And Then, You’re There

Maybe a milestone is easy for me to miss, which seems contradictory, as I hold it in high regard, a true moment of significant development. Yet, such a moment did occur this past Thursday but it was not until Black Friday that I noticed.

Like many Americans who gave thanks this past week, I have food allergies/sensitivities that require some adjustment to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal: stuffing made with gluten/yeast free bread, organic apples and freshly ground sausage; organic sweet potatoes, green beans, and cranberries; no salt, no refined sugar.

When I woke up on Black Friday feeling not only fine but wonderful, I became suspicious. I had been careful with my meal preparation and ingredients yet I anticipated a bit of a reaction to the amount of carbohydrates I had consumed. There was none. 

Thus, it may have dawned as a Black Friday like any other–I am not given to participating in the holiday season gift frenzy—but it became  the day I realized that 26 months of fastidious eating habits had finally returned my digestive system to a state it has not known in decades: harmony.

When I first began eating gluten, yeast, dairy, soy, and sugar-free in August, 2010, I learned as I ate, which I soon discovered meant being precise in my eating and foregoing a lifelong habit of eating to please any particular craving that appeared. On Black Friday, 2012, I reaped the rewards of overcoming carbohydrate cravings, giving myself and my taste buds a new life.

New life is not really an exaggeration for I left behind all I had known—my well-worn, conditioned ways of living–for the freedom of the unknown–shed of past and future in favor of the present—a path that unfolds only moment by moment. Here, I trust my heart over my head–there isn’t room or need for any baggage–an open heart travels light.

In the early days, there are sugar cravings in as many forms as there are thoughts: a very dry, vodka martini shaken so hard that slivers of ice float on its surface evaporates into a cheese-dripping, twice-baked potato melting into a milk chocolate fondue for pound cake and strawberries. They are mirage, part and parcel of the past, ultimately powerless in the realm of the present.

In 26 months, the past has had its way with me. Sometimes, rather than giving into the image, I tried a “substitute,” seeking sugar in all the wrong places, always sorry the next morning and often, sooner. The taste of sugar always seemed just beyond me until I stopped reaching into the past. The last time I ate ice cream, I felt as if I were eating raw sugar from a sugar bowl. For the rest of the day, I could not brush my teeth enough, and the next morning, I had a hangover.

So, being able to eat apples, bread stuffing, cranberries, and sweet potatoes in one meal without an immediate or delayed reaction is a milestone. And, I have continued to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers without any reaction, without any weight increase. In fact, for over a year, I have maintained a 50+ pound weight loss and for the last six months, my total loss has stayed right at 68-69 pounds.

My constant companion on this path has been steady weight loss, from the first day 26 months ago. Of course, my forays into the dark side of sugar always resulted in some kind of temporary weight gain but for the first time in my life, losing weight was not an effort.

My exercise is modest–mostly walking–although yoga is now playing a more active role. And while I would not have thought it possible, I truly enjoy eating a varied regimen of green, leafy and low carbohydrate vegetables, a few legumes, nuts/nut butters, infrequent fish/poultry, almond milk and now, some fruit.

Most of the digestive system resources are quite imprecise on how long it may take to return to what I call digestive harmony. Occasionally, however, I found this general guideline: it takes one month for every year the digestive system has been out of balance. In my case, 26 years of digestive disharmony is plausible, but more than anything, it is baggage from the past best left leaning against the Black Friday milestone. Soon, none of it will even be a thought.