Guess what? I broke the rules yesterday. (I know, I know, you never saw it coming.)
It turns out, my last post set this one up really well when I wrote that the point of this fast isn’t to follow an arbitrary rule, but to kick bad habits and—if possible—learn to develop a healthy relationship with sugar. Or at least to see it in its proper light.
I’m hearing shouts of, “Luucy, ’splain” in my head right now. (I am not ashamed to admit that, in some ways, Lucy Ricardo and I are very similar.) Well, calm down. I’ll ’splain.
A few months ago, I signed up for a six-week women’s program hosted by several ladies from our church. I got a call later that I was on the waitlist, and a few weeks later another call saying I would have to try again next year. Then, the Monday before last, I got yet another call that a spot had unexpectedly opened up, and was I interested?
I debated about it. We had already decided to do the sugar fast, and this program—which was intended to give young wives cooking demonstrations, delicious food from said demonstrations, and encouragement from a short devotional and prayer-time—would surely include sugar. The call came two days after we started the fast, so it felt like a personal attack.
But my husband suggested it would be a good opportunity to get more connected in our church and receive mentorship and wisdom from older women. Acting on his advice, I decided to say yes—and learned right away that the first night, not actually part of the six weeks but just an introduction, would be “Dessert Night.” I’d already written so much about temptations that I didn’t include a mention of it in the post I wrote around that time, but believe you me, I was thinking about it.
This post isn’t about that night, though. I went and had a cup of decaf coffee, and—perhaps because of the absence of some of my favorite sweets—I didn’t find the sight of a table full of desserts so bad. In fact, it was fine. The most anxious moment I had was eyeing a plump blueberry.
The first official week, however, presented fresh challenges that I hadn’t thought of. In the days leading up to Thursday, our meeting day, I wondered, What will I do if there’s sugar in the dinner itself? Will I even know?
Brandon had already told me that, in order to enjoy the experience of the program, I should be able to have dessert at my own discretion. Initially, I responded with a resounding “No!” It was our rule, and I wanted to keep it. But after those questions kept coming up again—and even as I watched our hostess pour a honey glaze over salmon during one of the demonstrations—I found myself re-evaluating. What, after all, is the purpose of this fast? Not deprivation for deprivation’s sake, surely.
It became increasingly clear that I wouldn’t be able to avoid having sugar without at the very least inconveniencing all the women who had taken time to prepare our food. What was more, they brought us our plates—already filled with the salmon, a kale salad topped with mandarin oranges and dried cranberries, and a sweet potato. If I was to stick, puppet-like, to the rules, I could only eat the sweet potato.
As I stared at the food on my plate, I made a decision. I wasn’t going to spoil my evening or distress those at my table or the women who had prepared the food by leaving everything but the sweet potato. I would eat in good conscience, because, once again, the rule wasn’t the point.
(I feel that, psychologically, this is a big deal for me. If I had a psychoanalyst, I would probably tell him so at our next meeting.)
I decided, too, that if I wanted dessert after our devotional and prayer-time, it would be okay to have some as well. We watched the desserts being prepared—an apple crisp and two kinds of cobbler—and they looked very yummy. Later in the evening, their aroma wafted out to us from the kitchen. It was heavenly.
After our prayer-time ended, I went through the kitchen to where several women were congregating around the dessert. There they were, laid out prettily in all their glory, that tantalizing aroma even more pungent in close proximity. Would I? Or wouldn’t I? I looked at the dessert. I looked away. I wanted it, but I didn’t need it. The urge to devour it as soon as possible wasn’t there. It was a pleasure I could indulge. It was a pleasure I could forgo.
I said no.
But here’s the thing: it would have been okay if I had said yes. Sugar is fast-fading as a dominant force and motivator in my life. It’s gaining its proper place. It’s not the culmination of my dreams for happiness. And a little now and then won’t hurt. It was okay that I wanted it. It was okay that I said no. And, I repeat, it would have been okay if I had said yes.
Because the taste of the mandarin oranges and the dried cranberries and the honey glaze and whatever sugar was in the dressing for the kale salad to make it palatable didn’t make me go crazy at dinner. Because my taste buds didn’t faint with delight at such a concentration of fructose again. Because I tasted it, thought, Mmm, this is good, and shrugged. Because I delighted in the meal, but it didn’t overwhelm me with longing.
I don’t know what I’ll do next Thursday, but I’m not wracked with guilt about it, as I usually am when I feel I’ve transgressed a rule. I’m learning that freedom with sugar doesn’t mean insanely eating everything whenever I feel like it. It’s freedom to desire it, and freedom to curb that desire—the freedom to say yes and the freedom to say no. I’m beginning to understand both.
Not a bad conclusion to come to on the last day of Week 2, methinks.