“It’s the Sugar, Stupid”

I took a break from blogging the last couple weeks mostly because I was looking after my kids all day before they went back to school this week. Blogging and entertaining children do not go together. Not so much. But there was another reason, too – I did a 30-day no sugar diet!

Boys and girls, do not try this at home – unless you know what you’re getting yourself into when you submit to a period of de-tox. Yes, you lose weight and cellulite (it’s not why I did it but nice perks), and you also take on epic brain-fog. The likes of which I’ve never experienced.  In a one-week period, for example, I:

  • plumb forgot two social obligations
  • had the central air running with some windows open until it croaked (my multi-talented husband fixed it)
  • ran my car head on into the cinder-block fence separating my neighbor’s yard (I was gazing at some free furniture my across-the-street neighbor had put out, then, BOOM! My new bumper is beautiful – for now)

Some other dumb things happened that are too embarrassing to mention. I learned something important – de-tox brain fog is real!

Which leads to my larger point, relevant to hustling justice – sugar is a toxic substance!

No, it won’t kill ya with one dose, but one might think of it as a slow-drip poison most Americans submit their bodies to, starting at a pretty early age, until – sadly –health and quality of life are often compromised by diabetes, heart disease, or some other serious malady that otherwise might have been avoided.

What’s my source? There are some pretty good films about it – one is called Fed Up and another you can stream on Netflix called, Sugarcoated. My friend Chris insisted I watch this movie (he was kind of relentless about it), which I did with my parents and children. In a nutshell, the sugar industry has managed to accomplish what the tobacco industry did, getting in bed with the FDA, only they’re still getting away with it. The industrial sweetener scandal is far more evil and insidious than tobacco, because one needn’t consume tobacco to live, but the opposite is true of food.

When it comes to processed foods, sugar (cane or otherwise) is in effing everything – especially convenience items, which are often the kinds of things parents pack in kids’ lunches. I am one of those parents, because I’m not sure what else to do – I can’t spend an hour each day packing lunches – it already takes me 30 – 40 minutes. Also, my girl especially is already a carb-addicted kid – if it were up to her, she’d only eat cheerios, noodles, and pb & j! And I’m an enlightened mother. WTF?

Maybe it’s because when she was in utero, I’d get these insane cravings for Starbucks cake-pops or brownies every single afternoon. Hmmm.  At any rate, like a lot of kids, she fixates on carbs and sugar, and we struggle to make sure healthy proteins and fresh veggies/fruits also find their way in. At least she takes vitamins everyday, which of course are administered in the form of gummy bears.

My mom became diabetic in her late 60’s and I had gestational diabetes with my son, so I figure I’m at risk unless I get a handle on it. It’s one reason I took the 30-day plunge. I want to set an example for my kids (I can control what goes in my mouth – most of the time!) and the good news is, taking a break from sugar easily addresses our auto-pilot cravings for it.  The less you have, eventually the less you want (I also found that taking an L-Glutamine supplement, an amino acid, also effectively reduced my cravings).

I did the Amy Meyers, M.D. 30 day Candida diet (not TMI – we all have it, but people like myself with auto-immune issues are susceptible to systemic over-drive), which allows for low-glycemic fruits like berries and apple and up to a cup of carbs (like rice and beans) per day. So, I wasn’t totally deprived. And now, after the diet, sugar is a treat, be that a dessert or the fermented sugar drinks known as alcoholic beverages. I might have a diet coke once a month. Fake sugar has its own problems, like some of them murdering your healthy gut biome. Get busy with your biome! I’m a believer: the gut is the gateway to health, especially if you’re susceptible to depression. The vast majority of your neuro-transmitter is manufactured in your gut.

Taking a break from sugar is not only good for your health, but you actually make sugar taste sweeter and more pleasurable because then you don’t have such an, er, tolerance of it. It’s amazing what our bodies get used to – but just like when a river is un-dammed and allowed to heal itself, it does so quickly (observe wetlands repair in the Everglades). We are the dammers of our bodies’ health, and it’s a social justice issue because our individual good health is important for society to function at its best. We do pass on our habits to our kids. I accept that I can’t make my kids hate sugar, but I can talk about it and always provide options – the other day my boy handed me the half-finished ice-cream cone and said, “I’ve had enough sugar.” Way to know your limits, son!

It’s also important to mention that sugar-induced dis-health particularly afflicts the poor – food deserts are very real, especially here in sections of LA county, where people are often forced to subsist on a cellophane-wrapped diet, devoid of fresh food. It’s cool what Michelle Obama sought to do – the campaign to bring healthy alternatives into public school cafeterias. But the problem runs deep – a lot of that fresh food in public schools gets wasted because it’s foreign to many children. When I lived in West Africa for six months in college I learned wasting food is a sin and I never forgot it. It’s not enough for that kind of food to only be at school, but it’s better than none at all, I suppose. What’s happened to those practical classes in middle school like home-economics, where you learn how to buy, cook and enjoy healthy food? Seems important in a country where the rate of diabetes is quickly approaching 10% of the population.

When I transitioned out of my last job, I found myself drinking, er, more than I usually do. To be expected, perhaps, in such circumstances.  When I was ready to drink less, I realized I didn’t have a drinking problem, I had a sugar problem. I said to myself, “it’s the sugar, stupid.”  All of it.

Now I don’t feel so stupid, and life is sweet. Just don’t ever ask me to give up coffee.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

6 thoughts on ““It’s the Sugar, Stupid””

  1. Thanks, Rev. Hannah!
    Great to read this, for inspiration and to know that it CAN be done! Busy folks, whether health-conscious or not, are all too often running on caffeine and carbs… Will get to work and try some dietary
    adjustments…Where does the sweetner, stevia, fall? In or out of a healthy diet?
    Thanks for the good info!

  2. Great blog! I agree, sugar is insidious. I’ve known it for a long time and I’m pretty healthy, but I still have to watch out. One thing I’ve learned is that when I have sweet dessert cravings (like chocolate cake), fruit will make it go away. Even blueberries and dried cranberries on my granola in the morning is enough to have an effect. Believe it or not, those sweet desserts become almost tasteless.

  3. Yes, sugar is the insidious, accepted drug. I have had this conversation with my Hannah. It’s a hard habit to break. Keep on hustling!

  4. I’ve been doing serious low-carbing for the past two months after finding that I’m now “pre-diabetic”; i.e., FBS 6.1 and HbA1c 6.0% , and I don’t want to progress to Type 2 if I can help it. I quit most added sugar (e.g., Fugeos aka Cocoa Oreos) cold turkey and cravings left within a day or two. Now, after two months, I’m experimenting with what high-but-good carbs I can ingest without overly impacting my blood glucose levels (I bought a meter for that). Sad to say, oatmeal and quinoa are both way tte’ll see what the HbA1C says in another month or so. But at least I’ve learned: a) sugar “as” sugar (in candies and baked goods, etc) is pretty easy to give up, as are refined carbs. b) But complex carbs we’re told are “good for us” also break down to sugar – and finding out which to avoid and which I can tolerate is a long-term project.

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