This is a real thing – it’s a game (well, more of a dare, really) from Jelly Belly called Beanboozled where you basically play Russian Roulette with sugar. Of course we bought it. My boys thought it was the most hilarious thing ever.
It all started with a bag of Sweetart jelly beans and a handful of chocolate chips. Well, actually it started last night when I stayed up all night with a sick kiddo. (Nobody likes to puke alone, I get it, but I’m telling you there’s nothing worse than waking up to someone with the Purple Burps breathing into your face.) Okay, technically it started last weekend when I had 7 articles due and twice as many experts to interview. Or maybe it was last week when my son decided that instead of going to bed like I’d told him, instead he would fall on a staple (A TINY METAL STAPLE) and need stitches at 10 o’clock at night. No wait, I suppose it really started 11 years ago when my first child was born. Whatever. My point: I am severely sleep deprived. (Oh and CURSE YOU daylight savings time!)
Insomnia is not my problem – I’m practically a narcoleptic triggered by pillows – it’s just that nobody around here wants to let me sleep. Not even my cat. But today has been worse than normal. After clocking just two short hours of sleep, I was up for the day with a seven-year-old who thinks just because he’s awake at 5 a.m. that that means the day starts at 5 a.m. Puberty will fix that, I’m sure, but in the meantime I’m stumbling around the house in a fog trying to remember if I have to cook Cheerios.
After doing the morning eat-brush-backpack-school ritual – complete with a rousing game of Mom, Where Are My Pants? – and volunteering at the my son’s classroom since that’s the only way I can ensure he turns in his homework, I finally sat down to eat my totally unappetizing breakfast of oatmeal and eggs. Cold. It was in that moment of weakness the first craving hit. I wanted candy. The straighter the sugar, the better. Did you know it’s Jelly Bean season??
“Ah,” my brain quickly observed, “you are exhausted and so you are seeking the sweet sweet love of simple carbs!” My brain is smart. My flesh? Not so much. I grabbed a handful, just sniffing their over-processed sickeningly sweet aroma. “Don’t do it!” my brain screamed. “Don’t fall for his slick come-on! He’ll lift you up just to drop you like a rock once the fun is over! It’s the carbohydrate version of a late-night booty call!” My daughter fell off her stool and started screaming just as my editor called. I popped a jelly bean as I stared at my phone. “It’ll only make you feel good for a second! And then you’ll feel like crap.” my brain nagged. Ah, what a rush! “Remember what happened last time you did this!” my brain cried frantically in one last ditch effort to save me from myself. “It doesn’t have to be this way!” I ate the candy. “You slut.”
Sure enough, I rode the blood sugar coaster of doom all morning long, barely making it to lunch where I decided I would atone for my confectionery transgressions with a healthy meal. Plans changed however when a dear friend showed up for a surprise visit. The afternoon quickly passed with much laughter but without food. By the time she left I was cross-eyed with weariness. And then it was time to do the whole morning routine again, but in reverse, with an hour-long “Your child is a problem” meeting tacked on after. The second we got home I dropped to the couch and closed my eyes. Ten minutes later my oldest two were standing over me with their scout shirts on. “Time to go, mom!” They were right. And I hadn’t even started dinner. Curse the teacher who taught them how to tell time.
What’s a healthy snack to grab on the go? Almonds? Fruit? Jerky? Jelly beans and chocolate chips of course! I guiltily washed it down with a piece of celery one of my kids had left on the table. My fate was sealed. Today had officially become a Jelly Bean Day. In case you missed the festivities last time around, that would be the celebration of all things sugar that lasts all day, finally culminating in a grand symphony (candy bar pun intended) of screaming, crying and then a sugar coma.
I should know better. I knew exactly why I was craving all that sugar – everyone knows that being tired gives you mad cravings. There’s quite a bit of research to back up that connection between sleep deprivation and junk food cravings. One study found that people who got less than 6 hours of sleep ate about 500 more calories the following day than they normally would. And those calories weren’t gigantic salads. Explained the UC Berkley scientists: “Sleep deprivation increases the activity of deeper, primal brain regions that respond directly to rewards. The combination of increased primal drives and reduced executive function of the frontal lobes creates a double-whammy that makes people more likely to reach for potato chips and pizza than leafy greens or lean meats.”
And I knew exactly what I should have done to remedy the situation – eat a meal with protein and healthy fat and take a nap. I even knew exactly what was going to happen because of my actions – half-functional, fully cranky mom time. So why didn’t I do the right thing? Because apparently being tired also makes me a poor decision maker.
Yet as I sit here writing this whole pity party out I realized that I still have one big decision left to make: how I’m going to make myself feel about this. I was already halfway down the street to Shameville when I started but reading back over this I realized that I had a bad day. It happened. But it’s just one day. And the sugar, while regrettable, wasn’t the worst thing I could have done. In fact, it was pretty delicious. The best thing to do now is to let it go, get to bed and have a better day tomorrow. Adding self-recrimination to this formula will not only make today worse but it will set me up to fail next time this situation happens (and oh it will!) because I’ll already believe that I’m weak and can’t handle it. I can handle this. I did handle this. Everyone’s still alive – and sometimes that’s good enough.
Anyone else have a “jelly bean day” today? What’s your crutch when you’re exhausted? What do you tell yourself when you have a bad day with food?