When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass!
When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass!
My husband and I are in a town outside of Indianapolis for the next month or so, and I am having a hard time finding some of the things that I love to eat. So far, I have not been able to find Italian sausage that doesn’t have sugar, but that’s nothing new. However, I can’t find bacon without sugar here either. Ugh! Let me say that again. Ugh!
I cannot tell you how it makes me furious that companies put sugar in everything. Not only because I can’t eat them, but also because I believe that they are eroding our palates and our minds.
When I gave up sugar, my palate shifted. A lot. As a little kid, I loved Brussels sprouts. I loved cauliflower. As an older kid, teen, and young adult, I hated them. Hatred. Passionate, unyielding hatred. When I put down sugar in all forms except artificial sweeteners, and some fruits and vegetables, I gradually came to love them again. Now I also love chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and mushrooms. I also enjoy carrots and squash, winter or summer.
By adding sugar and starch to everything, I think food companies are doing us a huge disservice. They are creating a culture that equates food with a “rush.” They are getting us addicted, as a society, to an additive that is cheap to them, but incredibly expensive, health and well-being wise, to us. They are setting us up to eat more than we know we need, and more than we want. They are getting rich off of giving us diseases and disorders.
I want to say clearly that I believe in personal responsibility. I don’t want to imply that I don’t. But doing what I do is hard. Seriously difficult. Worth it every time and in every way, but not simple. It takes a kind of determination and individuality, the ability to disregard the pull of “normalcy” in a culture that has taken up the mantle of pleasure over contentment, instant gratification over long-term fulfillment. And food companies are using our own survival/evolutionary instincts against us. They want profits to grow exponentially. How can they do that if we eat their food in moderation? The fatter we are, the fatter their profit margins are. Frankly, I think it’s sick. Morally bankrupt.
I know that many people can eat junk food in moderation. Bless them! To them I say, “Enjoy every bite!” But the rise of obesity in the western world shows that the way food is being produced, processed, and marketed is making most of us fat and sick.
And it’s making a girl who can’t find bacon she can eat annoyed and cranky. I don’t expect this to change any time in the near future. But I am going to make a recommendation to you. Read your labels. Even if you don’t change what you buy. Look at what these companies are offering. Notice them change. I have had to give up things I ate for years because someone decided to add sugar or starch.
But I will say this too. About 4 years ago, a company that made wheat germ changed its ingredients to add sugar. In that time, people who do what I do sent out the word to one another. We all stopped eating it. Now I am not saying that my small group was the reason, but less than a year later, the company changed back to the original, sugar-free formula. My guess is that the kind of people who eat wheat germ are generally people who care about what goes into their bodies. And when they saw that they were now getting sugar, they switched brands. Just like myself and others in my food community.
So remember that you can eat what you want, but also. you can vote with your wallet. And I highly recommend that.
This week was an exciting food week for me. First, I found my favorite winter seasonal flavored coffee, cinnamon sugar cookie. (It’s even better than gingerbread, and frankly, blows pumpkin spice out of the water.) Now I usually hate it when companies start selling a season months in advance, and I certainly found it ridiculous that there was a “fall scents” display in my local grocery store this July. And if I were in New York or Chicago staring down an actual winter, I might be more annoyed than excited to find this coffee. But on the other hand, it is reaaaaaaaally good, and I’m in southern Texas where I will not have to wear four layers of pants to leave my house. Ever. So yay yummy coffee!
And then I found a meat market that will custom make me mild Italian sausage with no sugar, grains, or starch. I have not been able to find an Italian Sausage I can eat since I left the Chicago area. In fact, I was buying a bunch of it there when we traveled home to visit family, and driving it back to Kentucky in a cooler and freezing it. Now, we don’t go home by car. So we have not had sausage in months! Months I say!
And then somebody told my husband about a meat market, and I called and asked about the ingredients in their fresh sausage, and of course, it had sugar in it. But the guy told me that he could make custom orders. And he talked me through all of the ingredients one at a time, seasonings and spices, hog casing and pork, to make sure that I could have everything on the list. I had to order 25 pounds. It’s a lot. But I will freeze it, just like I did before. And it’s Italian sausage! I get to eat Italian sausage again!
Look, this has been a rough week for me emotionally. Possibly for you too. I have been heartbroken, frustrated, furious and disgusted. These kinds of emotions, and the kind of fear and anxiety about the future that I have been experiencing, are what I ate over when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively. Now I don’t eat those feelings.
But eating still makes me happy. Happier now because it is guilt free and still keeps me in a comfortable body. So I am grateful for yummy seasonal coffee, and sausage I can eat. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for so many little things, laughing with my husband, making new friends (human and animal), the time and ability to make Star Wars amigurumi (crocheted dolls), but for this recovering food addict, the food ones don’t hurt. In fact, they are the strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake.
For me, getting my food under control was ultimately about growing up. Before that, I was irresponsible, and food let me be that way. It made me not have to feel the consequences of my actions and inactions. Under the right circumstances, vanity and fear of humiliation can be exceptional motivators. As long as I can really feel them. And as long as I am not overwhelmed with shame.
But for me, another part of growing up is recognizing the complexity of life and the world. Only children, and people who refuse to grow up, have the luxury of living in a simple, black and white world.
I have not figured out the details of my not-really-a-resolution yet. I don’t mind. I’m not ashamed. I can change any time, not just at the beginning of the year. I would rather do it right than do it “on time.” Because I want to be more peaceful, but there are other things I want too, and they make peace more complicated.
I want to be a channel for justice. I want to be a witness to the people who seem to be invisible. I want, in my own, small way to make a difference. And that means that I cannot cut ties from what is going on in the world, and in my country. Especially in my country. I believe in being a citizen of the world, but I also firmly believe that charity begins at home. First with me, and then my husband. Then our families and friends. And out in ripples. Virtual concentric circles.
January 2nd marked 11 years of food boundaries for me. (And 5 years of this blog! Whoa! That kinda took me by surprise!) That means every day without exception. And in so many ways, that one commitment 11 years ago changed the way I see the whole world.
Before I learned to put boundaries around my food, I had no boundaries at all. Not with my food, and not with my relationships. I would use and manipulate people, and I would let myself be used and manipulated. It wasn’t conscious. I just didn’t have a frame of reference for how to say no. I didn’t like or respect myself, and I was so preoccupied with trying to control every outcome that how I was affecting people in my life was not even on my radar.
At 28 years old, putting boundaries around my food was just about my food. No sugar or carbs, 3 meals a day, with strict portion control. But that quickly meant that I had to put boundaries around my time. I had to wake up at a certain time to eat breakfast before I left for work. I had to take a break to eat lunch. No, I couldn’t grab a slice to eat while I walked. I had to eat dinner, so I could meet you for coffee, but I had to leave by 8. Even if you needed me. Even if it was important. Dinner was more important. So I ended up having to put boundaries around close relationships. And eventually I had to put boundaries around all relationships, right down to the teller at the bank and the Starbucks barista. (The truth is that on a daily basis, putting boundaries around momentary relationships with strangers like that doesn’t look that different than before, though I would probably say that I am much nicer and feel less entitled, while at the same time being much more likely to ask for exactly what I want. With a smile.) What started as a simple (okay, not so simple) act of taking care of what I was eating, radiated out from me, into all of my interactions in the world.
The truth is, if I want peace alone, I can put myself in a news and politics blackout. I already have a cutoff. I will not watch physical violence. Sometimes, when my husband is watching a video I find disturbing, I leave the room, or ask him to. I do not watch videos of people being killed, tortured, or maimed.
But there is a lot of violence in politics right now. And just because it is not blunt objects, or bullets and blood, I have let my guard down. And it is painful for me. I am sensitive to violence. But I am ultimately in favor of being sensitive to it, because the alternative seems to be desensitization.
There is the complexity. How do I protect myself, while still being available? How do I do with my heart what I do with my food? How do I make sure I am true to myself and who I want to be in the world, without creating a toxic environment in my own head?
I know that I need to up my meditation. Once a day is not enough. But what do I do to limit my intake of those things that fill me with rage? The violence, the hatred, the lies, the corruption, the pettiness, and sometimes just the sheer stupidity?
It’s not like the food. With the food, I can stop seeing it. I can put myself in a blackout, because food that is not mine does not affect me; it’s none of my business. But politics does affect me, and is my business.
To not be political is its own kind of politics, and I cannot, in good conscience be a member of that “party.” It’s not that I don’t know where I stand. It’s that I need to figure out how to stand here with peace and love in my heart.
So for now, I will up my meditation. And while I am meditating, I will ask for the answer to this dilemma. And that answer will come in its own time. But I’m in no hurry. Because it wasn’t really a New Year’s Resolution anyway.
I love summer. Seriously. I love heat. You will never hear me complain about humidity. If I am home alone, I regularly turn off the air conditioner in the summer.
I also hate being cold. I don’t experience cold as discomfort. It is all-out pain to me. And I can get cold in temperatures in the 70s. 75 is my comfort cut off. If it’s cooler than 75 and the sun is not directly on me, I need a sweater.
I will note that this is a side effect of losing so much weight. Or maybe it has more to do with not eating sugar. When I was fat, I was hot all the time. Even in the middle of Chicago winters. I sometimes wonder if cold registers as so painful to me because it was foreign to me for so much of my life. But it has progressed. Every year I don’t eat sugar, grains or starch, the colder I get, and the higher my comfort temperature gets. 5 or so years ago, I was perfectly comfortable when it was in the high 60s.
So there is this part of me that is a little anxious about the end of summer. The leaves here are changing and it got cold last night. I am afraid of winter. And this is Chicago, so we are talking about at least 5 (and up to 8) months of pain.
But then…apples. Giant Honeycrisp apples. And Kabocha squash. And then a friend gave me a recipe for cheesecake. Real, honest-to-goodness cheesecake. Like the kind my Gram used to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just have to substitute artificial sweetener for sugar.
Nature was no fool when it comes to autumn. The air smells so good. And the feeling of warm, soft clothes in the cool air is so comfortable. Hot coffee. Spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. (You might recognize them as “Pumpkin Spice.”) Not to mention things to do with friends and family. Apple picking, and pumpkin patches. Hay rides and bonfires.
What I need to remember at times like this, when I am afraid of the coming cold, is that this too, shall pass. Like all seasons. And all moments. Every winter will eventually give way to a new spring. And another summer.
Everything comes down to a day at a time. Everything is about being present in the moment. Because even in the midst of the bad, there is always plenty of good.
I first learned that with food. When I was first getting sober from sugar, I was also living in pain. My withdrawal symptoms, and the fog I lived in, lasted for a year and a half. I got through that a day at a time. Reading books and manga, taking walks, making friends.
Life will go on. Even in the freezing cold. And there will be happiness in the freezing cold. There will be fun and love and joy. And lots of crocheting. Scalding hot showers I don’t want to get out of. Ginger tea, and cranberry apple tea, and chai tea.
And, most importantly, there will be foods that I love! Apples and squash, sugar-free cheesecakes and pumpkin pies. (Because just because my eating is under control, it doesn’t mean I am neutral around food.)