From Vicki Shaver —
Sugar is so beloved that songs have been written about it! “Sugar, Sugar” is the title of an iconic bubble gum song by The Archies, a band as processed as the crystalized substance they sing about. Come to think of it, there have been lots of top selling songs written about sugar. Def Leppard, Rolling Stones, Four Tops all had big hits about sugar. To be fair, most of these songs use Sugar as a pet name for that special someone, with the exception of Def Leppard. I think they REALLY wanted sugar poured on them. Who wouldn’t? The addictive appeal of this heavenly commodity has led to the rise and fall of empires (And you thought the American Revolution was over tea!), but it may also be the death of us.
Depending on what agency you believe, Americans consume about 150 pounds of sugar per year. This is an increase of 30 or so pounds since the 1970s. As a nation, we have definitely developed a sweet tooth! No surprise, as your brain on sugar behaves a lot like your brain on drugs and leaves you wanting more.
This is not just a problem in the good old USA, either. The World Health Organization reports the global rate of Diabetes has quadrupled over the last 30 years. They offer that this is intersected with an increase in overweight and obese people, and with everyone being less active. They claim that Diabetes is the leading cause of death in the world! Certainly, as citizens of the world, we are well aware of the harmful side effects of sugar, especially added sugar, but can’t seem to stop.
This is where the sugar substitutes come into play. The history of these knights in granulized white armor is riddled with controversy resulting in Supreme Court findings and lots of dead laboratory rats. Who remembers the evil cyclamates? Time and time again, science (and our instincts and taste buds) have told us that fake sugar is no good, and probably even worse for you than sugar. Yet, we buy in. I had a 10-year love affair with Splenda and I still dream about those guilt-free baked goods!
Another seemingly sweet savior are items having “no added sugar” or that are “naturally sweetened.” While some of these products may be better for you than others, it’s best to understand labeling and what is and isn’t sugar. Thinking there were a handful of other names for sugar, I went searching for a list only to find that there are somewhere between 50 and 60! I’m linking you to them instead of listing them all: http://www.eatingwell.com/article/284643/other-names-for-sugar/.
Concerned with my own risk for diabetes and heart disease, I set out to see if I could live sugar-free (and sugar-substitute-free) and found The Whole30 Program: https://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/. According to co-creator, Melissa Hartwig, this is an elimination diet designed to remove foods that could be causing health problems in many people. Food groups such as dairy, soy, and sugar are removed for 30 days and then reintroduced one at a time to gauge how your body reacts. As you might imagine, this was not an easy program to follow. One of the biggest challenges was finding foods that don’t contain sugar! It’s everywhere! Tomato sauce, salsa, catsup, pickles and on and on. I found myself making homemade catsup (out of dates) and it was really good, but not very practical. However, I DID IT! I went The Whole30!
My Whole30 results were impressive: I lost 7 lbs. and my sweet tooth! I slept better and woke up much less “foggy” and in a good mood! I had more energy for my morning runs and my time improved. As for reintroduction, nothing really surprised me. I already know how my body (or mood) reacts to certain foods. Breaking the bedtime sweet snack habit was the biggest accomplishment and something that I haven’t gone back to. Overall, a success!
Some things to know if you are considering trying The Whole30:
- You’ll spend more money for foods with no preservatives or other forbidden items.
- There’s a lot of meal prep, which I was used to, but if you don’t normally prepare all of your meals from scratch, it will be an adjustment.
- You will be eating more food than you normally do, especially at breakfast. Sometimes I would just stare at the overflowing plate wondering if I could really eat all of it!
- It’s very hard to eat out. There are a handful of places that work, but I brought my homemade salad dressing with me to restaurants! Note: Use a secure container so your purse contents don’t end up drizzled in olive oil and smelling like garlic!
Don’t let these things scare you too much, though. There is a ton of support on social media – groups on Instagram with beautiful food porn, endless Pinterest Whole30 recipes, and several books cookbooks and journals to get you through. I have a fountain of information I’m willing to share if anyone has questions.
Reducing my sugar intake is still a work in progress, but I imagine that like much else in life, it comes down to moderation. I’m not sure that works with sugar, and besides, they don’t write songs about moderation, do they?