what i'm eating (day one)

after my posts on attempting to eat as little sugar as possible and why (onetwothreefour) one of the common questions was would i show what i eat on a daily basis. what follows is my best attempt...

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(is this a surprise?!)

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(just for a point of reference, i ate the entire avocado. and i always toast the nuts i eat--always!--it brings out their flavor in new and exciting ways).

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(i was due for a free momofuku latte, so i got myself a big iced one on the way to the grocery store. i average about two lattes per day).

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(ancient harvest quinoa pasta with chopped tomatoes and about a tablespoon of pesto sauce. i have found that in drastically cutting back on sugar food products with nuts built into them always taste sweet in a really exciting way--the pesto {which has pine nuts in it} was a delightfully sweet treat and yet it had no sugar in it {i checked the label}).

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(sometimes at the end of the day, or even in the middle of the day, i'll boil some water and let it cool before pouring it into a mug and adding two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. i always use the Bragg brand--and i shake before using. i don't do this often--i'd like to do it more. usually it's done when i'm digging my heels in and trying to be make really positive choices).

 

(not pictured: about two handfuls of pita chips between lunch and dinner and a slice of toast with butter quite late into the night {i couldn't sleep}).

my goal is to show you what i eat over the course of seven days (i imagine a few dining companions will be surprised when i photograph everything i eat, but...such is life). so keep your eyes open for that. and keep the questions coming...

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how i gave up sugar | why i try to avoid sugar as much as i can: part four

a very kind reader sent me an email asking me to write in a bit more detail about how i gave up sugar. what follows is a jumble of thoughts i got out on the plane ride home last friday. i do want to take a moment to say: i never gave up sugar in full, if i feel the need to have a cookie, i'll have it. it has been this attitude toward sugar that has been so influential in my life--because i'm learning to extend it to all foods: there is no such thing as failure. you cannot lose. and there is no such thing as perfection. one bad decision does not extend to another decision. there is no domino effect here. each day i wake up and make good and totally normal choices. our bodies are resilient buggers. sometimes i'll be out with a friend and they'll order something and think that i won't partake, because i'm so good about what i put in my body. let me be clear: i'm not so much good about what i put in body as i am NORMAL. i eat the pizza. i eat the fries. i eat the cheese and the fat and the asparagus and the salad and upon occasion, the cake. so giving up sugar is still very much a work-in-progress, as i imagine it will be for much of my life.

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HOW I GAVE UP SUGAR (A WORK IN PROGRESS)...

  • I gave up soda. Years Ago. I quit diet coke because there is a tremendous amount of research on the ills of fake sugar. Because it is sweet in a way that does not exist in nature (which is to say hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar) it desensitizes our brain to the subtle and sweet flavors that exist in nature. Eat too much Splenda and that apple doesn’t taste so sweet. Also, our brain takes it in as though we’ve found the super food. What, the sweetest, best thing ever had?! it thinks. But when the accompanying calories never come, the body senses something is amiss and tries to make up the difference--we end up craving more to fill in the blank where those calories should be. In giving up soda I was aware that I craved the “hit” (if you will) of carbonation. So while I didn’t originally like soda water, I’d pack it with fresh lemon juice and enjoy the burn as it hit my throat. Over time I fell in love with the stuff. In fact, when I first started scaling back on sugar and I’d have a really bad craving for something sweet I’d run out and buy a fresh bottle of soda water—not because it was sweet, but because it is something I love and always seems to give me a hit of pleasure.

 

  • I wasn’t strict with myself. I didn’t think of no sugar as an edict, but rather as a gentle game, one of trial and error. It would be a series of mistakes—a slow unraveling. Every time I could say no to sugar I would be investing in my no-sugar-muscle in the brain. And if I couldn’t say no to the stuff then it was only that moment, on that day. The no-sugar muscle was something that could only get stronger. It couldn’t go backwards, it couldn’t weaken, it wasn’t an all-or-nothing thing. Giving up sugar was a game in which I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. There was no way for me to fail. If I had sugar, I had it, and so what? The next day was full of new opportunities to strengthen that muscle and had nothing to do with any of my previous decisions.

 

  • I truly invested in the notion that I could have as much of the “fatty stuff” as I wanted. There was no scaling back. The idea being that if I wasn’t eating sugar the fatty stuff would fill me up and I’d know when I was full. Fat was the key to that much discussed, all powerful and magic self-control (will-power) which has never really been magic, and always been science. Investing in fat was a leap of faith--a jumping off of a cliff of what is usual and commonly believed. But it worked. And I could tell it was working within in a very short period of time.

 

  • I started slowly. I didn’t go cold turkey I just stopped adding sugar when and where I could. No sugar in my coffee. No hot cocoa packs in the kitchen counter drip coffee. And then I started to pay attention and I encourage you to do the same: look at the sugar count in Luna bars. In Cliff bars. In cereal and weight watcher lemon cakes. Look at the sugar content in things that are thought of as “healthy” or kept in the diet aisle at your local drug store. From there I upped my game by passing on dessert at the end of a meal on fancy-nights-out. Instead, all throughout the meal I made sure to really order what I wanted. And to enjoy it. And (and I can't stress this enough), I “filled myself up” on the company of those I loved and adored (which means only hanging out, when possible, with the people you really want to). Frankly, I don’t have the time or the energy for people I’m not that keen on. And when I do hang around them I tend to eat more because I’m not satisfied by their company. This may sound a bit harsh, but I implore you to give it a go. Life is too short. I don’t need to be well liked by a lot of people. I want to be well loved by a few people who demand my affection and respect. On a date how much I eat is always a sure-fire-indicator of how much I like the man. And it has nothing to do with oh-well-I-should-eat-less–because-that’s-feminine-and-he’ll-like-me-more (hooey!) When I like the guy I get full super quickly because I’m stimulated in so many other ways--conversation, the flutters in my stomach, and on and on.

 

  • When I’m out and about with friends and they want to grab a sweet-treat or ice cream I’ll get an iced latte. It feels like a treat to me. It is sweet and cold and I like it between my hands. There is something—for me—about coffee that is deeply personal and healing and always comforting.

 

  • When a sugar craving gets really strong I’ll have big heaping spoon of peanut butter.

 

  • At the end of the day, I'll sometimes have a small glass of white wine. Better that than a pack of Twizzlers.

 

  • I order popcorn with a lot of butter when I go to the movies. And if I want to eat the whole thing, I do.

 

  • Biscotti are cookies that are really low in sugar.

 

I think the hardest bit is constantly coming up against people who want you to fail. They may not even realize that they do, but they act in such a way. Their language is subversive and hurtful. Most people don’t want you to get healthier where food is concerned or get that body that you (and they) have always wanted—this is because the choices you make somehow feel like an affront on their choices and decisions and priorities. But that’s on them, not on you.

 

No one has the right to comment on how you eat. And no one has the right to comment on what you look like. Mostly because their comments will be wrong and damaging (even, and especially, if it’s a compliment). No one should have to eat more to please another person and you do not need to eat sugar to be fun or have a good time. A lot of times people want you to eat more so that they feel better about eating more--what an onus, how terribly unfair. It may be easy in the short-term. But in the long-term it helps no one.

 

 

if you've missed the earlier posts in this series, you can catch up here:

part one, part two, part three

why i try to avoid sugar as much as i can: part three

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 12.16.43 PM my take on eating has always been you can't knock it until you try it.

if being a vegetarian works for you, fantastic. (it did for me for years).

if being vegan is your jam, more power to you.

if eating raw or eliminating sugar or avoiding gluten strikes a chord than do it.

and if you've never tried it and don't know how it will sit with you then shut up about it.

the proof is in the pudding.

i do not however, extend this courtesy to diets. atkins, weight watchers, south beach or any other. mostly because i really believe that they do not work. even if the in the short term weight is lost, there are hidden costs (health) in the long term. and i believe the lip service we pay in praise of diets steers most people in the wrong direction--arms them with false and misleading and ultimately damaging information.

i've learned over time to mostly shut up about this in my daily comings and goings. no on in a vulnerable position who is at a loss and attempting to do something good for their life wants to hear that their latest diet will do them more harm than good.

so now i try to keep my mouth closed and walk away. (and talk about here instead).

however, before i figured this out i was out to dinner with a small group of friends and one of the girls said she was going to try weight watchers and i said i thought it was a bad idea--i'd lost weight on it and then lost years to an eating disorder.

and she looked right at me and said, yeah, but i don't have an addictive personality.

it was one of the cruelest things anyone has ever said to me.

i don't know if she ever did weight watchers. but i know the weight wasn't lost.

and that's okay. that's not her fault. i only point it out to say that we (the collective cultural we) are looking for answers in the wrong place. we want immediate results. we want to press the big-red-easy button and reap our rewards. i think collectively we're all straining under a sort of veruca-salt-psychosis: i want it and i want it now.

and this isn't dictating just the manner in which we try to lose weight--it governs what we eat and when. we eat raspberries flown from halfway across the world because they're not in season where we live, but we still want them. we exploit the lives of countless animals and try to expedite the process in which they age so as to have more and have it now (and we do this by pumping them full of antibiotics and hormones which we then ingest second hand). i want and i want it now is now our cultural refrain. and it's stripping the earth of its precious resources at a startling rate.

we are a selfish species.

we buy more and spend more and waste more and we do it in the name of capitalism.

i may not know much about economics but i do know that a system that only measures growth when we live in a world of finite resources is bound to run into a fatal flaw at some very critical moment.

i've gotten myself off on a tangent. i really don't want to talk politics (but i mentioned the above to someone recently and they said, oh, wow, so you're really liberal. and i thought what? how'd you get there? i feel like that's just a rational thought--and one that makes me pretty moderate).

i mention all of this because the way in which we grow and eat food is a tremendous allegory for our current state of affairs.

{if this is of interest to you, or even if it isn't, dan barber's TED TALKS are must sees: his foie gras parable + how he fell in love with a fish}

we need to eat more simply and live more simply. we need to go back to the dinner table. sit around it with our family (and accept that many people now have different working definitions of this word). break bread. take vegetables form the garden. and connect in a way that has nothing to do with facebook and foursquare and any of the other multitudinous applications that serve a purpose i'm no longer sure of.

not eating sugar works for me. it's my thing. and i encourage everyone to try it. to experiment with it.

within a few months of giving it a real and honest college try my occasional (but still present) binges came to an end. i don't think it was just the absence of sugar--i think it was all the work and effort of the years before, but i do think sugar, or rather the lack of it, was a key player.

people have been asking where i stand when it comes to eating fruits. it's important to know that i don't think i've ever craved a piece of fruit in my life. i'm just not a fruit person. i really like vegetables and i'd seek out some good grilled asparagus before i ever picked up an apple. so i very rarely eat fruit (but that's me). the information out there suggests that perhaps we all need to start saying vegetables and fruits (as opposed to fruits and vegetables) and start thinking of them in that order--that even fruit, healthy as it is, should be eaten in moderation.

but when it comes to health and sugars, fruit is not my main concern. it is the hidden sugars. it is all the sugars injected into processed foods. i operate under the assumption that even if i avoid sugar as much as possibly can, i will still probably exceed the recommended daily limit, simply because it is everywhere and in everything.

i don't eat honey. i don't eat agave. i don't differentiate between table sugar or raw sugar or fake sugar or corn syrup. i assume it is all damaging in some way. which sounds tremendously boring, i know...until you give it a go.

and suddenly everything tastes sweeter. (i joke about how i now put shallots in everything--but it is such a sweet a delectable onion!)

that being said if i'm out with friends and everyone is having ice cream, i'm probably going to join in. there is also the occasional ben and jerry's pint that is eaten alone and on a friday night (you win some, you lose some).

a few quick hints: when i first cut out sugar i'd have a big tablespoon of peanut butter at the end of every meal because i associated it with sweet and it sort of tricked my mind into thinking i was getting that finishing-sweet-treat i was so accustomed to. i also put cinnamon in my coffee (a great anti-inflammatory) because i associate cinnamon with sugar and having just one half-of that combo allowed me fill in the other-half by just imagining.

i don't eat stevia or any of the natural sugar replacements because i don't feel the need for them. once i got over the emotional attachment to sweet and the subsequent cravings i just didn't feel the need to seek them out and incorporate them into my life.

i think the hardest part in attempting to cut out sugar is dealing with backlash of everyone around you (and that will be final topic i discuss in part four of this series).

 

why i try to avoid sugar as much as i can: part one, part two.

 

i'm still working on a permanent food + health tab. i realize that many links redirect to my old blog which then redirects you here and that can be tremendously frustrating. i apologize for that and beg your patience as i attempt to get all of this in working order.

why i try to avoid sugar as much as i can: part two

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a little while ago i went on a few dates with a man and i told him i'd once weighed quite a bit more. and he told that he'd once weighed quite a bit more. and we both sort of laughed and commiserated about having once weighed quite. a. bit. more. and he asked how'd you lose it?

i ate a lot of cheese.

no kidding. that was my answer.

in fact, i'm pretty sure there was a cheese plate before me as i said it. (i haven't met a cheese plate i can't make a meal of).

the first time i really thought i'd give "quitting sugar" a college try was about a year ago. i can so clearly remember heading to brunch with two of my girlfriends and eating a small dish and being ravenous for something after. and when i say "something" i mean something sweet. i wasn't full. i needed something sweet and sugar-loaded to fill me up. but because i couldn't eat sugar i went through a list of foods in my head. and where every other food was concerned, i felt full--there wasn't room in my stomach. but for sugar--just the thought of sugar--my brain and my stomach sort of miraculously opened up, made space. it was one of the more eye-opening experiences of my life.

it was also around this time that i was eating cheese one evening when i had a very clear thought: that's enough. i'm full now. (i'd never before felt that way when cheese was around).

here's what i can tell you about avoiding sugar just as much as i can: quitting sugar was (and still very much is) an experiment.

to begin i gorged on the information that's out there (like this exceptional new york times article). and i invested in the very simple notion that sugar is bad and fat is not. i was willing to say yeah, i'll give those full fats a go. i'll start eating butter without fear. hell, i'll even cook with bacon fat upon occasion.

having learned first hand (in a full body sort of way) that diets don't work and that very often doctors and nutritionists are not well informed where weight is concerned (politics and commerce really come into play here) i was willing to invest in the notion that the prevailing ideas of what is healthy, were totally wrong.

so how did i begin? well, i started reading this tremendous blog. and then i bought her ebook. and i went from there. slowly and with great love for myself...

this is what i understand to be true:

fructose is the problem.

when fructose enters into the body it is not immediately converted to energy but stored away as fat.

anything sweet and found in nature is safe to eat. (and by safe i mean not poisonous). sweet was in fact nature's little calling card that said yup, eat this, it's safe.

thing is, very few sweet things existed in nature. a berry bush was a rare and unusual thing to come across. and so when our ancestors did they would gorge on its treasures. but they came across such berry bushes very rarely (and when they did they had usually just expended tremendous energy to get there).

there was no hey-you're-full message associated with sugar because it was so rare that there was no need for it. but now sugar is anything but rare and the rate at which it became so easily accessible far surpassed our evolutionary ability to deal with such a change.

so the simple lack of the hey-your'e-full message is a huge problem.

in fact, sugar (fructose) gets in the way of the hey-you're-full messages from other foods, which may be an even bigger problem. leptin is a hormone that regulates our satiety and fructose sort of taps down on it and confuses the message or renders it all-together-absent and so we. just. keep. eating.

high fructose corn syrup is no more dangerous than any other sugar except but for how easy and cheap it is to make. which means everyone is making it. and putting it in everything. (especially in all those no fat, low fat foods).

4g is about 1 tsp of sugar.

yoplait's 99% fat free yogurt has 27 g of sugar per 6 oz... you do the math.

just start looking at labels. forget about calories. forget about fat content. just look at the sugar content. it is startling.

i don't eat any sugar/calorie free substitutes (splenda and the like). they are dangerous because they 1. desensitize our brain to what sweet it and 2. create a deficit in our body. we get this huge hit of sweet and none of the accompanying calories and our body becomes aware of an imbalance and craves calories (food) to make up the difference.

 

part three coming tomorrow. (part one here).

 

i've been so encouraged by the responses to my most recent food + health posts and plan to answer any and all questions that have been posed in the next few days. i'm weary of doing any posts that accurately show what i eat over the course of a day or a week because knowing that it'll appear on the blog will cause me to skew my choices so that they appear "better" than they might otherwise be--that being said, i'm going to do my very best to present an accurate depiction of what i do actually eat over a given period of time. know that much as i avoid sugar and skip dessert at the end of the meal, there are still days when i can eat the whole container of ben and jerry's oatmeal cookie crunch, ya know?

 

 

 

why i try to avoid sugar as much as i can: part one

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in an attempt to move past the eating disorder i experimented with everything--took every sort of healthy lifestyle into the dressing room and tried it on for size. i wanted to feed myself with as much information. i wanted to know what would sit well with me--what would feel right. and by feel right, i mean feel right in the everyday-for-the-rest-of-my-life-kind-of-way (FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE--i can't emphasize that enough).

and about a year ago i began reading about and researching sugar and its ills.

and if you're interested what follows is a really good place to start:

60 Minutes video on the dangers of sugar

NPR's On Point: regulating sugar

and holy heck if the information isn't terrifying and unnerving. but also, really, really comforting.

because it's an easy fix.

look around. people are fat. they are.

and i don't think fat is bad word. it is not a cruel word. it is a descriptive word. what is unkind or unfair is our emotional attachment to the word--or rather, all of the unkindness we empty into it. fat simply is. and if we're going to address the health issue we can't be afraid to use this word and we can't be afraid to acknowledge when someone is.

i truly believe if everyone cut out sugar (added and otherwise)--or at least drastically reduced it--we would see a tremendous shift in weight and all of its associated ills.

fat is not bad for us. sugar is.

and what happened is (keep in mind this is my very cursory understanding) that in the 1970's heart disease was on the rise and doctors were trying to figure it out and two schools of thought came about. 1. fat was to blame. and 2. sugar was to blame.

but there wasn't enough information to know which and essentially the health community decided to put all of their eggs in one basket and invest in the notion that fat was to blame. it was a grand experiment, one that has seen a rise in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. (its also a fascinating political study because the man behind the notion that sugar was to blame was then cast as a fool and a sort of subversive campaign to undermine him took place).

ah, politics.

fat-free is a huge industry. it makes a lot of money. it employs a lot of people. but fat-free usually almost always means added sugar. when the fat is removed the food tastes terrible (like cardboard!) so sugar is injected to make it palatable.

and an interesting story begins to take shape...one with a widening waistline.

when i began to invest in the notion that i could no longer diet--that i wanted to move past the eating disorder stage of my life--i began to avoid all of the foods i had eaten during that period of time. and most of those foods were fat-free.

but that was years ago.

it was last year that i began eating full fat foods and avoiding sugar as much as possible. and in this last year i've stopped binging in full. and i'm very close to having gotten rid of my belly-fat--fat in that place that is so very bad for the health of the heart. as it turns out, and i know this from experience, when you put on quite a bit of fat (in an unnatural way, which is to say by eating a heck of a lot of food--and most of it processed) much of that goes to your belly--and damn if that isn't hard to lose).

this is such a big and important issue (on a personal level and a global one) that i want to write about it without throwing out too much information at once. so with just this very simple idea planted: that fat isn't the culprit, sugar is, i'm going to step away from the computer and return with more science and personal anecdote tomorrow.