A few years ago now, when ‘wellness’ was still a novel concept, I decided to quit sugar. I was sick of my relationship with the white stuff – and in fact, my sugar-crutch was making me sick.
See, I was never the type of person who could eat one square of chocolate. I wasn’t even the type of person who could eat one row of chocolate. I was (and am) the kind of person who wouldn’t stop eating until I’d devoured an entire mega-sized Whittaker’s block – even as I stopped enjoying the taste, even as I felt my ulcers tingling. Actually, even then, if there were any more chocolates in the house, I’d keep going. Then I’d look for the ice cream in the freezer, then onto the pantry for the fruit bars and muffins.
I was also the type of person to throw half a block of chocolate in the rubbish – and really have to bury it, so as not to fish it back out. I was (am) also the type of person to cry myself to sleep over this whole ordeal.
The relationship I have with sugar is disordered. It’s a relationship built on abuse – originally wrought by a culture that taught me to hate my body, then exacerbated by a history of purposefully bingeing and starving. So, when I found a book professing a ‘gentle and kind’ approach to quitting sugar, I decided to finally go for it.
It wasn’t really all about losing weight – although, having grown up in a world that taught me I must eradicate my ‘wobbles’ at all cost, I can’t deny that was one part of it. But it was mostly about curing my disorder. About curtailing the highs and the lows. About freeing myself from this burden. And, in many ways, it worked. The ‘method’ encouraged loading up on vegetables, upping meats and nuts, and was strictly anti-starvation. If that meant eating six (nine, twelve!) square meals a day, so be it – so long as the meals were nutritious and hearty. There was no calorie-counting, no intermittent fasting, no macros, nor micros (to this day I couldn’t tell you what those are). It just meant eating nutritiously, and resolving to keep going if you briefly veered off track.
Quickly, I noticed results. In weeks my skin cleared up, in days my brain felt clearer. I was waking up happier, and my morning routine was – uh – never more regular. Unfortunately, all this newfound health didn’t sit right with a lot of my acquaintances.
‘Just eat sugar in moderation!’ they cried, as if I hadn’t always wanted to.
‘Life’s too short not to eat cheesecake!’ they wailed, as if I hadn’t previously been taking years off my life, worrying about my joy-killing lack of control. As if I hadn’t spent hours crying in the face of my sugar-addiction.
The choices I were making affected me and me only – and yet NO ONE SEEMED ABLE TO SHUT UP ABOUT MY DIET.
Nor did the commentary cease when lifestyle changes caused me to ease up on my nutritious restrictions.
‘A year ago you wouldn’t be caught dead with that,’ they teased, as I sipped on a chocolate milkshake.
‘Gotta be naughty sometimes,’ they winked, as I slid my fingers into a box of Favourites.
Curating all these comments makes them seem cruel, as if they were spoken by ‘toxic’ people, who should be cut from my life as ruthlessly as I once cut out sweetener. But most were spoken from a place of friendship and love.
It’s just that… commentary around people’s eating habits is never helpful. Nor is it desired.
The culture we live in is harsh, particularly on women. I’d wager that my disordered relationship with food is not all that uncommon. We live in a society that encourages a binge/starve relationship with food. Where food is both a reward and a comfort – and yet being ‘overweight’ is all but a cardinal sin.
We live in a society that prizes slimness, even when it proclaims to love all body-types. And while the body positivity movement is doing fabulous, important, deeply necessary work, body acceptance is a hard-fought journey for a lot of us. In fact, it’s generally a battle never won, but continuously waged.
I’m still working on my relationship with food. I’m trying to find a way to live with food that both sustains me and delights me. I’m trying to eat so-called ‘naughty’ foods without guilt. I’m trying to eat so-called ‘good’ foods without being called a killjoy.
The battle wages on. In the meantime, please - shut up about my diet.Support Villainesse