Day 64: A Slippery Slope

Reader, we have been treading a dangerous path.

It always starts with the eating out. Sometimes we eat out from necessity, and sometimes we just like to. And this is where the danger lies.

We took a trip to Tennessee and did some hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a few days over my spring break, which was extremely lovely. The weather was warm(er), our cabin was amazing, and the quiet was perfect. When I booked the cabin, I was delighted to see that they had full kitchens. “Great!” I thought, “We can stick to our no-sugar diet while on vacation, and save some money, too!”
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Our lovely little cabin.

I had it all planned out. I had a lovely mushroom, goat cheese, and herb frittata planned for breakfast which we would eat for two mornings. Dan was going to cook us some steaks with baked potatoes and asparagus for a fancy dinner, and we’d packed stuff to make for lunches out on the trail. We did expect to get dinner somewhere in town when we got in Monday night, and Dan wanted to get barbecue in Lexington, Kentucky on our way home.

I got a confirmation email the day before which said “Not all cabins have full kitchens. A few cabins only have a microwave and refrigerator.” It was too late to call in the evening by the time I got home from work, and we were leaving too early the next day to call, too. I crossed my fingers and hoped that our cabin had a full kitchen.

It didn’t. Of course. We packed up a cooler full of steaks and eggs that we couldn’t use. C’est la vive. They came home with us. Thankfully we had the fridge, at least.

That meant that we ate dinner out Monday night, breakfast out Tuesday morning, then dinner again Tuesday night, and still stopped in Lexington for barbecue. Delicious, forbidden barbecue.

I was glad that I had thought to pack a grapefruit to share and some of our plain Greek yogurt, at least. That meant that we only went out for breakfast one morning, and the second morning before a short hike we each had half the grapefruit, a hardboiled egg, and some yogurt, though even the yogurt was cheating because they had left some delicious homemade granola for us to enjoy. Still, I didn’t want us to be hungry. It was necessary.

Luckily, our lunches were still fine, and I was even so excited because I had gone to Whole Foods and found a turkey breast brand without sugar! (Thanks for the tip, Manuela!) We had turkey sandwiches! It was amazing! And Dan even found cheese snack crackers without sugar, which we have declared a long and abiding love for. I think they’re even better than Cheez-its. And of course the usual fruit, pickles, etc.

But it was so frustrating to have planned out a sugar-free trip and then had to eat out so much and have no control over the sugar content. And of course I couldn’t deprive Dan of real barbecue on our trip south, and he had researched which place he wanted to try and everything, so even though we had been cheating, we chose to make it official and eat delicious barbecue which is always coated in sugar.
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Red State BBQ. Best ribs I’ve had in my life.

The worst part was that we had planned on having our February sugary treat on our mini-vacation, and we didn’t end up eating anywhere ever where we wanted dessert. So, even though we had been cheating thoroughly for the better part of a week, including sugary barbecue, not just general “out,” we came home and while I dragged Dan all over town looking for old windows for a project, we ate out again for lunch. And I felt really guilty first about eating out again, and I didn’t feel like we had been “good enough” to deserve dessert. But I caved and we got dessert.

Don’t worry, I think I paid for my guilt.

We had both been craving a brownie sundae with ice cream and hot fudge. I am lactose intolerant, but I can usually handle a small scoop of ice cream without too much difficulty. Of course, being at the fancy schmancy locally-sourced, crunchy granola place we were, their brownie sundae came with salted caramel gelato instead of ice cream, and real whipped cream instead of the fake stuff.
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There’s a brownie under there, I swear.

I realized in the car on the way home that it had been good, but it hadn’t been what I wanted. I was unsatisfied with my once-a-month treat. And since it was gelato instead of ice cream (I only ate half the scoop!), and real whipped cream, my stomach was at least kind enough to wait to express its extreme displeasure until we got home.

So, overall, a very disappointing once-a-month treat. Sad. It’s ok, I didn’t deserve the treat, anyway.

Like the title of this post implies, all this eating out and sneaky sugar that we have been allowing is a slippery slope! We’re slowly falling off the bandwagon. I sneaked a bite of potato salad at work the other day, even though, duh, it has mayonnaise which has sugar. No more!

This means we are strengthening our resolve and have made it a rule that we are not allowed to eat out until March 14 when we are attending a symphony (we’re so fancy) with my parents. And then after that, only when necessary again. Gosh darn it.

Another thing that has been bothering me is that about halfway through February I weighed myself, expecting to have lost maybe two or three pounds. Instead, I had gained two or three pounds. Not that I’m doing this for weight loss, but I certainly didn’t expect to gain any more weight. It was really disappointing and made me flounder a bit. It also forced me to come to terms with the fact that it’s not my diet that is the problem, it’s my sedentary lifestyle. I sit at a desk all day at work, and I sit at a desk all day at school, and I sit at home all the time to do homework, and then we sit and watch movies to unwind. I know I should be more active, but I hate working out to an extreme. And it always feels like I don’t have the time or energy, and it’s dark when I get home and I don’t want to leave my house. And I know I should make this resolution now, but for all the reasons above, I am waiting until graduation, and then I intend to go out and be active everyday, whether it’s a walk or a hike or throwing a football or biking somewhere. I just hate artificial exercise, i.e., going to the gym. And I am really excited about being more active!
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Maybe if I had some mountains nearby I’d be more inclined (pun intended) to be active.

Still, I have to remind myself that the benefits of doing this are more than just about slimming down! It’s worthwhile even if I’m still gaining weight.

Other than this past week, the challenge has been going generally well. I’ve still been making our bread roughly every week or two and am still tweaking the recipe. It turns out better every time. Oddly enough, I still miss jam the most out of everything. Dry toast, bleh. We picked up some “no sugar added” apple butter on our trip. Its only ingredients are apples and spices, which seems like it’s not cheating, but somehow I still feel like maybe it is. Maybe the apples are so cooked down that all that remains is just sugar, and it’s cheating the same way that fruit juice is cheating. …But my toast.

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Day 43: Smoothing Out the Bumps

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted for two reasons:

The first reason is that I’ve been busy and am bad at keeping up with things (see: it’s been nearly 7 months since my wedding and I am still working on Thank You cards. Sorry, everyone who attended my wedding and/or gave us gifts. We really do appreciate them!).

The second reason is that it seems like I pretty much just have more of the same thing to say. We ate out a few times, tried to make good choices and probably failed, but damnit, we’re thinking about it.

Sadly, I never got to make the cornbread I mentioned in my last post because we ended up getting a massive snowstorm and didn’t get to celebrate my sister’s birthday with her. That also meant that we didn’t get our promised cheesecake for our monthly treat. We waited a few days and hemmed and hawed over what we should have as our treat. Should we bake a cake, or cookies or something? But then we can only eat it one day, what do we do with the rest of it? We finally decided, since we were running out of time and didn’t want to lose our dessert (we decided we needed to do it within the first week of the new month), to go to Whole Foods bakery section. We each picked out a piece of cake, which turned out to be nice and we didn’t have to have the same thing. Also, their pieces of cake are enormous. For some reason, I had been craving carrot cake for a while, which is unusual since I never find myself craving that. It’s delicious, but it seems to get lost in the cake choices. So I picked out a piece of delicious-looking carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and Dan picked out a piece of chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and raspberry filling (a lot like our wedding cake that neither of us got to try!).
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Yummmm

That cake was so good, I swear. I tried Dan’s but mine really hit the spot. By the time we each were halfway through the cake, we both didn’t think we could finish, but of course we did. It was delicious. And then we both thought we might be sick. I even left most of my frosting because it was just way too much.

Neither of us were sick, but we still didn’t feel so hot. And the funny thing was that after that, although I had stopped craving dessert after every dinner a few weeks before, I really wanted sweet again for days! Addictive, indeed. I find that when faced with desserts or sweets now, I’m pretty easily able to turn them down without too much grief, and I even wondered before our January treat if I even really wanted it. It might be easier to avoid it all together. But it is nice to say that we’ve been good.

What else?

People keep approaching me and telling me that they’ve been following my blog, which always surprises me and is super nice! Thanks, y’all! And lots of people send relevant news articles and recipes my way, too, which has been really neat.

After my last attempt at baking bread, I have tried again, and I adapted the previous “mix and dump” recipe to something I think is a little more like a normal recipe, but still very easy. After mixing all my ingredients together, I let them rest for ten minutes, then I knead the dough with the bread hook for a few minutes until it’s smooth. Then I divide and let rise in the pans. It turned out a lot better than my first attempt. Less dense, though still not exactly the kind of fluffy we’ve come to expect from bread these days. I was questioning recently how people used to make bread, since they didn’t have easy access to sugar, and I know that the sugar helps the yeast to rise. I was reminded that our current bread is a lot different than what bread used to be. Fascinating. Chemistry. Science.

I did, however, manage to make some delicious muffins! It was my first attempt at something that normally has sugar in it, and they turned out well! I slightly adapted this recipe for carrot applesauce muffins by just subbing out the half cup of honey for half a banana. I also added a cup of frozen blueberries, which was an awesome idea, go me. I think I’ll try it a few different ways, too, with maybe walnuts or chopped dates added in. It’s a good muffin base, and I was worried that the banana flavor would be too strong, but with just half a banana I couldn’t really taste it. These weren’t as sticky and cakey as many muffins are, which I liked. I could see how they would benefit from the honey, but it wasn’t necessary. They were a super awesome treat last weekend. I think I could also pretty easily make banana nut muffins, and I might try that soon, too.
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This one is actually from a second batch I made yesterday. Same recipe though.

We’ve been getting adventurous, less out of craving for sweet and more just to satisfy curiosity. Like I said, people keep sending us recipes, so we’ve tried a few different “ice creams” now. The first was suggested as a “classic vegan” substitute by a friend. We blended up two bananas, some walnuts, four dates, some cocoa powder, vanilla, and almond milk and it made chocolate banana ice cream! It was pretty amazing, even if Dan did mistake the red food coloring for vanilla and added that in, too. (The man does not read labels. He used breakfast sausage in a shepherd’s pie recently. No major disasters so far, but just funny.)
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It looks gross but I promise it was good. The red food dye doesn’t help.

I found a recipe for mango ice cream on Pinterest, too, in which the only ingredients were frozen mangoes and heavy whipping cream blended together in the food processor. Unfortunately, I decided that since it was super easy, I wasn’t going to consult the recipe and would just add in cream until it looked creamy (hey, it seemed reasonable). It turned out to be barely mango flavored, since I had added too much cream, and so we added some frozen banana, too, which overpowered the mango. We were a bit sad. It was pretty good, but not what we wanted. We’ll try it again another time, probably. I also am lactose intolerant, and I was scared that it would make me sick. It fortunately did not, but my stomach did growl loudly in protest.
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This one was actually less delicious than it looks!

Also, I have been missing orange juice for a while now. So one morning I was thinking of how they would make us juice at our resort in Costa Rica (Tambor Tropical, and I highly recommend them), and how with the continental breakfast, juice was included. But you would ask for an orange juice, and they would cut up some oranges and blend them with ice right there for you! It was amazing, and it fits within our parameters. So I did just that, I cut off the orange peel from some oranges and threw them in the blender with some ice and voila! We had juice! It was wonderful.
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Mmmm

People have started asking me if I feel any different, and the answer is “not really,” though when I stop to think about it, I guess I have noticed a few things. Remember how I said that I am normally hungry about 80% of the time? That’s dropped way down. I feel like a normal person now regarding how often I’m hungry, for the most part. So that has been nice, and is unexpected. I guess I also feel like my energy is more consistent throughout the day. I find that I don’t have the energy dips or crashes like I used to. So I guess, yeah, I do feel a bit better. Am I losing any weight? Well, I don’t really know, since we don’t have a working scale. If I had to guess, maybe a few pounds, but nothing particularly noticeable. I think my cheeks are slightly less chubby, and I feel like my love handles are slimming a little. But that could just be because I want to see that, so I do.

I think that’s all for now, folks!

Day 29: A Whole Month in the Books

Folks, it has (very nearly) been a whole month since we started this foolhardy endeavor!

And, unlike last week, I think we managed to do pretty well this time. Nothing particularly major to report, although I did falter once.

I’ll admit, it was peer pressure and I got scared. I have this great class that stretches across the campus, so we have undergrads in class with us, and three other students from my school. However, these are not the librarians that I know, they are tech people that I haven’t met (until now, our very last semester. Interdisciplinary, indeed.). After class, the three tech students from my school have been going to the previously mentioned beer bar, Ashley’s, and they invited me last week but Dan and I already had plans to go out to dinner. But they invited me again this week, and especially since we got out of class early, I accepted. And I got too scared to be that asshole who orders wine at a beer bar. I chickened out. I didn’t want to be the weirdo girl. First one ordered, then another, then me. And I ordered a beer. And then the last one ordered. And what did she order? Wine at the beer bar. GAH. I’m an idiot who shouldn’t have let her convictions down just to impress some people who don’t care what I order! However, I can’t say I’m sorry. It was a really, really good beer! (Short’s Papa Burgundy, if you must know) I am a bit sorry though that I got suckered into eating delicious soft pretzels and cheese curds, though. In any case, this is apparently a regular thing that is going to happen after class, and I had a good time talking with my peers who I never see, so I will continue to go. But next time I won’t worry about what they’ll think of me if I order a wine. Even though the wine is really sub-par, especially in comparison to the beer selection.

Dan declared when I got home that if I got to have a beer, then he gets to have one, too, which I think is fair. Especially since we are going with a friend of mine and her boyfriend tomorrow to the UofM vs. MSU hockey game at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit! What’s a hockey game without a beer? (College hockey, actually…)

Other than my beer incident, the week has been pretty challenge-free. I also didn’t do anything of particular sugar-free note. Ate food as usual. Did not go grocery shopping since we ate out so much last week that we actually had food to last us a while this week.

However, Dan has been being a kind grandson ever since his grandfather’s heart attack back in November and going up about once a week to take his grandparents to their doctor’s appointments and go grocery shopping for them. Of course, they always want him to stay for dinner, especially since when they are on their own they do a lot of frozen meals, so when he comes up they can eat a real, homemade meal because they tell him what they want and he cooks it. But poor Dan, he texted me yesterday that he can’t eat anything at his grandparents’ house. They reportedly made hamburgers, which he ate without condiments (such dedication. He could have had mustard! I wonder if he did.), but he decided to eat the bun. But then he apparently thought the bun was way too sweet and cake-like, so the second burger he just ate by itself! Poor guy. They probably had baked beans, too, which are off-limits. He keeps telling me that his grandmother is not supportive of this, and offers him pie always (why do they always have pie?), and gives him offended looks when he won’t eat something. This might be understandable, except she is always going on about his belly. One or the other, please!

Sunday is my sister’s twelfth birthday, and we are going up to my parents’ house to celebrate with her. My mom is reportedly making chili and cheesecake at Chloe’s request. And my mom has asked me to make johnny cake since we have a cast iron skillet! Now, I am a true northerner and prefer a sweet cornbread. I’ve actually avoided making cornbread on a few occasions already for this reason. But, even after I made sure to tell her that it would be unsweetened if I made it, she insisted, so make it I shall! No time like the present to get used to a “real” cornbread, anyway. I intend to at least mix in some corn as a natural sweetener. As for the cheesecake? Perfect timing. Dan and I will get to enjoy our once a month dessert! And we are looking forward to it. Treat yoself! We may feel quite ill afterwards. I’ll let you know.

Yay short post!

Day 24: Ins and Outs

I feel like so many things have happened in No Sugarland!

TL;DR: Existing beyond our own home-cooked bubble is extremely difficult and we assuredly ate sugar. Also, I baked my own breads.

1. The day after my last blog post, we went to the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. First of all, the car show is amazing, even if you aren’t all that interested in cars. It’s all very shiny and you get to sit in the seats of car that you will never, ever buy. Or in the seats of cars you might one day buy! Second of all, for some reason, the entire showroom smelled like cinnamon roasted almonds. …Are you kidding me? Cinnamon roasted almonds? For four hours, inescapable!? It was a special kind of torture. And then we actually had to leave the Toyota section because it smelled like baking brownies for some reason. Torture, I tell you.

And of course, after hours of wandering through crowds of people and shiny cars, we were hungry, and there was still more to see. We ventured to the eatery. At first it looked like we would have to settle for what was likely to have the least sugar in it, out of what seemed to be a choice of sandwiches, burgers, or pizza. But then, magically, and because this is Detroit, there was also Polish food! Happy day! We got sauerkraut and kielbasa and felt reasonably comfortable that there wasn’t any (possibly a smidge) sugar in these items. Phew! And we still even managed to avoid the damn cinnamon almonds.
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Om nom nom! Delicious Polish food served at an exhibit hall cafeteria!

2. We went grocery shopping that afternoon, and instead of buying bread, I decided to give baking it myself a try. We still spent an outrageous amount of money at the grocery store, and trials include pondering if carrot juice in beef broth counts as fruit juice (we needed the broth, and decided that no it does not). It seems like we are at $125-$180 per week in groceries between just the two of us. I can’t imagine doing this for a family, and honestly I’m not sure how well we will be able to continue. There is definitely something to be said for growing your own food. Too bad it’s winter, and we live in an apartment. I wasn’t able to find any pita bread in the store that didn’t have sugar in it, though I swear I checked another time and did find some. Frustrating. I needed it for our dinner that night, which was to be a delicious minted turkey burger with tzatziki sauce.

So I went home and took a look through a book I had checked out of the library called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. It’s a book I’ve checked out a few times now, and the author decided to try to make things at home that are typically store-bought. She rates them whether to buy or make based on how delicious they were, the cost-comparison, and hassle to make. I was pretty happy to find that she had a recipe for pita bread in there! And she even recommended making them over buying them, hooray! So that afternoon, I baked like a maniac. I’m pretty sure that I would have been happy as a baker. Actually, I thought about going to pastry school as a high school senior, and when they told me it was $40,000 for the one year program, I quickly dismissed it. Joke’s on me, because 8 years later I have nearly $60,000 more than that in student debt for becoming a librarian. Hilarious. *Weeps*

…Anyway… I didn’t have a baking stone like the recipe said for the pita bread, and it did call for a tablespoon of sugar or so, but I of course omitted that. However, I did have a cast iron skillet, which I thought could play the role of a baking stone well enough. I adjusted the temperature of the oven from her recommended 550F to 400F because of the difference in surfaces, and figured, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But it did work! It was amazing! I rolled my dough out too thin, because she recommends dividing the dough into 16 pieces (she also uses instant yeast and I only had the regular dry active yeast, so that could be the problem) and then rolling them out to a quarter inch thickness and 6 inches in diameter. Yeah, no. Mine were practically paper thin to get them even to four inches diameter. Next time I’ll just divide the dough into 8 pieces. Or get instant yeast.

I got the cast iron skillet up to temp, and dropped my first little pita pancake onto the surface and within a minute, POOF! It puffed up like magic!!! It was amazing. The recipe said to cook them for 8 minutes, so I did for the first one but decided it was too long. The pita didn’t burn, but it was quite crisp, and I wanted a soft pillowy pita. I had a feeling that I could have just pulled them out after about 2 minutes, but this being my first time making such things I didn’t want to mess anything up. I gradually decreased the time by a minute for each pita, and lined them up 5th-grade-science-fair style on my cooling rack. i only made 8 of the 16 because I got really hungry, so I only made it down to the 3 minute mark (2 didn’t inflate, so I wanted a more perfect sample), but I remain convinced that I could pull them off pretty much right after they poof. I froze the remaining pita dough, so I will give it a try another time. Maybe I will smush them back together and make them the proper thickness. I can’t find Jennifer Reese’s pita bread recipe online, but I found one from the New York Times that is pretty similar if you’re so inclined.
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Poof!
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They make for a good sandwich, too.

I also made the bread from the same book with some success though I think it still needs tampering with. Again, she called for instant yeast, and I only had active dry yeast. Her bread recipe was super easy, very much a dump and stir recipe, which is unheard of for bread. She basically says dump everything together and mix it all up, then transfer to the loaf pans and let rise in the pans for 2 hours, then bake. No kneading, no double rise… I was pretty skeptical. It did work, but again, I think it would have worked better if I had instant yeast. It’s good bread, though much heartier than I’m used to and can only eat one piece of toast with my eggs, and I’m tempted to eat only open-faced sandwiches on it because two pieces are just too much. I’ll have to keep playing. No bread this weekend, though, because I’m working all weekend. Bummer.
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Extra hearty.

3. Tuesday Dan got a haircut and he even had lunch with some former co-workers, so he was looking very handsome with his neat new hair and nice shirt, and I was looking nice for my class, and we decided that we looked too nice to just come home from class and make dinner and watch Netflix as per usual. We wanted to go out! Now, Dan and I really like to go out to eat. And we live in a city with a large variety of delicious restaurants. Many of them are way out of our price-range, and we could never eat there. EXCEPT because it’s also a big college town, twice a year there is “restaurant week,” wherein lots of the area restaurants create special menus for a special price. You can get lunch for $15, or a three-course dinner for $28. We decided that we wanted to try Pacific Rim, an Asian-fusion style restaurant widely reputed to be the best in Ann Arbor, and way out of our price range. Helping in our decision was the fact that dessert was not one of the offered courses, and instead was replaced by a soup or salad. Perfect.

We tried to stick to what we thought would be least likely to have sugar, but knew that there would be at least some in various things. So I’m not going to tell you all the things I ate because no one cares about that, but I will say that there were candied pecans in my salad (“These pecans are extra delicious! Oh.”), and even though a balsamic vinaigrette is healthy as far as salad dressings go, balsamic vinegar has sugar. And I know there was sugar in the delicious chili-lime sauce for my spring rolls, and there very well could have been sugar in sauce for my fish and vegetables. It’s unavoidable.

But Dan and I talked, and we sort of feel that we would almost rather have a “restaurant night” than our sugary dessert once a month. We may add it as a second exception, but it feels defeatist to me. So many exceptions. Still, we both tried to keep our sugar intake way down.

4. Because I am a super nerd and liked one of my classes from last semester so much, a friend of mine and I organized a get-together of our former classmates at the local beer emporium. This bar has probably 100 beers on tap, and 500 beers bottled. And guess what I can’t drink. So now I’m that asshole who orders wine (one of six offered) at a beer bar. Grad school without beer is socially difficult. Not that anyone ever throws wild keggers or anything, but it’s a very regular thing to grab a beer after class.

5. So after breaking the eating-out ice earlier in the week, we apparently decided to do it again. I had a staff meeting at 8:30am, and then didn’t work until 2pm yesterday, and didn’t want to drive home and then come back, as it’s about a 20 minute drive on the expressway. Instead, Dan came out to meet me after my meeting, and we picked a cute new restaurant that only serves breakfast and lunch that I’ve been wanting to try. We figured we were pretty safe with omelets, but I was suspicious about the toast. I’m getting braver, and so when the waitress asked us what kind of toast we wanted, I told her we were doing this crazy thing where we aren’t eating sugar. She gave a hearty belly laugh. But then, of course, she said she’d check the bread for us, and that it’s made at a local bakery. Sadly, yes it did, though we both got the Jewish rye which supposedly had just the tiniest amount. Dan is of the opinion that if he’s eating out, he’s not going to not eat the toast just because of our silly experiment. I nibbled on mine, too, though we both lamented being unable to eat the fancy jams they brought with the toast. All the more reason we should not eat out.

6. And yet, Friday night came, and some friends of ours drove the hour and a half drive to pick up a futon we were getting rid of. We didn’t have enough of what we were going to make for us to feed everyone, so we went out. This time we picked a restaurant that Dan loves, Tomukun, a Korean barbecue where you cook your own meat on a grill at the table. It’s a fun experience where we like to take visitors. On the sugar scale, it’s certainly not as bad as it could be. Mostly, the meats are unseasoned, but I am dead sure that the spicy pork has sugar in the marinade, since it gets deliciously caramelized bits on it, and I’m pretty sure that the chicken probably had some sugar in that marinade, too. The meal also comes with unlimited sides of mostly pickled vegetables and kimchis, which I’m also sure have sugar. Sigh. We didn’t even really try, this time. We threw caution to the wind and just went with it. It’s been less than a month and I feel like we’re generally failing. We’ll do better. We really just need to stop eating out.

7. And of course, in the vein of needing to stop eating out, last night we had a bit of a girl’s night out. We had originally made plans to go to a dance show in town, and naturally that extended to dinner before the show, too. We got all gussied up (I realized I’m 25 and I don’t own anything sexy. I’m a librarian, through and through.) and went out. We went to a barbecue place for dinner, which barbecue is definitely off-limits, but the options were somewhat limited. I got the chicken which had been smoked, and after asking the waitress about the contents of the cajun seasoning, decided to avoid it. She did ask if I had a sugar allergy or if I was just on a diet. I told her I was just doing a weird social experiment. But for real. This week was super heavy on the eating out, and we really need to get back to normal again.

8. Speaking of barbecue, though, Dan successfully made really good barbecue ribs last week without sugar! We didn’t have any sauce, but he did a dry Memphis-style rub, and to be honest I really liked them and didn’t think they even needed sauce. Yay small victories! Dan loves barbecue more than anything, and so this whole no-barbecue thing was already starting to get to him.

9. I’ve discovered that Dan and I have reversed motivations for doing this year-long experiment. I am doing this to discover just how difficult it really is to avoid sugar and how ubiquitous it is in absolutely everything and to see if I feel generally feel different without sugar in all of my meals. I also hope to change how much I actually want to eat sweets, and how my taste buds register sweet. Dan is doing this with the hope that by cutting out sugar, he will lose weight. This means that Dan is actually less strict about it than I am, and doesn’t see the harm in eating the toast with his omelet when we eat out. We still haven’t splurged on dessert ever, which is actually somewhat impressive, but I think I’m personally less concerned with dessert, where I know sugar belongs, and more concerned with my food, where I just want food and not sugar.

8. However! I pulled out the frozen applesauce I had made back in October, and like I’ve said, I’ve been conscious of the whole added sugar thing for a long while (years) now, so I never make my applesauce with added sugar. It’s safe for us to eat, and I thought it would make a nice treat for us one night. We warmed up two small bowls, and expected to enjoy some yummy homemade applesauce by the fire. Man was it sweet!! It was so sweet that I wasn’t sure I could finish my bowl! And we still have more left in the fridge which we haven’t touched again! So this is how I know that we’re at least being somewhat successful.

So, with all those things said, I think this post was entirely too long. I’m not sure if I should make shorter, more frequent posts (which I can’t promise, but could try), or if a longer, weekly post is the way to go. Thoughts?

Day 15: Going Strong

Well, it’s been longer than I would like between posts, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

So far, the no sugar challenge has been going well! I have only creepily asked a friend to eat a donut on my behalf once. Our professor brought donuts and coffee to the first day of class and insisted we all have some. I, of course, cannot eat such things, and honestly donuts are kind of ho hum in my opinion. But I stared at my friend for a few moments, and she noticed and asked immediately if she had a booger. I laughed and said no, and after insisting I check her caves for bats, she still wanted to know why I was looking at her all funny for. “What? What is it?” “I want you to get a donut.” “Oh, you want that we split a donut? What kind of donut?” “No, I can’t eat donuts, remember? I just want you to get one.” She declined. Thankfully we’re pretty good friends at this point and she just laughed and ignored my oddity.

My hungry all the time phase seems to have subsided and now I’m hungry a normal amount (for me, anyway, which is still probably 6 times more hungry than the average bear human)

The only real problem so far has been that our grocery bills seem to have skyrocketed. I’m not sure what that’s about, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s because we’ve been buying a lot more produce than we had been. Instead of buying a bunch of bananas and some grapes, we buy the bananas and grapes, and then add a bag of apples, a box of kiwi, a bag of grapefruit, etc. Plus, we have found that any and all bagged, sliced grocery store bread has sugar in it (I know. I checked. All of them.), so we have been buying bakery bread at the grocery store, which is much more than the regular bread. I know what you’re saying, you’re saying, “Emily, you really should be baking your own bread! It’s dirt cheap, tastes delicious, and doesn’t have sugar!” And you’re right. I should be. But grad school. Dan does most of the cooking this year, and while he tried to bake bread a few times last fall, he was unsuccessful and I don’t think I can convince him to try again. I keep thinking I will summon the will to do it one of these weekends, and I hope that I do.

My biggest, baddest challenge was sometime last week. I had worked the Thursday evening shift with a co-worker, and we had both driven home in perilous snowy conditions. The next morning when I came back to work, there was, I swear, the world’s most beautiful scone sitting in my mailbox! I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I’ll say it again. I have a soft spot for breakfast baked goods. ESPECIALLY scones. This scone was gorgeous. A great big drop scone with crispy crags, and spots of what looked like raspberries peeking out. 1. I didn’t know who left the scone in my mailbox, so that freaked me out a little and 2. OHMYGODPERFECTSCONE. I had a brief, brief moment where I thought to myself, “It has raspberries, maybe the bakery doesn’t use sugar in their scones!” And then a “Get real, Emily!” moment immediately following. I was a bit freaked out about what to do with the world’s most perfect scone in my hand, and I didn’t want to throw it away, of course, but I also didn’t know who gave it to me and therefore did not want to try to give it to someone who might be offended that I didn’t want their (delicious, amazing) gift. Fortunately, when I came upstairs, my co-worker who is in on my plan was at the reference desk and I rushed over to her and was like “My god, someone left me a scone in my mailbox! What do I do!?” and she promptly held out her hand and said “Give it to me! I will take this away from you!” and so I gladly did. Phew. Disaster averted. It turns out that the person who had worked the evening before with me and driven home in the snow thought we deserved a treat for dealing with that. So sweet (pun… intended?). The moral of the story is that I have the world’s nicest co-workers and maybe I should tell more people at work about this plan. But I struggle with that, because I don’t want to be “that person” who has to tell everyone that they’re on whatever diet du jour. Can’t I just live my life without sugar in peace? That remains to be seen.

Then of course that night I came home and we didn’t know what to have for dinner so we ordered food off of GrubHub. Caveat: GrubHub is the world’s most wonderful, terrible invention. Food from any plethora of locations, delivered straight to your door, from one location online. It is dangerous. By December of last year, we had probably taken to ordering from GrubHub weekly. We ordered Mediterranean food, which we thought would be the safest, and really only ordered hummus, pita bread, tabbouli, and some lentil soup. Theoretically these things should not have sugar in them. In any case, worlds did not collapse, and hopefully we did not ingest sugar in our moment of weakness. Dangerous territory.

However. We had dinner at a friend’s house, which was lovely and they very kindly made sure that all the food did not contain sugar for us, and we all skipped dessert. Excellent. But then I forgot that tonic water has a crap-ton of sugar in it. And this group of friends is big into the whole G&T scene. And I had three. On top of my wine from earlier.

The next day was probably the worst I have ever felt in my life. It took me two and a half hours to cook up some oatmeal (which was all I ate pretty much all day). It was awful and I solemnly swear to never do that again ever. So I’m not sure if it was the insane amount of sugar I ingested (32g of sugar per 12oz.) after not eating sugar for two weeks, or if I should just never drink that much ever, but whatever it was, it kicked my butt. So, reader, I admit my failure. In the future, I solemnly swear no G&T’s.

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Sweetened with blueberries and almond slices! Much more delicious than my previous attempt at oatmeal.

But, like I said in the beginning, overall, this has been going well. There are brownies a short walk away, and I’m okay with that. I may have looked at them twice, just to look, and maybe smell, but I haven’t even had to tell myself not to pick one up. And at day 15, I’d say that’s doing pretty well.

Day 6: The Learning Curve

The whole no-sugar thing seems to be going pretty well so far. For the most part, Dan and I make most of our own meals, so dinners have been conscious of sugar but not necessarily any extra challenging. Dan made his super-special chili recipe the other day, and aside from wondering whether tomato juice in canned tomatoes counted as fruit juice, it went without a hitch. Actually, slight hitch. The canned beans at Meijer are all pretty much canned without sugar except for the kidney beans. ?? Kidney beans need sugar to taste good? I don’t know. So we used dried beans instead, which was easy enough because he just added a cup of the dried beans to the crockpot and they softened during cooking. It might have been more challenging if his chili were a stovetop recipe.

We went grocery shopping the other day and bought an insane amount of food, for us at least. Most of it was fresh produce. I learned at Meijer that all lunch meats are off limits. I picked out the most likely to be safe suspect at the deli counter and asked the woman to check for sugar on the back. Go figure, roasted chicken breast with cracked pepper seasoning has sugar. She checked another “all-natural” fancy chicken and that was a no-go. She even said, “Everything is coated in sugar.” Just as I thought. Still, disappointing. Might have to look at Whole Foods or something to see if there is something I can have.

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Way more food than we usually buy. Still, pretty good!

We decided that we were missing dessert, and came up with a plan that seems to work for now, at least. We have regular snacking fruit for throughout the day, whenever. And then we got “dessert fruit,” which is fruit we don’t buy very often, so it’s a little more special and satisfies the urge for something decadent after dinner. So far we have had pineapple and kiwi as our dessert fruit. It works well enough for me, though I’m not sure how well Dan’s brain buys it.

Where I have had noticeable trouble, though, is with feeling hungry all the time. I’m really not sure what it is, but I hope it goes away. I actually think I have been eating more food than usual, but I just feel hungry 100% of the time. Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t struggle with this normally, but at least it’s usually only 80% of the time or so. I think I’m missing that sugar filler. Hopefully that balances out.

We’ve also had a hard time with what to do for lunches. We try to just eat leftover dinners, but sometimes we are out of leftovers, and then I’m not really sure what to eat. I hardboiled some eggs, and we can still eat tuna sandwiches which we make with Greek yogurt and cracked pepper. Still, sometimes I have felt at a loss to figure out what to eat. I’ll have to work on that some more, too.

So far the biggest thing that I miss is jam, which actually surprises me. I didn’t think I ate that much of it, or that it was some kind of favorite something or other. Still, every morning I miss jam and find myself thinking that maybe I can blend up some fruit and cook a bit of tapioca into it or something and spread it on toast. I’m sure I’ll be experimenting soon enough.

We tried to do oatmeal this morning instead of our usual eggs, and that was kind of a flop. Oatmeal is very bland plain, of course (that’s why people put sugar in it, duh), and I tried to spice it up with some cinnamon and pecans, and it looked really yummy, but it was a real struggle to eat my whole bowl. Not super tasty. Still, I have to think that people ate oatmeal for centuries before they had any regular access to sugar. Fruit will clearly be necessary.
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Looks good, though!

I had my biggest challenge so far today. I was out shopping with my mom and needed to get some lunch. But what can I eat when I’m not at home? I am sure that I stumbled and probably ate some sugar, but I tried to make choices that seemed reasonable. We ate at Chipotle, and I had one of their bowls. Cilantro-lime rice (actually I have been eating so much lemon/lime juice that I feel like I am cheating anyway), black beans (probably containing sugar, gah), roasted veggies, cheese, pico de gallo (possibly containing hidden sugars), and lettuce. Overall, I thought it was pretty safe, but I’m afraid to look up the nutrition facts. But I will. They don’t list actual ingredients in their published nutrition facts, but it seems pretty consistent gram-wise with what I would expect each of those items to have. The highest being 4 grams of sugar for the chips I ordered, boo. Maybe I didn’t do too badly then, after all! That’s exciting. I’ll have to be a crazy person at some point in the future (I’m not ready for that step yet) and ask the employees if anything has sugar in it.

A cockamamie plan

So Dan and I have decided, after careful consideration and discussion over the past few months, that we wanted to try to give up sugar for an entire year. I’ve come across a few things over the past few years that have made me really question America’s addiction to sugar, and the powers that be that control the food supply. I’m not your typical hippy-dippy, all-organic, no-GMO’s, gluten-free type person. I don’t really think that GMO’s hurt, or that organic is really much different than regular. I’m from the Midwest, and I’ll admit it. I eat things from cans. I eat pre-packaged food. Of course it’s better to grow your own food or buy from a farmer’s market, but we can’t always manage that, and even if I could I’d eat exclusively squash and potatoes for 8 months of the year. It’s cold here, everyone.

But what we’ve been realizing is that sugar is making us fat and sick. 100 years ago, sugar was a rare treat for most people. But now it’s in everything, and I mean everything. It’s hidden in every food product imaginable. And we just weren’t meant to eat so much sugar! I’m not saying that all sugar is bad for us, all the time. Of course we always hear “everything in moderation.” But what does sugar moderation look like? Even if you think you only eat dessert once a week, chances are the rest of your food contains hidden sugar, too.

So, while Dan and I are firm believers in desserts, baked goods, and all the delicious things that sugar creates, we’re going to try to break our ingrained sugar addiction this year. I can’t promise success. That’s what this blog is for, really. It’s a measure of accountability. The idea is to do short blog posts on a regular basis that follow our trials and triumphs. I’m going to assume that there will be more trials than triumphs.

We’re going to be following the plan set out by a woman and her family who have already done it, and our rules are based on their rules. You can find the book, Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub in your library, I’m sure. Drumroll, please!

The Rules: 

1. No sugar of any kind for a year. This includes honey, agave nectar, molasses, maple syrup, sweetener, and fruit juice. This does not include sugar naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. so long as they are not separated from their source. We have, however, decided that a squeezed lime or lemon has so little fructose as to be a negligible amount, and will allow it. Only fresh squeezed, though, no bottled.

2. We may each have one exception to the rule. Mine is wine. Dan has decided that his will be liquor drinks relatively low in sugar, like gin and club soda or whiskey. Clearly we are in our 20’s. Sorrynotsorry.

3. We may have one sugary dessert per month, which we will choose together.

4. We already have a few occasions that we know we want to celebrate without worrying about whether the tomato sauce has sugar in it, and those are my graduation from grad school in May and our 1 year wedding anniversary in July. Also, I saved the top tier of our wedding cake and I certainly intend to eat it.

I think that’s about it!

Yes, we are of course hoping that we can drop a few pounds this way.

I’m 5’6″, and currently about 143lbs. I don’t consider this at all unhealthy or overweight, but it is heavier than I am used to, and don’t really feel like myself. I’m used to being between 125-130lbs. Currently I wear an 8 or 10, and feel at home in a 6. So that’s my goal.

Dan is 6′ and about 230lbs. We’ve decided that for him, a healthier weight would be between 195-210, so that is his goal for this year.

The Beginning:

Yesterday we started our new experiment with the ringing in of the new year, and subsequently went through and got rid of all offending items from the fridge and pantry. I thought it would be kind to leave the sugar bowl so that at least if we have guests they can put sugar in their coffee. We have a few specialty items (homemade jams and jellies, for instance) that are being saved for next year. Let me tell you, our fridge is looking bare! Especially the door where we keep our condiments. It started off being full to the point that some condiments had to go on shelves, and now there is barely anything left. Guess we’ll have to learn to really love mustard.
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Note: this is an “in-progress” photo. Of course Thin Mint flavored creamer and energy shots have sugar in them, duh. They’re gone now, too.

We started yesterday off at a friend of Dan’s house after his New Year’s Eve party, and he made eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and we reheated the previous day’s potatoes and Italian beef. After carefully checking labels, we decided we could pretty much eat the eggs, potatoes, and toast safely. The eggs were suspect, though, because Dan’s friend had put a little Lawry’s seasoning salt in them, which contained sugar, but we decided that we weren’t about to starve over a tiny bit of it.

We came home and gave my friend who had gone with us my six leftover homemade cinnamon rolls I had made a few days before. They were delicious, and she was happy to take them off my sad, sad hands.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.

This morning we had a typical breakfast of eggs and toast, and shared a grapefruit. Coffee (black) for Dan, and tea (also black) for me, as per usual. The only thing I missed was jam for my toast. I started to think about whether I could make some kind of apple butter for toast as I’ve seen on Pinterest without sugar, but Dan mentioned that that probably is so cooked down that all that’s left is sugar, and none of the other benefits of eating an apple. Womp womp. There goes that.

The only other notable thing is that I was at work, and went wandering in search of food because apparently I can’t go four hours there without eating, and only found some leftover Christmas goodies, which I did not take. I really think that work will be my biggest challenge. I always seem to be super hungry for some reason, and of course a library is always stocked with delicious homemade baked goods, or at the very least candy. Talk about first world problems, eh? I will have to find a solution to the madness. Possible solutions include bringing my own snacks, like nuts and dried fruit, or even possibly coming in an hour early so I can leave by the time of day that seems to be the hardest.

Anyway, thanks for taking this journey with me. I’ll let you know how it goes.