By Dena Landon
I’ve always had a sweet tooth. Cookies, candy, ice cream…I’d often joke that I ate dinner just so I could get to dessert. In the past I’d tried giving up sugar for Lent and failed miserably. Going cold turkey never worked. If I didn’t bring something sweet for me to eat after lunch I’d end up at the vending machine around 2pm, feeding it quarters. I knew it was a problem but, blessed with a fast metabolism and leading an active life, had never truly been motivated to do anything about it.
My expensive sugar habit left me dragging and feeling slightly gross an hour later. I already felt gross, bombarded with my ex’s comments about how I’d never got my body back, or how no man would ever love me. I wanted to feel better, and yes, like there was something I could control in the midst of the chaos. Because my divorce – a change I’d chosen – was not going well.
Divorce is a big change. Divorce is a HUGE change. It’s more than just taking off the ring or moving into your own place. It’s resetting your life, acknowledging that it will go down a different path than you’d planned, and becoming comfortable with the change. Even though I was the one who left my ex – calmly telling him that I’d hired a lawyer and I wanted a divorce – I broke down sobbing later that night. Just because it was my choice doesn’t mean that it was an easy one to make.
But after the initial choice I made, my ex refused to move out. He continued living with me for nine months. Without sex or affection to influence his behavior, I put up with extreme amounts of verbal abuse, an uncooperative ‘roommate,’ and arguments over splitting groceries and other expenses. I’d chosen the divorce and he chose to make my life hell while it happened. I felt helpless, unable to move the process forward, unable to force his lawyer to respond when he waited months to get my lawyer information, and unable to make him move out.
One day, sitting at my desk at work, desperate to feel like I had some control over my own life, I stared down at the large peanut butter cookie I’d bought at Panera and said – no more. Unlike times I’d tried to quit in the past I didn’t go cold turkey. I ate half the cookie, wrapped up the rest and ate it the next day. That small step led to a bigger change.
But I was aware of why I needed that sugar hit. And I noticed how my body felt afterwards
Weaning myself off sugar took time, small changes like bringing more fruit with me to work, going for a walk around the parking lot when the vending machine tempted me, and giving in occasionally. I didn’t beat myself up when I had a particularly upsetting call with my lawyer and needed a treat. But I was aware of why I needed that sugar hit. And I noticed how my body felt afterwards. Eventually my daily after-lunch treat became weekly. As a bonus, it also saved me money!
Your life is already turned upside down in divorce. I wouldn’t recommend making huge, sweeping changes unless they’re absolutely necessary. Why test your willpower during an already difficult time? But it can be a good time to become more intentional about some of the smaller daily choices you make. Grasping a little control makes the chaos easier to handle. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while, or known in the back of your head that it needed to change, now may be the time.
Do it for you – not because your ex made comments about your weight, or your wardrobe, or your exercise habits, or whatever it is you decide to change. Do it because sometimes the memory of small accomplishments can motivate you to take bigger steps. Because small victories are a reminder that victory is possible.
You will emerge from divorce stronger and smarter. Why not a little healthier, too?
About the Author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.