Hollie Grimaldi Flores: You can call me sweetie
I am, for the second time in three years, in the last days of a 30-day sugar-free challenge. No refined or processed sugar.
The first time I answered the call to this challenge, I stayed off obvious forms of refined and processed sugar for nine months. It was a fundraiser featuring an old-fashioned candy store in their dessert tent that threw me off my game. Just a few pieces of dark chocolate covered almonds and it was over.
Before long, I was again saying yes without giving sugar content a second thought. Like any addict, I slid back to my old ways as if the previous nine months had never happened.
The benefits I had been enjoying, which included relief from chronic heartburn, better sleep, smoother skin and a few pounds kept at bay, almost immediately went to the wayside. My heartburn returned, sleep became more interrupted, pounds crept back on.
At the end of last month, I saw a message in social media letting me know a challenge was about to kick off and I decided to try again. It was not as difficult as I had remembered and, having been successful in the past, I was pretty sure this was going to be a win for me. Giving up refined and processed sugar is, in a word, liberating!
I find power in simply taking baked goods and candy off the table. Once past the initial days of craving, it has simply become something I no longer do. I quit. I do not have to debate with myself — though sometimes find myself doing so with others. A conversation might go something like:
Me: I gave up refined and processed sugar.
Them: Really? What about wine?
Me: Wine has naturally occurring sugar so it’s on the okay list for this particular challenge.
Them: Have you tried the maple bacon donut at that new place that just opened up?
Me: No. I gave up refined and processed sugar.
Them: Is there sugar in bacon?
Me: I don’t know but I am certain there is sugar in the maple and in the actual donut.
Them: So can you have bacon?
And to that, I had to take a moment and check the ingredients on the package in the refrigerator. Yes, sadly, even though I bought the “all natural” bacon, it did list cane sugar as an ingredient.
And that is where the tricky part to the challenge occurs. Sugar as sugar, or disguised as any of a number of other identifiers, is in virtually 90 percent or more of packaged and processed food. It’s in crackers, sauces, soups, dressings, yogurt, condiments, cereal, juices — and the list goes on and on.
Over the past 30 days, I have read pretty much every label of every food product prior to purchasing or consuming it. I have become that person in the restaurant that has the server check with the cook before ordering. I cannot tell you how many times the answer has been, “Yes, but only a little bit” from the kitchen and “Yes, but we don’t actually use the “S” word when listing it in the ingredients on many packages.”
Sugar has approximately 52 monikers that have been identified by the person who organized this challenge. Actually, for him, it’s so much more than a challenge. It has become a way of life as well as a bestselling book, a topic for guest appearances on a variety of programs. If not a full-time career, it is certainly a large part of his day-to-day life. He boasts over three and a half years of sugar-free living and has reaped all manner of reward and benefit.
Changing the way I eat and the way I reward myself has been a small part of this journey. I love chocolate and was afraid I would have to wish it sayonara for the challenge after finally finding justification for having it in my life. My co-worker found a quote that says “Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a plant, therefore chocolate counts as a salad.”
Shortly after, she coined the term “salad bar” for our late afternoon energy boost or stress reducer or reward for hard work. As in, “I have a salad bar in my drawer, would you like a piece?” No need to say no to salad! And in truth, chocolate is not the culprit, but rather the sugar added to the chocolate that causes problems — or more accurately, the addiction. So I use pure chocolate and fruit added as sweetener when a trip to the “salad bar” is in order.
So why give up sugar? In my quest to be healthy, I found sugar to be enemy number one. Among its many downfalls, there are exactly zero nutrients but plenty of calories in all forms of sugar. It is bad for your liver, the leading cause of obesity, increases cholesterol, a cause of heart disease, the leading driver of type II diabetes, is highly addictive and science shows cancer feeds on it. Seems like something that is that bad for us should be illegal.
(For more details around these claims you can go to: authoritynutrition.com/10-disturbing-reasons-why-sugar-is-bad.)
As this challenge comes to an end, I have to decide at what level of vigilance I will strive for in staying in recovery. I can tell you, the benefits are pretty sweet.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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