Depending on who I’m talking to, I say that I’m on a cleanse, or observing a Lenten fast. Whatever works to explain my temporary abstinence from refined sugar, meat, and alcohol.
I tend toward extremes in certain areas of my life (food being one of them), and the ordinary vicissitudes of winter in the northern hemisphere combined with nigh-unlimited access to really good pastry (my roommate works at my favorite bakery. Woe is me) made for a perfect storm of unreflective indulgence. It’s a strange thing: At a certain point, the enjoyment of eating plateaus. Eventually it drops off into outright discomfort. But for some reason, faced with an entire bag of pastries, I will eat the whole damn thing, even as I know in my rational mind that my pleasure will be far greater if I eat only one or two.
I decided that the best way to shake off the sluggishness that had enveloped me by late February was to take a break from the more conspicuous contributors to my sense of malaise.
It’s been surprisingly easy to live without these things. Although I do dream (almost nightly now as the time approaches to break my fast) about eating sugar. Last night it was a flat, diamond-shaped whole-wheat pastry with a central dot of walnuts in sticky brown syrup. I started to eat it, realized that it wasn’t yet the 3rd of April (the day I’ll hop off the wagon), and decided to spit it out.
I was at an event, working. It was a 28th birthday party at which many of the guests were, inexplicably, young children. There were about a hundred people in attendance, being led by a DJ in group dance moves, and there was a sub-plot involving a group of preteen kids who sang lovely a cappella harmonies and were actually malevolent bullies, hiding behind the cloak of innocent smiles and sweet voices to work mischief upon the other guests.
So, I decide to spit out this pastry, but it’s stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I have to scrape away at it with my finger. All while leaning over a trash can in the kitchen, trying to remain hidden from sight, but of course a coworker walks in at one point, and it’s decidedly awkward. (Later in the dream: There’s been some sort of communal tooth-brushing ritual, and I’m holding twenty-odd toothbrushes that have each been used only once. I reflect that I can soak them in a mild bleach solution and have a years’ supply of toothbrushes. In my waking life, I’m a little obsessed with brushing my teeth – fortuitously, since I love sugar so much.)
Chocolate features prominently in my dreams, and is usually what I’m eating when I forgetfully lapse in my commitment. One night it was a caramel-rich, pecan-filled turtle-type confection.
So far, I haven’t forgotten myself in real life (I do make an allowance for Sriracha, without which I can’t exist, and pho – I’d be really surprised if they don’t put sugar in the broth). I’ve been thinking about what I will eat when I break my fast: it’s probably going to be ice cream. My hope is that I can return to sugar with renewed respect for its status as a “sometimes” food, having shed the compulsion to inhale an entire pint of gelato in a single sorrow-engendering session and to stuff my face with whatever pastry comes my way. Whether or not my hope will be realized remains to be seen – but I may post a copy of my graph in the kitchen, as a friendly reminder.