June 21, 2021

Cheat, Drink & Be Merry: Why I’m Finally Breaking Up with what isn’t Good for Me.

For six months I didn’t waiver—no sugar, no gluten, no dairy.

I even added meat back to my diet after 14 years because my bloodwork told me it was necessary.

I lived and breathed somewhere between paleo and keto.

This spring, Alan and I went on vacation to my Shangri La, Tulum. Every morning, we would walk barefoot in the sand and sit on the porch looking out at the ocean. The servers would bring freshly baked bread with the homemade butter and jam.

The first few days I was a soldier. I didn’t waiver, but then that naughty voice in my head said, “What could it hurt?” “I’m on vacation.” I joined in.

A few weeks later, I went to San Francisco to visit my kids and embraced “vacation mode” fully. I carped the diem out of every day. I had a “cookie monster” ice cream sandwich, a piece of Mama’s coffee cake, pizza, and a sprinkling of other indulgences. It wasn’t noteworthy by most people’s standards.

Somewhere in my brain it’s hardwired that vacation equals treats, which are usually in the form of all things baked. It’s my love language to speak and to eat.

For months on the wagon, managing my eating was all consuming—what I ate, when I ate. Food was my medicine and healing was a full-time job. So when I left town, I was ecstatic to be on vacation from all of the rules of that world, my reality. I was playing with fire and it was starting to burn.

After that delicious string of vacations, I flew home to face the music. I wasn’t as worried about getting on the scale, though the numbers never lie. My clothes were telling their own story, but when you teach yoga, leggings are a way of life.

Here’s the simple truth: I don’t feel good when I don’t feed my body what it needs to be healthy. That connection is rock solid. When I splurge, I always pay the price, and the cost is my wellness.

I have decided to cut sugar back out and resume a gluten-free/dairy-free diet.

It is like being an addict. There are cycles: cleaning up, relapsing, and heading back in for detox. I don’t eat much sugar but once it’s in our system, it’s like heroine. Getting it out of our system is the ultimate test of mind over matter.

I think of it as treatment. It’s the very reason we practice utkatasana in yoga (fierce pose). We stay in a place of being uncomfortable. We create calm in the midst of chaos; we breathe, and then we stay longer. All so we know that when we step off the mat we can be uncomfortable and we’ll survive.

We practice yoga on the mat, and we live it off the mat.

I think it will take about a week to really shake it—maybe two, probably three. I’ve avoided this inevitable truth for long enough. My body and soul are extremely sensitive.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve eaten clean and then I’ve looked the other way for an egg white sandwich on half of a scooped bagel (wheat!) or one of my own vegan chocolate chip cookies. It doesn’t sound so terrible, but I feel the effects for a long while—so the prison sentence for breaking the laws of my nutrition is a long reminder.

It makes one really think about whether that moment of pleasure is worth the punishment. This is not a calorie issue for me. It’s a state of the union imperative that I haven’t wanted to listen to—and the more I ignore it, the more it finds a way to be heard.

I just can’t get away with the things other people can. This is just a gluten-free/dairy-free fact I’ve been chewing on for decades, and it’s time to swallow.

The 30-year-old version of me could go AWOL for a night of cheat, drink, and be merry and wake up good as new. This was not so much the case in my 40s and absolutely not a possibility in my 50s. The aging body holds us more accountable to what it needs.

I find that I am less tolerant of what isn’t good for me in general as I get older—that goes for friends and social games. Some people wake up with a hangover from alcohol. One night of sugar or wine and I wake up feeling like someone is tap dancing on my head. My lab results say I’m not gluten intolerant but my body reacts to gluten, so it’s best for me to avoid.

Whoever said getting old was graceful?

Denial is so much easier than being accountable to your truth. In this case, I just have a gut feeling it’s time to break up with the offenders. I have had chronic sinus issues during this gluten fest. My ENT told me we were going to grow old together. He is a cutie, but that’s a big…no…thank…you.

So this is me pulling on my big girl panties, and, to be honest, they’re a little snug.

I’m doing what needs to be done and kicking and screaming every step of the way until these “drugs” are out of my system. There is only one way to the other side and that is through. Some people clean out their closets; I’m going to clean out my digestive system.

The gut is the second brain. It controls much of how we feel, and I’m taking charge. I’m done feeling chronically crummy—my diagnosis.

Here’s a huge serving of dairy-free, gluten-free, gratitude to my 27-year-old son Dylan who had “the talk” with me. He knew how itchy I was in my own skin and he made this situation uncomfortable enough for me that I could no longer ignore what my body was trying to tell me while I was trying not to listen. It was actually screaming, but I had my hands over my ears so tight I could not hear.

When your children hold a mirror to your face and tell you to take a good look, and you’re not so thrilled with whatever’s looking back at you, it’s time to grow up.


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