#15. De-sugarifying

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The world is filled with sweets. It is dipped in candy-coated sprinkles, covered in a dusting of icing sugar, studded through with chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces. It is high-fat, it is high-calorie. It is tempting and torturous. It is, all too often, my undoing.

But not this past week, my friends. No, for seven days in a row I returned to a land I once lived in: the world without added sugar. It is a dark world, to be sure. Flowers sag, birds weep, trees drop their leaves under the weight of the absence of joy. But it is also a world with more energy, less pain, better sleep. Or so I had remembered it, anyway. Otherwise, why would a person choose to visit such a place?

I’ll tell you why: because the person in question is CRAZY.

Remember Yoga Jules? From as far back as last week? That same fictional version of me doesn’t eat sugar or flour. She feels great all the time. Pounds melt off her. And, like Yoga Jules, she was a reality for a period of time somewhere back in my ancient history. Then something happened. You know how it goes. Maybe it was a warm chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven. Or maybe it was a slice of Zingerman’s hummingbird cake with the ridiculously decadent cream cheese frosting. Or maybe a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Or some Cadbury’s chocolate.

The possibilities are endless. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter, because the outcome is the same: I fell off the sugar/flour wagon. And I have tried, repeatedly, time and time again, to claw my way back onto the wagon. Sometimes I try because I want to drop pounds. Sometimes I try because I want to sleep better. Sometimes I try to reduce my pain. These are all proven outcomes of this change. But then I see something tall and iced and my resolve melts. I find myself face down in a pile of sugar, feeling both high and defeated.

My relationship with sugar is not a casual one. We have a rich and storied history. Sugar is that bad boyfriend, the one I can’t stay away from. The one who looks awesome but treats me like shit. I roll around with it for a while until I can’t take it anymore. Then I leave for ten minutes, but all I can remember are the good times. I keep trying to break up with sugar, but then it flexes its biceps and I swoon. What. Is. The. Matter. With. Me?

I have health reasons to cut way down on sugar – I am hypoglycemic, for example – but cutting down does not seem to be in my vocabulary. My life would look very different if I were capable of even a modicum of moderation. As it happens, I am not. Otherwise, believe me, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Because I would be so incredibly successful in all things I imagine that I wouldn’t have time for such trifling frivolities. Yeah. I have a rich inner fantasy life.

So the one thing I had counted on this week was feeling better after a couple of days. Usually, it takes about 48 hours to get through the cravings and the headaches and then I have a noticeable uptick in energy. However, I’m a bad scientist. I started this experiment the day before I went away to my sister’s house in Indianapolis for the weekend.

That meant a five-hour drive, sleeping in a strange bed, disrupted sleeping patterns as I stayed up way too late chatting to my sister. In other words, there were enough factors to make me feel like crap – increased pain, jacked-up exhaustion – that I wasn’t feeling any love from my body for removing sugar. And if there’s no perceived benefit to a change, then it just feels like punishment. And deprivation. And that leads to brooding. And tantrums.

Fortunately for you, there isn’t enough excitement in this change to warrant a day-by-day, blow-by-blow accounting. There are just some conclusions and observations, after which you’ll be back on your merry way. Perhaps the most important thing I realized was that I have a much more difficult time making changes that involve removing something from my life. I struggled with the sugar the same way I did with my failed attempt to give up caffeine.

I think that struggle speaks to my mindset: if I frame a change as bringing something to my life (meditation, yoga, prayer), it feels much more positive. It’s easier for me to remember, for the most part, that this is something I’m doing for me. When I bar myself from something, it feels very negative and that sense ratchets up some toddler in me who will be damned if she is deprived of anything.

It also has me questioning the philosophy behind choosing my change each week, which I confess may be a little fast-dancing to distract from the part of my brain screaming “I don’t wanna!”  I have a strong resistance to the changes I’m making because I think I “should” versus those I make because I want to. In writing that last sentence, it all seems painfully obvious, but it’s an important distinction for me.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe my life would be better if I consumed less caffeine and less sugar. Just, maybe, that I need to wait until I’m at a place where I want to make those changes, not just a place where I think I should.

The bottom line is this: I spent seven days eyeing every donut, cookie and Hershey kiss that crossed my path with a sense of deep martyrdom and longing. I counted down the days. I knew that the minute the clock ended on the week, I’d be digging into a box of Girl Scout cookies. And if that’s all I’m doing with a change, biding time until it’s over, then it’s really not in keeping with the spirit of this whole experiment, is it? I shrug at this. I have no idea. My brain’s buzzing so high on sugar again I don’t know what to think .