Monday, May 08, 2006

Ahhhh Sugar

I can’t live with it and I can’t live without it. But really, I can’t live with it. In fact, now when I do have some (yes, I indulge myself on my birthday and for what I call the 10 Days of Sugar from Solstice to New Year’s), I notice it right away. It is like what happens when I drink (not that I do) caffeinated coffee, I get the shakes, I feel nauseous, and I am light headed. That is some kind of poison. It’s bad news. The baddest news. If there was one thing that for me was the most important thing to give up when I got diagnosed, it was sugar.

But give it up I had to. First line of attack. Sugar suppresses the immune system (and there are both scientific and esoteric demonstrations of this from what I have heard). Cancer is a disease that can grow when our immune systems are weak (I have already said this, but I guess it deserves repeating… we all have cancer, but with most people we have the old bouncer cells that get rid of it before it starts causing problems. I didn’t have enough bouncer cells, because my immune system was weak). So obviously, sugar is not my friend. It is not anyone’s friend. Least of all the little kids who crave it most. Imagine what it does to their underdeveloped systems. Yikes.

So here is my history with sugar and with giving it up. When I got diagnosed I quit cold turkey. Why not, I say? My whole life was turned upside down anyway, what is one more thing. Since I was under so much stress and adjusting to so much (pre-surgery was when I changed my entire diet) it was hard to tell what caused what reactions. At this stage I even steered clear of anything that hinted at sweetness, so no maple syrup, no honey. It wasn’t easy (I mean how are you suppose to self medicate with no sugar, I ask you?!?), but nothing was it those days. And I was good for so very long. You can ask just about anyone, I was the rock of discipline, for about a year and a half, I think. Which is when I finally let my feeling come up, now that it was clear that my body was going to make it through. Then I stumbled. When I started working where I am presently I hit a snag. People kept bringing yummy things to work. It is one thing at home, where I can control what I have in the house, but when it was right there, and everyone else indulging. I lost my resolve. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t wig out and eat every ounce of sugar the world had to offer. I just slipped. A little bit at first. And then it just snow balled (I am sure if you ask my friends and co-workers they will laugh at what I consider snow balled, but still, for me it was big).

Then I would try to stop. Since structures and times work well for me, I would consider quitting at times like New Year’s, but I always found myself away with friends having these great indulgent celebrations. It was very hard to opt out half way through. So I didn’t.

Finally 2 years ago, our New Year’s celebration was relatively in town, which allowed me to actually make the pledge to myself. After the first day, I just took one day at a time. And it worked. That is not to say that I didn’t have my usual withdrawal (you know, the withdrawal I didn’t notice pre-surgery because I was so hopped up on fear and adrenaline). For me, that means on the fourth and fifth day I get edgy, and a bit (just a wee bit) short tempered, and I genuinely thing that I will die if I don’t get to eat some sugar. Classic withdrawal, different drug. If I can live through (and so far I have, as you can well see) to day six, life gets better. Much better. Yes, my mouth waters as I see others eating treats, but I can keep it together. And I was prepared to let myself have sugar substitutes, like the aforementioned honey, and maple syrup, boy did that help. And I have found the stores that sell sugar free treats, and I make my own. So days turned into weeks, weeks into months. The structure was so powerful for me. Knowing that I had not eaten sugar in the year 2005, the more time when by the more I wanted to keep it going. Now, me being me, I could not not indulge myself in all and any way on my birthday, so when it rolled around I made myself a pact. I could eat whatever I wanted, sugar and all, on the day, but only that day. When midnight came, it was pumpkin hour and it was all over. The worst part was when my dear cousins had a gathering a few days after my birthday, and chose to celebrate my birthday then, and give me these luscious looking (words carefully chosen, “looking” not “tasting”) very special chocolate treats. Boy did my saboteur come alive. “Surely, since they were given to you for your birthday, you must be allowed to eat them.” “What is one little chocolate? You had plenty on your birthday and didn’t die.” Oh, it was excruciating!!! But I won out. And offered the chocolates up as a communal consumable at someone else’s birthday.

And then, again, me being me, I wanted to celebrate my success and reward myself for a year clean. And because holidays are such a hard time to be sugar free, and because I now knew that using the First of the Year to clean up worked for me. I decided to give myself the 10 Days of Sugar. Starting on Solstice, Dec 21, I was back to letting myself eat what I wanted. Here is the interesting thing that happened. I did eat lots of sugar, don’t get me wrong, but I was only interested in good quality sugar. It was not sugar for sugar sake; it was about the whole experience. Which felt quite good. It got to the point where I just wanted the rum balls of my cousin’s recipe that I had made for the season. By the time Dec 31 rolled around, my last day, I was back to being used to sugar, my body had adjusted, and so when the clock struck midnight, I did need to detoxify again, but it is worth it. Just so that I didn’t feel deprived. And, so far in 2006 I have been sugar free. At some times of year, like Easter, it is hard, but I pump up the self-care on those dates, and find other ways to treat myself.

At first I did it because I had to, now I do it because I want to, because it is the right choice, because it is good for me. And I am glad that I do.


At 4:20 PM PDT, Anonymous emira said...

Signy, the first time I did a no sugar cleanse it was funny (in hindsight). I was giving up so many things as I was cleansing and all, but sugar was the one that haunted me. I saw sugar everywhere I looked. I started fantasizing about sugar, thinking about things like donuts. Donuts? I never eat donuts normally, but boy oh boy did I want them. Bad.

Anyway, sugar continues to be my weakness (I'm much like mads and her cookies) though I've been on the fringes of my mind thinking about letting it go. For me it's all about having other treats available at the ready so I don't crumble: homemade granola bars, rice cakes and almond butter etc.

At 4:28 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Well, stay tuned/check out my other postings, for some excellent suggestions on some snacks to have on hand. And speaking of hand, if you need me to hold yours going through it, I am more than happy to. I will even wear the magic mittens, if that helps.

At 6:19 PM PDT, Anonymous emira said...

Magic mittens! I just might take you up on that. You know, funnily enough I actually found your "one day at a time" thought quite a good framework. I know it isn't new, but still. I was just in line at the grocery store and for some reason, because I've got this on the brain, suddenly all the junk looks so tasty! I don't usually ever buy or eat it, but it suddenly becomes so compelling while you're there. Anyway. I had a little conversation with myself saying: "Just for today I'll say no" and that was way more manageable a thought than: "No! Never!"

At 8:16 PM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Wow, I can so relate! In my pre-diabetic days I loved candy and cookies and ate a lot of sweets. Then, at 13, they made me weigh each slice of bread and if it was over 30 grams, they slicd a bit off. Wrong approach for that age! Just made me want to rebel and cheat on my diet. I still crave sweet things but I have more control now, except when the monthly hormones overtake and rule me! The bottom line for me is that I have to do a blood sugar test every 2 or 3 hours even through the night to see where I'm at. If I'm too low, I need and must eat some fruit or carb and I can't seem to get enough of it. If I'm too high, I do another injection. It sometimes just bounces back and forth. A constant battle! What I'd do for a real pancreas!

At 8:09 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Emira, yeah, one day at a time has saved my life a fair number of times. And sugar is no exception! Say the word the I will bring out the magic!

Ruth, the body is such a delicate instrument, yes? For some of us no messing around. I guess others struggle in different areas.

At 9:44 AM PDT, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Yes, but it seems that some (like you and I) have sure had our fair share already. I nudge myself constantly to count my blessings and be grateful, as well as be truly happy for and totally unresentul or envious toeards those who don't struggle.

At 9:59 AM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Hmmm, they struggle in other ways. Frankly, I am grateful for which challenge I had.

At 6:50 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 12:37 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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