Sunday, March 31 was my first day without sugar.
If I’d known when I woke up that it was going to be The First Day, I would have spent Saturday at the local markets snapping up half price Easter chocolate and gone down fighting, a bit like the mayor (Alfred Molina) at the end of Chocolat.
But I didn’t know. Which isn’t to say I hadn’t been eating my more-than-fair share of Cadbury crispy sugar-coated chocolate eggs and Blue Bunny Deluxe Mint Chip ice cream.
And that was the problem — for about a year, I’ve been indulging my considerable sweet tooth with more sweets, more often, and many times directly after I’d decided to tone it down. Binging would not be too strong a word for some of these snack sessions (no purging — we’re talking chocolate here, much too precious to abuse in such a way).
I want to make it clear that this no-sugar decision wasn’t a weight issue. I even lost 5 or 6 lbs over the fall, despite the chocolate and ice cream – oh, and the DQ mini-Blizzards, mint with extra Oreo.
Rather, that Saturday it occurred to me that my consuming-regretting-consuming behavior was a bit like my father’s relationship with alcohol. Dad was a highly functional alcoholic for most of his adult life (much less functional in the final 5 years). Haha, I thought, isn’t that a wacky coincidence? Haha, good thing I seldom keep liquor/beer/wine in the house and never drink alone. Haha, maybe sugar is my booze. Haha…..
Double crap, because if my problem had been booze, and I came to that realization, I would stop drinking. Climb on the wagon. Quit cold turkey. Dry out. Get off the sauce.
The logic was inescapable – I needed to put down the sugar and walk away. A nutritionist might advise moderation, but for me, moderation meant not eating deluxe mint chip ice cream straight from the carton. No, I scooped it into bowls, like a civilized being. Large bowls. Successive bowls.
I spent Sunday morning contemplating my world without sweets. I did so while obsessively searching the internet for information about giving up sugar. (It’s likely that obsessively searching the internet is another addiction of mine, but one trek virtue-ward at a time.) I found this article in NY Times Magazine and wondered if my sugar consumption really could be as bad for my liver and related processes as drinking. Because let’s face it: if I’m going to ruin my liver, hanging out at bars slamming down shots of tequila has definite advantages over scarfing down mint chip ice cream at home. For one, it gets you out of the house, plus lime wedges are rich in vitamin C.
A bit more research convinced me that ditching sweets isn’t enough, since sugar, especially fructose, and even more especially high fructose corn syrup, has infiltrated our country more silently and efficiently than commies in Joe McCarthy’s worst nightmares. And while I’d already gotten away from using anywhere near as much prepared food as I once did, it’s pretty instructive to read the sugar grams in run of the mill peanut butter, pizza and pasta sauce, boring cereals that no self-respecting child would even consider eating, and plain bread and rolls. And if the product is labeled ‘low fat,’ chances are the sugar content is even higher.
I settled for ditching all sweets and keeping my in-other-food sugar consumption to 25 grams a day or less, which allows for a serving or so of fruit in addition to the sugar that occurs naturally in my suddenly much healthier diet.
I was afraid that after a day or so off sugar I’d be reenacting Ewan McGregor’s withdrawal scene from the end of Trainspotters, and we all know from there it’s only short jump to playing young Obi Wan in a series of increasingly bad and bloated prequels (but hey, Liam Neeson). It wasn’t that difficult, though the first 8 days or so I ate a lot, since nothing I ate was really what I wanted, which by day 4 was a large bowl woven of Red Vines and filled with peanut M&Ms, Milk Duds, little Cadbury chocolate eggs, chocolate-covered raisins, and all the other kinds of M&Ms, drizzled with caramel syrup, chocolate syrup, and maple syrup, and capped off with Reddi-Whip.
And an after dinner mint (it’s wafer-thin).
(Did you know they make Dutch chocolate Reddi-Whip? I’m amazed people don’t just stand in the refrigerated aisle at the grocery store, spraying it directly into each other’s mouths. Can you believe my friend Melanie made it to age 34 without EVER spraying Reddi-Whip into her mouth? I soon took care of that oversight!)
After 8 days, I found I really didn’t want to eat anything sweet. And now, 11 days after that, I don’t even think about sweets. And get this – fruit really IS nature’s candy, and grapes taste too sweet to me (cantaloupe is just about perfect). I’ve been drinking Crystal Lite Mango/Peach green tea (I know, artificial sweetner, but I’m completely off the Diet Pepsi and one virtuous change at a time) and yesterday I started using only ½ the regular amount because the flavored tea is too sweet.
I also feel fabulous – energetic and cheerful all day long. So chipper, in fact, that the new me would kind of piss the old me off, or at least cause her to roll her eyes.
Today, after much waffling, I went with Melanie for mini DQ Blizzards. I wanted to see if I still liked them and I wanted to see if I could have an occasional treat without falling off the wagon and rolling around in the cocoa powder. The Blizzard did not taste too sweet, but it didn’t taste that great, either. I did enjoy the cool creaminess and the contrast of the crunchy Oreo bits. But I could go another 19 days, or 30, or whatever before having another one.
I hope you can appreciate that last sentence, because it is the most unexpected and amazing statement I have ever typed about myself.