Laissez les bons temps rouler – Let the good times roll
– New Orleans Mardi Gras Mantra
The way to deal with the devil of obesity and diabetes is literally one day at a time
– Stephen Furst
In the 1960s at a Catholic elementary school in Suburban Philly, I did not equate Mardi Gras with the festivities associated with letting the good times roll in New Orleans. It meant coming up with my Lenten Sacrifice that I would recite to the nuns as evidence that I was a devote girl worthy of receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) was the last day before Easter to enjoy whatever we planned to sacrifice in the coming Lenten season.
Even as a child, I was an over-thinker. I really thought limbo might be a better place to end up than the fires of hell which would be my fate if I strayed from the holy path once I reached the age of reason and received my First Holy Communion. Each of the 5 years I spent in the Catholic elementary school, I agonized about what the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead (when she was good, she was very, very good…but when she was bad she was horrid… it was those horrid times I fretted about) could successfully give up for Lent.
In second grade, at age 7, our Lenten Fast and abstinence was more important than ever. At the end of the Lenten Season, we would be in a State of Grace and be able to receive our First Holy Communion. The nuns told us since we were about to enter the age of reason, we needed to choose our sacrifice wisely. It should be something that we like and will miss, otherwise it wasn’t a sacrifice. Most kids my age gave up candy for Lent. Having an addictive sweet tooth that whispered temptations into my ear on a regular basis, I thought abstinence from candy would be a worthy sacrifice pre-First Holy Communion. And besides, if the other kids did the same thing, I’d have some support.
If you’ve read some of my blog posts before, you’ll know that in my childhood life of privilege, my greatest torment was learning that Satan could transform himself into a piece of candy to lure children away from their Lenten vow. My 7 year old logic thought drinking holy water would burn up both Satan and the candy which somehow found its way into my belly days after I made public my Lenten vow. With the help of the holy water and my First Confession, I did make it through that Lenten period and did receive my First Holy Communion.
Flash forward almost 50 years later. I was not a fan of sacrifice…for Lent or any other reason. After moving to the DC, my first visit to a new doctor in April 2005, resulted in a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis. Even though for decades, I had been letting the good times roll onto my middle body, I was stunned by the diagnosis. I was healthy. I had a good life, a job I loved, how could this happen?
Well, the good times had been rolling for a few decades. In my 40s, the pounds started to creep up on the scale and were reluctant to leave. I exercised often, but I ate what I enjoyed, without having a bottle of holy water nearby to burn away the consumed sugary sweetness. At one point, I remember looking at the Body Mass Index chart on the office wall as I waited for the doctor. The number, when I stood on the scale, had moved into the “obesity” range. I didn’t feel obese. Maybe I was a little chubby, but obese?
In my twenties and thirties, I was able to easily remove any excess weight, by following whatever fad diet caught my fancy. I approached each diet as a Lenten sacrifice. After a short diet and my weight goal achieved, I would once again let the good times roll as I lived the life free from sacrifice. My initial Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis was a reminder that giving into temptation had not served me well. I continued to see food in terms of good and bad. The medical professionals who offered me support in my initial dietary changes reminded me of the nuns. Their guidance felt like sacrifice prescriptions. Only, this time my sacrifice wasn’t for Lent it was for life. I felt ashamed that I had no will power.
Just as that 7 year old girl so many years ago, I had trouble dealing with a “sacrifice”. After 16 years of living with my condition, I have come to accept my Type 2 Diabetes as a gift. It led me to rekindle my interest in Yoga. Educated myself and gradually learned what dietary and lifestyle changes work best for me. My Yoga practices help me to manage my stress levels, move more, be kinder to myself, connect with others, and to change my negative mindset.
Diet remains my hardest challenge. Although my diet is much healthier than it was 20 years ago and my weight is down from the time of my initial diagnosis, I still struggle to stay on a healthy plan. Sweets continue to be my downfall. Perhaps because of all the past sacrifices so many others have made in the past year, for 2021, I’m returning to my childhood Lenten practice (not sacrifice!). I’m giving up “sweet processed foods” for Lent. Because managing Diabetes is a daily practice, I’m planning that this “Lenten practice” 16 years post Type 2 Diabetes will continue beyond Lent. Maybe, this April will be my Sweet (free) 16th Anniversary. Wish me luck!
If you or a loved one is at risk for Diabetes, please see if you are eligible to participate in a National Diabetes Prevention Program near you.