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Refined Sugar and Me: 2022 Reset

Let’s revisit the old refined sugar and me series from a while back: How has it been going, and what does 2022 look like moving forward?

refined sugar and me 2022 reset with chocolate cookie image

Long time readers may remember following the Refined Sugar and Me adventure I started way back in 2017, where over the course of a couple of years I changed my eating habits, lost 40 pounds, and felt great inside and out. Several of you have asked how that’s been going lately, and, well… here’s the long overdue (and totally honest) update for you.

Covid Happened

So there’s this global pandemic thing we’ve been living through for the last couple of years, and Covid actually arrived hard on the heels of some major upheaval in my personal life. My divorce was finalized in the fall of 2019, and I’d just started settling into a new normal by March of 2020: I was eating fairly well, attending yoga classes several times a week, and balancing my time with the kids, with time for myself when they were with their father.

But then, just as our very first lockdown began here in Illinois, I got sick. Very sick. So sick, that a video doctor visit yielded only the advice to “stay home, and go to the emergency room if you stop breathing.” I spent the next several weeks in quarantine, completely isolated and somewhat panicked. (Luckily, the kids were at their dad’s when I fell ill.)

Once I was finally able to get an Instacart order to go through during that panicky isolation period in spring 2020, I fell back into old habits and ordered allll of the sugary comfort food… and, pretty much haven’t stopped since. My yoga classes went onto Zoom, which I tried and found not to be for me. The kids transitioned into online learning, I postponed putting the house on the market, grocery price increases & shortages upended my business model, the world seemed to go crazy overnight, and to make a long story short: Over the last two years I’ve fallen completely off the no sugar wagon, and have gained back 3/4 of the weight I lost.

Now that we’re hopefully seeing some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel in 2022, though, I’m working on settling back into a new normal. I’m attending in-person yoga classes, starting to get my eating habits back under control, and… planning a wedding!

Appearance is as appearance does

rachel in a crazy christmas sweater being decorated with tinsel

As an aside: Why on earth do wedding dresses run small? You wouldn’t think that this is a time when anyone would want to see a bigger number. Beyond that, though, these last couple of pandemic years have highlighted what’s really important. It’s not the number on the scale (or the number on that dress); it’s people; it’s relationships; it’s feeling comfortable in my own skin.

On that note, this crazy Christmas picture from a couple of months ago is one of my favorite all-time photos of myself. Not because it makes me look good — it clearly does not, showing every awkwardness and every middle-aged wrinkle and pound — but, because it makes me look happy. Looking at this photo, I remember being surrounded by the people I love, and can feel the joy radiating from that.

Weight is fraught

weight weight don't tell me graphic

I’ve spent a lot of time over these past couple of years thinking about food and weight, happiness and health. One thing is surprisingly clear: As my appearance changed, people interacted with me differently — and, overall, more positively. At 40 pounds down, I’d not only lost the weight, but had lost some of my fat girl invisibility. People who’d previously ignored me started talking to me, people who had previously overlooked me paid attention.

Most of that weight loss occurred after my ex-husband left, and some of the comments I heard then still burn brightly in my mind. Just for instance:

I was walking around my old neighborhood, and a neighbor I hadn’t seen for a while stopped her car, backed up, and rolled down her window to tell me how great I looked… and to ask if my ex had seen me lately, because I was so skinny now that he just might change his mind.

I visited my family doctor because I wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating, and wasn’t functioning well during a number of abrupt life changes. He turned those complaints into compliments about my weight loss, and jokes about how the “divorce diet” really agreed with me.

I told a family member I was thinking about going on one of the dating sites, and she was so relieved that I’d lost weight first — because otherwise, what would be the point?

Does the term “divorce diet” sound healthy to you? It surely didn’t to me, as I was living through it. I met my now-fiancé during the pandemic, rather than at my skinniest, and know that he loves me for me, rather than a number on the scale. Despite all that’s still going on in this crazy world in the spring of 2022, I am happy and settled in my personal life. And now that I’m getting back to yoga and healthier eating, it’s not primarily to drop the pounds, but to feel stronger and healthier once again.

That’s how it’s been going, in a nutshell

I have many more thoughts swirling around all of this, and will be writing quite a bit more. But, I’ve been feeling for a while that I should revisit the “sugar and me” series with a realistic update. The last two years have been hard on all of us, so if you’re in the same boat, remember to show yourself the same grace and consideration you’d show others. All we can do now is start again from here, and, from each day forward.


Sunday 6th of March 2022

I’ve been following your weekly meal plans for years, as it helps add structure to my own chaotic life (and your recipes are delicious!) I feel like this is an appropriate post to say thank you for sharing yourself, your honesty with all of us. I really appreciate you and wish you nothing but health and happiness.

Melody Sisko

Friday 4th of March 2022

Wow, wow, wow! You are an awesome writer. In this crazy bankrupt world of social media and keeping up with the Kardashian’s, we rarely receive such realness, honesty and true beauty.


Wednesday 2nd of March 2022

I love your honesty and openness! Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! And I’m so sorry about those comments you got.


Tuesday 1st of March 2022

Coincidentally, I remembered this series last week, reread it all, and am on day 5 of giving up refined sugar. It feels like an achievable approach that could actually give me results. I gained about 12 lbs over the past two years, and just feel uncomfortable in my body and in my clothes--I had to buy several pairs of pants because the old ones don't fit. So far, no headaches or other side effects; in fact, I think my digestive system is happier overall. :) The difficult part for me is planning healthy options for breakfast and lunch instead of relying on cereal or fast food when things get crazy busy, as they inevitably do. I already plan dinners, so I added some snacks to keep at work so I don't hit the candy jar when I'm hungry, and I did some meal prep on Sunday so I have enough lunch options.

Next step: working more exercise into my schedule.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Karen Carlson

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

I have followed you for years. I enjoy and appreciate the Aldi plans and tips but your posts that share your journey touch and captivate me. I hope it encourages know how your honest sharing touches people. Not gonna lie…I want to read the book!!

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