Family

One Month of No Sugar

This family's informal challenge may yield big results

I never had much of a sweet tooth until I got pregnant with my first child. Suddenly, I was craving ice cream and giving in to those urges far too much. The more I ate, the more I wanted.

Unfortunately, those cravings didn’t disappear once the baby arrived. Five years later and I am a full-fledged addict. I may have a salad for lunch every day, but I also have a cookie with my coffee, too. Trail mix is always better with chocolate.

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My husband has always favored sweets. I find candy wrappers on the floor of his car. Even though we don’t drink “soda pop,” he savors a Big Gulp every now and then. He balks whenever I mention that his morning glass of juice might as well be Sprite. It’s been a staple of his diet since he was a kid. What’s so bad about a glass of orange juice? It has vitamin C, he insists.

Related: Those Low-Fat Lies

The proof is in our expanding waistlines. My husband stepped on the scale Sunday and declared he’s the heaviest he’s ever been in his life. His BMI has crept into the obese category. He has stomach problems. He can’t sleep and takes Alka-Seltzer almost every day. I often hear him saying, “My back hurts. I’m tired. I wonder if this is how it feels to be 65.”

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He’s only 41.

I’m not much better. I’m often sluggish. I still look about five months pregnant, though my baby is 8 months old. I’m solidly overweight, according to my BMI. I’m always achy, especially first thing in the morning. I’m moody, and despite my efforts to speed up, my running is at a turtle’s pace.

Sugar is the Devil
Sugar is killing us. Study after study reveals that this substance associated with joy, love, comfort, and happiness could be behind much of what ails Americans. And what science is telling us rings so true with my husband and me.

The most recent study found blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other markers in obese children improved after just 10 days of not consuming sugar. Furthermore, the children’s sugar was not replaced with health food or fruits and vegetables. It was replaced with carbs. They were eating bagels, baked potato chips, hot dogs, and burgers.

The lead author of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, said his findings indicate a calorie isn’t just a calorie. Calories from sugar, specifically, are likely to contribute to metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver, polycystic ovary syndrome, and more.

Study after study is revealing that this substance associated with joy, love, comfort, and happiness could be behind much of what ails Americans.

“We can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days … just by taking the added sugars out of their diet,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Benioff Children’s Hospital of the University of California, San Francisco.

We Can’t Quit!
Changing the way we eat might be easier said than done. Scientists have found that consuming sugar triggers the same reward system in our brain as cocaine. In one study, rats were put in maze; one side was offered a dose of cocaine or morphine, the other was served an Oreo cookie. Not only did the rats favor the Oreo; they found the cookies activated the pleasure center of the brain more than the drugs.

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The average American consumes more than 126 grams of sugar a day. That’s 25 teaspoons, or the equivalent of more than three 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola. The World Health Organization recommends adults consume no more than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, daily.

A New Plan
In our Halloween candy-infused hangover, our family decided to embark on an experiment. One month – NO SUGAR. We want to see if these studies are indeed right. Are we essentially drug addicts hankering for our next sugar fix?

 We decided to embark on an experiment. One month – NO SUGAR.

And if so, what sort of example are we setting for our children? My three kids, ages 5, 3, and 8 months, are too young to understand what we’re doing. But they should benefit simply by us eating right. We don’t give them many treats, but it turns out they’re getting a lot of sugar by accident.

Global Sugar Infusion
That’s because sugar is everywhere, not just in obvious places like soft drinks and candy. Look at your food labels. Sugar is the third ingredient listed on our beloved Cheerios. For some reason it’s added to the frozen, breaded cod I have in my freezer. Bread, ketchup, soups, sauces — nothing is safe from the sweetener.

For the month of November, we pledge to not eat any sugar that doesn’t occur naturally in our foods. Fruit is OK. Fruit juice is not. No honey, no agave, no maple syrup, no alcohol. No artificial sweeteners either. My husband is fully on board, but is insisting on a pass for Thanksgiving. We’ll see.

We will report back on how we’re doing, how we’re feeling, and what we’re learning. At the end, we will share if we’ve lost any pounds, inches, or BMI points.

Wish us luck!

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