Thursday, August 15, 2013

8:48 PM
Passing on a Sweet Tooth
So in my last post I discussed my near-term resolution to work out less, but more intensely and efficiently. This means two things.

(1) My runs, albeit much shorter, are way more difficult than they typically are. I ran three miles on Tuesday and again today. Gone is the relaxing, mind-clearing hour or so I used to spend running, thinking, and spacing. In its place is 20+ minutes of gasping, heart pounding, all I can hear is my breathing effort. Woof!

(2) I am not starving all the time, which is giving me the focus and ability to make some changes to my diet - primarily in the form of reducing (not eliminating) my refined sugar intake.

This focus on sugar comes on the heels of multiple encounters with the issue over the last several months. This is not unlike my recent approach to switching to a standing desk. First I read about the issue, then I talked to friends about it, then I thought about it some more, and then I approached it in a way that made sense for me, and that will be sustainable and effective in the long-term.

So back to sugar...

Aside from the basic knowledge that sugar, like all junk food, was better avoided, I had never really paid much mind to it. In fact, considering my huge sweet tooth and propensity for devouring brownies and chocolate chip cookies, I was pretty laid back about how much sugar I ate. Other than the aforementioned sweet tooth, I have always been a generally healthy eater (90% organic, vegetarian, etc.) and have relied on that and regular exercise to maintain my weight.

The issue started to percolate for me when in 2011 I read the provocative article Is Sugar Toxic? The basic point made in the article is that excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. ... sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

This was the first of many articles I read on the subject. Then I started talking to friends. Two friends have recently lost 10 to 20 pounds over the course of a couple of months, simply by changing their dietary habits. Another has lost over 60 pounds, primarily by eliminating sugar from her diet. In general, we all know that in order to maintain a healthy weight, it is roughly 80% about your diet and 20% about exercise, so it made sense that they were seeing these sorts of benefits from reducing specifically their sugar/empty calorie consumption.

Then I started focusing my own habits, which are by no means exemplary. For example, last week while on vacation, I ate an ENTIRE box of almond chocolate chip cookies, and this was not my only treat. As this was not exactly an unusual occurrence, I thought nothing much of it until my husband started poking around our pantry looking for a snack and asked me where the cookies were. When I told them I had eaten them ALL he stared at me incredulously. I got the distinct sense that such behavior was perhaps a wee bit this side of normal. 

To test that theory I told the story to my climbing partner. She was quietly non committal. I asked her if she had ever done something like eat an entire package of cookies on her own. She vaguely responded I am sure that I might have once. I remain entirely unconvinced.

Clearly, I have something I can work on. 

At 5'8" and 130ish pounds, I am not really trying to lose weight. But if I am going reduce how much I exercise, then I will need to eat less high-calorie, high-sugar content food if I want to maintain my weight. Because life is short, I am not going to eliminate refined sugar entirely, but since last Sunday I have been taking steps to reduce my sugar intake.

This is what my lower-refined-sugar-intake week it has looked like so far:

Sunday: Ate two bites of the cookie my husband brought home for me
Monday: Ate granola for a sweet fix
Tuesday: Left the cookie that came with my box lunch untouched; ate figs to curb my post-dinner craving
Wednesday: Ate two bites of chocolate cake at my son's Birthday party (brutal timing!)
Thursday: Ate extra fruit salad after lunch instead of the provided dessert, but when I got home I did have two bites of lemon tart and one bite of chocolate cake (darn leftovers!); one granola bar

So I haven't been perfect and I certainly haven't gone cold turkey, but I am taking steps in the right direction. I am hoping once I do this long enough I will stop having that craving for sweets that I currently have after finishing a meal. Also, if I am successful at it, then perhaps the Sweet Tooth Fairy will leave me a special present under my pillow :)

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