I’ve Clearly Lost My Mind; I’m Giving Up Sugar.

by Jeanine Adinaro on April 22, 2011

in General Health

Toxic? Really? But it's so yummy.

Internet buzz abounds regarding the recent New York Times article on sugar. Sporting the inflammatory title, “Is Sugar Toxic”, I couldn’t help but read it. Toxic is a pretty strong word. I looked it up in several dictionaries to be sure, and all the definitions I found used the word poison somewhere. But as we have discussed previously here, the only difference between a medicine and a poison is dosage. In fact, the punch of the Times article is that sugar toxicity is probably dose dependent, the trouble is no one is quite sure what that safe dose is. And there is also some thought that regardless of the protests of the American Corn Growers Association, high fructose corn syrup is sooooooo much worse for the human body than naturally occurring sugars in the way that they are metabolized differently.

Forms of naturally occurring sugar, particularly honey, hold a place in traditional Chinese herbs. Most of the indications involve modifying the actions of other herbs as opposed to a central therapy, but there it is all the same. It should be noted, however, that even thousands of years ago the medical authorities writing on the topic included a little asterisk cautioning that high or too frequent a dose damages the digestive system.

Personally, in my daily routine, sugar has never held much of a prominent place. Given the choice between a piece of cake and a plate of French fries, I will mostly likely choose the French fries. Although let’s face it, I am all about quality so it would depend a lot on the particular cake and French fries. But given cheap grocery store cake versus fries from IN-N-OUT Burger, no contest.

Like I said, the internet went all a-skitter over this sugar article, including one of my mommy list-serves. All sorts of questions about whether the organic graham crackers made by blind monks in the mountains of someplace holy were really killing our kids came up. The list was bombarded by posts with subject lines like, “Who wants to give up sugar with me?” And I thought, “Hmmm, sure. I don’t really consume that much sugar anyway. Shouldn’t be that hard.”

Let me clear on my motives here. It’s not that I have any intention of counting calories or points or grams in some sort of quest to regain the body shape I had when I was 18. I know enough about me and my desires to know that that’s not going to happen. It’s more about something I heard once in a theology class in college. Rabbi Denker explained to us that the Jewish custom of keeping kosher and abstaining from certain foods does not have anything to do with sanitation or disease as some rabbis from the 19th century supposed, but rather a show of devotion to God by consciously separating ourselves from food-motivated animals. In that same spirit, for me this is an experiment to see if I can behave with more intention that the average Labradoodle.

As it happens I was at my parents’ house over the weekend when I read the article. My mother’s kitchen is not exactly what one might consider to be low sugar content. In fact, I think asking anyone who likes sugar to live there is a bit like asking an alcoholic to live in a bar.

No sooner had the thought of abstaining from sugar rattled through my head than my eyes landed upon the pan of brownies my mother had just baked. Brownies, yum. I ate one. And then I proceeded to eat a bunch of those crusty brownie edges she had left in the pan because she only puts the center cut ones on the serving tray. A few hours later when I was chasing my toddler son through the kitchen, and he said, “Want to share a cookie?” I said, “Sure.” Only we didn’t share a cookie. Instead we each had two. And then my mother made batch of decorated sugar cookies to take to the neighbors for Easter, and of course there were a few deemed unworthy of neighbor baskets, so I threw myself upon them. Did I mention that night dessert was more of the previously sampled brownies, with ice cream!? This behavior went on for three days.

When I got home I decided it was time to come off my sugar bender. I gave it up. Cold turkey. It’s day 3.

How’s it going? Well day 1 was sorta terrible, but I don’t know if that was from coming down off the sustained sugar high or the fact that I also decided that I should give up coffee. Me, give up coffee? Uh huh- you know how that went. On day 2 I went back to my precious, precious bitter drink, but still no sugar. And in wrapping up day 3, still no sugar.

I don’t have much expectation about how long this no-sugar thing might last, or if I will actually feel any different. Like I said, sugar wasn’t a big part of my daily routine. I do suspect I am going to have some difficulties when I sit down to eat my next plate of French fries. I personally find that famously trademarked carbonated beverage full of high fructose corn syrup is a nice compliment to any starchy, greasy plate of carbohydrates. I guess I could switch to wine.


Picture by Pirate Alice


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