Sugar and carbs have been a factor in my weight gain. Controlling calories while sorting out which carbs are good and which are bad can be very confusing.
Sugar and Carbs are a simple, but complex health issue
I read this week about a health study, conducted in France. It found a link between drinking sugary beverages, including fruit juices, and cancer. Problems with obesity and cancer have been connected to sugar-added drinks like colas. But this study suggests that the sugar in fruit juices is equally as much a risk factor.
The connection between sugar and health issues has been exhaustively studied and is well known. The causality of sugar to cancer is not yet 100% understood. However, we know that increased consumption of sugar and added sugar in first-world diets has led to a climb in obesity-related illnesses. These include heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
We consume too much sugar. We take in too many simple carbs and calories. It is harming our health and killing our bodies. But the solution to cutting sugar from our diet is much more complex.
Crouching sugar, hidden carbs
In 2016 the US government passed a law requiring food manufacturers to clearly label the added sugars in their product. Set to take mandatory effect in 2020 and 2021, it is not a perfect law. But goes a long way to helping people understand just how much sugar is concealed in their foods.
It is estimated that Americans get 15% of their daily sugar intake from added sugars. Clear labeling laws that help people see how much sugar is in their diets are expected to cut consumption and lower cases of sugar-related diseases by over 1 million people in 20 years.
Many people will see for the first time how much sugar is being added to foods. Foods that are sold to them as “fat-free”, “low-cholesterol”, or “natural”.
Sugar and added sugar are in so much processed food that reading every label in the store can be exhausting. And the food industries’ defense of what they put in their products and the effect it has on health has ranged from distortion to deception.
You gotta love the Corn Refiners Associations’ commercial parsing and cherry-picking research to suggest that high-fructose corn syrup is perfectly okay, just like other sugar. They don’t, however, tell you that HFCS is added to thousands of foods, even ones that really don’t need it. “It’s fine in moderation”… The problem is it is in everything and they want to hide that knowledge from consumers.
It is about quantity as well as quality
Look, people have been refining foods since we began grinding grain, crushing olives, and brewing beer. In many cases refining has made food safer, longer-lasting, and edible. But the food industry is currently a multi-billion dollar business that affects everyone’s life and choices. There is plenty of evidence that they are more interested in profits than the true value of what they are processing.
So it falls to the consumer, in a wasteland of loose labeling laws and industry propaganda, to sort out which foods are going to help their quest for health, and which are going to hurt.
Sugar and carbs refined and defined
For starters, most of us forget that sugar is a carb. Now, carbs are not inherently bad. It’s the balance between simple and complex carbs that indicate a healthy diet versus one that leads to health problems.
Simple carbs are easy to digest and provide lots of energy, fast. Complex carbs are slower to digest. They raise blood sugar less and so allow more nutrition to be absorbed into the body.
We need both types of carbs, and most foods contain a blend of simple and complex carbs. Most natural foods, that is. The problem with much of refined foods is that the refining process strips away the complexity. Food is left with just sugar and starches that burn quickly, causing our bodies to demand a refill.
Plus, sugar has an almost druglike effect on the brain. We have craved it since caveman days when sugar was actually hard to come by. Our biology hasn’t changed that much, but our sugar consumption has.
What sugar has done to me
In terms of personal ownership, I have to take responsibility to say that sugar hasn’t done anything to me. So, deliberate or unconscious, it has always been my choice.
Nevertheless, my consumption of sugar has pushed me toward Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, I suffer from obesity, the risk of heart disease, joint inflammation, and poor digestion.
Beyond my body, it has impacted my mental state. My addiction and lack of willpower have made my resolve weak on many other things, too.
Letting myself go in weight and discipline has kept me from doing many things that I wanted to do. I have permitted my desire to have a better life to be undermined by the easy and gratifying consumption of brain-pleasing sugar and mostly empty carbs. Coupled with a lack of exercise and movement in my years since I turned 50, it has made me weaker, sicker, more prone to chronic illnesses, and statistically shortened my longevity.
What I am doing about it now
I can’t turn back the clock and regain the vigor and strength of my youth. But I can improve the spot where I am now. I start every day with the determination to be my best self in mind, spirit, and body.
The whole point of this site is to remind myself and teach myself that for four months I can resist my impulses. I want a record that shows how I am able to consider the options available to me and make the choices that improve my life, not hurt it in the long run. Even when those choices are uncomfortable at the time, every decision to take the right path lays a little brick in a better life.
Sugar has been a comfort, a treat, and a reward. I have used it to salve my emotions as well as stimulate my body. I have been as deep as anyone into the junk food culture. And I have the body and health to show for it. Now I stand on the crossroad of a choice that will dictate how I live my life, and possibly for how long.
Which do I want more?
The short term comfort and immediate gratification of a diet built on convenience and impulse?
The comfort and ease of never exerting myself too much and always being sedentary in a world or remote controls and digital aids?
A person who follows the path of least resistance and subjects myself to my impulses and cravings with no sense of discipline or self-control?
Someone willing to exchange the years of my finite life, my time with my family, and my health, well-being, and fortune for a substance that is literally poisoning me?
An investment in my health and spirit that is uncomfortable and first but pays off in long-term dividends?
A feeling of energy, strength, and confidence earned by using my body and not letting it decay and rust?
Someone who is in charge of my own decisions, takes ownership of my life, and chooses what is best, not what is easy?
A man who is eager to experience life, health, travel, and precious time with my family, and who embraces opportunity and chance to order to manifest my dreams and ambitions?
On paper, the choices seem clear. It is the process of taking action that makes a choice a reality.
4 Small moves I can make everyday
I can’t change 50 years of bad habits overnight. However, I can do a little bit every day. There are four main areas of my life to make improvements and stack successes.
- Body – I can cut refined sugar from my diet almost completely. I can’t say 100% because processed sugar is everywhere. I can’t go live in a vault and not interact with the outside world.
- Mind – A regular meditation practice, more than anything else I can do, will control my impulses. It will increase my discipline, and improve my emotions.
- Environment – I work in the food industry as a private and professional chef. But there are many avenues I can pursue that align with my food commitments. In order to support my success, I need to surround myself with people, foods, and a passion that are in sync with my goals.
- Habits and Willpower – These are not separate. Both rely on each other for support and I don’t believe I can have one without the other. By crafting good habits and enforcing them with willpower I can create routines that make applying my willpower easier.
Sugar and carbs are going to have a role in my life. I know that. In the short term, I’m excluding as much refined and natural sugar and starchy carbs as I can. I’m focusing instead on more nutrient-dense and fiber-rich carbs which are also lower in calories. This is how I am going to burn off the layers of fat that have smothered my health and fitness for years.
Once the weight is gone, I will begin living the life I want. Then I will create the environment, mindset, and habits to stop me from ever going back to where I am today.
Where, precisely, I am today
I broke through my fourth weight loss milestone yesterday. I weighed in at 237.4 pounds. By the time I cross the next milestone mark, I will have lost over 20 pounds on this 16-Week program. I would sincerely like to achieve that before the end of next week.
Next week I will be back to the cabbage diet for two weeks. My schedule will be back to normal with enough opportunity to resume exercising. With my brain in the game, my diet on track, and a renewed commitment to movement and exercise, I will achieve the degrees of success every day that make this goal a reality.