My birthday is Thursday this coming week. I will be 42. It’s pretty nice. I feel great. I look great. I have no complaints. Not about my life, and not about my age.
It was on my birthday 12 years ago that I came out of the fog of giving up sugar.
For most of the first 28 years of my life, I lived in a sugar fog. I was addicted to sugar and carbs from a very young age. And I was high on sugar the majority of my waking life.
And then at 28, I gave up sugar, and went from being high on sugar all the time to not being high on sugar at all, and that felt like a different kind of high. It meant cravings, and a general slowing down of my brain function, the adjustment of my digestive system, and a kind of low-level exhaustion basically all the time. My body and brain needed some time to heal. And then one day, my 30th birthday, about a year and a half after I gave up sugar, I noticed that I had woken up.
In that year and a half of foggy time, I was learning to keep the boundaries around my food. From friends who wanted a bite and I had to say no, to bringing my own food to a wedding and the mother of the bride being mildly offended, to people wanting to make things especially for me and having to politely refuse.
Someone once told me that when you make a commitment, you change the course of your life.
After that I was learning about how to keep other boundaries. Saying no to people who knew me as eager-to-please. Standing by my “no” when people wanted to coerce or manipulate me into doing what they wanted. Making life choices that made me happy, rather than choices I thought would make others happy. Making choices that I had to then stand by, because they were mine, and right or wrong, I could not pawn them off on anyone else.
If there is a hard part to change, I believe it lies in our relationships with others. I have been a relatively bold nonconformist for most of my life. I don’t particularly care what others think of me. And if I do, it is often a streak of defiance. I dare you not to like me. I dare you to judge me.
But good lord, even with my devil-may-care attitude about fitting in, when it came to setting new boundaries with people in my life, boundaries I *had to* set to keep my eating under control, it was hard. People want us to be who we have always been. And when we make life-altering changes, like entirely revamping our food life, we will, out of necessity become different people.
I see it all the time when people decide to do what I do with food. If they want to lose weight but they don’t want to change, they will not last long. They may lose weight. They may even lose all of the weight they want to. But then they inevitably return to old ways and old patterns.
I have heard when women let their mothers-in-law insist they eat the special dessert made just for them. Or let their husbands convince them that they should have a glass of wine because they used to be fun. Or let their sweet grandmothers feed them that special dish.
Refusing the homemade lasagna made by my most beloved grandmother (she made it for Christmas and Easter and it was by far my favorite food in the whole world – in my life, it was what love tasted like) may have been the hardest thing I ever had to do. It was terrible to have to do to both of us. It hurt her. It hurt me. But I had to say no. So I did.
I do not regret a single moment on this journey. I am grateful for all 42 years of my amazing life. And especially grateful for the past 13 and a half, where I have been learning slowly and steadily how to be my truest self. And even more for that moment 12 years ago, when I looked up from that year and a half of introspection, and pain, and discombobulation and discomfort, and saw that there had been an “other side.” And that I was on it.