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. 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.
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.