Sugar-free Easter egg hunt

If you were an alien observing Western culture, you could be forgiven for thinking Easter is a celebration of chocolate. I guess the chocoholics among us could argue that good chocolate is like a religious experience, but wow – does there have to be quite so much of it? My kids are inundated with enough to last for months by family members eager to spoil them.
You may recall a few years ago I decided to give up sugar. (Sadly a lot has crept back into my diet, but that’s another story.) When Easter rolled around, this posed a troubling dilemma – since they were little, I’d always done an egg hunt with them on Easter Sunday morning. They used to make and decorate their own baskets for collecting eggs, and look forward to it for weeks.
But now it felt like offering them poison – yet I loved the egg hunts as much as they did, and didn’t want to give it up. There’s something so fun about finding tricky places to hide little treasures and watching the kids run around like headless chooks looking for them.
What to do?
Enter plastic eggs from the $2 shop: a little more challenging to organise, but even more fun for the egg hunters, because they get lots of little surprises.
Buy the biggest ones you can find! These are plastic eggs Mark II; the first year I had much smaller ones, and it was a struggle to find anything small enough to fit inside them.
The other good thing about plastic eggs is you can customise each child’s little gifts by assigning them their own colour eggs to hunt for, so your son doesn’t accidentally pick up the necklace meant for your daughter, for example.
These are a good size, and it’s surprising what you can fit in them: mini torches, novelty erasers, jewellery:
A Lego minifigure! (See if you can guess which duckling that was for …)
Loom bands for Demon Duck’s latest craze:
Even a $2 coin (even the big kids like to get money).

So it does cost more than just chucking a bunch of chocolate eggs around the yard. But hey, they don’t melt in the sun, and you don’t have to try to stop the dog eating them before the hunt starts!

Your war correspondent checks in

Greetings from the battlefront! The war against sugar continues. It’s been two months now, so I thought it was time for an update.

First and most obvious change: my frequent, regular headaches have lessened dramatically. Yes, I still have sinus problems, but obviously not nearly as badly as I’d assumed. Turns out those headaches were mainly sugar withdrawal symptoms.

Second, my skin looks better than it ever has since those distant days pre-puberty.

Third, I’ve lost a small amount of weight – maybe 1.5 kg. Hard to tell precisely with my erratic bathroom scales (pick a number! any number! you don’t like that one? just get off and get back on again!), but my clothes are definitely looser. Seems a pretty pathetic amount compared to how much I lost in two months on Weight Watchers, until I remember how hard Weight Watchers was. Sure, it taught you useful, sensible things about portion sizes and balanced nutrition but ye gods! I was always hungry. I remember obsessively totting up my points at night after dinner, desperately trying to figure out what, if anything, I could afford to eat before I chewed my own arm off. That and the fact that once I stopped noting and counting every single thing I put in my mouth the weight started creeping back on.

I am also pleased to report that the desperate chocolate cravings did finally abate, some time around week 6 or 7. Yesterday I even had a piece of the formerly beloved peppermint chocolate, and you know what? It was too sweet.

The world as we knew it has come to an end — the sugar-free Chocolate Bar of Doom is actually starting to taste rather good …

My secret weapon against chocolate cravings

Are you ready? I’m about to reveal my secret weapon against chocolate cravings. Please note, this is not for the fainthearted. Are you sure you want to know? I’m telling you, this is scary stuff.

Okay then. Here it is. When I have desperate chocolate cravings, I know it’s time to bring out the big guns. Nothing stops those cravings like this baby …

Dark chocolate!!

I promise you, one mouthful of this will turn you off chocolate for life (or in my case, at least for the rest of the day).

I hear rumours that some people actually like dark chocolate, and all I can say is: diversity is a good thing and the world is full of wonders and isn’t it lovely that we’re all different but – Good God! What is wrong with you?? This stuff tastes indescribably bad. It is an affront to the very name of chocolate.

Not that I’m picking on this particular chocolate bar. I’m sure it’s no more vile than any other dark chocolate. I knew when I bought it it was a long shot, but I was hoping my love for all things peppermint might overcome my dislike of dark chocolate. No such luck, alas. This abomination has been living in my fridge for over two weeks. In chocolate bar years that’s a lifetime, since the lifespan of most chocolate that enters this house can be measured in moments.

So why am I eating it if it tastes so bad? It’s all part of my fiendish plan to defeat the Demon Sugar. I’m finding chocolate the hardest thing to give up, so I’m trying to recondition my automatic response to it. Like Pavlov’s dog – you know, every time he served the dog dinner he rang a bell, till eventually the dog would salivate at the sound of the bell even if there was no dinner with it?

This should work the same way. If every time I crave chocolate I have this disgusting travesty of a chocolate bar, eventually I should skip straight to the part where I want to wash my mouth out just at the thought of eating chocolate. Right? Right??


I promise to stop obsessing about food soon. Next post I’ll tell you all about my adventures in the arctic wasteland otherwise known as Melbourne at the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.


That sound you heard was me falling off the sugar wagon.

What can I say? It was a kids’ party. There were cupcakes and honey joys (yum!). I had to cook the damn things, see them, smell them. Just. Could. Not. Resist.

Yes, Demon Duck’s so-called “sleepover” party was a sleepless night of sugar-fuelled madness. And that was just me. You should have seen the kids. A raging success, in other words, though we paid for it for days afterwards with grumpy, exhausted children. She had a ball, which is the main thing, I guess. The things we go through for our children.

I decided the guests would cook their own pizzas for dinner. So in a fit of madness I went out and bought some gorgeous bright fabrics.

You can’t cook pizza without a pretty apron, can you? Oh, right, you can. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, which has been my defence for a lot of stupidly time-consuming endeavours over the years. I have to admit I was kinda over aprons by the time I finished all nine of them.

And then the night before the party we went shopping for lolly bags and couldn’t find anything suitable. No problem! I’ll make those too. Just hang on a moment while I duck into this handy phone booth and change into my Supermum outfit. Oh, yeah, and I made a red-and-white checked tablecloth too, to give the dining room more of a “pizza parlour” feel.

Actually the lolly bags weren’t that time-consuming. And they did look cute. It would just be nice if I occasionally had these brainwaves some time other than the eleventh hour.

Here they are with the aprons. Just pretend you don’t see my ironing board in the corner of that photo, okay?

So anyway, about that sugar. A couple of those honey joys committed suicide right in my mouth. And a cupcake. And maybe a Mint Slice. And two or mumble mumble five little homemade ginger biscuits. So the day after the party I got Brave and Ruthless and gave away the remaining party food. Didn’t want any more suicides on my conscience.

The funny thing is, I used to eat biscuits every day and crave cake all the time. But apart from this one party aberration I haven’t missed those at all since I started my war on sugar. It’s chocolate I miss the most. Chocolate is the hardest to go without, and the thing I still crave (and occasionally give in to those cravings).

It’s been almost a month now. On the plus side, I’ve cut my sugar intake drastically. The most obvious reward for that is fewer headaches. On the down side, I still haven’t managed to kick the chocolate habit and therefore am still experiencing cravings. I know I need to grow a set and go cold turkey already. I’m just prolonging the agony, sneaking myself bits of chocolate now and then. How hard can it be to face a future without chocolate?

Whimper …

Whose crappy idea was it anyway to make all the bad stuff taste so good, and so much of the good stuff taste bad? I mean, really – brussel sprouts? Lamb’s fry? What kid ever wants to eat those? How much easier would it be if things had been better designed?

You wouldn’t catch little Johnny sneaking his food under the table to the dog if it was yummy healthy Smarties on his plate instead of peas. No, those plates would be licked clean. Dinner time would no longer be a war zone.

“Eat up your lovely chocolate, darling, or you’ll never grow up to be a big strong boy.”

Ah, yes. If I ruled the world, things would be much more efficient.

Kicking the sugar habit

It has occurred to me more and more lately that I am addicted to chocolates and sweet foods. I used to have a more responsible attitude. I’d only eat my beloved peppermint chocolate two or three times a week, for instance. Then it crept up to every night. Then the amount started to increase. Lately I’ve felt that I could happily down the whole block in a sitting, though I haven’t quite sunk that low yet. But the potential was alarming. I could end up one of those sad cases where they have to bring in a crane and knock a hole in the wall because they can’t get the body out through the door.

So I decided to give up peppermint chocolate, at least for a little while. Two days later, my well-meaning family, unacquainted with my new resolve, gave me ten blocks of the stuff for my birthday. Sigh.
Then we watched the DVD Supersize Me, in which Morgan Spurlock nearly eats himself into an early grave by eating nothing but MacDonalds for a month. I’d seen it back when it first came out, but wanted to show it to the girls. There is a moment at the end when a very sick-looking, much larger Spurlock is sitting with a dietician. On the table between them are pots and pots of sugar, representing the enormous amount he has ingested over the month.
With that image in my head I walked into a bookshop the next day and a book jumped out at me: The Sweet Poison Quit Plan, by David Gillespie.

“Sugar makes you fat,” it begins. “It is converted directly to fat by your liver and it destroys your appetite control so that you want to eat more of everything.”

Gillespie also says it is the cause of many chronic diseases such as heart disease and obesity, and of course diabetes. It is as addictive as nicotine, and in just about everything we eat. Not only that, but it caused the Global Financial Crisis. Okay, I might have made that part up. But there is a lot of food for thought in his book, if you’ll forgive the pun. If you’re interested, his blog discusses much of it.

Ding ding ding! This was ringing some bells with me. Most days I wake up with a headache, which often disappears mid-morning. Hey, that would be just after I’ve had my glass of sugar (ie orange juice) for breakfast, followed by my sugar-laden morning tea. Coincidence? And you know when I have a headache and the Carnivore suggests I take a tablet, and I say “oh, I’ll just have a cup of tea, that’ll fix it”? Maybe that’s not the caffeine after all.

Okay, I’m a sugar addict. I finish the book on Monday afternoon and resolve to give up sugar forthwith. No tea and chocolate before bed.

The result?

Day 1: I have a filthy headache all day. As in, toothed, spacefaring worms from the planet Mongo are devouring my brain kind of headache. I take this as a challenge and resolve not to be bested by the demon sugar. Feel abnormally tired driving home in the early afternoon, so much so that I worry about falling asleep at the wheel. Damn the evil sugar and its energy highs and lows! Sing along to the radio and focus on how good I will feel when I conquer this addiction. Cut my beloved breakfast orange juice back to half a (large) glass.

Day 2: Headache has subsided to a dull ache. Amazingly, I feel no cravings for sweet food. I attribute this to my new gung-ho attitude to the demon sugar and feel mildly smug all day. Cut sugar in my tea back to half a teaspoon. Tastes so bad am forced to drink herb tea instead. Notice for the first time how very sweet orange juice is, and contemplate cutting my breakast ration back further.

Day 3: Still no cravings for sweet foods. For the queen of peppermint chocolate, this is most unexpected, but very welcome. Snack virtuously on nuts and natural yoghurt. (“What’s that?” the Carnivore asks. “Natural yoghurt.” “Does it taste nice?” “Disgusting. No sugar.”)

Day 4: Cut breakfast orange juice down to half a small glass, and drink a large glass of water with it. OJ is now tasting almost unpleasantly sweet. Perhaps I’m only drinking it out of habit now. Have also purchased some dextrose (“good” but not very sweet, sugar) to try in my tea.

Perhaps as a result of cutting my OJ back so far from normal levels, I experience some cravings today. Manage to tough it out, but then, at dinnertime, a heavy blow. The Carnivore points out that the bottle of diet soft drink I’ve been drinking with dinner the last few days is, in fact, the real deal, overflowing with sugar. Feel despondent. Tip evil, lying soft drink down the sink. And then the traitorous Carnivore flourishes the packet of Mint Slices (a peppermint chocolate biscuit – only my Most Favourite Biscuit in the Whole World) he has bought. Feel betrayed. And slightly homicidal.

Day 5 (Today): Cravings are worsening. Spend much time staring at the pantry shelves, hoping some healthful sugar-free chocolate will magically materialise. Wonder how diabetics cope. Search the internet for “diabetic chocolate”. Avert eyes from Mint Slices in fridge. Encourage confused but eager children to eat all the sugary treats in the house. Wonder how long I can keep this up.

Consider lynching David Gillespie.