Sugar blues

Image supplied by Cadburys

OK, so I’ve been off the sugar for almost 2 months now.  I wont pretend that it’s not been tough – it’s been very tough indeed but the more I read the more I find out about the detrimental effects of sugar on one’s health and the more convinced I am that this is the right thing to do, at the very least for the sake of my ear itching dilemma. It’s this, and other benefits (see below) that I keep in mind when I reluctantly refuse yet another custard cream at the mother and toddler group.

I know you’re dying to ask me if avoiding sugar has had an effect on my ears – I have to say that I think it has. Although I do still have to have a little dig in there every now and again, not nearly as much as I used to so I definitely think that sugar was the main culprit, unless there is something else in sugar that I am allergic to. The trouble is that it’s really tricky to avoid sugar completely. I tried sugar free ketchup and mayonnaise and they taste not too dissimilar to baby vomit so I gave in and continued with the regular brands which do contain sugar. I also eat sugar free jam, but the very fact that it has fruit in means it has fruit sugars in, and I think fruit sugar has much the same effect on my poor lugs.

So there you go. I know I have to some extent failed in my quest to eliminate sugar from my diet completely but I have stuck to my guns when it comes to cakes, biscuits, cereals. I’ve not had one measly biscuit now for as long as I remember, well a couple of months anyway. I have however been making the most delish sugar free banana and sultana cake and is about the only treat I give myself, well that and lashings of sugar free jam on toast.

I can’t say I don’t miss the goodies though – I really, really do but I’m slowly building up momentum and I can even let a chocolate bourbon pass by my nose now with hardly a whimper from my lips. Eventually I hope to be at the stage where I gag at the sight of a bar of Dairy Milk – I think cows might fly before that actually happens.

I have noticed other benefits to not eating sugar, others have too. I’ve actually lost about 5 pounds in weight. Yes, that’s right, completely unintentionally but because I am avoiding all those little nibbles of biscuits, cakes and chocolate my weight is slowly but steadily decreasing, well that is unless the scales are playing a very sick joke on me!

A friend said to me just last week “have you had something done – you look so much brighter” Cheeky cow – what are you saying like? But then I realised it was the lack of sugar, it has made my complexion brighter – I definitely feel it in my skin too, it’s softer, on my face and body. My legs used to be like crocodile scales, (do crocs have scales? Note to self – must check this!!) but now they are as soft and moisturised as a pan of melted chocolate – hmmmm.

I have to say that I’ve not been quite as strict with my boys as I have myself – the way I see it, why put my poor children through the torture of not eating yummy treats just because I’m stupid enough. I do feel though that they should eat fewer sweet treats, especially after all the stuff I’ve been reading about the harmful effects of sugar. I am, slowly, reducing the amount of tempting lovely chocolatey, sugary treats that enter the house. The bonus is that they just love my banana and sultana cake!

So there you have it, I’ve (almost) given up sugar and as a result, my ears itch much less (damn ketchup!) I’ve lost weight, my skin is nicer, and I’m a right grumpy cow 24/7. Didn’t I mention that last bit? oh, I do apologise!!!

Supermarket sweep

The first thing I have to say is that ‘Damn this sugar giving up lark is not easy’. Not only have I had to resist the hundreds of chocolate eggs (given to my boys by well meaning relations) that still litter my house from Easter but just trying to buy any food product in a supermarket that doesn’t contain sugar is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Let me just clarify what I mean by sugar; I’m talking about refined, added sugar which includes glucose, sucrose and any other ‘ose’s but which doesn’t include fruit sugars because they are counteracted by the other nutrients,  apparently.

In a bid to feel less of an outsider I’ve also partially roped in my husband and two little boys on my no sugar quest – that’s no easy task either, I hear you shout. No you’re absolutely right, it’s not but my husband being the supportive type (except when it comes to bacon, but that’s ok because bacon doesn’t contain sugar), and my boys being only two and three years old and therefore having no real choice in the matter, it’s not actually as difficult as you might imagine. So, off we go to the supermarket, shopping list (and discount vouchers) in pocket.

Ok, first up fruit and veg; that’s easy, fruit has only natural sugars so I stock up to the gills with fruit, as a pre-emptive strike against those sugar cravings. Meat, only unprocessed contains no sugar. This will be a doddle, yes? Milk, butter, cream, cheese no problems. Yogurt – well now it gets a bit tricky. After looking at every product in the aisle I can find nothing in the way of yogurt that doesn’t contain sugar, except of course natural yogurt. I’ll have to be a bit creative here as my boys love Petit Filous and I can use it as a kind of bribe to make them eat their dinner. So, it will have to be natural yogurt mixed with honey for them, fruit for me. I think honey would have the same effect as refined sugar on my ears.

Onwards down the aisle I come across ham, nothing without sugar. I buy corned beef instead. Pasta and curry sauces all contain sugar. I stock up on the tinned tomatoes and decide to make my own sauces – oh how virtuous I feel. But I need stock cubes. Low and behold if stock cubes don’t contain sugar too. There’s not a hope in hell of finding cereal that doesn’t contain sugar. I opt for oats and resolve to make porridge every morning. Hmm I wonder how the boys will like that. Snack foods – well other than dried fruit and nuts, and even then most will have some kind of sugar related coating, there’s not much choice. Alcohol – sugar, sugar, sugar. Toast spreads, ditto – I opt for peanut butter, the really expensive kind that doesn’t contain sugar, and Marmite (thank the lord). Bread, that all important staple that my boys would perish without. Could I find one single loaf of bread that doesn’t contain sugar – could I heck.

I think you get my drift here. This no sugar quest is going to be hard work but will my boys become mutinous and demand sugar engorged treats? And more importantly will it stop my ears itching? Watch this space.

Sugar Free

Cake with icing and raspberry on top

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I have a cotton bud in my hand and I am standing at my mirror watching myself vigorously scratching at the inside of my ears with it. It is quite painful but it brings relief at the same time. I know it’s bad for me.

‘My doctor always said never put anything in your ear that’s smaller than an elbow’, my mum always said to me, despite herself putting anything vaguely small and sharp in there, mainly Kirby hair grips. She always suffered with ear problems too.

The reason I’m scratching at the inside of my ears so forcefully? Quite simply, because they itch like hell. Why else would I do it but for the relief it brings. And why do I have incredibly itchy ears in the first place? I have no idea, neither does my doctor. It’s not an infection. I’ve had ear infections, although not as often as you’d expect, and this is not what it is. He also said that it’s not eczema. I do know that it seems to occur whenever I eat sugar, chocolate to be precise. This, as some of you may imagine, is a bloody nightmare. I absolutely love chocolate, more than sex. It is one of life’s pleasures and I can imagine nothing more lovely than sitting down in the evening, after putting the kids to bed, film just about to start, lovingly opening the wrapper to a bumper size bar of Dairy Milk, my choc of choice.

So, I have this awful reaction to something I absolutely love. It’s like being allergic to lie-ins, or something as equally ironic and unjust. (I would say a free pair of Jimmy Choos but I’m not really a shoe person, but you get my drift.)

In an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of insanely itchy ears I decide to do something about it. Yes that’s right, I decide to give up sugar. There I’ve said it and that means I have to stick to it otherwise I will have millions of people banging down my door telling me I’m a failure and nobody wants that. So, I’ve decided to give up sugar. Not for lent. Not to lose weight, but simply to see if it makes any difference to my ear itching dilemma.

Methinks this is not going to be an easy project but for the sake of my poor abused eardrums, I have to, at least, try.  First stop then, the supermarket.

The little things are important too

Two graves

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What do you think about when you sit in a cosy café, tea in hand, staring out onto a rainy street? I was there, a few days ago. I was thinking about the ‘me’ in the future, on the day of my death actually.

I had my big four-0 recently, which I think triggered this moroseness. But also, my granddad died a few weeks ago, which was very sad, but was not unexpected as he was nearly 90 and had been ill for some time. He’d had a good life. Married to my Nan for 60 odd years, and died with loving family around him.

One thing that occurred to me was that when imagining myself on my death bed, the little irritating things in life would seem so irrelevant, inconsequential. It has been said that when you are on your deathbed you don’t remember how much time you spent at work or how much money you earned, but you will remember the people you loved, and who loved you. Petty annoyances will no longer matter. But does that mean we should dismiss the trivial, day-to-day things such as getting the washing off the line or cleaning the house? Should we just ignore these things because they will be of no consequence when we look back, and should we instead spend our lives hugging everyone, talking and generally being sickeningly loving to everyone we know? Or do these insignificant things all contribute to the whole?

Although it seems a little morbid there are benefits to considering one’s own mortality. Firstly, no matter what you do with your life, no matter how much money you make, however many friends you have – you will, at some point die – it’s a sobering thought but death is a lonely affair. No one and no thing, including money can accompany you through the gates of Hades, across the river Styx, to the other side, wherever.

We all seem to be in one hell of a rush to get somewhere these days. Is it that we are trying to get to our own deaths as quickly and as painlessly as possible? Or is it that we want to get everything done, get to a state of completion before we sit back and relax and enjoy the remainder of our lives? Who is to say that we will not die before that day comes, and then we will have wasted time and effort in the pursuit of ‘getting stuff done’.

While I ponder these questions I think I will have just one more cuppa, because although I probably won’t remember this small event years in the future, I will, I’m sure, be just that little bit more relaxed. And perhaps maybe, it will make my life just that little bit better.

Where the hell is my life?

I’ve been living in someone else’s body. It started when I came out of hospital with my first son 3 years ago, and it’s only recently that I’ve been feeling like me again.  But I think the worst of it is over.

I have to admit, I’ve not found motherhood easy, most don’t. But most mums just get on with it and make the most of it, enjoy time looking after their kids.

Truth is, and it hurts to admit this, but sometimes I don’t like looking after my children. At times I feel so overwhelmed by them that I fear I will lose my mind.

Everyone feels like that Love” my mother is fond of telling me before regaling me with tales of my delinquency as a nipper. Thanks mum but that was you, then, with lots of family and friends to help. This is me now, no family nearby, friends all having their own inadequacy problems.

The constant noise, the constant mess, its enough to make me seriously wonder why I had children in the first place. I mean. Where is that person I used to be; calm, controlled, energetic, ordered? Now I am a drained, morose, scatty, temperamental shadow of my former self and there is little hope of returning to the person I was, at least for the next 10 years.  At times, I don’t feel any motivation to entertain them and then I feel guilty because they are bored. I rely too much on the TV. I just don’t know what else to do with them.

I spend some days wishing the day would end. I’m literally wishing our lives away. I take them out most mornings, to play groups where I sit and chat to people about children or stare into space mind elsewhere, but fearful of catching some new mum’s eye and having to have meaningless conversations that begin, “What’s your little boy’s name?” then you’ll discuss age, stage of development, sleep habits etc. Dull Dull Dull!

On particularly bad days I’m screaming inside my head “I just want my life back”. It’s usually when, after a morning watching them at playgroup, it’s pissing down so I cant send them off into the garden, I feel bored to distraction with trying to find something that will amuse them for more than 5 minutes so that I can read, write, tidy, clean – all of which id rather do than entertain my own children. “Make a cake with them, play a game with them” my best friend says.  Sometimes – ‘Yes great advice’, more often ‘No, I don’t bloody want to. In fact, I can’t thing of anything more tedious or frustrating’.

Sometimes I take the boys to the park if it’s not raining. It can be fun if we’re all running around, chasing each other. But playgroup or park, both take up only two hours of the day. What about the other 10? Well from 7am till 9am my husband will take care of their breakfast and clearing up the kitchen (honestly – where did I get such a treasure of a husband) while I take the dog for a walk, have a shower and mentally prepare myself for the day.

I have plenty of time off. OS (older son, 3) does three blessed days a week at nursery. YS (younger son, 2) has recently started going to nursery two mornings a week. So I have time to myself, free time, when I am responsible for no-one but me.

My husband gives me time off too, the occasional afternoon, and he takes them off my hands for a few hours at the weekends. But, get this, I am such a controlling cow that I can’t let him leave the house without strict instructions regarding coats, food, activities and time of return. You’d think, after all this complaining, that I’d just be glad to see the back of them.

I know what you’re thinking. What on god’s earth does this idiot woman have to complain about? And do you know what? I completely agree with you. I have nothing to complain about. But, until recently I’ve had days where I’ve felt I’ve been wasting away into nothingness.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my boys to bits . They’ve always had plenty of hugs, chats, attention most of the day. But sometimes id rather be doing things other than playing with them. I have been doing it for three years now, maybe I’m done playing with babies and toddlers.

The question is: does all this make me a bad mum? Does it mean that I don’t love my children?  I know that Rachel Cusk got a load of flack when her book ‘A Life’s Work’ was published. It described all the real feelings she had: desperation, boredom, guilt – after having her daughter and was criticized to hell for it. Told she didn’t love her daughter if she felt that way. So let me make one thing perfectly clear. I adore my boys. I gaze at them lovingly every night (when they’re asleep) and would gladly sacrifice my life (and anyone else’s) for them. Does that mean I have to spend my days entertaining them?

Thankfully my days with them are getting easier. I can find the time, when i’m with them, to read a magazine. They are getting on with the important business of playing so I don’t have that enduring feeling of guilt tying my tummy up in knots.