Holiday challenges

This time of year is the toughest time for staying sugar free. There's a lot of pressure to consume treats made by the family, and to partake in them as part of the ritual of tradition associated with all the holidays in general. If I'm going to backslide- even on purpose- it's going to be now.

My mother makes amazing cheesecakes- award winners, in fact. Aunt Judy makes lovely fudge. These things come out around this time of year, and I do in fact indulge in them. I figure it this way- once a year is appropriate to consume sugar, as a rare treat, the way sugar should be treated. At first I felt pretty guilty about it- how can I keep my status as a hardcore non-sugar freak if I sit here eating this amazing cheesecake?

Then I got to thinking. If it doesn't lead to the slippery slope (like smokers taking back up butts at parties... and then it's all downhill from there) and I stay conscious of what I am doing, then no harm done. I can stay aware, and make the choice to eat what my mother made, and go back to eating normally after the fact.

So this year I made the cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake, in fact. I used sucanat instead of straight white sugar- sucanat being the very stuff they strip out of the sugar when it's being processed. It still behaves as sugar in the body- eliciting a glycemic reaction, insulin release, etc... but at least it has some nutritional value (minerals). And it's just damn good cheesecake. Everyone enjoyed it, and to prevent myself from eating it every day since I brought it home, I instead brought it to a friend's house and unleashed it on a bunch of stoned grad students. Ha! A perfect way to get rid of the evidence!

Tonight, to remind myself that I can return to my basic healthy way of eating, I made stevia chocolate pudding (it came out runny- sigh; it is an endless battle, this pudding, it never comes out the same way). When Yule passes and Christmas rolls around again, I will be challenged once more- but I will simply try some of my family's treats and let it go again.

When I 'fell off the wagon' a couple of years ago (as I stated in a previous post) I never figured out how to get back on. I surrendered to the urge, to the addiction of sugar, and submerged myself into the depths of it. Since I have worked so hard to climb back out, I am unwilling to jump back in, to slide down that slope once more. This is how I want to live my life.

However- until I experiment and come up with a cheesecake recipe that doesn't involve sugar (or sucanat), I will save the once-a-year indulgement and go with it. I can return to normal, as I have proved to myself.

On that note- it's hard to convert recipes! Some things are forgiving, like ice cream, pudding and PB cups... but other things, such as baked goods, are far more difficult. Removing an entire cup of dry ingredient is a true challenge- it changes the chemistry of the product, and it isn't easy. Stevia does not behave the same as sugar chemically, nor is it one for one anyway. Sugar has a wonderous set of properties that lend it to baking- melting, carmelizing, making things sticky. Stevia has none of these properties, being a powdered concentrated herb. It remains a challenge.

So- if you are on this journey with me this season, good luck! Try to stay sugar free but don't beat yourself up if a slide happens- just get back onto your path after, and be kind to yourself. Honestly, it is kindness to my mother that I do backslide- I know it's hurtful to turn it down, and it means more to me that she feel that her efforts are not wasted. I can only educate and convert so many people.




Over the past few months I have been weaning off the last of what sugar I was consuming- honey. I love honey in my tea. I prefer it over sugar anyway, and have for years; but I recognize that in terms of affect on the body, honey behaves the same as table sugar- it spikes you immediately and gives a hefty glycemic response. In August I began using Agave nectar instead of honey. Agave is pretty neat; it has a very subtle flavor, and a much lower glycemic response to it.

So why the heck haven't I been using Stevia in my tea? I guess because like eveyone else using Stevia, I am timid in my experimentation because Stevia in the wrong amount can be horrible. Exquisitely disgusting, no joke!

This fall however, I finally decided to try it. After all I am pretty nearly sugar free at this point, fruit excepted. Why bend in my morning cup of tea? Starting the day with a sugar rush- albeit a small one- is strange if you plan on not having anything else besides that the rest of the day.

I went slowly as I do with all other things Stevia, and through experimentation have discovered that the little scoop inside the bottle is plenty for a regular sized mug. When I am using a tall travel mug, I make it a heaping scoop. It seems to work well and I'm happy with the results. I get my tea (yes, it's caffiene, that I'm not giving up) but not the sugar crash from the honey.

It's a grand experiment, and I feel much healthier and happier months later now that I have committed to the lifestyle once again. It's not always easy, because sugar is such a part of our culture... but each day is a new day, and each cup of tea reminds me that I have the power to choose health over momentary taste enjoyment. Not that I am deprived of taste, no! I think my tea tastes fabulous, having adjusted to the taste of Stevia over time; tea with honey, when I drink it now and then (such as at a restaurant) hasn't got the luster that Stevia does. Perhaps I ought to carry some with me, now that I think of it.

If you are reading this and experimenting, share your thoughts! Any ideas should be shared, because Stevia is still underground and the entire idea that sugar sickens people is still not recognized... the only way to educate is to talk and share.

Gotta go... it's time for tea.