One Week Without Sugar

Alright!  I’m down 10 pounds since I started actively working to lose weight at the beginning of this year.  I’m very happy about that, unfortunately most of that weight seemed to come from my chest as I went down a whole cup size! LOL  But I am also firmly and solidly into a size 14 again, no more 16’s again ever….I’m even contemplating burning those clothes 😛

So, now feeling a little more in control and self-confident in my ability to become fit and healthy, I am now ready to take on a new challenge:  Eliminating SUGAR from my diet.

A couple weeks ago I remembered something that I had forgotten it seems (I’m getting old LOL)…from about age 19 to about age 24 I rarely ever ate sugar or bread products.  After having my first son I went on a low carb diet to lose the baby weight and pretty much stayed there.  Sure, I might have a desert if we went out to eat (CHEESECAKE) or a special piece of birthday cake for one of the kid’s birthdays but for the most part sugar was NOT a regular part of my diet.

I don’t know how or when exactly but after I had my third son that began to change.  Now, thinking back, I remember the main change was that I started adding sugar (demarara sugar to be exact) to my morning cup of coffee and from there it seemed to give me the “taste” for sugar again…which is easy dirty energy….the sugar in my coffee would lead to me having toast with (homemade) grape jam with my eggs for breakfast, which would then lead to me having a taste for “something sweet” again….maybe a sugary sweetened iced tea with lunch or, if it was really bad, lead me to bake up a batch of cookies or brownies…and then come dinner I would desire more “easy energy” in the form of maybe pasta or pizza and after that sugar spike wore off I would want to follow it up with a bowl of ice cream before bed…it’s a vicious addictive cycle and one that, if not stopped, leads most people to any early grave.

Make no bones about it, sugar in any form is not a healthy thing!  As someone who lived mostly sugar free for a long time and is now heavily addicted I can say that as 100% fact.  Truth is, you don’t even need sugar to live really….you really don’t.  Most everything is full of high fructose corn syrup or some derivation thereof anyways, this is because the agribusiness food industry knows that the “easy dirty energy” provided by sugar is heavily addictive and guarantees that you’ll be back for more…like a drug dealer dealing smack, they get you hooked and then your hooked until you’re DEAD.

We are taught in public school from a very young age (I remember learning about the food pyramid in 1st grade P.E. Class) that complex carbohydrates – up to 11 servings a day of grains, beans, rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. – should form the very basis of our daily food supply, with only honorable mention given to (what they insist should be) LEAN meats and fish, lots of fruits and veggies and next to no fat of any kind. Alongside the lonely morsels of fat at the top of the food pyramid lie the sugary snacks…to all be eaten sparingly. We are also taught to “eat a large breakfast” and many nutritionists admonish us to eat a small snack every couple of hours between meals “to keep that blood sugar up”.

This so called “need” for blood sugar in maintaining energy is exactly as it’s initials suggest…B.S. 😀

As with many things, certain things can be conditionally true, within a certain context. Case in point: IF you are metabolically adapted to depending on sugar as your primary source of fuel (and all non-fiber carbohydrates are sugar once they hit your bloodstream) then you must of necessity continue to refuel yourself with foods that keep these blood sugar levels elevated so there is no interruption in the energy supply.

Many people experience these interruptions of steady blood sugar supply as mood swings, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, jitteriness, problems thinking, and cravings for anything that will boost those sugar levels back up. For some people this is experienced as more of an extreme urgency or anxiety than others. Either way, the dependence on sugar as a primary source of fuel is more or less the same in those adapted to it with only a small variable manifestation of the consequences.

If we are to look at the macronutrients in our diet (carbohydrates, protein and fat) strictly from the standpoint of the energy they provide to our “metabolic fire”… then carbohydrates in this context can be viewed as a form of metabolic “kindling”. Brown rice, beans and whole grains could effectively be viewed as twigs on our metabolic fire. White rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta and bread would be paper or leaves on the fire and substances like alcoholic beverages would readily constitute gasoline on that metabolic fire.

If you have ever had to heat your living space with a wood stove you know that the fire in it has to be fed. If all you had to feed that fire was kindling (twigs, paper and gasoline) you could certainly do it. The problem is that you would be able to think of or do little else but stay perched in front of that stove, loading it up with handfuls of twigs and wadded up paper all day long just to keep it going. The flames would flare and die down relatively quickly and you’d need to add more fuel with fairly constant regularity. God forbid you should need to take a bathroom break or run an errand!!

By the time you returned to the stove the fire would be nearly out and you might need to resort to some gasoline to shock it back to life again, just so the process could continue. Good luck sleeping, too. Even if you could attach an alarm to the stove to awaken you when the fire got too low you would be awakened well before you were fully rested in order to feed the hungry flame.  In short, you would be enslaved to that wood stove and your preoccupation with it would, of necessity, be relatively constant. The flames would rise and fall like a roller coaster ride. Much as I love a good wood stove fire (or roller coaster ride) that would be anything but my idea of a good time.

What if instead you were to place a nice big “fat” log on the fire? All of a sudden you would…have a life! – What a concept!! You could leave the house and run errands. Heck – you could even get a good night’s sleep! By morning if the fire was burning low all you’d need to do is grab another big log and toss it in. You wouldn’t need to think too much about it most of the time and your fuel wouldn’t take up too much space, either.

Sugar is best described metabolically as “rocket fuel”. It burns best anaerobically (in conditions of low oxygen like sprinting or extreme exertion). Far from being a steady, lasting or reliable fuel, sugar burns very hot and very fast.

Sugar’s presence additionally attracts what is termed as “free radical activity” which leads to unhealthy oxidation (ie. damage) of tissues. Sugar also undergoes a process known as “glycation” in the body where molecules of sugar combine with proteins and fats there and cause them to become sticky, misshapen and start to malfunction. This in turn leads to even more free radical damage and basically fuels the degenerative aging process. The brain and nervous system are particularly susceptible to all this as they don’t respond much to insulin and are therefore more likely to be bombarded with all the dangerous stickiness. In diabetics and alcoholics this can result in accelerated forms of neuropathy, organ damage and degenerative brain conditions. In others, glycated tangles of amyloid proteins eventually lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimers…technically a form of “brain neuropathy”.  Advanced glycosylation end-products (A.G.E.’s) lead to mutations in DNA and help potentiate cancerous processes which blood sugar additionally feeds the growth of.

In short, it ain’t pretty.

Most people feed themselves as if there were no alternative to running their metabolic fires other than kindling. Food advertising consistently supports this. Told to eat “low fat”, many people instead eat diets high in addictive sugar and starch in order to feed themselves. Those that don’t care about “low fat” eating often eat large amounts of sugar and starch along with dietary fat, which has its own brand of consequences. Dietary fat in the presence of carbohydrates (sugar and starch) behaves very differently than dietary fat in the absence of carbohydrates. The dietary fat in the presence of sugar and starch is far more likely to be stored as excess fat because the insulin spike it produces causes the fat to be stored instead of burned as energy.  The fat in the diet becomes damaged through peroxidation, as the body looks to preferentially burning off the sugar to get the excesses out of the bloodstream quickly and as sugar combines with the fat and damages it, it make the presence of fat far more problematic than it otherwise would be. And as long as dietary sugar and starch keep coming in, it becomes impossible to burn fat at the same time. Weight gain is the most common consequence, but there is more to this. You can be skinny and athletic and also suffer serious consequences from a dependence on sugar burning.

Depending on blood sugar for your primary source of fuel means you will be hungry more often and that you may experience regular cravings. It also means you must eat regularly or else suffer energy and mental and physical performance loss. Consider the animals that are natural herbivores. What do you see them doing ALL day? Their faces are on the ground and in the bushes continually. Eating for them is constant. I, for one have far better things to do with my time!  hahahaha! 😀

It additionally means the quality of your moods and thinking are often hugely dependent upon that steady supply of fuel. You might also require caffeine to boost your kindling supply first thing in the morning if that supply gets too low, or you may crave alcohol in the evenings. If you manage this balancing act poorly by regularly eating high glycemic foods then over time the swings can become greater, along with more symptoms typically associated with blood sugar lows: fatigue, anxiety, irritability, explosive anger, jitters and more cravings.

So, who is to benefits from a diet based on carbohydrates?  Well, certainly not the people who live this way!  The food industry, diet industry, big agribusiness, the pharmaceutical companies and ultimately the petroleum companies (upon which big agribusiness and others are dependent) all make out like bandits, though. For them it is immensely profitable to have the entire world depending upon carbohydrates – particularly addictive grains – as their primary source of fuel. The vast majority of advertising dollars spent are designed to support these interests. And schools of all kinds are, in turn, encouraged to teach whatever maintains the profitable “status quo”.

In my mind, the only proper response to this is to REBEL!  To do this, one must simply elect to metabolically adapt ones-self to becoming a fat burner – someone who uses sufficient dietary fat to satisfy one’s appetite (while simultaneously avoiding sugar and starch) this forces the body to adapt to fat as it’s primary source of fuel for their metabolic fire.

What is the result of this basic metabolic change?

You have now become free. You have effectively removed the constant need for “blood sugar” for your primary energy, mood or cognitive functioning.

All of a sudden eating becomes more of a choice rather than a constant necessity. Energy levels maintain more constancy and an even-ness that allows for clearer thinking and stable moods. Your body no longer is in the business of greedily storing fat from the carbohydrates you were eating and is now freer to burn stored fat for fuel, both away from constant presence of insulin and recognizing that as long as there is “enough” fat at mealtime that “hunting must be good” – therefore stored fat can be comfortably spared and utilized for energy.

Not only this, but you suddenly find your food bills lessening considerably. The natural dietary fat you eat quickly fills you up and leaves you less hungry, with cravings rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Insulin sensitivity becomes gradually restored, and all that this implies. Sleep becomes more restful. Aging slows and becomes more graceful. You begin to look and feel younger. Energy is never in short supply.

In becoming a “fat burner” one comes to depend instead on something called “ketones” which are the energy units of fat, as well as using free fatty acids for fueling almost everything sugar did before. – The big difference here is that fat fuels it all longer, better, more consistently, reliably and more evenly. – And also far more cheaply. Our body still maintains the ability to utilize sugar in the event of an emergency (as sugar still constitutes our best “rocket fuel”) but is able to make use of supplies of ATP, existing blood glucose and stored glycogen to easily meet this more episodic demand.

Sugar is NOT necessary to life and if you look at the research, it turns out that the only tissues in the human body that MUST have a small amount of blood sugar at all times in order to survive are our red blood cells. They feed anaerobically in order to spare their precious cargo, which is oxygen. Every other tissue in the body – including the brain – can run beautifully and far better on ketones.

As it turns out, one can manufacture all the glucose your body needs from a combination of protein and fat in the diet. In fact, the only macronutrient for which there is no actual dietary human requirement is carbohydrates. We never have to eat them at all! And if we want to be optimally healthy and live longer, cutting out the carbs (all the sugar and starch) can only improve your health and well being in the long run. Low insulin levels are the single biomarker that most consistently characterizes all the longest lived individuals. (btw, a lot of this info I got from the book “Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life“)

And I just went through all of this to say that for one week I am going 100% sugar free, this means NO SUGAR in ANY FORM….nothing at all that would cause a rise in blood sugar levels.  Nothing sweetened with sugar and no flour products, which is a refined carbohydrate (even 100% whole wheat bread, which has a glycemic index rating -G.I.R.-which is a rating of how fast it raises your blood sugar level….100% whole wheat bread is 67…white sugar is 64)….no bananas, no potatoes.  The only things I will allow are oatmeal (G.I.R.=58) brown rice (G.I.R.=50) and beans (G.I.R. registers somewhere in the 30’s depending on the type).

During this time I will also being doing posts on what I eat and why I make the choices that I do make.  Overall I think this will be very fun and interesting, and hopefully “eye-opening” to a lot of people, showing them just how caught up they are in this destructive downward spiral of using easy dirty sugar for energy.  Stay Tuned!

3 thoughts on “One Week Without Sugar

  1. Hi Stephanie, I’m glad I found you again- I’ve been reading your blogs since the first one! I,too, am totally addicted to sugar- I call it “crack”. I’ve tried moderation, but that doesn’t seem to work very well for me. I guess I either eat it or I don’t. The crappy way I’ve been feeling lately, I NEED to STOP! I know this, but there seems to be a disconnect between knowing and doing- the definition of addiction, maybe?! Anyways, I’ll be tuning in!
    Robin
    I forgot- Congratulations on the birth of your son! My daughter Alyssa is three and a half now. The time goes by SO fast.

  2. A timely kick-in-the-pants post for me, Evenavapor. Thanks for taking the time. My addiction and cravings are through the roof, and the consequences are already pretty severe.

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