i just spent a glorious week in rural eastern kentucky where my food options were largely in the hands of others who were proudly and lovingly serving me breaded chicken, fried catfish, succulent ribs, baked beans, green beans flavored with pork fat, fried okra, buttered corn, buttered mashed potatoes, creamy coleslaw, bacon, cheesy grits, a southern salad made of whipped cream and chopped fruit that brought ‘i-miss-my-mema’ tears to my eyes, plates of watermelon, no-bake cookies, ham on white sandwiches, potato chips, platters of broccoli and cauliflower with ranch dressing, and iceberg lettuce salads with sugary dressings.

i list all of this because navigating it humbled me. i had brought my brilliant sugar free homemade trail mix (pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, goji berries and pure cacao), seaweed snacks, brown rice crackers, peanut butter – but nothing substantial enough to take the place of meals. there wasn’t even time to hit a grocery store for basic meats and veggies before heading deep into the country.

and i was fine.

i keep learning things in my sugar shift. this week i learned that i am honing my discipline, but i don’t want to be rigid to the point of self-punishment. in fact, the long-term goal is to be a circumstance-itarian, a term i think i may have created (but am willing to cede creation rights to someone else if i can use to mean this): to have a healthy, local, organic default of food that is very low in sugar (including alcohol, bread, desserts) and high in other fuels that work well for my body (primarily protein, vegetables, good fats) – and to shamelessly revel in the wonders and generosity of the places to which i travel.

this feels crucial, to be open to the wonders of place.

in eastern kentucky the wonders included bourbon, moonshine and ribs. there were lots of other foods which were not unique (like pink cake out of a box), and thus not necessary to me, though my eye kept wandering over to the pink cake and processing childhood memories – pink cake equals birthdays, joy, celebration. and i can process that without eating it.

being able to make the distinction between wanting (i desire that taste in my mouth) versus needing (i need that nourishment for my health) is powerful. i feel my capacity to make the best choice in any given scenario increasing. i don’t always make the best choice, but i can now say i almost always know what it is.

i am also learning the places where i have agency (alcohol, bread, meat) and the places i cannot even dabble a little yet (cookies, sweetened chocolate, chips). all of this is crucial data in this case study of myself.

someone suggested i write a book about this and i am seriously considering at minimum a zine that reflects on the detoxes with rose cole and diane san filippo’s guidance, as well as my own lessons, with somatics, food justice and economic justice lenses on the whole endeavor. because it isn’t just about eliminating sugar – it is tied up in this work of a just transition – how do we bring our human selves, our human bodies, in right relationship to the planet? we stop dousing it all in cane sugar and corn syrup, learn to taste the million sweetnesses of the earth.

i think something about humanity’s future is tied up in this question of sugar, of addiction and nutrition, of nourishment versus feeding a beast inside ourselves. i am playing at a long game here, and i feel more at ease than ever before, more self aware, and thus more free.

what is in your body?