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Sugar, Gluten, Love: Tales from the Path to Joy - The Big Easy

I warned J about his twelve girlfriends early on in our relationship.  “You will have your hands full”, I told him.  “I can’t wait!” he answered.  And like a good complex carbohydrate, I revealed to him, slowly, each one of my twelve personalities—allowing him to work through the tough outer shell to the sweet stuff inside.  See, J appreciates that the things worth having in life aren’t easy.  He’s had plenty of opportunity to choose women who may have been easier to handle—girls, like the Dorothy character in the Wizard of Oz—or to just play it safe from the sidelines.  But he chose me.  Some may think it’s an obvious choice, since on the surface I appear to be like Dorothy.  But I’m not simple.  I’ve been to the Land of Oz, looked behind the curtain, and I know better than that now.

I was probably once like Dorothy, though, traveling along the yellow brick road with people who didn’t understand their own worth.  I chose people who were easy to please, perhaps sufficiently happy to have a pretty girl around, or swept away by their fantasies of the docile girl-next-door. They were people who were hardly interested in what lay behind the curtain or beyond their fantasy.  And I can’t say I blame them.  The image of the mighty Oz, his bodyless, angry, face towering over fire and smoke, is scary enough to make you keep your questions to yourself.  And everything seems so promising when you look at the world through green-tinted glasses.  I mean, why question the man in that fine suit about his desire to destroy the witch when you can “sleep ‘til noon and laugh the day away in the merry old land of Oz”?  Why look closely at the ingredients when the food is packaged so nicely?  Whether the food was sitting on the supermarket shelf or presented on fine china over white linen, I didn’t have to work very hard for it.  What could possibly be wrong with that?

The problem with “easy” is that it is.  If I have learned one thing in life it is that the things worth having are never easy—including your health and wellbeing.  The “easy” world portrayed by advertisers with their message of freedom, “let us do the cooking for you”, is designed to manipulate your desires and fears into a dependency that feeds a profit margin, not you.  It would be nice if we could just trust the man to take care of us so we could focus on the million of other things we need to think about--if we could just eat without having to think about our food.  But to make the most profit it is crucial that you see the world through their green-tinted glasses, that you not look beyond the wrapping, that you disregard the fine print and ignore the man behind the curtain so he can catch you on both ends.  On one end, to profit from your consumption of easy, cheap products -- on the other to make a significantly bigger profit for the treatment such consumption eventually requires.  I make it sound like a conspiracy, and I don’t believe it is.  Prepared foods were originally invented to help us, it’s just that we are several generations away from the original intent and companies are expected to earn much more than they can without these trappings.  When one considers the cost of treating ADHD, Anxiety, Arthritis, Autism, Cancer, Dementia, Depression, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Infertility, etc and the link of these diseases to processed foods, one can’t help but notice the trap we are in.  And it was our travels down the yellow-brick road towards the Emerald city like the scarecrow, not recognizing the power of our own divine intelligence, that got us here.

I may have severely disliked the teachers who made me work so hard to earn a grade when I was younger, but I never learned or grew as much with them.  And I know this is true about my own students.  I teach an abs class at my studio that is quite intense and very challenging.  I hear my students breathe hard during the reps then moan and collapse when we’ve finished the set.  Some have to take breaks often and you see their faces red and flushed, yet, when we finish, they are all smiling—radiantly.  And, despite the pain of recovery, they come back.  The reason they do is because getting through the class means they had to overcome their strong desire to quit.  It happens with yoga, too.  People come to my classes like the Lion from Oz, afraid of the discomfort, afraid that they will get hurt.  And when I challenge their long-held beliefs of inflexibility, uncoordination or weakness I have the pleasure of seeing them light up.  Getting through the discomfort and pain allows you to break through to see what you’re made of—to recognize your own worth.  There is no break-through without work, uncomfortable, painful, or sometimes arduous work—totally worth it, but never easy.

It can seem like full-time work to read the list of ingredients, to research the many substitutes, to afford the stuff that’s good for us, and then to cook it.  I mean, one day we get over our addiction to sugar with the help of brown rice syrup only to find out brown rice has arsenic.  The next we make cookies with spelt flour to manage gluten sensitivities only to find out spelt has gluten in it.  How does one keep one’s head from spinning?  The fix, while not easy, is actually simple.  It really only requires that we step off the hamster wheel and take a profound look—that is the hardest step.  First, stop seeing things in black and white, stop searching over the rainbow and get back to it.  Put that rainbow on your plate and get as many colors as you can.  No more white as in sugar and flour, no more black as in nothing– fruits and vegetables!--as many of the deep rich colors of vegetables and fruit as you can pile high on your plate.  Rather than replace one thing with another, look for variety.  Eventually this leads to a connection—first with our food as we notice the connection of color with nutrients, then with ourselves as the fog of toxins is lifted, then with others as we learn to see things differently, and finally with something much more powerful—the source of it all.  Thinking about our food, being mindful of it, makes way for the clarity to see the limits of the “easy” life we’ve been sold.  Soon, we realize that, like Dorothy in her ruby slippers, we’ve had the power all along.

J. and I meet up for lunch at Big Fresh.  J orders the Big Fresh salad and gets the Beet and Feta Salad by mistake.  “Are these beets?” he asks, J. doesn’t like beets.  “Beets are so good for you”, I tell him fearful that he’ll reject them.  He tastes one, “Mmm, it’s sweet, I don’t remember them being so sweet.” “I love beets”, I say, trying to encourage him.  He continues,“I always remember beets as being very tart”.  “You probably had pickled beets, J.”, and I explain what goes into pickled beets.  J. shakes his head and takes another bite.  “This salad is good.”, he says emphatically.  “It’s one of my favorite salads here”, I tell him.   He has just tasted a piece of the rainbow, broadened his options, and tapped into another part of my heart.  I am overcome with that happiness you feel when you find another thing in common with the man of your dreams.