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Sugar Non-Abstinence

on June 26, 2013

I know people who abstain as much as possible from sugars.  They don’t eat any candy or sweet baked goods.  They don’t cook with white or brown sugar or add it to any drinks.  I’ve seen them pick up a product at the supermarket, read the label and then put it back on the shelf if sugar is in the first five ingredients.  According to an article I read today on the website of the Harvard School of Public Health (Click here to read), sugar lurks in our foods under many names so when reading a label it’s good to look for the phrase “added sugars”.  Nutritionists differentiate between the sugars that exist naturally in foods such as milk or fruit, and others including:

  • Agave nectar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup

That’s a hell of a list!

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m a sugar addict, but I like sweets.  Hand to God, I accepted a long time ago that I would never be abstinent if I had to give up sugar.  Even if I’d eventually developed full blown, Type I diabetes, I don’t know if I could have been strong and resolved enough to never have sugar.  Hell, maybe I am addicted.  Maybe this is my version of being a dry drunk – saying I’m on plan but still having sugar here and there.

Honestly, I get in bouts where I want chocolate or crave a cupcake, but I honestly am much better about these and other sugary foods than I used to be.  Really dissecting this, I don’t think that I’m in denial.  I’ve come to believe that, like with many other things, awareness and moderation are key.  I’m trying to develop an action plan.  It’s still in rough draft form, but here are some thoughts.

1) I accept that I do not have the resolve and fortitude or the desire to completely give up cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc.  However, I eat them rarely and do not overdo the portions.

2) I can be more aware of the added sugars that are included in many of the foods that I eat and make cut backs.  If an added sugar is listed in the first four ingredients, I will look for an alternative to that product.

3) Read labels, read labels, read labels.  I could do a blog post just on this topic.  Pre-surgery, when I read a label I was usually looking for products that I don’t like such as mushrooms.  Now I look at labels much more frequently than ever before.  Last time at the supermarket, my attention was drawn to a frozen food product marketed under the name and image of the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  I love her show and thought, “Wow, this might be good”.  I picked up the product and the label info didn’t render the product automatically horrific, i.e. it was about in nutritional quality middle of that sort of “gourmet” frozen prepared choices.  Then I picked up another bag by a different manufacturer, glanced at the label and immediately put it back on the frozen shelf.  It had about 50% more calories, fat, and sodium.

Sadly, it’s a product that I’ve purchased and consumed in the past.  Even more sadly, I believe I ate the whole kit and caboodle in one meal even though it held a couple of servings.  But that was then (pre-wls), this is now.  I walked away from the section without buying anything, even the Contessa’s product.  I’m sure hers would taste good but, well, it had mushrooms and I’d really rather make my meals fresh these days as often as possible.

Back to the plan draft.

4) Think before I buy.  Think again before I eat.  After I’ve looked at an item and read the label, if it doesn’t meet the guidelines I’ve set for products with added sugar, but I still think I want it, I will really think about it.  How badly do I want it?  Is it a strong want, an emotional want, or a flashback to compulsive behavior where I only want it because I just then happened to see it?  Yes, I really do have these kinds of conversations with myself in my head while I work through the process.  If it makes it into my basket at that point, I still have until I check out to change my mind about buying it.  If it makes it all of the way home, I can still think before I actually eat it.

One thing that is really working for me when I hit these challenges is to think of alternatives.  I used that technique the other day when I was battling the urge to buy a package of brownie mini-bites.  In that instant of decision making, I really, really, really wanted the chocolate brownies, but I asked myself, “What could you eat instead that would be a better choice?”  I remembered that I had low calorie, fat-free chocolate pudding at home.  I made a deal with myself to eat pudding instead of brownies and that got me past the urge.

So, that’s the draft plan at the moment.  I can probably add to it as I think on this some more.  The bottom line for me is that I am aware that don’t want to completely give up sugar.  I am equally aware that I want to achieve peaceful, co-existence with it, i.e. have it occasionally in ways that I truly enjoy but not eat it to the point that it compromises my program, my weight-loss journey and my health.  Sometimes it helps to think about my brother.  He is one of the healthiest, if not the healthiest, eaters that I know.  Even he sometimes eats ice cream and other foods with sugar.

It can be done, even if one is a recovering compulsive binge-eater.

2 responses to “Sugar Non-Abstinence

  1. BarbN says:

    I like your plan. I think it is better to have a small amount of something every once in awhile than to deny yourself and deny yourself until you break down and binge. Also, it is a little scary how much sugar is in processed foods! that is a long list of different kinds of sugars.

  2. Skye says:

    Sugar became a problem for me about 20 years ago or so and has been an ongoing one since. I have been getting it under control over the past few months and even though I live in the House of Sugar, I don’t eat as much as I could. And I’ve still lost weight, so I must be doing something right. Trying to turn it from comfort into a simple pleasure is difficult, but I am working on it.

    Your plan sounds excellent and doable. I think that giving so much though to your food choices and your relationship to those choices is such a beneficial, growing sort of activity. You are doing great work.

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