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From Head to Toe


In November, a friend told me about this foot peel mask she tried. She put these baggies on her feet, wore them for an hour while watching TV, and then washed her feet. After a couple of days, the skin on her feet began to peel. The shedding lasted over a week and while she didn’t like it and told me she wouldn’t do it again, I was eager to give it a try (I’m a sucker for a good before and after).

I bought a two-pack and went back and forth about whether or not I should save them both for myself, or if I should share the experience with someone else. A couple of weeks ago, I finally broke them out and my twelve-year-old Oliver said, “I should do that. The skin on my feet could use it.” The humor in the statement and the idea of spending Momilver (mom + Oliver) time together was too good to pass up. So, we made ourselves comfortable and donned the baggies while Oliver set the timer on his phone and gave me regular updates, “It’s been five minutes,” “We have twenty-five minutes left,” etc. Howard was out of the house when we started and was first confused and then amused by what he came home to.

After an hour, we rinsed off our feet and commented on their softness. Just like my friend’s experience, we did not have one whisper of peeling yet.

Two days later, Oliver started peeling. Three days later, he played soccer and the combination of sweating and running expedited peeling so much that when he came home and took off his socks, it looked like skin confetti and we needed to get out the vacuum.

Though not nearly as much, I started peeling too. As well, I started to notice a little itching. It wasn’t anything substantial at first. In fact, I didn’t make the connection between the peel and the itching until the next day when the itching intensified. By the following day, it was obvious that I was in the throws of a major reaction to the foot peel. I'll spare you the photos, but I could see the line of demarcation on my ankle where the baggie stopped because the red bumps were no higher than that. I want to state explicitly, this was not an issue with the peel–I have always had sensitive skin, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I reacted this way.

If I asked you to predict what time of day my feet itched the most, would you say:

  1. At work

  2. At home

  3. At bedtime

  4. All of the above

I don’t know about your guess, but I would have guessed D, all of the above. Itchy feet are itchy feet, after all. The time of day should not matter. Yet, let me tell you, the time of day made all the difference. At work, I might get a zing here and there of an itch, but generally, I could go the whole day without giving my feet much thought. Why, because I was distracted. At work, I’m in the middle of doing work. I don’t have time to give my feet my attention. As well, at work, I’m fresh. I haven’t used up my store of restraint.

The answer to the question was C, at bedtime. When I went to bed, my mind was able to focus on my feet in a way it couldn’t during the day. Even though I realized what was happening, I felt powerless to distract myself. No amount of refocusing my thoughts worked. Rather than, “Think about X,” my mind interpreted that as, “Don’t think about your feet,” which was equivalent to, “Think about your feet.” So, I tossed. I turned. I ITCHED!!! At one point on the second night, I got up and went to the couch to watch TV so the TV could distract me (which luckily eventually worked, but not after hours of lying awake). I am happy to share I got a prescription for the itch and while I’m not yet 100%, I can sleep and I am not compelled to scratch.

My bedtime itchiness reminds me of the Chocolate Chip Cookie and the Radish experiment by psychologist Roy Baumeister. In this experiment, he had three groups of people. Each group was placed in a room with chocolate chip cookies and radishes. One group was told they couldn’t eat the cookies. One group was told they couldn’t eat the radishes. The third group was told they could eat whatever they wanted to. After about 15-20 minutes of being in the room, the groups were given an impossible test (though they didn’t know it was impossible). The group that could eat the cookie only and the group that could eat whatever they wanted, persevered on the test for about 20 minutes. The radish-only group gave up almost immediately. Why? Baumeister theorized the radish-only group used their willpower on resisting the cookie. No willpower, no ability to engage in the test. Interestingly, the participants had no idea there was a connection between the food and how they performed on the test.

Cookies and itchy feet are not the only things we can perseverate on, obviously. Less obvious, however, is how our attention on X can get in the way of our ability to do the things we really want (like sleeping) and should be able to do (like taking a low-stakes test). Where are the places in our lives where we get stuck figuratively because we give our attention to the wrong thing? While the literal foot peel caused a negative skin reaction for me, I am now thinking about what are areas in my life that I’ve given too much attention to that I would feel better about peeling away.


P.S. My Catch of the Week is Doctors On Demand. I reached out to them regarding my feet. It was so easy! I actually was able to make an appointment at a time that was convenient for me. The doctor was kind and listened and sent in a prescription immediately. This was actually the second time in a couple of weeks I reached out to Doctors On Demand. The first time was due to an ear infection. I had the same easy experience from the comfort of my home (and not a potentially contagious waiting room). I highly recommend it and encourage you to see if your insurance covers this service!

P.P.S. Please remember to...

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