Sugar, specifically white refined sugar, has gotten a bad rap.
While I typically abide by a “to each their own” approach to food, it seems that lately there has been a deluge of bloggers ‘coming out’ about their sugar-free lifestyle.
To many this seems logical and saintly. To me this is yet another extreme shift of the dietary pendulum that leaves people swinging between restriction and over consumption, more obsessed with food and less at ease in life
Out of a desire to offer a different perspective and perhaps provide a middle path, I bring you my thoughts on the matter. This post isn’t for the nutrition police who have, for the time being, made up their mind. This is for those of you lost in the middle of a world that plies you with sugary sodas and tells you it’s poison at the same time.
Here are six thoughtful ‘spoonfuls’:
Thoughtful Spoonful #1 A sweet role model on the sweet middle path…
Henry Ware. “Hal” to most. Grandpa, or more often Bapa, to me.
At 91, my grandfather lives alone, remains active, and, for his age, is very healthy. He’s also eaten dessert nearly everyday of his life. [Cue needle scratch]
When I hear of people saying sugar is poison I simply call him up and reminisce about the lemon meringue pie I used to bake with my grandmother. It was so delicious.
Thoughtful Spoonful # 2: When there is nothing to rebel against…
In my experience, when I have something to rebel against, I rebel. When I have nothing to rebel against, I’m free and travelling an easeful middle path. A no-sugar rule would, and has, in my more restrictive days, made me straight-up bonkers. Being a freedom-junkie is what has kept me from being a sugar-junkie.
Thoughtful Spoonful #3: Play food has a place…
Here’s an excerpt from a favorite book of mine, Intuitive Eating:
“Sometimes you have a desire for food that has no nutritionally redemptive powers. We call this food play food. We prefer this term to one of the most commonly used terms to describe what’s considered unhealthy foods–junk food. The term junk food implies that there is no intrinsic value in this food–in fact, that it probably should be thrown in the garbage can. But we feel that this thinking is unwarranted. There are times when a piece of red velvet cake or a stick of licorice is just the food that will satisfy your taste buds. And eating these types of foods doesn’t mean you are an unhealthy eater.”
I have often found important, health-promoting, value in foods with little nutritional value.
Thoughtful Spoonful #4: Every body is wise…
I trust my body implicitly. This is a hard won fact. Most of the time my body, and most well-fed, well-pleasured bodies, don’t crave tons of sugar. Carbohydrates? Yes. My body and brain love carbohydrates. They keep me full, happy, functioning.
With my body leading the way I haven’t been lead straight to the firey hell of Candy Land…just to a sweet middle path.
Thoughtful Spoonful #5: The secret ingredient…
Food is way more than just a sum of it’s macro and micronutrients. Michael Pollan calls this misconception nutritionism. The truth is that there are intangibles in food that we can’t quantify. For example, why does, for some of us, our mother’s version of a dish taste so much better than our own? The answer is something we can’t see under a microscope or write into a recipe. Food, if we pay attention, has (or doesn’t have) soul to it. A factor often ignored when we eliminate whole categories of food.
Thoughtful Spoonful #6: Pleasure as a food group…
Speaking of intangibles in food. I’ve found that just like I can eat a diet deficient in fat or Vitamin C, I can be deficient in pleasure. I’ve learned to treat pleasure like a food group with a hearty dose of daily servings. This is how I feel most well-fed and this sometimes includes sugar.
Thoughtful Spoonful #7: We’re all moderators…
Some people argue that people can be divided into moderators and abstainers – people who have just a little of something and people who can’t. I balk at this argument.
In my experience, an inability to “have just a little” of something is a result of the pendulum swing that occurs for everyone where there is some sort of psychological belief that the item is scarce (“Remember, you only get to eat this when you’re on vacation”) or shouldn’t be eaten (“Good thing no one is here to see you stuffing your face with this naughty food”). When we truly feel free to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, in any quantity we want we naturally find that we don’t overdo much. In my experience, overdoing is a result of compensation for some form of restriction. Moderation is the result of being free and deeply trusting oneself.
Thoughtful Spoonful #8: Information overload…
Lest you think I’m clueless about nutrition and sugar’s effect on our bodies, rest assured that I know my omega-3’s from my omega-6s. At the height of my own eating disorder I was a walking nutritional encyclopedia. I also spent three years spent earning my master’s degree in holistic health education where I studied everything from the USDA guidelines to Ayurvedic eating approaches; raw food to the Weston A. Price approach; Chinese medicine to eco-political food systems.
In the end, I believe we suffer from a dangerous mix of information overload, food paranoia, and body disconnection.
I don’t want to live a life without sugar. I’m all for taking into account what my body and our planet need in order to be healthy, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my mental health for it. I also think the answer is always somewhere in shades of gray, not in the black and white approach of forgoing sugar all together. Turns out I don’t have to. Thank goodness.
So this is the path I have chosen: turn down the noise, ignore fads of the moment, aim for a middle path (all things in moderation, including moderation), restrict nothing, listen to my body, pay attention to the seasons and where my food comes from, and deeply enjoy sweet foods when I want them.
Like clockwork, on the full moon, I have insomnia.
This past week when the sky was aglow and the lunar calendar was turning over a page I had an urge to listen to spoken word poetry.
From about two a.m. to five I drank up some of the most stirring orations I’ve ever heard. I love this slam-ing medium of communication. It feels like a river that runs below our surface of striving. When a spoken word poet hits their flow the performance piece fades away and it’s just raw, rolling emotive breath and sound.
Here are a group of talented, brave poetic women just saying it. Perhaps it’ll keep you company during your next moon-lit awakening.
Whoa line: “…still hoping that the mortician finds us fuckable and attractive…”
Whoa line: “…deny myself the right to be shown myself…”
Whoa line: “…Eve was made naked, no makeup, no weave…”
Whoa line: “…The body is not to be prayed for, it’s to be prayed to…”
Whoa line: “…’cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
Whoa line: “Dear Cosmo: Fuck you! I will not take your sex tips on how to please a man you do not think my body will ever be worthy of.”
Whoa line: “I have been taught to grow in.”
Whoa line: “…women who will prowl 30 stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy”
Whoa line: “When they call you full of yourself”, say, “Yes.”
Whoa line: “…Van Gogh’s irregularities outweigh clean lines and clarity…”
Whoa line: “…Where are the words for the rest of me?”
Whoa line: “…It’s terrifying to have had to learn first not who I was but how I was seen…”
Let this brilliant drawing from Kristin Noelle be an invitation to turn your seeking inward–to listen to your own inner call of where to go next.
Kristin Noelle is a Los Angeles-based illustrator. She creates soulful art that fosters a worldview of trust. Find her at www.kristinnoelle.com and be sure to check out Blessings – a free, 10-day series of inspired, illustrated blessings.
As a child, if I couldn’t be assured that I’d do something right the first time, I didn’t even want to try at all. The result of this fearful stance was that I didn’t learn to swim (until I nearly drowned and my parents insisted) or to ride a bike (I’m still working on this).
What I’m talking about is the resistance we feel to being less-than-masterful at anything. We loathe performing awkwardly, even though this is a precursor to doing anything more gracefully.
Embracing our inner awkward toddler crucial if we’re to find our way to being well-fed. Like toddlers learning to walk, this is the two-step we must do: Toddle forward. Trip. Stand up. Toddle some more. Go splat on the floor. Get up. Toddle again.
Towards the end of 2013 I looked around my life and saw that everything was fine.
Fine is good.
Fine is important if we’re to function in the world.
But fine is not enough.
Feeling fine isn’t the same as feeling alive or particularly satiated. Fine is just fine.
What I know: the only way through to what’s really good in life is to embrace being awkward for at least a time.
In the spirit of embracing more of this energy in my life I’ve started back attending Laurie Wagner’s brilliant Wild Writing classes wherein we instructed to write poorly, pen to paper, and then share it with the group. It’s awkward strength training at it’s best.
This Sunday I’m attending my first 5Rhythms practice where for two hours I’ll move my often-less-than-coordinated body to the music amidst a crowd of strangers. I’m not sure if it will be a practice in managing my inner critic or the holiest fun I’ve had in my life–or both. I want to find out.
What you and I have in common is a hunger to feel alive. To feel more than fine. This I know.
As a little girl, my fear of being criticized trumped my hunger to feel alive, to have fun, to ride a bike, or to swim in the lake.
As a grown women, though, I’ve learned that external sources of criticism don’t matter and that I can soften around my own.
As a grown women, I’ve learned that being awkward is just one exhilarating step toward being well-fed.
It’s an unexpected contradiction that after a month of making over my home – purging, deep cleaning, organizing, painting, new furniture – that the theme for January would appear to be: messy.
Now messy isn’t my word for the year, I’ll get to that in a minute, but it does feel like the word for right now. In order to find my groove I need to splash a little in the mud. I need to play a little more. Write more shitty first drafts. Dance a bit more awkwardly.
This morning my boyfriend told me he dreamt that I was standing naked in a house and all the walls disappeared and I was just standing there naked. The house was on a busy street and everyone could see me. In his dream I wasn’t concerned, embarrassed, or rushing to cover up. While there won’t be any nude photos to kick of the year, I like the sentiment of this vision: get more naked.
We’re all so practiced at wearing masked. We know how to please people, wow to show them what they want to see and hide what we fear might bring rejection. Your good at it. I’m good at it. I’m also good at taking off the masks. It’s a practice.
And it’s through this practice that I’ve come to know that bearing oneself just a bit more isn’t something we master. New masks are always itching to be put on. It’s just too easy to edit what’s real out of the picture. Yet when we do this–when I do this–what follows is always a longing to be seen, connected, heard, and free.
So in the spirit of taking off the mask and getting messy I’m ready to share my word for the year. It seemed fitting then to make an honest, unpolished, unrehearsed, unscripted, make-up free-in-my-pajamas-while-having-the-flu video.