The Donut Dilemma February 19 2012
Standing at the donut shop in my running tights, I’m reasonably cognizant of the fact that I stand out. My kind aren’t supposed to frequent donut shops. We’re supposed to be standing in line shouting over the din of the blenders at Jamba Juice or sipping non-fat lattes and nibbling primly on bran muffins at a local coffee shop.
But I like donuts and Sunday is donut day. I end my long Sunday morning runs at the donut shop around the corner from my apartment. There is an organic, vegan donut shop a mile down the road, but this one is closer so I shoulder the guilt and fiddle with my watch as I slip into the haven of fried dough and frosting.
The smell of fried dough clings to everything. Twenty years from now that smell will still be hovering over the walls and floors of this place. The woman behind the counter is standing over the trays of donuts with a pair of tongs in hand, waiting for me to make my selection.
I point to a chocolate donut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. She grabs the one without sprinkles and I correct her. Then I indicate a regular donut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Again she goes for the one without sprinkles and again I correct her. After the third time, she looks at me curiously.
“They’re for the kids,” I blurt out. “They told me to get donuts with sprinkles.”
I don’t have kids.
I just really like sprinkles and I’m feeling guilty about getting donuts in the first place. One of the reasons I like having my long Sunday runs to myself is that I always end at the donut shop. If I ran with someone else they might suggest the local, healthy, totally sustainable café next door that serves steel cut oatmeal and toast with herbed butter. All of which is delicious, but it’s not donuts.
I tell myself that if I don’t workout then I don’t get donuts, and try to use it as a devilish sort of incentive, but I know it’s all a farce. I would eat donuts regardless and I run because I love to run. I love the time to myself. I love the wind swishing around me. I love the heat rising in curling tendrils from my body when I stop to stretch and look out over the Bay. Marin is in the distance, then the silhouette of the Golden Gate, and the San Francisco cityscape presiding over it all. I love the inspiration that rises to meet me when I take time to let it. I like feeling healthy. I like pushing myself, the slight burning of my lungs and muscles. But mostly I just love that something inexplicable about running. It’s the purest expression of that sudden, spontaneous joy that rushes through me at the oddest moments.
I don’t need the donuts as an incentive, but it’s taken me awhile to get to that point where I can admit to my donut obsession without needing to offer a justification. I'd like to be more responsible and healthy and eat carrots for breakfast because I prefer carrots, but I don't. Not on Sunday.
When those voices rise up and tell me I should feel guilty for putting all of that useless sugar and fat into my body therein counteracting all the good I did for it by running, I simply shrug my shoulders and lick the frosting off my fingers. My mental well-being is important too, and my mental well-being delights in pink frosting and puffy, sugary fried dough with a slight crunch.
I’m glad that more and more people are aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and the terrifying amount of absolute sh*t that is labeled as food and put on shelves. But when I’m sitting with friends who are deliberating on whether or not they should order dessert, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “Shut-up and order the damn chocolate cake!” And when the guilt creeps in as I'm examining the irony of a runner ending her long run at the crowded donut shop next door to an oatmeal and toast kind of place, I want to kick myself in the shins for being that girl.
I grab my white paper bag, grease leaking through, and sit on the curb. My feet, clad in battered running shoes, tap happily on the pavement as I bite into the dough. Rainbow sprinkles fall to the ground and I take a sip from my milk carton, school cafeteria memories surfacing rapidly. I'm a runner. I love donuts. Judge me. Your oatmeal looks boring and my sugar-induced delirium doesn't care that it's healthier. This donut is fricking delicious.
A Week Without Sugar: Day 4 January 06 2012
I'm now on Day 4 of my week sans sugar.
Aside from constantly sending Perry texts complaining about how I'm never letting him talk me into anything again, I'm doing okay. Today I had to get my yellow fever shot for our upcoming trip to Uganda and I'm seriously regretting the fact that I can't pacify my drugged and semi-delirious self with a cookie. Other than that, can't complain, but there are definitely a few things I miss on a daily basis.
Coffee in my sugar
Um, obviously I meant the other way around. Or did I? My subconscious is clearly at work here and that mistype is too good to correct.
I don't even eat jam on a daily basis, but the other day I had some bread (I like to randomly buy loafs of bread and carry them around) and my coworker had jam in the fridge (as one does) and I really wanted some, but I couldn't have it. It was organic raspberry jam. It looked delicious. I'll never know.
This is something I drink on a daily basis. I don't drink soda, but I still like to mix up my boring water routine. In lieu of busting out the vodka at 8 a.m (I do have some standards, you know. They're low, but I have them), I usually have watered down cranberry juice. I miss it.
Not Having to Pay Attention to Every Damn Thing I Ingest
I have suddenly become that person who meticulously scans the ingredients of every item to see if I can eat it or not. The other day I had to Google whether the beer I wanted to order had sugar in it. It did. I was saddened and had water instead. In retrospect it was probably for the best. I had just come from yoga and I'm pretty sure true yogis frown upon post-meditation beer consumption. Whatevs. It's good for your aura.
I love to bake. It calms me. I'm not saying you can't bake without sugar, but all of my go-to comfort recipes are a no-go. Chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, coffee cake, cheesecake. Sob. That was "sob" as in the sound one makes while crying and not an abbreviated version of "son of a bitch," though that sentiment also sums up my frustration.
Overall I feel fine. I was half-hoping that it would be some sort of miracle step and I would feel better, happier, greater or at the very least I would have some crazy side effects and withdrawal symptoms that would turn me into a Mr.Hyde sort of creature...because that's always fun. On the other hand, as much as I love donuts, I'll let you in on a little secret.
I'm all talk.
Are you shocked? Ok, fine, at least pretend to be!
I do love donuts and cookies and ice cream, but I don't eat them on a daily basis nor do I consume them in copious quantities. I was raised in a pretty strict household. With a background in fitness and nutrition, my stepmom was looking out for trans fats and high fructose corn syrup long before looking out for them had become somewhat mainstream. She's kind of a hipster like that.
Oreos and soda were quickly banned and even though I grumbled about it on a daily (hourly?) basis, it made me a lot more aware of what I eat. I don't drink soda, I don't eat candy, and I stay the hell away from high fructose corn syrup. That stuff scares me, you guys. So when I sat down and looked at cutting sugar out of my diet, I was surprised and pleased to note that I actually don't consume that much of it. Not enough to be considered a real live sugar addict anyway.
Nonetheless, this little experiment is good for two reasons. First and foremost, once my week is up I'll be able to give Perry smug looks when I eat my cheesecake and say "I'm not addicted! I proved it!" Secondly, it made me more aware of the sugar I do consume and how prevalent it is in most processed foods. Check it out sometime in the grocery store. Just casually pick up items and look at the ingredients. You'll be surprised. My grocery shopping takes three times longer than normal now because I have to read every ingredient. It's annoying, but it's also pretty enlightening (in a terrifying sort of way).
After reading all of the sugar withdrawal symptoms, I'm curious. Has anyone else tried this for short periods of time or has anyone entirely cut sugar out of their diet? I want to hear some stories, people! E-mail me: email@example.com I promise I won't post them. Unless, of course, you want me to.
A Week Without Sugar: Day 1 January 03 2012
Perry and I are sitting at the bar of Paisan reading over a booklet on Buyobo published by the Women's Microfinance Initiative. With less than a month before our departure, we're trying to get a sense of the communities WMI works with so that we can develop an itinerary and an action plan to make the most of our time in Uganda.
There is a sentence. A short, insignificant sentence about adding sugar to tea. I see Perry furrow his brow in displeasure and I know what's coming. A lecture about sugar. Only it's not a lecture exactly, more like a terrifying litany of the destructive properties of sugar in all of its varying forms. We talk about addiction. I wave it off saying I enjoy coffee and alcohol, but I give them up periodically for months at a time just to reassure myself that addiction hasn't clamped itself around my neck too tightly, but sugar? I don't know. I eat it in moderation and I don't see the point of giving it up. I like my weekly donut or my evening chocolate chip cookie.
"I challenge you to give up sugar," Perry says with a bemused smile. "For two weeks."
"Okay..." I trail off. I know I'm trapped. I was that kid who never backed down from a triple dog dare. I'm too stubborn and proud. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't do it. I think Perry knows this. I think he might be the same.
"What about homemade cookies?" I'm grasping at straws. "They're not processed. It shouldn't count."
In a show of benevolence, Perry shortens my sentence to one week. "One week without sugar. Starting now."
"I can eat fruit?"
"Ok. Deal." I make a mental note to stockpile mangoes.
The waiter comes to clear the dishes. My half-eaten cheesecake sits next to an empty espresso cup. "Are you still working on this cheesecake?" he asks.
"Yes," I respond quickly before flashing a guilty look. "I can't let it go to waste."
Perry laughs. I finish my cheesecake, we close the tab, and call it a day. Standing in the kitchen, I rifle through my cupboards and stand in front of the fridge to make a mental checklist of things that I can't eat this week. Chocolate chips, coffee cake, and cranberry juice. That sounds easy enough, but like a moth to the flame, I'm now fixated on these items.
I sit down at my computer with a glass of water and a steely resolve, but all I can think about is how good a handful of chocolate chips would be with a glass of cranberry juice. I send Perry a text.
It's going to be a long week.