Sugar: The bitter truth

iStock_000016238869SmallI hated what my mother made us eat when we were kids. Homemade raw, unsalted sunflower butter. Shaklee protein shakes. Cinnamon cottage cheese melted on whole-wheat bread. Bean sprouts sandwiches. Hardly the kind of kid food you see in school lunches today. Try trading a bean sprouts sandwich for a bag of potato chips.

My mother turned us into health nuts before it was hip, and that’s saying a lot considering I grew up in Southern California in the 70s. The rest of the country referred to us Californians as granola eaters. There was no sugar in our house, or processed foods, or really much of anything to eat now that I think of it. My mom wasn’t one of those chefs who could do magic with cauliflower to make it taste like mashed-potatoes. She served it raw on the plate with a side of salsa.

I remember shoving a lot of my food onto my unsuspecting, younger brother’s plate when he wasn’t looking. My big splurge was to save up my money and sneak to the grocery store to buy one of those cans of Redi Whip. By the time I got home I’d squirted the entire contents into my mouth. It was pure mono-and-diglycerides-carrageenan-propellant-nitrous-oxide joy.

Ironically, today I follow more of my mother’s food rules than break them. No bean sprouts sandwiches or melted cottage cheese toast, but that’s mostly because I don’t eat bread and not much cheese either. I limit processed foods to almost nil. My food rule today is, “if it doesn’t rot, don’t eat it”.

Now before you all blow up my inbox with requests to be invited to my house for dinner, I should also tell you that I don’t drink much alcohol either. I check the “once a week” box for alcohol consumption on my health questionnaire, which is actually erring on the high side. Though disciplined, I’m not a food purist. I have my vices. Sugar is my kryptonite.

Sugar and I have been lovers for years, but we’ve been in a toxic, love/hate relationship. You know that book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, well that’s me with sugar. If you give me a piece of dark chocolate then I’m gonna want some peanut butter to go with it. So, I’m gonna get in my car and drive to the grocery store for a pack of Reece’s peanut butter cups. On the way to the store I’m going to pass Suzie’s cupcakes. Suzie’s has those red velvet cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting. If I eat the cupcake then I’m gonna want…you get the point. Sugar is addicting.

My cravings are worse after a couple of glasses of wine. Wine lowers my defense shields. If tequila makes my clothes come off, wine turns me into a sugar slut. I’ll pick up any carbohydrate I can find. Next thing I know I’m buttering up my third piece of bread and contemplating dessert for dinner. Of course, I hate myself in the morning and like any good sugar slut, I head straight to the juice bar the next morning to detox.

I’m not alone. Statistically, the average American consumes 180 pounds of sugar a year. You know how averages work, right? I’m not eating my 180 pounds so someone else is. This means there are people out there eating more than 180 pounds of sugar a year and many of them are our children!

If you want to know how 180 pounds of sugar affects you body, try putting a 5lb bag of sugar in a backpack and jogging 5 miles at your regular pace. You’re going to feel sluggish and by the end of the run, crash hard. Sugar is that sweet seductress who lures you into doing bad things then steals your health when you’re not looking.

The truth is my resolve is not as strong as my sugar cravings unless I practice abstinence. Of course, I don’t. But when I abstain from sugar for a week or two, the cravings go away.

  • My energy increases.
  • I don’t crave caffeine–the yin to the sugar crash yang. I don’t eat as much.
  • I’m satisfied between meals.
  • I’m not bloated.
  • I sleep better at night.
  • My skin tone is more even.
  • I’m more clear-headed and less likely to snap like a turtle over something or at someone.
  • My emotions are more even.
  • I look younger.
  • I’m happier–even, a little bit sweeter without all that sugar.

As a 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach I can promise you that taking a break from sugar, processed foods and grains for 3 weeks will help you reconnect to your optimal health. You don’t have to say good-bye to your sugar lover forever, but a little break from one another may help get your relationship back on track and let you take back your power. In the meantime, you can cozy up to a new friend, healthy fat. More on that hunk next time.

By: Tracy Panzarella, Certified Nutritionist Anton MD Aesthetics, 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach