Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I just finished reading a so-so book about living a healthy lifestyle.  It has been about sixteen months since I gave up eating refined sugar (fructose) because my doctor said "my numbers" were creeping up.  The book didn't reveal any new information, but it was a reminder about what constitutes good nutrition and underscored some basic tenets of eating with a conscience.   I've always considered myself a healthy eater because salads and fruit are staples in my diet, but I didn't tell her about ordering a double-double with grilled onions at  In and Out Burger.  Greasy fish 'n chips are also on my favorite food list, but my biggest problem, as with so many other people,  is my love of sugar. 

My doctor's warning was propitious because my middle-aged body was changing and not for the better,  and my blood sugar levels and blood pressure readings were not to her liking.   I was also not happy about buying a larger pant size.   It was time to face the music.    I began with an Internet search using keywords like "belly fat, sugar values, calorie burn, pre-diabetes, etc" and up popped websites selling weight watching tools and advocating fad diets like acai berry and colon cleansing techniques.   As I sorted through the information,  what smacked me in the face were five simple words ELIMINATE YOUR ADDICTION TO SUGAR.   Bingo!  Addiction is not a label I've thought much about in my own life, but I am definitely intense about riding my bike,  reading emails on my Iphone,  checking my net worth on Yahoo Finance, and talking to my girlfriends on the phone.     

Marion Berry Cobbler a la mode, Northwest Loop bike ride
When it comes to sweets, ice cream has been a major pitfall.   It started a long time ago I was told-- probably in the womb since my mother enjoyed a maple walnut  cone almost every day during the 9 months she was pregnant with me.   Lotta Rock Creamery was close enough for her to walk,  but it was located on a busy road,  so she would always take the car.  Sixty plus years later and I'm still driving for ice cream.  Even on cold, rainy nights I've driven clear cross town in heavy traffic only to stand in a long line at Mitchell's,  so I could satisfy my urge for a big scoop of yummy wedding cake topped with a bigger scoop of salty pralines and cream.    I used to seek out other specialty ice cream shops too, like Rick's Rather Rich,  Humphrey Slocum's, and my most favorite Marianne's.  Back in the 70s I had a passion for It's It, a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two old-fashioned oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate .  After dinner we would drive to the nearest 7-11 to satisfy our sugar fix with an It's It.   I had no will power against those tingling crave buds in my mouth that called out the name sugar,  just like they called out for nicotine years ago when I was a smoker.   On the 1500 mile Northwest Loop bike ride, I polished off a marion berry or a huckleberry fruit cobbler a la mode almost every day and told myself I deserved it.  Lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, bread pudding, apple crisp, and cheesecake.  As a cyclist, I always deserved it. 

The internet says the scientific jury is still out about whether sugar is an addictive substance, but for me sugar was like nicotine, giving me a high and affecting my body in a negative way.  Even the desire for a bowl of wheat chex would pop up in my brain first thing every morning.  Check the label and you will see why.  The only way I gave up sugar was to think of it as a dangerous substance,  something I was allergic to, something that would make me sick, or worse maybe throw up.    

Another obstacle is my love of wine.  I won't go so far as to say I'm addicted because I'm not an alcoholic, but I sure do love the taste and the sugar calls me back for a second pour.   My husband and I enjoy many aspects of wine short of making it ourselves, but unfortunately wine contains my demon called sugar.  We've tasted in many appellations in the United States, and in notable wine countries worldwide.  On a trip to Argentina, we spent several days visiting the main grape growing region of Mendoza.   With the safety and ease of having our own driver and guide, we toured a few special wineries, tasted delicious Malbecs, and ate out-of-this-world gourmet food with a stunning backdrop of the snow- crested Andes.   At home we keep a written record  of the better wines we buy and now have more than one hundred bottles in our wine storage unit.   When we consume all the bottles, maybe then I'll consider giving it up, but for now I'm still a wino. 
Wine tasting room at Andeluna Cellars, Mendoza

Dessert at the Esteemed Catena Zapata Winery in Mendoza

Like overcoming most addictions, it takes a few weeks to stop climbing the walls and get over the hump.  Looking back at my progress,  eliminating as much refined sugar as possible was fairly easy.  I occasionally capitulate and I'm far from perfect, but it was a lot easier than becoming a vegetarian, or eating gluten free.  So what's happened in the last sixteen months?  Well, I've definitely taken off some pounds but most of all I have brought my blood sugar down significantly and to levels that have my doctor cheering.  There's always something to strive for.  Now it's all about portion control.   Can't a girl have any fun?  


  1. I was astonished to find when I hit my 30s that my sugar cravings just went away. Before then, I was a major chocoholic. Here I am in my mid-40s and can barely eat a whole candy bar or serving of ice cream without filling a little ill. All wonderful, except it's one more "easy" thing I can't eliminate from my diet to help lose weight quickly. I'm doomed to having to eat less at meals.

  2. My name is Anne and I am a sugar addict!

  3. Sharry, if I stand real close to you will I catch what you have?

  4. Pam: I've been reading your blog after WT provided a link to it for the Meandering Mississippi trip. If you would like to watch some videos by a UCSF doctor railing against sugar, check out http://www.uctv.tv/skinny-on-obesity/

    1. Thanks so much for the website! Hopefully soon I'll be back on my bike and writing about it.