Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lenten sugar blues

Some Lenten practices are easier than others.  For me, there isn't much sacrifice in refraining from eating meat on Fridays, for instance.  But the self-renunciation that comes with giving up sweets, well, I'm trying to embrace the good with the bad.  I know I've been an average Catholic for a lot of years, so no self discoveries there, but wowza, my sugar addiction is more troublesome than I had realized.  It's not that I'm craving, relapsing, bingeing.  I've given it up, and it's gone.  Done deal.  But geez, it's kinda a big deal!  And Lent is not just 40 days, people.  I got out the calendar and counted.

I was nearly sugar-free a long time ago, back when I was free of most challenges, back in my early twenties, when my focus was on baking bread, weeding the backyard vegetable and herb gardens - always barefoot, working in cutoffs or overalls.  I had read a book, Sugar Blues by William Dufty (a book John Lennon mentioned in an interview and therefore it caught my attention). It argues that sugar is as addictive as nicotine and as dangerous as other white drugs, namely cocaine, morphine, heroin.  It's difficult to kick, and it's pervasive, especially sucrose, found in almost everything here in the USA. It is so entrenched in our lives, so hidden, Dufty blamed white sugar for most of our diseases and illnesses. He contended that a sugar-free diet can change lives, maybe even save lives and he often said that the fastest way to do damage to your body is through the consumption of refined sugar, because it messes with your pancreas, your adrenals, your insulin receptive cells.

I don't necessarily regard it today as poison, but I also try to avoid the Standard American Diet (SAD) - I don't consume 150 pounds of it a year.   It's complicated, but even if we just watch our ADDED sugar amounts daily:  40 grams is the aboslute most any non-diabetic should consume in a day.  6 teaspoons a day (24 grams), that's the goal for women (9 tsp/36 grams for men) - most Americans today consume about 22 teaspoons (88 grams) per day!  And we wonder why we feel rotten and can't lose weight. 

Once Holy Week ends, I hope I remember all this.  I'm definitely looking at anything with a barcode differently - checking not just the usual calorie and fat counts, but looking at grams of sugar closer than ever before.  It needs to be a once-a-week treat—something for special occasions—instead of a once-a-meal diet staple.  My new best flavor friends, Stevia, raisins, cinnamon and vanilla - well, they are here to stay.

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