My earliest memory of surreptitiously satisfying my sweet tooth relates to my six-year-old self climbing onto the kitchen counter to gain access to a big round biscuit tin about four inches deep placed on top of the fridge by my mother.
That in itself was supposed to be a secret place but, as you know, children have eyes everywhere.
At the beginning of the month, the tin was full of assorted, individually wrapped sweets; boiled sweets, chocolate-covered sweets, toffees, and some inexplicably awful peanut-butter flavoured crunchy items.
I figured out pretty soon that if one removed a few sweets, then shook the tin, it looked as if nothing had been removed, because the level of the sweets remained the same. Well, up to a point. Beyond that, it looked like a six-year.old had been overdosing on sweets.
Needless to say, my dishonest sugar consumption was soon discovered, and the tin disappeared from the shelf. No words came from my mother’s mouth. Smart woman. It now meant that my sister and I had to ask for a sweet if we wanted one.
In the forty-odd years since, I have become somewhat of an authority on all manner of biscuits, sweets and cakes. Indeed, my partner is frequently amazed at my ability to describe in detail what store-bought products are like. I put it down to experience. I can also make tarts and scones and biscuits without reference to a recipe, and seemingly, with “no ingredients” in the house, as the picture below shows. I can eat amazing amounts of sweet things. Remarkably, I am not overweight. This is possibly because I do not do so all the time.
Yet, for all that, I was feeling sluggish a while ago. I did not feel well. Then I realised that I was drinking a lot of coffee (with sugar) to fuel a demanding workload, and not really eating much real food. I was also eating quite a few chocolate bars in the car on the way home from the shop which stocks my favourite coffee. So much for not eating sugar all the time. The circular craziness of this situation had to stop!
I decided that the elimination of sugar from my diet would be one way to “get back on track”. Coincidentally, a friend in another country needed motivation to stick to her plan of action. Thus, I accepted a 30-day sugar-free challenge. It was a question of honour.
No granulated sugar, nothing store-bought with any sugar in it. I ate fruit, but not enormous quantities. I drank my coffee without sugar. I consumed vast quantities of live yoghurt. So much so, that this is my new addiction. I got my appetite back, and reacquainted myself with food groups I had ignored for ages.
After about two weeks, I felt calmer, despite there being little real change in my long “to-do” list. I was calmer, but clear-headed. I felt stronger – alive! Not eating sugar was not that difficult to do. Except that one inadvertent pouring of sugar into my coffee at a café on Day 6. I enjoyed doing daily diary entries as Facebook updates. The 30 days came and went, and my friend made it through the month, too. So, job done.
I continued with the new regime. I tried a little marmalade on bread on Day 32, and could not manage it. Three mouthfuls was enough.
I was careful not to inflict my abstinence on João. She continued to get her ice-cream and other treats. Last Friday, I bought her some marshmallows. Oh, the horror of realising just how much of “her” treats I used to consume! She was glad to see the marshmallows, and ate a few on Friday. I offered her marshmallows on Saturday. I offered her marshmallows on Sunday. I offered her marshmallows on Monday. She did not want any more. The packet sat there on the kitchen counter, with the customary clothes peg sealing the bag and keeping the freshness in.
Monday afternoon – Day 37 if I were still counting – was hot; I had some rushing around to do, unexpectedly. I had to exert myself physically when I did not want to. This wore me out. There I was, hot and tired, and in the kitchen. The marshmallows sat there on the counter and stared at me, Suddenly, about twelve of them jumped in my mouth, one after the other. All right, I will take responsibility for my actions. I ate them. Marshmallows cannot really jump.
Even though it was quite a heady experience, and made me feel quite ill, I was back at the packet within the hour and managed effortlessly to polish off the lot.
Now, I do not see this as a failure, strictly speaking. It started off as an attempt to acclimatise my body for the inevitable ingestion fine port in Porto, not to mention the mini-cakes which the hotel will provide during the morning and afternoon coffee breaks. A delicate little taste experiment turned into something which obviously takes longer than 30 days to banish from one’s behaviour: the classic sugar gobble.
It sure sobered me up. It seemed senseless. I stayed up way past my bedtime as all those frenetic little energy molecules zinged around my body. Today I have eaten nothing sweet at all, and nothing particularly salty. I guess I shall have to go easy on the port wine in Porto, too!
How utterly awful to know that I was defeated by pink and white marshmallows! At least there would have been some dignity if victory could be ascribed to chocolate cake. but it was the marshmallows wot did it. Oh, the label on the packet says “Kid’s Pack”. Very funny.