Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Does Avoiding Added-Sugars Suck?

A lot of things in my life have changed since I slipped on the ice. My BMI has gone from 43 to 32 so I'm carrying a LOT less weight around. My diet has greatly improved so I'm getting a lot more nutrients that I need and a lot less of the unhealthy stuff that is detrimental to my health. To that end, my changes in mood, energy levels, alertness, and reduction in pain cannot be arbitrarily attributed to just the reduction of added sugars.

I want to express how different my life is now compared to before. Before the accident, I felt about 25% depressed. That is to say, if we think of 50% depressed as the point where you start to experience dysfunction and 100% depressed as full-on clinical depression, then I existed halfway between 'meh' and the onset of depressive symptoms. That was my baseline and I often turned to food to give me a bit of a boost.

At this time, BMI of 32, reduced pain in my feet after work, getting plenty of good nutrition and very little added sugar, my baseline is about 20% manic - where let's say at 50% manic you start exhibiting unhealthy behavior and at 100% manic you are so overwhelmed that you believe you are moving the clouds with your mind. I feel really good and I feel good about life. I have so much more energy and I get a lot more done everyday. I sometimes feel like I'm flying around the kitchen because I'm so much lighter. I feel more alert than I have in over 10 years as well.

If I could send a letter back in time to me before the accident, I don't think I would send it. If I used the information to avoid the accident, I might still be living at minus 25%. If all I said was that I started eating really healthy and now I feel so good that I regret not doing this years ago, I'm pretty sure the old me would toss the letter out. If I said a medical crisis forced me to start eating healthy, I'm afraid the old me might have become suicidal.

Avoiding added sugars means I can't just have a granola bar for breakfast. Even the plainest granola bars have quite a bit of sugar in them but step back and take a good look at the granola bar section in the grocery store; it's nothing more than a celebration of rectangular oatmeal cookies. There are some plain bars but most are 'drizzled in caramel' or full of 'chunks of chocolate'. Ok, some of them have nuts or dried fruit in them - but so do a lot of oatmeal cookies.

Don't even get me started on the breakfast cereal aisle. Most boxes are nothing more than candy and it should be classified as child abuse to let a kid eat that crap for breakfast. Ok, some of the ready-to-eat cereals aren't too bad if you eat the suggested portion - but that portion is so tiny that I don't know anyone who eats that portion and then doesn't snack before lunch.

I have to make sure I get up early so I have time to prepare my breakfast. I alternate between Red River cereal and regular, old-fashioned oatmeal. I have about 300 calories worth, and that's a lot - so much that I can't even think about eating anything for several hours. I top my cereal with a half cup of fruit and a few ounces of 1% milk. I have a 3 ounce glass of orange juice and that is the only juice I have in the day. I also have one to one and a half ounces of lean meat.

I have more than enough energy to get up and do that though, because my energy levels are higher and I am sleeping better. Before the accident I always had to get up to pee at least once, often twice, in the middle of the night. After 8 hours of sleep I still felt groggy and often slept on the bus on my way to work. I now sleep for 7 hours straight, don't have to get up to pee in the middle of the night, and hop out of bed like I'm 25 years old again.

Meat can be a hassle because processed meat is often very laden with added sugars. I've found a grocery store where I can buy regular roast beef or pork, sliced thin, so it is easy to have a one to two ounce serving. Sometimes I buy rotisserie chicken and debone it so I have roast chicken meat ready to grab for the work week.

I can hear it now: "But quality meat like that is really expensive!" Well, yes it is. I should just cook it for myself and maybe I'll start. My grocery bill has gone up about 800%! Oh, except, I didn't really have a 'grocery bill' before the accident because I barely kept any food in the house because I had no self control. I ate a lot of crap at work and bought ready made food on my days off. Don't even get me started on the late night munchie runs to the corner store across the street. My over all food bill has gone down by about 30% since I gained control of my eating. I pay twice as much per calorie but eat about 1/3rd the calories.

If I need mayo for some reason, I make my own because all brands now contain sugar. I can make some damn fine mayo, though. My main reason for making it is for potato salad. To make that salad I need a lot of finely chopped carrot, onion, celery, and radish - so I use a professional grade mandoline because I just happen to own one. Yes, it is a lot more work - but again, I have the energy to do it. The end result is spectacular and one of my favourite recipes at this point. It has twice the flavour and half the caloric density of ready-made potato salad.

I don't eat ketchup anymore but I really only ever wanted it on fries or breakfast potatoes. I now prefer my potato salad to fries or breakfast potatoes and I'm glad to have them out of my diet.

Outside of the produce section, the grocery store is now very sparse for me. I get oil, eggs, mustard, different types of vinegar, and my hot cereals. I never liked canned food because of all the salt so nothing lost there.

My diet has fewer flavours and textures now, but my sense of taste and smell is heightened by no longer being over-stimulated. My professional cooking has improved because I can more readily taste and smell subtle ingredients; partially because I don't smoke until bedtime now.

I should mention that my home is far cleaner than it has been in years. These days, if I notice a spot that could use some cleaning, or something that is out of place, I just snap to it and I'm done in a minute or two. This is just automatic because I've got the energy and want to keep my home clean. Before the accident I also wanted to keep my place clean but I often procrastinated because I just felt lousy. Back then, cleaning was a monumental chore that only happened on my days off; or maybe I could wait until my next days off to deal with it.

On the down-side, I can now smell people a lot more intensely. Usually that isn't so bad but occasionally it is. When someone gets all eager to add 3 different types of sauces and several different spices to a dish, it is overwhelming to me. Some of the food-porn that I used to enjoy now turns my stomach.

My diet is simpler but takes more work. I enjoy the food I eat now more than I enjoyed grazing all-day before. My life overall, however, is just so much better that I hope at least one person reading this finds the courage to try taking control of their diet...and their life.

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