My Abstainer Tendencies Get Me into Trouble

Pulled pork open faced sandwcih

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin.  I’ve read her three books on happiness and habits numerous times, and I hear my voice in my head as I do so.  One of her key insights, especially relevant when it comes to healthy eating habits, is the divide between what she calls “moderators” and “abstainers.”  (She and her sister have started doing a weekly podcast called “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” and I was tickled that today’s episode includes a segment about whether or not to keep ice cream in the freezer which centers around this very divide.)  I am mostly an abstainer, just like the listener who called in with the ice cream question, which means that I do better at controlling bad habits when I just abstain entirely, or almost entirely, from them.  I do find it possible to eat just one chocolate truffle, as I mentioned yesterday in the freezer tour.  And my little “eat only one dessert a week” mantra also works pretty well.  BUT . . . if I overstep those bounds very much at all then I plunge into trouble.  I can’t break the rules just a little bit; I break them a lot.

So, you’ll see a picture here of a pulled-pork sandwich slathered with barbecue sauce.  Although it’s not an actual picture of the sandwiches I served at the Cherry Creek Chorale picnic Sunday evening, it’s a pretty close representation.   Barbecue sauce has a lot of sugar in it.  I’ve had quite a few pork sandwiches since Sunday (to use up the leftovers–don’t want to be wasteful!), so I’ve been ingesting quite a bit of sugar just from that.  Plus, for the past week or so I’ve been using some leftover cubes of frozen eggnog in my coffee in the mornings.  (That’s a guilty confession in the freezer video.)  So my coffee’s been much sweeter than usual.  PLUS, I just felt that I had to sample the two kinds of chocolate cupcakes I made for the picnic and have one of Gideon’s unbelievable lemon bars. (I would have been sorely tempted to eat more than one of those, but they all got eaten up.)  There were a few cupcakes left over, and instead of putting them in the freezer I’ve been nibbling away at them.  And finally, I’ve been eating fabulous Colorado peaches with half-and-half and some brown sugar for breakfast several mornings straight this week, so there’s even more sugar.  The peaches are great, the brown sugar not so much.  To top it off, today I broke down and bought a package of peanut M&M’s at JoAnn’s Fabrics and gulped them down in the car as I drove out of the parking lot.  My powers of resistance seemed to have disappeared.  I’ve been going around for months thinking of candy as disgusting, but today it seemed irresistible.

To me, as I look back at the last week or so, this whole sequence of events is at least some evidence of the idea that sugar is addictive.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the movie Fed Up and its message that sugar is driving our obesity and diabetes epidemic.  Although I point out what I see as some flaws in the film, they are probably correct about sugar’s power to create cravings: the more you eat, the more you want.  I’ve realized this afternoon that the draggy feeling I’ve been fighting since Sunday probably isn’t due so much to post-party letdown as to a massive (for me) intake of sugar.

So, as I often say, all you can do is what you can do.  There are still a few cupcakes left, but they’re going into the freezer.  (Or maybe the trash–they’re getting pretty stale.)  Tomorrow morning I’ll be back to the plain half-and-half in my coffee.  And probably eggs for breakfast.  There will never be a time when I can say, “No problem.  I can overdo it some and still handle it” for my eating habits. Probably just as well.  Hey, guess what?  There’s a larger lesson here.  I can never say, “No problem” about any temptation.  Something about that pesky sin nature we’re all born with, no?

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