Life Without the Comfort of Sugar

I've been sleeping and working well lately. I'm trying not to take it for granted. I have rules, procedures, and habits that keep my life and productivity in line, but they are certainly much more effective when I already have a general tendency to do the right thing.

It’s pretty obvious when you see it like this

It’s pretty obvious when you see it like this

Before the start of last year, I read an essay by David Leonhardt, A Month Without Sugar, about how he does not consume added sugars during the month of January. As he points out in his column, that's harder than it looks, because sugar gets slipped into all sorts of processed foods, often under misleading names like "evaporated cane juice" or "malt syrup" (according to UCSF's sugarscience site, there are at least 61 names for sugar). It's in almost all bread, for example. And in the whole grain mustard I usually buy. And even in some frozen mixed vegetables I sometimes cook for breakfast.

So I did the no sugar thing for six weeks at the beginning of last year, and am doing it again this year. I kind of hope that this is not the cause of my recent clarity. I actually like bread, that mustard, and some other prepared foods, putting honey in my yogurt, and actual desserts as well. At this time of year hot cocoa is a big favorite, and I have not had any. Giving up sugar entirely is not something I'm aiming for.

My favorite breakfast since that first time, last year, is steel-cut oats cooked with milk and mixed with a sliced ripe banana I saute until brown and a tablespoon or so of peanut butter. I had been adding increasing amounts of sugar to my oatmeal before that, and knew that was not a good idea. This is just sweet enough for me.

Some people have some kind of transformative moment when they try sugar again, often realizing they no longer like sugar at all, or find things too oppressively sweet. I didn't, and don't expect to when I start eating it again. Trader Joe's Coffee Bean Blast ice cream was just as fantastic after my sugar vacation as it was before. Though, perhaps surprisingly, I have more control over how much of it I eat now. I do have pretty stringent portion control.

I've been cutting down on dessert for years now, so this last tastebud reset was mostly just a marginal improvement. Still, successive marginal improvements add up to big changes over time, the secret to any long-term lifestyle change.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of more weeks when I will beaver away, getting up early and being a generally annoying busy bee. That is, I would be annoying, but the only other current inhabitant of the house, my recently out of college son, does not get up before about 10 am, so the rest of humanity is spared. We'll see what happens when I make myself a cup of hot cocoa.