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!