(Photo: Some no sugar added housewarming treats to enjoy (in moderation) on the occasional carb up day, courtesy of my friend Sally B.)
My relationship with sugar was a sick, life-long obsession. When I would feed my addiction, it would feel good for a few moments, but every encounter would make me feel bad about myself – filled with regret and self-loathing, overly emotional and wired. Sugar was an epic, bad-for-me love affair of Twilight proportions, and I didn’t even realize how firmly that addiction had taken hold. As our family became more and more educated about the long-term effects of sugar and the lies that corporate food pushers are telling us, it became clear that I had to end this relationship. We’ve adopted a largely Ketogenic lifestyle for us adults, and a hybrid Paleo and Keto diet for the kids. We’ve been eating this way since mid May, and there’s no going back. For some links to both styles of eating (I don’t like the word ‘diet’) see the end of this post, but in the meanwhile, here’s why I broke up with sugar, and why I also cut it off from my kids.
* p.s. I had to cut things off with sugar’s bestie, gluten, too. They run in the same circles and attract the same kind of trouble, and I couldn’t see gluten without longing for sugar.
A Family History of Cancer
Those of you who know me know that I’ve lost three aunts and one uncle to cancer, all on my mother’s side. What’s more, my mom herself is a breast cancer survivor. Even though my own adventures in genetic counselling concluded that there wasn’t a clear genetic link to the disease, these numbers were unsettling enough to encourage more legit health consciousness on my part. My hubby is a science nut, and as he sourced more and more research proving that sugar feeds cancerous and pre-cancerous cells, I really had to ask myself why I needed so much sugar in the first place?
A Family History of Type Two Diabetes
My dear old dad can’t live without sugar. He’s loved sweet treats, particularly those of the chocolate variety, since I can remember. That love has landed him with type two diabetes. He hasn’t cut back on sugar, not at all. His addiction is deep and powerful. So was mine, and I didn’t want to inherit this particular family trait. I sneak him sugar-free treats all the time. He rarely notices the difference, and if he does, he doesn’t complain. I believe he can kick the habit, but addiction runs strong on both sides of the family. He’s got to want to kick it first.
I could have easily been medicated for the clinical depression and anxiety I’ve been dealing with. I have zero judgment of anyone who is on meds to help with their own mental illness, but before I took this step, I agreed with my therapist that I wanted to try to manage my mental health with diet and lifestyle changes. She had advised these steps before meds because she felt very strongly that my cognitive therapy and trauma work would be easier without medication. She was right. Cutting gluten and sugar from my diet and increasing my daily intake of omega 3, vitamin D, and B12 has made a HUGE difference in my ability to regulate my emotions. PMS week is still a war zone, but I’m hoping with increased exercise and meditation, I’ll be right as rain.
I honestly felt panicky when my partner first stated that he thought we needed to kick sugar. I LOVE sweets. All of them. I used to crave them so intensely, I felt powerless to stop myself from indulging whenever they were around. I hated that anything had that kind of power over me, and I realized that my huge resistance to the idea of living without sugar was a big indicator that I should probably give it up. Because I’m an addict, there was no “maybe sometimes I’ll have it” or “I’ll just have it in fruit”. If my blood glucose is elevated, my fiendish nature takes over again, and I’m right back to where I started. It’s got to be an all or nothing thing for me, which is not to say I won’t join in with someone’s birthday cake. On those rare social occasions, I have a bit, but usually end up regretting it because of how it makes me feel, and how it triggers the desire to have more and more. Not unlike any type of addiction recovery. Don’t be surprised if I turn up at your event with my own dessert. I promise to share.
Addiction is genetic. My toddler was already exhibiting the signs of a sugar addict, (irritability, constant cravings, huge emotional swings – okay, sure these are also normal toddler traits) and our two older daughters were caught in the clutches of the beast. I grew up on Pop Tarts and Fruit Loops for breakfast, and so did my partners. Our parents didn’t know that sugar is poison. Many of you reading this will scoff at the notion too, and roll your eyes. “Everything is bad for you!” or “I don’t over-indulge my kids with sweets.” We didn’t either. We were never a ‘dessert every day’ family, even though that’s how we three grown ups were raised. But guess what? Even if you don’t have a ‘sweet treat’ every day, SUGAR IS IN EVERYTHING. Every-goddamned-thing.
Dying Too Young Is Harder
I won’t lie, changing our lifestyle so radically has been hard. Not because there are lots of foods that I miss, because there aren’t many at this point, but because of social pressure and time. Every gathering we attend, every trip to the grocery store, fills our kids with the same kind of frustration and longing for foods that are poison. The marketing machines behind the food industry have done their jobs well. Only yesterday, we had to fend off a well-intentioned sample lady trying to foist her last three ice cream sandwiches off on our kids. She stared, bewildered, as we explained that we didn’t eat gluten and sugar, and all three of our kids began to protest. Loudly. It’s hard to be different. To turn away from foods that we have associated with fun, and comfort, and even love. This isn’t the first time our family has had to re-invent the wheel, and so with the same kind of creativity and conviction, we are building new memories and attitudes towards our relationships with food. It’s been hard to constantly manage and sympathize with the kids’ disappointment. I’m planning to Halloween party to end all Halloween parties to make up for the heartbreak of not being able to trick-or-treat, but if our positive steps can give any one of us a few more years together, it’s totally worth it. I’ve seen too many people die before their time, and I’m going to do everything I can to protect my family from the few variables I have control over.
I’m Not Going to Preach
We all do the best we can to feed and love our families. I’m passionate about our new path, but I know it’s not for everyone. We are very fortunate to have two parents who have schedules flexible enough to shop and bake and be really creative with meals and lunches. I’m not here to convert you, but I hope to inspire you and share some of my wealth of resources too. I’ve logged a lot of time on Pinterest, and have become addicted to listening to Podcasts. If you are trying to make similar changes, or are just curious about this kind of lifestyle, please come back and visit for some recipes and links to great info and research. Better yet, sign up for my mailing list to receive my monthly newsletter, with my favorite recipe finds.
The Lies the ‘Experts’ Are Telling
The food guides we follow were created by the same people who are trying to sell the foods they are recommending. The research on the evils of fats in our diets was skewed and is now archaic. The drug industry is booming because of the number of people on cholesterol medications. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea…
Some Resources for You
I’m not a doctor, and by no means recommend starting any kind of new lifestyle without first consulting your trusted physician. Please note, some physicians are sadly misinformed or ill-equipped with current diet and nutrition information. If your doctor is pushing the national food guide on you, that’s a problem.
Here’s some great links about Ketogenics and the Low Carb, High Fat Lifestyle (LCHF):
Ketogenic Diet Resource is an incredible website with a very comprehensive explanation of Ketosis and the health benefits therein. I particularly liked the Keto Diet Myths section, and the section called ‘KD and Cancer’. The menu for this site is on the left, if you are on a computer: http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/
I’m not sure how useful the Keto Diet App is, but the blog for this app has been a great tool for me. I was able to figure out what my daily nutritional requirements should be, and I found lots and lots of interesting articles, and so many delicious recipes. https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/
Hands down, this has been the greatest resource for recipes. I love this site! http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/
This site, and the ‘Ask the Low Carb Experts’ podcast will totally appeal to all of you science-minded folk who want more than a pretty food picture clipped on Pinterest to convince you to make some changes. Be warned, the site is pretty dated looking, but the information is great, and Jimmy Moore is a very sweet personality with a great real-life story of his own process. http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com/
As for Paleo, I’m crushing equally on the handsome and articulate Able James, and his adorable wife Alyson Rose who have started something of an empire on his site, Fat Burning Man. The podcast is amazing too. Ladies, have a listen to this episode with Dr. Sara Gottfried. The stuff about cortisol blew my mind. http://fatburningman.com/dr-sara-gottfried-low-carb-can-make-you-fat-how-to-hack-cortisol/
Digging this info? Want more? Tell me what you want to know, and I’ll post about it!