In 1979 my mother took me to the Dr and said “Dr! You have to help me! My son is rambunctious, fidgets all the time, won’t listen and can’t focus on anything for more than a few seconds!”
The Dr replied, “He’s five years old.”
(pause for comedic effect)
My mother followed up with “I know that! But he’s worse than all the other five year olds in our neighborhood put together.”
“Oh.” The Dr replied, “We have a pill for that.”
I don’t remember my mother’s face when he told her this but a talented writer would say something like “Her usually lively eyes dulled and seemed to sink into her skull as her striking bronze, Mediterranean skin turned, slowly, to a sullen ash.” In short, this was not the answer she was seeking. Needless to say, I was not put on any pills (we'll discuss this in a later blog). Instead my mother went home and threw out everything with refined sugar in it.
This was just before the height of the sugar-verses-fat debate of the 1980’s (followed immediately but the cola wars of the 1980’s, ironically). These were the days before we had to admit we couldn’t believe it wasn’t butter. My father smoked in the hospital room where I was born, the church where I was christened, and the car where I sat unbuckled in any seat facing any direction I wanted. Those were simpler times, with 21% interest rates on mortgages and an ever present, faceless communist horde prepared to destroy the world with the push of a nuclear missile launching button.
(Norris wipes away a tear)
But my mother wasn’t to be swayed by western medicine, hippie gurus, new aged self help books, or Reaganomics. She took control of the situation. We still had sugary food when it mattered. Someone’s birthday would get you a small piece of sugary cake. A major holiday, like Christmas, might merit a candy cane AND a soda. Halloween let us look at a lot of candy but then we were tricked into “you can have X number of pieces per night” (which always resulted in most of it being thrown away) and dear sweet Easter got us the largest (and most hollow) of chocolate goodies. But the idea of having a coke while watching your favorite Tuesday night TV shows was something only the regular families did. If you think this was oppressive, consider that 5 short years later we sold everything, moved half way across the country and bought 30 acres in rural east Texas where we began to raise more than half our own food.
Not only was there no soda, cookies, candy, or pastries I had to get up every morning before the sun and feed these large dirty, stinky animals that eventually turned into raw, blood dripping protein sources. I must admit, I didn’t really notice the lack of sugar until I was old enough to earn money and buy my own food. We had blackberry bushes, peach trees, pear trees, and apple trees. We grew water melons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, and all the greens you can imagine. We raised cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, and rabbits. And to top it off, mom did almost all her own baking, so bread was something special. It was something to be coveted on baking day.
But time goes by, families break up, people get cancer and die, other people knock up their girlfriends, get married, get jobs, get divorced, move a couple times, and end up eating shit because HEY! Who cares what you eat? Well, I cared when I hit 230lbs and my knees and ankles started hurting. So it was time to do something about this. (note: this is a gross over simplification for the purpose of moving the story along)
So I wanted to lose some weight and stay mobile but I wasn’t motivated until I watched
"that sugar film" which asserted that not only were refined sugars horrible for your physical state but also your psychological state (there was also a major point about how all calories are not the same but I'll touch on that in a later blog). Suddenly I had to process some data. I have a friend who took a very stressful job sitting behind a desk and decided he needed to lose some weight. He took the “Glycemic Index” approach. He staunchly avoided anything that would spike his blood glucose levels and lost ~30 lbs in 6 months. He talked about it endlessly. It was SOOOOOOOO annoying. And then I decided to do something similar but I’m much cooler about it because I only post in my blog, condemn my co-workers for their eating habits and preach to anyone who will listen.
I actually had a pretty healthy diet before I quit sugars. I cooked or prepared all my own meals from real ingredients that didn't come pre-packaged in a cardboard box or resealable bag. I stuck to lean meats, green veggies, fresh herbs and spices, and I drank lots of water. But when I got honest about what I was eating between meals, well, I had to rethink things. For example I drank a lot of Gatorade (very high in sugar). I was drinking whiskey sours each night and the mix for that was loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup. I was eating tons of carbs at night before sleeping (when I didn’t need any). So I upped my fruits and veggies, cut out anything with refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and started a “food as fuel” practice. First thing in the morning I get fruits and some fatty veggies like avocados. I also tend to hit the cheese which is apparently as addictive as crack .(Not really. For God's sake do your research, people) I get, maybe, a shot of Orange Juice but never more than half a glass.
I snack on fruit and nuts through-out the day with a protein & fat rich wrap (see lunch meat, cheese and lots of veggies in a flax based bread thingy for lunch) and then usually a salad at night. A couple times per week I make an actual dinner with meat and veggies (little to no carbs). In all honesty, I get too much salt and too much fat, but I think I’m onto the ketosis phase of this experiment.
I am down 20 lbs in 4 months but the trick is the pattern of weight loss to emotional stability. The first few weeks nothing happened. Anyone can loss 5 or 10 lbs in a week by changing their eating and water intake but then your weigh goes right back up. It took me 2-3 weeks to lose anything. Then I lost 2-3 lbs per week steadily for almost 3 months before plateau-ing. This is my fault, I started working out. I am still 10 lbs from my initial goal but I feel so much better and now I spend time on sit-ups, pull-ups and riding my bicycle. If it takes a few months to lose that next 10 lbs I’m not worried.
And that not being worried is what’s worth talking about. 3 months into this diet I did something stupid and thought “Man, when you get up tomorrow you’re going to hate yourself for doing that.” But I woke up and I felt OK. I said “That was dumb. Learn something and move on.” 6 months ago I couldn’t have pulled out of the self loathing spiral that would have resulted from saying something stupid in public or getting drunk and buying something useless off Amazon.com. Now I feel more grounded and more leveled out than I can ever remember being in my adult life. (there's a whole microbiome part to this discussion but I'm not going their tonight) I feel better and I haven't been able to say that for the last 20 years.
I have one neighbor who stops by from time to time and brings me food. She’s a super nice old lady and the sweetest person you could ever want to meet, but it doesn’t register with her that I am not eating sugar. I smile and tell her thank you and when she leaves I eat the protein and throw out the sweets she’s brought me. It’s not worth feeling bad again.
I look forward to eating pasta again but f^%k candy bars and sodas in their life destroying asses.