Some of the Whys Behind Sugar

Some of the whys behind penning the novel, Sugar. In case you were wondering...

In the storm of a doctor sanctioned elimination diet wherein I couldn't have caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten, in other words all the yummy things, the seed of a story—where a girl, struggling with her relationship to food—took root. As my body detoxed and my mind rebelled, insisting that one cookie would be okay, I had an epiphany moment where I asked myself, do I want my health or do I want a cookie? (And let me tell you, I LOVE cookies.) In other words, the question became, what's more valuable, my life, livelihood, and well-being or the temporary gratification that sugar was going to provide: the hit to erase how difficult my health/dietary situation (among other things) was. 

Suffice it to say, I won. But my curiosity caught on what that cookie represented. Why did my battle come down to a standoff with a baked good—and not even a very good one. It was dry and stale, certainly not soft-in-the-center with just the right amount of crispiness around the edges.

As weeks turned into months and my health was restored, I gained clarity that pointed me to ask questions and examine my own habits. I explored the ways in which I ate and the reasons why—those beyond nourishment—and how emotion tied into them.

I sifted through memories of times of difficulty where I turned to food (or turned away from it) so I could feel full, complete, and forget whatever was troubling me. I stuffed myself to dull the emotional strain of those moments, tied to pain and feelings of helplessness and fear. I created a secondary form of suffering to mask my original hurts, in the form of over-eating, under-eating and at times, an unhealthy relationship with sweets. This realization jolted me not only because of the physical health ramifications for my particular issues, but because I was, in effect, dimming my spark, sinking beneath a belief that I was somehow inadequate, and incapable of handling whatever challenges I faced. The message I gave myself was I am not good enough, I can't come through this, I don't deserve to…instead, I'll have a cookie, or ten.

But I refused to believe that faulty memo. What I do believe in is hope, strength, and resilience. I believe in the power of asking ourselves what we want and taking action. From there, the story for Sugar—a girl snagged in emotional abuse, which essentially resulted in forms of physical abuse vis-a-vis food, along with actual physical abuse—went from seed to sprout.

Sugar, the character, is a person who is heavy, big, most would call her fat but the story isn't commentary on what particular size a person should be. Or that people with a certain number on the scale all binge eat or stuff down their emotions with food. It's not an attack on body image or about a girl chasing an ideal. 

Sugar is a person who gets a peek at who she is beyond the mirror. With that single glimpse, she sees her inner beauty; she understands that her life is worth fighting for despite obstacles, challenges, and the message of worthlessness from her family and community. With support and the abiding belief that she is not alone, mixed with a hefty measure of determination, she creates a recipe that results in her ability to see her outward beauty and experience body acceptance. She meets herself where she is and learns to love that girl, curves and all. This allows her to offer the gifts she has to give: friendship among them.

I wrote Sugar to convey one version of the human experience, to inspire hope where there might be bullying, self-hatred, and pain, and ultimately offer girls and women the courage to experience the triumph of embracing our lives so that we, like Sugar, will bloom.

Adapted from an essay I wrote earlier this year.

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