17 February 2012

Sugar Sugar

When most people think about nutritional evils, they think about fat. "Low-fat" and "reduced fat" and "fat-free" are terms that have become almost synonymous with "healthy" in America. I used to think that too. But when I started becoming more active, I realized I needed to be diligent in my nutritional habits as well as my exercise habits. I did research to satisfy my own personal curiosity, and I have come to the conclusion that fat is not my enemy; sugar is.

With that knowledge, I decided to conduct my own experiment in January 2011. I started with a kitchen purge; I seriously read every label and if it had any sugar or artificial sweetener, I pitched it. It was shocking how many bottles and jars I threw out that day. But it was also liberating, knowing I could use anything else in my kitchen and eat well. I stuck to my sugarless guns for 29 days of January, and broke it with a hot fudge sundae on my birthday (a planned treat). The sundae tasted delicious but I felt pretty crappy afterwards. So I decided from that point on, my nutritional goal would be to reduce sugar consumption wherever possible. And eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
A share from Fair Shares, yum!
That worked out fairly well for the rest of 2011. But, in the last few months, I have become more relaxed about my food intake, . I've got big plans for 2012 and they are not going to be fueled by eating crap. So, I've re-instated the Personal Sugar Ban again for this year, and it's in full effect until 24-June. In case you are wondering how far this thing goes, here are my rules:
  • No sugar, obviously. Don't matter if it's [brown] or white. No sugar will be used in personal cooking. Anything that has a label must be free of the ingredient "sugar" or any artificial sweeteners. (even savory items). 
  • No artificial sweeteners, or alcohol sweeteners
    • Corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup
    • Splenda
    • Anything that comes in a colored packet (Sweet-n-Low, NutraSweet, Equal, etc)
  • Natural sweeteners (agave, honey, molasses, maple syrup, stevia) grudgingly permitted, but in small quantities and for specific purposes:
    • Agave for Chuckie tea only, if needed
    • Stevia for protein only (a small amount is already included in the brand I use)
    • Honey/molasses/maple syrup for special occasion cooking. I put these bottles in my highest cabinet so they're not in the regular pantry or countertop.
  • Fruit in its natural form is fine. No jams, chutneys, jellies, syrups or preserves that have sugar in them. All-fruit products are okay.
  • Workouts, races, and the 30-min recovery window are exempt from these rules. My goal with the sugar ban is to rein in my daily eating habits, not my workout eating habits.
For some people, this might be a mind-boggling list of things to eliminate from their diet. For me, it's mostly about enforcing discipline. I am fairly good about my daily nutrition for the most part; I make a lot of my food myself using meat and produce from Fair Shares. But my biggest weakness is snacks at work. You know, the box of Krispy Kremes, or the plate of Girl Scout cookies, or the store-bought birthday cake, or any other variety of sugary semi-deliciousness brought in by well-meaning co-workers and left on the coffee counter. I always manage to convince myself it's okay to eat these things because, hey, I'm an athlete. An endurance athlete. Surely I have a few hundred calories to spare, and gosh those brownies-leftover-from-Valentine's-Day look good, and, and, I ate them. No longer!!

If you haven't tried your own sugar ban, I encourage you to find 30 days and give it a shot. At the very least, educate yourself on what ingredients are in your fridge and pantry - you might be surprised! 
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  1. whew, you are one tough cookie! I'm not generally a sugar addict, but I'm sure I'd be shocked at where it is in my cabinets. good luck!

  2. You have inspired me to delete sugar from my diet. I already eat very little sugar but dark chocolate is my arch nemesis. I am going to give it a try. The cleaning out of the closet is unrealistic for me. Tim and the kids like the foods so this is where my self control comes into play. We will see!

    1. i like chocolate a lot too. i get my fix from baker's chocolate, the 100% unsweetened kind. it's a little weird at first but now i love it. takes more time to melt too so it lasts longer! be strong!

  3. I gotta be honest, it is a bit easier being low-sugar-intake as a gluten-free-foodie, especially at work since people bring in gluten-laden treats and I can't eat them since, well, they'll make me sick. That being said, I occasionally buy boxes of Pamela's cookies (which are delicious), and sometimes Cionne brings me special gluten-free treats. Ah, the devil drags me down! :)

    1. just time those pamela's purchases for after a long run and you're set! :)