update on the Sugar Bet

Do you ever stop and think about the ways karma just flows and flows?

When I was over six months into my year-long Sugar Bet, last February, I confessed that I’d screwed up, when I was in Hawaii.

I came clean immediately when I got home. Not just here on the blog, but I went to Matthew, handed him $1,000 cash, and asked him to let me finish the year. He, on the other hand, was legitimately released from his obligation.

He thought about my request for a WEEK, while I agonized. Then he accepted. He tried to give me the $1,000 back and I said no.

He said he was changing the rules. I got to have three weekend vacations where I could have sugar, for the rest of the year, while I finished it out through Sept. 18. (That’s the full year, plus a week as penalty.)

I did take advantage of that recently—on our trip to Portland, I ate sugar and Kristin was amazed. She said to her brother, “I don’t know who she is! She is usually in constant motion!” She was referring to how I’d lost my energy. I’d fall asleep in the car. I’d say I didn’t want to go out till late.

Sugar does that. It wrecks me. I hadn’t eaten it in a long time, and now I remember why it’s the devil. It trashes my adrenal glands and makes me a lesser version of myself.

I said, “On the rare occasion I eat like other people do, even for a few days, I feel like other people feel. Like, bleh. I don’t like it! I can’t wait to go back home, to juicing and green smoothies and salads and NO SUGAR.”

Anyway, I’m finishing out my year on the Sugar Bet—just one more month. (Actually, I’ve already found another friend to bet $10,000 for another year, more on that later.)

But some people on the blog and facebook took me to task. They said I took advantage of my relationship with Matthew, and that I should have paid him $10,000.

Well here’s the funny thing. Early in the year, I told him to look for a rental property for me. I told him what I wanted and that I was willing to wait.

Shortly before the Sugar Bet ended, Matthew’s realtor partner Drew took me to see a property, and I bought it.

Guess what the realtor’s commission is that I’m paying Matthew?

It’s $10,000.

That feels good, doesn’t it? I have learned to trust karma. I will have a big smile on my face writing that check to Armstrong Flinders and Associates at the closing.

I think we reap what we sow.  I have this card on my corkboard in my office that says, “ MAKE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OF YOUR LIFE.” It’s a statement of my belief that this is within my grasp—the ability to take hold of my existence on the planet and make meaning of it.

Ecclesiastes 11:1 says something like, cast your bread upon the waters and after many days it will come back to you.

What’s coming back to you? Good stuff?

As Abraham Lincoln said, folks are about as happy as they have a mind to be. We don’t get everything, but we tend to get out of life what we want most.

We look like what we eat, and what we spend our time doing. If someone bikes 100 miles a week and drinks carrot juice and eats a salad every day for lunch, you can tell. If we drink beer from Thursday to Sunday and eat T-bones and fries and chocolate cake, we look like it.

We have positive relationships if we’re generous, kind, and forgiving. If we laugh a lot, other people laugh when they’re in the room with us.

Examples of karma.

Occasionally bad things happen to good people. The bad guys get away with stuff sometimes. But I believe it evens out in the end. It’s a beautiful phenomenon. The universe’s need for homeostasis creates it.

Ben’s son goes psycho when he eats sugar

Recently my friend Ben was telling me a story about his younger son who has a completely insane reaction to sugar. Ben and his ex-wife are normally vigilant about keeping Alex and sugar faaaaarrr apart.

Ben said, “But it was spring break, and I was with my buddy, and I just thought, what the heck. And I let him have a soda, and then another one. And a dessert too.”

He then described how Alex was bouncing off the walls. I mean, he was LITERALLY bouncing around a restaurant. Boing! Boing! Boing!

Went over to a wall and leaped off his feet to bang on thirty posts in a row, one at a time. People staring, mouths hanging open.

After a while, he came over and put his head in Ben’s lap and went into some kind of half-asleep trance. Then he got up and acted completely mentally ill for a while—like a schizophrenic. Muttering to himself, ranting, lost in his own world, very possibly mildly psychotic. The whole episode lasted about two hours.

I laughed so hard at the story I almost fell out of my bed, talking to Ben on the phone. “I’ll bring Alex over sometime, and we’ll feed him sugar—you HAVE to see this!” Ben said.

“NO, we’re not going to make your son sick and psychotic for our entertainment!” I said, feeling pretty guilty about even laughing at the story like I did. (Because is it really that funny?)

“Seriously, though,” Ben tells me, “we should get a video and show it to your readers. NOBODY would feed their kid sugar if they could see this. It’s insane.”

Again, we can’t do that—I’m sure Ben’s ex-wife would LOVE that, exploiting her kid running in circles and then snoring in public, then being psychotic for an hour—to document the effect of sugar.

(I love how I’m always having to explain to my single guy friends, the perspective of the mom! FYI, I advocate for you everywhere, ex-wives. Well, and wives, for that matter!)

You have to understand that Alex is a completely normal, well behaved 9-year old usually.

And that’s just it. Alex has this behaviorally manifested reaction to sugar. But we all are building up insulin resistance. We all struggle metabolically if we eat sugar—with no energy for anything else except righting the tipped-over organism. Organs malfunctioning. Wires crossing.

We are ALL having a psychotic reaction at a cellular level. There is chaos in the body while many systems struggle valiantly to right themselves, when we drink a soda or eat dessert—or worse, BOTH.

Just because it’s not as visual, obvious, and amusing as Alex’s reaction, doesn’t mean WE are somehow having a more-sane reaction to pumping acid into our stomach. No one’s body recognizes soda as good food.

And we’re surprised when—like I told you a few months ago Matthew discovered—after his late-night, five-candy-bar binge after six months off sugar—we can’t lift our arms to dance, the next day at Zumba.

(My children’s teams want to feed the athletes, after a soccer match, exactly what Alex ate. Soda and dessert. Definition of INSANITY.)

By the way, back on the Sugar Bet for a few months now…..I am so much happier. Not disappointed with myself. Lost four pounds….took me weeks! Anxiety that always comes with eating sugar, gone. Skin back to normal.

It wasn’t even an issue in the all-you-can-eat, three-times-a-day resort we stayed at in Cancun over spring break. I didn’t even look at the dessert bar, ever. So nice to have the decision made, definitively, so there’s no agonizing, or self-loathing.

And my hard learning experience drove gratitude home for me—I don’t resent the sugar ban. After all, it’s self-imposed. For my own darn good. It’s a good thing.

If I ever forget, I’ll go watch Ben’s son Alex for a while.

A sad update on the sugar bet….part 2 of 2

Next morning after I screwed up the sugar bet, I went for a run. I thought about telling Matthew.  I knew I had to. I would rather have a peaceful conscience than $10,000. That much was clear. I thought about telling you, my readers, who think I’m better than that.

I ran along the beach in Maui for an hour, and instead of enjoying the crashing waves, I cried. I cried about the $10,000 that is not easy to earn. But more, I cried about failure and my miserable sugar addiction that I have hated my whole life.

I live a disciplined life. It infuriates me that sometimes I eat something I know to be toxic, simply because I am weak. My fury over this, and watching moms feed their babies Coke in baby bottles, fueled my children’s book, The Adventures of Junk Food Dude. Of anyone, I know better. I should BE better.

When we flew to Honolulu, my friend Ben flew in, to spend the last few days with me on Waikiki Beach. He got a Coke and a couple bags of M&M’s twice a day. Dejected, I ate M&M’s with him a few times. My anxiety returned, and I realized I had not experienced it in six months. I wake up with that edgy feeling only when I’m eating sugar—even a little bit of sugar a couple times a week causes me to feel anxious. I spend the whole day trying to outrun that vague anxiety.

Thus ensued a week of eating sugar once almost every day. Partly out of my sheer depression over what I did—what did it matter anymore?

I gained three pounds. I still have most of that with me. It’s an unfriendly reminder.

Let’s just say when I got home and asked Matthew to come over to talk, I was practically on my knees. So mad at myself for wrecking a great thing. I LOVED BEING OFF SUGAR. It was hard, but struggling to choose whether to eat this or that, every single day, my whole life? That was HARDER.

I had in my mind that when I saw Matthew, I’d probably cry. But when I told him, he busted out laughing hysterically. Which made me laugh too. Not that I actually find it funny, because I don’t.

I handed him $1,000 in cash. Either an installment, if he chose that, or a penalty, I said.

And I asked him for a second chance.  I said, “Let me back in the Sugar Bet. I’ll add a week onto the endpoint. You can opt out, or do whatever you want. But I want to finish. Not just for the money, but for the chance to succeed. I want to say I ate no sugar for a year. But you won, fair and square—and if you choose to take the money, I’ll give it to you, no problem.”

He tortured me for several more days, thinking about it. Then we had lunch to talk about what to do. He tried to give me my $1,000 back and I said no. It has to hurt.

As it is, I’m thankful for mercy. Matthew let me back in and I’ve been back on the wagon for a week or so. He, however, can do whatever he wants to. He’s thinking about whether he wants to finish out another six months with me, in a modified way. Maybe get twice-a-month free passes. And he doesn’t want to read labels on chips. He feels the Sugar Bet was HARD.

That night, Matthew went out at 2:30 a.m. and ate four King-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and a Nutrageous bar. (WHOA. I think that would put me in a coma.) The next night he came over for a sauna session with me. He’d asked me to go to Zumba right before that, but I was busy.

I opened the door. I said, shocked: “What the heck is the matter with you?!” I might have said something slightly different than “heck.” Matthew’s eyes were glazed over.

He said, “I couldn’t even lift my arms in Zumba!” Keep in mind this guy is a fireball of non-stop energy until 3 a.m. every day of his life. He’s like a four-year old, kid you not. Keep in mind that he loves NOTHING in this world more than Zumba. Lives for it, really. And keep in mind that the king-size candy bar fiasco was more than 12 hours before!

Matthew learned a hard lesson, too. Not as expensive as mine.

If I screw up a second time, I’m done for. $9,000 more, no questions asked. As I write this, I’m leaving for Mexico with my kids for spring break. One of those all-inclusive resorts all along the Cancun beach, where you can have as much food as you want, all day long? My kids think it’s heaven.

BUT NO SUGAR, BABY. Matthew texted last night and said, “I think you should get a week off, for Mexico.” I said no–I need to do this. To prove it to myself.

Thank you, God, for mercy tempering justice. Thank you Matthew.

Wish me luck.

A sad update on the Sugar Bet….part 1 of 2

It’s shameful that I’ve been delaying writing this post. You might know that on Sept. 11, I swore off all refined sugar, for a year. My friend Matthew Flinders and I put $10,000 on that bet.

I haven’t eaten much sugar in recent years. A tiny fraction of what most Americans eat, for sure. I don’t cook with it. 80 percent of my diet is raw plant foods. I don’t serve any dead animals in my home. (I have a Junior PETA member who lives here, to keep me honest!) I don’t eat fried foods, or fast food. I drink nothing sugared, ever.

Nothing about that paragraph I just wrote is really making me feel any better than what I’m about to tell you.

Occasionally, at a social event or in a restaurant, I ate dessert. Usually chocolate. When I was younger, I ate a LOT of sugar. A shameful amount. I think I would look 10 years younger if I’d figured out earlier, to avoid the white stuff. It ages you faster than anything.

Well, here’s the deal. After a little over six months, I lost the bet. I’m not proud of this story. I think you’re going to get a sense of how human I really am. First of all, you should know that brownies are my kryptonite. (Superman was strong…..but kryptonite weakened and nearly destroyed him.)

I was doing great. I didn’t have cravings for chocolate very often. I hadn’t really noticed any big differences in my health from not eating sugar. I assumed that was because I didn’t eat much of it in the first place.

I was in Hawaii. Debbie, a GSG reader, set the whole trip up, and she and I were shopping in a little beach town. We stopped for lunch. You should know that Debbie follows a lot of 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and she’s recently implemented more of the program. The biggest difference for her was that the GSG way of life taught her the value of eating her vegetables RAW rather than cooked. She says she’s noticed a huge upward shift in her energy from that change alone.

But Debbie, oh my goodness I love this lady….and she loves her chocolate. She loves Chocolate Beet Cake (Ch. 11), and she has a Chocolate Bean Cake. (We’ve posted the recipe here on the blog in the past.) And dark-chocolate candy bars from the health food store. She’s gotta have her fix every day.

Anyway, I’d had a salad for breakfast, and I’d just finished a salad for lunch. I was in Hawaii toting half a dozen bikinis, after all.

I was still hungry after my salad. Debbie said, “Would it be okay if I got dessert?” No problem, I said! Actually, I was hungry and craving something yummy and sweet. But I figured it’d be fine. I did have the thought to go wait for her outside in the sunshine—but that seemed rude. No big deal. I’ve been with friends many times in the past six months while they eat dessert.

Well, what they delivered to Debbie was a fabulous-looking brownie, with hot fudge….and vanilla ice cream. And whipped cream. KRYPTONITE.

Suddenly I remembered Matthew’s caveat: “You can’t lose the bet if you didn’t KNOW it had sugar in it.” In the moment, it seemed like my “out.” I said to Debbie, “Well, we ARE in Hawaii. It could be coconut sugar in that brownie, right?” (Coconut sugar is legal for Matthew and me. Although I’ve never had any in the past 6 months.)

And in just a few seconds, it was over. I’d reached over and taken a bite of her brownie. A few bites.

It settled over me that day….very quickly, in fact….that my integrity would not allow me to lie to myself like that. Let alone to Matthew, who, I assume, has faithfully and studiously avoided all sugar. He says he’s read more labels since September than in his entire life put together.

The rest of the story…..tomorrow.

Two great recipes and an awesome new ingredient!

I  recently gave a lecture in St. George, Utah, and in three other Nevada and Cali cities. In St. George, we stayed with my longtime friends, vegan raw foodists Denley and Jan, whose kitchen and fridge contents always inspire me.

Denley was raised on sodas and Twinkies, and eventually he was so ill that he discovered that he could recover his health ONLY when he eats vegan and virtually 100% raw. They have raised their six children on a plant-based diet. They made that shift when their twin daughters were born with cystic fibrosis. Now both are mothers of 6 and 7 children and are healthy vegans even though most with CF don’t live past 25.

Next time I stay with Jan, I’ll make a video of all her great nutrition habits and gadgets.

She made us a fabulous dinner when we pulled into town, and Kristin and I couldn’t stop eating apples dipped in the fruit dip, recipe below, that tastes like marshmallow cream. But it’s all raw, with no sugar, guilt free! (I can eat it without having to pay Matthew $10,000—we’re both going strong, by the way, after 3.5 months. Easy!)

Here’s the recipe I’ve adapted from Jan’s—she keeps a jar of Irish Moss gel in her fridge, which is a whole-food thickener, gel, and emulsifier. It’s the raw, nutritious form of “carageenan” that you’ve seen in ice cream, etc., You can get it on Amazon and many other places online or possibly in your health food store. Buy unbleached “Carageen” raw Irish Moss so you’ll get the sun-dried rather than bleached product. The Irish eat it with potatoes and cabbage!

In addition to its function, it’s a nearly flavorless seaweed that, like other algaes, is an excellent source of iodine, minerals, A and B vitamins, and protein. It is soothing to mucous membranes and thus may help with indigestion, constipation, and skin conditions. Some use it in water to ease coughing associated with colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

You’ll have fun using it for ice cream, shakes, puddings, and more…give it a try! I personally am so excited to discover this ingredient. Having enough ingredients and habits that you love is KEY in making a transition to raw plant foods easy and “deprivation-free.”

Fruit Dip / Topping

1 cup macadamia nuts

2 Tbsp raw almonds, sesame seeds, or cashews, soaked overnight and drained

6 Tbsp. water

¼ cup Irish Moss gel (see below)

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ cup raw, organic agave, or raw honey

1/8 tsp. Original Crystal Himalayan Salt

Blend almonds, sesame seeds, or cashews in water, in turbo blender until creamy, about 90 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, will last 3-4 days. Use as a dip for fruit, or as a topping for a pie.

Strawberry Shake

1/2 cup Brazil nuts

1 ½ cups water

¼ to ½ cup Irish Moss gel (see below)

1 cup frozen strawberries

8 drops liquid stevia, or ½ packet dry stevia

1/2 tsp. vanilla or pinch of a vanilla bean

Soak Brazil nuts several hours, drain and rinse. Blend soaked nuts in 1 ½ cups water for 90 seconds or until very smooth, in a high-speed blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend on high until creamy. This is a low-sugar treat your children will love and you won’t feel guilty about.

Irish Moss Gel

Keep the dry moss refrigerated in a sealed Ziploc bag or jar. Soak a handful in a quart jar full of water for 3-5 hours on the counter. Drain and rinse well (you may have to pick out bits of shell/sand). Blend ¼ cup soaked, packed Irish Moss, with 1 cup filtered water until smooth. Store in fridge in a glass jar for up to 2 weeks. Use in potatoes, gravy, ice creams, puddings, etc.

A Year Without Sugar

It’s been 2 months since I bet Matthew Flinders $10,000 that I wouldn’t eat sugar for a year. Here, he and I talk about it. It’s just NO BIG DEAL! (Kristin is behind the camera, if you’re wondering why I’m assuring her that I still love her even though she ate treats all through Texas and Mexico.) I want a REAL challenge! One idea: we ban all sweeteners, for a year. Second idea: Dr. Tom Lodi and I made a pledge to go to Panama and do a 42-day water fast. (When he can get away from his practice and I can get away from four minors I happen to be raising by myself. AS IF!) As he says, “Your first 50 years are free. You have the EARN the next 50!” I’m learning how to earn them, and that’s why YOU’RE here, to earn yours too! Let’s do it together!