A Year of No Sugar: Post 45

You know, it’s not every day that I broach the subject of our “family project” with a complete stranger only to have them respond, “Oh, me too!” but that’s exactly what happened to me the other day on the train.

We were traveling down to New York City for the purpose of celebrating our daughter Greta’s eleventh birthday and I ended up sitting next to and striking up a conversation with a lovely woman named Lori who didn’t respond at all the way people do when I start to tell them that our family isn’t eating sugar for a year.

Her eyes didn’t get wide with disbelief or narrow with suspicion; she didn’t pretend to get it and then ask lots of predictable questions like “oh, but you can have honey, right? Because that’s natural?” or shrug it all off with a “Oh I couldn’t ever do that! Never!” Instead, we ended up having a lengthy conversation comparing notes on cookies made with fruit, and debating the pros and cons of different kinds of sugar alcohols. It was uncanny: Lori had even made a big batch of oatmeal raisin cookies before she left for her trip, just like I had, except she used applesauce instead of dates for sweetening.

Turns out Lori had gained a lot of weight- some seventy-five pounds- following a sad event in her life three years ago and her recent abstinence from sugar is an effort to counteract that. She seemed most intrigued by our two girls’ participation in our Year of No Sugar, and seemed heartened by it.

“If they can do it- than I definitely think I can do it!” she said, adding that she would think of our family whenever her resolve was feeling wobbly.

I found the exchange entirely humbling. Us? Inspiring? I am happy to engage in a little false modesty here and there, but really, truly, no kidding at all, I find this concept hard to wrap my mind around. I just don’t feel that self-assuredness, that supreme radiating confidence that I see in some other writer’s similar projects (hello, Barbara Kingsolver!). For one thing, I’m no biochemistry teacher: I am going to win no awards for my precise-but-comprehensible explanations of what fructose does in (and to) your body.

For another, if you read this blog at all you’ll know that the amount of time I spend avoiding sugar is roughly equal to the amount of time I spend worrying about it: questioning why I’m doing it, trying to delineate the parameters of it, and rationalizing the fact that I am pulling the rest of the family through it with me, kicking and screaming included.

This is not to mention the ample brain-space devoted to grappling with logistics of groceries and restaurants, negotiating my husband’s wayward tendencies (hello Diet Dr. Pepper!), and worrying about my children’s future therapy bills. Some days, all I can see are the imperfections: the sugar-containing chewable vitamins, the necessity of relying on the word of a harried waitress, the discomfort of having to skip community events that involve food. Some days, the “project” that I have so cheerfully imposed on our family, feels more like a long tunnel that I am stubbornly trying to lead us all through, blindfolded. I volunteered for this, right?

And then something like the New York Times Magazine article “Is Sugar Toxic?” (April 17, 2011) comes out and validates the fact that just maybe, I might not be crazy after all. Or I get a wonderful supportive comment on one of my posts. Or I meet a woman on the train. So when Lori says she finds our family inspiring, I would have to say: the feeling is entirely mutual.

5 thoughts on “A Year of No Sugar: Post 45

  1. Your timing is impeccable. I just succumbed to the after- lunch sweet tooth monster with a, for old time’s sake, Nutella ginger snap sandwich, small but satisfying, when your new post alert came bleeping into my inbox. Luckily I washed my hands of the messy chocolatey confection before I clicked over. Why am I telling you all of this? Guilty conscience. Perhaps you could write daily posts, or start a electronic twelve step system, like flylady, for those with good intentions but no will power?

  2. Ooooo- but if ever I were to be tempted it would most certainly be after lunch with a Nutella ginger snap sandwich! Who can blame you, really?

  3. I recently purchased one of the “Healthy/Skinny Bitch” cookbooks. That was before reading your blog and doing my best to eliminate sugar from my diet. When I went back to that cookbook, thinking that maybe I could find a healthy no-sugar recipe, I was disappointed. I ended up subscribing to Healthy Bitch daily email subscription anyway. Every now and then she has posts that interest me, but today was the best! You can find it here: http://www.healthybitchdaily.com/post/sugar-is-too-much-toxic. It is about sugar and Dr. Lustig and his viral video! I was excited to see that this topic is getting more publicity. The author of the article didn’t seem convinced that sugar is as horrible of a toxin as Dr. Lustig suggests, but encouraged moderation. At least it’s a start!

  4. Rachel-
    Thanks for this link! It seems like Dr. Lustig is getting more and more press and the idea of the possible toxicity of sugar is gaining momentum in the popular consciousness- a good thing if we’re ever going to address what is going on in the Western diet and the consequent Western health issues.

    Even Jon Stewart made a joke on the Daily Show the other night about “my fructose free year”! You should’ve seen the look on my face.

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