Sugar Math

It’s been six months since I decided to quit sugar and wheat and get my health back. I’m still at it and while I have not lost significant weight, just bloat, the most obvious signs of digestive distress are gone. Eliminating wheat has been a game-changer for me as far as how my body functions. That’s why I’m not often tempted by pasta, bread, cereal or other processed foods containing wheat. P.S. All processed foods contain wheat.

In “I Quit Sugar” Sarah Wilson admits to eating an occasional gluten free muffin or other low-sugar treat, and I admit to adding Saltine crackers to my homemade vegetable soup. The first ingredient on the Saltine box is “wheat” but I had a cold, then a cough, then bronchitis, for most of the month of October. So I needed soup. The first week we had vegetable soup and the second week, chicken noodle. A main ingredient of chicken noodle soup is pasta and sick as I was, I could not make myself omit the pasta.

I was too tired to fight with my better self, the one who thinks before she eats. There was not a lot of meal planning (or grocery shopping) going on in October. Whatever was easy, and could be made out of stuff in the pantry, I was eating. I wasn’t that hungry anyway, so the added wheat didn’t have much of an immediate negative effect.

I don’t know how to say this next part. Okay, here it is. When I’m ill, I go to a place where I want to be taken care of. I feel sorry for myself and I’m all I’ve got. So, like an indulgent parent, I soothe myself with sugar. Especially ice cream because it also soothes my sore throat. In October, I ate a lot of ice cream. Also chocolate and scones plus donuts. And apple cider. Because those are the “groceries” I could pick up at the drug store when I was buying another bottle of cough syrup.

Sarah addresses lapses in “I Quit Sugar.” They happen. We’re human. To her, a lapse means she’ll eat a gluten-free muffin or a chocolate chip cookie and in the moment she’ll check out how she feels. Does the cookie make her feel better? How does it taste compared to how she imagined it would? That’s Sarah. Now me. I will eat the cookie and of course I don’t feel better, because I have bronchitis, so I eat another and another and eventually the package is gone.

**When I’m not sick, I don’t eat sugar at home. If I am at a friend’s house, like my book club lunch or my writer’s breakfast, I eat dessert. At restaurants, I order salad or eggs. Sometimes I’ll get a burger and not eat the bun. I don’t even LIKE buns anymore. But this is the strong not-sick me. In the past few days I’ve been getting back to her.

It’s a bit of a misnomer about quitting sugar. Sarah did the research on how much sugar is absolutely OK to eat in a day. There’s a magic sugar number, and for women it is 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 26 grams. Men get 9 teaspoons (36 grams) and kids go just a bit higher. I probably got that much in my cough medicine, but I was too sick to check labels.

Now I’m back to checking labels, or, easier for me, just saying no to sweets, wheat and packaged foods. But I’ve been craving pumpkin, which has minimal sugar, 2 grams in a half cup, so I googled around for pumpkin recipes with no wheat or sugar. Found a few and made pumpkin-buckwheat pancakes yesterday. Recipe made 12 pancakes and I froze the leftovers because when you cook everything from scratch, batch cooking will save your life. When I got sick I had veggie soup batch-cooked and frozen waiting for me!

I can kind of tell how much added sugar is in foods I use now, but just to double check myself, I went through everything I put into those pancakes, and on them when I served myself, and added up the sugars in my meal. Came out to 25 grams of sugar, and that includes a bit of whipped cream on the pancake stack <1 gram, the sugar in the canned pumpkin <1 gram, the sugar in my syrup (22 grams, I use brown rice syrup, about half the natural sugars as that in maple syrup), and coconut creamer (1 gram) in my coffee. That’s it. Almost my at my sugar limit for today. Which is fine. I have a big salad, veggie burger, spaghetti squash, tomatoes and ground turkey on the menu for lunch and dinner. All that 0 grams of added sugar.

I admit, I feel good. (Part of that is just being so overjoyed to feel normal again). I’ll also admit, I’m scared. The holiday food season is upon us and I have a doctor’s appointment in December to check my sugar levels. I’ve had six months to lower my A1c. Can I keep off sugar (or stick to 6 tsp per day) until then? Or will sickness and the season spoil my success?

If you have any tips for eating sensibly during the holidays, I would love to hear them. Email me or drop a comment below. Thanks!


  1. Sometimes I eat before I go to an event and then only have safe snacks, like fresh veggies, while I’m there. Another strategy that sometimes works for me (especially if I mention this aloud to someone I’m with), is to set a number limit…like three cookies, for example. It’s a mind game, but if it works, then I don’t feel so much like I’m denying myself of all the treats:)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I hope you feel better soon.

    I have lapses in my sugar-free diet, too. That seems to be pretty common. But I’m learning how bad sugar makes me feel and trying to make other choices when I’m sick or had a terrible day. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The wheat is easy for me as I felt so much better immediately. Sugar is harder in that I really don’t feel any immediate negative effects. I have to use my mind to reason with the “no sugar” thing. And my mind can be pretty unreasonable! Stevia is natural, it’s a plant, so I wouldn’t worry about that. Our bodies were designed to take in 6-9 teaspoons of natural sugar a day. It’s a balancing act and so easy to go over that amount without even realizing it. I feel so much better knowing there are others out there fighting the sugar beast with me 😁

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I will try to remember to RT it on Twitter every day. And buy it. And read it. And write a review. Right now I am so deep into christmas novels I can’t read anything else. But I can RT. And I can buy the book and keep it in my TRB pile until I’m fed up with Christmas novels. xo

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I bought it and tweeted it. That’s a start. I see its on KU and I did that first but I went back and purchased it too. I’m not sure which is better for you. I know with KU you get paid by how much people read of the book. I think an outright purchase will get you cash. Anyway, it’s a very good price. I am going to have way more free time after I finish my own book (deadline 12/24/19). I’ve read your books before and know they’re good. I know I write mystery but I have mega anxiety so sometimes I can’t read mystery if they are too bloody or if children or animals are in danger. I even had to stop writing Lily White in Detroit as it was really freaking me out!! I took a break and wrote a short fun cozy. Then I finished LW. I avoid horror even though some of my best friends write it because I am a scardy cat. 🙂

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  3. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    As far as I’m concerned, sugar is poison. It seems to have inveigled itself into most things we eat, making us tired (due to Insulin having to be released from the pancreas to combat high blood sugar), and causing the blood to become acidic, therefore calcium to be leached from the bones to neutralise the blood. If too much calcium is taken over time, then bones may become brittle. Avoid sugar for one whole month and then try to eat something sugary… yuck! You won’t want to eat another sweet thing ever again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for RB Stevie. I agree sugar is so addictive. It’s seductive. I was just reading about heroin addiction. From the outside the addict looks pitiful, in the grip of this horrible addiction. But inside, they love it more than life. Ok maybe it’s a stretch…but I do feel sugar has that kind of power. I’ve found if I can stay away for 3 days, I don’t crave it anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, this works because the sugar receptors in the brain die away if you don’t eat sugary foods. The more sugar you eat, the more receptors form in the brain, and the more sugar you need. It’s a vicious circle that can only be broken by going ‘cold turkey’ and giving up eating sugar. Side effects are probably headaches for a few days, but it’s better for the body in the long run to give it up.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Stevie, I do see that in my life. When I’m deep into the sugar, I just want more and more. And I know it and recognize it and I do pull myself back out of it, eventually. I would like to get to where I just don’t want it, not even a little bit. I feel like I’m getting there. My husband is a good influence on me. He can take it or leave it. I guess that’s true for you, too? I so admire that.


  4. Well done, Cindy! LIke Stevie Turner said, it’s so hard because it’s in EVERYTHNG. Mum used to have a book called ‘Pure White and deadly’ back in the 1970s, before everyone really understood – she was fanatical about not letting us have too much. I agree with what Stevie said, about having less – and it’s like alcohol; the less you have, the less you want.

    Most of all, don’t use sweeteners instead, or food with them in. They’re even worse; they make the brain think it’s having sugar, so the pancreas releases insulin to counteract it. Insulin makes you fat. I know this, from Type 1 diabetics in my family, who’ve explained to me why they don’t eat much but are still overweight.

    btw, I am not preaching at you, because I eat too much sugar too, and need to lose weight. As for food over the festive season, it’s down to willpower, I’m afraid. Just remember how good you will feel if you indulge only moderately – and how bad you will feel if you pig out! And also this: if it’s not in your house, you won’t eat it. The time to be strong is in the shop!

    Liked by 1 person

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