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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« Here again | Main | Happy new year, or whatever. »

A long humorless screed about the evils of dessert. Get ready.

Now that I've become a fitness junkie (or, okay, a person who works out more than I did before, which was never), I've been making some changes to my diet. I won't bore you with the details of my daily menu, because truthfully nothing I've been doing is all that extreme or groundbreaking. In addition to the usual More Protein and Vegetables, Less Crap, I started eating more like an adult, and no longer inhaling, say, a tubful of brownies at a sitting.

In addition to the various dietary change-ups, I decided to stop putting sugar in my coffee. I was using agave syrup, actually, and only half a teaspoon, but still, I wanted to see if I could. And the first few days of sugarless coffee, it was like I was drinking battery acid. Battery acid mixed with a squirt of bile. I winced and drank and winced some more. (Because I will never give up coffee, people, don't try to talk me into it. I have tried. Oh, I have tried. I have tried, and suffered, and concluded that life without coffee is not the kind of living I wish I engage in.) But then, on the third or fourth day, I...liked it. It tasted fine to me. A few days after that I accidentally took a swig of Scott's coffee, and it tasted like he had dumped a bowl of candy corn in his coffee.

After a few weeks I realized that not only was I not taking sugar in my coffee, I wasn't really eating sugar, period. I mean, I was still eating FRUIT, I am not CRAZY, but I wasn't squirting maple syrup into my smoothies because I HAD TO, as I had done in the past. Also my usual daily post-lunch cookie and post-dinner cookie and post-cookie cookie had not even occurred to me. Curiously, I was also no longer falling asleep in the middle of the day, nor did I have those weird episodes of shakiness and gnawing hunger that would drive me straight to the cupboard to stick my face in a box of Fig Newmans.

Fast forward to the holidays, during which I consumed my weight in my sister's holiday cookies, as is my tradition. We had also been given a tin to take home, so naturally I ate them for the next few days as well. I figured I might as well dispatch them as quickly as possible so I could revert to my usual asceticism. I mean, YOU try not eating chocolate covered toffee bars. Can't be done.

Actually I ate only, say, 2 or 3 cookies a day. (Okay, on Christmas, I probably had more like 5. Which is a huge improvement for me.) But the thing is, I felt terrible for days. Every time I sat down I would fall into a coma. I couldn't think clearly--it felt like my brain was had both sped up and halted. Like I could only think in sentence fragments. Hostile sentence fragments. My mood went into the toilet, and after I recovered from my initial hatred of all things human and good, I moved on to abject misery. I had no friends, and never would! It was cold and gray, and always would be! Life was torment, and would end only in death! Horrible! Aloneness! BoooOOOOOoooO!

I was a lot of fun, is what I'm saying.

ANY way, I never really intended on becoming one of those "sugar is evil" people, believe me, but you guys, sugar is evil. Now that I've seen what it does to me, I want it even less. I used to worry that eating better and exercising would turn me into a jerk, but now I see that the opposite is true: when I'm not taking care of myself, that's when I lose all sense of humor. I cannot believe it took me this long to figure it out.

Reader Comments (60)

That's food for thought, for sure. I've never considered giving up sugar before, but now it's something that I'll have to think about. (Right after I finish this cookie...)
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiaryofWhy
Those were CLOUDS in my coffee. Clouds in my coffee.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlateandsoon
I've never really been a sugar person but yeah, I like my snickerdoodles. Anyway, have you ever tried Stevia? I love that stuff. With that in my coffee I am less likely to punch someone in the nose.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
This all sounds awesome but um...I really like cookies! I don't want to never have one again. But my body probably wouldn't hate it as much as my brain would. Also I feel like I'm almost famous, commenting after these three.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlisonofaGun
i hate how true this is! i got diagnosed with gestational diabetes a couple months ago and after sobbing for 3 days, pulled myself together and started eating better.

huuuge difference in how i felt - didn't need so many naps, wasn't hungry all the time, felt almost like a normal person? now, when i slip up and eat something sugary, i feel jittery and terrible. sigh. i miss those innocent cookie binges.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbluejeanamy
I once gave up sugar and (gasp!) beer (but never coffee) on a candida diet and had the same reaction: eating a banana was so insanely sweet it felt like binging at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

Of course I'm back to my evil ways. But I applaud you and am inspired.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter6512 and growing
Oh man, you did it! You broke free! I've been there - and it is amazing - but I fell off the wagon and have been in the sugar ditch for a long while now. Perhaps you have inspired me to try again...
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhi kooky
Amen to that! I am a nightmare to be around if I don't take care of myself. Good for you for listening to your body!
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
I worked for a little natural foods shop as the in-house herbalist and had the luck to talk to a lot of people. Their stories convinced me to try cutting out sugar, summer of 2007, and now there are things I just can't eat.

I don't want or crave soda, ever. I don't wish I had pop tarts, or want delicious gummy fruit snacks. I can't even eat standard commercially sweetened yogurt. It's reached a point where I actually will get a sugar hangover from drinking, not a booze-related hangover.

I've definitely fallen off the 'sugar-is-evil' wagon a time or too, and the Christmas cookies of amazing have been oh so delicious and equally made me evil.

High five for the awareness of your body! [Or, welcome to the tribe. *grin *]

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLina Kirkwood
Welcome to the club. I discovered the same thing in 2000 and have gotten a lot of grief for it over the years. Some of those who were most resistant to this have come around in the meantime.

I expect I'll always fall off that wagon here and there because evil things are SO good! hahah But I can observe (and feel) the effects of that in my own body.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustLinda
Remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally where Carrie Fisher tells Meg Ryan "You're right, you're right, I know you're right." then she goes out and continues to be stupid with men? That about sums it up. I have low blood sugar, and so when I get super low, my body tells me that the most logical solution is MORE SUGAR. So I eat a box of Hot Tamales and then wonder why I hate the whole world.

Anyway, illuminating post. I am not making any promises, but I'm going to try and believe you and try some peanut butter next time instead of a box of movie theater candy.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Oh no!!!! Say it isn't so!!!!

Oh my word will I live??? If living is without you?....sugar....

Buuuuuuttttt, it's a new year. A new decade, and I am trying to be open to new things.

Even if it sounds totally insane.

Plus, I want to feel like I have friends.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer
I think you're right. I have been very tired late last year, and I think it's because people kept giving me sweets. I never buy sweets or junk food, but if people give it to me, I'll eat it because I don't want to waste it. As I've tried to eat healthier to climb out of the holidays, I've felt much better. We should all promise to give each other fruit baskets next year instead of cookies and chocolate, ha.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca at Alice
I know you are totally right about sugar... just don't know if I'm strong enough... must try to resist the evil.....
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
There, there, all. Alice didn't say sugar was evil for everyone; her story was about how sugar is evil for her.Laying down the law for other people is entire too Jane Brody. I do not expect to see it in this space. Unless Alice eats sugar again, at which point all bets are off.PS to Rebecca at Alice: Tell yourself that eating something that's going to make you feel like crap is a waste, and toss at will! It's very liberating.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSlim
We've noticed we don't have the FEED ME NOW IMMEDIATELY FASTER FASTER problem with less coffee, too. And, I can't believe I used to only drink SUGAR SUGAR coffee...crazy. Candy corn reaction here, too!
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Sitcom
Consuming lots of junk affects my mood, too. I become negative and moody and lazy. I must begin steps to ween myself after the holiday eating marathon. Congrats for curbing the sugar in the coffee habit. I'm a Splenda person but I don't think that is the healthiest of choices. I'll never give up coffee, either. It's not as bad as you think. There is a brand new study that says coffee consumption can prevent prostate cancer up to 60 percent. Tell your husband. :-)
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLori
I have PCOS and therefore blood sugar problems so I really have to watch my sugar intake. What I have found though is that chocolate...and I mean REALLY GOOD chocolate, like 70% high grade stuff is AWESOME. Also, I am laughing at your thoughts on coffee. I used to take my coffee sweet and full of milk. But then I had a baby and now if you put anything sweet in my coffee...I'll take your legs off! And take away my coffee? I won't even say the scary things that come to mind. Don't listen to anyone who tries to talk you into giving up coffee...that is evil!
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina
Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. You have convinced me. I believe you. I don't WANT to believe you, but I do. And I'm greatful to you for enlightening me, I really am... BUT I LOVE SUGAR!!But I've also resolved to lose 50 lbs this year, and I know that giving up sugar will be a GREAT BIG help! So thanks again and good luck to you and me!
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith Elliott
I gave up most sugar early in the Fall when I started the Flat Belly diet (amazing!!). But then the holidays showed up and I am still eating the cookies because they are right here. I have been dizzy and cranky for several days and I bet it's the sugar. Thanks for the reminder. I switched to Splenda in the coffee but wonder if I could go to black. Hmmmmm.....
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarci
Now the next step is seeing Food Inc. That put me on freak-out mode for a good two weeks. My husband gave up sugar in his coffee last year. I was surprised considering the amount of sugar to coffee ratio he was used to using and then to go cold turkey. But now, it's no big deal.

Good for you!
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy
I love sugar, oh, how I love it, especially in the form of CHOCOLATE. But I did once go through a phase wherein I exercised, ate no fast food, no fried foods, and radically cut back on sugar intake, and my, I felt fine! Not sure why I backslid, but I did, and giving up sugar (for me) is next to impossible, but it is evil. It's actually super-evil because when you eat it, it makes you crave more. And more. Kind of like you already said. *sigh* Anyway, if there isn't a Sugar Anonymous, there ought to be.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlesli

Sugar's not the only thing that does it to me, though - white bread, pasta and rice also knock me out and turn me into a sluggish, whiny, anxious person.

Dehydration will do that to me, too. If I ever start to fall back into the habit of only drinking juice or tea, I'm a wretched awful thing until I wise up and start drinking a tall glass of water with every meal.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
Dude. I hear you. I am the exact same way. So, I gave it up. Cause it turns out that while not eating sugar turns me into a righteous asshole, eating sugar turns me into a maniacal addict asshole. Basically, sugar is my cocaine. I will sell you on the street for a hit.

Life without sugar though? It's kind of sublime. If only I could figure out how to make nutella without it.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
I'm not a total sugar junkie but I do like it every so often. however, last night I had some ice cream way too late (past 10) and I could NOT get to sleep because of the heart racing and amped-up feeling, which I had never noticed before. So, okay. Yeah. continuing on the low-sugar plan. with occasional breaks for brownies. because life without brownies is not worth living.
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaphne

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