Monday, 30 August 2010


That sound you heard was me falling off the sugar wagon.

What can I say? It was a kids’ party. There were cupcakes and honey joys (yum!). I had to cook the damn things, see them, smell them. Just. Could. Not. Resist.

Yes, Demon Duck’s so-called “sleepover” party was a sleepless night of sugar-fuelled madness. And that was just me. You should have seen the kids. A raging success, in other words, though we paid for it for days afterwards with grumpy, exhausted children. She had a ball, which is the main thing, I guess. The things we go through for our children.

I decided the guests would cook their own pizzas for dinner. So in a fit of madness I went out and bought some gorgeous bright fabrics.

You can’t cook pizza without a pretty apron, can you? Oh, right, you can. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, which has been my defence for a lot of stupidly time-consuming endeavours over the years. I have to admit I was kinda over aprons by the time I finished all nine of them.

And then the night before the party we went shopping for lolly bags and couldn’t find anything suitable. No problem! I’ll make those too. Just hang on a moment while I duck into this handy phone booth and change into my Supermum outfit. Oh, yeah, and I made a red-and-white checked tablecloth too, to give the dining room more of a “pizza parlour” feel.

Actually the lolly bags weren’t that time-consuming. And they did look cute. It would just be nice if I occasionally had these brainwaves some time other than the eleventh hour.

Here they are with the aprons. Just pretend you don’t see my ironing board in the corner of that photo, okay?

So anyway, about that sugar. A couple of those honey joys committed suicide right in my mouth. And a cupcake. And maybe a Mint Slice. And two or mumble mumble five little homemade ginger biscuits. So the day after the party I got Brave and Ruthless and gave away the remaining party food. Didn’t want any more suicides on my conscience.

The funny thing is, I used to eat biscuits every day and crave cake all the time. But apart from this one party aberration I haven’t missed those at all since I started my war on sugar. It’s chocolate I miss the most. Chocolate is the hardest to go without, and the thing I still crave (and occasionally give in to those cravings).

It’s been almost a month now. On the plus side, I’ve cut my sugar intake drastically. The most obvious reward for that is fewer headaches. On the down side, I still haven’t managed to kick the chocolate habit and therefore am still experiencing cravings. I know I need to grow a set and go cold turkey already. I’m just prolonging the agony, sneaking myself bits of chocolate now and then. How hard can it be to face a future without chocolate?

Whimper …

Whose crappy idea was it anyway to make all the bad stuff taste so good, and so much of the good stuff taste bad? I mean, really – brussel sprouts? Lamb’s fry? What kid ever wants to eat those? How much easier would it be if things had been better designed?

You wouldn’t catch little Johnny sneaking his food under the table to the dog if it was yummy healthy Smarties on his plate instead of peas. No, those plates would be licked clean. Dinner time would no longer be a war zone.

“Eat up your lovely chocolate, darling, or you’ll never grow up to be a big strong boy.”

Ah, yes. If I ruled the world, things would be much more efficient.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The love has gone

My love affair with sugar is fading. We used to be so close, but now we hardly see each other …

But before I give you the latest report from the war zone, I have to show you the invitations I made for Demon Duck’s upcoming slumber party.

Aren’t they cute? When you lift the quilt the invitation is revealed hiding underneath. I was very proud of myself for dreaming this up – and then it occurred to me how very little actual sleeping takes place at a so-called slumber party. Lots of giggling and talking, watching DVDs and consuming junk food, but not much sleeping. So maybe a bed wasn’t such a good idea after all!

I did a little sewing the other night. One of my sister’s sons gave her a Kindle for her birthday recently (I shall have to give Baby Duck hints that this is the level of awesome required for presents from one’s grown-up sons!). She was carrying it around in a satin bag. The first thing I thought when I saw it was that she needed a padded bag to protect it. Actually that was probably the second thing, after “Oh my God, you’ve got a Kindle!”

So I had a go at making one. My first attempt ended up too small, and will be reincarnated as a handbag for Demon Duck. For my second attempt I found a pattern here and, armed with proper measurements, it turned out much better.

Here it is with a book inside it (since my son hasn’t received the memo yet about buying his mother a Kindle).

As for the War on Sugar, or The Sad Story of a Love Gone Wrong, there’s not a lot to report. I’m past the major headache stage and the cravings are lessening. I weakened and had one square of peppermint chocolate with my cup of tea the last two nights. One lousy square! How the mighty have fallen. I claim extenuating circumstances. I won’t bore you with the details, but life is fairly stressful at the moment.

Apart from that, no sugar apart from what’s in a couple of pieces of fruit a day. Not even in tea, which is another sad story of lost love. I’ve been having Equal, a sugar substitute, in my tea. It gives the tea a slightly different flavour, but it’s still tea and it’s still sweet – and yet … Nope. I’m just not feeling it. Turns out that my great love of tea was actually a great love of the sugar in it. Without sugar tea is just a pleasant hot drink that I can take or leave.

Jay Lake had a link on his blog to a report on the evils of sugar, specifically its fructose half. A new study has found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to divide and proliferate. The researchers fed cancer cells both fructose and glucose, but the cells used the two types of sugar differently, showing the sugar industry’s claims that all sugars are the same to be wrong. In the US, where they have a huge amount of high fructose corn syrup in their diet, this has big implications. “US consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, researchers reported in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

Now the research team is hoping to develop a drug to stop cancer cells using fructose to grow. I guess that’s what researchers do, but it seems to me to be coming at the problem from the wrong end. Instead of trying to fix the damage fructose causes, wouldn’t it be better to prevent the damage in the first place by removing fructose from the diet?

I realise that’s not an easy thing to do. Trust me, I know! Governments would have to take on the big companies like Coca-Cola and educate people on the dangers. It would require a huge shift in people’s attitude to sugar. But we only have to look at the government regulation of the tobacco industry and the way the public perception of smoking has changed over the years to know it can be done.

Meanwhile, my personal struggle against the Demon Sugar continues. Someone hide those biscuits and pass the damn nuts.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Kicking the sugar habit

It has occurred to me more and more lately that I am addicted to chocolates and sweet foods. I used to have a more responsible attitude. I’d only eat my beloved peppermint chocolate two or three times a week, for instance. Then it crept up to every night. Then the amount started to increase. Lately I’ve felt that I could happily down the whole block in a sitting, though I haven’t quite sunk that low yet. But the potential was alarming. I could end up one of those sad cases where they have to bring in a crane and knock a hole in the wall because they can’t get the body out through the door.

So I decided to give up peppermint chocolate, at least for a little while. Two days later, my well-meaning family, unacquainted with my new resolve, gave me ten blocks of the stuff for my birthday. Sigh.

Then we watched the DVD Supersize Me, in which Morgan Spurlock nearly eats himself into an early grave by eating nothing but MacDonalds for a month. I’d seen it back when it first came out, but wanted to show it to the girls. There is a moment at the end when a very sick-looking, much larger Spurlock is sitting with a dietician. On the table between them are pots and pots of sugar, representing the enormous amount he has ingested over the month.

With that image in my head I walked into a bookshop the next day and a book jumped out at me: The Sweet Poison Quit Plan, by David Gillespie.

“Sugar makes you fat,” it begins. “It is converted directly to fat by your liver and it destroys your appetite control so that you want to eat more of everything.”

Gillespie also says it is the cause of many chronic diseases such as heart disease and obesity, and of course diabetes. It is as addictive as nicotine, and in just about everything we eat. Not only that, but it caused the Global Financial Crisis. Okay, I might have made that part up. But there is a lot of food for thought in his book, if you’ll forgive the pun. If you’re interested, his blog discusses much of it.

Ding ding ding! This was ringing some bells with me. Most days I wake up with a headache, which often disappears mid-morning. Hey, that would be just after I’ve had my glass of sugar (ie orange juice) for breakfast, followed by my sugar-laden morning tea. Coincidence? And you know when I have a headache and the Carnivore suggests I take a tablet, and I say “oh, I’ll just have a cup of tea, that’ll fix it”? Maybe that’s not the caffeine after all.

Okay, I’m a sugar addict. I finish the book on Monday afternoon and resolve to give up sugar forthwith. No tea and chocolate before bed.

The result?

Day 1: I have a filthy headache all day. As in, toothed, spacefaring worms from the planet Mongo are devouring my brain kind of headache. I take this as a challenge and resolve not to be bested by the demon sugar. Feel abnormally tired driving home in the early afternoon, so much so that I worry about falling asleep at the wheel. Damn the evil sugar and its energy highs and lows! Sing along to the radio and focus on how good I will feel when I conquer this addiction. Cut my beloved breakfast orange juice back to half a (large) glass.

Day 2: Headache has subsided to a dull ache. Amazingly, I feel no cravings for sweet food. I attribute this to my new gung-ho attitude to the demon sugar and feel mildly smug all day. Cut sugar in my tea back to half a teaspoon. Tastes so bad am forced to drink herb tea instead. Notice for the first time how very sweet orange juice is, and contemplate cutting my breakast ration back further.

Day 3: Still no cravings for sweet foods. For the queen of peppermint chocolate, this is most unexpected, but very welcome. Snack virtuously on nuts and natural yoghurt. (“What’s that?” the Carnivore asks. “Natural yoghurt.” “Does it taste nice?” “Disgusting. No sugar.”)

Day 4: Cut breakfast orange juice down to half a small glass, and drink a large glass of water with it. OJ is now tasting almost unpleasantly sweet. Perhaps I’m only drinking it out of habit now. Have also purchased some dextrose (“good” but not very sweet, sugar) to try in my tea.

Perhaps as a result of cutting my OJ back so far from normal levels, I experience some cravings today. Manage to tough it out, but then, at dinnertime, a heavy blow. The Carnivore points out that the bottle of diet soft drink I’ve been drinking with dinner the last few days is, in fact, the real deal, overflowing with sugar. Feel despondent. Tip evil, lying soft drink down the sink. And then the traitorous Carnivore flourishes the packet of Mint Slices (a peppermint chocolate biscuit – only my Most Favourite Biscuit in the Whole World) he has bought. Feel betrayed. And slightly homicidal.

Day 5 (Today): Cravings are worsening. Spend much time staring at the pantry shelves, hoping some healthful sugar-free chocolate will magically materialise. Wonder how diabetics cope. Search the internet for “diabetic chocolate”. Avert eyes from Mint Slices in fridge. Encourage confused but eager children to eat all the sugary treats in the house. Wonder how long I can keep this up.

Consider lynching David Gillespie.