But here I want to talk about a different kind of love affair. The kind I have with the food I eat. This is not love. Let us be clear what it really is. An addiction. One where I seek validation from the outside, I go running back to the familiar, uncomfortable feelings in hopes that they will change. This time, maybe, it will be different. But it never is. I eat too much sugar, I feel grumpy, tired and bloated. I feed a craving and the blood sugar roller coaster begins, the cycle of abuse goes around again. I partake as though I am a fugitive, secretly hoarding the forbidden fruit. More accurately, I do it all mindlessly, continuously, openly.
I was so incredibly thrilled this morning to hear from a friend who is doing a Candida cleanse for a month (no dairy, no sugars or refined grains, no caffeine, no starchy veg). I have known many who have done cleanses. The Master Cleanse (syrup, lemon, cayenne and water..?), the vegan route, nothing but organic, or cutting out dairy, or sugar or wheat, nothing but juiced veggies.
A good cleanse in my mind pushes you towards nutritionally dense foods and away from those that are harmful or difficult to digest in some way or another. This is not rocket science. Yet we receive so many conflicting messages about what healthy really means. What I love best about my friend’s story so far is that after nearly two weeks she FEELs better. She has more energy, needs less sleep, still takes her body on long runs.
I have been blown away by her diligence and determination. I think because this particular friend is in my camp. She gets the value of home grown, home-made food. But like me, she takes advantage of the convenience of processed stuff once in a while. Limiting sugar and dairy would be especially tricky for me. There are days I give myself nothing but kale and beans and homemade condiments and grass-fed beef, and raw, unhomogenized dairy, and spinach and whole, healthy grains and omega-rich fats and perfect proteins. And other days…well…maybe all of that plus three Cadbury Easter cream eggs.
Don’t wince. It is true that I am an organic farmer who values nutrition and unprocessed food and food grown without chemicals and fresh, clean air and all of that. But I have a vice and this is it. Some days the vice visits and stays unwelcome for days and days. Other days it stays away for weeks at a time. I don’t drink alcohol very often. I don’t smoke. I exercise intensely at least 3-4 hours a week. I get my sleep. I take time to breathe. And every now and again, I eat a mountain of sugar that would make your head spin.
When I was younger I could get away with just about anything and still manage to walk around looking like a beanpole. As the decades pass, I find more and more that my secret behaviour (not really so much secret anymore is it?) is starting to show. Not just on my waist but in my moods, my skin, my energy levels, my ability to sleep or cope. And it takes a lot more work to keep the extra pounds at bay.
Now I don’t think this is the worst addiction in the world. You could argue that the only person I’m hurting is myself (if you keep the health care argument out of it and perhaps longevity and quality of life as it relates to time with my children). I’ve also met folks so addicted to their exercise regimes or their diet plans that they are downright nasty to other people who don’t do what they do or get in the way of their obsessions. I’ve been there too. Addicted to movement. Compulsive about nutrition.
Now it is absolutely essential to me that any changes I make are done with kindness. Kindness to others, to myself, and to the planet. I want to approach my health with love and not criticism. With acceptance, not rejection. Because fundamentally it is way too much of a paradox to reject your own body. You can’t hate it. You can try. And I bet at times you do try. But at the end of the day exactly who is hating whom???
So I’m breaking up with refined sugars. I no longer wish to lean on something that gives me so little in return. This particular love of my life is abusive. It acts as though it is a saviour, the knight in shining armour, the healing potion, the quick fix to any problem. In the end it leaves me stranded and needing more of the same. Selling off my valuables to find money to get more. Seeking it out in the dark of night. It brings me bad days - it does not take them away.
No more corn syrups, sugary beverages, cakes, pies, pastries, squares, cookies, chocolate bars, Easter cream eggs, candies, sugary condiments, wines, beer, fruit juices… Maybe I’ll be brave enough to cut back on white flours. I don’t care for refined flour but I like to mix it in with the grainier, nuttier flours to get a lighter texture and consistency. White pasta, white rice, white bread, white tortillas… Am I ready to go the whole mile?
While I’m at it I should probably drop dairy too. But lets be honest. I don’t want to take the whole tower down at one time. Lets do this one addiction at a time.
Lover, you aren’t good for me anymore. I’m not sure you ever have been. If you love me, please let me go. Can one get a restraining order on a food? Oh, is that simply called restraint? I shall give that a go.
Care to join me? 5 weeks. Starting now. See you on the other side.