Hi! My name is Bert and I am a sugarholic. I wonder, is there a dank church basement around here on the west side of Houston, where a bunch of chunky suburbanites get together over endless cups of coffee to confess their sugar addictions? To talk about how they got started on the chocolate-laced road to sticky oblivion, how their paychecks were blown on Halloween-sized candy purchases, and how they bottomed out one evening scarfing down three entire slabs of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut confectionary? Let me know if you are familiar with such as place, and I’ll be there. I’ll be there to listen to their tales of caloric woe, of capitulating to demon sugar, devouring a wholesale size bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or surreptitiously ‘helping’ the kids get rid of an excess of Halloween candy. I’ll be there to ‘fess up to late-night forays into the kitchen for just one more slice of Fran Serena’s Famous Poppyseed Cake. And when I take my hand out of my pocket for a welcoming wave, an old Snickers Almond candy wrapper will probably drop to the ground. Down and out on sugar skid row.
So what is one to do? Change of course. After all, didn’t we just vote for change the other day? If we can’t change for the better, we are truly doomed. So - well in advance of the New Year’s resolution season, I am quitting sugar. Goodbye, good friend of 56 years. Has it really been that long? Maybe just 55? I doubt that my dear mother fed me sugary treats in my very first year of life. Or maybe she did, which is likely what got me to where I am today. Having to exorcise the sweet demons that started to tingle my tastebuds with sprinklings of delight way back when I was just a babe in arms. How well do I remember sneaking into the pantry as a young boy, eating one and then another and then some more of my mother’s exquisite ‘Jan Smuts’ pastries, meant to be taken on our annual trip to Kruger Park. By the time the trip to the Game Reserve rolled around, I had put a huge dent into the pastry supply, with no time left to bake more. Oh, the mortification when I was unmasked as the culprit! My brothers were too young and innocent to be getting up to devious stunts like those. And my sister didn’t have the defective sugar gene. That left only one candidate. You know who.
I realize that there is sugar in various forms (such as corn syrup) in a lot of things we eat, and I have no illusions about completely and irrevocably banishing every ounce of refined sugar from my diet. What I will do is to start with the easy targets like cookies, candy, dessert and chocolate cake. Yes chocolate cake. There are many recipes for vegan chocolate cake – and various places to find the stuff such as at Field of Greens. Their chocolate cake – which they buy from Whole Foods – is unbelievably good and does not taste like anything you would consider to be ‘vegan’ whatever comes into your mind when you hear that word. I drive halfway across town at least twice a month, sometimes more, for their vegan barbecue sandwich – and chocolate cake. In the spirit of honesty I should probably have written that the other way round. Chocolate cake first, BBQ sandwich second.
All this begs the question – Why? Why would you want to deprive yourself of the pleasure of a piece of chocolate cake, a cookie or two now and then, or a taste of something sugary in moderation. Why not just make it a part of a healthy, balanced diet? Why? Because I have a weakness for sweet things that will surely trip me up unless I avoid refined sugar completely. It is all or nothing. Also, refined sugar is devoid of any nutritional benefit, delivering nothing but empty calories. You can do a lot better with whole foods such as grains, vegetables and various fruits – many of which are naturally and deliciously sweet. Just need to tweak the taste buds a little! If I really want to optimize my health and strength and build on my running success, the choice is clear. And it does not involve small doses of something that I can do without. I will report back on this in a month or two.