Saturday, December 27, 2008

30 Days Sugar Free

I have been considering eliminating sugar from my diet.  Heart disease and diabetes run in my family.  Both of these diseases are adversely affected by sugar.  As synchronicity would have it, I ran into Dr. Scott Olson at  He has written the book Sugarettes and I recommend it. 

Our local community has started a 30 Day Sugar Free incentive that starts January 15.  If you'd like to join us, email me at 

Please enjoy the interview with Dr. Scott!

Tell us a little about yourself please.

My wife, three children and I live in Denver, Colorado where we enjoy many of the outdoor activities that this state has to offer.

I have been studying health and nutrition most of my life and it was that passion and a serious illness that lead me to study naturopathic medicine. I am currently not practicing as I am focusing exclusively on research and education.

30 sugar free days – how hard will this be to do?

The short answer is that it will be very hard to quit, just like it is hard to quit any addiction. While stopping sugar is daunting, it gets even more difficult when you include all sugars and foods that act like sugars.

Most people, when they learn that sugar is harmful feel like they can remove white sugar from their diet, but when I tell them they have to include the so-called natural sugars such as honey, agave, maple syrup, or and artificial sweeteners they are not so sure.

I don’t say any this to scare people off, only to let them know that it can be very difficult to stop all sugars and foods that act like sugars. 30 days without sugar or foods that act like sugar is hard because you are going to run straight into your addiction and sugar addiction is particularly hard because you are surrounded by temptation. If you have ever struggled with, or known someone, who struggled with getting over addiction to alcohol, cigarettes or even hard drugs, you have an understanding of just how powerful sugar is to kick.

What are some benefits of going without sugar?

The health benefits to stopping sugar and foods that act like sugar are enormous. In the short term people feel much better, have more energy, sleep better and think clearer. Plus they avoid all the mood swings and fatigue that comes with eating so many carbohydrates.

The long-term benefits are even greater. Many diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer can be avoided by eating better. It is now estimated that our risks for getting diabetes some time in our lives is around 35 to 40 percent. That means close to 1/2 of the people reading this will become diabetic. That is a huge number! Diabetes alone is responsible for around 200, 000 people dying every year in the United States and diabetics are at a much higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, strokes, poor circulation, loss of eyesight and limb amputation..

Can you really be addicted to sugar?

It is funny that we even have to ask this question. I’m hoping in a few years people recognize sugar as an addiction similar to cigarettes or other addictions: just as hard to kick and just as harmful.

Sugar addiction is every bit as real as other so-called “serious” addictions. Animal studies show us that Sugar addiction has all the classic signs of other addictions: binging, hording, withdrawal symptoms. In fact, it appears that sugar addiction may be more powerful than addiction to cocaine.

How long before I’ll feel better after giving up sugar?

Most people feel pretty bad when they first give up sugar. What they are experiencing are withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include: headaches, feeling nervous or shaky, fatigue, restlessness and a host of other reactions.

It takes only a day or two for most these feelings to go away and people start to feel much better.

What if I backslide?

Sugar, I have noticed, behaves much like a magnet. Once you put some sugar in your mouth, more wants to follow. When you backslide, most people tend to binge and eat a lot of sugary foods. This is a normal addictive response; the same thing happens to people addicted to cigarettes or drugs.

When you backslide, understand it for what it is: a backslide. You don’t have to feel bad about it, just understand you are addicted and get back on your program the next day. Fight as hard as you can to not backslide during your 30 Sugar Free Day Challenge, this will give you enough tools to be able to handle backsliding and also create new habits.

What you have to realize is that battling sugar addiction is a life-long event. Cravings don’t ever go away and there are things in your life that will change how much you crave sugars. Some people find that lack of sleep, or mental exhaustion can lead to backsliding, for others it is emotional upset, menstrual cycles, or other life events.

As many addictions, every day is a new day and you can just start all over again.

What are some other foods that are like sugar?

There are many foods that act like sugar in the body. This was discovered through what is known as the glycemic index. The glycemic index was created when scientists measured how much individual foods raise our blood sugar.

The most prominent foods that act like sugar in our bodies are the grains, especially grains that have been processed in some way (such as grinding to make flour). Other high glycemic foods are starchy vegetables such as potatoes and yams.

During the 30 Sugar Free Days Challenge, I suggest that you avoid all grains, sugars and starchy vegetables. When you are through the challenge and you want to try grains, try boiling them to eat them (as you would cook rice).

What preparations should I take before I begin (food buying, get your book, etc.)?

I find that the best way to be prepared and to continue a program is to constantly be learning more about sugar and the harm that it does. Yes, my book is a great resource for kicking the sugar habit, but there are others out there too, including Sugar Shock by Connie Burnett and Sugar Blues by William Duffy and any other author you feel can support you in maintaining your good health.

The other thing you have to do is to remove temptation. Clear your house out of all the things that you think will cause you to backslide. This can be hard if you live in a house where you are the only one on the Challenge, but it can be done.

Find or creating a group is another great step. Get as much support as you can.

What exercises do you recommend for those that are obese?

Exercise, for weight loss has to have three components: be consistent, have a certain degree of effort, and then last for a certain period of time.

Here is what it should look like:

· Consistent effort: the exercise you choose should keep your heart rate elevated over a long period of time. The exercises that do this best are running, walking, biking, swimming and cross-country skiing. Exercise like golf, basketball, tennis, soccer and others are good exercise, but not what you need for weight loss.

· Degree of effort: if you want to affect weight loss, you have to exercise at a certain level. This, in technical terms, is around 80 percent of maximum effort. If you are into measuring, a heart rate monitor can help you determine your maximum effort. There is another way to measure this though: When you are exercising, you should still be able to carry on a conversation with a friend, but not easily. You can talk, but have a little difficulty with talking and getting your breath.

·Period of time: 20 minutes is the absolute minimum, but people who are overweight should consider exercising for up to an hour or more. This can be split throughout the day.

So, it looks like this: you walk, but you walk fast enough so that you have difficulty talking (but can still talk) and you do this for at least 20 minutes a day 5 to 7 times a week.

Once again, please feel free to join our effort to go 30 days sugar free.  I'll be tracking my progress and sharing the ups and downs along the way!  And get the book Sugarettes!

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