A Year Of No Sugar: Post 93

My six year old is soon to be seven, but she still uses a handful of words she hasn’t realized yet that she herself made up. One of them is “gladfully,” which she uses to mean “thank goodness,” as in: “We arrived just in time for the movie, gladfully.”

Pastry Smorgasbord

There’s something inspiring about that to me, about the fact that she assembled that word one day, out of necessity to express a particular emotion, and drawing from all her previous experiences… and it worked, so here she is still using it. When we’re kids we’re much more used to figuring stuff out, to winging it. By necessity, kids are improvising all the time. As Indiana Jones once famously said, “I’m just making it up as I go along.”

This year, we’ve been making it up as we go along too. Looking back to this time last year I realize how awfully clueless we were about what A Year of No Sugar would entail: we had yet to fully understand what fructose was, its many, many aliases, and what the deal was with omnipresent “no sugar” ingredients like sugar substitutes and sugar alcohols. I had yet to go through my banana, date, coconut, oligofructose, and “what do you mean I can’t have carob?” phases. I had yet to read David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison, and through it to discover dextrose as a non-fructose sweetener. All I knew was that Dr. Robert Lustig’s YouTube lecture had convinced me: sugar was a toxin.

Now, as we sit on the doorstep of being done with our No Sugar Year, I feel a crazy mix of emotions: relief, delight, surprise, apprehension. What happens next? What was it all for? Have we changed our lifestyle for the better, or have we merely stubbornly proved a point? I took offense when a friend termed our project an “intellectual exercise,” as if that characterization somehow minimized our effort, but does it? And is it? Perhaps the answers to those questions will be slowly revealed to us as we progress forward into 2012: the Year of Figuring Out What to do Now.

Ilsa At 12:01

Recently, we’ve had a whole series of family conversations about this what-happens-next business, and a lot of talk has centered around looking forward to things we haven’t been able to enjoy this year. This morning I took a breakfast table poll and found out that Greta misses BLTs as much as anything, and that Steve misses restaurant condiments perhaps even more than dessert: ketchup on his french fries, salad dressing on his salad, mayo on his sandwiches. After careful consideration, Ilsa decided that, in addition to maple syrup, she was looking forward to having Jell-O, (which is kind of funny since we never make Jell-O.)

Me? I miss a good chocolate chip cookie, for which we never did find a suitable fructose-free replacement. If we ever make it back to Italy, even if it’s in February, I intend to have more than one gelato. I look forward to being able to eat out without giving our waitress the Spanish Inquisition.

It’s safe to say that Steve is especially excited about the end of our No Sugar Year. I know this because during our Christmas travels he bought a handful of Dutch chocolate bars and a 64 piece Lebanese pastry sampler for us to enjoy “after the first.” I’m trying not to be alarmed about this mild case of gourmet sugar hoarding- after all, how many husbands would’ve been supportive of a family project like this one? Then, the other night when I expressed a lack of interest in a sugared dessert, Steve made the comment, “Hey- I want my wife back.” I must admit, this kind of freaked me out. Back? Had I gone somewhere? Was I no longer the person who loved a good Reese’s Peanut Butter cup? Have I become a permanent killjoy?

I don’t think so, at least I hope not. The way I see it, it’s quite the opposite: my appreciation for food and where it comes from, what it’s made of, and what is required for its preparation has gone up manyfold. More than anything this year has taught me how much I love food, how important it is, and how little attention our culture collectively pays to it. Food is the stuff of life- we are what we eat- feeding yourself well is caring for yourself- choose your favorite slogan. It’s all more true than we could ever fully realize.

This year has taught me that, just like anything toxic- alcohol, nicotine- we need as a society to start handling sugar (fructose) with care, as potentially addictive, potentially dangerous. I wonder, can we even do that? Do we have the self-possession to realize that “moderation” does not mean “whatever the amount I eat is”?

I’ve come to understand that sugar, while fun, is nutritionally “expensive.” Why would I want to waste my allotment of it on vending machine cookies or breakfast cereal? Why not save it for that truly something special? Americans instead simply decide to have it all: the good, the bad and the ugly… and then are tragically surprised when health ramifications ensue. No one ever told them sugar could be really, truly harmful.

Steve likes to cite the fact that the ice cream Sunday got it’s name from the fact that the soda shop that invented it only served it on Sundays. Just think of that. Can you imagine Friendly’s only serving ice cream one day per week? Consequently, my 2012 proposal to my family is to have dessert with actual sugar in it once per week. After this year, that sounds to me like a whole lot, but then again after our adventures at Christmas visiting relatives and friends, watching how much sugar is involved in their everyday lives, I think it will be a reasonable compromise.

Likewise, after tonight we’ll return to eating bacon and ketchup without fear. We’ll buy Hellman’s Mayonnaise again for our tuna fish sandwiches. I won’t blanch at restaurant bread that has a teaspoon of sugar in the ingredients. Heck, I may even stop taking pictures of my food.

Some things, however, will stay permanently changed. Juice is off the table; soda always was. I almost never bought cookies or other store-bought desserts before, moving forward those will remain promoted to the “never-never” list. I will continue to check my crackers and other products, avoiding anything with sugar as a filler ingredient. Fast food restaurants are still entirely out. Chain restaurants will be in the category of “in case of extreme emergency.” Instead of them, we’ll stubbornly continue to seek out good restaurants, local restaurants, places where they actually make the food they serve. At home, I will continue to make my own pizza, yeasted breads and quick breads. Perhaps most significantly, I will continue use dextrose for everyday baking and cooking.

My Frist Piece Of Candy In A Year

Am I worried about going forward with the rules changing in this fashion? Nervous we’ll go overboard like an alcoholic who thinks he’s got his act together and can “handle” it? I am. But Steve likens our No Sugar Year to what he experienced in the Marines. “You go through an experience that changes you,” he says, “and you get out and you say, “’Now what?’ But still, you really aren’t the same. That conditioning is always there. That’s how I feel.”

I honestly don’t expect us to plow through those Lebanese pastries in the fashion we would’ve a year ago. Rather, I imagine we’ll have a bite or two- as we each did with our allotment of one of Grandma Sharon’s famous Christmas sugar cookies- and then say “That’s good. And sweet!!”

Only time will tell. Gladfully.

13 thoughts on “A Year Of No Sugar: Post 93

  1. Oh my goodness, Eve, does this mean you’re finished with writing now? I’ve so enjoyed your articles.
    I have sworn off sugar for life, having seen my husband’s cholesterol and sugar levels drop below normal and my weight drop to normal too.
    I served David’s baked cheese cake for New Year’s day yesterday and all my friends said they couldn’t taste the difference. One got the recipe off me and the other borrowed David’s book to read.
    My husband is not as obsessive as I am about being sugar free and it will be interesting to see how his blood test comes out this year. His levels dropped when, for five months he was completely sugar free, but after his tests, he would have the odd cake when he was out with his coffee.
    We shall see!
    Good luck to you for the future and a Happy New Year.

  2. Eve,

    Congratulations for completing something that most people could EVER do! Giving up sugar is not for the faint-of-heart. And you had your whole family in on it too!! Amazing!

    Good luck with your life after quitting sugar.

    All the best,

  3. Eve,

    a happy new year to you and your family, and a big huge congratulations to all of you for completing what was a very interesting and complicated year! I have loved reading all of your stories, and I have always felt so inspired by you and each of your wonderful family members.

    I do so hope that you won’t finish posting now that the year is over. I would very much love to hear your continued stories in the aftermath of the no sugar project — how you find things change from here on, introducing some sugar and being less strict, and what differences you notice, and so on. In addition, I admit to being wholly selfish and just not wanting to “lose” you. 😉

    Whatever you decide to do from here on, however, I wish you the best of luck!!

    1. Thank You Cassiel- and thank you for making so many great, thoughtful comments this year… many’s the time they helped cheer me up on an extra-challenging day.

      I will be continuing to blog as we move into “some” sugar- which in some ways has been as difficult as being “no” sugar- LOTS of discussions going on around here… lots to write about! Stay tuned- and thanks again.

  4. I hope you keep blogging, whatever you choose to do! I’ve lurked and followed your blog, and I’m starting off the new year with a no sugar (or at least minimal sugar) cleanse of my own! Happy New Year and congratulations on finishing your project!

  5. Eve, this is a great post. I was wondering what you were going to do next; if stopping the no-sugar lifestyle was in your future. Of course, as you said, the act of “stopping” after all you have learned this year would be impossible…I’m sure it’ll be a gradual change. As for your comment about this project being an “intellectual exercise”. Well, I think things like that are good to do too because when you take something away, or make life a little less easy, it makes you more aware and the learning tends to snowball in different directions. It’s kind of similar with my son’s nut allergy, I hate having to avoid them, and it has been a long learning curve learning what is truly safe and what isn’t (like you learning the sugar-lingo). But after a lot of thought, I realized this has made me a smarter consumer of foods and brands, and more aware of all the other stuff like sodium, fats, etc….when you learn to read the labels, there are many other things you notice and question. It’s all good. Anyway, look forward to seeing what you might be doing next!

    1. Robin- That’s a great point and I think it’s very true- the more you know the better you feel as a consumer.

      I’ve lately been trying to read “ingredients” in other things in our lives (soap, shampoo, household cleaners) and try to avoid certain baddies… but I get frustrated trying to remember all the lingo! And then I realized most people have that same relationship these days with food- it’s too complicated so they give up. I can hardly blame them.

      Next I’ll be blogging about life AFTER The Year of No Sugar- and preparing to get going on the book!

      Thanks so much-Eve

  6. Congratulations! A year with no sugar and a wonderful blog–Two great accomplishments! your writing is fabulous! I look forward to more writing!

  7. Hi Eve,
    Happy New year and congratulations on making it a whole year!

    I, too, have been lurking and reading your blog regularly but haven’t commented in quite a while.

    I wanted to comment on your earlier blog about food and religion.
    I think 2011 was definitely an eye opener for me. It started w/ changing my diet: I’ve severely limited sugar (although still use honey, maple syrup, stevia, and xylitol), given up eating all meat/ animals, and gone back to basics (my fridge is constantly overflowing w/ veggies and fruits but I’m always going to the market too).
    But now I feel that it is actually making a better? closer? I’m not sure the word, but reconnecting? me w/ God. It is interesting turn of events for me. One that I partly credit from finding your blog. So thank you. And thank you for continuously challenging the ubiquitous sugar.

    I, for one, and thankful the holidays are over and people aren’t constantly trying to give my child candy. For right now, she declines stating that “we don’t eat candy”. But I wish there wasn’t this constant onslaught.

    Hope to read more of your writing soon.

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