|From Wikipedia entry on Sugar|
Sugar and fat are such wonderful comfort foods, we all know that. I can think of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and feel associations of love and happiness surrounding many events at home, work, and numerous social occasions. It's so deeply ingrained in me that I am not sure I can separate the two: eating the sweet cake and the cherished memories.
Every once in awhile over the years, I have gone on sugar fasts, dieting and watching everything I eat so that I can lose weight. I've always been a regular exerciser, or at least I have been as an adult. I took up jogging in my mid-thirties in order to lose weight and quit smoking, and it certainly helped. No one was more surprised than me when exercising became an indispensable part of my life.
Everything works when I put my mind to it and apply willpower to start down a path toward health. But it's impossible to keep up because it's just that: an external pressure exerted upon my willingness to attain some goal. It's not coming from within but from a desire to be healthy or thin or more socially acceptable. And so it falls away and I slip back into old habits. We all know the routine.
I finished reading Mindless Eating last week and gave the book to my friend Judy. This week I have a another book on my nightstand: The End of Overeating by David Kessler. Both of these books talk about why it's important to become aware of what we are doing when we put food in our mouths. What happens to us when we eat comfort foods mindlessly is hard to ignore.
Yesterday I must have seen at least two dozen morbidly obese people on the streets here in Bellingham. I remember being shocked when I first got here from Boulder over the sheer number of them, because people in Boulder tend to exercise more and eat better than they do here. I wondered why at first, but after having passed through a dreary and cold winter and springtime, there's no doubt that many of these people have grown so huge because of mindless eating, as well as eating lots of sugar and fat. One of the things the article in the NYT pointed out to me is that eating the wrong foods causes us to want to eat more of those same foods.
When I went to my doctor's office in January and found that I had gained ten pounds since last year's visit, I was not only surprised but puzzled, because I exercise regularly and watch what I eat. I decided I had to lose the weight because my cholesterol numbers were elevated, but I also noticed that my triglycerides were lower than last year's number, which is a good thing, I thought. Knowing that both of those numbers are related to one another, I asked the doctor what level of triglycerides is considered to be healthy. He explained that the lower the number, the better. There is no healthy level of triglycerides. This surprised me, because I assumed that it was only high triglycerides that are unhealthy, but I've learned that they are not usable by the body and must be broken down by pancreatic enzymes in order to be absorbed. When triglycerides are elevated, they cause all kinds of havoc in the body.
What I did was to begin writing down everything I eat on a calorie counting website. I did that for two months and lost the excess weight and now am trying to stabilize my weight by applying what I learned about how much food 1,800 calories actually is (the amount I need to eat to keep from gaining or losing). It's not much, really, but I've also changed the kinds and quality of the food I eat as well as limiting the calories. One thing I am certain about: empty calories of any kind should not only be prohibited, but any time I eat them I put myself at risk for disease. It's a strong incentive, not imposed from without, but from deep inside me that I feel the desire for change coming. I've seen too many friends and family suffering from something that can be relearned: what we eat is definitely under our control.
But first we have to gain awareness that something we have done mindlessly all our lives can be recognized as actually being under our control. If you read that article in the New York Times about sugar, it might be all you need to give you that incentive. I hope so.