"'Moderation' is a concept that I greatly admire but, despite great exertions of willpower, one that I have never been able to put into practice for very long," explains Pember. She has battled obesity for a long time, and until now, diets and exercise have failed to help her shed the excess weight, she says.
Despite her years of efforts "to exorcise the pain and power" of the various ills plaguing her and much of Indian country, Pember found herself diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in November 2008.
She has since concluded that will power alone is not the answer to combating these diseases. It's coming to terms with the root cause: the element of addiction in her relationship with food. "I surrendered to the fact that I can never have a normal relationship with food," Pember says. "Like an alcoholic, I must always be on guard against that first drink."
In November 2011, Pember reached her breaking point, fearing she would not live long enough to raise her kids, ages 7 and 13. She joined Weight Watchers and began exercising regularly. So far, she has dropped 25 pounds. "I have found this admission of powerlessness over food to be remarkably sustaining as I work on changing my eating and exercise habits," Pember says.
Most significantly, Pember writes, she is examining why food became her outlet to coping with despair by "recognizing the psychological factors that affect addiction, health and other social problems in Indian Country."
"Separated from our traditional spirituality and cultures, however, we chose the white man’s medicines," she says. "Alcohol, drugs and foods high in fat and sugar offered short-term relief but in the end, they have betrayed us."