Monthly Archives: January 2013

Honesty is the Best Policy

People are extremely good at rationalizing unwanted/bad behaviors. With our food we can easily slip into “tomorrow I will get back on the wagon” thinking that excuses an episode of bad food or an outright binge.

Far better from a psychological point of view to be honest and admit you just are going to give in and eat what you will probably ultimately regret. That act alone may be enough to ward off the temptation to eat foods we know will make us feel awful, and certainly interfere with any hopes of weight loss. 

Yours in getting real,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Dr. Yudkin, the Cassandra

Like Cassandra of mythology, who could foretell the future but would not be believed, Dr. John Yudkin, a British scientist who  was both PhD and MD, did research that eventually led to his book, Pure, White, and Deadly, published in 1972, claiming that sugar was not just bad, but dangerous. I have remembered since the seventies hearing that some British or Australian doctor had said, in effect, if dangers of sugar was just now discovered it would be a banned substance, but I didn’t know who it was until recently. He states this in the first chapter in a bit different way, but just as damning.  Further, I was able to find a link with the book in pdf format to download (just click the title).

All great movements start as disputed, disparaged, unappreciated ideas that are considered radical, too liberal, against the conventional wisdom;  and,  like many of history who were right but unattended, Dr. Yudkin  along with a few others like Drs. Atkins and Pennington who were bellwethers signaling the dangers that now are finally being recognized via the efforts of Gary Taubes, Dr. Robert Lustig and now many bloggers.

The current of time eventually sweeps away the dross, but we can be plagued by it for a very long time. Sugar (and other feel-good things) is something people do not want to give up, or acknowledge is really seriously bad for them, so they assume the denial position (I envision this as on their bellies, with arms out-stretched and legs spraddled out,  hugging their sacred ground).

While it is hard to understand how people can stay in denial when their bodies are grossly enlarged, their health steadily declining, their medical bills rising, and worse, yet this is exactly what continues to happen.

Still, there are small signs of hope, like the major soda manufacturers trying to fake less terrible options, though in truth they are just as terrible. Grocery markets are also beginning to offer more sugar free options, and happily the food labeling is still our greatest gift.

Today I wanted to lift up how thankful I am for the predecessors in the fight against sugar who helped lead us to what one day will be understood as an inevitable conclusion–despite the agri-business and government attempts to hide, mask, or prevent the truth from getting out (in this they are exactly like the tobacco industry).  Dr. Lustig is reaching parents of small children which may be the biggest achievement in the long run to get sugar out of our diets.

Sometimes one is at the right time in history, I wish some of the now deceased diabetics in my family, like my mother, had been.

Yours in furthering the truth about sugar,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Stop Mindless Eating

Probably half or more of the excess calories people ingest comes from snacking. Eating while watching television, or at any activity that is not a meal time, has been shown to be insidious in terms of taking in far more calories than we think. I read Cornell professor Brian Winsink’s book Mindless Eating a couple of years ago and determined then to stop eating while watching television, for I knew we did too much snacking this way; but when I read the research Winsink details about how bad this habit really is, I knew we had to make a change, even though it is not easy to change bad habits as we all know.

For the last two plus years, with few exceptions, my spouse and I have not eaten while watching the television. I make sure we have some innocuous beverage like seltzer or tea to drink which satisfies that old urge while not ceding to the mindless eating.

Even if the food is good for you, snacking is not good. Snacking is a sign that either you are not eating good meals, perhaps not eating good food, or it’s a bad habit often stimulated by seeing food advertisements or people eating and drinking on the programs, which triggers that non-thinking limbic brain evolution programmed in us to eat whenever food was available.

I won’t kid you that it takes some effort to break a bad habit, but after 3-4 weeks you cease to feel the need for the food, especially if you can find alternate behaviors like drinking some safe liquids, or doing something calming like knitting which I do, though I knit poorly, still it produces some scarves and easy afghans.

The main point is to realize that snacking is not the way to get your calories. We need to make sure we get good meals, concentrate our food energy in making meals important family or personal time. I admit I sometimes eat a meal with a magazine propped in front of me if I’m on my own, but feel at least I am making the effort to have a sit-down meal.

No one is perfect in this area, but once you know that you can probably lose 10+pounds by simply stopping snacking, then it makes the process a lot easier.

Yours in trying to improve,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Sugar Addicts: Know Yourself to Help Yourself

Learning to help ourselves is the real work of being free from the addictive high carbohydrate foods that cause us to get overweight and/or make staying at optimum weight a challenge.

The addictive nature of sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners is real, and means we have to avoid the high carbohydrate foods like the plague;  but what is also important to understand is what triggers the urges beyond the well-known effects of the foods themselves.

As Dr. Lance Dodes has pointed out in his books on addictions, most people are not constantly abusing food, drugs, alcohol, pornography, or whatever the focus of the addiction is, and often may be abstinent for days, weeks, months, or even years, then there will be something that sets off the cycle of abuse or a binge. Learning to stop and consider what sorts of issues have triggered the desire in the first place is key to stopping the behavior.

More often than not it relates at the root level to frustration, a sense of helplessness, which promotes inner anger or rage leading to the desire for some control–all this is usually subconscious. While abusing food is not what we want to do, when we are under too much inner stress or turmoil, it feels like doing something, having some little bit of control, to eat a bunch of sugary-starchy food even though we will regret it in minutes.

The point then is to stop and think about what’s bothering you, and then consider an alternative action like writing in a journal or a blog, taking a walk, doing some artwork, cleaning a closet, etc. Or, if you go through to the binge, to try and look back at what was going on that may have set you off.

The main thing is to refocus that inner frustration away from the thing you don’t really want to do like eating a dozen cookies, and instead do something you will be glad you did afterwards. This is very helpful to me, and it can be very freeing to know you don’t really have to eat a pint of ice cream or worse. I have dozens of alternatives now all lined up. I will be so happy to get all my closets reorganized, and my cabinets cleaned!

The biggest plus, the bonus, is getting to know ourselves better and know what sorts of things are likely to set us off. Whether it is a bad work situation, or unhappy relationship, or fear about something you are afraid you might fail at, the root can come from anything, but at least you will soon learn to recognize the source and divert the urge to something less damaging, or even helpful.

Socrates said that the greatest lesson in life is to “know thyself”; this is surely true about controlling our unhealthy habits or addictions.

Yours in the learning,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Eat Lots of Sugar-Starch and it Loses its Pleasure Effects

I just came across this 2010 over-eating study which showed that wide access to sugar-starch created less pleasure as rats ate ever more, and also binged more:
The most recent study to examine the addictive quality of fattening foods was published online March 28 by the journal Nature Neuroscience. For the paper, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., examined three groups of lab rats that were fed various diets for 40 days. One group was given typical rat chow only; a second group was offered rat chow, plus a buffet of bacon, sausage, cheesecake, chocolate frosting and other delectable goodies for one hour a day; and a third group was allowed extended access to the fatty buffet for up to 23 hours a day.
The extended-access group began consuming twice as many calories as the other rats, and, not surprisingly, became obese. The limited-access rats, meanwhile, developed a binge pattern of eating, consuming most of their daily calories during the single hour they were allowed in the junk food “cafeteria.”
But what shocked the researchers was that extended-access rats also showed deficits in their “reward threshold.” That is, unrestricted exposure to large quantities of high-sugar, high-fat foods changed the functioning of the rats’ brain circuitry, making it harder and harder for them to register pleasure — in other words, they developed a type of tolerance often seen in addiction — an effect that got progressively worse as the rats gained more weight. “It was quite profound,” says study author Paul Kenny, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute. The reward-response effects seen in the fatty-food-eating mice were “very similar to what we see with animals that use cocaine and heroin,” he says.
Kenny’s study did not include rats exposed to drugs, making direct comparison tricky, but other studies have found that chronic cocaine or heroin exposure leads to reductions in reward thresholds of 40% to 50%.
The extended-access rats also showed a lowered level of a certain type of dopamine receptor in the brain, which is thought to contribute to pleasure-seeking behavior in humans. “Human cocaine addicts, people who are obese, alcoholics and heroin addicts also show a down-regulation of this dopamine D2 receptor,” says David Shertleff, director of the division of basic neuroscience and behavioral research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This system is geared toward motivating behavior normally, but what’s happening here is, with chronic exposure to highly fatty and sweet manufactured food, you’re actually getting to a pathological state.”
That is, the down-regulation of D2 receptors seems to turn normal desire into compulsion. In Kenny’s study, the rats that had been given extended access to junk food for 40 days were later willing to continue seeking fatty foods at the risk of getting a painful electric shock to the feet. Limited-access and chow-only rats, however, were significantly put off by the threat of shock, and stayed away from the junk-food buffet.

Food Industry Does Not Like this Doctor

Really worth the watch, and a reminder of why we have such a hard time controlling weight in this era of mega food corporations.  Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of blog, and a physician in Canada on the faculty of medicine at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

More Ideas for Help with Sweet Cravings

A couple of interesting posts from Food Renegade:

On how L-glutamine supplements might help cravings for sweets:

On using fermented foods to help sweet cravings:

There are several more sugar-related posts from FoodRenegade, but a warning that the site is heavy on commercials.

Yours in exploring,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

More Sugar News

Don’t jump on the bandwagon to eat sugar, but at least this latest study shows what is helping to stimulate our growing obesity epidemic.


In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Jonathan Purnell and Damien Fair of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, said the findings “support the conceptual framework that when the human brain is exposed to fructose, neurobiological pathways involved in appetite regulation are modulated, thereby promoting increased food intake.”

My concern about the way this is being reported is that it is better to eat glucose than fructose, but that is a marginal difference.  As we know better, sugars are a problem regardless of source.

Always looking to learn,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

My New Year’s Fast

I like to do a water-only fast for about ten days a couple times a year to clean out the cancerous and other useless matter that accumulates in the body.  I may also drink weak herb tea, no additives, for something hot. There are many benefits from fasting, such as it gives the digestive system a well-deserved rest as would have happened often for our prehistoric ancestors.

BTW: Juice drinking is not true fasting, though it may provide similar benefits if the juices are from low-sugar green vegetable sources.  Otherwise the benefits are much less since juice is still feeding the body, and just making digestion faster.

Our bodies are beautifully adapted to store extra food as fat to be used in times of scarcity and famine.  Since few of us in the western world  have times of famine, I believe it does the body a good deed to give it an approximation of what nature evolved it to do. Now we mostly store, and few really use up the stored excess. Fasting was commonly used in pre-modern times for all sorts of ills, and in the east is still used. Also, left to their own devices, animals who are ill or injured will not eat. We had an elderly cat savaged by a dog who lay down in a corner for four days, didn’t eat and rarely drank, then got up and went his way for several more years.

Most people are fearful, and those fears rise to the surface quickly around fasting, despite the fact that virtually everyone can fast 30-40 days (shipwreck victims a case in point), as long as the water our bodies require is consumed.

I have fasted 30 days and never felt better after the first 2-3 days while the body shifts from normal food burning to fat burning.
The first couple of days I tend to feel pretty good, though foggy while my body makes the shift to ketosis. Throughout a fast it is important to drink lots of water, a couple quarts is ideal;  I prefer mineral water, and add a light dash of salt once or twice a day to help ward off headaches or light-headedness.  I also work, walk for exercise, and keep to a fairly normal schedule. I do like a day in bed for the first day only because I love a day in bed, and it keeps me away from the kitchen.

If a person takes medicines or has health problems then it is good to ask a doctor to supervise the fast, which I did for my long fast, which most will do especially if you tell them it is a spiritual discipline as many religions incorporate fasting in this way. I just want the regular clean-out, and appreciate the sharpening of my senses.

I find my mind especially alert as did the famous writer Upton Sinclair at the beginning of the 20th Century. Since I have a lot of writing to get done just now I look forward to the help that fasting provides.

Fasting is easier if you don’t have to cook for others, but I have done fasts while providing for others, so going into a fast with a good mindset around what your goals are helps.

I will update daily for this fast to show my progress.

Yours in health,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Note:  I’m not a medical doctor and to cover my backside I must remind any reader that you should not undertake a fast if you have any physical concerns like pregnancy, weight-loss disorder, or are in a doctor’s care, are not an adult, –or suffer from plain stupidity.