Christmas in November

So, first things first. A sugar update. Finally got serious. It’s been two weeks. Two weeks and two days actually. No carbs, no alcohol, no fruit, nothing with sugar in it. So no Peet’s coffee a la almond milk, no Friday night beer, no chocolate–not even the low glycemic stuff they sell for eleven dollars a bar at the fancy artisanal grocery store up the street. No baked goods of any description. I had a student last week get me a selection of beyond fancy treats as a thank you for a letter of recommendation. Brought them straight home and fed them piece by piece to the kids. I walked around and around on Halloween with my hands stitched inside my pockets thinking too late that I could have been Silence from Doctor Who, which, to those not part of the Doctor Who Fandom, is the guy who looks like the guy from Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Sans mouth. The first week was horrifying. The headaches, the dumpy moods, the desire to lick the bottom of donut boxes. And dreams about pizza. Not about pizzas chasing me naked down the main street, or pizzas talking to me consolingly on a park bench somewhere. Just dreams about eating pizza. My brother was there, but not in any weird way, simply as my brother sat at a table with me eating pizza. Next we had spaghetti alla carbonara. So an awful first week and then I wake up on day eight ready to fight woolly mammoths with my teeth. Imagine ferrets after chocolate cake. Nine days later, still off it, still feeling irrepressibly giddy. The kids a little concerned, but at least they know they don’t need to hide their Halloween candy in the sock drawer. I’m not gonna lie and say the cravings have gone–urban legend claimed three days, which is nonsense. Three days in I would have split the dog in two for a chocolate mousse, or, not even, half a dozen frozen grapes–but they are easing, and I crave a half-inch of persimmon, not half an apple pie.

Anyway, to the main point, the first real test was Christmas dinner last week, the first week in November, over at an Irish friend’s in San Francisco. She’s making it a tradition, this the second year. And when I say Christmas, I mean Christmas. A tree, Santa hats, flashing lights, a ham, traditional Christmas pud with whipped cream and brandy sauce. It’s mainly her Irish friends, so I’m fortunate to be tolerated. There’s another woman goes, from London’s East End, but she has the voice of a never-scolded angel and sings traditional Irish ballads after dinner. The kids chase the dog up and down the apartment all night and the adults talk about England and Ireland and football and Ireland and England and kids and football, and occasionally someone really interesting shows up like the bloke this year who goes walkabout for a month each year on some disturbing trip. This past year, for instance, he and a mate from County Cork took an old Land Rover through all the Stans. I had no idea what he was talking about at first, and then after Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan came up a couple of times, the penny dropped. He mentioned how pretty Afghanistan is in May as if he were talking about Yosemite, right about the same time he said something about being shot at near the border of Tajikistan. When he excused himself to get another drink, I looked at the other bloke he’d been talking to, a sensible fella originally from outside of Dublin, and we both had the same response: how does he sell that to the missus? Two kids under ten. A month in some dodgy part of the world doing dangerous things. Maybe it keeps him young, the sensible one suggested. Maybe, indeed. Being far from the kids for a month anywhere would tend to keep anybody young.

So, anyway, interesting people tend to show up, and I got some brilliant tips for how to fix the clogged shower back at the house from another ex-pat building his own home in San Rafael. There was something jolly about the whole thing, almost as if a Christmas tree and silly, fur-trimmed hats are all it takes to keep people from mentioning politics and atrocities for hours at a time. After dinner them that could sing sang and the rest of us hummed along, mostly Irish ballads, but there was one memorable take of Me and Bobby McGee.

And, yeah, the Christmas pud was tempting. Wickedly so, but I kept a safe distance. Just.

The Gwen Stefani Diet

Blake and Gwen After and AfterSo, the sugar thing. It’s been months since the first update. First three weeks went really well, especially as the occasional piece of fruit, or four, remained permissible. However, probably the worst thing to do when trying to quit sugar is to plan a five-day trip to New York, sans enfants. A five day trip to meet a brother flying in from England, a brother who really enjoys an eleven pm chocolate brownie, the preferred serving involving a demitasse of chocolate mousse on the side. He also likes a beer, as I do myself, so, really, to be honest, the quitting sugar thing went on hiatus cause, you know, how much fun is it to eat a late night chocolate brownie by yourself, especially after half-a-dozen I.P.A.s?

So, a five day hiatus, a hiatus in which a quite unsightly rash developed on the lid of my right eye. It’s also in my ear, especially the right one. The doctor says it’s Seborrheic Dermatitis. He thinks its stress, or lack of sleep, or, hello, a form of candida, brought on by a yeast called Malassezia, which sounds uncannily like a venereal disease a friend of mine found himself attached to in college. And it’s a close relative of our friend saccharon. The doctor suggests more sleep and an anti-Candida diet. What does a vegan eat on an anti-Candida diet? Vegetables, beans in moderation, and lots of water. So I basically need to put on a mule deer costume until the fall. Two months without alcohol, without dairy, without sugar, without fruit. Oh and no fried foods, no chips, no gluten, no alcohol—I think I said that last one. So, a mule deer on a diet. Can’t wait.

But I certainly wasn’t about to deal with that during the end of the school year, so I went back to mochas and burritos and smeared hydrocortisone on the affected spots, which, hilariously kept shifting. As soon as the eyelid responded, the base of the nostrils would flare up, and then the left ear. It’s whack a mole. And I keep pondering the more exercise, more sleep, the absolutely no sugar thing. Summer the perfect time for that. I mean, actually, as a teacher, no excuses. And yesterday, the missus went off for a week and a half to see her mother. Took our eleven year old with her, and the four year old’s in camp all week. So…I had a last supper, involving just about everything a last supper should involve minus the prayer, and today I’m on a nine-day juice and smoothie fast thing. Gotta get radical. Admittedly the last time I went radical, I drank nothing but water for five days, and that sucked worse than scabies. I don’t recommend driving. After about four days, i could barely put my own shoes on. So not doing that again.Blake before and after that looks like before and before

But, today, a new Vitamix arrived. A friend also sent a tempting link to an article about Blake Shelton dropping poundage ridiculous on the Gwen Stefani diet. Which involves everything you’d presume it involves plus, apparently, ingesting copious amounts of CLA Safflower oil which, surprise, surprise, happens to be available at a discounted price via a link at the bottom of the webpage. Let me find the details a la Blake: 30 lbs in less than a month. And he still eats like a runaway horse—Gwen’s words, though not an exact quote. I’m not convinced though I might be if it came with a Gwen Stefani dating app. And the above photos certainly look more like a before and before or an after and after, not by any stretch a before and after, hair shade notwithstanding. Alright, all hilarity aside. I’m back in. On the Vitamix diet until the fam returns from the mother-in-law’s. This time, no fruit, and no five day all-in trip to Manhattan to see the brother in the devil suit.

Back in ten days with an update. 7/17/2017, how do you not love the numerical fluidity there?

Sugar Squared

Peet's CoffeeSo, I just quit sugar, or, at least I’m trying. I’m completely addicted. I come up with reasons to leave the house on some pointless errand just so I can stop at Starbucks for a medium, decaf soy mocha thingy and a pack of those dark chocolate graham crackers they display next to the cash register. Where have you been my wife says, when I came back 45 minutes after going to drop something off at the post office. Oh, the line was horrendous, and then Steve called on his way home and needed to talk about Julia. All nonsense, and that, apparently, the first sign—concealment. I, similarly, constantly, sneak stuff meant for the kids, things like their Halloween candy and the Jaffa Cakes their Nana sends from England, the kinds of things we keep in a cupboard above the fridge, next to the alcohol and the matches.

A part of me wonders if it’s an OCD thing, but then again it’s not my OCD telling me I’m utterly craving a quarter cup of chocolate chips, or I have to eat three fun-size Twix. If it was the OCD, I’d eat all the Halloween candy, leave a few half-gnawed wrappers and tell my wife we need to call animal control. Blaming it on the children seems a little harsh. Maybe that’s the next step. But, anyway, D-day cometh. I had a check-up last week: blood work, prostate etc., and I have high cholesterol, which is unusual for a hard-core vegetarian trying his hardest most days to qualify as a vegan. What do you call that people ask? Failure’s the obvious response, but I hum and haw and say that technically I’m an ovo-vegan who occasionally eats cheese and dairy. “Failure” such a more appropriate response.

But, anyway back to sugar, and the doctor. I’m not diabetic, but I have the high cholesterol thing, like twice what it should be. If I don’t eat red meat, the next thing on the how to lower your cholesterol list is losing weight. And yes I could shed the odd pound in ten, so not massively overweight, but when I imagine putting a ten-pound weight in my back pocket and carrying it around all day, well, that’s a little awkward. I know people who have gotten help for sugar addiction, as in serious help, not just the go talk to a therapist once a week kind of help. I’m not sure where to put myself on a scale (sorry) from 1 to 10. So, there’s the Starbucks thing, and the Halloween, Easter, Christmas candy thing, but I’m not getting up in the middle of the night, locking myself in the garden shed and scoffing down half a chocolate cake. Then again, the minute I feel any kind of stress, sugar is the go-to, either actual sugar or a plate load of carbs. Ideally, both. Carbs then treat. Carbs then treat. And I shovel them in, especially when stress is easy to find with two kids bouncing around the house and pretending that “listening” is a spectator sport.

So, anyway, I’m trying. This is day two. I’m already cheating—convincing myself that fruit isn’t really sugar cause it’s natural, and dried fruit is definitely not sugar because it’s natural and it’s dried. Case closed. So, how do I feel? Pretty much the same as the day before the day before yesterday. Not entirely surprising, really. Especially when I started the day with a decaf mocha thingy (but from Peet’s and with almond milk not soy) as a way of easing into it. More to follow though my four year old just asked when the Easter Bunny’s coming and a little shiver went up the old spine.