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.

An Unexpected Milestone

This time of year is one of anniversaries for me: it’s been just over a year since Gumby died and Cooper and EmmaRose arrived; it’s been two years since life turned upside down physically, fiscally, and spiritually. I am 59 ½ years old, which I recognized only after this morning’s weigh-in showed me less 59 ½ pounds, an unexpected milestone.

I had planned to write about weight today, in particular because I read August McLaughlin’s absorbing story about bulimia and anorexia. Weight issues—fat or thin—produce the kind of sadness that asks, “`does dirt have calories?’” Those were August McLaughlin’s first words as she found herself face down on the ground, dirt in her mouth, her body nearly spent. Of all the thin or fat stories I have read or heard, of all the books, tapes, and videos on nutrition I bought to discover why eating/living this way will work or won’t, this young woman’s courageous story gave me all I ever needed to know.

Although I am not aware of ever thinking about dirt in the context of calories, I do know the agony of abusing food. For 58 years, I ate as I pleased, favoring bread or cheese of any kind–same with fruit and meat. Surprisingly, I don’t remember not liking brussel sprouts, broccoli or spinach (my first spinach was from a Del Monte can a la Popeye). I don’t think I ever met a drop of alcohol I didn’t enjoy but gin and vodka martinis have always topped my list followed by all beer and any wine.

Gumby and me 2008

I am of German-Russian descent—farmers mostly—even at my best, I have a solid look about me. For the better part of the last twenty years, I walked at least three miles a day, which pretty much stopped in 2008 as my profile picture with Gumby demonstrates. By August 2010, I added another 33 pounds.

I was still taking prescription medication for my lupus, for my depression, for my degenerative disc disease, for my thyroid—I sought treatment for diseases–I dismissed being in second stage kidney failure, and I ignored extensive blood test results that showed “remarkable” food sensitivities to wheat, dairy, and yeast. Later, when I actually read the results, I saw signs of sensitivity to soy, to gluten, to sugar, all of which came to pass.

Food had begun to reject me, a life of food abuse was making me allergic to myself. That was my dirt.

I could continue consuming gluten, yeast, starches, sugar, dairy and remain dangerously ill physically, accompanied by spiraling slides into the slough of despond for weeks, even months or start “eating to live,” somewhat like Dr. Joel Fuhrman suggests but without starchy vegetables, mushrooms, or beans—too many carbs, maybe for always, same for all grains.

Within a year, I dropped 50 pounds as well as all medications, staying within a 50-53 pound loss for almost six months. I discovered my body does know how much weight it needs and that exercise plays a role but not in weight loss, not really. Exercise does benefit my body but what I eat is what I weigh, and that’s been most hard to learn.

Two weeks ago, I noticed my hip bone, at first in alarm because it’s been so long since I’d seen it—it’s still amply cushioned but it’s really there–my small fingers are not slender but they seem to have length; although a jiggling wattle is a fact, there is a definite shape to my face, even emerging cheekbones.

By the end of last week, I had lost 5 ½ pounds (my scale is most precise, not allowing me a whole pound when it’s only half), then a pound, then three until 59 ½ pounds gone, a total pounds number I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years.

I won’t say the scale is my friend—even in my Pollyanna world that’s a bit much–yet I do not mind weighing myself every morning, and today, it meant a milestone.

ROW80 Wednesday Word Marking:

From January 2 until February 4, my goal was to write 250 words per day—as blog posts, fiction, or nonfiction–for an approximate total of 8250 words.

Beginning February 4, I started the “30-minute” stretch in which I write for 30 minutes. So far, that has generated just over 6,444 words, averaging about 900 words a day and now the writing is for longer than 30 minutes. It still takes care of the mind minutia so my other writing is more focused. I am still “keeping” between 250 and 300 words beyond those 900, which means with ROW80, I am now over 17,300 words. On days like today, numbers really please.