Pop quiz: What’s harder than a Year of No Sugar?
Answer: The week after a Year of No Sugar.
Oy! I’m not sure why I was ever, ever looking forward to our release from the world of No Sugar… this week has easily been as hard as the very hardest No Sugar week. Why? Because, while No Sugar may be hard in terms of will power, it was always extremely easy in terms of the rules: “No Sugar” means: No. Sugar.
No, not in mayonaisse. Not in bacon. Not in buns or salad dressing or juice. I will not eat it in the house, I will not eat it with a mouse. Everywhere we went well-meaning waitresses and relatives and friends would politely try to argue “but there’s only a little… look! It says .000001%!…” But the rules as we had made them were simple. “Is it in the ingredients?” I would ask. And of course, it always was.
I love the straightforwardness of that. And I am hating the lack of it now. Sure, on midnight, at 12:01 as we watched Lady Gaga blather on about how magical New Year’s is in New York City, we each ate our treat for the evening (Ilsa: a cookie, Steve and Greta: a Lebanese pastry, me: a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.) But the next morning was when it got complicated.
For breakfast we decided to visit one of our favorite local restaurants, Rathbun’s Maple Sugar House. The last time we had been there was last New Year’s Day, the very first day of our No Sugar family experiment, and before I was fully understanding that a pancake house would be entirely off the table in such a project. (Sometimes, admitedly, I can be a little slow on the uptake.)
Immediately, the questions started coming. “Can we get a hot chocolate?” “Can we have maple syrup?” “Can we have juice?” No hot chocolate. Yes maple syrup- but not a lot. No juice.
And the questions have just kept coming. I certainly can’t blame the kids- they’re simply trying to figure our what the new “rules” are. Trouble is, Steve and I don’t exactly know. “Moderation” is the most elusive term I know.
Monday morning, for example, Steve celebrated our last day of Christmas vacation by making another favorite and long-forbidden treat: crepes, with sugar and butter. Oh, how we had missed those. Sure, it was a lot less sugar than he would’ve ever used before, but I was starting to feel anxious… were things spiraling out of control? It was starting to feel like sugar was creeping in- making an appearance at almost every meal…
And then yesterday I took the girls to the supermarket. “Mom! Can we buy these crackers? And cereal? Actual real cereal?” “Ooo! What about roast beef?” We must’ve sounded like Amish on an annual trip to town. Gritting my teeth I capitulated on the crackers, but demurred on the cereal and roast beef. One thing at a time, I said.
I had even promised them- in a fit of guilt for all my family had put up with in the last year- to get them each a small check-out counter treat on the way out, as we had used to do quite often. This simple task, it turns out, was a fiasco. Did you know that ALL gum these days has not just sugar in it, but also sugar alcohols (maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol) or aspartame… and that most of them have both? Not to mention the phenol tocpherols or whtever toxic waste it is they put in gum these days that actually requires a warning label on the package. We were unable to find a single package of gum in which sugar was the only toxin.
I was astounded. Do we really give this little of a shit about what we’re putting into our bodies, our kids bodies? I wondered. I thought back to the huge sacks of Halloween candy the kids brought home in October- I mean, who knows what was in all that stuff. (Thank God it all sits uneaten in the back of our pantry cupboard. Maybe the kids will forget about it and I can throw it away after they’ve both gone to college.)
And then there was the argument/discussion Steve and I had yesterday at lunch. It all started with me asking Steve not to buy maple syrup, segwayed into whether or not I’ll continue baking with dextrose, and touched on things like whether banana bread and apple muffins count as dessert and whether snacking between meals is okay or not. I imagine some people would think we are giving this whole what-we-eat and how-we-eat-it entirely too much thought, bordering on obsessive, and maybe we are. I really don’t know anymore. It’s exhausting. Personally, right now I’m feeling like moderation kind of sucks- it takes entirely too much thought and energy. I think we may have to go live under a rock and only eat pine cones from now on.
Of course, we can’t do that. And I honestly have no desire to be the dietary freaks of our community who carry their own marinated sawdust or whatever in a pouch with them so them can eat separately-but-equally everywhere they go- no. Yes, I admire folks like Scott and Helen Nearing or Tasha Tudor for being so passionate about their ways of life- they are fascinating to me. But their sacrifice was huge: they had to remove themselves from society in order follow those ideals- which above all sounds pretty lonely. So I guess we’ll have to muddle through and figure this out, tocpherols and all.
It’s almost too bad- there’s a lovely rock on our hill that doesn’t have anyone living under it yet.