Tag Archives: Sugar Addiction

I Cut Out Sugar for 180 Days and This Happened

My name is Heather, and I’m a sugar addict.  Actually, I have a propensity to become addicted to many things: exercise, productivity, losing weight, coffee, chocolate, sleep, cereal, diet soda…the list goes on if I don’t keep things in check.  However, sugar is my biggest challenge.

As I have aged, my body has become less forgiving of my food indulgences.  It takes much longer to “undo” poor choices.  Maddening and unfair!

The truth is that you can’t out-exercise a poor diet, no matter how old you are.  Your body just holds a grudge longer when you are older.  Truthfully, foods like sugar fuel this grudge and cause big health problems.  I wish this weren’t the case, believe me.

Every January I set out to see how long I can keep sugar out of my diet, mostly in the form of desserts and processed simple carbs (i.e., breads, pastries, cakes, cookies, etc.)  I take a zero tolerance approach, because as I shared earlier, I’m an addict; I can’t eat just a little.  This post shows you how the concept of moderation with sugar works for me –it’s not pretty.  In 2017, I made it over 180 days –roughly 6 months.  I documented what happened during that time and here are some highlights…

  • The first 2 weeks were the toughest, especially coming out of the Christmas season. I definitely had to get all of the temptation OUT of my house.  It wasn’t a good time to try to gut it out in the midst of tempting foods –a recipe for failure.
  • Moods evened out and PMS-related symptoms (irritability, anxiety, depression, bloating) significantly decreased.
  • Less grumpy. Enough said!  Sugar makes me grumpy but I didn’t realize it until I removed it.  I always joke that it’s a “happy now, sad later” scenario:  feels good going down and then later I’m a hot mess, full of chagrin and regret because I feel like poo.
  • Improved muscle tone and loss of inches around the waist and hips. This is because eating sugar increases insulin.  When insulin levels are elevated, our bodies store fat –up to 72 hours after eating it!  Keeping insulin in check allows the body to burn fat.  Other foods, like simple carbs, can achieve the same insulin response in the body, which is why “low carb” diets tend to be effective.
  • Improved blood sugar, as measured by A1C – went from 5.4 down to 5.3. Under 5.6 is considered “normal,” but I start to get concerned if mine gets to 5.5.  Honestly, I’d love to see it closer to 5.0 because I have a family history of diabetes.
  • HDL Cholesterol (good) went from 77 to 91.  HDL is cardio-protective, so it’s beneficial for this number to be higher.  Some references suggest that over 39 is optimal, while others raise the bottom of the healthy range to 50.
  • LDL Cholesterol (bad) went from 152 to 114, which is ALMOST in the optimal range, below 100.  This was so cool because I have a gene that makes my body more susceptible to having high LDL cholesterol.  I outsmarted my genes!

In addition to cutting sugar, I made sure that I was eating a source (1/4 cup plus 3-4 teaspoons) of healthy fat every day.  Excellent sources are: avocados, salmon, eggs, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds (especially flaxseed, chia, sunflower), dark chocolate (85% cacao or higher), olives and olive oil, unsweetened coconut and coconut oil.  It’s highly likely that my lipid profile improvements resulted from both cutting sugar and consuming healthy fats.

Am I telling you that YOU have to develop a zero tolerance approach to sugar?  Nope.  I often use myself as a guinea pig and share my observations.  I will say that if you are an addict like me, and approaching sugar in moderation doesn’t work for you, it might be time to try an experiment of your own.  AND, if you have a tendency towards a high LDL/low HDL profile, this could be extremely beneficial to your health.  If you decide to experiment, I encourage you to track your weight and waist/hip measurements, track your moods, and get before/after lab work done.

After my experiment, I ate sugar here and there, but found that I craved it much less.  Naturally, it snuck back in during the holidays and here I am at the beginning of 2018, choosing to cut it out again.  I’m not perfect, but I’ve learned a lot about my body and what feels best for me.

I’d love to hear from you if you are trying to cut sugar.  Does moderation work for you or are you an addict like me?

Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash

Life Lessons from a Cake Walk

cake-walkI attended an indoor carnival at my kids’ school this past spring.  Giving in to my 6-year-old son’s relentless urging, I accompanied him to the room where they held the obligatory “cake walk.”  What’s a carnival without a cake walk, right?  As I helped my son select a spot in the circle to begin walking, I couldn’t help but notice the two very long tables, one on either side of the small room, overflowing with every possible version of a dessert.  There were pies, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and cinnamon rolls with various combinations of frostings and toppings.  No matter where I looked, my eyes locked onto the sweet goodness.  The room filled with people and the game began; I was trapped in a sugar vault!

Hello, my name is Heather, and I am a recovering sugar addict.  People closest to me know how much I have loved chocolate over the years…Yes, I’ll take the chocolate brownie with the chocolate ice cream and can we put some hot fudge on top?  What about chocolate shavings too?  For many years, I struggled to tame the sugar beast.  However, more recently I had enjoyed riding a wave of success, celebrating the fact that I hadn’t craved sugar in months.

Then I found myself in a room filled with temptation that was encircling me and closing in fast.  I chuckled at the irony, yet felt emotional pangs as I saw some old, familiar friends on those tables.  I tried not to make eye contact (with the cakes) but it was nearly impossible.  Eyes forward, girl.  You can do this.  I secretly prayed that my son would win nothing, and as luck would have it, he didn’t win.  However, the loss prompted multiple visits back to that room over the course of the evening as my son desperately tried to win a sweet treasure.  Each time I set foot in that place, I was confronted with the delectable desserts, and mystified that the cake supply didn’t seem to be dwindling!  Each time we left, I was secretly relieved that my son hadn’t won.

We weren’t home very long when I started craving something sweet for the first time in months.  I began systematically tearing my pantry apart in search for something, anything sweet.  Where is this coming from?  I’m behaving like an animal!  I was naïve for only a moment, before realizing that I was responding to what my eyes had repeatedly seen just hours before.  Even though my body hadn’t ingested any sugar at all—and hadn’t for months—the simple viewing of desserts had the ability to produce these cravings.  Our eyes are very powerful!

My cake walk experience is a great illustration of how what we see can influence our thoughts, motives, and behaviors.  I’m reminded of what Jesus said in the book of Matthew (6:22):  The eye is the lamp of the body.  In Bible times, it was understood that the eye was similar to the heart.  The eyes (heart) serve as a lamp, illuminating where the body will go, and determining what its priorities will be.  In Psalm 119, phrases such as fix my eyes (v. 15), open my eyes (v. 18), and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (v. 37) reinforce the idea that the eyes are an influential avenue to our hearts and minds.

What are your eyes spending time with today?  Are they taking in things that are life-giving or life-squelching?  Sometimes it’s obvious how our eyes affect our thoughts.  We see sugar, and then we crave it.  Other things are more subtle:  I see everyone else’s “perfect” lives, bodies, jobs, families, (fill in the blank), and then I make negative value statements about myself as a woman, professional, or mom.  Whether obvious or subtle, what we focus on causes a cascade of thoughts, behaviors, and motivations.  This produces life-squelching results.

The encouraging news is that this natural progression can work in the opposite direction.  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The next time you find yourself in a “cake walk” situation—whether obvious or subtle—just remember to shift your gaze.  Be intentional about focusing our eyes (and heart) on things that produce life-giving results.