I hate it when I eat a big dinner and then take bite after bite of the towering mud pie and only stop because shame descends on my reaching fork. And when my belly is tight as a drum and food is creeping up my throat because the stomach is at capacity. Ugh! Certain foods for me, like Tres Leches cake for instance, are like alcohol to an alcoholic.

Many of us have our drugs of choice. Some people have a glass of wine and the good feeling makes them want another. The second one goes down easy and the warm buzz makes the arm keep pouring, until the head is in the dinner plate. What is it that overrides the body’s common sense and prompts us to keep at it when the overdose destroys brain cells, causes ulcers, and pulverizes the liver? The drug addict also ignores these physiological compromises. That sweet reprieve from everyday anxiety oozes through the blood stream in a physical jolt of euphoria. The feeling so compelling that one must increase the dose to recall the effect and soon the body builds a tolerance so the cells need the drug to just function normally.
And cigarettes. Some say this is the most difficult habit to break. Many never quit in spite of the commercials of the woman with a hole punched in her throat so she can get air after years of smoking. Vices persist as you trick yourself into believing in their value. But after the compulsion has a good grip on you, you begin to suspect you are paying a high price-by shortening your days on this earth.

My drug of choice is food. I have had episodes where I thought about a Tres Leches Cake for days before I finally gave in and took the trip to Café Latte in St. Paul. What’s so good about this confection? Well it has two layers of pure whipped cream sandwiched between the creamy yellow cake. The layers have three types of milk poured into it, hence Tres Leches. Which is especially deadly for me because I am lactose intolerant, but this makes the texture rich and creamy and almost wet. Then they put a few fresh raspberries on top. When you take a creamy cakey bite with the tart raspberry, you are transported to nirvana. The first few bites are always heavenly and then you keep eating because it tastes so good and you remember how much you wanted it and you don’t want the pleasure to be over so you eat and eat and eat. I suppose I should say that this “you” person is me. I’m talking about me here. So it was a tradition to eat the cake on my birthday because everyone knows that birthdays are a time for celebration. Even though I’d get sleepy or a headache from the cake, I loved it like a baby loves milk. Tres leches- Three milks, triple bad.

So on May 1st, you would find Judy speeding down the highway on her way to St. Paul. Then she would purchase the whole cake instead of just one or two slices because she wanted to make the trip worth it and rationalized that the cake would be consumed in a timely manner by having friends over to share in it. Or she thought, she could make it last the whole week, one piece a day. Yet She knew very well that the cake lost it’s oomph after three days in the refrigerator.

Again, I must confess, this Judy girl is me. Even though the refrigerator door was closed, I imagined it white and creamy alone in there. Its presence all powerful emanating from the shelf out into the living room and up the stairs and into my office until I could taste it and I’d have to quit in the middle of putting stamps on envelopes and go down and have a piece. And then another wedge because one just wasn’t enough. It was never enough. The whole cake wasn’t enough.

That night.. “Joe, please eat another piece but he would say, no thanks I’m full.” And it would piss me off. Didn’t he care about me? Didn’t he know that I would eat the whole blasted thing if he didn’t eat more? So selfish he was. So the next day, I’d have a piece with my morning coffee, one after lunch, and polish it off by 3:00—cursing Joe with each bite.

For 13 years I have written in my daily journal. I often checkout the entry from a year or two ago. I find a common theme: What trick can I devise to fix my cravings; how did my eating go the day before; and what is my plan for eating today; how happy I am that I lost two pounds or; how sad it is that I have gained 5. I have tried low carb diets, all fruit diets, the Y’s calorie counting program, the Fit for Life diet, IPAD’s Fitness Pal, and vegetarianism. All in hopes to get it under control.

Three months ago after having a particularly strong love affair with Chocolove –an amazing bar you can buy at the grocery store that my friend Jane innocently gave me one day- I had my fasting blood sugar tested and it was dangerously high, 119. Only a few points from diabetes which looms at 125.
I called my doctor daughter, Kiona.
“Mom, that’s really bad. You don’t want diabetes.”
“What should I do?”
“Change your diet. It’s easy to reverse if you eat the right things”
“What should I eat?”
“No sugar, wheat,or starchy foods.”
Is she saying no Tres Leches cake?
No bread?
No rice?
No potatoes?
No Chocolove?
I came up with a list of no no’s as long as the Talahoochee bridge. The plan was simple. 3 pieces of fruit a day, veggies and protein, like meat and eggs, nuts and quinoa, beans and lentils, olive oil. Easter came and I passed up the chocolate bunnies, my birthday came and I snubbed my nose at Tres Leches. Last Saturday, came the ultimate test: as we all sat on the picnic table atop the boathouse deck, I took a pass on Mary Ann’s Bourbon Butter Cake.

It’s been four months. I have lost 18 pounds. I have more energy. I have less aches and pains, no allergies and my shirts button.

But the most beautiful thing is that I feel so free from the tormenting food thoughts. No painful decisions about what I should eat and how much. No guilt about overdoing it. No trying on several pieces of clothes to find–something that fits decently. No food comas or headaches from a bag of licorice or a three milk cake.

I find it relatively easy to make the healthy food choices because like Kiona said, “It’s amazing what you can do when the threat of losing a limb or your eyesight is hanging in the balance.” I know diabetes is a nasty disease. Instead of feeling deprived, I feel enriched. I have experienced the benefits of lightness and digestive health. This morning I had some oatmeal with fresh apricots, raw pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and soy milk and it was as delicious as any cake. My taste buds are changing and my stomach shrinking. When the oatmeal bowl was done, I didn’t want another. I was satisfied. I feel connected, like I can trust my body to ask for what it needs and honor it. Oh blessed day.. a simple solution to a life time of food complications.