January 15th, 2012
The day I gave up Sugar
Before I started this sugar-free journey, I thought I knew everything there was to know about dieting. I was never into fad diets but over the course of my life I'd manage to lose hundreds of pounds. It all boiled down to moderation, calories in and calories out (or so I thought).
I knew that it was time for sugar and I to break up. Why? My joints were killing me, I was always out of breath, and my brain was in a constant fog. I spent most of my day in pain.
That day, I decided to give up sugar for 180 days. No “dieting”, counting calories, and no more weigh-ins.
My goal was to focus on positive things. I began building a library of inspiring photos would help me keep that focus. Whenever I ate a meal, I took a picture of it. After a couple of days I became captivated by the beauty of food…the colors, the textures, and the combinations. I was a food paparazzi!
I had a lot of questions. Will I ever eat desserts again? What if I’m a guest at someone’s house? How far do I go with this? Will this ever get easy? And most importantly....Will I ever eat chocolate again? All of these questions would be answered over time.
I also thought about olives. I hate olives. My husband loves them but they revolt me. They make me want to throw up a little. It’s an immediate reaction. Why can’t I feel that way about sugary junk food? Could I cultivate that? What if I thought about pain, inflammation and discomfort every time I thought about sugar?
Then I noticed something. For the first time in my life I wasn’t hungry anymore. It’s like a switch turned off. That’s what kept me going…that weird new feeling of feeling full. Something had changed. What was it?
I found my answer 3 weeks later when I stumbled upon a You Tube video called Sugar: The Bitter Truth (links below). Dr. Robert Lustig, a Professor of Pediatrics and expert in human metabolism, explores the damage caused by sugar. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic because of their effects on insulin.
Why is too much sugar Bad For You?
For years we’ve been told that it’s all about ‘calories in and calories out’, and Dr. Lustig proves that’s there’s more to it than that. Calories in and calories out is true if the environment is constant. However, the things you eat cause different biochemical processes.
There are three biochemical reactions that obese people will instantly understand.
- Grehlin is a hormone produced by the cells of your stomach which tells your brain you’re hungry… makes your stomach growl. Fructose calories do not suppress ghrelin.
- When you eat fructose, it sets off a complicated chain of events, that can lead to “leptin resistance”. Leptin is a hormone that comes from your fat cells, that tells your brain: "I’ve had enough!" It’s the “satiety hormone”. When we eat too much fructose, leptin can stop working altogether. We don’t know when we’re full, which explains that constant hunger and food foraging. Many obese people have very low leptin levels. Leptin does not recognize fructose.
- Eating too much sugar produces too much insulin. Insulin creates and makes you hold on to fat. When your blood-sugar crashes, you crave more sugar. Rinse and repeat. Eventually you develop insulin resistance.
Is the sugar in fruit bad?
This is my favorite lesson in the lecture. “When God made the poison he packaged it with the antidote”. In nature, the more fructose a food has, there’s usually way more fiber! Look how much fiber sugar cane has! The exception is honey, and even that is guarded by bees. All sugar sources come in a variety of beautiful packages full of nutrients and fiber. That is the way we were suppose to eat food.
Why is fiber important?
- Fiber helps regulate insulin which in turn allows your leptin hormone to work properly.
- Fiber helps things move along quicker. It increases speed of satiety. You feel fuller quicker.
- It inhibits absorption of some free fatty acids to the colon, which in the end suppresses insulin.
What giving up sugar taught me
Here’s where common sense comes in:
- Our bodies do not need more sugar than what is naturally present in whole foods.
- Follow the rules of nature. What we eat should be “packaged” properly…in lots of fiber.
- Honey was put on earth for our enjoyment. Enjoying a special sugar treat is not bad, but it should be special and infrequent.
- Sugar toxicity doesn’t happen in one meal. It happens over time. Undoing that will happen over time.
It’s hard to put a timeline to all the changes that happened next. I researched everything I could about my food and was shocked at what was in it. I felt excitement upon learning of great products that I could add to my grocery list, yet I felt sad at just how duped I had been eating “food” made of ingredients that other countries don’t even allow in dog food.
While eating healthy became my way of life, I suddenly stopped losing the weight I needed to get off. Over the next year I began having weird symptoms and felt chronically sick. Something was wrong but I couldn't figure out what. In November 2013 I got my answer. Giving up sugar was not enough. Click here for part two of my story....
*** Just a note about the YouTube lecture. There are a few of his lectures online, but I think these two are the best. The first one goes more in-depth about the biochemistry. The second talks more about finding possible solutions. I suggest you watch the first one, let it sink in, and another day, watch the second one. If you simply cannot bear watching anything for more than 12 minutes, than I included the third video for you.