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!