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  • Anela Barboza

Surviving Sugar

Itʻs Day 24 of a 21-day sugar cleanse. I spent the past three weeks, adjusting to a new way of thinking about food, addressing the deep questions about survival and comfort that arise during times of deprivation, and building a system for eating that could sustain me through the stretch of 21 days.


It was tough to go without all the foods that instinctively feel like home to me; fried rice, mochiko chicken, kalbi, manapua. I could have none of it. And my hunger grew in the early days, the feeling of desperation that rose up through my body was familiar.


I used to have two days of shelf life when I returned from Hawaiʻi. I wouldnʻt eat much during those times, food would taste bland to me. But on the third day, I would have to feed myself, knowing I couldnʻt make it much longer.


I would head to the store and try to find foods that felt nourishing and loving and reminiscent of home. But there werenʻt any. Instead, the deli cases were full of cured meats and potato salads. The ʻethnicʻ food section had one brand of shoyu and there was no beef short-ribs to bought. I would often stare at the shelves which looked empty and foreign to me, and cry.


Nainoa Thompson, a navigator on the Hokuleʻa, said that good food can at times be one of the few things to look forward to at sea.


And this to me was a disappearing of all the foods I found comfort and identity in, the way that I would become lost at sea. They simply did not exist all of a sudden. And in a sense, nor did I, outside of some placement upon the otherwise bare shelf of watered down exotic foods.


From here, was born my pattern of deprivation, submission, grabbing for convenience, overindulging in sensory foods and back again to deprivation. And the pattern of too little, then too much leaked into several areas of my life.


Fast forward to day 3 of a harmless sugar cleanse that I sign up for to break my sugar dependency. Iʻm hungry, panicked, and feel the same sensation of staring at bare shelves with no options for food. Out of need, I started to build a plan.


First brown rice, then chili. I realize I have poi in my freezer from back home. And then poke, kalo mash, lomi salmon, pork butt, grilled fish. I connect with my friends from nearby lands and find recipes for manoomin and make soup and stuffed fish. And I begin to realize that the dependency I have on sugar is not ours. There are plenty of foods we can and do eat that donʻt require those colonial ingredients so common in everyday life on the continent.


Iʻm grateful for having additional resources today that allow me to find and buy fresh fish and good produce, and I know that itʻs a privilege not everyone enjoys. But it helped me articulate my personal commitment to food sovereignty. What will we need to do to grow and harvest to meet most of our food needs? What dependencies do I need to break and what good foods might be waiting for me to re-discover them? What skills will I need to learn and what adjustments will I need to make in my daily life to make room for this shift?


Incorporating steady practices as I go along and happy to re-connect with all of you here to begin sharing the journey again.






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