Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sugar-free Lent

I like Lent. I could go on about the spiritual side of things concerning this penitential season, and may at some point. But my current thought is more on the practical side of Lent.

Lent spans 40 days. This seems like an ideal amount of time to allow new habits to develop, or for old ones, which really aren't very useful, a chance to die. It's not like New Year's resolutions that are often made with the best intentions, but overloaded with holiday cheer. No, it's enough after the holidays that one can devote a bit more energy towards changing one's self in some way.

Last year, i decided giving up sugar would be in my best interest. I had grown overfond of sweets and set some ground rules for myself. Obviously, no sugar was the first one, but as Lent went on, i didn't want it to be one of those things where i suddenly switch to sugar-free things loaded with aspartame or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I wanted to break the hold sweet in general seemed to have on me. I had rid my cupboards of most things containing HFCS so that wasn't a big deal, and the biggest thing i consumed with aspartame was diet soda. I had three yoghurts in my refrigerator at the start of Lent, and all had some sugar in them, in addition to the sugar that milk naturally has. I decided i'd eat those rather than pitch them, as their expiry date occurred before Easter. The catsup in my fridge is made with HFCS. I knew i wouldn't drink an entire bottle just for the sweetness, and decided i'd use it to make cocktail sauce when i had shrimp (prawn) cocktail. I had one diet soda when a friend and i were shopping and stopped at a fast food place for a quick bite. That's when i decided i needed to relinquish that, too.

I had a supply of raisins on hand, figuring they'd be my best friend for the first week. And, they were ;-) I mixed a handful of them with a handful of walnuts for an afternoon snack. Sometimes for a midmorning snack as well. After the first week, i had fruit once a day or once every other.

I found that a lot of the inner cacophony ceased after four days of no sugar. Pretty telling to me that i had been eating more sweets than was good for me.

I did break my sugar and sweetness fast on Easter Sunday. A friend invited me to her home, which she and her sister share. She also invited her kids and grands, so there were lots of people. She's a wonderful cook, and amongst the many things there, she made some lemon squares. I had one, only after much thought. I enjoyed it thoroughly, thanked her, and wondered if i'd be more selective in my sugar or sweets consumption in the ensuing months.

As Lent rolled around this year, i thought i'd forego sugar and sweet things again. I was so busy making room for the cow in the freezer and eating up as many veggies as possible, that i didn't have any sugar orgy on Mardi Gras. I laid in a stock of raisins and some lovely oranges.

So far, so good. Even though i have had sugar or sweet overload moments this past year, this first mindful week of abstaining from all things sugar/sweet has demonstrated that it's not as bad as it was last year. I do have to read every label and decide sometimes, if i'm going to have something if i see any sweetener mentioned in the list. I'm not saying no completely, as with the catsup, which i rarely eat, but i shall wait to use barbecue sauce on anything until after Easter.

When Lent is over, i doubt i'll stay completely sugar free. I do like a slice of cake on my birthday, and between Thanksgiving and New Year's, i'm fond of baking cookies and cranberry-apple pies. I should like to think that i can take the habit of mindful eating that i am establishing this Lenten period and make it engrained.

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