Monday, October 5, 2009

Thoughts on the Sugar-Free Challenge

As I previously blogged about, I am tackling the no-sugar challenge taking place at The Nourishing Gourmet. A couple of my friends decided to partake of it with me (So,thankfully, I am not alone).

I know most of you found it too daunting. For me, however, it's not quite as tough because, if you looked over the challenge on NG's site, you'll notice that there are three levels in which you can participate. The beginner level is where my family and I are usually at anyway. I use white flour minimally and rarely use refined sugar.

Today has been easy so far. Since I cut out refined sugar a few months back, my sugar cravings have gone way down. Unless I really allow myself to dwell on something sweet, gooey and full of chocolate, I don't really think about sweets anymore. In the beginning, I found it hard to distract myself. Over time, it's gotten a lot easier.

The moderate and advance level of the challenge, however, has grains as very limited. This week, I intend to only use quinoa. When I make spaghetti, I'll be using spaghetti squash for noodles.

My immediate goals, if I were to decide right now, instead of as I go along, would be to completely cut out all sweeteners (including natural ones), white flour and fruit. My children, however, will be "allowed" to eat 100% whole wheat pasta, fruit and restricted amounts of maple syrup and honey. They are just too young to understand what I am doing and, honestly, I'm not up for a fight - especially since I know that they do not have yeast-build up issues.

I'm not 100% sure that I have a yeast build up issue. I keep meaning to have myself tested by my PCP and then forget to ask when I am in the office. But, I have increasing allergies and rashes that lead me believe I may. Especially since I have been on several rounds of antibiotics and steroids for different health reasons over the past few years. I've been amazed to read that yeast build-up presents itself in so many ways. From bad PMS, to athletes foot that comes back soon after treatment, to gastrointestional issues and so on. Going on a yeast and grain free diet can help get rid of these issues. I don't know if I'll do it long term...we'll see how I feel after this week is up! Some people find that when they heal their gut, their food allergies disappear (though, typically, not peanut allergies, sadly). That, in itself, is reason for me to try it. Oh, I tell you! To be able to eat a raw apple again would be just lovely!

I know that many of you may think I'm a freak. But, I am not doing this just to "be different." Aside from allergies, I also have a severe health issue that may benefit from getting rid of grains and sweeteners out of my system for a period of time (Obviously, for most people, this type of challenge isn't realistic as a long term. It's more about healing the gut and then going back to a normal, healthy, whole, real foods way of eating/living).

I like what NG had to say today. It's a bit lengthy, but, I think it's important to read:

"For those of us doing the No Sugar Challenge this week, we can feel like we are giving up a big part of our diets. It limits us. But we need to understand that white sugar is a new phenomenon. Leaving out white sugar and white flour is hardly extra-ordinary. Then again, it may be extra-ordinary in our culture considering that half the food we can buy contains it. But in light of history, we are simply going back to how people used to eat.
According to my dear friend,

“During the eighteenth century, sugar became enormously popular. Britain, for example, consumed five times as much sugar in 1770 as in 1710.About 1750 sugar surpassed grain as “the most valuable commodity in European trade — it made up a fifth of all European imports and in the last decades of the century four-fifths of the sugar came from the British and French colonies in the West Indies.” The sugar market went through a series of booms. The heightened demand and production of sugar came about to a large extent due to a great change in the eating habits of many Europeans. For example, they began consuming jams, candy, tea, coffee, cocoa, processed foods, and other sweet victuals in much greater numbers.”

In the eighteenth century we saw the beginning of our current typical American diet. When you think of the length of history, we really haven’t had sugar that long. Before that point, sugar cane was used in India, but it took a long time to figure out how to refine it. Refined sugar is the new boy on the block, and it hasn’t had a good reputation ever since it came into the picture!

So, how did people used to eat? I thought the following quote from my husband’s book, 1066: The Year of the Conquest, by David Howarth very enlightening. It speaks of what people had around that time period (1066 A.D.).

” Nor were there many luxuries money could buy. The rich had more food, more drink, and more elegant clothes, but not much more variety. They depended like everyone else on the native products of England – bread, meat, butter and eggs, dried fish in Lent and on Fridays, nothing sweet except honey and the local fruit when it was ripe. Once in a while, perhaps, they acquired a bale of silk or some spices, cloves or pepper, brought at enormous cost along the ancient roads of Asia and through the length of Europe.

Honey and fruit in season. That was about it. They did have sweet food for their sweet tooth, but it wasn’t in so much excess like it is today. It simply wasn’t available.

Now, if you look at any packaged food, it’s very hard to find anything that does not have sugar, corn syrup, or white flour. When we try to cut these things out of our diet, we can be viewed as extreme because in our culture, we are extremely overloaded with these foods. “You can’t eat anything!” ” It doesn’t matter that much.” “You shouldn’t be too extreme”. These are some of the comments one could expect when trying to avoid “normal” American food.

That’s when it’s important to remember, that history is on our side. Avoiding the pitfalls of sugar is not an extreme step, simply turning the clocks back to a more simple, and more nourishing lifestyle.

So, for the many people doing the No Sugar Challenge this week. Be encouraged that you are not doing a bizarre, extreme action by taking out sugar. Instead, enjoy the food that has been relished for thousands of years while being naturally sugar free.


Kristin & Jeff said...

Good Luck!

VermontMommy said...

Day one for us was pesto chicken. What did you make?

Natalie said...

I made butternut/pumpkin soup and salad. DH was NOT pleased. Tonight it's quinoa and chicken "soup." That should go over well for all...

VermontMommy said...

What? Not pleased? I would eat that any day of the week even if I was not avoiding sugar. Yum! So very sorry.

Maybe you should try and all sugar diet for him and in a week he would be sick of sugar and wanting butternut soup. :) Just teasing. I hope you can find a nice balance for you both.

I am spoiled because Will could be served bread and water for 7 days and I think he would day it was lovely. His mom is not a good cook so he is happy with whatever I make. That being said I tried to make us all vegetarians and he thought that was not a good idea. A night or two without meat is okay but that is all I can get away with.

VermontMommy said...

Today was a salad with leftover chicken from our pesto chicken on Monday. Tomorrow is Lemon and parsley Chicken with spinach and parmesan cheese. YUM. My kids will have pasta to go with it.

Now I realize we have had chicken three nights in a row so I need to do something else on Thursday. I think I will make the white bean soup I mentioned earlier.

Too much talk about food. I am getting hungry. :)