Monthly Archives: August 2011

Summertime Blues

My summer is proving to be very busy and I am not as diligent with this blog, but then I note all my favorite blogs seem to be in the same boat. We are in summer mode, a generally carefree time when we enjoy the great, warm weather; when we get out to go to visit the local sites, the beach, or visit family and friends we don’t see during the school year, and so forth. I know my life functions around the school year calendar even though my children are grown, for that is how most of our society operates. Summer is high season for doing all the things we can’t once the school year begins; which affects not only those with children, but those of us without children or whose children have officially fledged.

What with vacations, quick trips here and there, the summer becomes both busy and challenging to those of us sugaraholics who struggle with all the obvious and hidden sugars to be found in the summertime foods. Fruit tends to be a big challenge for me since fruit we were told ad nauseum is good for you. But for those whose hypothalamus goes into high gear at any kind of sugar, too much fruit can upset the best laid plans of even the best of dieters.  Desserts proliferate in all seasons, but the summer heat brings out the trickier sort, like ice cream, which, though good if homemade or of a very low sugar variety like the So Delicious coconut milk kind, can still upset the balance and cause a lot of cravings.

The heat is also a factor for many since it can be enervating, and when we are in a low mood we are always more vulnerable; which is also part of the problem with alcohol.  That cooling lite beer, gin and tonic, chilled white wine, or scotch and soda lowers our mood and makes us more susceptible to indulgences we will soon regret.

My best strategy is to accept that I will sometimes want my long time favorite ice cream, so instead of trying to banish the thoughts of it, I envision getting it, enjoying it for the few moments, then—and this is the critical point—imagining how I will feel after I eat it, for I always feel the same, unhappy, bad experience after I eat what I know will give me even more cravings, and interfere with my goal to lose and keep off excess fat.

The summertime blues can be episodic or for other reasons be a regular phenomenon, but it need not keep us from abiding by our desire to not give in to the foods that we know will only make us blue-er still.  This is the best of times to get out for a quick walk, a bike ride, an afternoon at the park, etc. Take advantage of the options the summer affords, and remember: You will never regret a sugary food you do not eat.

Off for a walk………

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Asceticism: Another Tool for Sugaraholics

Food asceticism is among rising tide of ideas about how to be free of the sugar-starch-artificial sweetener demons. Food asceticism develops out of the notion that our taste buds are in effect being overly stimulated by the high level of tastiness; so, we are being unnaturally clued to over-eat in a way primitive humans would not. Let’s face it, raw or poorly cooked meat that is unseasoned with so much as salt, and roots and berries that were very low in starch or sugar compared to foods we eat nowadays, would not have been nearly as stimulating to the primitive region of the brain that governs cravings.  Of course, to them it would have been tasty no doubt, but the triggers would have been far less excited compared to our modern brains. We who have been on a steady diet of highly sweetened and seasoned foods since before birth now have a high need for those stronger, deeper tastes.

The idea then behind food asceticism is to limit the strong seasonings and flavors to retrain the brain. When I first thought about this I wanted to reject it, but as I considered this idea further, I realized that I certainly don’t crave many sweet or starchy foods, or plain sugar water–though if we keep taking in such a substance we will learn to like it according to Cornell food scientist and author of Mindless Eating, Professor Brian Wansink. Still the thought of eating something with low flavor is not appealing. I have a friend, by way of contrast, who likes what I consider very bland foods compared to the spicy, rich flavors I’ve always enjoyed. Still, for most of us, meat without salt is pretty bland, as are most vegetables, and many foods would not be so appealing without their load of salt, spices, sugar, sweeteners.

Food asceticism is about deliberately toning down the number of foods one eats, and the savory-sweet-sour-hot-unami type flavorings or tastes.  I have decided to work on this for a while, since I still have a few pounds I’d like to lose—thanks to a couple weeks of vacation!—and do believe the simplicity of a few basic foods, lightly seasoned might have merit.

If you, like me, have always counted on highly flavored foods, you might want to consider this to help lose some weight.  I see this as a temporary goal, for food should be enjoyed, but if I can learn to enjoy my food with a bit less of the strong flavors so much the better.

The way I understand it, we will crave less if the food is less strongly flavored. Whether this is true I don’t know, but it does have the ring of truth about it. Consider the foods you most want when you have binged. Chances are good that you think of the flavor more than the texture, though some textures are appealing. Some people love smooth and creamy foods, while others like crunchy, sharp foods (this is me).  I think of brownies with walnuts, one of my long time favorite sweet foods, but I never liked brownies without walnuts since that seemed to be a “weaker” taste, and I liked the crunch of the nuts. So I’m making a list of my former favorite binge foods and making notes of what made them so appealing to me. Also, this relates to how we combine foods; I never wanted Oreos unless I had a glass of milk. So was I craving the milk or the Oreos? My belief is that the milk was a kind of transport for the Oreos, and enhanced their flavor. Of course, the milk also doubled the sugar load!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you view flavors and the idea of food asceticism as a tool to break addiction to sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners.

Yours in search for answers,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Infantile Paralysis: Not Letting Go of Childhood Food Loves

Blog post 7/6/11 (somehow deleted this, so reposting)

When President Roosevelt developed what was then known as Infantile Paralysis, or polio, there was a lot of attention drawn to what was a widespread disease, and many researchers devoted untold hours to finding a cure for that terrible disease which caused varying levels of paralysis in mostly children. Jonas Salk was the physician researcher came up with the vaccine that many children remember being inoculated with in the 1950s.

This came to mind when a friend of my spouse who is morbidly obese was arguing with my lean spouse who does primal/paleo eating as I do. While my spouse is not the sugaraholic I am, he knows that he will begin to want those foods if he starts eating them, and he lost more than thirty-five pounds getting off the sugars, starches, artificial sweeteners along with me. His friend, I’ll call him Bob, believes in the calories-in-calories-out false theory, about what causes weight gain or loss, so well debunked by Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, along with Mark Sisson, Mark Harris, and many others. Why does Bob hold on to what so clearly fails for him time and again; he is a Weight Watchers rerun. Having heard for years what he orders at their weekly breakfast meeting tells me that he can’t let go of his childhood food loves.

Bob is convinced, for this is what he wants to believe, that pancakes, fruit, bread, and all manner of high starch and sugar foods are fine as long as he eats egg substitutes and avoids fats. He has a kind of infantile paralysis that does not let him move forward. He doesn’t want to read or hear anything that will change his mind, though he weighs nearly 300lbs on a 5’10” frame.

The sad part that is most bothersome for me in this is that when polio was raging through the country, no amount of money or resources was held back in order to find a cure. Now, though, when diabetes has doubled world wide since 1980, we find there is very little money for research on various foods or diets that is not being provided by the big food conglomerates who only accept what supports their ends. Very little independent money is available to researchers to get anything like independent results. We need to get past this fund crunch, for it was mostly American tax dollars that found cures like polio, smallpox, antibiotics like penicillin, etc. Our health care system is being heavily burdened by the diseases of over-weight and diabetes, and something will eventually have to give.

I have my areas of infantile paralysis, too, but they have more to do with liking fire flies, and watching reruns of Bewitched. Food is something we should remember is medicine, fuel, and not just comfort. However, while I no longer eat the foods I once thought of as childhood comfort foods, I now know that what I eat is truly good for me, and that is its own mature kind of comfort.

Ever learning,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Vacation Struggles

I’ve been on vacation with family to the beach and found it all too easy to give in to sweets others had, and paid for it.  My sleep was shot for most of the time, and I felt joint pains I thought were history.  I was talking with my husband today, after we got home, about why we did what we knew we would regret.  We concluded that 1) just this once, is a lie, and will lead most of us down the garden path of much more, 2) having food around you don’t at home makes the temptation quotient far higher, 3) the addictive properties of sugar, starch, artificial sweeteners do not go away after you quit eating them, at least not for a long time (In Life Without Bread, Lutz and Allan, noted that after about 12-18 months of no sugar, people would cease to want it.), so if you start, you get sucked it quickly.  I remember a line from diet guru Stephen Gullo, who had this mantra: If I don’t begin, I don’t have a problem.  He talked as well about the F-Q Principle, which I believe I’ve mentioned before, that states that you may leave certain foods alone for a long time, but if you start up again, then soon the frequency, then the quantity will increase. Believe me, I have lived out the F-Q Principle many times,  including just last week.

Today we are back on track, our vacation family members have gone home, so we can get back to our healthy, no sugar-starch-faux sweeteners routine.  A slip is disheartening, but it is something to learn from. I am disappointed that I let myself cave to carrot cake, but that is not a reason not to keep working at my goals to stay sugar-sober.  With some hard work and luck, I won’t have to report further struggles for a good long while. I would like to say never,  but while I live in hope, I also know that the possibility exists.

Like I heard years ago it’s not what you do 20 days a year, it’s what you do the other 345 days of the year;  I now have high hopes for the grand total of sugar sober days.

I have a nice tan! And, I enjoyed time with family.  So there is almost always a great take away from vacation.

Working on my remaining days for this year, and will keep chanting: If I don’t begin, I don’t have a problem.

Yours in the struggle,

Nan aka Sugarbaby