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SUGAR = DANGER!!! A true confession from Team Leader, Stephanie

Posted by secondwindconditioning on February 19, 2016 at 6:55 AM

I suppose the best thing to blog about is something you are passionate about – for me that is SUGAR! Before I go any further, I’m only expressing my own views and beliefs and I am NOT a nutritionist, physician, dietician or any other educated or licensed being in anything food related. What I am though is a person who really loves to eat and learn about food. I love to cook and bake and try new recipes. I am also at very high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and also a person who has battled for years with a very unhealthy relationship to the one thing I love and need to survive; food. All that has brought me on a journey along which I’ve scoured a lot of resources to shape my mindset around food and sugar.

I will start with my confession that I am a horrible sugar addict and on top of that I have battled binge eating disorder (BED) for over 15 years now. Never heard of it? That’s ok, I had never heard of it either. I was in counselling due to my divorce only to find out I struggled with this also and I was one of the more severe cases my therapist had seen. Anyway, I’m a constant work in progress and am continually trying to achieve that healthy relationship with food I see others around me enjoy. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get there, but sometimes I feel close; and that brings me back to the sugar.

Sugar is the thing I like to binge on. It is also the most dangerous thing I believe any one of us can eat. SUGAR = DANGER!!! I believe sugar increases our chances of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, pre-mature aging (e.g. wrinkles), is full of empty calories (triathletes need nutrient dense food!), leads to acidity in our bodies (cancer loves acidic bodies), rots our teeth and makes us fat. On that last point: when I need to lose some weight the ONLY thing I do is cut sugar out or reduce it drastically again. I may also be eating more fat because that is my go-to for curbing sugar cravings. I’m pretty sure I’m only scratching the surface with the dangers of sugar. I’ve often heard that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and I totally believe it. I’ve been off track and it’s so difficult to get “clean” again. In America and Europe we eat an average of 100-150 grams of sugar each day. That equals 20-30 teaspoons of sugar – somehow I think this estimate is low based on what I’ve seen people eat and drink. If you are a regular pop drinker then you are guzzling more than this with each can, never mind the other foods you eat in the day! In the early 1800’s the average person took 5 days to eat this much sugar. Take a moment to consider that.

What makes me so mad are the marketing tactics of the food industry. They have been promoting low fat this and that for so long but are you aware that many of the low-fat foods are replacing “fats” with sugar products (e.g. corn syrup)?! Low fat does not necessarily mean low calories. I have also come to believe that sugar is more of an enemy than fat! (Again, take that for what it’s worth… I’m not a professional but it’s what I’ve come to believe based on things I’ve read and learned). I want to scream “BEWARE of Low-Fat foods!” They aren’t all bad, but please read your labels and beware of the hidden sugars in these products. I wish marketers would start to warn of the dangers of the hidden sugars in our foods. Processed foods apparently have lots of hidden sugars as well, buyer beware!

So can you eat sugar?? Sure, in moderation. I won’t get all technical on the different kinds of sugar (e.g. fructose vs. glucose), but one question I get a lot of when people learn I try to eliminate or drastically reduce my sugar intake is “so are you just eating agave, honey or maple syrup?” Again I want to scream: SUGAR is SUGAR! Agave, honey and maple syrup are ALL sugar! ALL of these need to be taken in moderation – any of these can be harmful to us. That said, I do prefer raw honey and maple syrup as my choices over other sugars when I bake or need to sweeten something. My reason is that they are more in a natural form, less processed and locally derived. Raw honey has other benefits such as boosting your immune system and is my favourite sweetener of choice. But I do usually try to choose recipes that are no sugar or very low sugar and even then I will cut the sugar in half.

Often I get asked about fruit which also has sugar in it. When I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes, my biggest fear was not being able to eat the fruit I love so much. What I learned instead was that a couple of servings of fruit a day was fine (but not the 7 or so servings I would eat daily! Did I mention I LOVE fruit?) I was also told to eat a protein with my fruit (e.g. a nut butter with apple slices). Fat and protein help slow down how quickly the carbohydrate (sugar/glucose) is converted to blood sugar reducing the amount of insulin required and avoiding the sugar highs we get with a refined sugar treat such as a chocolate bar. Fruit also has fiber and other nutritional benefits so it’s not “empty calories”. The lesson here: Try to eat 7-10 fruits and veggies a day, but limit the fruit to around 2. I had to flip my ratio of fruit to veggies around which for me was kind of a bummer… but some days I still do indulge in more fruit than I should. Also on the topic of fruit, I no longer drink fruit juice straight up. Once in a while I’ll enjoy a tiny bit (and I mean “tiny” as in a small splash) of fruit juice with lots of water. I’d recommend eating your fruit, not drinking it.

So my other tips for you? Enjoy your fats but choose healthy ones or enjoy full fat products but just less of them i.e. go for quality over quantity. Go for “real” plain yogurt added to fresh fruit and not the fat free or sugar-laden kind. If you must add a teaspoon of maple syrup to the plain yogurt for starters, go for it – it will likely still be less sugar than the store-bought fruity yogurts. I’ve discovered that I can stave off a sugar craving by enjoying a “fat” such as avocado or a chunk of cheese on a Triscuit. Love chocolate? Start working on the higher cocoa-content chocolates and increase those over time. I started with the 70% chocolate but am now enjoying the 85%. As you reduce your sugar intake things that used to be bitter or tart start to taste sweeter. For example, 70% chocolate now tastes VERY sweet to me. Recently at a Christmas party I indulged in some home-baked treats from a dear friend who can really bake – I was horrified how sweet they were!! I was shocked that I didn’t really enjoy the treats I once loved – they were actually way too sweet and hurt my teeth! Start to decrease the sugars you add to foods, coffee or tea. Try cinnamon instead of sugar. Over time your palette will adjust and you’ll find things taste so much sweeter than they did before with a lot less added sugar or even no sugar added.

My encouragement to you is to try your best to reduce this toxin in your diet. I find that when I’ve been off track (which happens much more than I like to admit!) and have eaten too much sugar it’s harder to train and get the energy I need to swim, bike or run. We need to fuel our bodies with what they need to get the best out of our workouts. Yes, we need carbohydrates to exercise (and yes, sugar is a carb and our body does need glucose), but I encourage you to choose healthier carbohydrates pre and post exercise. Then take it one day at a time and beware of excessive sugar intake. Your body and mind will thank you for it!

 

Categories: 2016 training

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