Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fueling Up

I've owned several cars in my years as a driver. I've run out of gas in two of them. The first time I got caught with an empty tank, I was driving down Main Street in my hometown in my 1962 Corvair. I powered through the light at 8th street, and in the block between 7th and 6th street, the engine stalled. I was 16, a new driver, and my heart leaped into my throat. Cranking the non-power steering to the right, I was able to make the 90 degree turn onto 6th street and coast next to the open curb. I don't remember how I called home in that pre-cell phone era, but I do remember seeing my dad's car turn onto the street. He pulled beside me and calmly took his gas can to fill my tank. As he reattached the lid, he simpy said, "Never let your tank get lower than a 1/4 full."*

I've thought often of my dad's words over the years, particularly when my indicator light pops on while I am stuck in traffic miles from an exit. My husband and I have had some close calls, but we have so far managed to avoid running out of gas. My hubby is himself a car guy, and he has always stressed to me how important it is to follow the manufacturer's guidelines when selecting the grade of gas for each car. Despite the high gas prices, I dutifully pay for premium for my Z4. I want my Becka to run happily for me, to get me where I need to go.

Last week I participated in a "Reset Your Metabolism" cleanse with a group organized by my nutritionist. For seven days I paid close attention to the foods I ate. I was never hungry, always full from the variety of recipes allowed in this cleanse. The experience taught me several things, but my major epiphany came as I realized that food is fuel. I realize this simple statement might seem self obvious, but last week, when I required myself to follow the structure of the cleanse, eating three times per day and never after 7PM, I noticed my consciousness shift. I eat when I am hungry, and when I am busy, I often don't notice I am hungry until I completely run out of gas. Since I am often not hungry when I wake up in the morning (which, by the way, apparently means I am physiologically out of balance) and I often work through lunch or grab something quickly, I don't take the time to fuel my body with the premium fuel it needs. I've realized that I haven't heeded my dad's warning, and I often let my tank run empty, and I haven't been following my husband's directive and filling up with premium fuel.

On the flip side, I also realized that I have a habit of "comfort eating" at night. Snacks after 7PM, whether they were healthy or junky, have been a staple in my diet. During the cleanse I replaced these snacks with hot tea quite satisfactorily. My body didn't need the fuel at night because I had been giving it plenty during the day.

Food habits are hard to break. I've realized I have two that need to be broken. I need to stop eating comfort food in the evening, and I need to start eating mindfully throughout the day. Both of these changes will be possible, I think, because I've realized that food is fuel. My dad and my husband were both right - I don't want to run out of gas, and I don't want to gunk up my engine. Rather, I want to give my body the fuel it needs to keep me going - at work and at home - throughout the day.

*Six years later I ran out of gas again. This time I was driving my 1975 CJ5, and the gas indicator did not work. I kept a small notebook in my glovebox that recorded mileage, and I mathematically figured out when I needed to fill the tank. Because we were never sure how many miles per gallon that car got, I was extremely conservative and filled the tank regularly. That particular time, I subtracted wrong and ended up stranded in a parking lot. My dad rescued me again, pulling in beside me with his gas can.


  1. First off great analogy.
    Curious what your nutritionist said about eating after 7PM if you goto bed at 2am? Some nights we might not eat until 7 or 8pm for dinner but since I goto bed so late I find I am more active than most that are going to bed much earlier. Thus I feel it slightly better in my case if I do eat than if I don't. Now what I eat at that time is a different story.

    1. She would have plenty to say about going to bed at 2AM. The best metabolizer is rest, and your liver does its most efficient detox work a few hours into your sleep. So it's important to give yourself a couple of hours between last eating and sleep for the liver to work at its best.

      At least I think that's what she said. I'm learning so much that I can't keep it all straight all the time. :)