Though I haven’t been doing regular weekly updates here, I’m still all about the benefits of quitting sugar. In fact, in just about every way, I’ve gone further than ever before on my own journey. In fact, I’ve gone extreme! But I’ll explain that in a minute.
When I first gave up sugar, I stopped eating any food that had “sugar” listed as an ingredient, even though it may have contained no carbohydrate. My goal has always been to find what’s going to work best for me, for my body and health, while also enjoying the pleasures of life. But that’s a tough thing to sort out because many “authorities” in various dietary camps tell a different story about the “perfect diet”. Well, it may turn out that the so-called perfect diet is a fairy tale.
Since October of 2011, my own understanding has changed many times. I’ve gotten mixed messages from far too many different sources. Each source seems like an authority and makes so much sense. Just when I think I’ve found a perfect source, something overturns the apple cart and I’m back to my normal diet confusion. Have you been there? What’s “good for you” one day, is “bad for you” another day. What you thought was a healthy diet turns out to be the very diet that’s making people unhealthy. It’s hard to stick to any kind of healthy lifestyle when you’re constantly confused by the different experts telling opposite stories. Then add in everybody else dumping their two-cents on you.
As we age, we tend to get bogged down with the things of life. We’re not as active as we were in our teens and twenties. The obligations and responsibilities of things like work, family, and owning a home distracts us from staying fit. Eating on-the-go, and trying to stay on top of things means we’re not always as careful with nutrition, and exercise gets put at the end of the To-Do list, and we never seem to reach the end.
Before I quit eating sugar, back in October 2011, I was feeling the effects of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. I was beginning to think that my body was wearing out because it’s suppose to as we age. Right? But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel yet. I still felt young in many ways and it didn’t make sense that I should be feeling so run-down, tired, and weak. What happened to the edge I had just a few years earlier? No! I refused to believe that my body was aging so rapidly. Something was wrong, and I was starting to feel desperate….no, determined to figure out how to reverse the feeling that I was falling apart.
I was shocked to learn just how damaging sugar and high-fructose corn sweetener is on the body. The book Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It, by Gary Taubes, laid out all the scientific evidence and left a paper (or link) trail that anyone could follow if they want to verify the data for themselves. While the information is still a bit controversial, in spite of the validated research (which is open to individual interpretation), I applied my own critical reasoning and felt I could trust my own judgement. This is partly why I quit eating sugar. Anyone who joins the quitting sugar or low carbohydrate community will become familiar with the health consequences of over-consuming sugar. They also become familiar with the many experts who make certain claims about various foods and why they should be avoided. One such person is Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, who makes this claim:
“People are usually shocked when I tell them that whole wheat bread increases blood sugar to a higher level than sucrose. Aside from some extra fiber, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar.”
I’ve come across this claim being referred to on many blogs, podcasts and word-of-mouth. It seems to be widely accepted as true. And [full-disclosure] I like Dr. William Davis and his message, therefore, I accepted his claim when I heard it, even though it seemed a little surprising. Of course, if everybody is saying it, then it must be true, right?
There’s just one thought I cannot reconcile after more than 6 months of quitting sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig and so many others are pretty sure that eating ANY sugar at all is deadly and shouldn’t ever happen. Yet, I have more trust in nature than I do Lustig, (who I’m a fan of, however).
So why, then, did we evolve to have sweet receptors (taste buds) on our tongues? Nature doesn’t do anything without a reason. The fact that we evolved to have sweet receptors and can specifically detect sweetness in food is significant, if you ask me, but it’s also confusing when I consider the current science behind the effects of sugar on our bodies. My present line of thinking is that there must be a reason for it. If that’s true, then my next logical conclusion is that eating sugar isn’t all bad. However, eating too much sugar is definitely very bad. And that’s where the problems begin. Because of this, I will be starting some new experiments that will involve eating sugar in various forms and seeing if I can identify a threshold where eating sugar becomes bad, or at least bad for me. How much sugar is okay to eat and how much is too much?
I’d say that eating too much refined sugar and (simple sugars in general) is what causes our health to decline. The best way (that I know of) to determine what any sugar is doing to me is to monitor my blood sugar levels, since many doctors and health scientists have already identified a range that appears to be “safe” and a range where blood sugar levels begin to cause problems. I realize that these ranges are not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s a good starting point.