The great modern philosopher Kylie Jenner declared 2016 the year of “like, realising things”. At the time the detractors laughed, but she turned out to be right (Trump, Brexit). 2020 is also shaping out to be another year of realising things, for me anyway.
I started this post a few days into the new year, I’m sure by now 2020 is a year of realising things for everyone!
Sometime in 2018, I started breaking out heavily. I have never had spotless blemish free skin, but this was ridiculous. As always I ignored it for a few months, hoping it would just go away. When it persisted I started blaming the breakout on everything; stress, lack of sleep, hard water, towels, Nando’s peri mayonnaise, makeup, evil people. It just was not fair; I washed my face twice a day and never ever slept with makeup on. I did not deserve to get so much acne. Every day there was a new pimple on my face, and in its wake was a dark spot. I stopped eating certain things, and in a particularly low moment I actually bought Proactive. Nothing worked.
Fast forward to Christmas 2019 and I am on holiday with my family. During the short break my skin miraculously improves and I even get compliments about how my face is glowing. Holiday ends and I return to my normal life, high on life and full of positive energy for 2020. Almost immediately my skin starts to break out again! What the hell? I took the time to review what was different on holiday
*music scratches* It was at moment that I realised the root of my problems.
See I did not eat much junk food on my holiday. I slept in till mid afternoon, ordered room service, went out to eat, and rarely ate any sweets. Then I came back home and immediately resumed my routine of devouring sugar custard doughnuts, chocolate chip muffins, chocolates, and cakes. It was then that it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, my problems were due to sugar.
I already suspected junk food was not my friend due to my weight gain and dental issues. Despite my brushing twice a day without fail, I developed a cavity and had to get a filling. At the time I also bemoaned the unfairness of it all, but I have since had to accept that maybe I do consume too much sugar. In fact, I am eating more junk/sugar now than I ever did in my entire life. Growing up I did not have easy access to sweets and chocolate, seeing as I had no money of my own and couldn’t take myself to the store, so I had those in moderation. Nowadays I literally always have a treat every single day, and I always made sure to have something sweet at home to nibble on after dinner. On my way back home on Fridays I would stop by the stores to stock up on junk for the weekend: chocolates (not my faves but still), pastry, candy, juice e.t.c. Looking back at it now, it is actually ridiculous, but at the time I did not think anything of it. I have now developed a habit of looking at the sugar content of the stuff I buy and Mon Dieu! There is so much sugar in everything. One pot of sticky toffee pudding has 42g of sugar-I would have two. Even the healthy options such as fresh juices have a lot of sugar just I would drink them like water. Speaking of water, I was struggling to drink more than a few glasses a day. This was my life, go to work, stop at the store on the way home to buy rubbish, go home and eat nonsense till I fall asleep.
Then I had my second realisation.
It all comes back to loneliness. I spend so much time by myself, alone in my room, that I have nothing else to do but to eat and watch TV (and procrastinate on all the productive things I could be doing instead). Spending Christmas with my family away from home made me realise that I have fewer junk cravings when I am with company. To be honest I don’t have that much cravings anyway, I just eat because it is something to do. Plus I know that custard doughnut tastes good so I buy it and keep it eating it until it is all gone, regardless of whether I am actually craving it. Having snacks around is another problem; I have zero willpower in the presence of sugar. I can resist temptation when the temptation is still in the store, but once it is in my vicinity I have to eat it.
Of course I was aware that people eat out of boredom, but I did not extend that to loneliness and to myself until now. Boredom and loneliness can be entwined and sometimes they are one and the same. When I am around friends and family, I am sated by the conversations and laughter and arguments and silence; and I rely less on food and internet to do that. But when I am by myself with no one to engage with, food and TV fulfill that need.
The effects of loneliness are pervasive and truly astounding. The first step is realising you have a problem and then taking the necessary steps to mitigate said problem. For Lent, I tried to replace my addiction to food and phone with more productive things, and it has honestly been touch and go. Still I have definitely been better with the sugar intake and I can see this in my skin. The trick is to fill the lonely moments with more productive things-reading, writing. cooking (ha!), colouring, creating a scrapbook/vision board. My goal is to fill the loneliness with something more tangible, to replace the snacks with creativity, and to make something more fulfilling. The real test will be saying no to sweets that I am offered, but sadly I have not reached that level yet.
What have I realised in the first week of the new decade? Something I have always known: I eat junk to fill the boredom, and it is wreaking havoc on my skin and teeth.
I am excited for all these lessons and realisations, and despite how raggedy this year is turning out, I am still looking forward to ending this year a better version of myself.