Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Talk Thursday: Comfort Food

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!! I hope you all have a place to go engage in a celebratory meal with friends and relatives, and time to think about what makes this country great and all the blessings in your lives and stuff like that.

I, on the other hand, am thinking about what I nearly always think about. Namely, food.

I don't do Thanksgiving with family for the same reasons a lot of you probably wish you don't. That said, however, I do have a gathering of friends to go to later this evening. And I'm very much looking forward to the company and the gossip and the cameraderie and the playing with the cats and chickens and so on (our friends are urban chicken farmers). But over and above all that, I'm looking forward to the food. I've been told to expect turkey, of course, but also sweet potatoes, twice baked potatoes, creamed corn, veggies, pumpkin pie, pecan chocolate chip pie and chocolate Irish cream cheesecake. In short, a veritable smorgasbord of doom for the cardiovascular system. Not to mention people who aren't supposed to eat sugar.

Um, yeah. That would be me.

I take this whole mess of prescription drugs, see. A bunch of them aren't supposed to be taken with alcohol. I don't drink, so not a problem, but guess what sugar breaks down to as it's being digested? Yep. And the prescription drugs don't know if they're being interfered with by real alcohol, or the also-ran equivalent. Either way, they don't work as well as they should, and that's not a Good Thing if you're me.

To say nothing of the fact that I'm also hypoglycemic, which is kind of like being diabetic but without the glucose meters and the toys and stuff. It can be a precursor to diabetes or it can be genetic, which is the case with me (grandmother and uncle both had it). I get the lows but not the highs, and I can tell when I've got the lows because I'll stand up from a chair and almost lose consciousness. (Actually, I sometimes make it all the way from my desk to the hallway by the ladies' room before the vertigo hits. That's even more fun, grabbing for the wall to stay on my feet.) What causes the lows? Eating sugar. Or rather, eating sugar an hour or so ago, in quantity, by itself with nothing else. As soon as it clears the system, I crash and burn. The only cure is a regular meal, but it's faster to just grab some more sugar and start the whole cycle over again. I'm kind of stupid that way.

Some people are alcoholics. Some people are drug addicts. Some people can't stop gambling. Me, it seems to be All About The Sugar. I react to sugar like some people react to cocaine. There's no such thing as just a little bit. If I have some, I want more. Lots more. And if I have more, things get all kinds of ugly.

For about the last year, I've been trying to get off the sugar. I don't mean all sugar--there's sugar in all kinds of weird foods, like yogurt and ketchup, so it's hard to avoid altogether--but to a reasonable extent, giving up things that are supposed to be sweet, like doughnuts and cookies and cakes (especially cakes with white or cream-cheese frosting; that frosting is heroin. I'm serious.). I do okay--I once went 60 days, in point of fact--but lately it's been off and on. Five days here, three days there, and I think I had a streak of like eight or ten days earlier this month. Then Something Happens and suddenly I'm back on the sugar. Which means I have to get back off the sugar. And here's a news flash: Every time I try to get off the sugar, it's really hard.

Back when I quit drinking, I went through a weird three-week period where suddenly, out of nowhere, I'd start craving alcohol at odd times. Like the middle of the work day, say, or at ten a.m. on a Saturday. It was weird, but I figured it was just the last of the stuff making its way out of my system and it would go away soon. It did, and I haven't had a drink in about five years. Still, alcohol's easy. You look at a bottle and if it says, "Contains alcohol," you don't drink it. Sugar, on the other hand--there's sugar in practically everything. In fact, your average American eats 156 pounds of added sugar every year--a lot of it in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, which is just all kinds of bad for you. In 1850, that same average American only had 5 pounds of sugar a year. Which just goes to show something or other, and not that we've made brilliant progress in marketing high fructose corn syrup.

Anyway, there's no cure for my condition except to stay off the sugar, and there's no way to stay off it unless I can get off it to begin with. Which means I just need to keep trying. One of the Buddhist precepts is about not consuming intoxicants, which is usually translated to mean alcohol. I'd take that a step farther and say that anything that separates you from your practice is an intoxicant. If you feel rotten about yourself and are on an up-and-down roller coaster from eating (and then not-eating) sugar, you're not going to be meditating in a very serene frame of mind. So I'd throw sugar onto that list of intoxicants not to be consuming. At least, for me.

I'll bet Buddha never had this problem. Heck, in his time sugar maybe hadn't even been invented yet.


Cele said...

I am borderline hypoglycemic (or as my husband ask: "How your hypoglaucoma?" Men. I love me some sugar, like peeps, yum peeps. But I have bad acid reflux so I keep saying I am going to make me a sign,"No Suger, No Flour, No Pasta, No Potatoes.

Jen said...

Now, that particular affliction hasn't visited me. Yet. Peeps are a gateway drug.