Fast and Loose


Photograph by Mathilde Langevin. Used with permission.

For mumble-mumble years, I’ve been addicted to sugar. All my life. From the first taste of my mother’s brownies/cookies/pies/cake, I was hooked. I cleaned a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and even the dreaded peas because I wouldn’t get dessert unless I ate all my dinner.

An early memory: somehow eating everything in my Easter basket during a visit to my grandparents’ house, and throwing up in the back seat on the way home. Halloween candy gone in days. Sneaking Hershey’s Kisses from the candy dish. Sneaking candy all the time.

Then older: eating M&Ms for dinner, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, always washed down with Diet Coke. Sugar sugar. Oh, honey honey. And maple syrup. It felt so good – well, of course. Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. And the sugar rush (yes, it’s a thing), pushing glucose into my blood. Too much.

As I learned more and more about the dangers of elevated blood sugar levels and Type II diabetes, I understood how damaging sugar is. And believe me, I’ve tried quitting many times. Those cravings are real.

Photo by M. Reynolds

Finally, it was enough. We all reach a breaking point. I’ve quit you, sugar, hopefully forever. And I am quickly becoming a fan of intermittent fasting. I’ve started slow and easy – 8 hour window to eat (for me, that’s 8:00 am to 4:00 pm) and a 16-hour fast, during which much of that time I’m asleep, anyway. I’m hoping to add in a 24-hour or up to a 36-hour fast once or twice a month.

Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It will help you lose weight, and it will lower blood sugar levels. There’s plenty of research available online, if you’re interested. Check out Dr. Jason Fung.

A few weeks ago, I had my blood work done. My doctor was very pleased – blood sugar normal (A1c at 5.7). I’m determined to keep it that way. Meanwhile, my clothes are loose. My rings were loose – had them all resized. Unfortunately, my skin is loose, too! But I’m working on that, and would still take the looser skin over any of the other health issues.

This Swiss Chocolate trilogy author no longer wants Toblerone or Cailler bars. Give me Gruyère and Emmanthaler cheese instead!

One Week Sugar Free (Again)


too-much-sugar

I won’t give up trying! If you’re a faithful reader of this blog (thank you!), you know I’ve written about sugar in the past. Something that tastes so good but is so, so bad. Yes, me, the woman who has written a trilogy of books with the word chocolate in the titles. I’m smart, but I didn’t always get it. (Actually, it’s not the chocolate that’s hurting you, it’s the sugar.)

After watching the documentary Sugar Coated, I was convinced, once and for all, that sugar is harming me more than any other substance. More than salt (which I don’t consume in large quantities, especially having cut out a lot of processed food), way more than (good) fat. Eggs don’t cause heart attackssugar does. Sugar causes obesity and diabetes, too. And the reason we’re at epidemic stage is because sugar has been added to just about every food that’s manufactured. 80% of the foods in your typical supermarket have added sugar.

Panko bread crumbs, ketchup, peanut butter. Jarred pasta sauce, salsa, flavored yogurt. Canned soup, salad dressing, granola bars. Anything purported to be low-fat or fat-free (remember those Snackwells?)

So I’m making a determined effort to stop, even forgoing stevia in my coffee and tea. No maple syrup on my oatmeal. And after a week, I do feel better. My taste buds are adjusting. But I’m still learning.

For the past year, I’ve been using PLNT brand plant-based protein powder in my morning shake. It only has 1g of sugar per scoop, but until today, I hadn’t looked closely at the ingredients. The label advises: Dairy Free, Fish Free, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Wheat Free, Yeast Free, non-GMO, kosher and vegetarian.

PLNT back

Here are some of the ingredients listed: inulin, chocolate, cocoa, stevia, xanthan gum, natural vanilla, silica, glycine, and maltodextrin.

It was eye-opening for me! All those polysaccharides! I’ll be switching to a new recipe….

Anyway, I’m one week sugar-free and still okay. Our refrigerator is full of vegetables and fruit and unsweetened almond milk. The cupboard shelves hold chia, hemp seeds, bee pollen, and cinnamon.

 

Hidden Sugar – It’s Everywhere


Last week I wrote about salt and how much of it is in processed and restaurant food.  For me, it was a real eye-opener. Some meals carry two to three times the normal daily recommended amount of sodium! Now, cutting out the salt is, pardon the pun, a piece of cake for me compared to getting rid of sugar. But I am really trying.

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You’d probably be surprised to learn where sugar hides. February is Heart Health Month, and the American Heart Association recommends that men should not consume more than 9 teaspoons of sugar in a day. This measurement of sugar equals 45g of sugar per day for men. The recommended sugar intake for women is less than that of men. The AHA advises women to limit their intake of sugar to 6 teaspoons of sugar each day. This translates to a daily recommended limit of 30g of sugar.

So, 45g for men, 30g for women. Remember that. Now take a look at how much sugar is in some everyday foods:

  • Chobani peach fat-free yogurt (I’m not picking on Chobani, I’m just using it as an example). One 6-ounce container. 140 calories, no fat. 19g sugar. A little cup of yogurt and you’re nearly at your daily limit.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts small coffee with cream and sugar (their version): 120 calories, 6g of fat, 17g of sugar. Using a sugar substitute? See my note at the bottom.
  • Since breakfast did you in, you decide to have a salad for lunch, and even use the Hidden Valley fat-free ranch dressing you brought in from home.  Look at the back label: the first four ingredients are water, corn syrup, maltodextrin, and sugar. Water, sugar, sugar, sugar. Two tablespoons of the dressing have 3g of sugar – can you limit yourself to 2T? Oh, and maltodextrin – what is it, exactly? According to Wikipedia, Maltodextrin is an oligosaccharide (right) that is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch and is usually found as a white spray-dried powder (yum). Maltodextrin is easily digestible, absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and is commonly used in sodas and candy. And, apparently, salad dressing.
  • Feeling a little tired in the afternoon? Have a Red Bull. One can provides 115 calories, no fat, and 26g of sugar. Or go sugar-free, but read my note at the end of this post.
  • You go out for dinner, because you had a hard day. Again, not picking on any place in particular, but let’s go to Outback Steakhouse. We’re going to share that famous blooming onion thing. Then you’ll have the Sweet Glazed Pork Tenderloin and a dressed baked potato. Total? Over 1,500 calories and about 23g of sugar. Oh, and by the way, the blooming onion serves six.

Now this likely isn’t a typical day, but if it were, you’d have consumed 88 grams of sugar, nearly three times the recommended amount if you’re a woman, twice if you’re a man. And what about kids? Teens? Coca-cola? More Red Bull? Whopper with cheese? Sugar everywhere.

NOTE (this information from the Dr. Oz website): About artificial sweeteners – New research shows that they may actually lead to weight gain, because they make the pancreas release insulin, an important hormone for accumulating body fat. Artificial sweeteners can cause you to go to the bathroom more often. They may cause the muscles in your bladder to become hyperactive – forcing you to urinate more frequently. Even one packet might be enough to cause you to urinate more frequently than normal. This can eventually wear out the bladder, increasing your risk for urinary tract infections and urge incontinence. Recent reports are also linking specific sugar substitutes you eat every day to major digestive problems including diarrhea, cramps, gas and bloating. They are specifically called sugar alcohols, which are calorie-reduced sugar substitutes that include sorbitol and malitol, which are found in “sugar-free” gums, candy and baked goods. As the sweet receptors in your esophagus and stomach are “tricked” by the zero-calorie substitutes, your pancreas is tricked into sending a false spike of insulin that can lead to insulin resistance. This can lead to diabetes. Also, since artificial sweeteners cause your body to crave more food, you can also put on weight, which further increases your risk for diabetes. In addition to diabetes, artificial sweeteners may be contributing to a nationwide epidemic of metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes-inducing insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and too much fat around the waistline.