Most of you know that I gave up sugar about a week before Lent. It wasn't for Lent at first. At first it was because I was sick and tired of having no self-control when it came to sweets. I held fast through Lent and partook of processed sugar throughout the week following Easter. This re-iterated my need to set limits and I put myself back on the no-sugar wagon and I plan to stay on this wagon except for a handful of special occasions throughout the year.
I honestly thought that I would crave sweets so much that I would need to find natural sweetener substitutes to replace the sweets I was used to. I have been pleasantly surprised in this area. I haven't been making cookies that use honey or desserts that call for agave nectar, etc. I have been eating granola made with honey and I have been using pure maple syrup when we make waffles. That's it. So, I've come to realize that cutting out sugar has really dampened my need for all things sweet. What a nice surprise.
Initially, I didn't notice any physical changes. My mood seemed more peaceful, though, and I enjoyed the lack of inner turmoil over how many cookies I should allow myself in a sitting (2? 12? 2? 12?). I did lose 5 pounds, but I'm still nursing Miriam and exercising a little bit, so the weight loss could be related to those things. Now that it's been over two months, I've noticed two other interesting things.
First, I have had no trouble (with the exception of one night) with insomnia since going off sugar. Insomnia wasn't a huge problem for me, but at least once a week it would take me an hour or more to fall asleep at night or to fall back asleep after nursing Miriam in the middle of the night. I have not missed that. The other major change I have noticed is that I have had no "episodes" (let's call them) that have found me running to the bathroom. My doctor, just as recently as this fall diagnosed me with having an irritable colon. I was having major "episodes" (with terrible cramping) once or twice a week. Since cutting our sugar, I've had ONE episode in two months. Do you want to know when that episode was? During the week right after Easter when I was eating processed sugar. Yes, indeed. I haven't missed that either.
My cousin (Thank you, Conrad.) lent me his copy of Sugar Blues by William Duffy. It's an interesting read. It starts out with Duffy telling about his history with sugar. I love reading people's stories and this was one of my favorite parts of this book. He describes his relationship with sugar during his growing up years- a very unhealthy one-particularly with soda and sweets. As a young adult he developed some major health problems that repeatedly sent him to the doctor but the doctors were unable to find anything wrong with him/couldn't explain the cause of his ailments. Eventually, he read something that talked about sugar being a poison and he decided to go off sugar cold turkey. Keep in mind he was a hard core sugar addict. In his own words...
"I threw all the sugar out of my kitchen. Then I threw out everything that had sugar in it, cereals and canned fruit, soups and bread...I was shocked to find the shelves were soon empty...I began eating nothing but whole grains and vegetables.
In about forty-eight hours I was in total agony, overcome with nausea, with a crashing migraine...I had it very rough for about twenty-four hours, but the morning after was a revelation. I went to sleep with exhaustion, sweating and tremors. I woke up feeling reborn. Grains and vegetables tasted like gifts from the gods.
The next few days brought a succession of wonders. My rear stopped bleeding [he had hemorrhoids], so did my gums. My skin began to clear up and had a totally different texture when I washed. I discovered bones in my hands and feet that had been buried under bloat. I bounced out of bed at strange hours in the early morning, raring to go. My head seemed to be working again...My shirts were too big. So were my shoes. One morning while shaving I discovered I had a jaw.
To make a long, happy story short, I dropped from 205 pounds to a neat 135 in five months and ended up with a new body , a new head, a new life...That was in the 1960's [the book was written in 1975]. Since then I have been sugar free. I haven't been near a doctor, a hospital, a pill, or a shot in all that time. I haven't touched as much as an aspirin."
I included this rather long quote not to convince you that if you give up sugar the same thing will happen to you, but to show where his passion and interest in this subject comes from. He's not a doctor. He's just someone who changed his life by cutting out sugar, researched like crazy to learn what he could, and put his findings into a book for people like us to read.
The book goes on to give an extensive history of sugar and it's impact on early civilizations. Those sections were pretty heavy and a bit too much detail for me. Beyond those chapters was some even more interesting stuff. Here are some tidbits about sugar I gleaned from Duffy's book that I would like to share.
~ Processed sugar is like refined flour and "polished" (white) rice in that part of the plant has been removed (fiber), leaving only part of the complete grain or cane.
~ "Removal of natural vegetable fiber produces tooth decay, disease of the gums, stomach trouble, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease. Removal of proteins causes peptic ulcers."
~ "Man-refined sugar is eight times as concentrated as refined flour, and eight times as unnatural...It's the unnaturalness that deceives the tongue and appetite, leading to over consumption. Who would eat 2 1/2 pounds of sugar beets a day? Yet the equivalent in refined sugar is a mere 5 ounces. Over consumption produces diabetes, obesity, and coronary thrombosis among other things."
~ Raw sugar and brown sugar are not healthier. "All are made the same way- molasses is added to refined sugar."
~ We joke about people being sugar addicts, but the definition of addiction is "persistent, compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful" (Merriam Webster). Hm. Does it sound like anyone you know? (Other than me, of course.)
~ During the very early days when refined sugar was first used, it was doled out in pinches. Just like cocaine.
~ The biggest sugar customer in the U.S. is the food processing industry. Not surprising. The second largest customer? Can you guess? Can you? The tobacco industry. Think on that one.
~ After cutting out sugar, some people experience less of a need to use insect sprays and many women experience less painful menstrual cramps.
A few tips from Duffy on cutting out sugar:
~ If you can, go cold turkey, removing all sugar from your house (read labels- it's in almost everything).
~ If you need to, you can wean yourself off processed sugars by using natural substitutes like honey.
~ "The more vegetable protein used in place of animal protein, the easier it becomes to forget about sugar, pastries and such."
In case you're wondering, I haven't imposed my sugar avoidance on the rest of my family. Well, except that I no longer make sweets just for them. I will take a dessert to a potluck or someone's house. I just don't eat any of it. I still make them baked oatmeal (I eat granola) and use some jam in their yogurt and in PB&J.
While I haven't felt the need to re-create many desserts using natural sugars, I have had great success adapting a couple salad dressing recipes that I hope to share with you soon. Cutting back wherever you can seems to me to be a very smart move.