Tuesday, January 5, 2010

No sweets

A bit of a caveat - this will be repetitive for long-time blog readers, but I know I have some new readers out there recently....900 hits in the past few weeks!


There are lots of serious, well-researched, scientifically sound books on sugar.  These books explain sugar-addiction (slightly frightening)  and insulin-levels and all sorts of biological reasons why sugar is bad for the body and how the body metabolizes food. It leaves the body quickly and you end up hungry and craving more of it. I won't add to the blather as another un-trained voice but rather just note that sugar consumption leading to weight gain is a pretty well-known phenomenon. Here is a quick quote from Dr. Oz's website:

When you eat sugar, it stimulates the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, which makes you feel pleasure. The brain recognizes and likes this feeling and begins to crave more. It may startle you to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all stimulate the same receptors in your brain.
It takes 28 days to detox from most addictive substances, and sugar – hidden in fast food, low-fat options and condiments – is certainly an addictive substance.
 ...or you can read David Kessler's book, "The End of Overeating" for lots of detail.

I have read different suggestions as to how much sugar should be acceptable in a "serving". Dr. Oz says 5 grams of sugar, Jackie Warner says 9 grams. Either of those knocks out a ton of foods, especially sweetened yogurts and granola bars.  I found a petition on the FDA website from 1999 urging the FDA to set the recommended daily allowance at 40 grams of added sugar (there is none now).  I think that means in addition to the sugar found in dairy and fruit, but I'm not sure. Artificial sweeteners are just gross to me and do nothing to diminish the cravings, although certainly in my life I've had a fair share of Diet Coke. We all have our foibles. I'm a bit confused about the whole idea of honey, maple syrup and especially agave nectar. Those natural products seem better than high-fructose corn syrup for some reasons. But at the end of the day, too much sweet stuff is too much sweet stuff. Honey doesn't keep you full even if it has some natural enzymes that are healthy in another way. A drizzle is fine, but 3 tablespoons is probably too much for someone trying to break those sweet cravings, stay full and limit calories.

I'm not usually a fan of baby-steps. They don't result in large amounts of weight being lost, but rather 5 lbs or less usually. But it can be hard to take on everything at once, and reducing sweets is a great starting place, especially at this time of year when it's easy to have re-calibrated your sweets intake to be higher than normal.

Furthermore, the truth is, most sweets aren't that good anyway. So after holidays are over a starting place can be to put the cookie down and get the sweets out of the house so you're not torturing yourself. You don't need 7-layer dream bars and gingerbread cookies covered in M&M buttons calling you from the cabinets. A "once a week" sweets rule to help deal with the temptations (or twice a week if you need it) works well.

It's not as bad as it sounds, I promise. In fact, getting that sugar monkey off your back can feel quite liberating.

As a note of disclosure, I still eat sugar - probably more than I should. I usually limit my sweets to sweetened whole grain cereal, "diet" cookies and gummy vitamins. I eat those daily, but only after I did my own little "detox" experiment to get rid of the constant sugar cravings.

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