Excuses and Explanations for My Sugar Habit!

Last year, I shamelessly shared the spectacular failure of my attempt to go sugar free for six weeks on the very open forum of Facebook, where I had declared my intentions to kick the sugar habit quite openly. Back in 2011 I had a very disciplined “limited sugar lifestyle.” And no I certainly wasn’t using artificial sweeteners. But gradually and especially over the last nine months of 2014 I totally fell off the Path of Sugar Restriction. And don’t we ask ourselves, especially at this time of year when so many of us are trying to stick to our goals and resolutions for 2015, why is it so hard to quit sugar? I doubt that I survived even three weeks before succumbing in October off my well-intentioned six weeks of going sugar free.

I blame the first bourbon. It was the ‘I’ll just have one,’ and then it all fell apart from there.

Blame the Bourbon Biscuit!

Blame the Bourbon Biscuit!

We can blame the dopamine, that brain chemical that always seems to play a role in addiction. In fact we are told nowadays that sugar is as addictive as cocaine, which makes sense if you’ve ever had a sugar craving. But don’t be too harsh on the dopamine because the poor chemical is exactly the one involved in all the other pleasures that we enjoy, both the healthy ones and the not-so-healthy ones.

Dopamine aside, I’ve done it before. In 2011 and for a few years after that, I’ve been very good and said ‘no’ to most sugar most times. So what went wrong? What factors might be at play? And how did I, who took such great pride in my once enviable ability to bypass cakes and cookies and enjoy unsweetened green tea instead of sweetened black, fall into the sugar trap? Looking back at it, I literally let myself go. No I wasn’t pigging out or bingeing regularly or overeating in the real sense but I gave myself permission to lighten up.

As with everything else it all began in my head:

My Excuses and Explanations Despite blood tests that showed pre-diabetes* in 2011, I had managed to make it through a pregnancy at age 38 without developing gestational diabetes -a condition which in itself is a predictor for a greater likelihood of diabetes in years to come. My London life gives me more of an active lifestyle than the one I  lead in Trinidad (lots of brisk walking and sprinting to catch buses) and I convinced myself, especially with the additional knowledge that my breastfeeding was burning an average of 500 extra calories daily, that I needed more calories. Somehow with a baby who insists on keeping your hands full and considers you her 24-hour on-call milk maid, the old methods of getting those extra calories now seem too much trouble. Yes I used to make huge salads with boiled eggs, olive or flax seed oil and avocado but there are no decent avocadoes in London and who has time for all that knife work in the middle of the day, with the afternoon school run lurking around the corner and the constant threat that children of late parents could be sent to the awfully expensive after school club? And I must not forget to mention that my favourite quick source of calories (quick to eat, not to digest) – all varieties of nuts – went out the window when I discovered my daughter’s nut allergy!

Do I seem to be unfairly and indirectly laying all the blame on my children? There is also culture. One becomes like the people one associates with and I’m afraid the British have a lot of hot drinks. Tea is always on offer. In fact tea in London might be like CRIX in Trinidad, a vital supply and unlike CRIX it really is a comfort food. Think of CRIX as Trini branded crackers from a household brand name known as Bermudez. Now I can have my tea without sugar but I much prefer it brewed strong with two teaspoons of sugar and not too much milk. And I really prefer it with sweet  biscuits rather than crackers. This despite being brought up on before bed time meals of CRIX with tea –  with variations of cheese, jam or peanut butter to give weight to my CRIX. And to be sympathetic to myself, since I truly understand how easy it is to fall off the wagon of discipline and to convince ourselves that we are doing no harm, I also reached for a cup of tea under conditions of stress. After the stress of pushing and pulling two resistant boys off their chosen paths, into their uniforms and off to school, baby in tow as fast as our legs could can carry us, I succumb to this charming habit of coming home to a hot drink and some comfort food. Just the thought of some decently crunchy biscuits (I really get no joy, no dopamine rush from chewy soft American style cookies), a croissant with jam, a hot cup of cocoa or coffee made with full cream milk and two sugars….oh the simple joys!

My last sorry explanation is that by April of 2014 I was weary of food discipline. I had eaten carefully during my pregnancy, saying no to so many sweet treats and for most of the next ten months I had been avoiding various foods. First I avoided cow’s milk for fear of inducing cow’s milk allergy. Then because Little Princess had on-going cradle cap for all of five months rather than the usual first few weeks, I was trying all sorts of dietary eliminations in an effort to help her clear it up. Now I knew there was no firm medical basis for blaming her cradle cap (infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis) on my diet but suppose there was a link that nobody had yet noticed, perhaps because most cases are mild and resolve themselves after a short time. (Maternal desperation to keep trying in the face of stubborn scalp flakes!)

Then one dermatitis gave way to another. When her five month problem was  replaced by a fierce and defiant atopic eczema at least I had a reason to hunt for a culprit. After all, some babies’ eczema is linked to food triggers. So I eliminated all sources of dairy, wheat, tomatoes, beans and more; heaven knows I kept a food diary of how her eczema seemed to vary with my diet and also with the foods I was weaning her onto. I even contemplated giving up chocolate but I never gave up nuts till she reacted directly to being given almond butter. By the time I re-introduced wheat, cheese and milk and said goodbye to all those oversweet gluten-free cookies and tasteless unsweetened organic soy milk, I had FDF, Food Discipline Fatigue. On a bad day I would have three or four hot drinks all sweetened with two sugars and too many biscuits, or chocolate or whatever guilty treat I had rescued from the grocery shelves!

At the same time I was wondering if cutting down on sugar might make a big difference to the resurgence of acne I was experiencing. I was thinking about all the things that have been associated with diabetes and excessive sugar intake; a greater likelihood of cancer and a greater likelihood of dementia made me uneasy. I resolved to limit my sugar in 2015 and while writing my goals for 2015 I stumbled upon an old file in which were recorded my blood tests of 2011. The evidence of my then-pre-diabetes stared me in the face. I couldn’t help but ask myself, especially noting how tired I felt after my last dessert, have I taken myself back to pre-diabetes or worse, all the way down to diabetes, over the past nine months?

Well I’ll find out later this year when I go for my Turning Forty blood tests. But in the meantime, five weeks into 2015 I am just so happy to say that I am sticking with my No Sugar Except on Weekends And Even then with Limits and I am enjoying it. I can look in the mirror, see a huge improvement to the acne and realise I have the short term gratification to help me keep up. So why is it easier this time round? What have I done to make it easier and just how limited is my weekend indulgence? I’ll answer those questions next time. Till then, off to my oolong tea – without sugar or milk.

* For an inspiring article by Dr. Mark Hyman on reversing what he calls diabesity, click here: http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/11/17/8-steps-to-reversing-diabesity/

And if you are interested in understanding more about the addictive nature of sugar do browse Dr. Hyman’s blog at http://www.drhyman.com or pick up your copy of the The Blood Sugar Solution. Remember for readers in Trinidad and Tobago, sometimes it’s cheaper to order from the bookstore than to ship the book in yourself!

Five Keys to Making and Keeping Your New Year Resolutions according to Jonathon

Since I know you’ll be thinking about your goals for 2012 at least after Christmas for the latest, here’s a blog post with some simple reminders that do (trust me I’ve been setting goals since I was a kid!), make a difference!

http://followjonathan.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/5-keys-to-making-and-keeping-your-new-year-resolutions/

Suppose You Were Ready To Make Remarkable Progress With Your Health and Fitness Goals?

Actually the many lifestyle changes that seem to be necessary  if we are to have optimal health can be daunting.

In fact I’ve come to the conclusion in my own life that to eat healthy either means more time food shopping and cooking OR lots of money paid out to a personal cook trained in healthy meal preparation.

Neither solution is easy and such personal cooks seem to be available only to the rich and famous at the moment!

I recommend that if you are to really move from “wanting” to make changes to actually implementing them as a permanent part of your life, you might just need to have your own little free workshop at home with the people in your life who are going to be embarking on this journey with you!

I see you booking a weekend at home with maybe a few close friends, exercise partners, your spouse, some of your siblings and any of their partners who might be interested. Then rather than playing cards and having a barbecue one of you facilitates the process recommended in the link below.

Of course I could facilitate the process for you but then you’d have to pay me a fee so hey! it’s free and within your ability. And the results will be worth it.

http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2010/09/27/goal-setting-is-a-must-for-fitness-and-fat-loss.aspx

The goal setting process is adapted from Brian Tracy’s work. Brian Tracy is a well known success trainer in the world of business and of course lifestyle change is almost as demanding as achieving business success!

– the good news though, is that you’ve got more factors under your control when you set out to change your lifestyle than you do when you set out to start a business!

Research shows that social support is integral to making successful lifestyle changes in favour of health and wellness.

If you are the Lone Ranger among your friends, family and colleagues then your battle is an uphill one.

If several of you are on board together then the ride is so much more smoother and you all get there so much faster.

To your health and happiness!