In my own sweet time

apple rain run


I want to talk about reflection, intention, and natural time. 

Last month, I wrote a post in which I described an unhappy eating routine: I was eating late at night and not liking how that felt. The habit felt super satisfying, and I wasn’t ready to give it up. 

This is what in Nia we call Natural Time. It means that we are letting things happen in the time they need to happen instead of in mechanical (clock and calendar) time. I knew that my eating habits were not as healthful as I wanted them to be, and I just couldn’t muster the energy to shift them. It wasn’t time. 

But I’d planted the seed. Just by being being aware and writing about it, I’d set the intention: this was something I wanted to shift. 

Then in the last few weeks of July, my late eating stopped being satisfying. I wasn’t enjoying what I was eating. I felt full all the time. 

I felt cranky, creaky, and old. 

So I set a date, August 2nd, and started a new habit: no eating after dinner. Along with that, I decided to cut out sweeteners of all kinds. 

Instead of the artificially-sweetened electrolyte drink that I was enjoying after a run, I started drinking lemon water. New habit. 

Those of you who get and read my Better and Bolder posts know that I’d talked about the beauty of drinking lemon water (squeeze half a lemon into water) first thing in the morning. I did it for a week, but didn’t love it.  Instead, I start my day with a big glass of water with Herbs Etc ChlorOxygen Chlorophyll concentrate. Does it work? Is it helpful? It’s supposed to build red blood cells and be energizing. I am totally down with the placebo effect if that’s all that’s going on. This is an entrenched habit, one I’ve followed for years, and it gets me to drink a big glass of water first thing. Great habit! 

Changing my great, entrenched habit to a new one — lemon water — wasn’t effective. But adding lemon water somewhere else — after a sweaty workout — works beautifully. I wasn’t ready to do this months ago when I wrote about lemon water (natural time), but the awareness was set up then. I was ready for it when the time and situation was right. 

We expect a lot out of ourselves — eat right, exercise well, be kind to animals, change the world. Some days, all we’ve got is managing not to yell at anyone and to make it to bedtime without catastrophe. Sometimes, that’s all we’ve got. 

That doesn’t mean that more isn’t happening, though. We may be reading or hearing about something and thinking: yes, that’s something I want for myself. We may be aware that we need a change and not quite ready yet to make it happen, but the awareness and the desire prepare the ground for that work. 

Not eating any sweeteners is a big deal for me. I love sweet. If I’d pushed myself to give up sweeteners when I wasn’t absolutely ready, I might have experienced longing and sadness and anger.

Instead, I’m experiencing joy. My vegetables taste much sweeter, and I’m enjoying my meals more overall. That’s the point anyway, isn’t it? To enjoy our food and to eat what truly, deeply, wholly nurtures us. 

I have one exception to my no sugar policy, which is a teaspoon of rice syrup dissolved in hot lemon water, and that, too, now seems sweet enough. I’ve gone from eating two huge apples a day to one small one or even half of one. I need less sweet to register the sweetness and to be satisfied. 

When I’m eating food with sugar (that’s all kinds, by the way, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, cane sugar, whatever), the urge to eat feels urgent, overwhelming, desperate, headache-inducing. A benefit of eating less sugar is that the cravings diminish. 

Here’s another huge benefit that I didn’t expect at all. Sugar and processed foods are inflammatory. I figured, well, I don’t eat that much so I’m okay. I was not okay. Once I gave up the sugars, the creakiness and aches after working out decreased, probably by more than 50%. It’s like I’d taken a miracle drug, only this drug was called No Mo Sugar. 

Let’s remember that every body is different. My 52 year old body on sweeteners is not the total picture and doesn’t describe what would happen for everyone. That said, there’s compelling research that an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle leads to aging well and living long. You may not eat much sugar, and you also may not know how much sugar you eat. You may not know how you might feel if you went from whatever you’re eating to none unless you’ve tried it. 

One of the most difficult habits I gave up when I gave up sweeteners was chewing gum. I’m used to having something sweet often. I’m used to having something in my mouth often. I’m used to the instant gratification of putting something in my mouth as soon as I felt the desire for it. I have craved gum more often than brownies in the past two weeks.

The sensation of craving something is unpleasant for me, and I want to fix it. The sensations of being hungry and tired are upsetting to me. I want to fix them, and food is an excellent fix. I don’t want to be with this unhappiness and these unpleasant sensations. Yet that’s just what I’ve been training myself to do in the past two weeks. 

When I feel tired, instead of reaching for food to rev me up, I — wait for it — rest. Being hungry and tired feels unpleasant, and instead of rushing to change those states, I just hang out with them. This is not easy for me. This is a challenge. I remind myself that I’m just hungry and tired, which is not so terrible. When it’s time for a meal, I eat. If I really need a snack and I can tell that food will fuel me for whatever activities will follow, I eat the snack. But if I’m bored or tired, I see if I can just wait for the next meal. 

I have on multiple occasions as an adult banished sugar from my life. Knowing that it’s inflammatory and that I’ll live longer does not affect me at all. Knowing that it’s inflammatory and noticing that I ache far less and can do the things that I love with more ease motivates me greatly. What motivates you?

I make no claims that eating daily without added sugars is my new and permanent way of life. Sugar is delectable and seductive. It is physically and emotionally satisfying. It’s very easy for me to eat just one bite of something and two months later realize that I’ve returned to eating sweetened foods every day. I’ll eat more, larger, sweeter apples to satisfy my sweet tooth, which in the end increases that jonesing for sweet things. 

My claim here is that I increased my awareness and set my intention well before I was able to put new habits in action and let go of the less desirable habits. My claim here is that change is possible, and beware that it may come in its own sweet time. 

I feel very happy to be enjoying what I’m eating and how I’m eating. That’s my prayer. That whenever or however I lose that, as inevitably seems to happen with me, that I can find it again in my own way and time.