Today is the day I could grab one of those double chocolate donuts that have been giving me the stink eye for the last few days because they’re pretty sure I think I’m too good for them. It’s not that, donuts. It’s a lot more complicated.

January is over, which means I am no longer under contractual obligation to drink my coffee black or skip dessert or drink almond milk instead of what is disturbingly referred to as “dairy milk” on a carton of almond milk. How does one milk an almond anyway? Are they all stoic like a cow or do they squirm around a lot or even scream?

About midway through January I had the saddest epiphany in some time, which is that my 30 day sugar quit mirrors January 2011, when I quit drinking for 30 days to “reset my tolerance”. If you’re in recovery, you no doubt lol’d a little because you know it doesn’t work. I couldn’t undo a biochemical, emotional addiction two decades in the making in 30 days. Β In fact, I never could because within months I was drinking so much I hit my lowest bottom (not to be confused with the worst thing I did), which involves a sad story about the worst road trip of my life and having what must have been a panic attack while driving me and my kids across this really long bridge after I had inadvertently started to detox.

Fortunately, this bottom was the beginning of the end for me, and I made the decision to abstain from alcohol within several months.

This January, I realized I probably need to take a similar line with sugar, though as I said to the donuts, it’s complicated.

If I give up sugar indefinitely, that means no birthday cake or ice cream cones or pumpkin pie that normal people eat when they get together. The difference, of course, being that normal people don’t eat all the Christmas cupcakes in the span of several days, savoring and/or devouring each one in a way that just ain’t natural.

Honestly, I’m somewhere in between deciding to abstain from dessert permanently and allowing myself a cheat day once a week (month?) where I’d get to have one thing from the forbidden list. I know deep in my heart that I am not ready for a cheat day, though I may make an exception and have a small piece of cake for my daughter’s birthday this month.

On to the good stuff though. Scaling back sugar intake was the best thing I’ve done for myself in some time. It really wasn’t a true quit because I still had plenty of sugar in my diet from fresh fruit. After awhile, grapes seemed a perfectly fine substitute for those tiny peanut butter cups that are sitting in my pantry right now, the adorable fuckers.

(Thanks for this, Christy!)
Stick with it, Cookie. You’ll come around. (Thanks for this, Christy!)

In the last month I saw the cravings overall decline, though they still hit regularly and sharply. I lost weight. My energy levels returned after about three weeks and yesterday I had the best run I’ve had in months…possibly ever. I felt stronger and lighter and like my body was running on good fuel.

I even came around on almond milk, though I will probably bump the self-imposed sugar gram limit to 12g in processed foods and welcome “dairy milk” back into my life. If a recipe calls for a small amount of sugar, I will use the real thing instead of an artificial sweetener. I may bring agave nectar back into my morning coffee. I still miss it.

So that’s that. My journey into no-sugar ended the same way as my 30 day abstain from alcohol two years ago. I did it – I pretty much knew I would from the start because my monkey brain knew it was just temporary. The difference between then and now is now I accept that I have a problem with sugar and I know firsthand from sobriety that abstinence brings its own rewards.

Once a month I’ll plan to check in and report how I’m doing with sugar. Blogging helped me feel accountable, and that was really helpful. I’m pretty sure I’ll have that piece of birthday cake later on this month. I’m pretty sure it’s not normal to be afraid of birthday cake, but that’s where I am right now: less relieved that I survived January and more afraid of how I’m going to navigate the murkier future where I can have the cake if I really want it. But I also know that life without sugar is still life. It’s no less sweet.

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33 thoughts on “Post 30 day sugar quit report

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  1. You, my friend, are an inspiration to us all. Congrats on seeing this thing through, and for kicking that Sugar Monster’s ass! (I’m leaving Cookie out of this, poor guy, it’s really not his fault.)

    You inspired me to do the same, albeit, ultimately a less strict version, and you helped me develop some healthy habits that I’m sure will last a very long time–I hope! Geez, who knew I could give up my sugar-loaded fat free coffee creamer and switch to the sugar free version? Who knew cucumbers would start to feel like little crunchy donuts? Who knew kale juice mixed with grapefruit and ginger would actually be sinfully delicious?

    My thanks, my admiration, my awe, my gratitude, and my love,
    Christy

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    1. PS- I love that pic of Cookie! God, I know exactly how he feels! Too much sugar turns me into a fuzzy blue monster too. πŸ™‚ He was my favorite Sesame character from the moment I first heard him sing, “C is For Cookie!”

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  2. Wow…it’s like you hacked into my computer and stole my next blog…lol. Everything you said…everything…is exactly where I have been at, and am still at. I realized just last night that sugar is something that I need to keep at arm’s length for a while, perhaps for good. I had some 75% cocoa chocolate. Now, normally I will “treat” myself with 90% cocoa chocolate, which tastes a little like cardboard (no sugar). And usually that 90% bar lasts a few days. I had that lovely 75% bar, and at most of it in one sitting. I mean, it was a little treat and there I was going back to old habits. And I wanted to introduce treat days and snacks? No way. Like you, I am not ready for a cheat day. At all. But the nagging thought persists – when does this end? Is this a temporary experiment, or is this lifelong change? I have experienced wonderful physical results, and I don’t crash at all any more. But what about those birthdays? Do I indulge? Yikes…

    You mentioned the almond “milk” (lol). I ran out of “dairy” milk the other day, and for my cereal I used an old box of vanilla almond milk that had 14 mg of sugar per serving. WOW. It tasted like I jumped into a vat of sugar. Of course I ate the bowl and licked it clean. Had to throw the rest of the almond milk out. It was like pouring wine down the sink.

    So where does that leave us, my friend? Who knows. But I am SO glad to know there is someone at the same place I am! Great job in your sugar free month, and wish you the best in whatever path you take from here on end. I have decided no more 75% chocolate for me. Back to 90%…or none. We’ll see.
    More will be revealed, I suppose.
    Cheers,

    Paul

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    1. Have you read Sober Truths by Jill Kelly? A friend recommended it, and while I am still finishing the last dozen pages, she talks at length about her struggles with sugar. We are definitely not alone.

      As usual, I find your comments very insightful and helpful. I may check out that 90% cocoa bar…sounds just terrible enough for me to try it!

      p.s. the unsweetened vanilla almond milk is not so terrible, though you won’t be licking any cereal bowls.

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  3. hey, you did awesome. the first thought I had this morning was YES I CAN FINALLY HAVE A DESSERT TODAY. Then I stepped back and asked if I really wanted it. The answer is still yes, actually. As I’ve said, I’m going to try to stick to a “special occasion only” plan — celebrating the end of a 30 day challenge feels appropriate — as does my team being in the Superbowl this Sunday. Depending on how good your team is, it can be a once in a lifetime experience to see your grocery store blow up with purple cakes, doughnuts, and cupcakes. That I resisted them all last week made me feel like a kid who couldn’t celebrate Christmas.

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    1. I envy your comfort and place with food. From our earlier conversations, I’ve just sensed this innate trust you have in yourself to balance discipline with reward. Maybe one day I can get there too. You make it seem possible.

      And we’ll definitely be rooting on your Ravens this weekend!

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      1. Thanks, I definitely do feel an innate trust in myself. I think it’s more this hyper-awareness that I always carry since I’ve got so many issues in my family, including food and weight stuff. My wife thinks I compensate by overfeeding the dog treats. She really gets an embarrassing amount of them. I’ve tried to cut back feeding them to her, but moderation isn’t working for me.

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  4. Ain’t it funny how familiar this all sounds, I woke up this morning and told myself, “Today is the day that I control how much diet coke I drink.” Achingly familiar, isn’t it? But….these things we are battling now, are not as fierce as the foe we’ve already conquered, and they do not wreak as much havoc in our lives or the lives of the ones we love. I know, I know, that is a convenient excuse to allow us to imbibe and cheat once in awhile, but it is also a comforting thought.

    We beat the big one! WooHoo!!

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  5. Nice post. Life is sweet, funny. Staying in a light vein, and now that you can have your cake and eat it too, I have been thinking about this all month and didn’t want to comment until you hit your thirty days and posted the results and intentions. So. As a eighteen week sober rookie who will not even experience feelings for another six weeks, I have to say I don’t quite get the war on sugar and especially sugar as a beer counterpart. Two different animals. Or maybe you’re not saying that. I admit I have had a craving for sweets since setting down beer but the sweets haven’t…. Oh wait, maybe the light bulb just flickered on. When I started drinking beer my quantities were nowhere near the quantities at the end although I always drank for the buzz from day one. So thinking along those lines, sugar could become a monster if I let it run rampant. Or not. It’s not like sugar has the destructive capability of alcohol. But if it is not sugar it could be anything else like maybe tobacco or gambling or drugs or work or sex or exercise. Some more destructive than others but an addiction is an addiction. So from that perspective I think I will stay on the lookout for my addictive behavior and try to live a lifestyle that makes sense, seems positive and productive. In other words do the opposite of what I did with beer. So ice cream every now and again but not a half gallon a day. Wouldn’t hurt for me to start a modest exercise program either. Naw, that’s way too much ambition that could lead to disappointment leading to stress leading to addictive behavior leading to beer leading to very bad news. Glad I caught that one in time.
    Thanks for writing. Have a great day. Keep smiling.

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    1. Karymayhickey said it better than I could in her comment (above? below?). The destruction I can do with sugar is nothing like I could with alcohol. They are entirely different animals.

      For the first 9 (or so) months of being sober, I abused sugar and never gave it a second thought. Did it get worse over time or did I just get more sensitive to the crashes/ill effects? Both, probably.

      I feel like there can be no coincidence that I loved beer best of all (carb city) and turned to sugar in equal quantities. However, I do know of recovering alcoholics who abhor sweets. I also know plenty who love their sweets and don’t beat themselves up about it. I guess it comes down to comfort levels and as I’ve long suspected, I have a very low threshhold for pain. While a pain in the ass, maybe it’s an asset too.

      Good thing you caught yourself with the exercise thing, haha. For what it’s worth, exercise is one addiction I have that I’m confident won’t get out of control. I try to get some most days of the week, and it makes me feel great, but I don’t push myself to injury. I started out walking, which is also a perfectly fine place to stay.

      Thanks, Whistler. Looking forward to when you get your feelings back so I can say I told you so πŸ˜‰

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      1. Yea well just please remember to take it easy ’cause I’ll probably be a wreck. Not sure what to expect so I’ve been preparing, getting in shape if you will, by watching old Streisand movies and listening to Morris Albert, over and over.

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  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last 30 days. It really is like back when I was drinking or smoking when I convinced myself that I could moderate my intake but that abstaining altogether would just make me want it more. What a load of crap.

    Congratulations and thanks for the inspiration. I think I’ll give it another go.

    Sherry

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    1. Out of the 3 – sugar, alcohol, smoking – you (and I) gave up the two deadliest. I mean seriously, isn’t that pretty amazing? It’s so hard to know how to tackle sugar when I start to think about it. One day at a time for now, I guess.

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  7. Congrats! That sugar dragon is a nasty little fucker. It’s funny about the birthday cake and pumpkin pie. I’ve had the same thoughts about the things I’ve given up with paleo. It’s totally the same thinking of, “But what about wine tasting in France?” that I had when I first stopped drinking. You know, you’ll deal with the birthday cake when it comes up. One meal at a time. I often find that when I get to the birthday party, I actually don’t want the cake. Or, I don’t want to deal with the consequences of eating the cake. You’re doing great!

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    1. haha re: wine in france. I read an essay (on the fix maybe?) about a woman who was afraid to go to france sober but she did and it didn’t totally suck. I will have to decide the birthday cake thing later this month. Totally didn’t occur to me that I could skip it and maybe no one would notice or care (gasp). BTW, really enjoying your posts about healthy body image. You’re awesome.

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  8. Wow,

    great job here!
    I was so worried when I started this Whole 30 thing….so very, very scared. I was giving up foods that I liked, that I wanted to continue eating….and it did feel a lot like giving up so that i could moderate, that thinking that got me into trouble about drinking. But when i got sober i no longer thought I could moderate, or give it up…and it happened. So I finally, after the initial bitching and moaning that is my stock in trade, jumped in.
    And I feel the same way….a little lost but also pretty clear that I do not want to eat sugar again. Or gluten. And I may try milking some almonds, but I don’t know. Forever? On occasion? I’m sitting with that now, and I am enjoying it, the sitting. I don’t have to make any decisions now. I feel great. An apple tastes’ like the most delicious, decadent thing in the world (I just finished one with breakfast). I just wrote a grocery list and added cucumber too it πŸ˜‰ 90% chocolate, hmm…

    I take my sobriety one day at a time, choosing each day to not drink. That has worked for me very well. I think I’l take the food thing the same way, a daily choice. The only difference is that with the booze i know the wrong choice could lead to death. With the food…maybe a little diarrhea? I can live with that.

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  9. Hey there, Bye Bye Beer.

    I just wanted to comment on a statement that leaped out at me, and hollered out at me to say something about it.

    If I give up sugar indefinitely, that means no birthday cake or ice cream cones or pumpkin pie that normal people eat when they get together.

    I just wanted to say that this is a logical fallacy, and an example of “addictive thinking.” I know so because I went through approximately a YEAR of mentally battling this particular pity party, and it was hard, hard, damn hard work to change my thinking about it.

    A) It is not true. What you do is bring your own dessert made of things you CAN eat (dessert made with Stevia, for example). You eat alternatives that are just as tasty, but do not have sugar in them. You go to the extra effort to do so.
    B) Getting together with people is not about dessert and it is not going to kill you to not eat it.
    C) Setting yourself apart from others *is* very uncomfortable, and because in this situation it is around the sacred cow of food and eating, it is particularly painful. However, you always have to do what is BEST for you, and not necessarily what makes you feel comfortable.

    I just point this stuff out not to be a bitch (although I have just accused myself of being so in a piece of catharsis I just wrote, and it has been suggested by others that I can be a bitch with “calling out” this kind of stuff) — I really don’t mean to be that way, I just want to cut through the bad thinking. I just know the twisted brain and how it likes to manifest in pity, in despair over addiction. There IS a place for sadness and pitying oneself. You have to mourn this stuff, just like you have to go through the grieving process for alcohol when you have decided to become sober and in recovery from alcoholism.

    But that sentence up there is also a lie. It lies about what is really important in life, and it lies about the possibilities that are present outside of eating sugar (or dairy, or gluten, or meat, or whatever else has been determined as poison for your body).

    I’m sorry to be so radical, but I think that food is equally or more so a problem as alcohol when it comes to the toxic effects on the body. It is different for every person. Sugar may be toxic to you and not to someone else with a different biochemical makeup. Sugar can be powerfully addictive, and if it is clearly better for you to be off of it, then you need to be OFF of it. Think on this: what if sugar is actually having an effect on your body that could drag you back into alcoholism? Would you stop it then?

    I’m not saying that it for sure is, but it could have that potential. Gluten is *devastating* to my mind and body, and it throws me under the train every time I ingest it, even by accident. It is much more trouble that it is worth to risk ingesting it, even if I have to bring my own food everywhere I go. It is worth it at this point.

    Let me apologize if this is in any way stepping on emotional toes. I am not in the best place in my head today. I am not doing so well with the “addictive mindset” and I am just plain pissed at the warping that this mindset has on people, myself included. So forgive me if it feels like I am jumping on you in any way. I confess I am sensitive to this today, and I may be making a mountain out of a molehill.

    But I wanted to cut through to the truths of the matter and what I read in this post. I would encourage you to at some point push yourself further with this, to make it a permanent lifestyle change and shift, and to reap the rewards of doing that, because there ARE some really fine rewards, some of which you point out in this post.

    Also, so I am not remiss and honestly being a bitch in not saying so (lol): MANY CONGRATULATIONS to you in making it this far!!! You did it! It is NOT easy, and I don’t want to minimize the wonderful thing you have done already.

    But I also want to say, don’t stop now.

    With utmost respect for who you are and the amazing accomplishments you have made so far in your progress of changing your life,
    Celeste

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    1. P.S. A couple of minutes later, I realized we really are singing the same tune:

      But I also know that life without sugar is still life. It’s no less sweet.

      And I know you know what I wrote up there already.

      Maybe view what I wrote as further encouragement to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time with the sugar thing, too.

      And good luck with it. It is truly a countercultural thing you are attempting, and your bravery in doing so is amazing. πŸ™‚

      Celeste

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    2. Tone is subjective and I’ve always read your comments as coming from a place of kindness and support. Plus you turned me on to almond butter and green tea, soooo…

      I like the point you make about specific food sensitivities/allergies/whatever you want to call them and that it’s best to cut it out altogether.

      I’m sorry you’re having a tough day. I wish you a restful weekend and much peace, friend.

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  10. You (and your readers) are my heroes. Reading the post eating “Brach’s Valentine candy hearts” …. something is terribly wrong here. I’m done with booze, coffee, dairy, and soy. Seems like sugar is next in line. You are good old fashioned inspiration. Congrats on 30 days.
    ps. loved the post of your Godmother too. A sweet reminder to call my Godparents today … TY.

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      1. Yes, let’s go with medicinal.
        ps. Coincidence or not: Bought two boxes at market, with my son’s prodding (thank goodness for that). When we got home, one was empty. Sealed with no candy. The Universe is doing for me what I can’t do for myself.

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  11. Fortunately, sugar doesn’t take away your ability to avoid dangerous situations, doesn’t cause blackouts and doesn’t get you arrested for driving under the influence. In the event that the sugar consumption goes through the roof and becomes unmanageable, you’ll know what to do: stop eating it one day at a time. Awareness, acceptance and action.

    Great job on the 30 days!!!

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  12. Great post and great job on the 30 days! And that Cookie Monster gif made me laugh out loud – he just looks so damn indignant.

    It’s kind of funny to me that you’ve done this sugar detox thing, because I have just come to the (oh-so-sad) conclusion that I am not so able to tolerate sugar or flour anymore. For the past year, I have had horrible rashes on my legs and arms, and creams and lotions from the doctor worked as long as I was using them; as soon as I stopped, bam! The rashes were back .

    But then I looked at my diet, and did some food experiments and I now see that if I do not eat sugar and anything with flour, the rashes totally disappear. It’s amazing. Then if I eat chocolate, bread, rice, etc. my wrists are inflamed and itchy within 10 minutes.

    So, it looks like I am joining you on the no sugar train, lady. Sigh. I guess my waist line will be happy? Maybe?

    XO,
    M

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  13. I find this really interesting. It’s important to recognize sugar’s negative effect on your life but nothing wrong with having small bits here and there – don’t deprive yourself entirely.

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  14. Not only congrats to you on accomplishing your goal but learning something about yourself as well. This by far is my favorite post. Well written, thoughtful and awesome. Congrats and glad to hear sugar free has also helped the running. Win. Win.

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