This is the first of a three-part series for our Wheat and Chaff category, which focuses on the misinformation that makes basic life decisions so very difficult. We will take a slew of topics over time — most with a high degree of debate and misinformation — and try to provide the brass tacks of unbiased information. Don’t follow the fadish misinformation of the Internet. Find facts that can empower you to your healthiest, best life. Tune in later for Part 2: the many faces of real sugars, and Part 3: sugar substitutes.
I was about forty pounds into dropping a full C-note of fat when a little satan with a red pitch fork popped onto my shoulder and whispered, “Honey!”
One word. Healthy images of bees in the hive and Winnie The Pooh and Honey Combs Cereal popped into my head.
OK, I know, nothing healthy (or honey for that matter) about Honey Combs cereal, but it had worked for me before so the association was strong.
As a kid in Southern California in the 1970s I had to weather my mother’s health craze first hand. I was not at all happy when suddenly the only snack that didn’t grow somewhere was toffee peanuts. Breakfast tasted like tree bark and milk. I adored Crunch Berries and suddenly they were off limits. I channeled my misery into a crafty scheme and even enlisted the credibility of my older brother, the future preacher. We convinced my mom to allow Honey Combs Cereal because they were made with honey, not sugar.
Way back then something inside me said honey must be OK.
So forty years later, about 40 pounds into my lifestyle change and feeling pretty good, I wondered if I could use honey to make some healthy items taste better. I asked a former Australian Olympic runner who still had about 7% body fat nearing the age of 50.
“Well, it’s just a pretty sugar, mate,” he said, “but it’s still sugar.”
He shrugged. Message delivered, no honey.
The Bride likes sugar in the coffee and honey in the oatmeal and brown sugar over sugar becomes it seems healthier and agave over all of them because she likes fads.
But I go back to the basics time and again, as expressed by authoritynutrition.com
“Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.”
Sugar is sugar is sugar and the human body simply can’t consume it in the quantities we Americans have come to consider normal.
So before we tunnel deep into the morass of sugar options and marketing, let’s focus on the 30,000-foot view. If you follow just these rules, you don’t have to go any further. Pass Go and collect $200, not to mention welcome the healthy, sustainable weight loss that will result.
The Effin Artist Three-Rule
- Choose the sugar you eat every time: If I’m going to eat sugar, I want to choose it. Limiting sugar is one of the most difficult battles for healthy eating. Processed foods have the stuff stuffed in everywhere. Simple things like ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, fruit juices and many more are loaded with sugar. By making these things yourself, you control the sugar. Most every homemade recipe for these ingredients are still wonderful even when you cut the sugar in half. It’s a powerful way to control your sugar. The same goes for sweets. We all love sweets. We all should enjoy them – in moderation – even when losing weight. And you can if you vigilantly root out the sugar you don’t choose. Michael Pollan’s little, useful book, Food Rules, makes this clear in rule #39: “Eat all the junk food you want so long as you cook it yourself… If you made all the French fries you ate, you would eat them less often.” Same goes for cookies and ice cream and chips. So choose the sugar you eat and you’ve won much of the battle.
- Eat the real thing. If I’m going to eat sugar, I’m going to eat the food, not the chemistry experiment. Substitute “sugars” are… dangerous really when you get right down to it, so much so this will have a whole separate W&C post (part 3). For now, let’s keep it simple. Eat natural, minimally processed sugars when you choose to eat sugar. Don’t eat controversial, potentially disease-causing substitutes when you don’t can choose real food.
- Finally, except in rare circumstances don’t be extreme. I believe the most important part of dieting is to not diet. Make wholesale permanent changes to your life that change your thinking, and over time you will find the weight you want. Your brain is the most powerful dieting tool you’ll ever have. If you deprive yourself with extreme changes, your brain will hammer home that this is deprivation. Once turned loose the pendulum will swing radically the other way. Sugar is a drug and our brain reacts to it as such. Train your brain to embrace a small measure of sugar in your diet – chosen, purposeful sugar—and your brain will file it in the proper category somewhere down the list of what’s really important.
This works for me and it worked when I dropped 100 pounds. It works now that I’ve kept (most of it) off. It makes my decisions simple and if you are convinced then I would write no more on this subject.
But, as I said, The Bride has other needs and wants. Unlike me she wants to add sugar to coffee so wants to cut the calories if she can. She wants the healthiest sugar and the healthiest substitutes if necessary. More people are like her than me. For that reason, the beat goes on to parts 2 and 3. Stay tuned.
More importantly, as with all W&C posts, your insight is welcomed and encouraged. Post your reply below and join the conversation!