Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Soap Box Wednesdays: Chasing the Dragon

Hi, my name is Nadette.....and I'm addicted to sugar (and expensive boots, but that's off topic).

Welcome Nadette. *nods of empathy and acceptance all around* Tell us your story:

It all started off when I was a wee lass. I would manipulate my mother into buying super sugary cereals she didn't want me eating, like Fruit Loops and Corn Pops, by seeking out coupons for them in the Sunday paper knowing she couldn't argue with savings.  As I got older, I would occasionally go the corner store before school, and buy myself a "breakfast of champions": a Snickers bar, a bag of chips, and a Pepsi and ride the sugar wave through the school day. [It's amazing what youth will protect you from, this meal would probably kill me now]. College came along and cereal, became a basic food group [Cap'n crunch=grains, Special K red berries=fruit, Honey Bunches of Oats=fiber, etc]. And then I joined the dance group, and was introduced to Blue Cocaine Powerade. Before I knew what was happening, I couldn't get through a day or a dance practice without one. Every attempt I made to get clean, was a bust. I would just replace one sugary vice with another. And then about two weeks ago, I began my descent to rock bottom. On a sad work day, I was hungry and craving the sweet stuff real bad and wasn't thinking straight. Instead of walking straight home after work, I stopped at the Rite Aid, and bought a candy bar... a king size Symphony Bar...and proceeded to eat half of it in on the way home! The shame and guilt of my indulgence followed me for days. I worked my ass of in pole that week just to make myself feel better. But I couldn't get the memory of creamy chocolate, and the sweet and salty crunch of toffee and almonds off my mind. The last straw came last week, I was putting together my grocery list for my long overdue pilgrimage to paradise Wegman's, and cringed at the 3 boxes of Cap'n Crunch that are staples on my grocery lists. The thought of all that sugar saturated, bleached flour and corn based cereal that I've been inhaling by bowlful for the last 20 plus years made me stop in my tracks. I started thinking about that  stubborn layer of fat on my lower abdomen, my dulling complexion, my epic dry skin/hair/scalp battles, my struggles with insane sugar cravings [damn symphony bar!] AND the fact that my metabolism could turn its back on me when I hit 30 [and I've talked sooo much shit on all the chicks who've gained a lot of weight since high school that I know Karma is already checkin' for me] and started to feel sick to my stomach. Rock meet Bottom. I decided then and there, that something had to change*.

My sugar junkie story isn't very different from millions of Americans' across the nation. Sugar is in EVERYTHING we eat, from cereals and juices to ketchup and pasta sauce. Sugar is literally addictive, because once you have sweet, you crave sweet. It's a vicious cycle that's hard to get out of, kinda like heroin, only tastier, and without the track marks. That dragon is a fast sumbitch. My situation is different, however, in that I was hyper aware of this fact, and in general tried to avoid sugar and its evil twin, high fructose corn syrup**, as much as possible. While I avidly read the nutrition facts on most of the foods that I consumed, I turned a blind eye to the ugly truth about my beloved cereal habit. Just like an addict I reasoned that since I didn't keep other sweets in my house, it was ok to keep eating that junk; I was defiant, in fact, and declared to friends, family, and blog readers world wide that "me and the Cap'n make it happen, on a regular basis". And just like every junkie since the dawn of substance abuse, I had to hit rock bottom--mine being in the form of inhaling half a giant candy bar on the four block walk home--to realize I needed to make some serious changes before rock bottom became a muffin top and type 2 diabetes.

So what does this mean for me now, and how does this tragic story relate to you??
Glad you asked...

*crawls on soap box, weakened from Cap'n Crunch withdrawal*

So like any other substance abuse rehabilitation program, breaking a sugar addiction isn't going to be easy. But unlike smack and cocaine, quitting cold turkey isn't the only viable option. And because I'm a realist and typically frown upon extreme methods of change, going "sugar free" isn't even an option.  I have decided to tackle, head on, the biggest source of the my addiction, and share some tips with y'all on how you can steadily free yourself from chemical dependence. 

  • Breakfast Cereals.  I effin' hate healthy cereals, they gross me out. But the typical breakfast cereal is a sugar bomb, with an average of 12 grams of sugar per serving, and by typical I mean all the yummy cereals. So after some reading, I decided to go for cereals with 6 grams of sugar or less/serving AND at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. This is a tall order as most cereals in this nutrition range taste like cardboard and make me want to throw things.  I was especially pissed that Kashi GoLean Crunch Honey Almond Flax cereal has a whopping 12 g of sugar per serving-- just as much sugar as Cap'n Crunch! EPIC FAIL! I almost gave up, but after some serious label reading and profanity laced muttering to myself in the grocery store I finally found Puffins Cinnamon Cereal, which has 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar per serving. It only faintly tastes of cardboard--the cinnamon masks it well, and it kinda looks like oversized Cap'n Crunch pieces--so it gets the job done and I'll stick with it for now. There are some other low sugar/decent fiber alternatives out there you can try:

    • Kashi GoLean! [looks like twigs, count me out] 6g sugar, 10g fiber

    • Newman's Own Sweet Enough Cinnamon Fiber Flakes [sounds highly disgusting] 6g sugar, 8g fiber
    • OK, so this list is tragically short, and as you can see, I'm not enthused, but the rest of the cereals with these credentials sound even worse--with words like "bran" and "fiber" in the actual titles. NO BUENOFarewell Cap'n, 'twas a beautiful affair...sniffle sniffle....

    • Juice and Soda. NIX 'EM ALL TOGETHER. Seriously. And I don't mean swap them for "diet" varieties either, that's no buenoWater is your best friend. Don't like the taste of water? Throw a fruit flavored tea bag in a glass of water, to jazz it up. Soda and juice should be for special occasions only. That rule applies to crumb snatchers children too!

    • Yogurt in flavored and plain varieties are still loaded with sugar. Greek yogurt, however, is naturally lower in sugar, but it's considerably thicker and has a distinct tangy flavor, so it's an acquired taste. I hate cottage cheese, but if you like it, it's a great source of protein and calcium w/o the sugar of yogurt.
    • Craving's management. Fruit, fruit, and more fruit. One thing that I have noticed is that when I keep fruit in my fridge and eat it daily, my sugar cravings are less frequent, less intense, and therefore manageable. I can literally walk away from the cupcakes in Whole Foods and not want to kill people.
    • Hidden sugars. Like I said, sugar is in everything, so read your labels! Pasta sauce, kethcup, salad dressing, and peanut butter are often full of hidden sugar. Trader Joe's has natural peanut butter and ketchup made w/o sugar. Pasta sauce is a bitch, the sugar is part of the recipe to cut the acid of the tomatoes, but the amount of sugar in your typical jar of prego is outlandish, so as you can imagine I haven't had spaghetti in ages. I just read that my Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette has sugar in it. Damn damn damn! 
    • Last but not least, keep the obvious sugars out of your house. It's much easier to not eat cookies and donuts and cake if they're not in the house. Those sort of eatings are treats, and should be treated as such. Dessert is not an everyday food--that includes ice cream. The darker the alcohol, the more sugar it has, and beer is not your belly's friend. Etc, etc.
    I'm sure there's much more I could address, but I'll leave it at that for now. And as for my progress, I also bought a fall back sugary cereal, and already I find it too sweet. I haven't made any candy runs in over a week, but I did indulge in Bavarian pecans at the book fair this weekend. It's a process, but for the most part, I think I'm doing well. Hope I've been helpful. 

    Merry Soapbox Wednesday.

    *the sentiments of this story have been exaggerated for dramatic and comedic effect. The memory of creamy chocolate and the sweet and salty crunch of toffee and almonds did not haunt my Psyche for days. I swear! 

    **please, please, PLEASE don't fall for those stupid ass commercials sponsored by the Corn Syrup Lobby implying that HFCS is exactly the same as sugar. The linked article suggests otherwise, and that's literally only scratching the surface of the debate on this super cheap sugar product. Oh, and heads up b/c HFCS is getting a name change to Corn Sugar. While the scientific jury is still out on HFCS, I would avoid this mess as much as possible y'all. Do it for yourself, the youngins' and the puppies!


    1. This was a hilarious - and true - post!

      I'm one of those chicks who you'd make fun of who has gained weight since high school (at least 2 dress sizes in 12 years), but because I'm not a skinny-minny I've already learned the evils of poor food choices. I'm not a sugar addict, 'cause I can't afford to be if I want to keep shopping in the misses department. LOL :)

      I strongly suggest that people consider limiting their intake of processed foods in general and exercising portion control. I almost never eat jarred pasta sauce, I make my own from scratch (or from low-sodium canned tomatoes). I don't add salt or sugar to anything. If you are addicted to sweet breakfast cereal, eat one bowl as a dessert, 'cause that's what it is. If you are still addicted, mix the sugar stuff with healthy stuff until you can get off it. I avoid the whole problem by not walking down the cereal aisle.

      I know that cooking from scratch takes logner, but there are ways to plan your meals on weekends so that you make healthier choices during the week. My grocery bill is even lower because I shop the "perimeter" of the grocery store. (I avoid most of the middle of the store where the shelf-stable processed foods are sold.)

      Nobody's perfect, but this is a really good and honest post.

    2. Thanks for bringing me back to reality! I've been seriously slipping for the last few months and I need to get my butt on track. You'd be surprised how a "little bit" of sugar here or a "little bit" there can really start to add up and that little "pouch" in my belly that was disappearing is starting to come back again! Actually, in the middle of writing this comment, I decided to rinse my water bottle out (that's been sitting on my desk forever unused) and load it up with some water! You see...your soap box Wednesday really do make a difference :) Thanks!

    3. Hmmm, water bottle officially filled! I did have some cookie crisp cereal this morning (blame the husband, he can't be trusted with a grocery list). So baby steps....but thanks for the reality check. I am that girl who gained weight after high school....but I looked like a anorexic hooters girls so it was welcomed weight....but damn to HELL now I can't turn off the weight gain! AND metabolism,HA! that ish turned on me about 2 years ago.

    4. Dear Nadette,

      You gave me a good laugh! Especially after my tipping scale notice. But please note that you should not feel bad about your symphony bar and there is NO FAT ON YOUR BELLY. Oh yeah... and you ARE skinny minny.

      But you are so right. My name is Latoya and I'm a sugar addict. I'm trying though. I really am!

    5. oh man, I drink a lot of water b/c I really feel like its the difference between me having alligator skin vs looking like a normal human being. I also make sure my little crumb snatchers/kids drink plenty as well and get only one cup of juice a day (none for the baby so far)

      But uh, I have a problem when it comes to sugar, I have extremely weak teeth and have given plenty of money to the dentist and still cant kick the habit :(

    6. @Keeley, I try to keep it real, no matter hot mess it is. I'm really trying to focus on establishing true balance in my life. A little part of me is sad, I love being a cereal monster, but i've just reached a point where I can't ignore the obvious anymore. I'm very anti-processed food, and I wish more people would take the time to really think about what their eating. until then, i'll be on my soapbox :)

      @Maddy, you are quite welcome my dear! It's amazing how quickly a little of this and that adds up to a lot of junk for your body. I just wish our food culture didn't constantly set people up for failure.

      @DFig, your story is my biggest fear. I welcomed the weight gain that made me look normal, but i'm afraid of what 30 and the american food diet might do to me. It's not supposed to be this hard to stay small, it's very distressing.

      @Toya, welcome fellow sugar addict, we can take this reduced sugar journey together! And i'm not saying I'm not skinny, I just want my lower belly to look like my upper abs. I realize that may be asking too much, but since when have I cared about that?

      @Kristin, we're all sugar addicts, most of us don't even know it!

      @LIG, I know what you mean about alligator skin. You should see my line up of skin products for the winter. I recently heard from a holistic doctor that fruit and vegetable intake is more hydrating than drinking tons of water b/c it hydrates on the cellular level, whereas you usually excrete most of the water before it's absorbed. So definitely try to up your produce intake. I sure am! and now that summer is over, I'm buying my favorite fruits in frozen form, cuz I don't do canned food. As for weak teeth and sugar...oh girl, you gotta work on it. Dentists bills are just plain offensive, lol



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