Posted by: kerryalina | 26 March 2012

Challenge Class 37: A Matter of Priorities

I got a call with my test results late this afternoon.  It turns out the stomach pains are generated by an inability to digest fructose, which I didn’t initially think would be a problem since I’m not a huge fan of fresh fruit anyway.  But as my doctor was indecently eager to inform me, fructose is also in, well, pretty much everything.  From lettuce to legumes, from wheat to wine, and all that’s in between.  Even my electrolyte supplements carry the dreaded saccharide.  To add insult to injury, my other two tests came back clean.  This feels like the biggest booby prize ever – “You’re not gluten intolerant!  But wheat contains fructose too.  And you’re not lactose intolerant!  But ice-cream’s off the menu anyway.  Enjoy!”

It may sound melodramatic, but I locked myself in the toilet at work and cried.

I have a somewhat complicated history with food.  No eating disorders, as such… but over the years, “eating” has run the gamut from a habitually forgotten and generally objectionable chore, to an orgy of high-caloric and disappointingly-flavoured junk, to a highly constrained and restrictive ordeal.  It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve come to appreciate food for itself, to find joy in the process of creating (or buying) fresh dishes and to trust my body to tell me what it needs.  The result has been… well.  The result has been unspeakably good.

But then, this phone call.  Suddenly I was facing the prospect of living from rule books and the strictest of recipes; having a dietitian dictate every bite that I take.  Living in fear of a slip; of not being strong enough to resist the lure of pasta or juice.  Visions of meeting friends for lunch and sitting idly by, toying with my unused cutlery while they eat.

Yes, yes, I know.  Melodramatic.  But the whole thing was dispiriting nonetheless.

I came home from work, threw myself on the couch and sobbed.  (Melodramatically, of course.  Everything’s more fun when it’s melodramatic).  I was determined not to go to class, because I was sad and put-upon and it just wasn’t fair.  I had a pretty good reason for staying home and feeling sorry for myself, and I was damn well going to exploit it.  Then, fifteen minutes later, I was walking into class.  Overruled by my own subconscious.  The traitor.

Here’s what my subconscious realised (and by “realised,” I mean “bashed me over the head with”): There’s no reason to skip a class.  There’s no reason to GO to class.  It’s all just a matter of priorities.

For me, today, not losing sight of this challenge had a higher priority than wallowing in self-pity on the couch (although it was a really, really close call).  That’s the only reason I went to class.  It’s not because I’m dedicated, or strong-willed, or an all-round amazing yogini.  It’s just because that’s where my priorities lay.

Here’s the thing: absolutely anyone could do a challenge.  It’s theoretically possible.  But.  People have priorities.

It could be gainful employment, children’s bathtimes, dinner with partners, drinks after work.  Footy teams or choir practice or gardening chores.  It could be bodily injury or muscle fatigue or getting an extra hour’s sleep.  Or maybe just plain not wanting to get off the couch.  Every single conflicting priority has to be assessed against Bikram – and lose – in order to complete a challenge.  Sometimes it’s an easy choice (yoga will rarely win against work) and sometimes the immediate priority (“Spend time with my children”) has to be weighed against a long-term goal (“Be healthy so I can participate in their childhood”).  The net result is that sometimes people drop out of challenges because “life gets in the way.”  But what that really means is that they have other priorities.  And that’s absolutely fine.  It’s healthy and it’s awesome and there is not one single thing wrong with it… even if it’s because their priority is catching up on The Bachelor.

This is the viewpoint I’m going to try and bring to my diet now.  There are no rules for what I eat.  There are no reasons to I have to avoid a particular food group.  There’s just the immediate reward vs the discomfort it will cause.  Pasta isn’t forbidden, and eating it doesn’t equate to being “naughty” or indicate a lack of moral fibre. It just means I’ve weighed the delicious taste against the future pain and the delicious taste won.  But that future pain is a hefty discouragement, so the pasta will probably win less and less often.  I’ll find new dishes that cause less pain and taste just as good. They’ll win more often.  But sometimes I’ll still feel like pasta.  I’ll want it enough to endure the pain.  And that’s okay.  It’s all just a matter of priorities.

And that’s all the golden insights I have for tonight.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I do believe I have a date with my couch, a spoon and a jar of delicious, fructose-free Nutella.



  1. great post. i totally feel you on this. I’ve been going through something similar–suddenly can’t have a lot of the things I used to really enjoy. I spent an hour one night last week wandering around the grocery store, feeling sorry for myself. It’s sad and you sorta have to mourn the loss of the old you and the old you’s habits. But in the end, it’s all good because it means a healthier new you.

    • I am a big believer in the importance of feeling sorry for yourself when required!

      I’m trying to remind myself that despite the diagnosis, my body hasn’t actually *changed* – if I continue to eat the same things I am now, nothing different will happen. But the discomfort it causes is severe enough that I sought help, and now I have the tools necessary to alleviate it. This point of view is… helping? I think? But you’re right – there’s definitely an element of mourning involved.

      • Totally. I went overboard last night and ate a bunch of stuff I know is bad for me and I’m totally paying the price this morning. C’est la vie.

  2. […] If you’ve been following this blog, then you know I’ve been kinda bummed lately, dwelling on all the things I can’t eat anymore because of the headaches. But I realized yesterday, it isn’t that I can’t eat them–it’s just that if I do I will be miserable. And I have to weigh the brief but utterly real satisfaction that comes from eating something delicious but bad for me vs. the discomfort that will follow. Bikram Butterflies dropped a great post this morning about this very dillema. […]

  3. Totally feel you on this one. It’s so hard to think so hard about what you are eating! A total pain in the ass.

    And yes, sometimes you just have to have a pity party.

    Good job on keeping up your challenge. I bailed all last week on yoga and feel like crap now – it’s just really not worth it!

    • Thanks hon! I actually took a week off from yoga right before I started this challenge – no real reason, just had a bad case of cbf – and the amount of pure AWESOME that I felt after my first class back was the catalyst for actually signing up for this thing :)

  4. That has gotta be SO tough to face. But sounds like you got your head on your shoulders about it. Hang in there.

    • Thanks hon :) Wish me luck!

  5. You’re right, it’s not like your body has changed, it’s just your awareness of what’s happening that has changed. Ignorance is bliss, right? Well…only if while your ignorant you can also ignore the awful symptoms you seem to be having!

    Have you seen any of the ‘I Quit Sugar’ stuff going on at Sarah Wilson’s site? ( It’s aallll about quitting fructose in particular, there are lots of recipes to share, she’s written an e-book and she’s gathering a huge community. Hopefully it might make you feel like you’ve got a bit of support!

    Good luck with it all! You’re challenge stories are hugely inspiring!

    • Hey Lauren, that’s an awesome website; cheers! And she’s an aussie too. Even better :)

      At the moment I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed with the advice and recipes and tips and information that I’m getting from all angles – I think my plan of action is to meet with a dietitian, get a starting point and then look into the finer details! But I’ll definitely stick a bookmark on Sarah’s page for when I get to that point.

      • I’ll bet all the advice pouring in would be a bit overwhelming! It’s lovely that people turn it into a positive by sharing what they know, but I think you’re wise to take it slow, start with one thing and move from there!

        Good luck with it all :)

  6. Good for you, going to class despite the bad news. Hang in there.

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