As I wrestled with my new found old habits, I went grocery shopping to see if I could muster passing through the sweet aisle and not reach for anything that my mouth requested. At the grocery store, I negotiated with myself, telling myself that if I selected a sugar treat, I needed to be involved in making the sweet myself. With one exception: I can have store bought ice cream. After aiming to reach an agreement, I took a break from my attempt to break away from my old habits and decided to be cooled down by a bowl of Hadgeen Daaz Rocky Road.
A few days later, I took a teaspoon and measured the actual amount of sugar I was ingested within 24 hour time frame: a white chocolate mocha and lemon pound cake for breakfast, two big chewy semisweet chocolate cookies during lunch, and a bowl of ice cream right after dinner. The SMALL Teaspoons of sugar equated to guess what amount?
|Added sugar intake
|| Grams of sugar
|White chocolate mocha
|Lemon pound cake
|Bowl of ice cream
|Convert grams to teaspoons
Those teaspoons equated to nearly a cup of sugar. Wow, would I drink a cup of sugar? Yes, I would, that’s what I had been doing. OK, now that I really see that I had been consuming 1 cup of sugar, would I still do it? Well, I haven’t stopped. Why haven’t I stopped? Taste, lack of knowledge, over bombardment of accessible products within reach. And one more, processed foods tend to be cheaper than the wholesome ones. What does this mean to me? Does that mean health and wellness comes second? If I must be honest, that’s the way I have been living with my sugar habits.
No, not true, I always believed in “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Why am I having a hard time with this? Is my taste that important that I just can’t even try to make even small modifications? My small addictions to sugar are now forcing me to questioning all my life taste habits. These small addictions are leaving holes in my teeth. How hard do I really have to work off that cookie? A pound just shows up on me now days. How many calories are in sugar? The base measure used to determine calories is this formula: for 1 teaspoon of sugar, there are 16 calories, but if it is 2 teaspoons or more, you may want to refer here: http://www.foodpyramid.com/how-many-calories-in-a-teaspoon-of-sugar/ For a more precise estimate amount of your calories, as this website accounts for the type of teaspoon used and whether the amount used is a heaping teaspoon or not.
To keep the math simple, the calculations for my sugar intake will be based on the following: 1 teaspoon equals 4 grams of sugar and 1 teaspoon equals 16 calories. Going back to my example, if I were to have a glass of juice, which contains 36 grams of sugar, I would have to work off 144 calories. There are 9 teaspoons of sugar in 36 grams of sugar, 9 x 16 = 144). This means, I would have to walk 2.5 miles per hour on a firm surface for 1 hour to burn 136 calories or walk 3.0 miles per hour at a moderate pace to burn 156 calories. This means I would have to swim leisurely for 34 minutes to burn 146 calories. (I used exercise calorie converters to get me these numbers based on a few questions that they ask you: gender, what activity, and your weight).
I was happy that I found a few tips to battle my cravings. I even received a bigger tip from the depths of the Valley of Craves as I kept falling down and crawling up through the dark crevices. What I learned was that my sugar crave stemmed from wanting to celebrate life… celebrate life during happy times and by wanting to avoid stress.
I remember just about every celebration I have had to attend to date, the last course ended with one main key ingredient in it: sugar. Birthdays, holiday parties, friends going away parties, passing a test, work successes, family get-togethers, and other life situations have been all celebrated with big spoons or little spoons of sugar. I found that I was not the only one who enjoyed it this way. People around the world celebrated it just like me. Take any celebrations from North America to South America, Asia to Australia; sugar is one of the main ingredients in all of the desserts. In the US, some of our popular desserts are: apple pie, ice cream, cheesecake, and the iconic chocolate chip cookies. Popular desserts in Argentina (South America): churros with chocolate drizzling or on the side to dip. Popular desserts in India (Asia): milk based sweet desserts such as rice pudding and in Australia: chocolate cake.
All throughout my changes and achievements, sugar has been there for me. This rescuer has been kind of a happy identity, a positive reinforcement from the past and I didn’t want to let that go. I didn’t want to sever ties from the good memories of the past. It was wrapped in too much love, like baking animal and heart shaped cookies with friends and ex boyfriends, making brownies with my siblings, or even just licking the “best ice cream in the country” on a hot Texas day.
As I grow older I still want those sweet memories to continue to be a part of my life. Actually, come to think of it, sugar was equal in helping me through the bad times too. Like when I had a hard teacher for a semester, after class, I would grab the Little Debbie Brownie packs to console me unknowingly. Even now, when I am under stress, something just triggers me to seek the comfort of sugary food. Sometimes, there are intense projects I am working on, and I hear the voices of demands from every direction. I work through that by comforting myself. To be fed something sweet under this high pressure with the motion of sucking, chewing, biting, licking, or crunching, all seems to be a liberating motion. Digging deeper into my world of sweets has helped me understand my history with sugar and I am now clarifying my relationship with sugar. Now, I would like to incorporate sugar in my life with better health habits. It is what I am trying to tell myself, but it appears I am having a hard time sticking to it as of yet.
In scrutinizing my habit more closely, I have learned how I unconsciously set myself up to eat more sugar. After half of a brownie is eaten, sometimes the remaining was left open for the next hour or so in the open a few feet away. The aroma of the baking product invaded my nose and smothered my head. Unsuspectingly, my hand just reached for the other half and placed the sweet thing in my mouth, even though I did not truly want it. A KIND NOTE TO MYSELF: Remember, once you finish eating to remove the aromatic food away from the area.
Sometimes, I deliberately paired foods in a way that I reached for sugar as a result of eating certain kinds of food. When spicy foods were eaten, knowing a sweet pudding or cake was waiting for me after the meal, made the lunch or dinner even far more enjoyable. When greasy foods were eaten, a sugary soda was preferred to wash the grease down. Weekend morning lattes always made me crave for almond croissant and donuts and scones. A fine Italian meal could only be finished with the ultimate tiramisu. A nice warm sandwich must be served with chocolate chip cookies or brownies afterwards. Until now, these situations were not accounted for beforehand, my awareness helped me to be conscious in how I was pairing these foods.
Drinking water or lemon water (drink lemon water with a straw to prevent acid erosion on enamel) before the meal helped reduce the excessive need to consume the entire dessert or treat. Also, simply, going down one notch on the spicy selection helped with the intensity of the strong crave for sweets.
Another habit I did not know I had and then tried to conquer once I understood was that I ate sugar to reward me to keep awake at night. Some nights when I was staying awake late at night to do work projects and school projects, I just wanted to eat. I wanted to eat not because I was hungry but because I felt I needed something to munch on. The idea of having a sweet dessert once I finish my work kept me going. If I couldn’t wait until my project was done, I would take a break. When I took a break, I would pace around in the kitchen to find something sweet. Usually, the freezer was the best place to go at night as there were all types of ice creams stacked: drumsticks, brownie ice cream bars, (I think they discontinued this product), Snickers ice cream bars, and Rocky Road Ice Cream. I would let myself eat whatever I want after I finished my project or between breaks.
Speaking of ice cream, I wanted to say thank you very much to the Nestle Sundae Cone as it is one of best ice cream inventions. It contains nuts, chocolate, vanilla. It can hold all of that own its own, so you don’t make a mess. And as you are about to finish this delicious snack, another treasure surfaces up, way at the bottom, which is a hard chocolate treat. This is exactly why I don’t think I can totally cut off the sugar from my life. I am happy that my goal right now is to reduce added sugar. Anyway, to conquer that late night snacking, a sugar curfew was placed.
Additionally, when I skipped meals, usually due to being busy, I compensated it by eating sugary junk. “I have no time for lunch so I will eat whatever is available” was an acceptable excuse to reach for a sweet pastry. When you are that hungry, do you really stop to care about nutrition or calories? To mitigate the misdeed, I used to console myself by asking, doesn’t anybody count the psychological benefits of sugar?” Why should that be neglected? Psychological benefits do not translate its weight worthy enough to be counted when you are paying for a $900 crown after insurance pitches in or your favorite casual pants are just a little too tight because you are were too busy not to eat right.
In spite of my discouragement, I continued on with my experiments. Next I tried to trade bad sugar for good sugar (a fruit or fruits for a cookie); the results showed that I was not quite ready for that trade.
Then another idea came about: combine good and bad sugar by having a cookie and handful of fruit at the same time. Genius, it seemed to be the best of both worlds! I gave up the bad half of the empty nutrition item and ate a portion of the good half. I felt full faster and nutritionally grateful. For the first few days, my combination approach went well. Most days it did not go so well because I did not meet my own expectation. I initially thought I would leave something on the plate but instead I ate everything. I ate the half of a cookie that I should have thrown away which meant I was dipping the good and the bad, which proved this to be a twisted strategy.
Shortly after, I tried having sweets only one time a day, either in the morning or in the late afternoons. I tried to eliminate the habit of having sweets at night. I reminded myself that it did not meant that I could not have more than one cookie. All I was trying to do was reduce the frequency from eating added sugar 3 different times with in 24 hours to one time of added sugar sweets per day. I also had a conversation with myself, where I told myself that I could not cheat or go overboard by having 10 cookies at one setting. Having one designated time, allowed me to see what I was consuming and how much of the added sugar I was taking.
Because the one time per day sweet was working better than any of my other strategies, I decided to have sweets in the morning. I had one pumpkin scone (sweet pastry) and skipped any cookies or cake for the rest of the day (unless I was having a bad day). Moving the sweet time to daytime only made me feel like I was making some progress. I I felt I worked out a few of those calories in between all my chores so it felt like guilty free sugar. That did not last too long; I liked my desserts later at night far more than just occasionally.
Did you know that it is imperative to control urges when you are trying to stop an addictive habit? How the heck do you know what controls your urges? What triggers your urges? A few good replacements along the way to curb my urges were found through trial and error. Temporarily replacing the chocolate chip cookies with roasted nuts for snacks resulted in some success even if it meant enduring this switch only one day during the seven-day week. Doubtful that this incremental change would last long, an inspirational quote bestowed itself with this saying: “The journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step.” While the quote gave me some boost, I can’t resist asking, what does inspiration know about hard work? In any case, I want to be in a position where I could say, the journey of no added or refined sugar a day started with eliminating one teaspoon a day. At this minute, that is quite an ambitious feat! One day without sugar for me at this time feels like 1000 days without sleep. Another way to curb the sugar urge: eat morning proteins. The Internet sugar recovery sites advised to start with a protein at the beginning of the day, as this would help you feel full and lessen the sugar crave. Sometimes this worked, but all it took was a long, stressful day to, say, please somebody pass me the sugar! Guess what, I know where they keep the best desserts in the city. I will walk a mile to get there and wait in line for 30 minutes to get that. Might I remind you, stress is a powerful motivator; so is sugar. Proteins will have to work a little harder to beat sweets for me. “You little backslider!” said the sugar baby.
Eat more fruits, eat more fruits and eat more fruits. That advice helped reduced my tiny craves but not my strong ones.
Read the labels on the back of the box, on the individual bar, the can however the food is packaged or dressed up in. Read the numbers if you bought them yourself or even it was given to you for free. The numbers I read on the label were stored in my head and popped up unexpectedly which helped me build awareness and surprisingly re-think my choices. Learning the numbers associated with sugar, sodium, and fat nutrition labels on some of the products provided a rude awakening. Reading it over and over, I had a chance to process and decide what I wanted to bring home. I have had to put back many items on the shelves because I was surprised to see the content of sugar in the product, even when front of the package was labeled as pure or natural. Some examples of these type of products were and are are “healthy snacks” that are loaded with sugar were like the granola snacks and “healthy” cereals, and frozen foods.
After 5 days, I felt edgy, especially when I saw people eating certain sweets as they passed by me at an eatery. Even when I was not feeling in a deprived state, sweets and pastries had a lingering aroma that I could detect. The aroma got locked in my head. Like a bear looking for honey, I kept looking for my honey pot or a cookie pot. I wanted to alienate myself from all the lingering aromas and from the people who kept eating all the foods in front of me. I wanted to take a break from cutting off my loves. I wanted to scream for taking on such a huge task. I wanted to break my word to myself and say, “Quit.” However, I made a commitment to myself and I am determined to keep it. Just couple of more days, a full week in 2 more days.
Just wanting to give up, terminate this project now was the feeling that I kept getting every waking minute. I am not going to, I kept telling myself. However, it occurred to me that I want to be happy too going forward.
I did meet my goal of one week without added sugar, but my plan definitely needed revision. I needed to learn to work with having sugar in my life, not cutting it out entirely at this time.
What I learned from this short distress was that I felt if I were not eating sugar or did not have access to it, there was something missing. I felt I could not truly celebrate life; I could not join in on the fun. There was a little void. It crept up without my permission, and sometimes I went to philosophical ends like, “Isn’t one of the purpose of life is to enjoy what you eat?”
I tried again to slowly remove my favorite sugary foods, now allowing some room for mistakes. This time, I paid more attention to my lingering craving. The awful part of the craving would sometimes last minutes, but most times lasted hours. Truthfully, it lasted until I fed the relentless crave with exactly what I had in mind. If I desired for a chocolate chip cookie, and I settled for the most decadent ice cream, it would not be enough to satisfy the distinctive chocolate chip cookie crave. (You know the ice cream satisfies the tongue with something smooth and sweet and cold. The cookie satisfies the crave with a chewy gooey crunch). I can go to bed and wake up the next day and still have this gnawing to burning crave the next day.
I can be sitting on the bus or talking to people and this nice picture of round golden brown colored cookie with a chewy middle and cute dark brown chocolate chips all over would pop up when the intense crave hits. I can actually inhale the distinctive smell, the buttery sweet scent waiting to be bitten. My body just tortures me until I get that chunk of chip in my mouth. Not just a bite, but a whole scrumptious cookie, where the savory bits are sunken into your teeth, wrapped all around your tongue with a good satisfying swallow.
Acknowledging few of my failures with not being able to completely remove sugar, I tried to reduce my sugar intake by being aware of what I used sugar for. As it turned out, I started with sugar in the morning for coffee: 1 cup of black coffee with approximately 3 tablespoons or 9 teaspoons of sugar.
The math revealed that 1 teaspoon contains 4 grams of sugar. 9 teaspoons equates to 36 grams of sugar. Today, I had my coffee with 2 slices of 9 grain bread which contained 8 grams of sugar. Pairing with the toast, I drank a glass of store bought orange juice, which equaled 24 grams of sugar. The same day, I decided to have a pre-lunch cookie. This small cookie contained at 10 grams of sugar. If the cookie was any smaller, it would be about the size of a quarter. My lunch included 1 boiled egg and a sandwich, and some chips which equaled approximately 10 gram of sugar. This totaled 88 grams of sugar or 22 teaspoons full of sugar. Discouraged, I had gone for dinner and did not count my grams of sugar because I had already exceeded the recommended grams of sugar for the day.
To continue to part 7 Sugar experiments and curbing the sugar urges click here
First, I asked myself what I was doing well. For starters, I had already been educating myself on what contains high fructose corn syrup and have eliminated many of those foods in my home. I was selective about mostly eating sugar foods that I truly enjoy and not the ones that were just mediocre to my taste. I could pass through the grocery store aisles and say no, no, no, to many of those sugary treats and to added sugar foods that was packaged be visually appealing.
What I still had to work on?
- Once bitten into something that proved to be enjoyable to my taste, it was really hard for me to stop eating the divine delight. Going back for seconds, thirds, and Uh- oh! fourths occurred as a common theme (Ouch)!
- While I walked through the grocery aisles and can pass on most foods, there were a handful of sweet nourishments (can I call it that) that really made it difficult for me not to go home without it. Three of those foods turned out to be the chocolate chips cookies, a certain brand of brownies, and a few brands of vanilla bean, rocky road, and peanut butter ice cream. What was worrisome was that sometimes in one setting, my sugar consumption exceeded the recommended monthly intake.
What I did not know that I had to work on?
- I devoured more sugar than I thought I did when I was under stress. It was used as a crutch, a rescuer, a quick escape, a pause from the day, and a way to get through.
- I am a taster. I like to try most goodies. If I liked any new goodies, I took myself shopping and would buy a good supply of those and keep them stored in a cabinet.
- Lastly, what I knew but did not really hear or let sink in: How sugar can really affect health?
Eating lots of sugar can raise insulin levels. Your body is going into sugar highs which means your pancreas has to work hard. Over the long term, this is not good news for the pancreas, the pancreas gets worn out and is not able to release the insulin hormone and can put you at risk for developing diabetes. In addition, most sugar foods I eat are known as “junk” foods and are mixed with butter and oil, and the combination of these ingredients on a regular basis can lead to cardiac issues and obesity.
Knowing my new strengths, I decided to quit eating foods containing added sugar cold turkey. A day later, my mouth ached for even mediocre sweets. I wanted to suck on peanut coated and milk chocolate covered almonds even if it tasted unexceptional. I wanted to drink sweet bottled juices, even though I prefer fresh squeezed.
I wanted a bite, just a small bite of that rich, cold chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. I wanted to take the big slice of carrot cake home, and maybe, just eat the frosting on the German chocolate cake, even though I hardly desired frosting alone. Even foods that I don’t normally have cravings for appealed to me. I hungered and I wanted to just inhale whatever that was near me. Who cares about taste? Who cares about labels? My cranky and exhausted body and mind re-examined my purpose of this undertaking. During my cold turkey transition, my deprived state would make me look further. Sometimes, to the point, I felt I was kind of asking for permission to eat a cookie. I did this by asking co-workers, “Do you think eating a cookie a day is bad?” Some would laugh say, “Ahh No! I eat a chocolate bar a day, and I am 55. That is one thing I enjoy. There is nothing wrong with that.” One lady told me that her mom could easily go without sugar for years. Years, I could not think of that time span in my head. Barely three days without added sugar, and fighting to keep my hands off the sugar cabinet. Come to think of it, even a stale cookie may be not so bad. A STALE cookie. EEEW (gross)! My, have I gone mad?
To distract myself on the weekend, I went to the park. I was sitting in the park on the green grass on a glorious sunny day, eating my juicy bite sized mango squares from my Pyrex container.
The aroma of the mango was not only irresistible to me but also to the wasp that was buzzing around my head, around my arm, around my succulent fruit. I placed the dark blue lid on the glass bowl because I hoped to eat without the company of noisy stingers.
Suddenly it was not interested in me, and it buzzed away.
But I did see something else in the sky, a little ruby chested bird glittering and fluttering its wings, hovered right over me for few seconds and bolted away faster than lightning.
Hummingbird, I thought, “What do you do all day?”
I presumed eat or drink nectar. Nectar has sweet flavor like sugar but it comes directly from the plant, way more phenomenal than processed sugar. There it went again over a red bloom. Another sugar addict!
I got a little amused with this tiny bird and distracted myself with its habits for the next couple of hours.
Can humming bird live on sugar alone? According to humming bird society, they like to eat insects like fruit flies and small spiders.
Does the hummingbird ever have to worry about cavities? Articles found on Google reported yes, they do. They can “get beak cavities,” if the human fed nectar (in this case sugar liquid) is not in correct proportion, 4 parts water to 1 part pure cane sugar.
Did you know the hummingbird has to eat/drink frequently; otherwise it might starve? I guess I had been consuming sugar like a hummingbird, and now I am having my own no-added nectar withdrawal. The tiny bird exercises the sugar calories out immediately. I don’t. I guess more of the reason for me to eliminate added sugar from my diet.
To continue to the next part 6 After seven distressing days click here
Saddened by the historical account, I aimed to get some brighter news and decided to live in the present. The present information provided more bad news. According to the American Heart Association (AHA),
“ On the Nutrition Facts panel, the line for sugars contains both the natural and added types as total grams of sugar. There are four calories in each gram, so if a product has 15 grams of sugar per serving, that’s 60 calories just from the sugar alone, not counting the other ingredients.” In addition, the AHA reported, “Currently, the average American diet consists of nearly 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, roughly equivalent to 355 calories. The AHA (2009) guidelines suggest that women not consume more than 6 teaspoons (approximately 25 grams equivalent to 100 calories) of added sugar per day while men not consume more than 9 teaspoons (approximately 37.5 grams equivalent to 150 calories) of added sugar per day.”
Pardon me, a “sugar baby”, but would you please read that part out loud, where it says “THE 2009 Guidelines SUGGEST…” Is that a typo on the recommended amount? Don’t you wish it were? Now, that you asked let me inform you. The exact amount, according the food pyramid website and a few other score or gram keepers: There are 4.2 grams of sugar in one teaspoon. 1 teaspoon = 4.2 grams of sugar. To keep the arithmetic simple, the 4.2 grams was rounded to 4 grams. With this newfound information, reading the food labels became a top priority.
Did you know that one teaspoon of ketchup contains 1.2 grams of sugar? One cup of tomato sauces serves about 10 grams of sugar. It is amazing that most products that are sold have a food label attached to it but I never took interest in reading it before. Reading and comparing labels became a hobby and then an assignment on the must do list. Some labels were a little hard for me to understand. I contacted the Food and Drug Administration to learn why the carbohydrates and sugar categories are broken down on the label, to learn when should I count total carbohydrates over just sugar? I also wanted to know if they had any suggestions on how to best read labels since I was just starting to take label reading a little more seriously. While I was excited someone at the center answered the phone, the nice receptionist kept telling me that they have forwarded my questions to one of their doctors (PhD). While I was waiting for the doctor to call me back, I researched about the food groups and the current recommendations. I thought http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables was interesting in that it did encouraged to eat all different types of vegetables and fruit and contained a few facts and recommendations about added sugar. My phone never rang, the doctor must had other classified projects to work on. For a short time in between, I even considered support groups but there was nothing for “sugar eaters anonymous,” at the time of my research but learned Overeaters Anonymous (OA) could be alternative support group. Due to the meeting scheduling conflicts, I opted to do research more online and learn from the everyday people I met and continue to meet on my search.
The experts, including some dieticians, say it is recommended not to eat more than 32 grams of sugar per day. Wow, that is not much change from what was read earlier. That means either to eat a lot of boring foods or give up on foods that are yummylicious. Mental strength is a critical skill that is needed to combat poor choices. I am neither strong nor certain that I want to remove sugary foods out of my life. Sugar has given me and (gives) me such a sweet sensation, a pleasure that invokes unforgettable memories.
I remember being young and climbing up on our family’s “sugar cabinet” or bar table. There I would sit and dip my hand in the pale blue sugar container. I will hold as much as I can in my hand and then pour all of it in my mouth. I forget everything else and slowly chew on the little white granules and enjoy the crunchy sound. The crunchy sound faded away turning into nectar on my tongue. I also remember that my favorite aunt would make the most delicious homemade sweets, which I always considered that to be a part of a good past time. A couple of years later the homemade sweets were replaced with store bought brownies, chewy candies, popsicles, coconut bars, anything laden with white and brown sugar. Of all the sugary treats, one kind of sugary treat trumped all the others in my mid teens, THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE, second to the ice cream, peach, pecan, and apple pies, which lasted all the way up into adulthood. For a short time, I did stray from the chocolate chip cookies when a dark, smooth, and rich chocolate lava cake was introduced to me on one birthday. I didn’t believe in love at first sight, although this one had all the right elements. From the first moment, I tasted the warm, thick, gooey chocolate soufflé exploding in my mouth; I knew that it was one of the best inventions that a man or a woman has ever created in the kitchen.
Growing up, I was not worried about the consequences of eating sugar. Now, I am at a different stage in my life. Even if I don’t worry about it, the inevitable takes place. The body goes through its own stage of living and breaking down and it breaks down faster when you take a course that it cannot sustain, like eating excessive sugar. With that I tell myself, I know excessive sugar is not a quality treat. Yes, the doctors and dieticians tell you what you need to do by telling you to eat healthy and to just give up your sugar habit. It’s just that I can’t get myself to do that. My body craves and I give in. In my sweet head, a balanced diet includes sugar– a good desert. Without a doubt, all the doctors I know would refute that sugar is not a necessary ingredient in the diet.
But I am not fighting them or the system that sells sugar. I am fighting myself, my urges. So, how do I fight or work with my sudden urges? What do I do when I have these urges? I don’t want to hear “just don’t eat sugar” because that does not work for me and has not worked for me.
Some people are in denial about their sugar habits. I am not. I am not totally sure that I want to give it up. Where does that put me?
Nevertheless, I tried a few experiments on my own to see how long can I stay away from sugar.
To continue One Teaspoon of Success Part 5 – Cold Turkey Experiment click here