For the past year or so, I have waged an ongoing battle with sugar. I feel like I constantly think, or even say out loud, “I’m trying to limit my sugar.” The usual response I get is, “You don’t have to worry about that.” As in, you don’t have to worry about gaining weight.
As someone who has struggled to gain weight all my life, it’s not about the weight. I could eat junk food 24/7 and not gain any weight. My struggle is that I know excessive sugar bad for me.
I’ve heard that cancer feeds on sugar, but found it to be a myth. However, there is evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Eating a lot of sugar can also lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, which may increase the risk of cancer.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sugar intake to six teaspoons a day (100 calories) for women, and nine teaspoons a day (150 calories) for men. As a reference, a 12-ounce can of regular soda has eight teaspoons of sugar, which is 130 calories.
I don’t drink soda, but I do love sweets. I grew up in a house where we always had dessert after dinner. My dad (and his mother) loved to bake, so it was pie, cake, cookies and other treats. All homemade, but still sugar. And then there’s chocolate. I try to limit those things, but sugar is everywhere! It’s in pasta sauce, salad dressing (I now make my own), bread and cereal to name a few.
The other reason I want to avoid sugar is that it ages you. Sugar makes your insulin levels spike, which leads to an increase of inflammation in your body. That in turn produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles.
I am realistic about wrinkles. I have them. I will get more. But I don’t want to speed up the process. I have been using facial moisturizer with sunscreen for years. Now if I can just get a handle on the sugar.
Last week I enjoyed one of my favorite summer activities – the Indiana State Fair. I’m not into all the fair food, but love the Dairy Bar and decided to get a chocolate shake. It was huge. As I ate it I thought, “I should only eat half.” I ate the whole thing. And felt bloated and guilty afterward.
Last weekend I enjoyed another one of my favorite summer activities – a movie on the lawn at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It was Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant. Each person in my group brought food for a picnic before the movie began at dusk. Julie brought cupcakes from the The Flying Cupcake. They are huge with about 1” of icing on top. As I picked mine, I thought, “I should only eat half.” Again, I ate the whole thing. I did leave a about half the icing on my plate (my reasoning: most of the sugar is in the icing). Thankfully, I didn’t feel ill that time, just slightly guilty.
After the movie, I thought more about my sugar struggle. I do well for a while, then fall off the wagon. What would help me stay on? I need to remind myself that in essence, sugar is poison. And since the movie was fresh on my mind, I likened it to arsenic. Every time I have a choice to eat the sweet thing or not, I need to remind myself that sugar is poison. Extreme, but it might help.
I know that moderation is the key to most everything. And unlike arsenic, sugar won’t actually kill me and I won’t end up buried in a cellar with 13 other bodies (you need to watch the movie). We’ll all die of something anyway, right? Pick your poison.