What brought me to the position of giving up sugar, wasn’t just a spur of the moment idea, a fad diet, or that I intended it to be a quick fix. Far from it. I have been interested in and researching the origins of sugar, the sugar trade (and consequent slave trade), the refining of, uses and consumption of sugar, for quite a while now.
Fad diets – Full of nonsense promises
A few years ago I read The Diet Delusion by Gary Taubes, which really made me sit up and think. Here Taubes explains the debate on the so called healthy, low-fat, high-carb diet.
Like the rest of us in the western world, we have been led to believe since the 1950’s (by government and the food industry etc.), that this diet, along with doing lots of exercise, is what we should all be aiming for and we will lose weight and be healthier. But he said that we’ve been sold a con and this way of eating and living doesn’t work.
I then listened to and read Dr John Briffa, and Zoe Harcombe here in the UK, and many others banging the drum for a low-carb, high-fat diet. Sometimes I have to say, their approach is over zealous (and annoying) and can get caught up in anger and conspiracy theories. But if you can see through all that, they also talk a lot of sense.
Now I wanted to put what I had learnt to the test. Could I benefit from a diet, low in sugar and carbs, higher in fat and without white processed flours? I wanted to see, over a decent amount of time, (1 year) if I could break some of my bad food habits and forge healthier happier one’s.
In the last week alone there has been quite a few interesting stories around diet and obesity and what caught me eye was a link on Twitter for a radio podcast for America’s Test Kitchen posted by the food writer Bee Wilson. “Quack Diets? The Scientific Truth about Paleo, Gluten-Free, and Other Hot Diets”
The presenter talked to Dr David Katz author of ‘Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth about What Makes Us Well’ and what interests me most, is although we can debate on low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-carb forever, we all pretty much know by now, that if we eat more healthily, with a diet higher in fresh vegetables, we don’t smoke, we reduce the amount of alcohol we consume, and keep active, it’s probably going to help us in the long run. (In fact Katz says there is evidence to suggest that this can reduce disease by 80%.)
So why, when we really know what to do, most of us don’t do it?! We are living in a ‘Just do it’ generation. If we ‘just’ eat less and exercise more, then we will be fine. But if it really was that easy, we’d all do ‘just’ that. But we ‘just’ don’t!
Our addiction to many processed ingredients, combinations of ingredients, and addictive junk food in recent years, has a lot to answer for. Especially when you hear that “food industries are designing food that’s impossible to stop eating.”
The book ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat’ – How the Food Giants Hooked us’ (I know sounds like more conspiracy theories, but there’s a load of sense in there too), by investigative reporter Michael Moss, explains how we as a society are hooked on salt, sugar and fat, and “exposes the practices of some of the most recognisable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century. “
These three simple ingredients, salt, sugar and fat (not forgetting that sugar is a carbohydrate), are used by the major food companies to achieve the greatest taste sensation for the lowest possible cost. Michael Moss explains that there are labs where food scientists and PHD students use cutting-edge technology to calculate the ‘bliss point’ (I am very interested in this notion) of sugary drinks.”
So, what chance do we have when we kind of know certain foods are not good for us, but we have no idea what ingredients actually go in products we think of as ok, or even good for us? We don’t know what we are eating and what is hidden in these processed foods and when supposed credible information is given by supposed credible sources, (anyone can say they are a nutritionist) suggesting we eat low-fat junk food, with “an unending parade of fad diets” and diet products, we as customers are in an unfair position.
The diet, fast food and processed food industries are MASSIVE industries and the public really are being hoodwinked and exploited for profit. (lets not forget how the tobacco industry deceived us before!)
So before I start sounding like I’m gjumping on the conspiracy theory bandwagon too, what I want to say is, since giving up sugar I am so much more aware (my tastebuds are much more sugar aware too), of how much sugar is often placed in foods and in foods that I would never have expected it before.
To explain the video above. In the podcast I’ve just mentioned, they talk about “bought Pasta sauces have more sugar than ice cream toppings” and here in the recent BBC series ‘Eat Well for Less’ (Sadly the BBC have just removed the episode this was taken from), they also demonstrate this. And as Greg Wallace states “it’s jaw dropping” how much sugar goes in just one jar of manufactured pasta sauce!
Ultimately, good, simple, unprocessed foods are far better for us than junk food, processed foods and low-fat junk food. The fad diets do NOT work. It’s a massive con.
So what I’m trying to do is reset my food clock as I have 50 years of bad habits to break! I am trying to wean myself off of foods I know aren’t good for me, (sugar, alcohol and refined white flours) via a kind of ‘abstinence based recovery’ (Russell Brand swears by this approach to alcohol and drug abuse.)
I guess it’s kind of a ‘cold turkey’ method and not always easy. But it’s only for a year (I’m 3 ½ months in), so it doesn’t feel forever, and I want to see if I can do without it, or at least reduce my consumption of it in the long run. See what alternatives I can use or create and see if it makes me feel healthier and happier. We shall see.
I’m also doing it for charity so I don’t cheat! 🙂