feel), you might just realize these substances aren't what you're craving after all. And as our tastes change, our bodies, minds and health can change—for the better. So tomorrow morning, why not rise, shine and dine—on a healthier, happier (and ultimately more delicious) choice than chips, cigarettes or diet soda? The life—and psyche—you save may be your own.