Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our War With Sugar: Notes From the Trenches

The battle lines are clearly drawn. I walk through the front doors of my local grocery store and this is what confronts me: a towering wall of sugar.

Sugar in caramels, sugar in cookies, in chocolates pressed to look like Lego pieces, or Band-Aids, or even more horribly, in chocolates pressed to look like vegetables! To the left is a wall of sugary juices, and straight past the main Wall O' Sugar is the bakery section with donuts displayed prominently in front. To my right is the mocha stand with its drinkable forms of sugar, surrounded by more stacks of scones, cookies, and jars of biscotti.

Clearly, I have to walk through the encampment of the enemy just to get to allies: the meats, the vegetables and fruits. Is it any wonder that good health is so hard to achieve? We are not just having to employ our will power to eat healthily, but that will power is being actively sabotaged at every turn. And it's not just the grocery store. A trip into my daughter's favorite clothing store, Justice (don't even get me started on my clothes-made-in-sweatshops rant, it's her money that takes her in there, not mine), reveals yet another wall of sugar at the checkout. This more of the Gummy Worms and Sour Patch Kids variety, yet its purpose is quite clear: make money for the store and addict our children to not just garden variety sugar (bad enough) but a chemical goo of food coloring and high fructose corn syrup. In case we somehow overlooked its glaring neon-boxed display, the sales clerk drew our attention to the fact that all candy was on sale, two boxes of crap for the price of one.

Is there any good news in the war trenches? Well, I'm happy to say that there is. You might recall some of my previous posts about what a terrible sugar addict I have been. So you might think that walking past this barrage of sugar-soaked gluten-engorged substances would be darned near impossible for me. My trembling hands would simply reach out and start filling my cart while my brain looked helplessly on. But the truth is that after going cold turkey, and buckling down to a solid few months of Paleo, it's just not even that appealing to me. After all, when you stop eating the stuff, then you get a total sugar hangover when you do indulge, it's loses a lot of its luster.

I can stand there and look at this enormous pile of macaroons, cookies, cakes, donuts, gelato, mochas with whipped cream, and then turn and walk away. I can turn and walk away! Without buying a darned thing. This is the kid who used to fill her pockets with cookies at the Methodist bake sale, take them into the church bathroom and stuff her face with sugar until she puked. This is the girl who had such raging yeast infections that she had thrush as a teenager, stumping her family doctor who'd never seen it outside of infants. I mean, I've been a sugar addict my whole life. This is huge.

And yet, I try really hard not to be like those converted evangelists. I try to resist the temptation to tell everyone I know who struggles with the same thing how simple the answer turns out to be. When people say things like "I could never give up bread." or "I couldn't live without my mocha and scone", I try to just be sympathetic. When someone says to me "I can't give up my sugar, so I can't give up my 90 minutes a day of cardio, I nod my head because I know what that's like. Totally know what it's like. But now I also know it doesn't have to be that way.

The Ironmom Extra Mile: 

First Read This: The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar, and Type 2 Diabetes from Mark's Daily Apple

Then Do This: The Whole30 Challenge

That's It. You won't regret it.


TriHeart said...

I started with primal blueprint yesterday. I'm doing my first 70.3 in 6 weeks. Any thoughts on how it will effect training and racing? What do you use for nutritioin when you're raing?

Marv said...

This is great Robin ! So true! Lots of folks will get some good information and inspiration on this...

Robin said...

TriHeart, congrats on both fronts. I think you may find that you will feel a little down in energy for the first couple of weeks on the Primal Blueprint (I call that the adjustment period), but then after that you'll feel great!

During races, I rely on the simple sugars like gels. What you'll find is that over time in a race as long as a 70.3, your body will most likely lose the ability to digest anything more complex.

In a 70.3, I typically do one protein bar during the bike, plus a gel every 45 minutes and some Accelerade, then I take 3 - 4 gels on the run, plus some small sips of whatever drink mix they have on the course.

ThreeBoysFull said...

I am not a sugar or nutrition saint. But boy do I get angry when my kids go to school with a semi decent lunch just to have it sabotaged by some other parent who brings in a basket of twinkies and gummy bears to share with the class for snack. Maybe tbhis is the real reason why my son is excited to back to kindergarten!


Kathy said...

Well, I had the boys cut down and open a couple cocos and I'm going to try your pudding soon. First have to make coconut milk.

Can I request a post? I've read about running frequently vs long runs and cycling in the same vein but do you believe swimming is the same? I.e. swim shorter distances but more frequently as IM prep? I'm already sold on running 6 days/week (but 1:2:3 ratio) but wonder if swimming 4-5 days/week would be "better" than 3 days (for the same distance).

Robin said...

Sure, I've got another swimming-related question to answer, so I'll do a post this week!