Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Instead of Sugar

Nearly two weeks off sugar. Again, if I don't rouse myself in the middle of the night tonight and make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which would likely be all consumed in one breath, it will be a solid two weeks. And no binges. When my partner and I stopped to pick some dinner up for him tonight, I was struck by the fact that my compulsion around and obsession with sugar is simply gone. For now. I'd like to think that by suffering enough over the compulsion and by getting really honest about it, that maybe it was just time, that enough was enough and I let it loose,  or it let loose, lifting into the blue skies and out of sight, maybe landing in a place something like heaven. 

But it's hard to believe that something I lived with for a lifetime, at least 45 years, could just disappear. I suppose it could. Other things have disappeared that seemed so core to my identity. People. Other habits. 

When I was nineteen, I started identifying as a poet. I studied poetry in college, hosted open mike reading series in the vibrant Berkeley poetry scene in the early nineties, went to graduate school for poetry and continued to understand my world and experiences and feelings by shaping them into small, carefully wrought, poems. But at some point, even though poetry is a foundational part of my experience, I fell out of love with it. The purpose it served was taken over by other things--other creative work, spiritual practices that calmed my mind the way poetry had, deepening connections with other human beings (the poetry had always been a call for connection: hear me! see me! understand me!). So, perhaps, sugar, that substance I loved above all substances starting when I was four years old, has perhaps run its course. 

My first memory of sugar and how I had an unnatural fondness for it goes back to when I was four years old. I was trick-or-treating with some neighborhood kids. They were older. I had a blue princess costume. At the beginning of the night, it was already dark, and we knocked on a door. It was opened by a women who seemed as old as my great-grandmother, practically ancient in my mind. She presented us with a bowl of butterscotch candies. The hard ones, twisted up in those little yellow squares of cellophane. She invited us to take as much as we wanted. My tiny hand stretched as big as it could, fingers spreading wide and I dipped into the bowl, clutching a heaping handful. My friends laughed at me. 

It could very well be that as soon as my love for something was called wrong, I felt compelled to hide it, and in that secret place, the obsession was born. I don't know where a delight for sugar starts and a desperate need for it ends. But all this said, I am absolutely floored by the fact that, at least for today, and for these past two weeks, I haven't had a desire for sugar. It's not that it doesn't sometimes look shiny and pretty. But those momentary sparks have quickly dissolved. I'm not battling, trying not to eat sugar. That is amazing. I don't take it for granted. I will ride this reprieve as long as I can. I will learn to find other things to fill the need that sugar did. A boost when I'm fatigued? A nap. A comfort when I'm hurt or angry? Talking or writing about it, calling a friend who will listen. A way to numb out? Facebook or television. For baking projects? I just bought a new, beautiful vegan cookbook that I can make use of to learn a whole new culinary skill-set from. I'm sure there's more jobs sugar had, but these are a start. 

The ten pounds I gained during my last week bingeing is just about gone. But there's still the other thirty pounds I gained when I went back into the food. For now, my goal is to find a middle ground. To stay still, to not worry about the weight, to try to maintain for awhile. I know if I start taking away too much, that it could lead to more bingeing. I make vegetables the center of my diet--the fridge is stocked with the newest produce from my CSA farm box. I also supplemented the box contents with a trip to Costco today, feeling proud rolling my cart of vegetables and fruit alongside the other shoppers' carts. 

There is plenty to eat. And I am focusing on eating just enough. 

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