A Year of No Sugar: Postscript 2

I’ve had a little time to reflect now on the Year of No Sugar and the effect it has had on me, so here it is: It’s made me a sugar junkie.

Well, sort of. This is why: like never before, I now really notice what sugar does after I eat it. When I eat a cookie, or have a piece of chocolate, here is what happens: I enjoy it. Then I realize my mouth feels… funny: cloying and overly sweet like I just drank maple syrup- yuck. A few minutes pass and I feel a small headachey feeling creeping around the base of my brain, followed by a weird energized feeling… a sugar “buzz” if you will. After a while, of course, it passes.

Sometimes I don’t care a bit about whatever dessert option might be around, while other times I find myself wondering if, perhaps, there’s one more piece of that hazelnut bar we bought back at Christmas time… (no, there isn’t.) And then I think, well, maybe just one of those three remaining mini-pastries from the Lebanese shop… Yesterday was a moment when I gave in and had one mini-pastry after lunch (a particularly weak time of day for me) and, yup. there it was again: enjoy, yuck, headache, buzz. All from basically two bites worth of honey, pastry and nuts.

But I’m glad January is over and with it the aftermath of not just all that leftover holiday sugar which came cascading home with us, but also the remains of the many celebrations in our house that also follow Christmas- not just New Years, but my mother’s birthday followed by my younger daughter’s as well. You might recall that last year we skated by the sugar issue by concocting a banana split that had everything- whipped cream, cherries, banana, homemade ice cream- everything except added sugar. Would they hate it? Would Ilsa feel deprived on her birthday of all things? Oh, the parental horror! It wasn’t until the kids exclaimed happily over the first few bites, that I relaxed a bit- we just might make it through this year after all.

2012, however, has already been markedly different. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what I do and do not actually want to eat, sugar-wise. But if you aren’t not eating sugar, how DO you know when to stop? Do you refuse to have dessert to celebrate your own mother’s birthday at the restaurant that has the best bread pudding you’ve ever had? Do you not have a piece of the special peanut butter and chocolate pie your daughter requested for her seventh birthday, even though that’s your Achilles-heel of desserts? Do you not join in and have a slice of the mint ice cream cake you labored over for all the kids at your daughter’s clown party? Oh, and of course there are all those leftovers… After all my work to make them, do I simply throw the rest away?

I’m not being rhetorical here, I really don’t know. No, not even now.

Although Sweet Poison author David Gillespie had told me that after a while you “just don’t want” the taste of sugar anymore, during our entire Year of No Sugar I found I kept wanting things: the croissants at our favorite bakery, an ice cream cone on a hot day, ketchup on our french fries. Sure, we got used to skipping, substituting, going without, but did we ever stop wanting?

Then the other night my husband and I had a babysitter night, so we went out to try a new restaurant. At the end of a nice meal Steve became convinced I wanted dessert. A year ago I wouldn’t have even considered it a proper meal out without that final sweet component- like fireworks being intrinsic to the fourth of July- but this time I demurred. I was full. I didn’t want any. Still, he kept encouraging me to pick something from the menu. There was no convincing him that I didn’t, in my heart of hearts, want the chocolate chip cookie sundae but- much to my astonishment- I didn’t. I mean, I really didn’t!

All this month I’ve been playing guilty catch-up from a year of denial, with my kids, with my husband, with myself: it’s pretty hard to say “no” now, after my family gave sugar up for a year, on my say-so. Because I thought it was a good idea. Because I thought it would make us healthier. Because I wanted to write about it.

So I don’t say no as much as I want to right now. Selfishly, I don’t want my kids to think I’ve become the Scrooge of the food universe, or my husband to think he’s lost his fun wife who used to get all giddy at the thought of combining chocolate and peanut butter. I still do, after all. I’m still fun. Right?


So did we order the ridiculously sinful chocolate chip cookie in a cast iron pan with ice-cream and whipped cream on top? Sure we did, because I’m still fun, damn it. I was almost embarrassed by the conspicous decadence of the thing when it arrived- I felt as if we had a circus elephant sitting on our table. I had a few bites and of course it was very good- in the way that only a warm cookie with cold ice cream on it can be. Very good. But then I put my fork down. I was happy to see that really, really, I could take it or leave it.

And if that’s the ultimate legacy of our year, I’ll take it.

1 thought on “A Year of No Sugar: Postscript 2

  1. I really feel your pain in this situation. I totally understand how it was so much easier when there were definitive rules in place… and now how you don’t want it to be a free-for-all, but don’t want to be a party pooper, either.

    I totally understand how sugar makes you feel yucky when you eat it now… I find the same thing on the few occasions I’ve had a deviance. It tastes yummy — too sweet, far too sweet, but yummy. And I feel kind of devilishly good. And then I start to feel really sick.
    The interesting thing for me, though, is that the sick feeling is _familiar_… I used to get it, too. It just wasn’t as strong, and I was used to it, and never questioned it before when I ate chocolate, or cookies, or cake. It’s just that now that I eat better, and don’t eat sugar all the time, I fully recognise it for what it is. The effect of the sugar dose.

    And I also start to recognise the addiction, which I think you’re recognising as well. You eat one sugary thing, and you start to crave another. You start to _look_ for any sugar you can get your hands on. My flatmate is particularly susceptible to this, so that every time she falls off the wagon and eats a sugary chocolate bar, she starts buying them every day. It got so bad that I’ve taken charge of her money so that she simply _can’t_ buy anything without asking me first… and that’s the only thing that seems to work for her. As soon as the choice is gone, she forgets about it. But make it available, and she takes advantage of it. Because she’s addicted.
    The problem is that it’s so easy to fall back into the addiction and forget what it was like without it… and the saddest thing is that kids are the ones who will most easily fall into that.

    One thing I’ve found that makes a difference is learning to make good, wholesome homemade snacks or treats that don’t have sugar, or only have really small amounts, unlike traditional recipes or store-bought. I know your kids enjoyed baking with you — maybe you can continue to be fun by teaching them that delicious homemade treats are always better than store-bought ones? I still remember the times that my mum baked with me, and those are precious memories, and she wasn’t even a particularly good cook — I remember them for the fun we had and that we were doing it together.

    Here’s a couple of recipes that always go down well with friends, even those who eat tons of sugar:
    They both use a little honey, but compare to store-bought ice cream or cake, they are so much better. The pumpkin cake tastes like gingerbread. ❤

    This is my most favourite fudge ever (and I promise it doesn't taste like banana, which I'm sure your kids are sick of!):

    And if they're not sick of bananas completely, these are heavenly:
    I had them on my birthday last week and they were fantastic. 😀

    I'm doing the Whole30 right now, and really recognising your pain during the No Sugar project, as there's so much I simply can NOT buy, end of story. But I'm also finding that there are so, so many fantastic recipes online that I never get bored of cooking, and I never get bored of being amazed at what I can make with just a few good ingredients. I made the most delicious mayonnaise last week with macadamia oil, and yesterday I made a pesto to put over chicken and pumpkin that was to die for!

    Sorry to ramble on… it's just that what you're saying really hits home with me and I want to reassure you that I understand, and that you're not crazy, and that you're still lots fun. 🙂 And that there's plenty you can do to be fun — just look forward, think of positive, proactive ways to deal with the issues that come before you, and never doubt that what you did was a good thing!

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