"Sugar Helped Me Survive"
I want to tell you a story about a woman I’ve been working with. I’ve changed her name to Samantha to protect her privacy. Here is the thing…even though this is Samantha’s story, I have heard similar versions of this story in so many of the woman I work with and have come to realize that this is really a story about all of us to one degree or another. I want you to know you are not alone in your journey to reclaim love for your body, to feel empowered to create practices of eating nourishing foods, and to overcome struggles with weight imbalances.
Samantha came into my office and gave me a shy smile. She shared with me that her main health concerns were weight loss, low energy, and ongoing joint pain. As I talked more to Samantha and heard more of her health history, I came to understand that she grew up in both a nutritionally and emotionally deprived home. She was left alone quite a bit. While her mom was in the home, she was rarely present to Samantha. Her dad was rarely home and when he was, he was in the back bedroom sleeping. Samantha was sick a lot of the and grew up with low-grade symptoms of coughs, earaches, and flu-like symptoms.
Samantha enjoyed eating Twinkies, hostess cupcakes, Velveeta cheese, and tootsie roll pops. These treats helped her get through each day.
When she thinks of comforting moments in the atmosphere of rare parental connection, she remembers the wonderful soft and calming feeling that would come over her when she would finally get a cupcake in her mouth.
These pleasure-filled moments of food indulgences were always given to her by her mother or father. Samantha would then be left to eat them alone with only herself to keep her company.
Samantha pinpoints the beginning of her weight gain to these moments of lonely eating coupled with abuse from a neighbor. The sweets would give her good feelings in times of feeling lonely and her increasing weight helped her to feel safer from this scary neighbor.
Samantha’s young body was brilliant in its efforts to support her through sugar cravings. Her body was finding a way to find the sweetness of life in a world that was full of alienation and abuse.
Samantha and I shifted and began to look at her food journal. We noticed that when she was stressed or feeling very lonely at night and on weekends she would go for those same types of childhood treats. Those sweets helped her relax and feel good about herself after feeling lost or depressed for most of the day. Additionally, Samantha felt so uncomfortable around men. While she wanted to feel sexy, she felt afraid of the attention from men because she thought they could not be trusted….just as her “nice” neighbor taught her through his invasive actions.
At night when she craved intimacy and wished she had a boyfriend or partner, she would go for the bags of cookies for comfort.
It was easier to rest in the soft warmth of a cookie-coma than feel the deep ache of loneliness and ongoing alienation.
When Samantha and I moved to the hands-on wellness evaluation, we could see that her adrenals were fatigued (adrenals are the major responders and managers of stress – both real, historical, and imagined stress), her fatty acids were insufficient (fatty acids are key in managing and reducing inflammation) and her pancreas was working overtime (her pancreas was daily trying to shuttle all her sugar overloads into cells for energy and fat storage…beautifully seeking to maintain her blood sugar levels).
Samantha’s body – both physiologically through nutrient and stress management…and emotionally by compulsions and drives rooted in fear and pain – had been doing its absolute best to support her in the ways it knew how.
Connecting the dots between Samantha’s health history, her current eating patterns, and her physiological burdens highlighted to Samantha that change did in fact need to occur.
The survival patterns of managing stress and pain through sugar-filled eating had gotten her through the past decades – but she knew they were no longer going to serve her.
While sugary treats historically felt secure and comforting in all her alone and fearful feelings, the adult Samantha before me was ready to move forward and transform these habits and ways of being in the world that no longer served her.
The challenge was that although she wanted to nourish herself, she found the little girl impulses still ruling her more than she liked and she wanted this to change. She wanted to find her own power to make the choices that would be in her best interest...rather than continually reacting to triggers that had ongoing power over her.
In the past, Samantha would have gone for an efficient and effective weight loss plan. The truth is that eating habits and weight imbalances rooted in events and strategies developed at an earlier time would not respond long term to a speedy weight loss strategy. A quick weight loss plan would not get to this soul-level transformation.
In order for Samantha to get to the root of these habits she needed to mother the little girl in her that was reactive, driving her behavior, and who was never mothered. Samantha had to begin tuning in with love, grace, and presence in the very moments that felt incredibly fearful and drove her to eat sweet-filled foods.
Fast forward a few months...
Samantha is now making baby steps to feed her body nourishing food to supply the fatty acids she needs for energy and reducing her joint pain. She is eating more proteins and fats to allow her adrenals and pancreas to rest and recover from all the intense survival work they have done over the years.
Samantha is also feeding her mind and heart with loving and nurturing messages she never received. Through the support of prayer and meditation with her faith community she is facing her most wounded places. She is slowly learning to see and love her body for the amazing creation it is.
It is a slow work. This type of support and transformation is not slick, shiny and orderly. There are messy dialogues, tangles of emotions, bumpy transformations, and many moments of uncertainty.
I asked Samantha if this process has been worth it to her…or if she wished she had tried another new fad diet or quick detox to address her weight and energy issues.
This is what she said to me, “I am exhausted at times. It has been a long journey, but I am so pleased about my connections and victories and even all the ups and downs. I am feeling so much better and stronger, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support. Your encouragement and this inspiring approach is making a huge difference for me. The work we do together has been the best thing that has happened to me. I have had the joy of connection and warmth with myself. I have not had this before. I know it is the power of unconditional love and I felt this love for myself…for the first time.”
My greatest hope for you is that no matter what your health struggles may be that you, too, will...
Know how incredible you are.
Find a way to step into your personal power where it has been lost.
And...that you will experience the deep love you absolutely deserve and are worthy of.