The Challenge of Abstinence

I stared down the cookies at the barbecue this past weekend. They looked good. They looked really good. Everyone was enjoying them, in fact, scarfing them down. Later that night there were cookies left over. I wanted to grab one and enjoy. Besides cookies, there was chocolate cake--a favorite--and donuts and candy. We were not short on treats. We are never short on treats at family functions.

As I was cleaning up later, I looked at the dessert table and realized I was mourning, actually mourning that I had not indulged in cookies that day. Giving up cookies made me sad. Was it just the pleasure I was missing? Not being part of the crowd? Missing the taste and texture? Losing the hit that comes from that surge of sugar?

I don't know; but I do know that I don't play the ascetic very well. I do not do self-denial with much grace. For most of my life--especially concerning food--denial sends me screaming in the other direction; too often face first into a vat of sugar. And denial really should. When we restrict out of vanity or poor judgment it is natural that we will swing back to excess to normalize the austerity of the denial. But when you voluntary choose out of sugar and choose into better health and powerful healing, the motivation is much, much different. There is power in sacrifice. And I need that power. Obesity is a very complex disease and I need every tool in the toolbox to help me see my way through it.

One of the biggest obstacles for me are celebrations just like the one this weekend. Everyone is together and everyone is enjoying themselves. And sugar is what greases the wheels of these social functions. In our community and faith, we do not drink alcohol, so sugar is our addiction. It is what turns the wheels of most social functions. I think most people feel deeply disappointed if there are not brownies, cakes or cookies at most gatherings.

Abstaining does give me an advantage of watching and seeing how other people consume the treats. And when. We are all so funny in our peculiarities around food. Some go first and go big. Others hang back and deliberate. Some wait and watch patiently for later when they can consume the treats quietly and without an audience. Others return again and again until they moan and complain about being too full.

Now, as hard as these celebrations can be for an abstainer, I do recognize one very important point--feasting plays a vital role in our culture, our bonding and our psyche. Feasting allows us to indulge, savor, and celebrate. The celebration is a chance to acknowledge and remember and I see how valuable that is. And even as an abstainer, I can participate in feasting, indulging, celebrating and savoring. Mine may just look a little different than yours. I may eat many, many delicious, rich, yummy foods. I am just staying away from the cookies.


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