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Play nice with sugar and spice

I texted my daughters “Wanna make truffles this year?”

“YESSSSSSS!!!!” they enthusiastically responded.

Making homemade truffles was a Christmas tradition in our house throughout their childhood, but since my weight loss 7+ years ago I haven’t made truffles or any of the other McKenna family favorite holiday treats that I did for so many years.

The reason I haven’t made them the last seven Christmases is because I didn’t trust myself to be around all that sugar.

When I became a wife, then a mom, I baked for my family frequently. I believed all the things we’re told about how “food is love” and that baking was how you showed your family and friends that you cared about them.

Just one problem: I am a sugar addict.

I don’t mean “addict” in a clinical sense (I’m not qualified to make that diagnosis, even about myself), nor do I equate my sugar addiction with addictions to alcohol or narcotics. I’ll let the medical community sort out the effects that each of those substances has on our brains. But baking means I’m up to my elbows in all the yummy ingredients that push my buttons: chocolate, butter, caramel and of course, sugar. It’s that combination of flavors that becomes my compulsion.

Let’s be honest, sugar alone doesn’t hold much appeal. Even those of us who confess to this addiction don’t eat it white granulated sugar by the spoonful. It’s the sugary, salty, fatty, creamy combination (think Snickers bar or rocky road ice cream) that sends our neurotransmitters firing like a pinball machine.

Back when I was fat (if that word offends you, I apologize. I use it to describe no one but myself.) I was unable to bake without dipping into the batter and/or frosting so many times during the process that I frequently doubled the recipe, just so I’d have enough to make a single batch of whatever I was making. I’d sample throughout the cooking process, enjoy the finished product when I served it to my family, then chisel away at the leftovers until the treat was gone. Days later I’d need cookies or cupcakes for a party or bake sale and the cycle would start all over again.

But I thought I could handle it now – over seven years later – so I happily suggested to my girls that we make truffles this year when they were home for Christmas. After all, I’ve kept my weight stable for so many years and have dozens of strategies in place to help me maintain that weight.

I thought I could handle it.

I was wrong.

Right up until we started I thought I could do it. I picked out the recipes; we would make dark chocolate peppermint truffles,

milk chocolate salted caramel truffles

and white chocolate eggnog truffles, dusted with nutmeg.

I bought all the ingredients, assembled all my equipment and got to work. But something happens when I touch ingredients like these; I start sampling. Just a little taste here and there, but before long I’ve eaten several handfuls of chocolate chips and “tested” the chocolate ganache too many times to count. It wasn’t long before I had a stomachache and was overcome with waves of guilt. I was no better at this now than I had been 120 pounds ago. I could not do it, even with my years of separation from it and all of my strategies in place.

I’d even spent the last two months detoxed from sugar and I still couldn’t do it! (Click here to listen to my first podcast about my detox,

and here to hear the second.)

I was shocked and dismayed.

Is it ever going to be possible for me to play nice with sugar and spice?

Maybe. But maybe not.

From where I sit now, it looks like probably not.

There is something so powerful about the pull of those flavors and even though I thought I was prepared, I was overcome.

But I always say, “there are no failures, only feedback.”

So if this was not a failure on my part, then the feedback is that I still cannot handle making these treats. And truthfully, one of the strategies I employ to maintain my weight … is to not tempt myself by baking!

Still, I am disappointed. But knowledge – even when it’s something disappointing – is a good thing. I confirmed again that I cannot handle making these treats, having them in my house, or even touching these types of ingredients.

I must treat it as an addiction and abstain.

My daughters and I finished our baking and enjoyed spending the evening doing something we hadn’t done in many years, but I’m committed to maintaining my new, healthier lifestyle, so I’m going to give up baking for the foreseeable future. Instead of bonding over sugar, I’m going to suggest to the girls that we go to an exercise class together. No reason we can’t create lasting holiday memories doing something healthy! Ultimately, it’s the time spent together that’s precious, not the treats we bake.

And how sweet is that?!?

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