Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sugar = MORE addictive than cocaine (but admitting you have a problem is the first step to getting clean)

The Buddha said, "Life is suffering," and therefore you should not eat sugar. The end.

Just kidding. I just completed a 10 Day (now 11 days...go me) challenge to NOT eat any sugar. Not just saying no to mainlining packets of the pure white stuff, but from consuming ANY added sugar. I found myself saying no to Craisins, my favorite organic veggie chips, certain brands of salsa, and even a shaker of GARLIC SALT (yes, really) because they all had added sugar. In fact 80% of the 600,000 items on grocery store shelves have added sugar, including many condiments, salty snacks where you wouldn't expend to find it, and plenty of items labeled as organic, low-fat, all natural, wholesome, etc. There are also 56 different names for sugar listed on ingredient labels - high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, cane sugar, maltose, malodextrin, cane crystals, saccharose and more. They're mad might be eating sugar and not even know it. 

Just like in my previous food-related post, I'm not here to address the issues with our food supply. Yes, sugar is cheap and subsidized by the government, organic kale is a luxury item and I'm mad as hell about it!! Rather than complain however, I am putting my money where my mouth is- literally. 

This is also NOT a post about losing weight. Quick story: the summer of 2011 I was working - a lot- in an office that had a suspected mouse problem and therefore was "food free." Instead of leaving my desk to eat and thereby extending my work day, I would sneak what I could and what gave me a glimmer of joy in those dark, 12 hour days in that windowless dungeon: chocolate. White Chocolate Kit Kats to be exact, washed down with hot, sweet, coffee. I ate like 3-5 of the minis throughout the course of the day and nothing else until I had dinner around 10/11pm. I was also the skinniest I have EVER been, thanks to the raging digestive problems the stress and poor eating habits gave me. Like literally, shorts-falling-off-my-behind skinny. Skinny does not equal healthy and, as my now much thicker behind might imply...healthy does NOT equal skinny.
I just cain't quit you, White Kat (until now!)

Why might you want to give up sugar? Here are a few reasons:
1) It's addictive. In tests (note: I do not condone animal testing but these are the statistics...) lab rats are 8 times more willing to work for sugar than cocaine. The more you have it, the more you want it. My candy drawer at my desk was FAR more tempting than an after work cocktail (or, cocaine apparently). 
2) It erodes tooth enamel and dentist bills are MAD HIGH. 
3) Yes, it can make you fat...exponentially fat. Whereas the old "a calorie is a calorie" adage used to be the accepted wisdom in nutrition science, more and more studies are showing that that's simply not true. 1000 calories of organic vegetables do not affect your body in the same way that 1000 calories of simple carbs and sugars do. 
4) **It's a stimulant. Ok, not technically (and there is some debate on this)...but it does cause insulin spikes that then get our hearts pumping and adrenal glands working overtime. And what comes up, must come down- hence the dreaded "sugar crash" in the short term and adrenal fatigue in the long term. I believe that I suffered from adrenal fatigue for a long time...maybe a decade, but just kept prolonging the problem with MORE coffee and MORE sugar. The sugar high gives us QUICK artificial energy so we can push through our work (just 50 more emails...then I'll go home!) or just gets out of bed in the morning (hence the classic donut & coffee breakfast), but an hour later we're zonked. AND craving more sugar (see reason #1). 
Good morning (for NOW muah haha ha HA!)
**This was my main reason for quitting sugar cold turkey (I also gave up coffee but I'll save that story for another time). With my heart condition and extremely low blood pressure, I find my energy dipping periodically throughout the day. This is when I would reach for sugar, so I could continue to muscle through my work load. My doctor gave me a great prescription though... go lay down. Literally, take a break every three hours, lay down- or even nap- when I feel tired. LAY DOWN when you feel tired?? What a novel idea, and so contrary to the constraints of typical modern life! But America runs on DUNKIN?!?

But enough of WHY. If you're interested in quitting sugar, even just for a few days, here's how to STICK TO YOUR GUNS and also make it feel slightly less tortuous than heroin withdrawal

1) Make your intention clear and known. Tell the person you live with. Tell the people you work with. Write a blog post about it for the world to read. Sometimes peer pressure is the best motivator.

2) Pick the right time. I am blessed to have a completely (almost) flexible schedule at this point in my life. This same week last year, I had 4 HUGE events meaning I was working from 9am-10pm or later, and with a huge amount of stress to boot. If someone had told me to quit sugar for 10 days during that time, I would have pulled a Naomi Campbell on them and given them a shiner the size of my Blackberry (actually that would have meant letting go of my Blackberry for that long...I'd hit them with something else). Vacation = not a good time. A weekend when you know you're going to be out partying/drinking = not a good time. Drunk people munch, and many drinks have added sugar. Don't set yourself up for failure. Pick a fairly calm period of time and if you can only commit to Monday through Friday, that's better than nothing at all.

3) Clean out your cabinets. The day before you start, go through and really read all your food labels. Does your tomato sauce have sugar added? Probably. What about all those SUPER healthy organic, gluten-free, cruelty-free, free-range, cage-free, grass-fed, superfood snacks you like? Yup, even many of those will have sugar. If they're around, you'll be tempted so just get rid of em. Have a sugar party or make your husband eat them (that's what I did). Lock them away until your sugar cleanse is done. Out of sight = out of mouth. 
I'm made with Kale, Chia, Flax, Quinoa and
...oh SUGAR!!!!!

4) Become an information junkie. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is, "Do the best you can until you know better. And when you know better, do better." In my case, I knew sugar could make me fat and rot my teeth. Those reasons were not important enough for me. Anyone who wanted to part me from my beloved White Kit Kats could kiss my fatter-growing ass as far as I was concerned. Then I found out about adrenal fatigue and the truly chemically addictive nature of the stuff. I may not care about the girth of my lady lumps, but I care deeply about the health of my heart and hormonal function (at least now I do). Find articles that remind YOU why you decided to quit sugar in the first place and commend yourself for doing something so good for your long-term wellness. 

5) Develop your exit strategy. I have never been to jail, but I bet the whole time they are planning exactly what they'll do when they get out. What they'll eat, what they'll buy, what lady or man friend they'll go see. Giving up sugar is kind of like that. By telling yourself "it's not forever" you can trick yourself into being more patient. My plan, moving forward, is to allow myself sugar-added or sugar-only treats twice a week. Maybe a slice of cake at a birthday party one day and a big old sugary margarita one night. Livable and not overly restrictive, but still much better than an every-3 hours-chocolate habit.

sweet, sweet mango. God's own candy.
6) Find naturally sweet & wholesome substitutes. Disclaimer: on day 1-3 of your sugar cleanse, you will find this advise anywhere from comical to violently obnoxious, depending on your level of addiction, but I promise it works. Having not had sugar for 10 days when I taste an almond, it tastes as sweet as a chocolate chip. Seriously. Your palette will adjust. So in the meantime, reach for naturally occurring sugars - yes, those are allowed (this ain't Atkins). Mangoes, bananas, berries, cooked carrots, mashed sweet potatoes and all the rest of what I call "God's candy" will become your best friends during the detox phase. Don't overdo it of course (1/2 a mashed banana with shredded coconut and toasted pecans has been MY JAM) and eat these treats slowly, and enjoy the naturally occurring sweetness.

Cutting back on sugar is NOT a fad diet or "bikini body" plan (I am so sick of reading the words bikini body that I'm made I even wrote that). It is a way of life, and a longterm plan for optimal health and wellness. Sometimes, however, you need a little jolt to kick the junk and hopefully this article will give you the motivation and tools to do just that!