I have been a sugar addict since my first haircut.
It was 1964... the barber scared me but the purple lollipop calmed my nerves.
I was 2, and I was hooked!
Let's talk about sugar.
I have given up sugar many times... only to relapse many times afterwards. Sometimes I have made it 3 months, sometimes 3 hours.
Giving it up is best done gradually.
Breaking through the first 5 days is very difficult; I recommend you avoid family and friends until the headaches have receded and you regain your civility.
I'm being funny, but for those of you who are also in the grips of a sugar dependence you know it's not always a laughing matter.
Studies have shown the neurological reward of sugar to be the equivalent of cocaine .
The more you take in, the more you need.
I can attest to that. My oatmeal raisin cookie limit is defined as ..well, it has never been defined.
I used to eat a pint of ice cream from top to bottom, saying "one more spoonful" to myself all the way down. Even the words Coffee Heath Bar Crunch can inspire me to run for the freezer, climbing over women and children like George Costanza after hearing "Fire!"
Am I alone on this??
It's not our fault.
Sugar is cunning, and powerful.
The cravings are driven by brain chemicals.
Serotonin and dopamine, the "happy hormones", hijack your body, and the ransom is sugar, in ANY form, from pasta to pastry.
You can negotiate with these hijackers by eating a balanced diet devoid of refined sugar and simple carbs... I know, where's the fun in that?! So we succumb, time and time again.
Sugar has always been my favorite food group.
If I could only learn to consume it in moderation, or not at all.
I can hear people complaining:
"Don't even go there with some anti-sugar lecture. SOMETHING is going to kill us eventually, might as well enjoy one of those 12-person Mrs Fields cookies while I wait"
I agree, we're not going to live forever.
BUT, it's not "The End" that I'm talking about... it's the how I'm feeling while I wait, TODAY... sugar makes me feel great for about an hour, and then, not so much.
Do you know how most of this diabolical compound is being delivered to us? ...yup, you guessed it.
High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Sugar is very sneaky!
It even sneaks into our temples by way of beef... cows also FILL out after binging on EMPTY calories... and the faster to market, the faster to bank.
You all know how our lives have been made nutritionless by HFCS. There's more sugar in a serving of tomato sauce than a serving of Oreo's. We all know that.
But did you know that Sugar goes by 56 different aliases?
Ever heard of: Carob syrup? Dextran? Diastatic malt? Diatase? Ethyl maltol?
Sugar has stealthily invaded every part of our lives... of the 600,000 items found in grocery stores you'll find sugar hiding in 3/4 of them.
Let's go back in time, before sugar was able to be extracted from corn, or be injected into bologna.
(PLEASE EXCUSE THE LENGTH OF THIS BLOG, IT WAS TWICE AS LONG, AND HALVED 4 TIMES, BEFORE DOUBLING AGAIN, DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH SUGAR WAS DRIVING MY BRAIN SYNAPSES )
Sugar, over the millenia, has caused war and disease, and slavery, and destroyed entire civilizations.
Think I'm being melodramatic? Hysterical?
Actually, I'm pulling punches.
I urge you to read "Sugar Blues" by William Dufty, written in 1975.
Sugar has to rank as the most powerful and destructive commodity in the human experience. Oil, gold, diamonds, wood, gunpowder.
Pick any of them. Sugar trumps it.
Read the book and you'll agree with me.
Sugar was THE cause of the trans-oceanic slave trade that commenced in the early 16th century.
Dufty discusses the infamous "triangle of trade" that tore apart African families for centuries!
Islands throughout the West Indies would be invaded, and converted into sugar cane plantations. The European ships would then arrive filled with slaves; drop them off and leave with casks filled with molasses. (for rum production in northeastern America, or Europe). It was a sign of wealth and opulence to have raw sugar casually presented on your lace-covered tables during high tea. It was fun to have a bottle of rum in front of you.
Over the ensuing centuries to follow, the Carribean islands' tear-stained soil would be turned into useless dirt and the islands would be abandoned, one by one.
-go visit the long-since abandoned sugar plantation on St John, the Cinnamon Bay Estate. It's both fascinating and depressing.
I urge you to read the book. It isn't as depressing as I just implied. While regaling you with history you thought you knew, it will make you take stock of your daily sugar intake... and it might change your life, for the better.
Sugar has accompanied me like an imaginary friend since that haircut in 1964.
How can I ever forget the pillow cases filled with candy at Halloween... I would trade 5 Baby Ruths for one of those little maple sugar candies shaped like a leaf.
...my childhood was made special by candy, and sugar, in all its forms.
My brothers and sisters and I would make butter and sugar sandwiches. Anything to deliver sugar...
When I was a young boy I would push my way to the counter of Patrick's Country Store in Old Saybrook; demonstratively placing my crumpled dollar bill onto the counter like Charlie Bucket buying his Wonka Bar. Hyperventilating:
"May I please have some sugar? Any form, shape, color, how much will this dollar buy? Hurry! My brothers are coming!"
And then I would take my Sugar Daddy, or maybe a bag full of those little caramels with the white frosting inside, and ride my bike around town, joyously... maybe over to Dairy Queen for an ice cream.
My favorite meal in 1975?
A Fluffernutter sandwich followed by a bowl of Captain Crunch.
By the way, you may have heard, Massachusetts is in the middle of a tug-of-war, over a jar of Fluffernutter.
The state is trying to ban Fluffernutter from public schools... while one politician, in the Massachusetts district where Fluffernutter is made,is trying to make it the state sandwich-dead serious.
Sugar inspires fights, from the playground to the Statehouse.
It even played a central role in the Napoleonic Wars. (don't believe me? Read "Sugar Blues")
Ever since I gave up drinking for Lent (20 years ago) I have been a heavy user of ice cream and gum and chocolate and donuts and cake and cinnamon danish and Reeses's and Milk Duds , and did I say donuts? And Cinnabons??
My body rebelled after I gave up all that liquid sugar. (alcohol as you know is a form of sugar), and my sugar addiction went up a notch... the party just moved over 3 aisles in the grocery store.
The memory of the depressing sugar crashes is not powerful enough to stop me from eating 6 donuts the next time my car takes me into Donut Delight.
Seriously, I joke because it's funny, but it shouldn't be. I'm not laughing 20 minutes after the last donut goes into my furnace.
Some more facts:
We are consuming 156 pounds of sugar per capita. Are you a family of 5? Go buy 780 pounds of playground sand and pour it on your kitchen floor.
Wow ...shocking, no?
We humans produced more than 175 million metric tons of sugar in 2013.
Million, with an M, for M&M's.
Let's say a tractor trailer can carry 20 tons.
That would be about 8.5million tractor trailers, or, enough to be stretched bumper to bumper from here to Pluto, and over to the Big Dipper and back.
If you don't have time to read "Sugar Blues", go view Robert Lustig's Youtube: Sugar, the Bitter Truth. (it's "only" 1hr and 29 minutes-that's how much there is to say about the subject)
Please don't consider me to be holier than thou on this subject; I am 4 days into my 135th detox. I am sharing this story because sharing is a big part of any 12-step program.
If you have tried to give up cocaine, nicotine, gambling, alcohol, you can relate to my struggle.
Yes, I know what you said earlier: we'll all die from something one day.
And let me reiterate what I said: why suffer while we wait?!
Why not understand what is contributing to our afternoon blues, our weight gain, our irritability.
Forget about whether or not sugar abuse limits your life span ...(it does) Let's just focus on our daily quest for happiness.
Sugar dulls us. It slows us down. It makes us irritable. It makes us over drink, over eat, constantly seeking out another dose to re-elevate the mood it just depressed.
When I limit it assertively? I have a much better afternoon, better sleep, better relationships, and better self esteem because I drop weight.
I can MAKE sugar funny ...I can make a funeral funny ...but the sugar blues aren't funny. Far from it. Why do we joke about it?
My brother Warren almost died from lymphoma. (see "Cancer Loves Sugar", CBS 60 Minutes, April 2012)
Our family didn't joke about Warren's cancer. We don't ever laugh at cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, or stroke, or obesity.
... And yet, we laugh about sugar. I'm laughing at it now. Perhaps it's the Irish in me. We make suffering funny, so we don't cry.
Yes, sweets are fun, and an integral part of life. (think birthday cake) ...but take it from this addict: life is sweeter without processed food and refined sugar.
My remedy? My strategy to take back my afternoons?
I go to Green and Tonic. I get the oatmeal, add raisins, cinnamon, and almond date milk..
It satisfies my sweet tooth, naturally. And then I'll have a Green Monster juice? for an afternoon snack ...or one of those orange carrot juicy juices.
And an apple at 5pm. And no pasta or bread for dinner.
I am here to tell you this, as a market-tested fact:
I am Profoundly and noticeably more happy when I use Green and Tonic, instead of pancakes and and cupcakes and birthday cakes.
Simple carbs: bad afternoon.
Complex carbs: good afternoon.
The solution to the sugar epidemic is complex, and not simple. Knowledge will set you free.
The sugar detox process is complex, not simple. Make it to the other side? You won't cry at another day of snow, yell at the dog, bark at your wife.
My name is Jeff, and I'm a recovering sugar addict.
Good afternoon Jeff!!