Last night I indulged myself with my last tart fro-yo. It was a delicious treat with pomegranate seeds, strawberry slices, sprinkles and chocolate chips. It was huge and sweet and delicious. But why my last if I enjoyed it so much? Because I tend to enjoy these treats all too often - especially with the whole new "tart yogurt" thing. So for lent (and probably longer) I will be kicking the sugar habit. Hard core.
For those who don't quite know what Lent is (and I'm surprised how many don't), here's a brief explanation (love you, Wikipedia):
Lent, in Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Conventionally, it is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently. The forty days represent the time that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.
This practice was virtually universal in Christendom until the Protestant Reformation. Some Protestant churches do not observe Lent, but many, such as Lutherans, Methodists and Anglicans, do.
Lent was also traditionally the term used to describe the period leading up to Christmas before the term Advent was officially recognized.
Now back to giving up sugar:
This year, my goal was to re-establish some healthy habits back into my life. Well, here I am, and it's the middle of February and I've yet to make any diet changes, yet to go to the gym, yet to get more sleep, etc, etc. So, to me, Lent is almost like a 2nd New Year's, where I get to re-evaluate those resolutions I quickly forgot. So in the spirit of renewal and health, I will sacrifice sugar for the 40 days of Lent.
Sugars to me include: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, sugar, sucrose, dextrose, cane sugar, and brown sugar. I will be cutting out all foods that list any of these sugars in the ingredients. I will not be completely be cutting milk out of my diet, mostly because from the research I've done, lactose (sugar found in milk products) is easily broken down by enzymes in the body and doesn't affect insulin in the body like pure sugars do. I am not cutting out natural sugars from my diet. Fruits and veggies are a must! A few things like corn, cooked carrots, and bananas will be eatten sparingly. They are high on the gylcemic index scale and apparentley can cause sugar cravings. I will also be limiting sugar substitutes to help avoid any unnecessary cravings (I don't use much sugar substitute anyway, so I don't anticipate it will be a big deal).
I'm both nervous (#1) & excited (#2) about this challenge/change I'm taking on. It's funny because in all my reading about cutting sugars out of my diet, most websites act as if I'm a 2 candy bar a day, 64 oz Coke drinking kind of girl - when the truth is, I'm a dessert passer- upper, 12oz diet coke drinking kind girl who likes the occasional cookie, sugary snack or fro yo. But in reality, I'm pretty amazed at how many of the foods I love are loaded with sugar, even foods I consider healthy. This is where the challenge will come in - making different choices and replacing foods I thought were "healthy" with foods that are actually...healthy. While I'm definitely not a food Nazi (psh...obviously), I do like to healthful approach whenever I can, so SUGAR FREE - Here I Come!
Here are a couple interesting facts about sugar consumption:
-156 lbs. That's how much added sugar Americans consume each year on a per capita basis
-Soft drinks account for 33% of all added sugars consumed
-Sweetened fruit drinks account for 10% of the total added sugars we consume. Candy and cake come in at 5% each. Ready-to-eat cereal comprises 4% of the total
-26% of added sugars comes from a variety of prepared foods like ketchup, canned vegetables and fruits, and peanut butter
Here's a few things to know about sugar and what it does to your body.
Sugar increases fat storing. Possibly the most important hormone in the body when it comes to weight loss and health is insulin. Insulin is the main hormone that we have full control over daily through our diet and lifestyle. When we eat sugar and it enters into our bloodstream too quickly, we have a spike in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Now in times of high activity we are able to burn it off, but if we are sitting around this is not a good thing. So in response to that high level of blood sugar (known as glucose), the body will release more insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin will then take the excess glucose and try to find a place to store it. If your muscles are all full (or have insulin resistance) then the best place to put the excess glucose is fat cells. When insulin is high, the fat cells are told to start storing (shutting down any process of releasing stored fat into the blood for burning). With chronic high insulin spikes comes a resistance to it (insulin resistance) by your cells, leading to more insulin production, leading to more fat storing, and more resistance, eventually going down a road of diabetes and ill health for the whole body. It’s interesting to note that in cultures known for their longevity, many had different diets and lifestyles but the one thing they all had in common was low fasting insulin levels.
Sugar disrupts normal brain function. I think most people can relate to mood swings and energy highs/lows that come after a high sugar meal. Sugar can also be the source of many people’s increased anxiety and depression. Let us not also forget the kids with ever-increasing attention “disorders” and behavioral issues. Sugar is not helping with that, either. In fact, there have been many studies that show when taking sugar out of a kid’s diet and increasing fat intake, their attention/learning ability increases, their behavior changes for the better, and in some extreme cases have been able to manage (if not eliminate) seizures. The brain is made mostly of fat and although runs on glucose it gets “shorted out” with too much sugar.
Sugar decreases your overall health and makes you age quicker. Too much sugar will lower your overall immune system, increase destructive inflammation, lead to essential mineral deficiencies in the body, feed bad bacteria growth in your gut (all health starts in the gut) and other wonderful stuff. Aging is just a fancy word for the body breaking down quicker than it can repair itself, as that is what happens when we get older. Aging also is accelerated by the increasing risks of all degenerative diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancers. We are all going to get older, but it doesn’t mean that we have to “age” quicker.