Can Easter be Sugar-Free?

easterbaskets
Sugar Free Easter Baskets for my Kids

hug me don't eat meAs it turns out, you CAN do Easter without sugar.

I love to make my kids baskets of gifts on Valentine’s Day and Easter. There are plastic eggs in these baskets, which I filled with treats, but no candy with refined sugar or corn syrup. I get them in bulk at the health food store: carob raisins and nuts etc.

I fill baskets with lip gloss, socks and underwear, movies, toys, mugs and other festive little gifts. My kids don’t expect sugar in their baskets.

I once did what everyone else did, before I knew better–but kids can and do survive the shift to a healthier life.

I love you, Cade, Emma, Libby and Tenn! Enough to get creative with the holidays.

Happy Easter to you. He is Risen!

 

How I Beat My Sugar Addiction

sugar enticingDear GreenSmoothieGirl: Please do an article on the dangers of artificial sweeteners. I am trying to stop eating sugar, but am SO weak!  I’ve been reading some recommended books, and trying to exercise willpower, and I still struggle.   I’m curious what your process was, that led to success, and how you’ve been able to stay off sugar.  I could do it before I had kids, but now it seems SO much harder. I’d love to hear your tips of how she was able to enjoy family time, birthdays, holidays, etc, without the sugar.

–Dixie

Answer: You got it, Dixie. First, today, the “how I did it” part of your question. Then, tomorrow, some data download on the artificial sweeteners and why they’ll kill ya. I’ll review aspartame (Nutrasweet), Truvia, Splenda, saccharin, maltitol, and stevia.

HOW I BEAT MY SUGAR ADDICTION

I really believe that to truly kick the sugar addiction, you have to go off it permanently, cold-turkey. Can an alcoholic just “cut back?” Can a cocaine addict do lines “just on the weekend?”

no sugar pleaseI’m not saying you will NEVER eat sugar again. (I can’t handle that thought either. I have come further than most, though, to say, “I will not eat it for a year.” Don’t think too far in the future. Think about a long period of time, though. Something that hurts your brain a little. Something challenging.)

What I AM saying is, as long as it’s going to be a casual indulgence, it’s going to be an addiction.

It doesn’t work like that, casually. Addiction to chemicals hijack the brain. It makes us less than we are. It makes us feel we have no “willpower” and aren’t in control of our weight, our life, our health.

Is it worth it? Is sugar worth the price we pay? Academically, we all know it isn’t.

One day, I got completely out of the sugar rat race. It was Sept. 11, 2011. Matthew Flinders and I bet $10,000 that we wouldn’t eat sugar for a year.

When the option was off the table, I stopped thinking about it. It’s so incredibly rare that I even think about sugar now. Seriously. It takes a matter of DAYS before you just quit thinking about it. (Why think about it? Is there a cookie that’s worth $10,000? There isn’t, right?)

comboI have other treats I *could* have. I love COCO MOJO in hot water with COCONUT MILK POWDER. (So much that I put it in my store.) I have a mug full at my computer nearly every day in the winter. After I have my green smoothie or veggie juice.

I have agave-sweetened coconut-milk “ice cream” in my freezer, and a fruit-juice sweetened dark-chocolate hot fudge in my refrigerator. It’s legal, I could eat it every day if I wanted, but sometimes it’s there for months and gets freezer burned. Ditto a case of maltitol-sweetened cookies that are in my closet, haven’t touched them in months.

It’s important to know I COULD IF I WANTED. I just don’t really care, most of the time.

“Ah,” you’re thinking, “now you’ve lost me. You’re not like me. I really don’t see the point in living, if it doesn’t involve my daily treats.”

sugar thoughtsNo, listen. I get it. I don’t know if anyone was a bigger sugar addict than me. Writing that treats sit in my freezer and closet are a big triumph, since I was a lifelong sugar addict. I have deep fillings in all my molars to prove it. Did I fight it more successfully than most? Yes, by sheer will. Like a daily arm wrestle. But in MY OWN RESEARCH, 65% of green smoothie drinkers have fewer cravings for sweets and processed food.

I, my friend, was in the 35%. I still wanted my damn treat.

But here’s something true. A weird thing happens when you get off REFINED sugar. All sugar seems less interesting.

I’m just not interested in brownies anymore. (OMG! Thank you for asking me this question, Dixie! I’ve been thinking about so many MORE INTERESTING THINGS THAN BROWNIES the past 18 months, I hadn’t even realized…….brownies aren’t interesting anymore, and my brain is occupied by better stuff now!)

At first, I’d go to a family birthday or Christmas or any number of other holiday parties, and just not dare LOOK at the dessert table. Now it doesn’t matter. I might look, but I don’t feel the cravings. Now when I look at mint chocolate brownies (my former favorite), it looks like a bunch of chemicals and food colorings and stuff. While I do have lots of memory of pleasure associated with that food, it isn’t particularly tempting.

readers-favorite-healthy-recipes-vol-1-350x350I enjoy celebrating, still. I eat the dinner, just not the dessert. If I were still in a place of feeling deprived, I’d take my own (raw, yummy, chocolately) treat. You can do that. Get our READERS FAVORITES books, or check out Ch. 11 of 12 STEPS TO WHOLE FOODS.

I’m over halfway through Year 2 on the Sugar Bet. Matthew did Year 1 with me as a test of his willpower–he loves games and contests–and didn’t want to do it forever. So I had to get Natalie Harris to do it with me as my first bet ended.

This year, I’m allowed to have sugar one day a month. Honestly, in 2013, thus far, I haven’t seen anything I wanted to eat enough to “use” my day. I’m banking them.

happy without sugarI’m not saying I’ll never eat sugar again. If I go to Las Vegas and get to the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan? Totally worth it. Ditto a five-star all-inclusive resort in Mexico, on a vacation.

But I am saying, it’s the nicest feeling in the world to (a) have sugar cravings no longer intruding into my thoughts, demanding my brain functions I need for higher things, making me ridiculously obsess about WILL I OR WON’T I TODAY?

And it’s the nicest feeling in the world to (b) discover that not only is life worth living without sugar? It’s just better.

My life is so much better without sugar.

I didn’t lose weight when I ditched sugar. (I ate little of it anyway. But I spent far more time THINKING about wanting to eat sugar and BATTLING it, than actually DOING it. This might be the definition of ANNOYING.)

I weighed 135-137 then, and I weigh 135-137 now.  I don’t really feel any different. I felt great then, and now.

incharge(I had learned MANY years ago to never, ever do it on an empty stomach. That made me sick from the time I was a hypoglycemic kid. I finally wised up and stopped doing it by my mid-20’s. Then I had a long phase of still eating sugar, but only after a healthy meal. Then a long phase of not eating sugar regularly, but still sometimes.)

So why am I still THRILLED that I’ve been totally “off sugar” for 18 months, if I didn’t lose weight or feel any different?

Because now I am in charge of my life. Only after getting free of the sugar demon am I able to look back and realize how CONTROLLED I was by Sugar’s pushy, interruptive, bossy presence in my life.

It was a gradual process, to realizing that I don’t hate my life without sugar.

You won’t either. Promise.

 

 

 

I fantasize about being stranded on a desert island with……

I was sitting at a table at Supply Side West in Las Vegas last month, thumb-typing emails on my Blackberry. I’d gone there to learn about more sourcing options for our new GreenSmoothieGirl line of products.

Everyone was eating lunch, and seats were limited, so I sat with strangers.

bad diet guy Pizza Guy looked as if he’d spent a lifetime of eating pizza like the one he was working on. What does that look like? Inflammation shows up as puffy dark bags under his eyes, he’s carrying extra weight, and he has saggy jowls.

Burger and Soda guy looked…..about the same.

salad absThen Salad and Fruit Bowl Guy came over. Well HELLO. In his 50’s, about the age of Pizza Guy and Burger Guy. Salad Guy was fit, thin, and energetic, radiating positive energy in his conversation with a colleague.

I wish I could have taken a photo for you. I wanted to. It was like those photos of dogs with their owners: see how they look alike?

But that would have been so rude. (How does PeopleOfWalmart.com get away with it? Questions like this keep me up at night.)

waistlineSomeone should show all the 25-year old men age-progression photos. Here’s what you look like eating that for the next 20 years. Here’s what you look like eating this. It might influence outcomes.

After lunch, I stop at a booth at the trade show and the two women running it offer me a sample of their protein bar. I look at the ingredients and say, “Sorry, I can’t eat sugar.” One turned and said to the other, “Well, of course you don’t. That’s why you look like THAT,” pointing a finger up and down the length of me.

This applies more and more as we age: that lifestyle shows up on us. Some  young people can eat crap and get away with it for a while. It will, however, catch up.

(Luckily, we can repent at any age. Our cells regenerate, heal, and aging reverses. Nobody would have said that to me 20 years ago when I was 200 lbs., eating lots of dairy and sugar and diet soda and Processed Whatever daily.)

romantic island coupleTurns out real men do eat salad. If I were going to sail off into the sunset with one of those three guys at my table, it wouldn’t have been with Pizza Guy or Burger Guy.

I’d choose to be marooned on an island with Salad and Fruit Bowl guy. Not just because I wouldn’t have to worry as much about a repeat of the Donner Party, with a guy who eats only plants.

Call me shallow, but he just looked handsome and youthful and positive and all good things.

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.

Sugar-Free Baseball, Part I

Tennyson has a nickname on his team. In the dugout, when he’s up to bat, they chant,

“Sugar-free! Sugar-free! Sugar-free!”

When he gets on base, they yell, “Sweeeeeet!”

I love the nickname, of course, and Tennyson embraces it. I like to yell dumb stuff like, “That was a sugar-free hit, kid!”

It’s pretty easy to make a dugout of 11-year olds laugh. (Remember Tennyson’s joke last summer, when I’d buy him Naked juice at the Good Earth? “Hey guys, my mom got Naked!”)

But my 18-y.o. Kincade, at last night’s game, said, “Never say that again, Mom.”

We’re just back from Tennyson’s team’s tournament in Idaho Falls, where they were one run short of landing in the championship. They won three games, and were up 11-1 in the fourth, when the other team made a massive rally and TIED at 12-12! (My son was the pitcher as his team fell apart, behind him, committing errors upon errors in one horrible inning.)

Lately my boys come SO close to glory, only to be robbed at the 11th hour. Tennyson sobbed all night.

I had a long convo with a dad on the team, a high school football coach, the next day when he saw Tennyson crying into my shoulder (again). He told me that’s where we learn the most, when we kill ourselves trying, but fail. So I should stop mourning things like my oldest son’s state championship loss….at the bottom of the third overtime inning, at 10:30 p.m., after five long days and 8 games of baseball. It’s the crucible of life. We learn more from loss than success.

What a great way to see it. I’m going to embrace it.

So after the game in Idaho Falls, one parent polled everybody about where we wanted to eat. I said, “Just anything where they have salads, not fast food.” Well, the decision was to go to Five Guys for burgers and fries, and they told us Café Rio was next door. Works for me!

Tennyson and I got our vegetarian salad—whole wheat tortilla, double black beans and no rice, extra greens and pico de gallo, no chips, dressing on the side. We brought it over to sit with the team in the burger joint.

The entire rest of the team, and their families, ate burgers. It’s good for me, to be around what most people eat every day, which I now find truly revolting. It reminds me to be grateful for the education I have that makes eating that stuff completely impossible now. Coagulating lard on black patties of dead cows, white flour buns, deep fried, salted sticks of fat- and chemical-soaked potato. None of it looks appealing.

I worked at McDonald’s when I was 16…..the french fries’ ingredient list was a paragraph long, with about 18 ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. Yucky. I haven’t eaten a McD’s french fry since.

Some of the parents told me they were going to take a photo of us in that place, post it on the internet, and blackmail me. Just in case, I took this photo with my cell phone of Tennyson’s Café Rio salad, and my quart of green smoothie, on the table with all the other boys’ dinners.

Our dinner wasn’t a dreary alternative to the good stuff. We LOVED our dinner. YUMMY. Zero deprivation. We went back and had the same thing the next night, at Tennyson’s request.

My next post will take you through what we took, what we ate, on our trip. Just because I haven’t done one of those posts for a while, and it’s a very common request. (“What do you eat in a day?” Also, “What do you do when you travel?”)

As we were eating dinner, one of the boys yelled,

“Hey Tennyson! In twenty years, we’ll all be FAT, and you’ll still be playing baseball!”

Out of the mouths of babes.

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.