Monthly Archives: March 2012

Caffeine Can Be Counterproductive

Too many people use caffeine as a substitute for lack of sleep. Then soon the addictive nature of caffeine’s use takes over. Also, some people are far more sensitive and susceptible to its effects. My spouse is one such; it’s been a standing joke in our family about having to de-caffeinate him a couple times a year. He works all hours, pushes himself to do too much all too often, which can of course create challenges with sleep and tiredness.I’ve been there, too!

The typical pattern is this: he gets off caffeine, his short temper disappears, he sleeps better, feels much less stressed, ceases to crave junk, etc. Then: some months pass… Grouchy is waking up, Cranky is commenting, and I have the ah-ha moment–he is drinking caffeinated coffee again.

The problem is insidious in our culture, in part because coffee is on offer everywhere, so the I’ll-just-have-one-cup rationalization-aka-denial sets in. Finally, the self-perpetuating behavior resumes. My husband knows he always feels better off the caffeine, but our culture promotes its use in a dozen ways. And, humans are past masters of rationalization! So, my take is, if you can’t have just one cup and stop there, it’s better to leave it alone.

For those of us with sugaraholic tendencies, caffeine, even in plain black coffee, is known to raise blood glucose and insulin, so acts as a trigger for cravings. Tea seems to have much less of an effect, and generally is far better for you. Also, even decaffeinated coffee varies a lot, anything from 3mg to over a 100mgs per cup; so, even decaf can have enough caffeine to create problems especially for sleep. E.g., Starbucks and McDonald’s decaf coffee has among the highest caffeine in their decaf coffee, so it pays to do some research; here’s a place to start:

If we are tired, we crave carbohydrates; that’s the brain’s message to our prehistorically evolved brain on how to quickly get energy. In raw nature, this was a good thing, but in our time it means ready access to more sugar in one meal than a cave-person had in a whole month of summer feasting. The self-perpetuating nature of the sugars, caffeine, alcohol, drugs is simple, but the good news is we can break those habits, and eventually be free of the craving monster.

Yours in freedom from addictive behaviors,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Transitioning Off Sugars

Many people struggle to get off the sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners a challenge, and the challenge is usually greater when we think we can get off everything “EXCEPT”…meaning a few things we really don’t want to give up. The process can be fairly easy if you take care with hydration and realize it will soon get better. A long trip for a vacation is unpleasant in many ways, but we see the travel as the price to pay for the joy. Thinking this way will help us travel through the transition to a craving-free, fit life.

But as a general approach, keeping in mind we varying in our metabolisms, and so on, these are the things I did, and a few more besides.

1. Clean the house of all the problem foods, including the things like sugar and flour for creating them.

2.Get some staples that keep pretty well, like frozen/canned chicken, frozen/canned fish/shrimp/crab, coconut milk/0il/butter, eggs, hard cheeses, 85% or greater dark chocolate, and such, so you always have an acceptable food on hand.

3. Keep track of what you eat for a couple weeks. Tracking food has been repeatedly shown to help people not over-eat or eat the wrong food.

4. Don’t overly focus on food. Try to keep meal planning to right after a good meal, so you don’t start making yourself hungry. Tests have shown that the sight or thought of food (ala Pavlov’s dogs) raises insulin, and makes us hungry. Avoid cooking shows, wandering food aisles, etc. These are all trigger behaviors for our bad habits.

5. Shop only at stores where you know what/where to avoid things that might be temptations; and it’s best to shop when you have recently had a meal.

6.Drink at least 1-2 quarts/liters of water, mineral water is great at this time, plain tea/coffee.

7. Take a good multi-vitamin, and add potassium and magnesium if you are inclined to cramps. Also, make sure to salt food adequately, since one of the causes of headaches or light-headedness, is sudden drop in your normal salt intake. Plus, if you drink adequate amount of liquids, you flush excess salt.

8. Most people do better if they eat first thing in the morning, especially plenty of protein and fat, like ham/bacon and eggs. Eat in whatever way the keeps you from over-eating and feeling hungry. Most people do perfectly well on 2-3 meals a day and no snacking. This is how humans ate historically. Adaptation takes a few days, then becomes your new normal.

9. Preplan meals, at least generally; always include protein, fat, lots of low starch vegetables, and only berries for fruit if you are trying to lose weight. (Fruit is high in fructose and can trigger binges.) I always eat better if I even loosely plan for the next day.

10. Get plenty of rest; cut out the electronic gadgets, caffeine, and/or alcohol at night which interfere with normal transition to sleep.

11. Know that any change takes effort, and doesn’t need to be painful if approached thoughtfully.

12. Find a buddy. We are known to work harder if we believe our actions are helping another person with our goals. Conversely, avoid people who say: Oh, come on…a  little dessert-alcohol-bread won’t hurt. These people do not understand the intensified and even addictive quality of many of these for some people.

13. Get some kind of light exercise: walk, swim, do weights; any good habit translates to other aspects of our lives.

14. Treat yourself with non-food items: a day trip, clothing, book, whatever is an affordable, but real treat for your efforts.

15. Don’t be discouraged by blips, but be determined to have them be few and very far between.

16. Make your own list of things that you think will be helpful, and remake it often.

Yours in the challenge,

Nan aka Sugarbaby





Excellent Short Video on Sugar Consumption

Check out the following to get an idea of how much sugar people are consuming. Indeed, how much we may have consumed, and do now. I found this on no sweet blog. Pass it on.

Artificial Sweeteners Redux

Someone told me today that they had begun having issues with heart arrhythmia and after some investigation of her food journal realized she had been letting aspartame sweetened diet soda creep in. Which then prompted a memory of a previous time some years back when she had a similar reaction to aspartame.

I avoid all artificial sweeteners most of the time, except stevia which I use occasionally. Aspartame in particular is highly suspect for causing unpleasant things to happen in the brain. Now, I’m not a purist, and once in a while I may have something sweetened with sucralose, even a diet coke on  rare occasions, but the key is to recognize any particular effects these may have on your health or your ability to leave sweets alone.  Too many people give up sugar only to replace it with artificial sweeteners which wind up causing even greater cravings (see:

The main thing to keep in mind is that artificial sweeteners are chemicals manufactured to be far sweeter, usually 200-600 times sweeter, than sugar. When the brain gets a 600 level message, it expects a 600 level meal. I used to have a serious diet Coke habit, not realizing that in an effort to save calories, I was creating horrible cravings that I succumbed to all too often.

I think it is probably better to have evaporated cane sugar sweetened foods or beverages than those using any artificial sweetener besides stevia. We just really don’t know what all those chemicals are doing in our brains and bodies.  Learning to find health treats is one of the biggest parts of going off sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners.

These days I mainly like tea, especially fresh brewed iced tea, seltzer, hot/iced coffee, along with plenty of water. For treats I make things like peanut butter balls that don’t require added sweet.

Yours in health,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Recording the Journey

Consider that every life is a story of ups and downs, good times and bad, gains and losses, and all the things that we recognize as the stuff of life; but, we are unique and each of us has a story that is our own and unlike any other person’s story. Then each area of life is like the separate chapters of our own story.

We are the authors of our life stories with contributions from all the people who have touched our lives from parents and family, teachers, friends, enemies, acquaintances, cashiers, and all those imprinted on our brains from random meetings on airplanes, a walk in the park, and so on.

Sometimes the best way to understand why we do what we do is to  record the journey we have been on up to now, who and what has contributed, and then imagine what the next leg of the journey might be like, or how we would like it to be. A plan is where to start, and while I am convinced that life is better if we do some planning, I also know it will be better still if we remain open to the serendipity, luck, and mystery that lies ahead–all that we cannot imagine or anticipate.

The best things in my life happened while I was trying to execute another plan, which is not a denigration of planning, only a reminder that while a plan is good, we can’t be so devoted to the plan that we can’t be open to the surprise, truth, and beauty that may create a need to deviate from it, or rewrite it altogether. For, if we are too dedicated to a plan, we may miss out on something far better.

I am now writing the story of my struggles with weight and how I have learned to get control over the raging cravings that made life miserable for a few years. Looking back, I find I’m surprised that I was able to get through some things as well as I did, which sort of makes me the heroine of my own story, and I like to think of myself that way, rather than as a victim.

As long as we breathe, we are creating our life story, and it seems to me far more desirable that we feel purpose and intention, rather than just being flotsam carried along by the tide.

Yours in the telling of our stories,

Nan aka Sugarbaby