I’m starting my new year with another 30 day sugar fast. Because I was a bad, bad girl during the last 2 weeks of 2011.
But in my defense, being gluten-free AND sugar-free, at Christmas, while traveling and relying on other people and rest stops to provide food is really hard. And another opportunity for frustration, disappointment and stress in a season already chock-a-block with those things.
Plus, I totally love sugar. Yes, I learned to live without it in a carefully constructed world where I allowed no temptation, but once I was out of work, out of my routine all bets were off.
At first it was a magical indulgence, and a chocolate stolen from a box of Godiva was a treat to be savored for hours.
Then, once I decided to just give up my ban on sugar until Jan 2, instead of being constantly conflicted and guilt ridden, it was like a race to see how many gluten free sugar products I could get into my body before the deadline.
The effects of this choice were not subtle:
- Less energy.
- More headaches.
- Not sleeping as well.
- Less appetite for “regular” food.
- Being distracted by thoughts of desserts and sugary treats all. day. long.
- Swollen ankles.
- Mood swings usually involving tears.
- I look like crap in most of my Christmas pictures, including really cute ones that Chris took with his new camera with a timer. My face is fuller, my eyes are dull and my skin is pale. Which means no festive holiday photo for my Facebook profile. This is a tragedy.
Somewhere around Jan 30 I accepted that I was completely powerless over the sugar. I didn’t even try to make up limits, knowing that any self-imposed sanctions applied as an afterthought would wilt against the original decree of a sugar and guilt fueled holiday.
I was honestly a little relieved to have the holidays end and be able to return to work and my carefully constructed sugarless universe. I actually came back to work half a day earlier than I needed to, and if that’s not rock bottom, I don’t know what is.
But even with all of this, it was still totally worth it.
Which I know is not a politically correct diet thing to say.
I’m supposed to follow a binge like this with loud lamentations, self-flagellation and heartfelt dramatic declarations of “AHH SUGAR, YOU CRUEL MISTRESS!! NEVER…. AGAIN….”
To which I say, “meh”.
I mean, do I love the effects of my binge? No, I’m avoiding mirrors and cameras like a vampire. Do I look forward to the sugar withdraws I’ll experience over the next two weeks? Not particularly.
But was it worth it? Um, kinda, yeah.
I mean sure, if I had it to do over again, I might not go quite as crazy. I might not shovel Santa imprinted Hershey bars and tree shaped peanut butter cups into my mouth like a drowning woman gasps for air. Maybe.
Part of my excess was due to wanting to try out all of the gluten-free sweets I’d previously avoided like cookies and muffins and chocolate dipped donuts and birthday cake. That part was research, really, so that when a sugary treat is really needed – like a birthday, or a Christmas day brunch where I’m surrounded by bagels, coffee cake, and french toast, I can have something equivalently indulgent yet gluten-free for myself.
So were I to fall off the sugar-free wagon again, I’d probably eat those items in the same moderation I did before I went gluten and sugar-free, which is to say only on special occasions.
But here’s the real reason why I don’t regret my sugar binge:
1. I made the choice with a clear and sound mind fully aware of the likely outcomes. And as such, it feels a little hypocritical to now regret that choice. This is a good life philosophy as well. You’re welcome.
2. It was a learning experience. I saw the improved way my body processed sugar better (at the beginning) which reinforced the wisdom and benefits of a low/no sugar diet. This is only going to make this second sugar cleanse that much easier.
3. It really did make my whole holiday experience a lot less stressful and mopey. Mood swings from the sugar notwithstanding. And I know I’ve written about getting past using sweet treats as away of compensating for emotional or physical needs. But come on… I spent a total of 30 hours alone in a car over the span of about a week. I couldn’t have any of the normally fun road trip food that makes that much driving feel more like a treat than a punishment, like donuts and Big Macs and cookies the size of your head. So I had flavored coffee, french fries, and Ghirardelli peppermint bark instead. And it made the schlepping and the traffic and the butt cramps that much easier to take. Don’t judge me.
But now I’m 3 days into my sugar fast, and so far so good. Since I broke so many routines and associations the first time it’s actually much easier mentally this time.
Physically it still has its challenges, but on the plus side, since I’m excited to be back into my healthy eating routines my creativity for lunch creations is refueled.
For example, today for lunch, I did an inventory of all the food I had on hand and ended up making a salad with beets, granny smith apples, feta cheese and walnuts. I know I’m not the first person to combine beets and green apples, but damn is that an insanely good taste combo.
And then because I was feeling the need for something warm on this cold day, I took some frozen sugar snap peas, put them on the toaster oven tray, sprinkled some kosher salt on them, and popped them at 350 for about 10 minutes or so, moving them around once. Then I sprinkled a bit of feta on them and bam. Incredible taste explosion and satisfying lunch.
So much more satisfying than another peppermint bark or peanut butter cup… at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself until I forget the way that peppermint bark candy melted on my tongue…
*Sigh* only 27 more days to go…