You know how it has been said keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer? That adage has ruled the state of my gut for years. Machiavelli, good sir – my doctor wants to smack you soundly with his stethoscope.
The battle over sugar started when I was a wee wisp of a girl. My dear mother, the ever-vigilant guardian of our guts, forbade any processed foods and sugary treats from crossing our threshold. ‘Junk food’ for us were the occasional little packets of fruit snacks and Cheerios.
(I have since surpassed my mother as a health freak. It’s her fault I can’t eat with friends without pointing out at least one cancer-inducing ingredient in their food. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all.)
With daily reinforcement of healthy eating habits and the rationale behind them, one would presume I avoided sugar like a slug eludes salt. Unfortunately, little girls care less about future risk of diabetes and more about how to satiate the ever-present and gnawing ache to consume sugar that is the curse of all women.
Embracing Machiavelli’s advice long before I was old enough to read his prose, I devised a battle plan with the cunning and knack of a 5-star general:
As Quiet Time draps the house in contented silence, I slip down the steps, making sure to avoid all those creaky spots. With nervous energy in every bated breath, my guilty hands firmly and adroitly pack the measuring cup solid with golden brown treasure. Back in my room, I gleefully scoop away at my plundered goods, safely hidden behind the screen of my book.
(Mom, if you are reading this, I apologize, but you really should have hidden the sugar better!)
Fast forward to adulthood. I’m 18, working at Safeway and presumably sagacious enough to have a say in who should run the country. In retrospect, I postulate that one who cannot maintain proper order in their gut should have no voice in who manages the order of a nation. Perhaps a gut bacteria test at all polling stations?
Anyway, back to my intestines. Working in the produce department, one would think daily immersion in this herbaceous haven would foster a healthy gut. Let me dispel this misconception with a quick peek into the belly (pun not intended, then intended upon recognition) of the Safeway machine. In the dark and cavernous back room of every store, there towers a mountain of compost with enough day-old donuts to feed the nation of Laos.
Strictly mandated by store policy not to pilfer the pile, I subordinated myself to the Higher Law of Waste Not and would shovel up to 5 donuts successively in my little greedy mouth. One of my job duties was to clean up, and how I excelled at that!
10 years later, my thieving antics no longer graced the halls of Safeway, but I was still robbing myself of health. Armed with a more mature awareness of my lack of self control, I instituted an effective sabotage plan to protect myself from myself. Buy a pack of Mint Fudge-Covered Oreos, dump half of them into my ravenous mouth, and promptly throw the remainder away. Not above excavating food out of the trash, I would seal the deal with a generous dumping of water over the cookies. Even my rapacious appetite balks at soggy cookies.
Thus the war raged for years. Even the most hearty gut can’t withstand a siege longer than the two World Wars combined. Youth and vitality begrudgingly capitulated under the cumulative weight of age, multiple surgeries and poor diet, and I developed my own post-traumatic stress disorder, lovingly labeled The Sugar Coma. A short 15 minutes after ingesting a sugary delicacy, my pulse starts to slow, my eyelids droop, and overall cognitive function comes to a grinding halt.
Recently, I discovered I am officially allergic to sugar. I didn’t even know that was possible! It’s like being allergic to … happiness. Secretly, though, I am elated to be forced to give up the battle with sugar. It’s similar to playing a chess game you know you aren’t going to win, but just can’t stand admitting defeat. Then a small child knocks the board over and you can confidently assert that you were so close to winning, if only you had a few more turns!
So now another battle commences, one to regain control of my gut. And this time, Machiavelli isn’t my war advisor.