I spent most of the late 70s and 80s on diets obsessing about my weight and my workouts. I was tired all the time and never felt satisfied with how I looked. Does that sound familiar?
I picked up a book about a year ago called Sugar Blues, it is an eye-opening account of the history of sugar's influence on human health. I also watched a movie called Fed Up, produced by Katie Couric that details the effect of sugar on our kids in graphic, heart-breaking detail.
The short version is that food companies started adding lots more sugar to food in the go-go 80s during the low-fat craze. I'm talking about what I call sneaky sugar - sugar in foods that you don't think of as "sweets" - like soups, pasta sauce, corn chips, salad dressings, even vinegar!
Our food supply has a massive infection of sugar, courtesy of the Big Food and sugar lobbies and ag subsidies.
Sneaky sugar pisses me off because it is a subsidized minefield in the grocery aisle that blows up brave people who are making sincere efforts to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
My biggest dietary a-ha moment in the last 20 years took place a couple years ago when I started reading labels for sneaky sugar. Sneaky sugar turns up where you don't really expect to find it.
Bottom line is I made a simple change to cut out sneaky sugar and lost about 8 lbs over 6 weeks, without changing anything else.
You know that "last 5 pounds" we don't seem to be able to lose? And should quit worrying about anyway? Bingo. I lost it, and I still ate a little dark chocolate every day.
Now, I didn’t lay on the couch for 6 weeks and watch my middle shrink. I also didn't adopt the workout regimen of a CrossFit babe, either. (I did think about it, though, mostly while laying on the couch).
This was also about the time I started eating healthy fats again, yes, including animal fat. The changes helped me to gain normal energy back after a lifetime of chronic fatigue that I had blamed on a low thyroid condition. Now I'm wondering if the steady intake of sugar over the years actually contributed to hormone imbalance and thyroid issues.
I am fairly active and eat well otherwise. When I finally removed the sugar that was a drag on my system, it was like a smooth shift into a higher gear.
A big recurring thread in this site is remembering that nothing happens in a vacuum, right? Your physical condition is the result of your genetic dance with eating, drinking, moving, reflecting and resting. I'm neither a couch potato nor a CrossFit babe. I could improve my fitness but I feel great most days. The Middle Path is a good one to walk when setting expectations for ourselves. <3
Stepping off the Middle Path, I feel very badly that I didn’t start this sooner, when my kids were young. Regret is a waste of time but I can't help it. #motherguilt. : (
The thing is, my son was a really fat little boy, and it distressed all of us. We could not figure out why.
We never had sodas around the house, or baked goods, or junk food. We taught he and his sister about nutrition and the effect of different foods on our bodies. I had flirted with bulimia in my 20's; the grace from that experience was that I had moved to a much healthier relationship with food. I knew not to focus on control, but on healthy choices and habits.
My son liked to help cook, we ate a wide variety of healthy foods. His dad packed his lunch, we limited sweets. He took Karate and tried swim team and rec soccer.
Still, he gained a little more weight every year.
At his check-ups, the pediatrician would look at me with obvious doubt as I described his diet. Later, the nurse handed me scary pamphlets about childhood diabetes and printouts of the FDA food pyramid (recommendations that are, as I learned later, heavily influenced by the corporations of Big Ag and Big Food).
What the doctor and I missed is that our family diet had a chronic low level infection of sugar and carbs. Here is insidious side of sneaky sugar - as I was figuring out the "sugar budget" for a moderate diet that left room for a treat now and then, I wasn't factoring in the constant hit of hidden sugar with almost every meal. It doesn't take much for our bodies to react.
Sugar in mayo, peanut butter, fruit cups, some chips, crackers, ketchup, BBQ sauce, pasta sauce, soups, salad dressing, yogurt. Sugar in most low-fat snacks, even salty ones. Couple that with carbs sprinkled throughout the week - bagels, pretzels, pasta, french bread - what I thought was a healthy, moderate approach was a recipe for disaster for my poor son.
I thought that not having sodas and cake around meant we didn't really eat much sugar. Wrong. Cutting out the obvious culprits had made me complacent.
Now I'm SO done with that. Let's rattle the cage a bit. I encourage you to be sure to read the fine print ingredients on food at the store.
Start to cut out the hidden sugar and see what happens for you. I'm not a doctor or health professional. Its simply my opinion and experience that this is one of the kindest things we can do for our body, especially in our 40s and 50s.
And my son? Happy ending there. He grew over a foot and lost at least 20 lbs during puberty. He kept it off. He bikes to work most days, loves to cook and is a total foodie. He eats very little sugar. Here is his picture before prom a few years ago.
Don't tell him I posted it. <3
Lastly, I had started calling these Monday posts "M Word Mondays:". After trying that on, I'm not crazy about it. We're changing the project name to Full Circle Menopause. We'll still be posting on Mondays, hence the hashtags #FCMM.
How have you had a run-in with sugar in your life?
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