Hello Fall in New England: Remaining Sugar-Free

Though we are still technically a few days away from the Fall Equinox, this weekend has felt like Fall in New England. The weather has been gorgeous with cold nights and mornings, warmer days, but a hint of crispness in the shade. We have had clear blue skies, puffy clouds, and the foliage is just beginning to hint at the promise of an extravagant color show to come. Yesterday I did a 6 mile run through the woods and the perfectness of the day filled me with joy, gratitude, and a glowing appreciation for this beautiful area of Western Maine. Apple picking and pumpkin hunting need to be added to our weekend agendas, and thoughts of the last fair of fair season in Maine (The Fryeburg Fair) bring about excitement to our young girls thoughts. They ask about rides, cider, donuts, and ice cream.

So, yes Fall means that there may be new temptations as sweets and sugar seem to continue to abound in the landscape of life. I have made it 5 weeks sugar-free, and a common question has been, so what has changed for you? As I have written about before, the changes have been subtle, and I have come now to appreciate these questions (mostly from yoginis) as a chance to really reflect on what the benefits have been.

I have lost some weight, but now I need to focus on making sure I get enough to eat that I don’t lose any more weight, as being underweight may affect the immune system. Losing weight was not really the goal of this change in lifestyle. I feel more “even” and do not have nearly the extreme swings and sudden outbursts in temper or loss pf patience with my kids that I had before. My energy and endurance are improving, and the other day I noticed with my running that I am able to do about 10% more mileage in a given time period then I was able to do before without feeling any more effort.

But I have to say the greatest aspect of being sugar-free is that my anxiety has decreased greatly. Things that would normally send me into an internal stomach knot, I am now able to contemplate, recognize the feelings, and start to breathe through them. I feel as if I am more aware of my body in yoga, and I am able to find my edge and then back off a bit to be in a greater state of focused relaxation. On the days I don’t work out, I don’t feel quite as antsy I usually do.

I still have not gotten my lab work done (hopefully I can do that this week), but my hope is that with the elimination of sugar and the associated processed foods, perhaps my high cholesterol levels will have come down. I think this will be a huge supportive factor in continuing this process.

I also know that I need to be gentle with myself, and I need to focus on an eating plan. I am currently reading the book the Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, (SATRP) and the author, Kathleen Desmaisons, has some great ideas about how to change your diet and lifestyle. I honestly had never thought of myself as a sugar addict,I was doing this as part of my yoga training, but when I look at her definitions and the lifestyle of a sugar addict, I realize that indeed I fall within the parameters of the sugar addict. I prefer to not eat breakfast, I prefer to eat a sugary treat as my first food of the day, I get hypoglycemic episodes, and I had my special foods and treats that nobody else was to eat.

With the SATRP, Desmaisons has a gentle and long-term approach to supporting the recovery from sugar addiction. Although I don’t feel I can completely start from the beginning of this program (you start by eating breakfast everyday that has a protein source), I would like to incorporate some of her ideas, such as eating 3 meals/ day at regular times and incorporating some protein, equivalent to 1/3 of daily needs, with each meal. I did order some protein powder to add some protein to some of my meals; I think being a vegetarian may make this a challenge. I have found some protein bars that are sugar-free and meet this criteria, and I will combine those with a piece of fruit for a meal. Hard boiled eggs and cheese will be my friends, as will veggie burgers, Quorn products, and beans. Desmaisons also recommends a potatoe before bed to increase serotonin levels and she offers an understandable and somewhat scientifically sound explanation for how this might work in the body and brain.

I know this will take a lot of planning, and trips to the grocery store, but I think the nurturing of my body is worth the effort I will need to put forth. I know that should I opt for a sugary treat, I should combine it with a meal to decrease the impact on my blood sugar and spend the time to really reflect on how my body-mind-spirit feel after having the treat. In all honesty, I almost want to have a treat to see if it really does make me feel woozy/ foggy, but perhaps I will wait until the fair to try it out…

Camping in Maine: What is up with the outhouse and shopping when it rains.

This week we are camping in Maine at a coastal campsite in Freeport. The great thing has been the ability to drop my older daughter off at farm camp, and then cruise into Freeport during the rain and drizzle and go shopping.

I am still madly in love with Freeport, and of course LL Bean. Did you know that the number one tourist attraction in Maine is shopping? I like to go in to LL Bean and look at the clothes, but I do find that they are often out of stock in my size on the floor. Then I know what styles I like, so I can order them online. I also tried on some girls larger size clothes and confirmed that I can still wear a girls 16, which is going to be fun for a few years as my daughters and I can buy the same outfits (LOL). Of course, someday they will grow up and enter into tween-dom, and likely not want to wear the same clothing as their dowdy old mother.

There is also a Mexicali Blues store here in , for all of your hippie accessories. For my husband’s upcoming old-man birthday, I bought him a Jerry Garcia song book and a Maine deadhead sticker. What do you get the hippie was has everything he needs anyway?

The campground is a lovely place right on the coastal bay in Freeport. We survived a pretty intense rain storm where 2 inches of rain fell in about 4 hours and the winds were howling (the winds are of course a great deal more scary then the rain, because of the potential for tree limbs falling). The only issue we have had thus far is with the outhouses. They are literally filled to the top and when I went to the office to check, they said, sorry, there’s nothing we can do because the clean out is not scheduled until tomorrow. I of course informed them that I was a nurse and I was very concerned about the possibility of an illness such as Hepatitis A spreading easily in such an environment; the young ladies at the desk just smiled and nodded. Luckily there are pit toilets and it is worth the extra walk to ensure a bit more safe environment.

And the last challenge is remaining sugar free while camping. Eating nuts and fruits seems to help a great deal and I am on day 11 of 21 days. I am still not sure where this venture is leading me, but eventually, I think I will at least find some balance in my diet and try to stay away from foods with added sugar on a regular basis. My hubby went shopping for me yesterday and he came back to the camp completely disgusted that he had such a difficult time finding foods that do not have added sugar; he called the nicotine of the masses, but the problem is that most of us are completely unaware of what we are eating and its origins. So, if there are certain products I want to buy, like spaghetti sauce, dressing, or salsa, then I will need to learn which brands do not have sugar.

Surviving a Fair in Maine: Going Sugar Free

Yesterday was my fifth day “sugar free”. I had a great 7 mile run in the morning, a quick meditation session, and did yoga before I went to bed. Meanwhile, the afternoon was spent taking my 3 and 5 year old girls to the fair in Topsham, Maine.


Fair Time in Maine

Obviously, going to the fair is a challenge for anybody trying to eat healthy. My usual fair foods of choice would be mini-donuts, kettle corn, and ice-cream. Do you think those have sugar in them?

So, the going to the fair process needed to be addressed with a plan in mind. I made sure to eat before I left the house (apples, nuts, bread), drink plenty of water or herbal tea throughout the day, and focus on having fun with the kids. We did all of the kiddie-rides first (merry-go-round, kids cars, big jumpy slide, tea-cup bears, and ferris wheel). The girls then played darts to win a prize. Feeding them was easy since I don’t impose my eating restrictions on them to a great degree (basically, they do not get soda, limited juice to a few times/ week, and no junk food in the house). But what do I eat at the fair?

Luckily I found a baked potato stand (Really!?) and I ordered the potato with sour cream and broccoli. I thought he lady felt bad for me; she frowned at the potato and she wanted to make sure I didn’t want some delicious (Velveta?) cheese sauce on the potato. Unfortunately, the broccoli was cooked down to an unattractive green-gray mush, but some of it was edible. While I was waiting for the kids’ dinner, a man asked me what in the world I was eating. I felt apologetic and sort of sorry for myself while I told him it was just a baked potato. We watched the karokee competition for awhile and then visited the animals: cows, pigs (is there anything cuter then a piglet that is only 10 days old?), ducklings, rabbits, baby chicks, and an alpaca named curly. The girls wanted ice-cream on the way out, and the pregnant lady behind the counter, after serving up the girls choices, asked me, “don’t you want some ice cream too?”.

So, I survived the fair remaining sugar free. Afterwards we drove out to our summer home (here in Maine, everybody calls them “camps”) and their was more temptation on the way. Dairy Queen had a special $0.79 for a blizzard (must…drive….by) and then the biggest temptation, the local home-made frozen custard stand. The sign out front said “Just made: Moose Tracks”.

As my mouth watered and I drove on by, I thought back to the conversation I had earlier in the day with my yoga teacher. Julie was very encouraging and supportive, and yet there is still this sort of personal ambiguity of whether or not I need to remain sugar-free, will I turn into a martyr, etc. She offered the sage advice of perhaps going for 21 days sugar free, and then thinking about moderating the sugar intake, or perhaps doing honey or cane sugar only. We spoke about controlling the environment and simply not having the foods available, which is an old weight loss trick that works. Also, we chatted about how to get enough food and calories in without the sugar-fat foods to maintain my weight. I think it will mean eating frequently, and focusing more on protein and fats.

This morning hubby said, “So, no more mochas for you…”. I felt a bit sorry for myself for a minute and sighed. In all honesty, I felt angry that he would say that first thing in the cool morning when nothing could be more delicious, soothing, or inviting then a warm quadruple mocha. He is usually quite supportive of my endeavors, so I know he was just making conversation and that an attitude of love for myself and others will get me through any mocha withdrawal symptoms.

As part of the yogic lifestyle, one has to notice, be aware… so if do moderate sugar, how do I feel before, during, and after eating the sugary-treat? If I fell angry about not having a usual treat, what is that about on a deeper spiritual level? When I get passed the 21 days, I think I will try and moderate to a treat once in awhile (perhaps no more then one/ week), though I will focus on my awareness before, during, and after.

Starting Day 5 sugar-free (pretty much)

Day 5 of the sugar-free cleanse and I have to say I am feeling good. A trip to the health food store yesterday revealed of course more added sugar in almost everything, though in the health food store, it becomes necessary to consider evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, etc as “sugar”. And of course temptations abound even in the health food store, from organic chocolate, to brownies, to ice cream.

I walked out of the store with water crackers (see below), dry roasted cashews (no sugar, no oil), organic fruits/ veggies (can’t go wrong there), soup (had to read the labels), and salsa (the one with no added sugar). Later I had to stop by the regular store to pick up some items for my husband and I was able to find some great bread, though the regular store was difficult. Normally I would have bought a treat for the girls and myself- whoopie pies, cheesecake, pie, cookies, eclairs, and cannoli were all whispering their sweet seduction to me.

So what does the day look like as sugar-free? Here’s what I ate yesterday:




Humus and crackers

Pasta with Pesto

Geenbeans (a lot!)

Garlic bread


I probably need to increase the protein and the fruits/ veges.

Most importantly, how I am feeling? TMI here, but I will say that any bowel issues I have had are clearing up and my energy seems to be good. I think I am sleeping better.

Here is a list of the damage that sugar can wreck on your body, supported by peer-reviewed references: http://rheumatic.org/sugar.htm

I do not know that sugar really does all of this damage in all people, and the challenge of course is to determine how much sugar does damage and what other contributing factors need to be considered. I usually do not like long lists such as this which sort of “demonize” one substance, but it is an interesting cull of the research in this area.



Changing lifestyles: Letting go and moving into yogic purity

I have been a yoga teacher training student now since May. I must say that I am enjoying the process.  I would call it a very transformative learning approach, where one is not only learning about how to teach yoga, the postures, and its benefits, but also about how to best live a yogic lifestyle. One of the aspects of living a yogic lifestyle is to focus on purity.

It is sort of softly recommended or encouraged in the tradition  I am studying (classical yoga) that we under take whatever personal steps we can to create a life of purity. Purity means purity of thought, as well as physical purity. Having thought this through for sometime, I think my thoughts are likely to be more pure if I can strive for the physical purity first. With physical purity, one is asked to avoid or lessen use of intoxicants, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

I stopped drinking about 14 months ago. I was one of those people who “partied hard” in college and even beyond a bit, but as my studies and goals grew, my drinking lessened. Eventually, I was just indulging in 1-2 glasses of red wine 1-2 times/ week. I was reluctant to give up this pleasure, but I thought I should try it for 6 months and see what happened. I found that I had frequent dreams about being drunk or drinking, in which I would be so disappointed that I had not met my goal. I also found that I can pretty easily live without alcohol, and I like to wake up everyday feeling completely clear- headed and physically okay.

The one thing that I miss the most though is having a fine glass of wine with a meal or during a celebration. A “fine dining experience” is just not the same without that glass of wine and I am not sure if it ever will be again. Let it be known that club soda with a twist lemon or lime does nothing to enhance the taste of bleu cheese, though decaf coffee with desert can be bit delightful to sort of cut the sweet. Despite the longing for the glass of wine, I am pretty good with letting the alcohol go; the last occasion I had to “celebrate”, when I completed a large project for work, I went to a yoga class instead of picking up a bottle of champagne or Pinot Noir. I do also wonder though if it is worth denying myself this pleasure and if I might be one of those people who could moderate and just drink a glass of wine maybe once month during a celebration or fine dining experience.

I have given up caffeine before, at some points for up to a year more. Right now I am planning on thinking about becoming the decaffeinated version of myself sometime in the near future, so I have chosen to focus on sugar.

I am 5’4″, around 110-112 pounds, a former runner turned jogger, cyclist, and yoga enthusiast who loves baked goods, ice-cream, pie, chocolate. Usually, I would allow myself 1-2 “treats”/ day. This might include starting the day with a mocha and a scone, a cookie in the afternoon, or chocolate in the evening. I have been known to go through a pound of licorice in a few days. I think I overall eat pretty well, eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, with a big emphasis on getting a large number of fruits/veges in everyday. Last week though we had a great friend visiting us to experience the New England summer lifestyle, and we did a lot of eating out… and eating of blueberry pie and ice cream almost every night.

Needless to say after discussion at yoga teacher training last weekend, I am now committed to cutting down/ back on sugar. I am on day 3 of trying to avoid the obvious processed/ sweet treats I adore (cookies, pie, ice cream, chocolate) and looking more closely at labels. Of course there is sugar in almost everything from tortillas to nuts to sauces, so I have become a label reader. I have also read some about sugar addiction, and I would say I have some perhaps mild withdrawal issues, including mood swings and suddenly feeling weepy. Exercise, yoga, and drinking fluids seem to help this.

I am wondering if this is something I can sustain, or is it something I can consider moderating? I guess I will not really know the answer to this until I see how I feel with less sugar in my system and I reflect back upon the process. If I feel better, have more energy, and/or feel that eating less sugar supports my spiritual journey, perhaps it is something I can remove. If I end up feeling deprived and like this is losing yet one more pleasure in life, then perhaps I will opt for moderating the sugar intake.