A Month Without Cocaine. Er, Candy.

Sugar: A Not So Sweet Story. National Geographic Photography by Robert Clark

For my experiment of  A Year of Living Without, January was the month without candy.

A month without candy was the single most important experiment I have ever done for my health. It was so eye-opening.

The task was a bit daunting. I like candy. A piece of chocolate at night, peanut m&m’s in popcorn, those amazing mint m&ms in the afternoon. Perhaps a little Kit Kat after school? But after December’s gluttonous way, this was a needful Maisymak experiment.

I made the goal relatively easy – I only included candy, not all sugar. What I found? The less candy I ate, the less sugar I wanted in general. I decided to jump in all the way, and tried to say no to all treats for the whole month. Some days were easier than others.

The Breakdown:

Jan 5th – Every Sunday I feel this great NEED to make chocolate chip cookies for the family. It’s yummy, warm, bonding. It’s tradition! But after no sugar for five days, the minute I had a spoonful of cookie dough in my mouth, I felt guilty. Was I cheating? Were chocolate chips candy? I felt conflicted. Also, 1 minute after I swallowed the deliciousness, I got a dull-pounding sugar headache.

Jan 8th – By day number 8 without sugar, I noticed I was feeling calmer about life in general. Was this holiday slowdown? January blues? Vacation? As soon as I stopped eating candy, I immediately noticed less craving of sugar of any kind.

Irritability: Irritability decreased significantly. One night when I snapped at the kids, it took me by surprise.  I realized I had not lost my patience all day. I had just been feeling zen… Hmmm….

Fatigue: Obviously fatigue directly affects irritability. I noticed that without so much sugar, my energy wasn’t so up and down. I wasn’t having surges of energy and then huge fatigue slams.

Acne: In December, with all the sugar treats and cookies, I was breaking out and having to put the white stuff on at night. I couldn’t figure out why? The air was dry, and I have naturally dry skin. As soon as I stopped eating sugar? Break-outs TOTALLY disappeared.

Mid-Day Slump: 1 p.m. in the afternoon is hard. I’m tired. But instead of trolling the house for a sugar fix (a little peppermint patty here, a little handful of chocolate almonds there), I had something else: an apple and peanut butter. An orange. A grapefruit. Cheese. Fruit and yogurt. I found that fruit and protein satisfied the sweet tooth most of the time.

Also, instead of trying to stay “UP” with substances so I could work longer, I let myself lay down for half an hour. I was far more productive, and in a much better state for when the kids can home for their three minutes of quality time:)

How Did Sugar Affect The Long Run? This one is interesting because I’m “in-training.” Every week I have to get a long run in. The long run depends on quick release energy. In mid-January, I had a 14-miler. It was cold outside and required non-stop running for about two hours. The fuel I bring with me is GU and chomps. Which isn’t exactly candy, but it’s pure glucose. I survived the run, but when I got home I was desperately in need of quick fuel. I could feel my blood sugar drop. More glucose! I was very aware that my body needed quick replacement in the form of carbs and water. I should have gulped down my smoothie right away but instead I spied the left-over caramel corn from Christmas hidden behind a cereal box on the washing machine.

Oh dear.

The ravenous racoon in me sprang into action. It was so good. Immediately, I could feel my blood sugar and energy rise, but guess what I craved for the REST OF THE DAY? Sugar, sugar, sugar. All Day Long. I wanted it, craved it, had to have it…precious.

Sugar really is addictive. Read This: “The Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward.”

SUGAR SURPASSES COCAINE reward. Cocaine! No wonder we’re all sugar-addicts! Now, I’ve never had cocaine, but if you have, could you please weigh in here?

After the caramel corn binge, guess how much more antsy, anxious, irritable I was with my family? Cocaine Candy, is really not family-friendly. But we sure think it is…

The Prevalence of Sugar
You already know this. It’s everywhere. But as soon as I stopped eating it, I began to notice it like I never had before.

At church, lollipops are passed out for good behavior. We bring cupcakes and cookies for every holiday and birthday at school – and it’s always somebodies birthday. This Friday is Valentine’s= Sugar.

On January 12th the candy jar passed under my nose TWICE during class at church. I’m happy to report – I resisted. I could do this only because I had a goal. If I hadn’t? Then why not? It took a VERY conscious effort to say NO. If I had eaten that little Dove square of deliciousness, I would have wanted more and more and more.

Great Reading. Knowledge is King.

Iquitsugar.com is a great blog about Sarah Wilson’s journey (we hate that word) to completely quitting sugar. She reversed her hashimoto’s syndrome after eliminating sugar from her diet.

Here are some great science articles she linked to:

Sugar increases your risk of heart disease

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health: consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. More here.

Sugar ages the body and causes wrinkles

Read two crucial studies here and here, and here.

High fat diets may prevent or slow cancer growth

A study on mice by the Department of Biology, Boston College, USA shows a high-fat, low-carb diet is effective in reducing brain tumour growth. Time magazine wrote an overview here. 

Sugar increases your risk of cancer

“A review conducted by the Department of Medicine, University of Maryland shows consumption of sugar may compromise the body’s natural antioxidant defense mechanisms, thereby increasing the risk of cancer.”

Sugar increases your risk of diabetes

“A retrospective, world-wide study found small increases in sugar can lead to significant increases in diabetes rates. If you don’t want to read the science-y stuff, this article explains things nicely.”

It’s more addictive than cocaine

“A study on rats showed sugar is preferred over, and is more addictive than, cocaine. The study was conducted on animals (it can’t, ethically, ever be conducted on humans). But the point is a strong one, right? If you want an explanation of the study, read this.”

The white stuff makes you fat

“A meta-analysis study published in the British Medical Journal shows increased sugar intake is significantly associated with weight gain and an increased risk of obesity in children having just one sweetened drink per day. Want a simple version? Click here.

Pancreatic cancer uses sugar as fuel

“This study by UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center shows cells of the pancreas can readily use fructose to generate DNA and RNA for cell proliferation (tumor growth).”

Thank you, Sarah, and team – great science links here! Sarah’s cookbooks look AMAZING. I want.

Did you see National Geographic’s August 2013’s cover story? “Sugar: A Not So Sweet Love Story.” Fascinating history of sugar. But also: It’s killing us.

Killing us.

How Much is Okay?  The American Heart Association doesn’t actually recommend sugar at all, but no more than 6 teaspoons for an adult woman. Guess how many teaspoons are in ONE coke can? TEN. What a lovely after school snack our children are drinking.

Let’s add some sugar cereal for breakfast, the Snickers at snack time, the Gatorade after practice, the ice-cream at night? It goes on and on. At the very moment I’m selling Girl Scout Cookies with my daughter. Constantly conflicted.

We are pouring it into our mouths in extreme quantities. We eat sugar when we’re bored, tired, unfulfilled, fulfilled, scared, lonely, happy, and celebrating. We give sugar for rewards – for going to the potty, for making beds, for practicing the piano, for doing chores. We bribe our children (and ourselves) with something that’s as addictive as cocaine and is killing us.

“Here Honey, here’s a plate of Diabetes. I love you!”

What About Diet Soda? Here’s what I noticed about faux sugars. Anything that tastes sweet, triggers the brain to want more of it. So even though I drank diet coke (without any sugar) occasionally in the afternoon, it triggered me to want more sugar/more sweet, later on.

Something like agave is more “natural” and has a much lower glycemic index than white sugar, but beware: it’s still sweet. Sugar is sugar, in any form. Honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, agave, stevia – it’s all processed the same way in our body. Moderation needed!

Our children’s life expectancy  is lower than ours now. America is the richest country on earth and pays the most for health care. If quitting the sugar was the only health change we made this year? Huge. Jason Mraz, take it away!

The great thing about knowing this? We can take control our our own health. We’ll have to fight the world on this one (because it’s everywhere!), but come on, enough with the sugar!

A month without candy was the single most important experiment I have ever done for my health. It was disturbingly eye-opening. And you can bet it’s still a temptation. Hopefully I’ll do better.

Next on my reading list: Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killer.

More Living Without:

July: A Month Without Nail Biting

August: A Month Without Television

September: A Month Without Raising My Voice

October: A Month Without Email Before Noon

November: A Month Without a Late Bedtime

December: A Month Without Gossip

And what’s up for February? A Month Without Fast Food – Mama Mia!

Leave me your thoughts and links on habits, triggers, and sugar…I’d love to hear them.

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5 thoughts on “A Month Without Cocaine. Er, Candy.

  1. Dianne Salerni

    Candy doesn’t tempt me very much. Now, if it was a month without cheese, I’d be hurting!

    However, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I was consuming too much diet soda and also too much Splenda in my coffee. I’ve switched to carbonated water and a drinking my coffee with a lot less sweetener.

    Reply
  2. Dana

    Such a timely post for me, Amy. I am on day four of a seven day sugar detox. All added sugar or sweeteners. Surprisingly, I haven’t noticed a difference in the way I feel – maybe a bit less of an afternoon slump. I really miss chocolate, and I still have the urge to reach for something sweet after each meal. But it has been eye-opening, and I think that I will be much more conscious of how much sugar I am consuming. I have no problem skipping soda, but drinking my coffee without stevia takes some getting used to!

    Reply
    1. Rena

      decodeleJe viens de vérifier sagement l’ Académie :S Si vous en tenez pour TLF suivez le plus grand nombre ou distinguez-vous, bueno con dos yemas ( deux jaunes d’ oeufs) vous pouvez faire una pequeña maeeiysa.oxplicatnon?? : pour avoir 4 pieds de porc un seul cochon suffit, pour avoir deux jaunes il faut deux oeufs.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Guest Post: Amy of Maisy Mak, on How to Beat Sugar Addiction | Coach Daddy

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