Recovering sugar addict lets loose each Halloween

Stories about giving up the sweet stuff precede a trick-or-treat outing to load up on candy

On Halloween next week, David Vanadia will dress like a bag of sugar and walk the streets of Southeast Portland collecting sweets to gorge on.

The 36-year-old storyteller and tai chi teacher wants other Portlanders to join him in costume for his quirky trick-or-treating event. That will follow a Halloween-eve event on Monday night where he'll hold a storytelling workshop for adults to share their problems with sugar.

It seems like a lot of trouble for the average citizen to organize. But Vanadia, a New York transplant who moved to the Pearl District three years ago, is on a special kick.

It's his sugar-free kick, an experiment he's been living with and blogging about for the past two years after realizing that he was a sugar addict. It came to him one day after eating an entire package of Pillsbury chocolate-chip cookie dough before he even baked it, he said.

'I've always struggled with sugar,' he said. 'Then I started to experiment with not eating sugar, and found out I'm not the only one. Last year when I wanted to quit for a year, I found the best way to do it was tell my story online. People started writing to me from all over the place, identifying with me and wanting to quit as well. It motivated me.'

He hasn't bid goodbye to sugar forever. Vanadia allows himself four days a year - Halloween and the three days that follow - to eat sweets. In fact, he'll eat only sweets during that time, just to make a point. On Nov. 4, the day after his birthday, he'll resume his sugar fast, cutting out everything with high-fructose corn syrup.

'It takes about 23 days before all the cravings stop,' he says. 'Then food starts to taste different; you have a whole new energy level.'

When Vanadia snacks, he eats apples and peanut butter instead of Reese's and chocolate-covered pretzels, his weaknesses. When friends offer him dessert, he politely declines, and launches into his mission.

'At the beginning you have to explain to everyone,' he says. 'Now I'm becoming their conscience. When they invite me over for dinner they'll make a sugar-free dessert. They explain their own sugar consumption to me.'

He wants to encourage that conversation at the workshop he'll host Oct. 30, for people to share their own experiences battling sugar. He's also issuing a challenge to the public: to stop eating sweets between Halloween and Thanksgiving. That means no cake, candy, cookies or artificial sweeteners for 22 days.

'The goal is to get people to change their lives in a positive way,' Vanadia says.