Sunday, January 6, 2008


Dearest S,

Right, so we obviously should’ve started this weeks and weeks ago, as we endlessly discussed our sugar-free spree, but we didn't, so for now the best I can offer is a summing-up of my first Week Without. Or maybe just my first day.

I spent most of New Year’s Eve driving 20 mph through a snowstorm in eastern Iowa; a trip that usually takes 5.5 hours consumed closer to 9. A-- (pardon the Marquise of O-- pretension, but you want to be anonymous, too) had to get straight to the rally in Ames, so we couldn't stop for the usual roadside trans-fatty family-dining experience. At a gas station in Grinnell, I picked up some Snicker bars fashioned into Nutcracker men and a bag of locally dipped chocolate pretzels. Once at the event, I made for the “buffet tables” and loaded up on the copious-yet-nasty Chex Mix, artichoke dip, lemon squares, and brownies provided by donors. By midnight, I was stomach-sick from such unaccustomed quantities of nasty processed food.

A good thing, too—hitting bottom always helps. By the morning of New Year’s Day, I was totally committed to the new sugar-free me. First stop: the continental breakfast bar of the Heartland Inn. Now, I’d been a little worried about this first challenge—how much easier if I’d been at home, with my Costco quantities of organic oats. Would I be strong enough to silence the siren song of lemon poppy-seed mini-muffins and the self-pouring waffle station? God, but I love those waffles. Best to be done with it as quickly as possible. I went straight for the only kosher choice—hardboiled eggs—and closed my eyes to the rest. I dropped two eggs in a bowl, poured some black coffee (forget giving up coffee, all right? Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc), and went straight back to the room, where the overpowering aroma of human sweat wafting off the carpets did much to diminish my appetite. Done and done.

This early success steeled me against the legion temptations awaiting me at campaign HQ, that long crammed table of cakes (both homemade and store-bought), and snicker-doodles, and actual Snickers, and Tootsie Pops and, basically, you name it. If the sugar content was sky-high and the shit tasted good, it was there. In general, I find it very, very hard to refuse food that is both a)free and b)right in front of me. You must force yourself to adopt a different mindset, to re-orient first your brain and then, with any luck, your palate—the same rhetorical shift I made when I first became a vegetarian. I look at the basket of Butterfingers and I tell myself, over and over and over: This is not food that I eat; this is not real food and therefore I do not eat it; this food might as well not be here since it is so precisely the opposite of that which I do eat… Until, eventually, word becomes deed, belief replaces mantra, and so on. Right?


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