News flash

Videos of SAL/UER Climate Week events

Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

RC Webinars listing through July 2021

New Online Workshop Guidelines Modifications


 

Giving Up a Life-Threatening Addiction to Sugar

I am a large woman and as such am exposed to both sexism and the oppression of being large—in addition to the oppressions of being raised-poor, working class, Catholic, an elder, and more.

Society generally views the effects of oppression as an individual, personal problem, not something that is institutionalized and part of the fabric of an oppressive society. This is particularly true of large women’s oppression, an oppression rarely challenged in society. The myth is that a person can just change and the oppression will disappear—that if you experience oppression, it is up to you1 to change your behavior and then it will stop. Be nice, look like you meet societal standards, assimilate, comply, obey, and your life will be easy. We in RC know that is not true!

As a large woman I am regarded as a failure. My body size is seen as a reflection of stupidity, low self-esteem, and lack of willpower. Large women are viewed as more stupid than average (if we were not so stupid, we would make use of all the “good information” and advice about weight loss).

The oppression has made it nearly impossible for me to engage my mind and focus it on health and living a good, long life. Focusing it on weight loss has distorted my thinking. It has led me to do horrible things to my body, after which I’ve been praised for the result (weight loss) of the destructive actions.

Whenever I have lost weight, people have liked and appreciated me. This is what sexism does to women. We are encouraged to do whatever it takes2 to meet certain unreal standards of beauty—follow stupid rigid diets (often dictated by an industry with an interest in selling specific foods), take harmful drugs to not feel hunger, undergo surgeries that destroy our system, keep smoking out of fear that we will gain weight if we stop. We are discouraged from using our independent and well-informed minds. Instead we are led to follow set formulas in order to avoid oppression.

Large women are seen as a public insult. We are told that we are expensive for society because of the diseases we “bring on ourselves.” All of this reinforces early discouragement. Every attempt to get over the food addiction is seen as a failure if we don’t lose weight, because weight loss is the criteria for success. When we buy into3 this definition of success and failure, we miss the point—that every step toward reclaiming our full minds and lives is a good and important step. (We did not start life with “perfect” language and “perfect” walking, running, and dancing.)

I have been large since my teens. As a young person, and for almost twenty years after, I was given drugs both to lose weight and to “feel better.” I realized a year ago that many of the drugs I was prescribed made me vulnerable to overweight and diabetes. (I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes twenty years ago.) The link between my diseases and the drugs helped me realize that excessive body fat and the related diseases were not my fault! I have raged about the drugs for over a year now.

Before I started RC I also smoked a lot and drank large amounts of alcohol every day. I quit the drugs the day before I started my first RC class. I quit the cigarettes when I got my RC teacher’s certificate. I quit the booze4 completely about twenty years ago. In the last year I have worked extensively on these addictions and experienced a lot of pain in my muscles and joints. I have decided that the pain has to be mostly restimulation and have discharged rage, terror, and grief about it.

QUITTING SUGAR

For ten years I have also been part of the RC Large Women’s Health and Liberation Project5 and have formed a local support team of allies for myself. Having loving people with me (or rather realizing there are loving people with me now) plus the steady, ongoing effort and decision to keep moving on, even when I felt utterly discouraged about the fat not dripping off my body within a year or two, helped me make a decision that was almost a surprise to me: I decided to give up6 sugar.

A couple of months ago I got some blood test results. They were terrible; my blood sugar was skyrocketing. I heard myself say to the doctor, “I can do better than that,” and when I came home I made the decision never to eat sugar again. That meant no candy, chocolate, ice cream, or cakes, or the less obvious sugar the food industry adds where you don’t expect it—in salad dressings, breads, marinades, sour-sweet sauces, and so on. I decided that I would consider sugar to be as addictive and harmful as alcohol, at least for me. That meant that I would never enter into a debate of “should I or should I not.”

I shared this decision with some of the women on my support team. I was afraid of their response, but they reacted sensibly—not too enthusiastically (“hurray,” “finally”), just with respect and “this is a big decision.”

It is interesting what makes a decision possible. I think it builds up over time. I had often thought that sugar would be impossible to drop. I had also felt resentful of people who had made the decision and stuck to it. I worked on how resentful I felt that they seemed to have easier access to such a decision, that my material7 was too severe for me to decide. I also worked on taking pride in the decisions I had made to quit the drugs, to quit the cigarettes, to quit alcohol. (All three were because quitting was a condition for leading in RC.)

I am proud to say that I have stuck to my decision to quit sugar and have done so in spite of many, many demanding political meetings in which there was sugary food in front of me. I have been at an RC workshop with an ice cream shop nearby and watched my beloved Co-Counselors enjoy all that ice cream that I was not having.

I have also cut down on8 bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and other foods that have a relatively quick carbohydrate effect. A mix of nuts and dried fruit was one of my favorites, but I have mostly quit it because it affects my blood sugar in a bad way. I have also been thoughtful about other fruits, limiting them to some extent. I prefer food that is locally grown and in season. I’ve added lots of vegetables that I like—and made sure that I have some oil or butter with them so I don’t feel chronic hunger. (The food industry launched the idea that all fatty foods are dangerous, so many of us think that fat-free is fine. It is not necessarily. We all need a certain amount of fat. What we are after9 is thinking, not set regimes.)

One of the hard things about what I am doing is that it hooks into a chronic10 of feeling different, marginal, and odd in social settings and puts people’s attention on me and my being large. Any feelings I have, however, are just an indicator of where I still need to discharge. Reality is that I am liked, wanted, and respected by many, many people.

Weight loss is not what motivates me at this time, and that is new. I may lose weight, but that is not the point. I’m not giving up sugar to become acceptable or attractive, to please, or to ease the burden of the oppression. I’m doing it for me, for my life. I am also not replacing one rigidity with another. I am thinking about what I eat—what I truly need; what is tasty, beautiful, and good for my body.

I have been measuring my blood sugar a couple of times a day to learn which foods have which effect and what is the effect of walking and bicycling. A wonderful thing is that my blood sugar has fallen drastically. I also seem to be over the worst physical cravings.

HOW OUR HEALING PROCESS WORKS

My recent decision is a great example of how our healing process works: the re-evaluation, the understanding, comes after discharge. We don’t know the outcome of a session or a series of sessions until later. What we can do is keep working in the direction we want to go in—keep moving and discharging, no matter how lost and defeated we feel (which is just how lost and defeated we felt back then, not proof of actual failure).

I remember Tim11 saying some years ago that we seem to move at glacier-like speed. It is hard to notice the movement from day to day. But when we look back, we can see that we have moved. I didn’t notice that I had changed until I heard it come out of my mouth—“I can do better.”

We probably underestimate the amount of old discouragement and how easily it gets restimulated. It can feel impossible to do what we’d like to do, and lapsing from a decision can feel like proof that it is impossible. Also, because isolation is a heavy component of old discouragement, connection, connection, connection is key. I am facing the fact that I am not alone, that there is a “we” and an “us” out there, that now is different from the past. There are people on my side, and I am on theirs, and we are meant to have each other.

MODELS WHO SHOW WHAT IT TAKES

A word for allies: Large women are not the only ones with food addictions! And just because our struggle shows does not mean that we are ignorant about the relationship between food and health. We don’t need information (we know more than most people). We don’t need advice about the newest trend that seems to be just what we need to finally lose weight. Instead, use us as models who show what it takes to battle chronic material. We have the luck not to be lured into illusions that the battle is over. I consider this an advantage in my struggle to get my full mind back and to have my life for many, many more years than the statistics would predict. (I don’t intend to follow the statistics!)

Susanne Langer
Copenhagen, Denmark
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion
list for RC Community members


1 “Up to you” means your responsibility.
2 “Takes” means requires.
3 “Buy into” means agree to.
4 “Booze” means alcoholic beverages.
5 The RC Large Women’s Health and Liberation Project started ten years ago, with a small group of large women RC leaders coming together to use RC to move forward the work on their health. The group has met annually since then.
6 “Give up” means quit.
7 “Material” means distress.
8 “Cut down on” means reduced the amount of.
9 “After” means pursuing.
10 Chronic pattern
11 Tim Jackins


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00