Earlier this year, inspired by some friends doing the same thing, I decided I was going to try to go sugar-free for March. Well ... kind of. I was going to try to avoid added sugars as much as was feasible, just to prove to myself that I could do it -- and also as an experiment. (Fruit and naturally occurring sugars in other foods were 100 percent OK, and Judah still added a touch of honey and molasses to the fruit/veggie/omegas/Vitamin D smoothies he makes most mornings.)
It's been an interesting 31 days.
The first thing I noticed was that sugar is in damn near everything. I mean, I knew that, but it was a different experience when I started actually looking at the labels. Nearly every bread product, every bar (Luna, Lara, Kind -- stuff I'd keep in my purse for snacks), every sauce, every dressing. Everything. So that was an eye-opening experience.
The thing I was trying to test myself on the most was my on-again, off-again relationship with soda and my propensity to talk myself into desserts and other treats, instead of out of them. The second major lesson of this month is that, even though we bring very few sugary treats into the house, I am faced with them on a regular basis nonetheless: birthday cupcakes, cake, three kinds of cookies at work! Sharing a dessert at a family event! Free cookie for the kids at the grocery store -- so why don't I get one too? My latest temptation: the Jelly Belly dispenser at the office. It's not as pervasive as the "a few grams here, a few grams there" situation in every other food, but I am much more tempted by cake and cookies than salad dressing (you know, like most people).
So how did I do? Some confessions: I had one Hamantaschen (the cookies typically made to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim) after 1) reading about them and 2) smelling the hundreds of them baked for a synagogue fundraiser. But that was a planned indulgence, and a limited one. Last week, I was at OMSI and I discovered that they carried locally made macarons. I had not even *seen* a macaron since we moved, and they are small, so I purchased one. And I savored it greatly. I had one very strange night at work where I got hives and then took two antihistamines, which made me super woozy. Nothing else was helping, and I had to get through the shift, so I went to my old standby and bought a can of Coke. I sipped it for a while until I did start to feel a little better -- maybe a quarter or a third, and I trashed the rest. Also, while I replaced most of my non-water-drinking with unsweetened iced tea (it turns out it's SO GOOD!), I did have kombucha (fermented tea) a couple of times a week. But that was also planned. Here and there, I am sure I had sauces that had some sugar when I was at a restaurant and couldn't check, but overall, I think I did pretty well.
What are my takeaways? First off, I *can* say no to sugar when I put my mind to it. There were some tough situations -- brunch at the Original Pancake House, I didn't have a single bite of pancakes, even though I was surrounded. The day I had the single hamantaschen, there were actually two more kinds of cookies going around the office. Under other circumstances, I'm sure I would have had some of that, too. I didn't really crave Coke or other soda very much. I also discovered that plain soda water, which I was drinking to help with my carbonation craving, makes me feel terrible. So back to tea and water it is!
What happens next? I am not giving up sugar for good. I guaran-damn-tee you that tomorrow, I am having a salted caramel chocolate chip cookie from Great Harvest. That is happening.
But I am taking my new awareness of my ability to say "no" most of the time and making that my default when faced with dessert. I will keep on with my unsweetened iced tea. I will eat some more of the yummy things I discovered when I was searching for sugar-free options. (E.g., broccoli slaw, pomegranate seeds, balsamic vinegar and olive oil is an amazing salad. Jicama strips are good with dip or without. Roasted beets are like candy! Almonds have a nice natural sweetness that's easier to notice when you're not popping jelly beans in the same hour.) I'll keep experimenting with eating clean, meal and snack planning, and trying new things.
But first, hand me my cookie.