Limiting the Damage


One of the nice things about getting older is learning my limits for certain things.

Some are really simple, like my tolerance level for pineapple, which is exactly zero. Any encounter with the spiky, offending fruit makes me swiftly, unpleasantly ill for the next 12 hours. Easy: I avoid it.

Others are more fluid, like glasses of rosé, which on a summer evening canal-side can stretch to 5 or 6, and on a Wednesday night should never go past two. But either way, I sense it coming and can usually exercise enough foresight to put the glass on the table and step slowly away from the bottle. Usually.

Some are trickier yet, and their effects steathily accumulate under the surface until one quiet Tuesday morning everything seems to implode. This is how my relationship with sugar works. It makes me sick, but not every time I eat it. It lulls me into a false sense of security, and just when I think that eating half a block of salted butter caramel Lindt before a run is totally kosher my intestines decide to revolt and stage an all out cramp war on me midway through kilometre 2. And yet, as I ran/hobbled/walked my way in agonising pain along the Seine-loop this morning I knew I had no one else to blame. The pain was self-inflicted.

As children and teenagers we love to push boundaries, to see just how far we can go, how much we can take. Like the ‘when’ in a game of chicken or the spoon scraping the bottom of the Nutella jar, often it’s only when we’ve gone too far do we realise it’s high time to stop.

At age 7 my Year 2 teacher wrote the following message on my report card ‘Alison doesn’t suffer fools gladly’. Suffice to say that my bullshit tolerance always has been dangerously low. I love clarity, and tangibility and straight talking. I say it like I see, and if it’s a spade well then let’s call it one, damnit !

And yet, with sugar as with bullshit, I sometimes practice the art of wilful ignorance, consuming beyond my limits, buying into the ambiguity which stands in for a lack of substance. And like a spasming abdomen, the yawning ache of emptiness that comes afterward can make it tough to keep moving forward.

And so it got me thinking, what if the majority of the pain, the ups and the downs, the wounds to pride and the hurt feelings and crushing disappointments we suffer daily could all be avoided? By knowing the limit and stopping before we reach it.

Image courtesy of brian hefele on Flickr.


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