Remember that fit friend, Ryan I ran a 5K with? The one who stood by my side the whole race though I am much slower than he is. As it turns out he was also the answer to how to beat my sugar blues. About a week before Christmas Ryan was to drive his grandmother’s dog down to her in Florida. He asked if I wanted to accompany him on this pre-Christmas excursion. Being one who makes it a point to never say no to travel of any kind, I evaluated my schedule which happened to be wide open and then packed some dresses and a bathing suit and joined him on the road.
My motives were really only these: to submerge in the ocean as many times as possible and to enjoy a miniature vacation with one of my favorite travel companions. I should have predicted that my diet would improve and my exercise would ratchet traveling with Ryan as I have traveled with him before and know his penchant for health and fitness, but I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. I was too transfixed on seeing Florida for the first time and getting to swim in the ocean again. It has been about a year and a half since I last set foot in the salty sea and that seemed to be about long enough.
Ryan purchased all the snacks, snacks that I like very much myself but don’t always buy because they’re a little on the pricey side (the all-natural kind, the no preservatives kind, the organic kind, the seaweed and kale kind). An overflowing box that to me already bespoke of good health and good feelings. By this point I was so offput by my sugar consumption that the dark chocolate bars I had asked Ryan to pick up to slowly wean myself off of sugar while on the trip were hardly touched or noticed. Instead I happily ate blackberries, seaweed, kale (OK that was ingested a little less happily as honestly I thought it was kind of putrid) and took no notice to my lack of kiss cookies or bakery.
While driving through the South we did feel compelled, however, to stop at Chick-Fil-A, which we are both keen on despite knowing it still counts as fast food and isn’t great for us. But here’s the best part about traveling with someone who is undoubtedly healthier than you. I love Chick-Fil-A but don’t ever eat it, so if I’m getting it on my own, I would’ve probably allowed myself the works: the spicy chicken sandwich, waffle fries accompanied by ranch and buffalo sauce and an ice cold Coke. It would’ve undoubtedly happened. Ryan just got a sandwich. No waffle fries. And he certainly wasn’t touching the pop. Alright. Just the sandwich it is, I thought, if he can do it, I can do it.
The best part about traveling for me is that it’s the singular occurrence that mellows me out more than a Xanax followed by a nap. Maybe it’s my gypsy soul, maybe it’s that I feel most myself when I am discovering yet again that the world is full of never-ending possibility, but when I am on the open road, I am so content and blissful that my normal relationship with food which is one of complete and utter adoration is secondary to my yearning to immerse in the newness before me. I all but forget that I think of food as a decadence which I can’t live without and instead find it to be a sort of cumbersome need. Oh I’m hungry? I have to eat again? Didn’t I just eat some berries six hours ago? Why am I hungry? Ryan was continually asking me if I was hungry. And when he’d ask, my stomach would growl in acknowledgment and I would answer, no, not really. Not because I was in any way starving myself but the best way I can describe it is the way Hemingway describes hunger in A Moveable Feast:
“…All the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry.”
And I can’t help but agree with his point. There is a certain way in which the world appears better when your hunger for food is almost an afterthought, while your hunger for beauty prevails.
The second best part of traveling (at least in this case) was accompanying someone who is better disciplined than me, especially if it’s in many areas. Ryan isn’t just health-conscious. He is also tremendously active. He gets quite anxious if he hasn’t worked out in a few days. I can tell you with all honesty, that the only time anxiousness has occurred over a lack of working out was post Biggest Loser. By that time I was used to seven months of 6-8 hour workout days. I all but fell into a endorphin depleted depression after the show wrapped and I went back to some sort of human normalcy which was squeezing in a one-hour daily workout. Then I could relate to anxiousness derived from a lack of activity.
Now? Well, now I am super impressed with myself if I get a walk in every night and call that a workout (I know it’s not). Clearly though the bar needs to be re-raised. This was happening on the trip with Ryan as I found myself free of headaches (except for a few caffeine-withdrawal ones while at his grandmother’s who only drinks tea and so I followed suit) and feeling quite light. Combine that with the dips in the ocean, a sweat-drenched walk through a nature preserve on a eighty degree day and the workouts at the gym and I felt all but cured of my need for sugar. Who the heck needs sugar when they have the sea? Alligator hunts? Discovering new locales? Talks of love stories with an exceptional 89-year-old? A travel companion who is just as obsessed with adventure as you are? Yeah sugar was the last thing on my mind for the duration of our six-day journey.
Again, much like my pleasant surprise at finishing my last 5K with an improved time, I found myself supremely grateful to have the good fortune to be friends with someone who is motivating without knowing he’s motivating. I commented toward the end of the trip how great I felt and how it was almost as if I’d detoxed and he looked kind of shocked and commented that he didn’t think we were eating that healthy. True, I had eaten some of his grandmother’s cookies and we did enjoy spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A, but I also exercised more and ate less than I had in weeks. It sounded about right though. My insanely healthy was Ryan’s sort of healthy. But still. I felt empowered to go home and face the final barrage of Christmas sweets armed with the knowledge that what’s sugar in comparison to feeling like a health junkie? Why nothing, of course. It’s nothing in comparison.