Enemy, Thy Name is Sugar! – Melissa Storm
Melissa Storm
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Enemy, Thy Name is Sugar!

A few weeks back, I confessed to the overwhelming struggle I have with my weight and what I plan to do to get better. In case you missed it, that's here. As phase one of my get-better plan, I'm introducing a new dietary change every two weeks under the guidance of my doctor.

Two weeks ago, I gave up sugar and artificial sweeteners–and, with them, quite a few staples in my diet. More than sugar, I had allowed myself to become¬†an artificial sweetener addict. I treated myself to two cans of Coke Zero per day and regularly consumed “diet” foods like Atkins, Kashi, and FiberOne. I avoided full-sugar anything and tried to stay away from the really “satisfying” desserts like cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

And now that I've had adequate time to detox, I realize how much my supposedly “healthy” eating habits were actually poisoning my body.

Now, I know many of us–overweight or not–have sweet tooths, sweet teeth. Sugar is in everything, even a few surprising culprits like ketchup or salty snacks. It's how the mass food producers make things taste better, which definitely doesn't help when it comes to learning to crave nutritious, whole foods.

Because of my life long love of sweets, I thought giving up sugar and artificial sweeteners would be a near impossible task for me. As I'm sure you would too, if assigned the same task. But you know what?

It's been super easy!

Yes, the first three days–that's it, three–left me cranky and withdrawn, but, after that, I started to feel better than I had in a long time. Whereas I expected to face monstrous cravings and flagging energy levels, I instead found myself more energetic and less in pain. Here are the things that have changed in the two weeks since foregoing the sweet stuff:

  • My chronic back pain–due to herniating two discs in my lower lumbar–has substantially lessened. I used to take Ibuprofen twice per day and feel significant pain in between doses. Now I only take it once per day and seldom feel pain at all.
  • My GERD (heart burn, acid reflux) has vanished! Previously, I avoided tomato, citrus, and corn like the plague, blaming them for my upset digestive system. I took Tums several times per day and often resorted to Prilosec or Pepcid as well. A week into this, I realized I hadn't taken Tums even once. I followed that realization up with a measured risk and started eating tomatoes and oranges again, and I had zero difficulties. Wow!
  • I used to wake up every night at around midnight and would need about half an hour to fall back to sleep. I now sleep straight through the night and wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day.
  • Caffeine–I've been a hardcore addict for quite a while. There have been a couple times where I drank too many energy drinks and felt my heart racing wildly out of control, thus panicking and trying unsuccessfully to cut back. At my worst, I had about 36 ounces of coffee, two cans of pop, and an energy drink every single day. Right before giving up sugar, I consumed a large iced coffee and two cans of pop on a regular basis–sometimes more. Now, I drink 1-2 cups of coffee per day, and they give me more energy than that whole mess of beverages would have given me in the past. I often put my second cup of coffee aside and actually forget to finish it.
  • Related to the last two points, my energy levels remain constant throughout the day. Previously, I would hit my energy peak early in the morning and feel useless once late afternoon hit–forget about the actual evening. Now, I work with the same level of gusto right until the end of the day, and I don't have to fight off yawn after eye-watering yawn while braving my 45-minute commute home.
  • I now love fruit! My doctor is a genius when it comes to his carefully and thoughtfully prepared diet plan. He never takes something out without adding something in. Upon removing the sugar and artificial sweeteners, he ordered me to consume 4 servings of fruit per day. Doesn't that seem like a ridiculous amount? Well, it doesn't to me–not anymore. Fruit used to be unsatisfying and just not sweet enough. Now, I love it! I even love bananas despite their icky texture. And all of fruit's vitamins, nutrients, and fiber are great for me!

So, there you have it. Sugar, who knew?

By cutting sugar, I also cut out tons of processed food options. My next challenge will be to cut out the rest, and I will start that once I return home from next week's business trip. I'll let you know how it goes!