Monday, October 27, 2008

It's everywhere - WHY?

While in an airport recently, I treated myself to a bag of plain potato chips (Baked Lay's) without reading the label first. They tasted a bit odd, and sure enough, the label said that in the 32 g of chips, there were 2 grams of sugar. I threw the rest of the bag away.

There is usually sugar in barbeque and "all dressed" chips -- read the labels! -- but what on earth could be the motivation for adding sugar to plain potato chips? It just baffles me. To increase the addictive qualities of the chips is the only reason I can think of.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Catching up

Hello, my apologies for not having posted for such a long time. The sugar-free-year stil continues and is going well!

Things have been hectic in my personal life, though -- my Mum had a stroke on September 8 and I have been travelling a lot to see her (1600-km round trip each time), hence the lack of regular posts.

It was a large hemorrhagic stroke due to an aneurysm, which in turn was probably due to high blood pressure -- will research the effects of sugar on blood pressure and get back to you. My aunt died of a cerebral aneurysm, so perhaps this is a familial tendency I can head off with careful diet.

Meanwhile, I know all my friends will be sending encouragement and sympathy on behalf of Mum -- thank you in advance! She is still in hospital and will shortly move to an extended care home.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sugar-free year continues!

Still continuing sugar-free -- the only drawback (as I mentioned in the previous post), is that because my appetite is dampened compared to what it used to be, in stressful situations it tends to almost disappear.

My wonderful boss recently announced he's leaving, and the resulting uncertainty at work has caused me to lose a few pounds -- I actually have to force myself to eat. I'm hoping some vigorous exercise today coupled with a delicious dinner tonight with friends will reverse this trend!

It's interesting -- I always used to wonder when reading Dickens, Austen, etc. how the characters could lose their appetites when stressed. Modern North Americans seem to do the reverse ("comfort eating"). Now I understand, as this is exactly what happens to me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Japanese attitudes to sugar

We're currently hosting a Japanese high-school student, Takuya Kozai, for three weeks. He and his classmates, who are staying with other host families in our city, frequently (though very politely, of course) comment on the large portions and the sweetness of Western food.

For example, we took Takuya out for Chinese food, and he found the Lemon Chicken much too sweet. He and his friend Yasuhiro also laughed incredulously when I served them THREE scoops of ice cream -- this struck them as totally excessive and sent them off on a discussion of the general largeness of North American life, including enormous shopping centres, cars, etc. (Our local shopping centre is actually quite small compared to those in Vancouver!) As well, Takuya has told me a couple of times that the packed lunches I send for him are too large. . . I'm slowly learning!

A couple of times during the visit I've eaten sugar by mistake (e.g., setting hospitable example and eating Japanese dumplings with (sugary) dipping sauce, eating at a restaurant) -- the resulting increase in sugar cravings and general appetite is surprising.

On the other hand, I've discovered a pitfall -- in times of stress, my appetite tends to diminish anyway, and this effect is even more pronounced now that I'm sugar-free. Last week I was so busy and tired that without realizing it, I didn't eat enough, and almost fainted at work (to the alarm the colleague with whom I was meeting at the time).

Perhaps due to aforesaid stress/busy-ness, weight is now 136.5 lb - inching closer to high-school weight of 128. Having said that, though, I feel very strongly that body composition is much more important than weight -- better to be heavier and leaner than thin and flabby, as I am now. But I can fix that!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Want to avoid cancer? Be "as lean as possible," study advises

This site sumarizes a report released in October 2007 by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The report describes the results of five years of study, during which nine teams of scientists reviewed 7,000 studies on diet, exercise, weight and cancer.

They concluded that cancer isn't something that "just happens" -- rather, it's the long-term result of dietary influences and other factors.

Their #1 recommendation for preventing cancer? "Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight."

This means having a body mass index of between 21 and 23.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Licorice temptations

weeping-willow Flickr Photo (CC)

My recent visit to my mother was a challenge:
  • I forgot to mention about the sugar-free year, so she'd scattered bowls of licorice allsorts and jelly beans around to welcome me (so kind!)
  • She's quite forgetful and kept offering and re-offering the candy, even after I'd explained. After the tenth time, I just said, "Not right now, thanks!"
  • I was hungry from travelling!
But, I was able to resist!

Continued weight loss

poppalina Flickr Photo (CC)

Two days ago (while travelling) I weighed in at 137.5 pounds (62.4 kilos), the lowest in more than 10 years. This is exciting!

I wasn't trying to lose weight, as my starting weight of 143 pounds was fairly healthy at my height of 5'8" (1.72 m). However, I'm happy with the loss, as I have a small frame and feel it suits me.

According to this chart, which references frame size, I'm now solidly in the "weight with lowest mortality rate" slot -- but before the SFY started, I was slightly above.

Hmmm, maybe my starting weight wasn't so healthy after all.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Problem with energy levels

It's not the usual problem experienced by many people my age -- too little energy -- my "problem" is just the reverse! Energy to BURN, a strong urge move, cravings for a sprint or a nice long walk . . . crazy! And so wonderful.

A couple of times last week at work, I just had to DO something -- hid in the corridor next to my office and did a bunch of jumping jacks, garnering funny looks from my co-workers. Then yesterday it was lunges around the parking lot and fast walks up and down a small hill while waiting for my son at his school.

I remember wondering as a child how adults could just SIT all the time -- it's great to be rediscovering those feelings, and my long-lost energy, at age 47.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Disappearing appetite, shrinking waistline

Over the past few days, I've noticed a marked decrease in appetite. I believe any hunger now I feel signals a genuine need for food, rather than the "pseudo-hunger" induced by sugar highs and lows.

I'm not trying to lose weight, and wouldn't want to go below my high-school weight of 128 pounds, but I have now lost about 4.5 pounds (in 13 days) -- current weight is now 138.5. My guess is that I'll gradually return to that high-school weight and settle there.

I've also noticed that many fruits, such as apples or ripe bananas, now seem too sweet -- instead, I'm craving vegetables -- how weird is that? At work I had a ripe pear which was so cloyngly sweet that I had to eat it very slowly over about an hour.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A feeling of calm

It's now May 19 and I've been successfully avoiding sugar for more than a week. It just gets easier as the days go by.

The difficult spots are more social than physiological -- a kind friend offers me a chocolate mint to cheer me up when I'm missing my son (he's away at boarding school); another friend has made margaritas to welcome us to her dinner party, and I rudely demand "Is there sugar in that?" However, I think I've managed to avoid seriously hurting any feelings so far! (Thanks for your patience, everyone!)

There's also an odd new feeling of peacefulness -- can avoiding sugar really make us calmer?

Medline has this to say re: children and sugar (I imagine it applies to adults too): "Refined (processed) sugars may have some effect on children's activity. Because refined sugars and carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly, they produce rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels. This might trigger adrenaline and make a child more active. Sometimes, falling adrenaline levels bring on a period of decreased activity."

However, a paper from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) references a meta-analysis of 23 studies conducted over 12 years, concluding, "there is little objective evidence to suggest that sugar significantly alters the behaviour or cognitive performance of children." Hmmm.

A book I've ordered seems to support the sugar/hyperactivity view: "Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival," by Bent Formby and T.S. Wiley. One chapter's entitled "It is all in your head: No sleep and too much sugar make you go crazy." I heard about this book through Modern Forager's excellent blog by Scott Kustes and Greg Davis -- well worth a visit!

Check back for updates on the putative sugar/stress connection once I've read Lights Out!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vital statistics

Physical starting point:
  • 143 pounds / 64.8 kg
  • 5'8" / 1.72 metres
  • Body fat: Approx 32%

Physical changes so far:
  • Reduced thirst (not surprising when you realize that each gram of carbs attracts 4 grams of water)
  • Increased, er, peeing (same reason as above -- body is dumping extra water weight)
  • Starting on day 2, dramatically decreased appetite -- hunger seems "real," a trustworthy request for nourishment, rather than a craving unrelated to my body's real needs
  • Increased ability to tolerate hunger
  • Slightly drier skin -- yayy! (I've had acne and extremely oily skin since age 13. Hate, hate, hate it.)

My rules for the year:
  • Fresh fruit is OK
  • Dried fruit's fine too, but not to excess -- i.e., a small handful of raisins or dried cherries is OK, but no more. Craisins, candied ginger or any dried fruit with added sugar are verboten. (Did you know Craisins are sprayed with a sugar mixture?)
  • Obviously, no candies, desserts, ice cream, etc.
  • No processed foods with sugar as a listed ingredient. Exception: Cases such as the President's Choice mayonnaise I ate last night, which mysteriously includes sugar near the end of the ingredient list, but also states "Sugars: 0g" and "Carbs:0g.") I felt this was fine.

Temptations already!

Happy mother's day!

My resolution was tested this morning when my dear husband gave me two bars of high-quality 85% chocolate as a Mother's Day gift. So kind! Unfortunately, these contain sugar -- the only kind I can eat now is the 99% type, such as Lindt's Excellence Noirissime.

I told him I had started the sugar-free year (should have thought to mention this before Mother's Day) -- he was very understanding and found the receipt so I could exchange the bars.

This brings me to a major stumbling block for many people when making a dietary change -- the fear of hurting others' feelings. How can we possibly turn down those lovingly home-baked brownies (an old family recipe!)?

I believe that all true friends or loving family members will understand. In my initial sugar-free challenge (see previous post), I was surprised by how supportive and understanding everyone was--this barrier really existed in my own mind.

I encountered only one mildly negative response -- a generous friend expressed disappointment that I declined some cake, repeating, "But it just has a little sugar in it!" My response: "It's like offering an alcoholic a small drink!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sugar-free year starts!

Previously, I stopped eating sugar from November 7, 2007 to mid-January 2008, mainly as a way of keeping a dear brother in my thoughts when he was undergoing a difficult situation.

Each time I declined sugar, I thought of him -- kind of a silly connection, perhaps, but it worked. I had never been able to break the sugar addiction for my own sake, but somehow I was able to do it for him.

Then in January his situation resolved safely, the entire family breathed a sigh of relief, and I leapt back into sucrose-land. Bring on the chocolate truffles! Three months later, I'm puffy, spotty, and always wondering where my next sugar hit is coming from. Enough!

I hope that this blog will keep me on track with attempt #2, and that I'll be able to encounter/support others with similar goals.

Other motivations:
  • Health/vanity/curiousity -- when I gave up sugar for two months, I noticed significantly clearer skin, reduced appetite, and more energy. What will the effects be over the longer term?
  • Personal challenge -- will I have the discipline to achieve this?
Wish me luck!