No sugar, no problem

I have a sweet tooth. An insane, insatiable sweet tooth. Give me a cookie and I’m putty in your hands. While pregnant with Monkey, I kept putting off my gestational diabetes screening test because I was convinced that I’d given myself diabetes through the over-consumption of Christmas cookies. (Yes, I know that’s not how it works. The pregnant, hormonal, emotional eater didn’t see reason on the matter. I did not have gestational diabetes.)

Articles about sugar are everywhere. They have titles like “Death by sugar” and “Sweet poison.” They say that sugar is bad. It’s addictive. It’s worse than fat, worse than salt. It’s pretty much the worst. For a while, every time I read one of these articles, a tiny voice inside me would whisper, “Give it up.” And then a louder voice would say, “Make cookies.” Guess which one I listened to?

And then, at the beginning of November, in the throes of the post-Halloween candy coma, I decided to do it. Stop eating sugar for a while. I was curious about how it would feel, and I knew it would be good for me.

The pros:

  • have more energy;
  • improve overall health for self and family;
  • discover hidden and unnecessary sources of sugar in everyday foods;
  • make room in diet for new foods;
  • lose some baby weight, thus avoiding the need to buy an entire new work wardrobe for when my maternity leave is over in March.

The cons:

  • no more cookies/ice cream/sweet delicious treats.

I took the plunge. Well, in the spectrum of sugar-free eating, I really only dipped my toe in the pool. Some people give up all carbs and naturally occurring sugars as well, but I’m not going that far. I eat plenty of fruit, and while carbs have been restricted because of added sugar in some of them, I’m still eating things like pasta and rice.

I didn’t drag the rest of the family with me, but because I’m the main maker of meals and buyer of groceries, their sugar intake has been cut down a little too. (Side note – I was shocked at the amount of sugar in the yogurt Bean was eating – 21 grams in a 1/2 cup! I’ve switched to one that has 13 grams in a 1/2 cup, and I mix it with plain Greek yogurt, and he hasn’t seemed to notice. The next step is plain yogurt with pureed fruit, but so far I’ve been too lazy to actually puree the fruit.)

But because life just isn’t complete without a little sweetness now and then, I’ve been experimenting with recipes that only use fruit or dried fruit for sweetness. I was skeptical. But wow, have I found some winners.

No sugar

In a desperate, ravenous moment while shopping last week, I discovered Larabars. The peanut butter flavoured bar that I ate was good, and it had only two ingredients: peanuts and dates. What? I could make that! So I did some Googling and found Chocolate Covered Katie’s page of homemade Larabar recipes. A trip to the grocery store and about 10 minutes in the kitchen, and I was sold. Better than the store-bought ones, these things are fudgy, sweet, delicious, and dangerously easy to make. I’ve made peanut butter-chocolate and chocolate-almond, and I’m hooked. Next up will be oatmeal-raisin. (I have to remind myself not to inhale them, as even though it’s natural sugar, it’s still sugar and calories.)

That’s fudgy bars and cookies down. What about ice cream? While I had the food processor out, I remembered The Kitchn’s frozen banana ice cream that I’ve been meaning to try forever. So I did it. And it is amazing. Banana on its own isn’t really my thing, so I added peanut butter and chocolate, because peanut butter and chocolate is the combination of happiness. So good.

Sugar free me isn’t forever. For example, tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and I will make a delicious, sugar-filled cake and also eat a piece of said delicious, sugar-filled cake. And come Christmas time, there will be cookies. Oh, there will be cookies. But hopefully I’ll have eliminated all of the hidden sugars in my diet, controlled my cravings for sugar (this is working already), and made sugary treats a once-in-a-while thing.

I can't quit you

Pilates so I don’t pee my pants

There’s no pretty way to say it. Childbirth can do some sad, sad things to your body. It wasn’t that no one told me, just that I didn’t believe it would happen to me. Some examples: the saggy-tummy reason for mom-jeans. Stretch marks. And the odd spot of incontinence.

After Bean was born, I thought this last particular gift of motherhood had passed me by. Then I joined a baby bootcamp and did my first set of post-baby jumping jacks. Oops. I was crushed. Mortified. Or at least I started to be, but then it became clear that I was not the only one. Every time jumping jacks were on the menu, the same look of dread and resignation came over nearly every other mum’s face. Eventually we started joking about it. And I became part of a community of occasional pants-pee-ers.

Post-birth with Monkey, my exercise regime has been a little less intense. (So far, no jumping jacks have been involved.) Recently I tried my first Pilates class. It’s a mums-and-babes class, so the babies lie on the floor beside the mums. I knew Pilates would be good for me, strengthening the core and pelvic floor and all that, but I was still hesitant to sign up – I’ve always been of the mindset that exercise equals sweat, and if I’m going to carve out an hour to work out there had better be some serious calories burned. But the mums-and-babes offerings at the local rec centre are limited; it was either Pilates or Aquafit, and I’m not quite ready to brave the pool.

The first class went well: dim lights, soft music, and a happy baby on the mat beside me. I struggled a bit to follow the instructions (pull the navel to the floor; tilt the pelvis; pull the ribs down), but overall it was good. I didn’t sweat, but the next day my core muscles were sore and I saw that as a sign of success.

The second class was a different story. Most of the babies were fussing. Monkey was on the move. And when I could hear the instructor, I could not for the life of me understand what she was talking about. It went something like this:

Instructor: Imprint the low back.

Me (thinking): Imprint… okay, I think I’ve got it, this feels right.

Monkey: (chews on my shoe)

Me: No Monkey!

Instructor: (something I can’t hear) into that nice J shape.

Me (thinking): J shape? What part of me is a J?

Babies, in general: Wah.

Instructor: Focus on your glutes for this move.

Monkey: (chews on the mat)

Me: No Monkey! Yucky!

Instructor: No glutes, take the glutes out of it.

Me (thinking): Wait, glutes or no glutes? What do I do with my butt?

Instructor: Inhale as you…

Babies: Wah.

Instructor: …. on the exhale.

Me (thinking): Uh, just breathe?

Instructor: … tighten that navel down. We don’t want to do the move with the belly pushed out.

Me (thinking): Oh God, I can’t do this one unless my belly is out! What does this mean? Am I going to work my abs into the wrong shape? Am I building myself a rock-hard potbelly?!

And on it went. That was yesterday, and so far today I’m not feeling the same soreness in my core that I did after the first class. So either I’m really good at Pilates, or really bad. I think we all know what the likely answer is.