Sugar: A Silent Enemy

Growing up I was never one to struggle with weight gain.  I pretty much hit “my size” in middle school and stayed there.  I’ve always enjoyed being active and fueling my body with good foods (except for that dark European chocolate I so badly love) is a priority, but after having a few babies the shape of my body, among other things, changed.

My skin stretched in ways that still surprises me, it became more convenient to eat from a bag than to eat from the garden, and sleep became a higher priority than any form of exercise.  I felt tired and unattractive. I gained a few pounds, and even though my weight gain wasn’t extensive, it still bothered me. So, in January 2014 I began to work towards a healthier lifestyle.

In just four months I had lost 15 pounds and 2 inches.  I was back to my pre-pregnancy self (well, except for the skin and stretch marks) and had done it all naturally – without spending any money on gym memberships or supplements.  I had an exercise routine of 30 min a day 3x a week and consumed, on average, 1300 calories each day. It was what worked for me; it was a plan I could commit to.

In January of 2015 we added another baby to our family – and with it came a stubborn 5 pounds.  I wish I could say it was pregnancy based but, the truth is, I was never pregnant with him. Our son, who we adopted, came to us through the foster care system.  With his sweet 10-day-old self came many sleepless nights, and a few bad habits were reborn.

In 2016, I began to, once again, get serious about taking care of myself. It wasn’t weight loss that motivated me; it was the reality that I struggle with acid reflux and irritating skin conditions that forced me take a good look at my food choices.  And here is what I found…

Most whole foods don’t cause any of these things!

In fact, many whole foods help with reflux and stomach pain and skin issues. I began to talk things over with my husband and we discussed how to make some changes that would move our entire family down a better path.  The problem in our home is that, between our three littles, we have many food allergies, some of which cause anaphylactic reactions. Following a specific “program” does not work for us because many of the “safe” foods are in fact deadly to our children. However, after a lot of research, I began to realize that highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar and oil can harm your body. So, we started a slow process of cutting these things out of our meals.

Confession: These are my homemade cookies (I love to bake) and they are not at all good for you, but they sure taste delicious and are always in our freezer.

We replaced white flour foods with whole grain foods, I substituted your standard cooking oils for coconut oil, and I began to intentionally make our meals from scratch so that I was aware of all the ingredients.  But, I was still bothered by sugar. I didn’t want to simply find a sugar substitute, I wanted to truly watch, and limit it, in my diet. This included ALL sugars. The sugar that’s found in starches. The natural sugar that’s found in fruit and honey.  The added sugar that’s found in salad dressings and yogurt, in drinks and homemade cookies, and (of course) in dark chocolate and coffee creamers.

So, I allowed myself a generous 50g of sugar a day, which I began to discover was not so generous after all.  There are 5g of sugar in my favorite (all natural) coffee creamer. There are 14g of sugar in a banana. There are 19g of sugar in an apple.  There are 17g of sugar in 1tbsp of honey. It’s easy to rack up the grams if you’re not careful. This has made me extremely conscious and forces me to make choices.  Maybe today I need to drink my coffee black so that I can eat me some chocolate, or maybe I’ll enjoy that midday latte and skip the spoonful of peanut butter at lunch. Choices… they affect our quality of life.

For 90 days I tracked my sugar intake using MyFitnessPal.  At the end of those 90 days I noticed two important things.

IMG-2098First, I was no longer bloated. I was feeling more like my old self. While sugar alone does not cause reflux or skin conditions, sugar is found in most of the processed foods that do and it can be responsible for that feeling of discomfort.

Second, I lost 7 lbs over 90 days.  While weight loss wasn’t my goal, it is absolutely an encouraging side effect.  By limiting sugar in my diet I was, by default, shrinking that “sugar belly” I had tried hard to hide.

Fast forward to 2018 and I can say, without any doubt, that I feel great most days.  I would be lying if I said that limiting sugar has made my stretch marks disappear, my psoriasis vanish, or my acid reflux nonexistent.  I would also be lying if I said I was completely “happy” with what I see when I look in the mirror. I still have goals that I’m working towards.  However, being conscious to limit my sugar intake has improved the quality of my life as a whole and reminds me, yet again, how very important food choices are if you want to enjoy the most this life has to offer.

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