Thursday, February 28, 2013

Living refined sugar-free

I always knew I needed to cut sugar from my life, ever since it was clear in childhood that it didn't work for me to eat it. I would get moody and hyper and feel awful. My mom did everything she could to maintain a sugar-free household and I did everything I could to get sugar. I knew it was horribly addictive. I knew that as soon as I ate it I wanted more. If I didn't have any I was scheming how to get some. When I was little I would eat it straight from the box in the pantry, at night. In middle school I would eat cookies at friends' houses. If we were given flats of M&Ms to sell for band fundraising in high school, I bought all the candy myself. When I was old enough I got a job in a drugstore and had a budget and free access to candy. When I tried taking a break from sugar it was all I thought about. All the way through college I could not shake that monkey off my back.

In January of 2003 I decided to try living sugar-free. So I started Atkins and once my weeklong withdrawal was finished I realized there was a new calm in my brain, a silence that highlighted the noise that was absent. I describe it like this: I feel like I had a radio in my head for 33 years that was tuned to candy advertisements and when the last of the white carb residue left my body, the radio went silent. It was a revelation. That is when I realized that the only way to quit sugar was to also quit other white carbs (rice, potatoes, wheat, corn) because it turned out they are metabolized in my body like sugar and kept the addiction going.

I get asked how can I resist cheating; candy, cakes, cookies, "treats". Don't I feel sad? Deprived? Well it's easy not to eat those things because I have no cravings! NONE. I never want to turn that radio back on. Staying off sugar is the biggest treat I ever gave myself. I don't feel bereft. And I tell you what, I've had so many slices of  cake, cookies, pints of ice cream, candy it would fill two lifetimes! I remember every delicious bite and I savor the memories, but I'm done with that.

When I first quit I substituted with sugar-free treats as a gateway. Artificially sweetened things are not good for you, I know, but sometimes you need a stepping stone. So I used sugar-free pudding and Jello. Diet sodas and sugar-free chocolate. I think this is a reasonable way to move away from sugars. Eventually I moved away from those too.

After I was off sugar for a while, other things tasted more sweet to me. I still have to be stingy with fruits as they can have similar effect on me as refined sugars. Especially dried fruits, I really can't go there.

Along with it no longer producing toxins in my liver the other benefit to quitting sugar is I finally felt sated. My brain regulated and my body finally had an "enough" setting when it came to food. For the first time ever I knew when I was hungry (it wasn't ALWAYS) and I knew when I was full! Imagine that.

Atkins is all about regulating your blood sugar levels to avoid straining your body; taxing your liver and pancreas. This leads to weight loss as you switch from burning carbs and storing the rest as fat to burning proteins and fats. It also helps avoid diabetes. This means I eat a protein snack or a meal every two hours. And good fats aren't bad guys in my world so I eat a lot of nuts and healthy oils.

There was a downside I hadn't expected. Without the rocket highs and plunging lows of sugar/white carb consumption, my moods evened out. Yes, that was desirable! But along with not suffering the horrible crashes, I also no longer experienced the manic highs. And I felt gray, flat, medium, for a long time. Sometimes I still do. Also, food is no longer a treat, a reward, a comfort. That is a big thing to give up! I love what I eat, I find it delicious and I enjoy meals very much. But without the carb trigger in my brain, food is just food. So strange. I find other ways to feel rewarded; exercise, making things, music, movies, books, holding hands with my husband :)

There are a lot of social pressures to eating sugars! It a socially acceptable addiction. And everyone has to eat. People don't think twice about trying to get you to just have a little of something they don't realize will make you sick for days and set all your life goals back. I imagine myself like an alcoholic or drug addict. No-one would offer them "just a little". That is my situation but folks don't know, and I certainly don't blame them! Living sugar-free is not the norm in this society. There's a lot of belief in "everything in moderation". But I can't do that. I try to explain that I am not missing out on the fun by not eating the dessert.

Sure this lifestyle makes eating out more complicated. I'm aware I'm not going to be able to avoid added sugars in meals I didn't make, but I find if I eat enough protein at the meal, a tiny bit of accidental sugar doesn't poison me or start the cycle of craving all over again. Yes, I plan and cook every meal during the week and always have protein snacks on my person. But do I miss eating sugar? I truly don't. I feel like I'm free from a corrosive addiction. I feel more in control of my life, my moods, my health. I have plenty of good things to eat, I don't feel deprived. I feel free!  Lately I am looking at Paleo recipes because they seem to contain the ingredients my body can handle. And I'm cooking with nut flours which has opened up some fun possibilities.

I hope if you try living sugar-free that you cut out all grains too because I think that is the easiest way to cut the cord and your best chance of lasting success. You won't need willpower when your cravings stop. If this is the right lifestyle for you you will rejoice in it! I send my best wishes to you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Makers in Business Ep 10 - Jen Gubicza of Zooguu

In Episode 10 of my creative business interview program I speak with Jen of Zooguu. Jen makes adorable plush toys by hand and sells them at shows, online, and in shops. Watch or listen to find out how she went from designing web pages to making toys for a living!

Episode 10 on Vimeo:

Find Zooguu online here:

Find the Audio only version of this interview here:
Audio only

Or subscribe on iTunes!

My show airs locally in Lowell on LTC Comcast Channel 8 on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM and Thursdays at 8:30. New shows monthly. For more information about Lowell Local Access TV, visit