A Year Of No Sugar: Post 56

I’ve been on pins and needles all this last week, worried about Thursday. Thursday Vermont Public Radio reporter Steve Zind came to interview me about the No Sugar project.


See, here’s the thing. As I sit here writing my fifth sentence, (does “Ack!” Count as a sentence?) I realize I’ve already gone back and changed the first sentence at least three times. That’s what I love about writing- the process of going through and getting it to say exactly what you mean to say in exactly the way you mean to say it. This is the reason I’d be a truly terrible politician, for example, or trial lawyer, or radio interviewer for that matter: I don’t really do “off-the-cuff.” I live in perpetual awe of those who can.

Instead, I do the opposite. I love finally finding the right word that hits your meaning on the head like a soft, firm hammer. I love the fact that I can sit down and write for ten minutes and when I look up I realize it has actually been two hours. I love going back and reading something I thought maybe wasn’t all that great and totally surprising myself by being entertained or interested by it after all- as if it had been written by somebody entirely different from me.

But the interview went fine- I mean it probably went great. Steve Zind is an incredibly nice guy, and besides that he was honestly interested in our weird little project. He asked great, to-the-point questions and worked to steer me back on course whenever I got away from the original question too far or completely lost my train of thought. (Hello? Earth to Eve!) He even went with me to the supermarket for a bit of grocery shopping and it was fun sharing with him my nomadic life on the fringes of the supermarket. Like the old adage, we stuck to the store’s outer perimeter of produce, meat and dairy, steering clear of the darker inner sanctum of processed everything. Like we were on a recon mission, we ventured in on our rappel ropes only to quickly nab boxes of Shredded Wheat and Triscuits before zipping back out as if those scary florescent Cheetos might suddenly launch a surprise attack.

In addition to not being so terrific on the spot, another insecurity of mine is the whole not-being-a-doctor thing. I mean, I can read David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison and watch Dr. Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” till I am blue in the face, (I am up to four times through The-90-minute-Bitter-Truth at this point) but I just can’t quite seem to keep all those metabolic transactions in my brain at one time. No- that’s not true. I can keep it in my brain, mostly, but not in the super thorough I-know-this-stuff-like-the-back-of-my-hand-way that is required when you are called upon to coherently explain the matter to someone else.

But I did my best anyway- and ever since I’ve been going it over in my head wondering how much of an idiot I really sounded like. Of course, another bad thing- but also a really good thing- about being interviewed is that sooner or later someone will ask you a question you haven’t heard yet, and haven’t prepared an answer for.

“What about joy?” he asked me as we drove toward the Price Chopper. “Isn’t some part of eating fundamentally about joy?” It’s a great question. Way better than “but you eat honey, right?” or “have you lost any weight?” or any of the other questions we regularly get asked.

I don’t remember my answer, but using my super-human powers of interview revisionism, I would like to re-answer that question now. What I should’ve said is this: A lot of people, my husband included, either take or used to take tremendous joy in smoking cigarettes. The question is, at what point does that joy get overridden by the realization that this thing is very probably addictive, and going to kill you? Because that’s what we’re talking about: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer and… have I mentioned anything that scares you yet?

My Aunt Bonnie died of alcohol-induced diabetes. Although I didn’t know her very well, my understanding is that she didn’t have the money or the insurance to care for her illness, but she sure as heck wasn’t about to give up drinking. That wasn’t even on the table. The way my cousin tells it, Aunt Bonnie made her choice.

Bottom line: how much substance-related joy would you be willing to give up, if you knew it was going to kill you? Cigarette smokers, drug addicts and alcoholics the world over have been forced to answer that question time and again, and I suspect, eventually, all us sugar consumers will be too.

Can we have occasional sugar? Sure, if we think about the right way: like the occasional drink, or the occasional cigar or cigarette (if we’re one of those rare individuals who can smoke the occasional cigarette.) If we can restore sugar to its place in our culture as something truly special. I don’t know about you, but if I eat something at every meal including breakfast and snacks… I don’t consider that special.

That’s what I should’ve said.

10 thoughts on “A Year Of No Sugar: Post 56

  1. I am sure you did wonderful in the interview. Your blog has been very inspirational to me. I found it while searching the internet when I was looking for more information about giving up sugar. It was perfect timing, I found it about two weeks after giving up all sugar, just when I thought what I was doing must be a little crazy (and my dad was tired of hearing me talk about it). I gave up sugar in April, though I have been cutting it back the last few years, for health reasons. I encountered many of the same challenges that you have talked about (easter made me panic a little) and I am sure that some sugar has slipped by here and there in unexpected places. However your blog has really helped motivate me to stay away from sugar knowing that someone else is doing the same. I just wanted to say thanks for giving me the (unknowing) support.

    1. Wow! Thank you Laura- and it totally works both ways: thank you for letting me know that I too, am not alone out there. I am totally humbled by the thought that our project could be inspiring or helpful to someone who I’ve never even met…

      It’s hard not to talk about it too- isn’t it? I mean, it comes up a LOT once you start paying attention.

  2. “I love finally finding the right word that hits your meaning on the head like a soft, firm hammer. I love the fact that I can sit down and write for ten minutes and when I look up I realize it has actually been two hours. I love going back and reading something I thought maybe wasn’t all that great and totally surprising myself by being entertained or interested by it after all- as if it had been written by somebody entirely different from me.”

    I love this too. In fact it brings me joy. And you do this writing thing so very well, by the way. It’s a joy to read.

  3. I have been reading your blog on and off since finding it off of Betsy’s babycenter blog and as I just polished off a lowfat choc muffin, I must say, more power to you. You have definitely enlightened me on the evils of sugar and have been looking more
    closely at how much sugar is surreptitiously in everything. I try not to give my daughter anything w/ ADDED sugar but she does eat a heck of a lot of fruit. And I can’t decide btwn evils of not eating any vegetables vs eating them w/ organic ranch dressing, which is the only way she’ll eat them. And her preschool, which I love, will have Pops popsicles so I have to make something at least close to as tasty to that (org fruit juice pops) so I at least can keep all the dye and HFCS out of her system. But, I can’t figure out how much sugar is TOO much. And then I just read (skimmed) the China study so now I’m all freaked out about meat. I guess we just have to decide on what we know and how to implement that in our lives. I am resuming the fight on decreasing my sugar and trying not to create another generation where “treats” and “being good” are associated w/ sugar. So difficult.

    on a side note, was reading this Karen Katz book titled “no biting” and it’s on manners. And on one page it says “daddy gives you a treat, what do you say?” and it’s a lollipop. I have all these books I read to my daughter and there always seems to be some reference to candy of some sort. Ubiquitous

    1. Priscilla-
      I think it’s great that your daughter will eat vegetables even if it is with Ranch dressing. I have found that my two year-old nephew just really enjoys the act of dipping and when offered hummus, guac, salsa, or even pesto with his veggies he eats it right up!
      Also I’ve added pureed white beans to his Ranch dip to cut the sodium and fat, while adding vitamins and fiber! He doesn’t even notice a difference! Just puree the white beans and add as much or little Ranch to get the taste and texture you desire 🙂 (and I wouldn’t even tell your daughter.. see if she notices)

      1. Awesome idea brooke! THanks. I already mix pureed carrots to her ketchup and she eats that up. I haven’t offered hummus in a while but I definitely will try that soon.

      2. I have a funny story to post soon about dressing and dip… But it is undeniable that kids love to dip! Hummus and pesto both work well in our house too… and I’m currently on the hunt for No Sugar Ketchup and Ranch Dressing recipes so stay tuned!

        (Or let me know if you find one!)

  4. Hi Eve, I heard the interview today and thought you were honest & relaxed; it sounded off the cuff, so no worries! My mom was a terrific baker and as a child all her goodies were sustenance. Then I read Sugar Blues in the 70’s, and over the years have tried now and again to wean off the stuff. I write though, to tell you that I am on a scholarship committee for culinary students and found that this year 90% of the applicants want to be bakers. I was very concerned about this fact so my votes went to the few who wanted to pursue other culinary interests. Perhaps bakers don’t always need to use sugar, but the next 2nd evil is the dead end carbohydrate.

    1. Wow- that’s startling isn’t it? But it does go to show the outsized emphasis at work in our culture on sweets, treats, and desserts. I often wonder what would happen to all the sweet shops if we all started eating even just a more moderate amount of sugar…

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