Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Last year, my friend, Martha, decided to recognize Lent by abstaining from sugar. At the time, I thought her little quest was amusing and a little absurd when she couldn't enjoy treats with friends. I knew minimizing sugar intake was a good thing, but I thought it strange that she wouldn't just exercise more self-restraint throughout the year and thus enjoy less total sugar with the occasional treat.

This year, I'm eating my, rather, my thoughts.

Our trip to Mexico after Christmas did me in. The food there is SO good! I threw out my normally balanced, mostly vegetarian eating habits and ate meat and large quantities. Given the option, I wouldn't change my eating and lack of exercise for that week; it was more of a vacation to not think about those things. However, since we returned, I have found myself more out of control with food than I have been in many years, and sweet things are my weakness. Monday at a family party, when I was working on my third cookie, which complimented all three flavors of ice cream nicely, Kent shot me a quizzical and astonished look and asked if I was really having more dessert. That's when it hit me. I felt emotionally excited about the treat and passed a quick rationalization that my workout that morning would cancel out the damage. I recognized the emotion-rationalization combo as the same one that met me at work almost every day for the semester that I worked at the BYU bakery 15 years ago. Yep, that would be the same semester that I put on 20 lbs.

Tangent, and maybe I've already shared this in another post: Growing up, I got lots of comments about how skinny I was. I wore long sleeves my entire freshman year of high school because I was so embarrassed by my bony wrists. I loathed the word "skinny" and would threaten people unless the referred to my body type as "slim" or "slender". When Kent went on his mission and my prospect for a future marriage with him was 99% sure, I didn't mind gaining the bakery weight. I had wondered what it would be like to not be skinny, and I found out. I didn't like feeling stuffed into my waistband each day or prancing around the football field with love handles under my color guard leotard. So I decided I was done with that experiment and commenced eating lots of celery and grapefruit, which accompanied hour-long daily workouts. That's when I learned another lesson: losing weight is not easy. I was still chubby 18 months later when we got married, and I didn't get back to my ideal weight until I had a baby in the middle of a busy Church calling. Stress was the key!

Anyhoo...Monday night I decided to join Martha in her sugar fast. Because sugar so often comes with fat, I'm hoping to feel healthier and I hope sugar does not taste good to me by Easter. Another friend, Kelly, announced today that she has also taken up the quest, though she will quit sooner to enjoy a vacation coming up. Does anyone else want to join us? I have to say, even though the LDS Church doesn't teach Lent's observance, it is nice knowing there are people around the world also beginning a penance with me today.

I am giving myself a little indulgence, which I think will help me stick to the rest of my plan: chocolate. I can have up to one square of dark chocolate per day. I once heard Oprah say dark chocolate has antioxidants, so it must be kind of healthy, right? And it's really not that sweet. Besides, my true sweetie presented me with an Amano chocolate bar for Valentine's Day, and that is simply too much to resist.

So here I sit on Ash Wednesday, my first day of no sugar treats. (I had to define treats to not include apple butter, because I've got to put something on my pancakes.) The day went well. I was craving sugar cookies this afternoon, but I looked forward to my chocolate, which I earned after a day of constant cleaning, and which is melting ever so satisfyingly slowly in my mouth at this very instant.


Charlotte said...

I've always been fascinated with Lent. It would be interesting to try it one year. Good luck with your sugar abstinance!

mindy said...

Kudos to you for recognizing an imbalance (however temporary, since you are usually quite balanced in this area, it seems) and rectifying it. I need to get my snack intake a little more under control, too. Lately I opt for the pure sugar first, when I wish I would choose a healthy snack to fill me up and then top it off with a little bit of sweetness. But I don't think I'm up for getting through the rest of winter without treats. Somedays it is the only thing that gets me through AND keeps the kids alive.

Min said...

I always practice Lent. Though usually I give up dating. Best of luck with your lent.

Mary said...

Min--Ha ha! Your comment got a LOL from me.

My Lent update: The first couple days were hard at snack time (late afternoon and late evening) when I was rummaging around for a non-sugar treat. Peppermint herbal tea and popcorn have filled the late evening snack craving. The tea is calming and its flavor makes me feel like I'm having a treat. For the afternoon, I made a shopping list of healthier snacks, and the kids and I have eaten much better since I stocked up on chips and salsa, apples and PB, and goldfish crackers with cream cheese.

Date nights are still my weakness. I hadn't realized how much sugar was a part of my weekends, but the pull to order a specialty drink or dessert, or even to make a rich mug of cocoa is very strong. I haven't given in, but it's come close. Surprisingly, I've only had three squares of dark chocolate in 18 days. That craving kind of left with the snack craving. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not!