Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Excess Baggage" or "Refined Foods Are The Devil"

I have excess baggage. I’m not talking about the emotional kind; that’s another issue. And I’m not talking about designer baggage either. I’m talking, again, about my under-eye baggage. Yep! They’ve come back. I awoke one morning two and a half weeks into my three-week sugar fast and there they were, perched atop my cheeks all bulbous and bulging.

Although I refuse to relinquish sugar of all under-eye-bag-causing responsibility, I can’t give it 100% blame either. You see, when I go sugar free I also go flour free. A slice of bread has four grams of added sugar, most cereal is about 50% sugar, and pasta and white rice are processed in our bodies similarly to sugar, so I also give them up when I go sugar free. Although I hadn’t eaten any of those things when my bags came back, what I had done differently was to add more grains to my diet, in particular, wheat (bulgur and shredded wheat to be exact) and within three days I looked like I had gone eight rounds with Rocky Balboa! So I did some on-line research and self diagnosed myself with Celiac Disease, or at least gluten intolerance (see link on right for more information). While I was at it, I diagnosed at least seven friends and family members as well. I fired off e-mails with links to this debilitating condition urging my loved ones to seek medical attention immediately! Most of them blew me off and I think I just irritated the rest.

Even I didn’t take my own advice to get tested by a doctor. As soon as I eliminated wheat from my diet, the bags began to shrink. One day I may find out exactly what is causing my “baggage”, but for now, I’ll just avoid wheat products, which is a bummer as there are health benefits from whole wheat grains. I'm finding that avoiding wheat products is just as hard as avoiding refined sugar though! Just think what’s made from wheat. We most commonly find it in the form of refined flour (wheat minus the health benefits). Pancakes, bread, pizza dough, cereal, pasta, crackers are just a few refined-flour products.

Which brings me to the word "refined". When I think of the word “refined” I think of someone or something that has all the best traits: the cream of the crop, upper crust, top notch and all that. Someone that has refined his skills is someone that has improved himself by removing all bad habits and tendencies and is left with only the good. The word refined is a positive word to me but not when it comes to my food! In refining food, basically, everything that makes it a food is removed (like nutrients, fiber, and taste). What’s left after refinement is a product that is the basis for processed foods, long shelf life, disease and illness. It becomes empty calories and an anti-nutrient, robbing our bodies of the ability to absorb and utilize necessary vitamins and minerals. It also causes hormonal imbalances causing cravings to eat more food. OK, so it also gives bread and pastry that light airy quality that melts in our mouths. This could be considered good, because when we lose our teeth due to poor nutrition, we won’t have to worry about chewing!

So I’m back to the vanity issue of under-eye bags. They have led me on new and exciting paths though. Here are some of the paths of which I’m avoiding or charging forward on:

1) I will no longer take the path of diagnosing friends and family members with illness and disease. As much as it interests me and I believe I’m right, I sometimes have to admit that my attempts at world health through nutrition aren’t always appreciated (yet).

2) I am all about whole foods now. I am focusing on real, whole, nutrient-dense foods and I’ve found a place that fills me with joy and excitement and it’s called Whole Foods Market. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for my husband and family, the closest Whole Foods is 45 minutes away so I won’t easily be able to spend my days perusing the isles instead of completing my wife and motherly duties.

3) I am looking into schools in which I can get a degree or certificate in naturopathic or holistic nutrition. Besides the fact that I get totally jazzed learning about nutrition, I think it will give me some credibility if I ever get tempted to wander down the path of medical diagnose again. Plus, I’m hoping it will give me a reason to spend time at Whole Foods Market: in the name of research, of course.

4) I’m considering changing my blog name from “Sugar’s the Devil” to “Refined Foods are the Devil”. As much as I’d like to be more refined, when it comes to my food I’ve decided it’s best to be a little rough around the edges.

I hate my under-eye bags but I’m looking at them in a much different way now. They are an outward sign that something is wrong with my diet but a far lesser sign than say, weight gain, diabetes, sjogrens disease or arthritis! They may also help me overcome my temptation to indulge in my favorite treat in the whole wide world: homemade chocolate chip cookies, the epitome of refined food. Before biting into a cookie, I will instead hold it up and under my eye. After all, that’s where it will ultimately end up. If I still eat it after that reminder, then I deserve all the baggage I get!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There's Sugar in My Salt...And Other Things I've Learned

This past week my husband, Rob, went to North Carolina to be with his sister while she was in the hospital recovering from emergency surgery. “I ate like crap all week,” he complained. He told me that each time he and his family indulged in less than healthy foods they would jokingly say things like “you do know that Sugar’s the Devil, don’t you?” as they popped the offending food in their mouths and munched happily. “So you were laughing at me.” I stated. He looked at me with deer-caught-in-the-headlight eyes.

Over the course of this month I have learned a lot. I’ve learned that there is a whole world of nutrition, like organics and gluten-free, that I haven’t a clue about. I’ve learned that my family has eaten every item on the Top 10 Worst Foods list (see link at right). I’ve learned that foods like bacon, hot dogs, and luncheon meat contain nitrates and nitrites, which are known carcinogens contributing to stomach, pancreatic, and colon cancers. I learned that the Devil has numerous siblings and they are just as evil. Oh! And I learned that Dextrose is another name for sugar…and it’s in my salt.

I’ve also learned that sugar can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (1). It can cause depression (2), and Varicose Veins (3). I’ve learned that there are not enough scientific studies being done on the dangers of sugar because they need to be funded and who would profit from proving those dangers? I know we’d all benefit, but who would profit?

I learned that my children think it’s hilarious to passionately eat Dairy Queen Blizzards in front of me while moaning with pleasure. I also learned that the longer I go without eating sugar the easier it is to not be affected by passionate blizzard moans. I’ve learned that what I do with sugar is my own personal battle and it’s a one-person battle at that. It’s not my family vs. sugar, it’s not my husband and me vs. sugar, and it’s not Julie and me vs. sugar. We can only support one another, share tactics and strategic moves, but when it comes to combat, we are on our own.

I’ve learned that if I expect my family to reduce their sugar intake and eat healthier, it’s up to me. Until they decide to fight sugar on their own, it’s my battle; not theirs. I’ve learned that if I want my son to start the day with a nutritious breakfast, I have to get my butt out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and fix it for him. I’ve learned that my children will eat old-fashioned oatmeal if I add brown sugar and raisins to it and don’t cook it till it’s mushy. I’ve also learned that if I decrease the amount of brown sugar I put in their oatmeal every day, they will continue to eat it and not even notice! I’ve learned that it takes patience and lots of preparation and planning to reduce sugar and even more to eliminate it.

I learned that Julie ate Sugar Puffs this past week. She’d caught a cold and with her compromised immune system, it quickly turned ugly. She could barely get out of bed. Her husband, Neil, lovingly brought her Sugar Puffs, which she gratefully gobbled. The devil had taken advantage of her weakened state and was tugging on her ankle. I wasn’t surprised, really; I was often there. Well, I’m pleased to say that Julie recovered and got herself back on track. Just a little slip up; no big deal. This is her battle and I’ve learned that Julie is a very determined soldier.

So on to sugar-free week three. As I move forward I reflect on the past two weeks and the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve learned that not everyone feels as strongly about the dangers of sugar as I do and people will need to take responsibility for their health on their own terms. But, I’ve learned that it’s worth it to put myself out on a limb and share what I've learned about nutrition. You see, it’s all part of my battle strategy. And I think I’m gaining ground; for although my family laughs and says, “you do know that Sugar’s the Devil, don’t you?” they are becoming aware. And awareness is a very powerful weapon. The more aware they are, the closer they come to starting a fight.

1. Frey, J. Is There Sugar in the Alzheimer's disease? Annales De Biologie Clinique. 2001; 59 (3):253-257.)
2. Ibid, 440
3. Cleave, T. and Campbell, G. (Bristol, England: Diabetes, Coronary Thrombosis and the Saccharine Disease: John Wright and Sons, 1960.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sugar Free - Week One With Julie

When Julie said she wanted to go sugar free I was ecstatic. But as quickly as excitement hit me, I was filled with deep, dark doubt. What if she did it wrong and secretly snarfed Cheetos and Snickers Bars? What if what worked for me didn’t work for her? It was one thing for me to tout the benefits of my sugar-free run, and it was quite another thing for someone to turn to me and say, “Right then, lets do it.”

Julie is motivated by her health to try going sugar-free. She has rheumatoid arthritis, Chron’s disease, a degenerative bone condition that has caused bulging discs in her back, and to top it all off she has high blood pressure and very high cholesterol (316, to be exact!). Everyday Julie takes an elaborate concoction of medication that allows her to function. Fatigue and pain are daily obstacles. She’s been dealt a hand of crappy genetic cards, but at only 44 years of age, she’s not ready to throw them in. “What have I got to lose?” Julie stated. If diet can improve her quality of life, even slightly, she feels it’s worth a try.

Julie and I began talking food and reading labels. What could we eat, what couldn’t we eat? Definitely no added sugar, white rice or anything made from flour (bread, pasta, etc.). Yogurt? Maybe plain, no fat in a few weeks, but not now. Cereal? Only if it’s whole grain and has 0 grams of sugar. Sugar substitutes? Definitely out! One of the biggest challenges for Julie is finding something to drink. Everything has sugar or a sugar substitute in it. That leaves only things with no sugar at all, like water, and that’s, well, boring. We were left with a list of foods that would require us to think about eating in a completely different way. Gone were the days of eating for pleasure. Or so we thought.

Aside from a “niggley headache… which then proceeded into a full blown boomer of one” and a sleepless first night, Julie was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t feel hungry and found it easy to refrain from temptation. Here are some things she said through the week:
“Surprisingly, Shredded Wheat (with no sugar) didn’t taste as bad as I thought it would.”
“Slept really well. Don’t feel like I have just done ten rounds with Mike Tyson anymore.”
“I’m starting to enjoy my veggies again and looking forward to what I’ll have to eat.”

Julie’s first five sugar-free days weren’t too difficult. It helped to have the right foods available and eat regularly (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack). She did have a few whoopsie moments though. Preparing to indulge in her favorite candy, my 10-year-old daughter, Jordan, was the one to remind her that she couldn’t eat it. Julie also ordered a hot chocolate when we went to a coffee shop last Friday (which she changed to hot tea) and she learned that the bottled water she was drinking was loaded with aspartame. I wasn’t without my moments either as I made a grilled vegetable sandwich, on bread containing 8 grams of added sugar, never thinking twice of what I was doing. Talk about creatures of habit!

The weekend wasn’t so good for Julie. Running numerous errands threw her off course. Both days she skipped lunch, opting to just pick on fruit and nuts all day. “I feel terrible and it serves me right. I now know that even though I ate the right things, picking over the weekend hasn’t done me any good…my bad eating habits include skipping meals and picking.”

Although losing weight is not the motivational factor for Julie and me to go sugar-free, it is a pleasant side effect. At the end of the week, we’d both lost two pounds! Losing weight without hunger is pretty cool!

My results over the week were pretty much as I expected. As always, I’m amazed at how good I feel when I’m sugar-free, but even more amazed when I think how badly I felt before and never even realized it. In addition to the weight loss, reduction of under-eye bags, relief from constipation, and no more sluggishness, I did notice a few other things that I’m hoping is a result of going sugar-free:
* Clearer: I’ve been waking up and feeling truly rested. “Clear” is the best word to describe it. I’m not saying I sprang out of bed singing, “Good Morning Sunshine” but I wasn’t dragging myself out of a fog, like usual.
* Calmer: My reactions to daily challenges has been different. It’s pretty normal for me to “lose my head” (to the dismay of my children). Just yesterday I spilled a box of oatmeal into the utensil draw. In my sugar days a typical response would have been to throw the box across the room while screaming, “I don’t have time for this!” as my children cowered in the corner. Yesterday I just cursed and cleaned it up. If that’s not improvement, I don’t know what is!
* Bye, Bye PMS? I wasn’t going to mention this observation because I thought it may have been a fluke, but after reading that it is a result of sugar-free (Sugar Blues by William Dufty) I have to at least mention it. Never have I had a period without advanced warning. Cramps, bloating, tenderness, and moodiness always accompanied the “curse”. For the first time ever, I had no advance warning or discomfort WHAT-SO-EVER!

I’m still not sure exactly where I’m going with all of this. The thought of never having another Dairy Queen Blizzard or a homemade chocolate chip cookie seems quite sad; cruel even. My husband Rob worries that I’ll look back and regret having missed out on those pleasures in life. My hope is that by continuing my sugar-free streak I will one day salivate over fresh berries with cream and turn my nose up at a Turtle Pecan Chocolate Blizzard. If I don’t feel denied, how can I feel regret? I shall continue sugar-free for a few more weeks and then reevaluate.

For now, Julie also plans to continue her sugar-free streak. “I know it’s working for me. My husband has noticed and he’s encouraging me to stay with it. I’ve gone to the toilet every day, I have bags of energy and I don't feel sluggish or bloated any more. I feel lighter in a strange way. I liked planning my meals and I found some good recipes too. I can’t say I have been totally sugar free as I don't think it’s possible in this day and age as sugar is in everything - even in toothpaste and mouthwash! I will stay with this as I have only been on it a week and I'd like to see more results.”

We’ve all been dealt a hand of cards to play the game of life with. Julie’s may not have been so great to start with but a few changes here and there may just turn up more face cards. Julie and I will continue playing and I’m going to bring a new dish, maybe something with Bulgur or Quinoa, to the game.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Enlightened Parent

I believe, to some extent, we all know that sugar isn’t good for us. From the time we were children we were warned, “It’ll rot your teeth”. When we became teenagers we heard, “you’ll get fat” or “your face will break out”, and now that we have kids of our own we say, “put the china up, I just gave Billy a Twinkie”. But for some reason these warnings aren’t enough to get us to look more closely at sugar and what it does to us. Check out this interesting website for more information on sugar dangers:

There are so many things to worry about when it comes to the dangers of sugar, but what I worry about most is what it’s doing to my kids. Ben will be 16 in a few months and Jordan, my daughter, is 10. They have followed in my footsteps to become sugar addicts. Ben and I love dark chocolate. For us there is nothing more satisfying than letting the dark poison melt on our tongues and seeing who can go the longest without chewing. Jordan on the other hand is a Starch-a-tarian. She hasn’t eaten meat in over six years, but she rarely eats vegetables either, so we can hardly call her a Vegetarian.

My kids get this sugar stuff. We discuss it and they ask questions but they aren’t motivated to do anything. You see, they don’t have under-eye bags or aching joints and their plumbing still works. They aren’t depressed, they don’t get migraines, and they aren’t overweight – yet. They live for today and tomorrow is too far off to worry about.

“There’s no food in this house,” Ben complains. “Of course there is, have an apple.” Well, apples bother his teeth, the bananas are too ripe, and he doesn’t feel like peeling an orange. If it’s not in the pantry or capable of being nuked in the microwave in 1-1/2 minutes, then there’s nothing to eat. Make a sandwich? God forbid! He’s a heater, not a cooker and I think he’s a pretty normal kid in today’s sugar laden society.

Getting my kids to reduce their sugar intake is a million times harder than getting myself off it. I am in no way an expert and I operate with a trial and error mentality, reading a lot along the way. I’m still working out the kinks, but my first attempts to break my kids sugar habits went something like this:

1) Monopolize every dinner conversation sharing what new disease I found that day that was linked to sugar while pointing out how everything they were putting into their mouth was leading them to an early grave.
2) When they complained that there was nothing to eat, I reminded them that nothing was better than what they would have chosen had there been anything. I was, after all, looking out for their best interest!
3) Shame them into making better food choices by saying things like, “Is that really the best snack choice considering your recent acne outbreak?”

Yes, I have broken many good parent rules when it comes to getting my kids off sugar, but probably more when it comes to their nutritional health. All I want is what’s best for my children and I definitely don’t want to do anything harmful. Each of us must decide, on our own, what to do about sugar. Most of us will figure it out the hard way. But I have to help my children along the way. I don’t move the car without my children being safely buckled and they aren’t allowed on a bike without a helmet, but I continually feed them and allow them to eat the mood and mind altering, body harming, disease-causing chemical called sugar. Yet I will go to my grave insisting that my main goal in life was always to raise happy, healthy children.

I’ve had lots of people ask me how I handle the sugar issue with my children. Before writing this blog, I have to admit that I thought I had a better handle on things than I actually do. Since Ben started high school, I’ve really lost control over his nutrition. Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, the USDA recommends that we consume no more than 32 grams, or eight (8) teaspoons, of added sugar daily ( I asked Ben to talk me though his day, regarding food. After asking if I could handle the truth, Ben gave it to me. One (very large) bowl of Apple Jacks, 12 grams; 1 nutri-grain bar for the walk to the bus, 12 grams; Burger, 7 grams; Fries, 0 grams; ketchup for both burger and fries, 8 grams; 20 oz. G2 Gatorade, 17.5 grams; 2 chocolate chip cookies, 20 grams. Stop! I guess I can’t handle the truth! That’s 76.5 grams or just over 19 teaspoons of sugar and we’re only through lunch! And he has yet to eat a vegetable, fruit, or a whole grain. Should I be concerned? On the bright side, I’m pleased to see that he made the better choice of a Gatorade than say, a coke, which would have added 40 grams of sugar to that total.

You would think I would be more successful in changing my children’s diet, but sadly, the above paragraph is proof that I am not. If you look in my pantry and fridge you will find things like Toaster Strudels, Fruit and Grain Bars, and powdered iced tea mix. I still have a five-pound bag of white sugar on my lazy Susan along with half a bag of dark brown sugar. But I keep trying. It helps to constantly remind myself that I am the parent/adult and I can control what my children eat, at least when they are at home. I don’t buy soda or fruit juice, and we may go to a fast food restaurant once in a blue moon. I pack Jordan’s school lunch every day, and I try to plan ahead and have healthy snack choices and meals planned and prepared. I know it’s not enough and we have a long, hard road ahead of us, but every week I’ll try to make one more small change (like serving spaghetti squash instead of pasta, then top it with homemade spaghetti sauce – the kids love it and it gives them a pasta fix, sans the pasta). Ben has agreed to spend an afternoon with me coming up with “real” food ideas that he will actually eat. I’ll share what he comes up with. I’d love to hear your suggestions on reducing your children’s sugar intake. While your sharing your comments, I’m going to my pantry to throw a few things away.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is Book Club Bad For My Health?

I have two mottos:  "Sugar is the devil" and "The Devil made me do it".  The latter is the motto I turn to when I've succumbed to my addiction of sugar and I followed that motto throughout the holidays of 2008.  But on January 1st I went back to my no sugar diet (when I say no sugar I mean no refined, or added, sugar.  I don't count the sugar found naturally in fruits, milk, and veggies).  All was going well.  I felt well, dropped two of the three pounds I'd gained over the holidays, energy level was up, under-eye bags were down.  Excellent.

Then I went to book club.  Beforehand, I'd wondered if Dawn would there because she's the most tremendous baker and I knew she'd bring the most delectable of treats.....  wait!  I don't eat sugar; what could I be thinking?  I secretly hoped Dawn wouldn't find a babysitter.  But I like Dawn for more than just her cooking, so instead, I just hoped she'd have run out of time and not been able to make anything.  You see, I have little trouble passing up store bought goods and things like chips and dip, but homemade delights are my downfall.  I arrived at the hosts beautiful home to be greeted with a glass of wine, which I took, of course, because the wine is actually the real reason we have a book club.  Duh!  How much sugar is in a glass of wine, I wondered.  We all congregated around the kitchen island.  This is our standard arrangement as it provides the best access to everyone's conversations and of course we are cozied right up to the wine and food.  The island was filled with a dizzying display of the most tempting of treats.  Chocolate covered strawberries, bruschetta, cookies off all shapes and sizes, pita bread with hummus, cheeses, and salami.  Oh my!  It was a dazzling sight.  I didn't dare ask Dawn what she brought.  

I sipped my glass of wine and had a terrific laugh with the girls.  About an hour into the evening (and we had yet to discuss the book), I couldn't keep my eyes off of the chocolate covered strawberries.  It was all I could do to focus on Stacy and Kristina on the other side of the island rather than the beautiful combination of strawberries and chocolate that seemed to be in my direct line of vision.  They were calling to me and they were louder than the group of 15 tipsy girls surrounding me.  

I took one and savored its juicy sweetness.  It was a good choice because of the strawberry and it provided at least some nutritional value.  Right?  I had another.  Keleigh gave me the finger to eye gesture meaning, "I'm watching you".  I thought I'd give her a finger gesture in return, but I refrained.  How could I be touting the dangers of sugar and then eat it so unabashedly?  

After discussing the book for about two minutes, we moved to the living room and continued our girl fun, every now and then saying good-bye to a girl that couldn't "hang".  When about six of us were left, we moved back into the kitchen where the feeding frenzy began.  The six of us devoured more food in a matter of minutes than the whole group of 16 ate in the first two hours!  As I was the designated driver (hence the one glass of wine) I dropped off two friends, then went into my house with a plate of leftover cookies and chocolates, for the kids, of course, and took two aspirin to alleviate my annoying sugar headache. I wouldn't berate myself for falling off the wagon.  After all, the devil was back and he was the one that made me do it.

So, was it the glass of wine that set off a series of chemical reactions in my body leading me down a sugary path?  Was it the dazzling display of delicious deserts that lead to my destructive behavior?  Regardless of the reason, it confirmed in me that my sugar addiction still has a powerful hold on me.  

My good friend, Julie, is going sugar-free starting Monday, January 12th.  She's going to track her progress and let me know what she experiences.  She'll share her progress on this blog.  I'm excited and hopeful that she will see the benefits of a sugar-free diet just as I did. I'm sure she'll struggle but maybe with the two of us doing it together we'll be able to push each other along.  Wouldn't it be great to go longer than two weeks without sugar?  I've heard somewhere that it takes 21 days to change a habit.  Well, Julie, I'll be right there with you!  I know we can do it... at least until next book club. 

Other sugar related topics I'd like to blog are:  how much sugar we eat without realizing it; sugar substitutes; kids and sugar; how sugar actually hurts us.  Do you have any suggestions for future blogs I should consider writing?  Tell me!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sugar is Not Fit for Human Consumption

Below is a list of health issues that are linked to the consumption of refined sugar.  There are loads more: I just chose the ones that I've experienced or know others to have.  I'm in no way saying that these conditions are strictly caused by sugar, but if you experience any of these things or know anyone who does, it may at least be worth considering sugar as a culprit.

Cancer Obesity Premature Aging
Heart Disease Weight Gain Arthritis
Depression Chrohn's Disease  Learning disorders  
Hemorrhoids    Varicose Veins Diabetes
Osteoporosis Food Allergies Eczema
Alzheimer's Gout Headaches and Migraines
Tooth Decay Bowel Movement Problems

Refined sugar is poison to our bodies.  Our bodies were not designed to processed refined sugar but it struggles to do so, wearing out as it does.  Conditions like the ones above may then develop.  Sugar is toxic.  To get more information on the dangers of sugar, including history and studies done, check out

So why aren't we all jumping on the bandwagon and doing something about this horrible thing called sugar?  I've thought long and hard about it and this is what I've come up with. We all fall into one of three categories. 
Category 1 - Ignorance is Bliss
Category 2 - If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
Category 3 - You Are What Your Eat

Most of us progress between all three categories at some time in our lives.  But many of us don't.  We continue blindly, never making the connection between what we feed our bodies and how we feel and look.

My mother is a prime example of being stuck. She remains forever in category 1.  Although she is quite broken, diet is never considered as a culprit.  She believes in her doctor's advice that a magic pill will fix what ails her.  Her medicine cabinet is filled with prescriptions for this and that, and then more prescriptions to fix the side effects created from the first prescriptions.  

I question what is normal, age related aches and pains and what is nutrition-deprivation induced. Maybe Arthritis is something many of us will face when we get older, but do we really have to?  And to what degree?  Could the severe degeneration of bone in Mom's neck and lower back be a result of her body's struggle to process refined sugar, pulling vital minerals from her bones in an attempt to do so?  I believe, deep in my soul, that if she were to make changes in her diet, particularly reducing her sugar intake, she would not have to live in so much pain and discomfort.  I am not a doctor, so my sugar ideas are not taken seriously by Mom.  She shows polite interest when I share my findings and feelings on sugar with her and how it may be contributing to her poor health but until her doctors stop talking "prescription" and start talking "nutrition", Mom will continue to pop the pills prescribed her.  On a side note, her health continues to deteriorate.  
I would like to identify one doctor in every major U.S. city that considers nutrition when evaluating a patient.  I am hopeful they are out there, they must be, and I would like to compile a list of them for all to see and hopefully turn to.  Send me their name and number if you know one!
Doctors ask me if I drink alcohol and how much, they ask me if I smoke, and some even ask if I wear my seat belt when in a car, but I have yet to be asked how many sodas I drink each day.  As much as I'd like to lose 10 pounds, I still fall in a normal weight range so my diet is never considered when I discuss my chronic constipation.  It could be Irritable Bowl Syndrome, so I'm given a pill.  If the constipation persists, I get a barium enema.  The only nutritional advice I get is to eat more fiber but when I do my constipation is compounded with horrible bloating, discomfort, and awful, stinky, loud, highly embarrassing gas.  Funny thing though, I went on a sugar fast (which meant much of what I ate was highly fibrous) because I had read that reducing my sugar intake could possibly reduce my under-eye puffiness.  Guess what?  It does... and it also helps to relieve constipation.  Problem solved.  My doctor was half right anyway.
Sugar is addictive.  I read (and believe) that it is as difficult to break a sugar addiction as it is to break a nicotine addiction.  Sugar manifests itself in each of us in a variety of ways.  For me it's constipation, under-eye bags, sluggishness, insomnia, and an increasing waistline, to name a few.  I'm hopeful that due to my attempt to control my sugar consumption I won't be subject in the future to the same pain and suffering as my Mother.  And hopefully I'll never be faced with larger issues like cancer and heart disease.  Fingers crossed.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 1973 the average annual consumption of sugar, per person was 125 pounds.  I've seen reports that claim it to be up to 160 pounds per year per person now.  In 1821 it was 10 pounds.  But for some reason, we can't seem to believe that little ole' wonderful sugar is to blame for the rise in obesity, childhood behavioral problems, and the plethora of other medical issues we experience.  It's too sweet to cause such bitter problems!

Our food and drink have been laced with a very addictive, toxic, but legal ingredient.  We wanted convenience and we wanted it to taste good; hence processed foods with lots of sugar in them.  Lets be honest, sugar makes things taste so good, so we've added lots of it to everything.  Admit it, you're a sugar addict and hopefully you will do something about it before your body gives up it's fight to process the poison inside it.  For me it was vanity that helped me to see the light.  I have to admit, I've only made it two weeks without sugar before falling off the wagon, but I remember the feeling and effects fondly.  I keep trying though.  I'm not off sugar yet and don't know if I will ever be completely free of it's grips, but I am aware of how it affects me and I strive to make good, healthy food choices in the hope that one day I can control the beast instead of it controlling me.  It's going to be a long, hard process, but as we all know, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Try going without refined sugar for 24 hours (make sure you eat something every two to three hours to help your body avoid a big sugar withdrawal).  If you can make it, try to go another 24 hours, then another -  and please let me know how you fare.  I saw results (reduction of under eye bags) in 24 hours but the real benefits began kicking in after about three days.  I would love to know how you feel.  Did you have a terrible time of it and fall into a deep sugar withdrawal?  Or did you find that you zoomed  through the day without your usual 3 p.m. slump?  Let me know!  Keep the sugar fast going and I'd bet you are amazed at how good you can feel!

It's the beginning of 2009 and maybe your resolution to lose weight, get more done, or live a healthier lifestyle will prompt you to consider how much sugar you consume (read labels!  It's everywhere!).  I think the first steps in breaking the sugar addiction is to be aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel.  Then admit you are an addict.  If you don't believe me, try going without refined sugar for two weeks.  I dare you.  No, I double dog dare you.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sugar is as Addictive as Cocaine

In December 2007 I went on a 24-hour sugar fast because I read somewhere that it might help reduce under-eye puffiness.  Not only did I have under-eye bags, but they carried around their own purses as well!  Well, it worked - or at least I convinced myself that they were a bit smaller.  I was excited about the results so I continued restricting my sugar intake. I still ate fruits and natural sugars, just no refined sugars.  This included no breads or flour products of any kind.  After two weeks my under-eye bags were minimal (I'm 44 and I think I have some hereditary bagginess going on too), but other things happened to me as well.  I lost four pounds, I wasn't tired mid-day, and I went to the bathroom regularly.  I felt and (thought I) looked great!

Unfortunately, my sugar-free period lasted only two weeks.  I indulged in some holiday fudge, then cookies, then pie, and things quickly got out of control.  My bags, purses, weight, and tiredness all came back.  With such positive, immediate results, I've tried hard this past year to control my sugar intake but it is so easy to fall off the wagon.   My husband told me that he read somewhere that sugar is as addictive as cocaine!  Just put "sugar addiction" in your search engine and see what comes up.  Or check out the sites I have listed under the title of this blog.  

This is what I think (no medical training behind these opinions):  Sugar is a cause of weight gain and obesity.  We eat sugar because it tastes good - it's not only in the obvious things like cookies and cakes, but it's in processed foods as well (that's how come they are so yummy - read labels - I believe 4 grams of sugar is the equivalent of one teaspoon) - there are 28 to 31 grams (almost 8 teaspoons) of sugar in some yogurts!  I've also read that our body turns other foods (white breads and rice) into sugar.  All this processed sugar then creates a chemical reaction in our bodies that causes us to crave more of the same.  Because these types of food have little to no nutritional value (empty calories), our bodies aren't satisfied, so we eat more... of the same.  Now we're hungry for all the wrong things, eat tons of it, and have no energy to boot - we can't exercise even if we wanted to.  Vicious cycle.

Sugar is also the reason I feel diets don't work.  When we diet, we continue to eat what we have been eating, only in smaller amounts  because we are suppose to reduce calories, right?  But the chemical reactions in our bodies, the addiction, is too strong, causing us to break, and then we binge.  We can't lose weight and keep it off when we are just reducing calories and not considering the kinds of food we eat.  When I eat REAL food (vegys, fruit, lean proteins, nuts, boiled eggs, etc.), I'm not always hungry and I have energy!   And I believe I looked better as well.

Although I feel very strongly about the importance of reducing or eliminating sugar from my diet, I have not been able to break the sugar addiction.  I keep trying though.  Maybe this year I'll make it three weeks without refined sugar.  I've told a few people my thoughts on sugar and for the most part I get, "oh, I couldn't give up _____" (iced coffees, candy bars, bread, pasta... you can fill in the blank), and the conversation is abruptly ended.  They would prefer to gripe about their weight or lack of energy than to even consider trying to cut the sugar.  I think there is enough information out there about the dangers of sugar so it is curious to me that more people don't know of them and even worse, don't even want to.  Guess this is addiction at it's finest.  What do you think?  Is sugar really the devil?  Are you an addict?  How can the sugar addiction be broken?  And more so, does it really need to be?