Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Quit Sugar...well, I'm in the process.

Raise your hand if you ate too much sugar over the Holidays.
And I was feeling it...
So, I'm quitting...
the sugar habit.

Here's how....

First of all, before I make any changes in my health I need to know why I'm doing it. I believe the greatest contributor to bad food and health choices is lack of education. I'm not talking Mathematics. I'm suggesting that if you don't know why you should avoid or embrace certain foods then you'll just choose whatever is available or advertised or on sale.

It's no coincidence that the people suffering the most from obesity and disease are the lower class citizens. It's a real epidemic. If given a choice between an apple or a Snickers candy bar most people would choose the candy bar if they had no idea about the difference.

So with that said, I like to educate myself as to why I am making changes. We all know sugar is bad for you. But how? And what are the other options?

I read this article by Dr. Mercola and learned a lot. I suggest you read it, but I will copy some of my favorite points here.

The Danger of Sugar, by Dr. Mercola

  • In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
  • In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
  • In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
  • In 2009, more than 50 percent of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar PER DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year!
  • Today, 32 percent of Americans are obese and an additional one-third are overweight. Compare that to 1890, when a survey of white males in their fifties revealed an obesity rate of just 3.4 percent. In 1975, the obesity rate in America had reached 15 percent, and since then it has doubled.
  • Agave syrup, falsely advertised as "natural," is typically HIGHLY processed and is usually 80 percent fructose. The end product does not even remotely resemble the original agave plant.
  • Honey is about 53 percent fructose[2], but is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation, including as many antioxidants as spinach.
  • Stevia is a highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form). Lo han (or luohanguo) is another natural sweetener, but derived from a fruit.
  • If your diet was like that of people a century ago, you'd consume about 15 grams per day—a far cry from the 73 grams per day the typical person gets from sweetened drinks. In vegetables and fruits, it's mixed in with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate the negative metabolic effects. Amazingly, 25 percent of people actually consume more than 130 grams of fructose per day.
  • Fructose tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism—it turns off your body's appetite-control system. Fructose does not appropriately stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the "hunger hormone") and doesn't stimulate leptin (the "satiety hormone"), which together result in your eating more and developing insulin resistance.[3] [4]
  • Fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity ("beer belly"), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
  • According to Dr. Johnson1, sugar activates its own pathways in your body—those metabolic pathways become "upregulated." In other words, the more sugar you eat, the more effective your body is in absorbing it; and the more you absorb, the more damage you'll do. You become "sensitized" to sugar as time goes by, and more sensitive to its toxic effects as well.

    Here are a few ways Sugar can ruin your health:
    1. Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.
    2. Sugar can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
    3. Sugar can weaken eyesight.
    4. Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
    5. Sugar can cause premature aging. In fact, the single most important factor that accelerates aging is insulin, which is triggered by sugar.

    Read the complete list of 78 here.

- - - - - - - - -
So that was enough to convince me. My favorite statistic of all is how much sugar the average person eats on a regular basis - 180 pounds a year vs. 4 pounds in the 1700's.

I am currently reading another book (How I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson) and I am doing her 8-week Detox program. I am on week 1! The first 2 weeks I will not consume any sweets or anything with added sugar, then for 3 weeks I take out ALL fructose - even fruit, and then you gradually bring it back in. The idea is to reset your body to normal sugar "cravings" - which is not craving it.

I learned that when people in the olden days happened upon a sugary substance - berries, fruits, etc. they would eat as much as they could to store up the energy for later. As you read above, sugar does not trigger our "satisfied" or "full" feeling so it's easier to eat a lot more Skittles than Almonds, which are fat based, because of the way our bodies are made.

If we cut out sugars our tolerance for them decreases and we naturally don't crave them anymore.

According to Sarah Wilson we should be aiming for about 24 grams of sugar a day rather than the average 161 grams a day!

While I am cutting back, here are a couple tips that have helped me...

Here are a few ideas that help me to ease my sugar cravings:
- Herbal Tea (with or without honey, I usually don't add it)
- A piece of fruit - especially an Orange. (It's a sweet treat, but all natural)
- Drinking more water
- Eating more full fat foods - fats naturally decreases your desire for sugar - try nuts or full-fat yogurt
- Don't buy it. We have no sugary sweets in our house. If I get munchy I have nuts, tea or water.
- Eating more greens.

Also, start paying attention to how much sugar is in the foods you eat. Remember sugar is in everything nowadays. We don't like it unless it's sweet. So pay attention to the nutritional labels on the food you buy. A good rule of thumb is no more than 4-7 grams per 100 gram serving.

I want to say one thing about all the natural sugars that have become so popular lately - Agave, Palm Sugar, Sucanat, Stevia, etc. All of these - except Stevia - are still Fructose and your body will react the same to them. As I mentioned about Agave is still highly processed from it's original state. Although these are much better options than processed white sugar they are still fructose and will cause the same reactions to some degree.

The thing with fruit is that it is combined with other nutrients and vitamins that help to naturally breakdown the sugars and your body absorbs them naturally and effectively. I usually eat my fruit with a handful of almonds just to even out the sugar/fat intake however.

Stevia is the best option. It is not a fructose. Read this article to learn more about this sweet plant. Reading that article I just found out that some brands (Truvia) of Stevia are not the whole plant, but just use parts of the plant. I am still searching for an option that doesn't do this. Anyone know?

So there you have it folks, a little pep talk for quitting or at least minimizing your sugar intake. I would suggest getting Sarah Wilson's book. It has been so helpful for me so far and I am super excited to keep you posted on my sugar detox. I invite you to join me!

What are some helpful things you have done to nix the sugar habit??


  1. I just finished a 3 month sugar fast (although I did do fruit and agave). I had no treats, candy, sweets or white carbs. None. No cheats.
    It was great in changing my cravings and more importantly my habits. I am now working to bring those things slowly into my diet but it can now be a rare treat. I've learned control. It was honestly hard to get through it. I had a lot of herbal tea, greek yogurt, nuts and apples w/ peanut butter. Mostly I tried to stay busy so I wasn't thinking about food. I also set a goal so there was a prize at the end (If I was perfect I got to take Christmas weekend off). Lots of water helped too.

    I have read some of those things about agave but I have to say as a diabetic I have never had a blood sugar spike from an agave sweetened food and I take my blood sugar many times a day. Every body is different but that's just my experience. Stevia is also good but not as great in baking because it is so concentrated.

    In the past 6 months I have gotten my A1C (blood sugar average) down from 5.7 to 5.3. The biggest factor has been following the glycemic index. This gives everything a rating based on your blood sugar response (tsp sugar 65, agave 40). I like it because technically nothing is prohibited- you just want to eat as many things with a low # as possible. Also, eating fruits and vegetables with a high fiber content (apples, pears, apricots, carrots) slows down sugar absorption into the blood stream.

    I've learned that you just have to find something that works for you. If you are diligent good health will come.

    Anyway, just my experience. Good luck in your quest. (Also, start reading ingredient lists. There is added sugar in things you would never guess like canned beans or tomatoes).

  2. I am on week 2 of IQS and am having some success at it. I am so happy to have found your blog because I had intended on blogging about my 8-week 'experiment' but it seems too much to take on for me right now. I have 3 young children and am constantly surrounded by temptations...even healthy ones at that. Strawberries, kiwis, frozen blueberries, etc for the kids. I have found that hot tea works well to stop my cravings, as does the Le Croix Coconut sparking water. Sweet enough to satisfy. Also, I opened my first coconut last week and that was a HUGE treat eating raw coconut. I was a really bad sugar-holic and have not one, but two autoimmune issues. I think the diet will be REALLY good for me. I do find myself eating more carbs than usual and need to find other healthy foods to snack on. I have almonds in the car for an emergency and today made 3 veggie juices in my juicer that were all fruit-free and delish! I'd be glad to post the veg juice recipes if anyone is interested. Best of luck for week two. I can say it DOES get easier in terms of having less temptation to eat sweets, but I worry about maintaining my willpower.

  3. @Anne M, I'm so glad you found my blog too! I am on day 5 of week 1 and the cravings are definitely there. But I am staying strong. I have been eating lots of plain yogurt, crackers and cheese and almonds to satiate my munchies.

    I will post an update next week and YES, I would love the veggie juice recipes!

    P.S. How did you find my blog? I hope you find some other fun things here!

  4. @Rachel, way to go! 3 months is a long time - especially over the holidays. That is awesome.

  5. Do you know anything about maple butter, which is whipped maple syrup? That's about the only sweet I eat, besides fruit.

  6. Thanks. It was really hard at times. My friends and family probably got tired of me venting my frustrations at times. There are so many activities that revolve around sweets. For example, my relief society had 3 activities in the fall that were either cake or cookie decorating. What's a girl to do? Also situations where you were being served dinner were very stressful. If I hadn't made a bet with my trainer I probably would have folded. She was facing the challenge with me which helped a lot, so if you can find a buddy (and a vent partner!) that is a good idea.
    Nuts help a lot. Sometimes I force myself to eat breakfast because I have no appetite in the morning. The more I can keep away from the kitchen the better (a tough thing to do when you work from home!). I know when you are pregnant you have to snack more often but do the best you can. Also, if you do fall don't beat yourself up too much. Its not like a sin or something. I think sometimes we put food on that level. Just move on and begin again. Anyway, good luck.