Every morning I attempt to do well by the countless articles relevant to maintaining a healthy balanced diet. By the afternoon, all my good intention swirls down the throne due to a momentary lapse in judgment.

Sweet, sweet poison

Processed sugar, the supposed poison, became something I habitually consumed to remedy the three-thirtyitis. Fine occasionally, but when I needed it every day, I began to think I had a problem.

At first I blamed boredom and a juiced up sweet tooth for my daily indulgence. This erroneous conclusion was purely based on the fact that I am one of those sorry sods who head to the gym at lunchtime to feel better about my dietary choices. And then make a bad choice because I went to the gym.

As I devoted more hours to the treadmill and pleaded with my will power to stop my obsession with sugar, I always seemed to give in to the notion that I deserved a reward, and no one gets a gold star for just being.

This rather cyclical line of thinking was obviously sending me tumbling down the hole. The strawberry-flavoured donut hole that is.

So in keeping with the idea that I may have a problem I manned the search engine and began to see if all this sugar was doing me harm, considering my shape was shifting far beyond my allotted weight and height limit.

That’s when I found former pudgy lawyer David Gillespie - author of Sweet Poison - a book which outlines the detrimental effects sugar has on the body. He was in the same boat I was, watching the scales creep upwards and miserable, but he found an answer.

Gillespie argued that by eating sugar - in particular fructose - we are blocking the ability for our three major appetite hormones that tell us we are full, which include insulin, leptin and cholecystokinin (CCK). Therefore consuming sugar sends us down the track of eating more and more which usually dead ends with some sort of first world problem.

After fashioning a quit plan and saying no to sugar, Gillespie lost 40 kilos, further contouring the dangers of a diet high in that stuff that tastes so good.

I also swung by YouTube and watched a lecture by Dr Robert Lustig, a specialist in paediatric obesity from the University of California, San Francisco. It went for over an hour, far beyond the usual minute-long attention span I regularly devote to the site, but what the hey the title, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, was rather catchy.

Lustig also summarized the poor effects of sugar in its fructose forms and how throughout the last century bad sugar has been making its way into more and more of our everyday food.

This parallel proclamation that eating too fructose was making us fat was enough for me to try to change. Perhaps it would mollify that feeling of always wanting more.

But it wasn’t just the soft drinks and chocolate that came under the category of bad sugars. As I began to let nutritional labels dictate my diet I found it to be in nearly everything I liked eating. No wonder my appetite couldn’t be pacified, my menu had been sabotaged.

So I threw out the muesli bars, chucked the colourful cereal boxes into the bin, gave ‘diet’ yoghurt the toss and replaced them with unsugared versions like quick oats, whole nuts and Greek yoghurt.

Fruit, was still in, but fruit juice was out. According to Gillespie, a glass of apple juice is equivalent to the same amount in soft drink.

I could still eat bread - certain types of bread - and I could also put butter on it because fat, does not contain sugar. In fact, a lot of cheese, avocado and bacon worked themselves into my meals as I began to see that fat-free meant it was sometimes plumped with fructose, making the marketing technique out to be hypocrisy.

It was quite the chore to keep up with what I put in my mouth but in the end I got used to it and felt better about myself saying no. But more importantly I shed a few of those unsavoury kilos within the first week, which made me feel as though I was doing something right while still keeping up with my workout schedule.

Socially, I was a bit of a loner, I didn’t realise how often gelato acted as a conversation starter and my friends watched with gapping mouths as I snubbed my usual latte with two in favour of a long black. I did, however, start to get compliments on the skinny jeans I nearly donated to charity.

In the end I wasn’t afraid of my afternoons at work and felt like I had taken myself out of the running from joining the 61 per cent of Australian adults who are either overweight or obese - there isn’t room for one more.

It’s been a month sans sugar and my appetite has been restored. Although the decision to eliminate the poison has made me more restrictive of what I eat, I now understand that too much of a good thing does more harm than good.

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37 comments

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    • bec says:

      06:25am | 12/08/11

      I could have written this. Another thing you’ll notice after ditching sugar and adding more fat into the diet is the excellent improvement you’ll get with your skin and hair. Quicker wound healing, less dryness and my acne has gone. Win. It’s also great for people with lipodystrophy and lipoedema who have problems with water retention.

      The problem is that it’s everywhere and endemic. Diet companies that shill fat-free (yet sugar heavy) products target everyone, and even low-fat milk has a high GI with none of the fat to help with the solubility of the vitamins D and K.

    • Bev says:

      09:44am | 12/08/11

      The problem is that it’s everywhere and endemic. Diet companies that shill fat-free (yet sugar heavy) products target everyone

      Totally agree it is so difficult to avoid sugar.  To do so you need to read the fine print on every box/package/tin or avoid processed ready prepared foods (not always possible).  I nearly fell over when I read how much sugar a brand of cereal touted by athletes as ironman food. Gives you energy alright its loaded with sugar.  Stick with oatmeal not the dear highly advertised one or the home brand (tastes like flour sweepings) but the middle of the road brands at half the price and stay away from “instant”. Low fat milk (not skim) and if you crave sweetner a little honey (some are low GI, yellow box).

    • bec says:

      05:22pm | 12/08/11

      I do well by avoiding even oatmeal and other “low-gi” carbs. For one, I go out of ketosis (which I purposely try to stay in) and for another, I find that even a small bolus of glucose is enough to make me jittery and crash.

      Agree that avoiding anything from a box or package is key. I only go to supermarkets for toiletries and cleaning goods; butchers and greengrocers have everything I need and more.

    • Mahhrat says:

      07:01am | 12/08/11

      Might focus on this, thanks for the article.  Congratulations, too!

    • Sceptic says:

      07:30am | 12/08/11

      Mahhrat,

      In all seriousness, whenever you are hungry, drink a litre of water (in one go), it will fill the gap.  You will gradually over three months get used to requiring less to eat.  Eating is a habit.

    • Smidgeling says:

      12:01pm | 12/08/11

      Simple solution- don’t eat anything that isn’t fresh steamed veges and lean meat. It’s all about willpower.

      I can do it when I’m toning up, and I’m the type of person that goes a little bit crazy when I can smell all that nice tasting bad food. I cannot stress how much I love food- possibly as much as women….

    • Matthew says:

      01:56pm | 12/08/11

      sceptic, and you’ll wreck your kidneys.  Overdosing on water is bad for other parts of your body.  You should try something different to occupy your time and think of something different.

    • Tina says:

      07:30am | 12/08/11

      I wonder why we need restrictive and complicated diets when you will be just fine eating whatever you like in sensible dosages. Its just a bit of common sense! Why spend hours researching and hundreds of dollars on diet plans when you know all it takes is leaving the second chocolate bar for the next day?

    • Cate says:

      04:18pm | 12/08/11

      Completely agree with this!
      People are so obsessed with this idea that there must be a reason why they are obese - blame carbs, blame sugar, blame anything except for the reality over overindulgence.
      Sugar is fine in small doses, as is fat, carbs, everything! Food is not the enemy, it is fuel for our bodies, and something that can be enjoyable if treated as a friend, not an emotional crutch.
      My motto - don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t eat, and everything in moderation.

    • Stu says:

      12:57pm | 13/08/11

      Tina and Kate, you are both completely wrong. And too cynical to give the Author’s point a try. The Author is COMPLETELY correct - sugar is pure EVIL. Do not eat the stuff. You can still eat in moderation, as is your point,  and enjoy a good ‘true rotation diet’. Just AVOID sugar while you’re doing it. PS: reading the fine print on labels only happens once or twice, you don’t shop like this all the time.. You find products that work for you and buy them regularly. It’s all easy if you are genuinely serious about non-obese lifestyles..

    • Ms Lulu says:

      08:43am | 12/08/11

      Good Article Megan. I too have a sugar addiction and have struggled with it for years. ( currently on the band wagon ). I interviewed a lady a couple of months back on our local community radio station her name was Monica Colmsjo and the book is Sugar Dreams ( waking up to the bitter reality ). It was a fascinating conversation she is a clinical nutritionist and educator and hold seminars and workshops throughout S.E Queensland. She blames sugar addiction for the death of her son but you would have to read more to understand why she came to this conclusion. Anyways good luck with it remember one teaspoon is too much and 100 is too many .....

    • Nicole says:

      09:02am | 12/08/11

      Great read Meghan, I hate that sugar is sneakily popping up everywhere!
      If anyone need further inspiration, check out Tom Hafey who gave up biscuits and cakes in 1974 to teach his daughters an example of will power. 
      The super-fit 80 year old looks years his junior!

    • Fiona says:

      04:34pm | 12/08/11

      I wonder if the overuse of wheat products (eg gluten) is also responsible at least partly, for the rise in caeliacs and those who say they’re a lot less windy when they reduce it.

    • Nick says:

      09:08am | 12/08/11

      Yep, I was thinking about “the bitter truth” as soon as I read the title of this article. Perhaps a pertinent point that you forgot to mention is the similarities between fructose and alcohol, and how many of the side effects of over consumption are the same. Fat has been played out as the mortal enemy for so long but it’s time the health authorities reviewed there science.

    • Shifter says:

      10:36am | 12/08/11

      ‘similarities between fructose and alcohol’

      They have a very similar molecular construction for starters.

      ‘Fat has been played out as the mortal enemy for so long but it’s time the health authorities reviewed there science.’

      The issue is more one of balance. Fat was the enemy so we cut the fat and raised the carbs for flavour. Now we’re getting close to the opposite end of the swing where carbs and sugars are the enemy. People are replacing both with protein, and I’m wondering how long it will take until excessive protein is seen as a dietary enemy.

      *Note: not a dietician.

    • Anon says:

      09:13am | 12/08/11

      It’s amazing how simple it is once you do it. Last year I cut the majority of fructose sugar and carbs from my diet, and have kept the weight off a year on. Breakfast? Oat bran with no-fat, artificially sweetened yoghurt (Greek or unsweetened makes me gag, and phenylalanine will kill me a lot slower than sugar will). Hungry at 11am? Can of tuna and a swig of water. Lunch? Last night’s pork chops with stirfried veggies and cut with bacon, or some smoked salmon. It becomes second nature after a while, and you really do stop craving sugar.

    • Elphaba says:

      09:18am | 12/08/11

      Mine is a savoury addiction.  I love potato chips.  I could happily binge on a giant bag every day.

      Cutting them out doesn’t work, it only facilitates more binging.  I just buy those lunchbox snack-sized ones and have 1 a day.  It’s not perfect, but it’s better than several handfuls a day…

      I’m also a mean baker.  I bake batches of cookies and bring them to work.  1 a day Mon-Fri and the rest get given away.

      What you’re doing sounds great, but I’d keep an eye on your cholesterol levels.  I’ve seen people cut out sugar, lose weight like crazy, and then test extremely high cholesterol levels because all their sugary junk has been replaced with fat.  So just keep an eye on it.

    • Denis says:

      01:43pm | 12/08/11

      I have now been off Fructose for 9 months. I have lost over 10kg and don’t miss sugar / Fructose one bit. I should add that my cholesterol figures have never been better, even though I’m eating slightly more fat.

      My triglyceride level has plummeted from what it was a year ago when it was last measured.

    • Elphaba says:

      02:24pm | 12/08/11

      @Denis, not saying cutting out sugar and increasing fat is a bad thing, just saying that I’ve seen it happen.

    • Ged says:

      10:03am | 12/08/11

      Another great book that talks not only about the negative impacts of sugar but the many many misconceptions of fat it Gary Taube - Good Calories, Bad Calories.  It is lengthy but truely enlightening.  It applies a modern scientific evidence based approach to the consideration of diet, rather than the historical one which is often based on very flawed research.

      It explains that many calories that people try and avoid (ie fats) not only aren;t an issue but are essential to a healthy diet.  It debunks the whole calorie counting approach to diet management for what it is - simplistic and based on numerous flawed assumptions.  No-one should be counting Calories becasue it doesn’t work and cant work becasue the calories in the food isn’t what is important - it is how you body responds to the food that is.

    • Mayday says:

      10:24am | 12/08/11

      Well done Megan.

      White Death we used to call it in the eighties when food processing really took hold and the “low fat” option started becoming main stream.

      All processed food is targeted towards taste and has little to do with quality calories, eat as much whole food as possible and every calorie will be loaded with worthwhile nutrients.  Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit…yum!

      Better for the body and ultimately better on the wallet.

    • Shifter says:

      10:30am | 12/08/11

      I think I’m addicted to sugar, however I’m not overweight. I also have no idea how to start weaning myself away from it. It’s weird though, I’m not much of a baker so 90% of what I cook contains no added sugar.

      The mention of bacon is a good thing but I’m also reminded of the swapping campaign that’s rolling around which attempts to get people to swap large doses of bad food for smaller ones, and add activity into their lifestyle.

    • DougB says:

      12:12pm | 12/08/11

      As a long time heart patient with a serious heart failure problem, Sugar has proven to be the addiction I am struggling most with.
      I managed coffee, (with some suffering in the first two months) and alcohol with a bit of effort, salt took a bit longer but I beat it eventuall. Sugar however is a different story, I always start to crave sugar within days of giving it up, and eventually I cave in and succumb to that sweet sweet taste.
      I believe it is seriously addictive and poisonous but I just can’t beat it at the minute.

    • malohi says:

      02:14pm | 12/08/11

      You could try some of the following as snacks/substitutions:
      cherry tomatoes.
      Or eat a tomato whole like an apple and dip it in a bit of vinegar while eating it;
      Spoonful of natural (or light) p. butter. lick it like lollypop so it takes longer and you dont smash down the whole jar (like I have done several times) ;
      sugar free cordials eg no added sugar cottees coola. Shower in that stuff. (they will help you get your intake of water too, you will loose kgs in water weight.)
      and sleep; the more tired you get the ore the sweet cravings come.

      Most of the time if you water intake and sleep is good, that is half the diet battle won.
      ***not a nutritionist/ expert but just some tips I have used with great success personally.
      Good luck Doug

    • DougB says:

      06:01pm | 12/08/11

      @ malohi, thanks for the tips I will try that.  The water intake is out though.  I am restricted to 1.5 L per day. :(
      Found this too after reading this Punch Piece.
      http://sweetpoison.com.au/

    • Whitehall(Maroon ) $140 Monopoly says:

      02:46pm | 12/08/11

      Indonesia is the land of sugar and spice !
      Australia is the land of milk and honey !

    • Phillip says:

      03:47pm | 12/08/11

      I was raised on a sugar cane farm. I’ll sometime eat a spoon of sugar as a sweet treat. I ain’t fat, have all my teeth. i don’t drink a lot of soft drinks or juice I suppose. i think in moderation the human body can absorb anything. Look how long it takes for a pack a day smoker to get lung cancer. I don’t know what the passives are worried about, it would take centuries for them.

      Anyway back to sugar I found this interesting…

      http://sweetscam.com/myths-and-facts/

    • Katherine says:

      04:45pm | 12/08/11

      Like you I started a few weeks ago trialling the sugar free thing - as an overweight person who thought I ate pretty healthy food and yet couldn’t lose weight - despite eating low-fat foods for years.  I have lost five kilos quickly and easily.  Other things I have noticed - things I never thought were sweet before taste sweeter as tastebuds adjust.  I eat less - and even though supposedly fat is OK in moderation (your natural appetite suppressants kick in and restrict your intake anyway), I have no desire to eat fatty foods.  I am enjoying healthy, nutritious, generally sugar free food.  Overall I have more energy and feel better - not feeling so tired, especially at 3pm. 

      Yet, i find that if I do slip up and have something sweet, the cravings return and I struggle for a few days - so I encourage you to keep it up.  I know people are cynical - I was too, but I thought I’d try it and see and so far the results are brilliant!  Maybe in ten years they’ll tell us we were wrong - but if I’m thinner and healthier then I don’t think I’ll care - that outweighs my current health risks from being so overweight.

    • Sven says:

      05:30pm | 12/08/11

      Congratulations Meghan.  Before Easter I gave up eating processed Carbs. It was such a tough decision, but I found that I have been able to lose a few kilos without having to do any additional exercise.  The hardest part was changing what I ate and when. What made it easier was telling my girlfriend, friends and family that I was going to stop eating processed sugar.  After that they sort of treated me in the same fashion as you would a vegitarian and everything all fell into place from there.  Its amazing what a grip sugar can have on most people.  I still get crazy cravings for chocolate at 9pm on evenings when I’m staying in.  But I’m enjoying the fact that I am no longer considered overweight.

    • Simon says:

      06:45pm | 12/08/11

      It is disgusting that some “diet” yoghurts can have over 14% sugar. They even put sugar in bottled water - 2% Sugar is endemic in just about anything at the supermarket that comes in a packet, box or bottle…

    • Jo says:

      08:48pm | 12/08/11

      Phillip - while I don’t disagree with you necessarily - I’m all about everything in moderation - that website you’ve pasted a link to is in fact funded by some seriously high rolling American fast food companies like arbys and wendys. Just fyi.

    • stephen says:

      10:42pm | 12/08/11

      When you get older you eat more because your belly wants to be bigger cause you’ve been eating for 54 years and fatness, i.e. the feeling of it, is habit, and because of age, and impending death, we, (er, I should say ‘one’) wants to remember…anything of memory will make us want to live longer.

      PS This is what’s called the Penury of Age, (or perhaps the perfect irony.)

    • Maria says:

      10:53am | 14/08/11

      After reading David’s book, the Sweet Poison Quit Plan, I quit sugar last October. By January I had lost 11kgs to reach my ideal weight. Have not regained any weight this year. The benefits are incredible.  For those who still want some sweet stuff around the house, for kids, guests, or themselves, David’s book includes wonderful recipes for everything from icecream to cakes to hot fudge sauce, all made with glucose.  Once you have fructose out of your system, you can enjoy all these treats without affecting your appetite or weight.  Go for it.  Best thing I have ever done for myself.

    • Luke says:

      11:33am | 15/08/11

      Kick the grains I say… processed grains have no nutritional value and they are just carbs quickly converted to sugar in the bloodstream.

      Might I suggest looking into http://www.marksdailyapple.com and reading some of the articles there. I have kicked grains and sugar and doing fine so far smile

    • Al says:

      12:36pm | 15/08/11

      All this is VERY simple, I have known this since I was 10.
      Low Fat or No Fat on lables generaly means high sugar.
      The reverse is also true.
      The other thing you need to watch out for are the low sugar or no added sugar lables. Check what they actualy use, many use things such as apple juice concentrate which, in reality is still sugar but legaly they can label it otherwise.
      The main thing is, complex sugars are generaly OK in moderation, the same for fatty foods, OK in moderation.
      Speak to a type 1 diabetic who ISN’T fat and ask what they eat. Moderation is the key, but simple sugars are for emergency short term energy only, not a regular part of the diet.

    • Fred says:

      11:44am | 18/08/11

      Interesting article (I also follow your running blog.) I guess the general rhetoric I am reading is that everything is ok in moderation and I suppose I agree with that.

      Don’t forget fructose is very common in nature. Where does the sweetness of fruits come from, that’s right, fructose. However in nature fruit also has fibre. This article and none of the other comments mention fibre; that is a little bit concerning. Fibre is fructose’s ugly, yet very useful cousin. It does what fructose (alone) cannot do; tells your brain that you’re full and to stop eating. Eating glucose causes your pancreas to make insulin, another brain indicator to tell you to stop eating (but eating too much glucose is also bad).

      The food companies are a smart lot, they know this. They put a lot of fructose in without the fibre. Everyone loves the sweet taste and they buy more because they aren’t full. Take Coke for example, it has a bunch of fructose and a crapload of salt, obviously no fibre. Why do you want salt in Coke? Well you don’t but it makes you thirstier, sales go up. It’s masked by the fructose, everyone loves the sweetness, sales go up again.

      I am hoping that all the ‘I’ve gone fructose free’ comments above actually means ‘I’ve gone processed fructose free’ you still need your fruits and veggies!!!

 

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