Sugarless in a Sugar Laden World
I’ve been sugarless in a sugar laden world for three months. It all started when I gave up sugar in many of its forms to support a friend who wanted to do a three-week elimination diet to see if she could figure out some triggers for some pain she was having. The three weeks came and went, but I never brought sugar back.
Here are some things I’ve observed over the last three months:
- Without being hungry or counting calories, I’ve lost the eight pounds and 1.5 BMI points that I gained during my overseas PCS a couple of years ago. That’s .6 pounds per week. If I were on a diet, I would have quit long ago in frustration because that’s not within the 1-2 pounds per week that many weight loss plans suggest as a reasonable and healthy amount to expect to lose. To be fair, I’ve also made a conscious effort to eat a lot more fresh produce.
- People think going sugarless is a fad. And why wouldn’t they? There are only two people in my life that I know of who have given up sugar long-term. One is my father-in-law who gave it up 40 years ago when he had cancer. His doctor told him that sugar feeds cancer (which is now considered a myth) so he stopped eating it as well as cleaning up other areas of his diet. I swear the man lives mostly on greens and garlic. Now, in his late 80s, he’s remarkably healthy. The other person is Desiree Rumbaugh, a yoga instructor. She likes to say that she traded sugar for 50. Her 50th birthday was back in 2009. I only know her in passing from some workshops I’ve attended, but observing the leanness, strength, and capability of her body is truly an inspiration.
- The words moderation and sugar often go together. People give up sugar for a while and then say they’ll bring it back, but in moderation. I don’t believe it’s possible for me to be moderate with sugar (at least not yet), though one nutrition therapist begs to differ. In an article for Refinery 29, Theresa Kinsella gave this quote: People can be physically healthy without consuming sugar. However, you cannot have a healthy relationship with food if it is based on rigid rules. It's impossible to learn how to regulate eating when certain foods are off-limits. Furthermore, research shows that normalizing a food with repeated exposure and [practicing] mindful eating can actually help decrease the allure of that food. It is easier for me to not eat any chocolate chip cookies than to try and eat a reasonable portion from time to time. Though, if sugar happens to be hidden away in some salad dressing or other food when I’m eating out at a restaurant, I’m okay with that. Maybe my rules aren’t rigid enough to alarm Kinsella.
- People need to eat in ways that suit their bodies, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You know this if you’ve tried something that worked for someone else and then got disappointed when you didn’t get the same results. Erica Chard, certified holistic health coach and one of our military spouse nutrition experts, wrote this in response to a question over on our ID | Nutrition page: I would love to say that everyone would do great on a just-eat-real-food protocol, but there are many foods that are "real" foods that are problematic for people, so the right approach is really individual-specific. Sorry to sound like a politician, but I really want people to hear that bio-individuality is a key factor in dietary selection, and one of the common reasons various protocols fail people is that they just weren't the right fit for their lifestyle, conditions, needs, and other individual-specific factors.
- Our social lives and celebrations revolve around eating and drinking, and sugar is often involved. If you remember back to the Little House on the Prairie books, one Christmas the girls received a penny, a cup, a stick of candy, and a little cake made with white sugar. Consuming sugar back then was truly a very limited treat for special occasions. They would be shocked at how readily available it is today, as we’re shocked when we start reading labels and find that it’s everywhere. Last Christmas was probably the first Christmas of my entire life that I did not eat some of my grandmother’s fudge. She died about 10 years ago, but her recipe lives on in the kitchens of her family members. This year, I went my own way and made this yummy fudge instead.
- Eating sugar is a habit and it is uncomfortable breaking habits. Just like it was customary to make the Christmas fudge every year, it was also a habit to get ice cream as a pick-me-up on tourist days, or eat a little dessert after dinner. Last weekend, we packed kale salad as a snack for a big day out. It’s a far cry from ice cream, that’s for sure! Planning ahead is my new habit.
So will I ever eat sugar again? I don’t know. What I do know, is that right now I’m doing what works best for my body. I reserve the right to change my mind to best serve my body in the future. Trying to fit into somebody else’s way of eating is like trying to wear the same trendy fashions as your friends who have completely different body types. Take the time to experiment and learn and do what makes you feel fabulous. And when the clerk scanning your groceries or the restaurant server makes comments about your healthy food choices, you can just glow with satisfaction and pride, knowing that you’re treating yourself with care.
Do you ever feel like you’re swimming against the current with your food choices? Where do you turn for guidance?