Splenda is not so splendid

Yet another reason I’m not a fan of Splenda…….corn.
What, you ask, do corn and Splenda have in common?  If you take a look at the back of a Splenda packet, you’ll find a very imporant word: Dextrose.

Dextrose is a sugar derived from corn.  The same plants that gives us high fructose corn syrup also produce dextrose.  Now, dextrose can also be derived from other things, like grapes, but much of the dextrose we eat comes from corn.

Why all the hype about corn?  What gives?  Corn continues to be a hot button because we are over-using it; the typical American approach: Something has a good aspect to it, so we exploit it and over-work it, and then wonder what went wrong.  Our food (including dairy, meats, legumes, grains, etc) is at least 25% corn-based, from the reading I did in both “Omnivores Dilemma” and “Fast Food Nation” recently.  The reason is that many of our lifestock eat corn, so we get the residual issues in our bodies.

Corn sensitivity, like gluten or dairy sensitivity, is on the rise.  Of course it is – when we over-consume something, our bodies get sensitive to it.  It’s like being poked in the same spot on your arm 1,000 times.  Sure, a poke every now and again isn’t so bad, but constant poking yields a bruise, dysfunction on the skin and sensory feedback and general irritation.  Same with food.  We over-eat something ,especially if that something is genetically modified (and you can be your bottom dollar Corn is genetically modified, especially nowadays).
The other reason artificial sweeteners don’t excite me is that they miss the point: we are addicted to sweet.  Wouldn’t you (who are also fellow addicts like me) agree that once you get the taste for sweet, it’s over?
Americans consume a lot of sugar, we all know that
What I think is under-represented is the genetic and biochemical drive to consume that sugar even when we know it is not good for us.  What would serve us better are foods/recipes/mindsets that help us put our sweet craving aside.

In Chinese medicine it is said that a sweet addiction is an addiction to “the sweetness of life”.  We want it to taste like honey all the time, and when it doesn’t, we go looking for the honey.

I can certainly see this in myself.  I’ve used sugar as a compadre to cope with the drama in my head for many years.  Without it, life still seems a little sour, and yet with it I am a slave to its effects.

I suppose the call to action here is to invite myself and others to look at the role sweet foods play and ask ourselves if that role is really suiting our life’s dreams?  And for the times when something sweet would be really appropriatae, why not make something real, good and of the earth?
For such an occasion, I have a recipe.  Maybe its weird to post a dessert recipe here, because I’m talking about abstaining from sugar, so this one is for the birthday party, the 4th of July picnic, or whatever else is a call to celebrate.

I have to thank Better Homes and Garden’s for the inspiration.  I was looking for a recipe for a birthday potluck at work and my new mag came to the door, offering a recipe that catapulted me into creative recipe creating mode.

Blueberry-lemon-coconut-pie (and low sugar too!)

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup whole oats (you can blend them for 30 seconds for a finer flavor, if you’d like)
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg, each
1/2 cup flaxmeal
1/4 cup sucanat

In a small saucepan, heat coconut oil over medium heat until melted and warmed (1-2 minutes).   In a med bowl, stir oats, flour, coconut, flax, spices, and sugar.  Stir in butter and mix.  Press into the bottom of a 10″ pie dish, or 13″x9″ pie dish.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Filling:

6 eggs (or 3 eggs + 4 whites)
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lime peel
2 cups blueberries (I warmed 2 cups of blueberries on the stove w/1 packet Stevia to bring out flavor prior to adding)
1/4 cup sucanat.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, sugar, 1/2 cup spelt flour, lemon juice, baking powder and nutmeg.  Beat for 2 min.  Stir in lime peel and berries.  Pour over crust.  Bake 30 minutes at 350.  Serve chilled after 2 hrs of refrigeration.

This one was a hit with all the co-workers, even those who don’t normally eat healthy.

I’m learning the power of having a well planned, special treat on occasion versus the daily consumption of “junk” sugar, which doesn’t actually make me feel good, and certainly doesn’t add anything to my health.

Blessings

R

Nutrition:The price of convenience

Today I stopped into a Pilot gas station/convenience store to fill up. I decided to take a mosey inside and see what was going on, as the place on I-5 Southbound in the Willamette Valley is always hoppin’. If you don’t know, Pilot “travel centers” offer gas, convenience stores, and usually a restaurant, such as Subway and Taco Bell in this instance.

Here is what I saw: When you walk in, one of the first things you see is a cooler with mixed green salads, sandwiches and dessert parfaits for 2/$5. Then its the coffee bar/soda bar, which takes up approximately 20-25% of the total store space. There is even a fruit stand where apples, oranges and bananas are 2/$1 – not too shabby.

However, its easy to miss these healthy options because 75% of the store is dedicated to utter garbage. Just look at the monthly specials for Pilot LLC, and you can clearly see the focus is on garbage eating. Most of the people in line with me either had candy bars + soda or the 2 chili-dog special, or a 44 oz soda. Most of the people were 20 – 200 lbs overweight. I felt like an oddball being regular sized.

But, let’s break it down a little. I know that junk food, especially “value priced” appeals to the traveller in need of a little grub and little time. But is it really that inexpensive?
For instance, the king sized candybars (Kit kat, Snickers, etc) were 2/$2. What do you get for that $2, when compared to the salad at $2.50/piece.

Calorically: $2 gets you the caloric value of 2 king-sized candy bars. There are 440 Kcal in the 1.94 oz, which equals (for two): 880 kcal for $2 and 4oz of “food”. That is 220 Kcal/oz of “food”, and 440 Kcal/$1 of “food”.

By contrast, the salad, I’d guestimate at about 100 Kcal without dressing, and 250 with dressing. The size is likely 6-8 oz, possibly more. Let’s say 7 oz/ to be moderate.
Therefore, you get 250 Kcal for $2.50, which is 100 Kcal/dollar. You also get only about 38 Kcal/oz of food.
To compare, the better financial “value” is in the candy bar, at 440 Kcal/$1, versus 100 Kcal/$1 with the salad.

Comparing cost per ounce yields a different result. The candy bar is $.50/oz, whereas, the salad is about $.38/oz, which is a better deal.

Let’s look at the health of it: Do we even need to do any math? The salad will yield much better health and in all likelyhood help keep you “fuller” longer because it is real food being digested by your organs, versus sugary junk food that sends a message to your brain for more, more, more!

Yet, in the line I saw, not one person had a salad, despite the better deal in both the health and the cost per oz perspective. We are all trying to save money and improve our health, right? So why do candy bars and chili dogs win out?

Maybe this will help clear things up: Check out this monthly pilot ad: Notice a theme with what is on sale?

current_flyer

Because marketing shows us that “snickers really satisfies” and “gimme a break” from my hard day with a Kit Kat bar. Sexy models chow down and our subconscious mind can’t turn it off. We want a bite of what they are selling. We all feel like we deserve a ‘treat’ for simply living life. I totally fall prey to that. I’ll think about my hard day and how “good” I was, and suddenly I’m pulling up to those same convenience stores or to a cafe for my liquid pleasure: junky hot chocolate. No joking: one of the apects that keeps me coming back to the black juice is the cost value (ust $.89 – $.99 at a convenience store) and the fact that I can get more volume out of my sugary treat with a liquid than with a solid. I get 12-16 oz for the caloric “price” of a regular sized candy bar (esp since I cut the hot chocolate with decaf coffee or water to cut down on sugar). But somewhere in my subconscious mind the trick that working hard = needing sugar certainly stuck. For me its hot chocolate, maybe for you its chips or nachos or soda, or whatever. Notice that fruits and veggies do not have a marketing campaign? The “5 a day” campaign to eat more fruits/veggies has a budget of 5 million/year nationally, whereas the pepsi corporation alone spends $2 billion/year on marketing……gee, I wonder why we pass up the fruit stand at Pilot and head for the soda fountain. And did you check out the specials this month at Pilot? Buy a gigantic soda and get a Kit kat for only $.24…..what a deal, that is added value – even though to our body less is better. We seem to shop and eat from our pocketbook over our stomach and digestion. More food for less simply = unhealthy people, the body does not celebrate the cost savings like the mind does.

Here’s my suggestion when you travel: pack your own snacks/lunch or find a grocery store with a deli and produce section when you are passing through a town. The food is fresher, cheaper, and offers more variety than a gas station anyway. Seriously, if we want for change on a cultural level, we must be willing to go the extra mile (literally, in this case) to get our health needs met and express them as a priority.

That’s what I think today…but maybe I’m just cranky – I am on day 6 of a liver/colon detox…. 🙂

Why I’m not a fan of Lapband

I realize this post may upset a few people, in particular those with Lapband. So, let me just say from the get-go that the reasons for my dislike have NOTHING to do with the the individuals getting the surgery. I have several clients/coworkers with Lapband – all of them wanting for a better life and better health.

I did a little lookey-loo on the Lapband website. Just as I thought, the “nutrition” information was completely inadequate and misleading. In my opinion, any weight loss program that requires you to have up to 6-weeks of liquid/baby-food consistency sustainence AND THEN suggest things like skim milk, sugar-free Popsicles and jello as “healing” is ridiculous and not in alignment with body wellness. This can really mess with a metabolism that is already stressed from years of yo-yo dieting, poor nutrition, stress, ill health, etc.

Whether the body is getting only 800 calories/day or more, if the calories are not quality, the body is going to be stressed. There were several aspects to the Lapband diet which reflect that very conventional thinking that goes with the medical model promoting this surgery . Its all about calories, calories, calories. I have read a few Lapband blogs and see individuals struggling with calorie counting, watching the scale, and wondering when the changes will occur.

When will we wake up and realize that the issue is both emotional/cultural and nutritional. Why not educate people about the importance of healing the body with nourishing soups, no processed foods, and emotional healing post- surgery. Even beyond just giving facts, coaching people and supporting a co-creative effort between those who need support and those who can offer it should be standard with any weight loss program. I feel like the scheme of Lapband is aimed at filling a need/void from individuals who feel desperate and scared about their ability to lose weight. There is not enough support or good information. Its misleading. Howe can margerine (which is mentioned on the dietary recommendations post-Lapband) be a part of a new nutrition plan? Margerine kills people, or at least hampers their health.

I get it that the need is for weight loss, and that comes with certain lifestyle changes, the first of which should be a switch to whole foods, nutritions foods, and nothing more. That is the way. Diet soda, jello and sugar-free foods will not yield long-term success any more than high-calorie junk foods because THEY ARE JUNK FOOD. I was glad to see some language around eating quality foods for the nutrition, but the other contradictions were just too blatant.

I also wonder about the emotional/cultural issues that those seeking Lapband will still have to face. What is going to make that person refrain from going to the food when they are stressed, bored, scared or whatever. Its not like that surgery, or any other, fixes the emotional issues. Is there support for that built into the Lapband promise? I did not see anything of the sort, but I could be wrong.

If anybody out there has had Lapband and wants to comment I’d love to hear from you. I just get so mad because the underlying issues around food are not going to be solved with Lapband, as they go deeper than any surgery and have so much to do with our culture and individual relationship with food.

Okay, off the soapbox!

Stress and sugar, Part III: HOW TO GET OFF SUGAR

Ever wish you were the kid picked to visit the chocolate factory in the Willy Wonka stories?  Ever make up ridiculous fantasies in your mind about larger-than-life candylands?  Yeah…me neither…. 😉  But if you did, or still do, this post is for you.  First, a video titled “I want candy”

So, basically, this post is the summation of my whole blogging purpose. GET OFF SUGAR. Do it now! Don’t wait until you have diabetes, arthritis, obesity, depression. Of course, if it were easy, I wouldn’t have a blog, a job, or half of the life experiences I have been blessed with. I suppose being human means that some things are not easy.

I’ll be honest. I am not 100% off white, but I am about 90% off white sugar, 100% off white flour (90% off wheat altogether) and 100% off milk, cheese and yogurt. I feel a lot better, have less sugar craving, and I poop regularly. Seriously, being chronically constipated and ‘full’ all the time was a MAJOR side effect of eating too much sugar and dairy.

So, if you want to get off sugar, here’s what I suggest:

1. Find your willingness. Before you do anything with your diet or lifestyle, you have to find that strong desire for something different. What are you willing to change about your diet? Are you willing to stop drinking soda altogether? Are you willing to have fruits or pass altogether on dessert? Are you willing to spend 3-4x as much for unrefined grains/flours/sweeteners so that you can feel better.

No question is more important than the question of your willingness. On a 1-10 scale, how willing are you to do what it takes to get off sugar. Don’t be upset if its not a 10. Rarely is a sugar addict stoked about this process. But, look for what you ARE an 10 on. For instance, I was a “10” in a willingness scale to give up all candy on Feb 28, 2004 (first day of lent – I quit candy and never looked back), but about a 3-4 to give up hot chocolate. So, now I just make healthier hot chocolate and that helps. You have to start where you are and continue checking in with that willingness.

Let’s say you’re willing and ready. Next steps;

  • Give yourself a 3-7 day detox period. If you want to do a colon cleanse, that can go on for longer, but clean up your diet for a few days. For me, this means none of the following: wheat, corn, dairy, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, fake fats, artificial sweeteners. You will be instead eating TONS of veggies, fruits, lean meats, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, whole grains like brown rice, etc.
  • After your detox phase you might crave sugar a lot less already. This is good. Start drinking lots of water. Flush out all the “junk” and cell “memory” of wanting sugar. Your body remembers what you’ve always done and its used to it. If you drank a lot of sugar in soda or beverages, replace the habit with water. Just do your best. Get support if you need it (or start a blog to blab about it, like I do!)
  • Eat protein at every meal. Vegetarians won’t like me much because I advocate more meat consumption for those kicking sugar than some people might be comfortable with. The reason is that lean protein, esp animal protein, helps stabalize blood sugar, which is KEY in kicking sugar. Also, if you use high quality meats, then you are getting B vitamins, healthy fats, iron, as well as protein. You can certainly eat things like beans, tofu, lentils and nuts, but I find carb-based proteins to “confusing” for my body at first.
  • Balance that carnage with a boatload of green veggies. You just can’t have too many. Eat 1-3 cups of green veggies/day, cooked or uncooked. Suggestions are: mixed green salads, adding spinach to omelets, steamed asparagus, soups with zucchini, leeks, bell peppers, collards/kale, snap peas, etc.
  • Express your feelings. So much of our desire for sugar is to taste the “sweetness” of life. What are you really craving? Write about it, talk about it, go for a walk or jog to blow off steam. Whatever you do, get your voice and your ideas heard.
  • Get rid of all the white stuff in the house. Its a conflict to your mind when you are saying “no” and you still have white sugar/flour. Maybe for a while you keep none in the house. If you must bake or cook with sugar/flour, use sucanat, agave nectar, molasses or stevia. Use whole wheat flour (less ideal, but okay), spelt flour, oat flour, or get to know gluten-free flours. check out www.glutenfreegirl.com if you want some good gluten-free baking recipes.
  • Cleanse your liver. Start a practice of hot water with lemon in the morning. This will help “lube the tube” as well as detox the liver. If you have a long history of processed foods, your liver needs a break. Other liver cleansers include: stinging nettle tea, green culinary herbs, asparagus and milk thistle. Bitter veggies also cleanse the liver.
  • Educate yourself about reading labels and finding healthier alternatives to the foods you used to eat. Some things can be modified to have less sugar, such as baked goods and cereals. Other things, like marshmallows or store-bought cookies, are pretty much not and option if you want kick sugar. You might have to pick and choose what its important to you and then let the rest go.
  • Find out if you have any food allergies. My sugar obsession was made worse by my dairy/soy allergy. I had no idea until I was tested. I think I mentioned this before, but check out Diagnostech if you want to do some testing.
  • Take it day by day. Progress, not perfection will help you move toward freedom from the white stuff. You can do it. I believe in you. I don’t even know you, and I believe in you because I was the toughest sugar junkie ever and I’ve made it to the other side…..or at least to where sugar is the exception and not the rule in my life anymore.

Silly me, I forgot that I have Candida

I was doing some paperwork “purging” and came across the lab results from all my testing I had done last year.  The testing came about because I was always feeling run down, had chronic constipation despite a high veggie/fiber diet, had voracious sugar cravings, and got sick all the time.  Amongst other issues the test results were loud and clear: Candida.

To make it short, Candida Albicans is a yeast that lives in the body.  It is the yeast responsible for “oral thrush” in HIV and cancer patients, and yeast infections in women.  Normally we have some in our gut.  When it gets out of control, it often creates major upsets in the GI function because it messes with the eco-system of your intestines.

It also craves sugar, its primary food source.  That is what screams at me to have some high-sugar fruit after a nice protein/veggie meal.  That is was whispers in my ear that a stop for hot chocolate “just this once” is a good idea.  That is the name of the voice which tells me to put an extra 7 teaspoons of agave in my tea.  Its ridiculous.

When I was diagnosed, my diet changed dramatically and for a while I was on the straight  and narrow.  My digestion improved and I felt good again.  lately, I haven’t been so dilligent.

Getting rid of candida is serious business: No high sugar fruits, no fruit alone, gluten-free grains oil, and LOTS of damn green veggies.  GoodNESS you have to eat a lot of green veggies.  I think I rebelled against the strictness and started enjoying things like dates and agave nectar and raisins.  Harmless to the ‘normal’ person, but I am hardly normal.

So I’m glad I found those results.  They humbled me again to realize that I eat for health, and not for my ego.  My body is pleading with me for balance, so its important for me to honor that plea.  The voice of the Candida is very tricky and easily mistaken for truth.

One thing I do when I’m  trying to cleanse my body of sugar craving is this:

1 cup of warm but not boiling water
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1-2 tsp of Bragg’s Apple cider vinegar

Mix and enjoy.  Its not tasty, but it cleans the GI tract and Candida hates it.  Score 1 for me and none for the Candida.  In fact, I’m drinking it right now and feeling  grateful that I know what my body needs…..now to only do it everyday……

Part III of sugar and stress to come.  But this is like an add-on to that topic, as Candida is certainly triggered by stress.

Sugar and Stress, Part II:

This is your body being healthy:

This is your body on sugar:

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted. Clearly a sign of being just too busy and not balanced…and what do ya know: my desire for sugar has been higher the past week than in a while.

Stress is an odd little monkey in my body . While the real solution to excessive stress is relaxation, deep breathing, fun, peace….yada yada yada……my body-mind seek things that keep the perpetual wheel of anxiety going: more activity, more stimulation…and more sugar.

Life is so clever. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m always being brought little lessons that remind me to pay attention and keep doing my personal growth work. Just as I decided to blog about sugar and stress, more of “that” kind of stuff pops up in my life. We teach what we need to know, don’t we?

This week really wasn’t too bad, however. I did dive in a bit and add sugar to my hot chocolate (a rarity, usually I use stevia) and I did have some frosting on Friday. Yes, I said frosting…not cake with frosting, just frosting. A birthday celebration at lunch yielded left-over cake with white frosting AND sprinkles. Hello!!! By Friday afternoon, running off of 5 hrs of sleep for several nights, I just gave in. Thank GOD there was only a small amount of cake left. I can’t say for sure what state of affairs my ability to say “no” would have been in had I been staring down 1/2 a cake and nobody in sight to see me take a monster piece.

Some of you readers might still wonder why I am even mentioning what may seem like “small” amounts of sugar. I’m an addict. A sugar addict. There are no small infractions, no small treats. Each tiny morsel stimulates in me a desire for more that sometimes feels larger than life. I will blow off social engagements, isolate from my husband, buy crappy junk food that I don’t even like…all to feed this unsaitable craving. That is, if I’m not mindful, grounded and have done the self-care to stop this from happening.

What is the physiology of this crazy addiction? Am I alone? No way – I see sugar/carb addiction everyday of my life. I see it in my clients who don’t understand why they are so able in many aspects of their lives, but have a complete weakness for some kind of refined food. I see it in our children, who would rather zone out with video games and suck down 4-6 sodas/day (the average # of sodas an American kid drinks, according to some), and who can’t concentrate at school. I see it at the grocery store when I watch people, who look tired and unwell, load the cart with frozen pizzas, boxed cereals, bread, crackers, and maybe 1-2 fruits or veggies. We are so close to it, we can’t even see it. It is both completely socially acceptable (c’mon…just have 1 dessert) and totally unacceptable (hatred of obesity) to be a carb junkie today. American consume about over 120 pounds of sugar. What to know more about that? Check out this article by Nutritionist Dr. Nancy Applegate.

What does sugar do:

Step 1: Seek out some refined carb food and put it in your mouth. You feel stoked, happy, and can’t wait to taste the sweetness (even breads register as sweet in the body)

Cookies…mmmmm……..

Step 2: you chew that food item and your body starts to prepare for digestion of sweet. This is thanks to amylase, a mouth enzyme that breaks down sugar. Now, the design is clever: send a signal to the hypothalamus (in the brain), which signals the pancreas/stomach early so it can be prepared with some insulin. After all, these whole grains/fruits our body has been eating for thousands of years take time to break down, so amylase helps get the ball rolling.

Problem: refined sugar needs no breaking down. It is absorbed quickly in the blood stream. It hits hard, fast, and all at once.

Step 3: lots of insulin is produces once the signal of “sweet” is sent from the mouth (really its the brain experiencing the sensation of sweet) and when the sugar hits the blood stream.

Problem: Too much sugar at all once! Complex carbs break down slowly. Its like putting one box at a time on the conveyor belt. Remember the “I LOVE LUCY” episode from the YouTube video above? She couldn’t keep up, so she stuffed all the excess chocolates in her mouth/pockets, etc. It became an overload. It was stressful. Your body is Lucy when you feed it to much sugar.

Step 4: This excess sugar has to go somewhere. The liver takes some of it and stores it as glycogen. But it can only store 3-400 calories (about 100g of sugar max) at once. Over time, excess sugar consumption will stress the liver and engorge it, as it tries to force more storage of sugar while also trying to deal with all the other stuff it does. When it maxes out, it sends the sugar back into the blood stream as fatty acids. This is partly why excess sugar consumption raises triglycerides, perhaps more than fat consumption.

At the same time, this sugar now stimulates “fight or flight” response. Your adrenals start working. you get a little “high”. But it never lasts long, now does it? You can’t function as well b/c all the blood is being distributed to your periperhy. Your body is prepared to fend for its life. But there is nothing to fend for. You are sitting at your desk entering data into the computer,or watching TV, or anything else non-life threatening. Over time, the fight or flight activation stresses your body and makes you produce excess cortisol.

Also at this time, the hormone insulin swoops down and scoops up all that extra blood sugar so your brain can stay alive. Yay! Another day to live. However, that sugar ain’t coming out for free. Insulin converts sugar to fat. Lucky us- even if your meal was low in calories, if it was high is SUGAR it may go right to our rears. It took me a long time to believe this, until it started happening to me.

Problem: too much cortisol suppresses the immune system, so you get sick more easily . It also contributes to fat storage around the abdomen, in response to potential life-threatening stressors. It does not know the difference between stress caused by food and lifestyle and real, physically threatening stress.

Step 5: You crash. Your blood sugar dips too low and you get lethargic. Your pancreas is stressed b/c its having to play this insulin game all the time and its over it! It stops working well or your cells stop being as responsive.

Problem: Excess insulin production leads to weight gain (insulin stores sugar as fat in the hips, buttocks, abs, and thighs). The system poops out after a while too, which contributes to Type II diabetes, often associated with high-carb lifestyles. You also feel like garbage.

Step 6: The body is a system of habits and patterns. It comes to rely on certain processes, good or bad. After your crash and your “fight or flight”, you’ve now “up-regulated” certain processes in the body. They want to keep on working, so they now stimulate a new desire for more sugar. And the cycle continues.

Problem: some people are HIGHLY sensitive to this little phenomenon. In fact, for some people, sugar binds with other neurotransmitters in the body and moves into the brain to create “euphoria”. This high is similar to heroin. I’ve talked to ex-drug addicts who have told me kicking sugar was harder than kicking drugs. Some people (myself included) experience withdrawal when they get off sugar. Symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness, nausea
  • overwhelming urge for sugar. You think you “need it”
  • energy highs/lows
  • rapid heart beat
  • insomnia
  • constipation/diarrhea as the digestive system attempts to rebalance itself
  • change in appetite
  • anger, anxiety, irritability
  • thirst
  • skin breakouts

So you think your body needs sugar to live?

Although the body does require sugar (glucose), as this is the only fuel the brain can use, it is important to remember the physiology of digestion. The properly functioning human organism can produce all the glucose the brain needs through the digestion of whole, natural, unprocessed foods” Dr. John Yudkin of Queens College, London, states all human nutritional needs can be met in full without having to take a single spoonful of white or brown or raw sugar.”

All this just for some lousy sugar. And the high doesn’t even last. I also hate the feelings of guilt, tiredness, boredom, lethargy and low self-esteem that I get from too much sugar. It just isn’t worth it, for me.

I’m so thankful that others folks are starting to talk more freely about their carb addiction. Last night I came across an awesome book at Borders:

Confessions from a Carb Queen

Check out her blog

Okay, I’ve been blogging for way too long (these posts sure do take some time). I gotta get movin!
Have a happy, refined sugar-free day, if that’s your thing 🙂

Sugar and stress, part I

So I’ve decided to do a little piece on sugar and stress, since it is SUCH a big aspect of my life and I see a lot of the effects of s&s everyday with myself and others. One benefit of having this affliction AND being a nutritional counselor is that I get to experience the impact of food and mood or many levels.

I’m gonna do this in 3 parts because I have a lot to say about this topic, and I think its worthy of a few posts.

Here’s where I’m going to start: WHY do I emotionally (people) crave sugar when I am stressed?

When I was young , the only thing I ever wanted was sugar, sugar, sugar. I obsessed over Halloween candy. I was glued to mom’s side when she was baking, so that I could score some free licks off a spoon or spatula. I always voted for “The Sizzler” when we were picking restaurants, exclusively for the strawberries and whipped cream at the salad bar. I was a junkie.

How did this all begin? First off, did you know that sugar is the first taste we develop? Mamma’s milk is sweet. We are held when we are fed. We feel safe. It goes on and on. Sometimes new mom’s and dad’s are told to bring sugar water to the doctor’s office when their baby gets an immunization, to help calm the pain. Sugar numbs us out. It makes us high. Physically, we do not need sugar to survive. We need carbs, but not necessarily simple sugars. We might then speculate that some of us are not so equipped to handle the impact of sugar. More on that in post #2.

For as long as I can remember, sugar has been a best friend to me. It is always there, in so many shapes, colors, sizes and textures. Its cheap, its socially acceptable, and it makes me feel SOOOOOOOOOOOO good….or does it? I went years harmoniously co-existing on this continuous sugar buzz without a hitch. I bragged about the fact that I could eat a pound of red vines while grocery shopping and not gain any weight. I think I kind of liked being the candy girl. It had a certain charm. My ego devoured the attention I got over sugar. “How cool is this?” I would think to myself. Turns out, not so cool.

But, like all good addictions, it catches up. It turns out that my physical and mental body don’t like being fueled by fructose and glucose 24/7 and that as I get older, my tolerance for sweet is much less, yet my attachment to it is much greater.

The past couple days I’ve been wanting for sweet because I am afraid of change. What? How do sugar and change relate? Well, when you are trying to heal the body-mind from something that was like an old friend (sugar) in your life, and then new variables (like possibly moving to California, and making major life changes) pop up, it sends me running back to mamma’s arms: AKA hot chocolate, oatmeal raisin cookies, or anything warm and sweet.

This desire to soothe is so deeply imprinted in me, and others (I think?!), that it almost seems like the right thing to do . My brain is so good at taking the path of least resistance that I trick myself into believing that I actually need sugar to survive. When uncertainty triggers feeling of aloneness, I need security. It feels deeply carnal, like a survival instinct. My emotional body actually thinks that I will not survive without it.

In the past few years, I’ve done a lot of soul searching and book study about this crazy, wacky phenomenon of sugar-stress. Here’s what I know:

  • Sweet is the first taste we experience, and nearly all people find “sweet” palatable. Sweet includes breads, pastas, fruits and even meats, such as red meat or lamb.
  • The average American consumes 140 lb/ year of sugar in some form. That is 44tsp/day. That means we pretty much get it all the time, so it becomes a major physical and psychological habit.
  • Most kid’s can identify brands like “McDonalds”, “Starbucks”, or some sugar cereal characters before they can actually read. When our sub-conscious mind is wide open, we are bombarded with messages that these companies will provide us with fun, friendship, love and excitement if we just eat what they are peddling.
  • As a kid many of us develop the association of sweets with reward, soothing our pain, celebrating and drawing attention to ourselves (ever have mom bring in cupcakes on your b-day? Didn’t you just feel like the cool kid at school, even if just for that day?)
  • When white sugar was first developed, European conquerers used it to over-power the people they were invading. They claimed that it made wise, motivated men “stupid and lazy” (from the book Sugar Blues).
  • Sugar depresses the nervous system. If you’re a nervous nancy, like I am, you want to stop those neurotic thoughts. What a better way than some cookies and milk, or a piece of favorite cake, or some candy, or whatever…..

ARE YOU EMOTIONALLY ADDICTED TO SUGAR?

  • Do you find yourself going for breads, cookies, cakes, candy, Starbucks ‘stuff’, fruit, honey, granola bars, power bars, etc when you have had a long day, are over tired or bored?
  • Are your favorite foods in the dessert category?  Would you rather skip dinner and have dessert first?
  • Do you get edgy or cranky if you don’t have sweets/fruit/breads for a couple of days?
  • Do you fantasize about sweets, or did you used to do so?
  • What’s in your cupboard?  Lots of boxed, processed foods? Refined cereals?  energy/granola bars?  Dried fruit?  Do these items tend to get eaten first?
  • Does the thought of never having those favorite sweet treats again feel really sad or scary to you?
  • Is the concept “portion control” non-existent when it comes to certain, refined carb-based foods?
  • Are you turned off to bitter or sour foods, like dark green veggies, lemons, saurkraut, relish, etc?
  • Do you hide stashes of sweets in your car, room, desk or anywhere that nobody can see you eating them?

I’m certainly no expert on your life, but for me, I can answer “yes” to far more of those questions than I’d care to admit to.  However, when I do face my truth, I can release the guilt, shame and frustration and move forward.  There is life after refined sugar, and I’m learning how to make friends with it, one day at a time.

For those who are curious about unrefined sweeteners:  I use them in my life, but they are still sugar.  If I’m spooning agave syrup into my mouth, I’m still getting high on sugar, it just doesn’t take as much of a toll.   It’s really about why I am seeking out sweet stuff to fix my life.  It never works.  It never makes me feel better, but my brain has 31 years of conditioning to release.

If you are just starting out your sugar-free life, I have some insight and advice, based on what has worked for me:

  • Get SUPPORT!  Friends, special groups, spiritual groups, blogs like this, etc
  • Be gentle with yourself and realize it is a process
  • Begin to replace as much refined carbs with veggies, protein and water.  Protein is your friend, as are anti-oxidant rich veggies.  more on that tomorrow.
  • One day, one meal, one moment at a time.  Progress, not perfection.
  • If it’s serious, talk to your alternative health practitioner about getting food allergy or GI function tests done.  I learned  a TON about the physical reasons I crave sugar when I had tests done by Diagnostechs.   They rock!

PS: for the curious – yes, I did have some sugar today.  I made hot  chocolate w/ rice milk and cocoa.  I used sucanat instead of stevia.  Not the best  choice, but could have been worse.

Truth:unrefined

When I started this blog, I wasn’t sure exactly what and where I wanted it to go.  Simultanelously, in my personal life I’ve been working deeply and intently on releasing my attachment to sugar and refined carbs.

Well, truth be told, lately my commitment to being “off white” has been less than ideal.  Okay, it sucks. I have  some health issues (leaky gut and candida…..sexy,huh!) that really need me to be very low sugar and high veggies and protein.  Sugar is seriously like crack for my brain and like a train wreck for my digestive system.  It  simply does not work.  For a while I was rockin’….and slowly the white stuff began creeping back in.  A slice of bread here,  a piece of cheese there, etc.

This past week has been tough because my body has been hit hard again with what I know always happens when I eat lots of sugar, dairy, and grains.  I feel like crap.  I gain weight. I get constipated (TMI for some of you, and I’m sorry, but it’s true!)

And then last night, a cathartic moment:  I can use my blog to share my journey as I recommitt to the off-white lifestyle, and maybe other people will get something out of my trials and tribulations.  I mean, if I’m going to suffer through sugar detox yet again, at least maybe one of you can learn something or at least get a good laugh as I lament about the hardship of driving past the donut shop without the overwhelming urge to pull in and eat every cream puff and bismark bar available.

So, in addition to the other stuff I ramble about, I’m gonna ramble about me too, and about my off-white journey.

What I did to get started:
You know, when I  start a new project, I like to begin with a clean slate.  For me, this means having 2-days of very “light” eating, to give the ol’ GI system a  rest.  Lord knows I’ve been asking it to work double time lately with those extra bites of bread, the walnut pig-out earlier this week and the ever antagonizing junky hot chocolate.

To reset myself, for two days, I eat the following:

3 servings of veggies/day, with at least 2 being green (today was spinach mostly, with some tomatoes and carrots thrown in there)

2-3 servings of whole fruits, and maybe a few anti-oxidant rich dried fruits like dates.  Yes, I know dates are high in sugar, but I’m trying to just reduce what I eat and keep things simple.   I will focus on low sugar fruits soon.  I don’t give up the sweet easy, you see.

2 servings of high quality protein powder/day, made into a shake.  I like Whey Factors because I can’t have soy (allergy).

Tons of water and some herbal tea if I want.  I choose to have some random cinnamon/cardamom tea at a local coffee shop.  Good stuff.

What I noticed:

  • Even in 24 hrs I have more mental energy than I have had in several weeks.  In the course of the evening I went walking, called my mom, returned an item via UPS (required packaging it up – I’d been putting it off), gave my husband a mini-massage, cooked some sweet potato and spaghetti squash for the weekend, called a friend, vacuumed and am now blogging.  And its only 9;15pm.  This is more than I’ve done all week.
  • My digestion is already better.  That whole constipation issue…yeah, its gone.  Enough said.
  • I’m not hungry, despite the light foods I’m eating.  I’m getting what I need.  I’m not stuffing just a little more in.  I feel good.
  • I’m actually excited about the potential of being free of the sugar/white stuff bondage.  It is so oppressive.
  • I’m willing to share this with you.  That is a big deal for me.

That’s it kids!  More tomorrow.

Self acceptance, as I learned from my cat

 madeline computer

Last night I had an intimate conversation with my thighs.  I was doing some light yoga to relax before bed and there they were…..looking like two sausages stuffed into white casing (my white yoga pants), starting back at me.   I just couldn’t stand it.  All the sudden the mental saga went off in my mind:  Why did you eat XX??  Why weren’t you born with long, lean legs? Why this?  Why that?  you get the idea.

 For as long as I remember my thighs and I have had a love-hate relationship.  On one hand, I love how strong and withstanding they are, and for those same attributes I resent the fact that the look more like tree stumps to me than legs.  See how skewed my brain is?

The more I examine my wellness vision, which includes both physically nourishing foods, but also mental nourishment, the more I realize that this antagonizing thought pattern is as toxic as eating a box of little Debbie’s and washing it down with Yahoo (and you can bet that I’ve done that in my heyday).

Then, a miracle.  My loving, fat, fluffy cat wandered into the room where I was doing yoga.  She came and sat right on my lap.  Right on my beefy sausage legs.  And she started purring. She did not care that my thighs touched, and always have.  It was She simply nestled in, she relaxed, and she just loved me in the way only she knows how to do: by falling asleep in my lap, completely in peace.

In that moment I realized how critical and ridiculous my mental litany had been.  Could my thighs be THAT bad?  Could I accept the fact that I don’t have Julia Robert’s legs (and never will.  I’m Greek, for God’s sake: not a people known for long, gangly limbs).   So I decided to let it go.  And for that moment, I could embrace and appreciate something about my thighs for the first time in a while.  Just like my cat, my thighs are simply being themselves.  There is no shame or hesitation in the way they develop.  They have no hidden agenda.  They are not judging me or sabotaging me.  My body is simpy expressing itself as it knows best how to do.  And if that isn’t natural beauty, then what is?

So I dedicate this post to my cat, Madeline, who is infinitely wiser than I am.  She always know what I need and I learn so much from her, even though she’s never spoken a word to me.  She eats off white too (all organic gluten-free cat food): it must be what makes her so dang smart 🙂

Why fiber is my friend

I’m fired up about fiber right now, so how about a fiber focus.

What is the big deal with fiber, you ask? Well, for one, if I’m seeking foods with fiber, I’m usually in the realm of “off-white” foods, and therefore don’t have to worry as much about the junk like HFCS, hydrogenated oils and my nemesis: refined sugar. There just isn’t a lot of foods that mix fiber and junk: it’s a conflict of interest.

Also, fiber makes me feel full and helps me digest and keep things a movin’. Fiber is also like the “junk magnet” in the body: it can carry out toxins, poor quality nutrients and other “stuff” we don’t really want getting into our bodies and hanging out for too long. Eating fiber speeds up the elimination process, so our food isn’t lingering in the gut.

In an ideal world we would get like 35 grams of fiber/day, which is much MORE than what the average US adult gets (10-15g/day is typical).

So, let’s aim to boost our fiber. Research shows that just 5g/meal of fiber can help balance blood sugar, which is a major player in weight gain/loss + diabetes, etc. 5g of fiber is about 1 apple.

Here are some tips for getting in your fiber:

  • have at least 5 servings of fruit/veggies per day. Berries, apples, kiwis, sweet potatoes, and broccoli are examples of foods with at least 4g of fiber per serving.
  • Eat breads or crackers with AT MINIMUM 3g of fiber per serving. Watch the HFCS too. You’re basically left with either fresh, local whole grain breads, or breads like Ezekiel.
  • Get some beans in your diet. A cup of black beans has about 20G of fiber per serving. Garbanzo beans and lentils are high in fiber too.
  • Eat cereals with at least 5g of fiber and less than 10g of sugar. Again, you’re limited to things like Puffins, Kashi, All-bran, and stuff that doesn’t have a cartoon character on the label.
  • Even random things like Molasses, soy milk, almonds, dates, chocolate (YES! A good piece of chocolate has 2-4g of fiber/serving) are sources of fiber.

Recipe: Fiber-fest oatmeal

1/4 cup whole oats
1/2 cup hot water
1 tbsp chopped almonds
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, to taste
1/2 small apple, finely chopped
1 tbsp flaxmeal, ground

Cook the oats on the stove on low-med heat, stirring frequently. Add the apples, almonds, spices, and molasses in at the end and cook for about 1 more minute, covered. Add flaxmeal in just before serving. You don’t want to heat flaxmeal too much.

Serves 1, but it’s a hearty serving. Should keep ya full for while.

Happy eating and happy digesting!