Monday, 4 March 2013

The Sugar Trials

This weekend I was put on trial.

My daughter, aghast that the biscuits had been finished, demanded to know who had scoffed the lot.

It was me. I had made a lovely cup of coffee and had leant against the sink, gloriously inhaling Hob Nobs one after the other, until they were all gone. I'd consumed about six, without really thinking about it, and enjoying every single one. I'd had a momentary pang of guilt, remembering that my daughter and I had purchased said biscuits together the previous day. But it hadn't been enough to prevent me polishing them all off.

My daughter thought for a moment, whisked upstairs, and came back down with a white woollen shawl draped across the top of her head, long woolly flaps hanging down each side, and wielding a hair brush gavel. She was my judge.

She asked for witnesses. There were none. She demanded evidence. No biscuits in cupboard, empty wrapping in bin. She extorted a confession. I shamefacedly gave her one. She sentenced me to two days without sugar of any kind. Then both children wrote up my sentence, and blu-tacked it to the kitchen door.

I found it pretty darn hard to get through that first day. Over and over again I reached for the biscuit cupboard, or looked sadly in the fridge. Not least because we had friends for supper, who brought chocolate, and my husband supplied chocolate too.

In fact — and I'm not proud of this — I didn't make it. I sneaked a biscuit at the dinner. I had a chocolate when everyone was gone. My cheese biscuit was a digestive. I failed.

But during both days I managed not to, say, eat palm sugar and golden syrup from the cupboard, eat the kids' snacks, or do more than have a lot of fruit, nuts and smoked mackerel (yes, I know).

It was one of the hardest things I've done in years. Harder than giving up alcohol. If I hadn't been able to drink coffee, I would have gone under in fury and frustration.

Yet it was the first time I have ever been able even to try to stop eating sugar. I have tried to trick myself so many times, or beat myself up, or play games with myself about it. My best method has always been not to have it in the house. But with children, sugar's really hard to avoid. Although strangely I'm very good at depriving them of sugar (not because I've eaten it all already, I hasten to add).

I found my strength of purpose (such as it was) in the idea that my daughter was justified in her annoyance, and that I owed it to her to atone for my rather greedy thoughtlessness. That if I expect her to do maths, and play piano when she doesn't want to, and get cross with her, and every so often sanction her, then I should be able to take my own medicine. Otherwise it's a tyranny.

It surprised me that I was (mostly) able to stick to my purpose when it was to honour my daughter's hilarious judgement of me. I really didn't want to let her down.

Maybe I'll try again this week.

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