A Year Of No Sugar: Postscript 11

Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t exercise.

I should. I want to. But right now exercise is fitting into my life about as well as an elephant in my sock drawer. Instead I sit a lot, mostly at the computer, writing, writing, writing. (My finger muscles are very toned, thank you.)

Also, I snack. I eat when I am hungry- and quite honestly, I get hungry often. And I eat foods with fat: red meat, full-fat dairy products, butter and cheese.

According to conventional nutrition wisdom, I should be a prime candidate to be overweight… maybe even obese. So why is it that I am not? How many of us know people out there who don’t seem to follow any of the rules and they’re still thin anyway? What gives?

I am thinking about this because I just finished reading Gary Taubes article in Newsweek about HBO’s upcoming documentary “Weight of the Nation.” About a week ago I saw a trailer for the program and was heartened to see this desperately important topic making prime-time… until I realized, like Taubes did, that the experts in it were pushing “the same tired advice.”

“Eat less and exercise” and “fat makes you fat” are mantras that sounds so easy, so simple, that we all feel they must be true. However, they’re not true. As Taubes details in his article, Americans have been following this advice from the health experts for decades now- eating less meat, eating less fat, exercising more- and where has it gotten us? Fatter than ever before. The latest statistics predict 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030.

Not overweight, mind you. Obese. Clearly, there’s something wrong here.

Yesterday I volunteered at a local fundraising event and I was saddened and astounded at what I saw: a significant percentages of attendees were very, very overweight.

Many were encumbered to the point that it becomes hard to move around, hard to walk, hard to find clothing. I imagined the number of health problems that must have been represented at this event and I was deeply saddened. I felt these folks had, in some way, been let down by our health establishment.

I’m imagining the overweight person who, attempting to follow professional advice, cuts out fat, cuts down on red meat, and works out at the gym. And what are they presented with on the way back to the locker room? A juice bar or soda machine. Well, why not a little treat after such a good work-out? After all, it’s not red meat, it’s not fat, and I’ve exercised, (which makes one both thirstier and hungrier, while burning off relatively few calories.) After all, it’s just sugar…

Even if they choose a diet soda, there’s new evidence saying that may be just as bad for weight gain. It’s really no wonder that so many people just give up- they’re being given advice that does not work.

So, we need a new story, a new mantra. Could we replace “Eat Less and Exercise” with “Eat Good Food When You’re Hungry, Don’t Worry Too Much About Exercise, and Above All Just Cut Way Back On Sugar”?

Hmmmm. A little cumbersome.

How about “NO Sugar Sweetened Beverages”? Still a little long. “NO SSBs” is too cryptic (NO South Sea Bananas? NO Special Spaghetti Bowls? What?).

We could try “SODA KILLS!!!” but that’s a tad melodramatic, don’t you think? And anyway, people will say: “Well- ha ha-  I just drank an Adrenaline Attack and I’m, you know… not dead!” They’ll nit-pick us to death until we end up with something like: “SODA Significantly-Contributes-to-the-Resistance-to-Insulin,-Building-Up-of-Arterial-Plaque-and-Cancer-Friendly-Environments-in-Your-Body-Which-Degrades-Your-Quality-of-Life-for-Years-and-Years-Until-it-Eventually KILLS!!!” Try putting that on a bumper sticker.

We could go simple with “Shun Sugar.” That’s kinda catchy- but too general. Maybe we should just swipe a line from the guidelines put forth in David Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison: “Rule Number One: Don’t Drink Sugar.” Hey- I kind of like that.

Rule Number One: Don’t Drink Sugar.” Why don’t we ditch “eat less and exercise more” in favor of this one? It’s worth a try.

It isn’t the answer to everything, of course, but if we could just follow that one rule, I’m betting we’d be in a whole lot better shape. Literally.

9 thoughts on “A Year Of No Sugar: Postscript 11

  1. I’m glad that so much awareness is being raised about obesity and its complications. However, along with that I keep seeing more fat haters who scorn overweight people for not “moving more and eating less”. It’s all very similar to smoking about 20 years ago, except in the case of overweight there are multiple triggers so you can’t just blame someone for giving in to vice. It makes me very sad.

    Strangely, as much as this increased awareness keeps bringing out media campaigns and bits of good information here and there, I’m not seeing the substantial investment that would be needed to support people in leading healthier lifestyles.

    In my county health department where I work in chronic disease prevention, we serve a population of 1 million with just 2 employees. Oh, and our staff has been shrinking, not growing. Other nutrition programs like WIC just went through cuts.

    Also taking effect in a couple months, local bus service is getting a huge cut (35% I think) on top of cuts that have been going on for the past 10 years. We’re helping people less just as we’re saying that it’s more important now.

    As for food advice, I’d say over the past 5 years I stopped recommending low fat milk and lean meats and other conventional recommendations. The far bigger problem that I see is that people aren’t eating meals at all and much of what they’re eating isn’t even FOOD. I would agree with Taubes that sugar is the bigger public health menace.

    In the populations that I deal with they aren’t terribly concerned about healthy eating, partly because they believe that it’s all about how meats and cheese will cause heart disease and kill you. Of course people know that sugary foods aren’t GOOD for them, but they think of it as a rather neutral indulgence since it’s never the culprit called out as a KILLER the way that fat has been.

    1. Thank you for your comments on the front line of this issue- and so glad to hear you are no longer stressing a low fat diet to your clients! You hit the nail on the head regarding the common perception of sugar: “a rather neutral indulgence.”

  2. I agree with everthing you say in this article. I recently wrote to the Heart Foundation telling them about my no-sugar success story and expressing horror at the fact that food high in sugar can recieve “the tick.” This was after being asked for a donation from said group at the supermarked. I recieved back a very de-personalized reply with a link to thier page about sugar stating that “no one food group is the problem.” Ditch the tick and tell your friends!

    1. Good point. Interesting that they would characterize sugar as a “food group.” Which group would that be? Meat? Dairy? Grain? Fruit or vegetable?

      When I was growing up we were taught those four food groups plus a fifth no one wanted to talk much about: “other.”
      I’m thinking Sugar=”Other.” What if it’s exactly the problem?

      Thanks for this great comment.

  3. Hi Eve
    Thanks for your latest post……….I just love it.
    I’ve been sugar free for eighteen months now, can’t exercise due to a sore ankle and actually haven’t exercised for two years at all except for back stretches to keep my spine flexible.
    I’ve lost 15 kilos in this time by eating, like you, a diet high in fat and no sugar. I feel great and have lost the tendency to be melancholic.
    At the moment, we are in Italy for a month’s holiday and I’m finding it very easy to eat no sugar. Our breakfasts could be disastrous as they serve up all these sweet pastries, but I only have to ask and I get salami, prosciutto, cheeses and hard boiled eggs. I also get natural full fat yoghurt and “late”…….hot frothy full fat milk. I am so delighted as I thought it would be really difficult.
    I do hope people will start to catch on, Gary Taube and David Gillesbie are just the greatest!
    And you keep on writing, I do enjoy your posts.
    All the best to you

  4. Thank you Freda- I am so glad to hear about your happy travels in Italy. I don’t know if you have seen the posts, but during our year of No Sugar we traveled as a family to Italy for two weeks and found exactly what you observe- that sugar is amazingly easy to spot and avoid, and that the alternatives are so wonderful that you never feel you are missing out!

    In particular I appreciated the fat in the breakfasts- the meats and cheeses- which seemed to give me more energy for the day. Everything was so fresh and simple and delicious.

    Have a wonderful month- would that we could all be a little more Italian!!
    (PS- If you are anywhere near Florence, consider going to the Teatro del Sale for an amazing evening- you can read what I wrote about it in post 62)

    Here are links to what I wrote about Italy:




  5. Did you catch the Time article? It basically makes the same claims as you do, regarding sugar.
    But here’s my dilemma: how do you leave out sugar AND meat (ethical reasons) AND dairy (ethical and health reasons). I mean, what can I eat??? Vegetables, fruits, and nuts???

    1. Hey Priscilla…………………you are actually talking about being a Vegan…………Google this and you will see exactly what they eat………….and it’s no problem

  6. Hi Freda,
    I do eat eggs though. I don’t identify myself as vegan bc vegans really avoid all meat in all aspects (clothes…) but there is a lot of sweetner/ sugar in those recipes. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I just don’t know what to eat anymore. Sorry, I know this is self imposed, I just can’t decide what would do my body the most good and least harm.

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