My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in the seventh grade. I didn’t know it then, but that would become a defining point in my life. One day, she was vivacious, audacious, singing and painting; the next, she woke up in the hospital bed with bandages and tubes, recovering from a radical mastectomy. Guess it would make an impression on anyone.
I entered my teen years like many other girls, always struggling with a poor body image, seeing everyone else as thinner and prettier. It seemed that every magazine I picked up had an article about healthy living and healthy eating. In addition, breast cancer has been linked to a high-fat diet and some suspect carcinogens in foods and packaging materials. With my mother’s medical history behind me and my youthful future before me, I tried to protect myself from the hidden dangers lurking in fats, salt, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, pesticides, plastics… did I forget any? I tried to exercise, use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, not drink too much coffee or eat too much red meat. One Bible passage that particularly convicted me was I Corinthians 19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” (The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1985). I sincerely believe that I have a duty to God, to my family and to myself to respect the health that I have and try to maintain it.
Time passed. I married and we were blessed with children. I tried to make healthy meals and teach them about good nutrition to protect them, doing my best to be a godly mother and role model. Some years I was a dress size I was happy about; other years, not so much.
Since my daughter got married, I have tried to embrace the changes in my life—those golden years everyone tells me about. But change has its stress, and I found myself indulging way too much in comfort food. I gained a lot of weight. (I really wanted to blame it on hormones—does it really matter?) Then one day my daughter and I were talking about weight. She was bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t fit into her skinny jeans, and couldn’t understand why not. Okay—she’s a size extra small. Same song, second verse!
That weekend, I was finally motivated to take up the weight loss challenge, and I came across The Belly Fat Cure. Author Jose Cruz claims that sugar is addictive. His argument is that eating large amounts of sugar requires your pancreas to constantly make insulin, which leads to fat, especially around the waist. Epiphany! Reading the level of sugar this author recommended put me into emotional shock. A lot of the foods I had been eating because I believed them to be healthy had way more sugar than the book recommended. Favorites of mine that made the “belly bad” list included: Kashi GoLean Crunch! and Fiber One, Honey Maid graham crackers, Prego Heart Smart spaghetti sauce, Baked Lays potato chips, Sun Chips, raisins, Craisins, and Silk soymilk. While the dress might no longer fit, the shoe certainly did. I was addicted to sugar. I was not the master of my own body, but rather the slave to my sweet tooth.
Now I have a new health goal and a new definition of healthy foods. After three weeks, I can say I feel renewed and excited to be able to walk past the cheesecake at Sam’s Club and not want to eat the whole thing at once. My husband says I am calmer. I feel better. While my daughter is pursuing a more moderate change, just a few days of cutting back on sugar had her back in her clothes. I have control over the demon.
I feel empowered that I have conquered a hidden idol in my life that not only threatened my health and my self-esteem, but my availability for use by God. The moral to the story? Change doesn’t stop and there’s always something new to learn, no matter how long you may be settled in.