Meet George, my Sugar Dragon

cookie_dragon_by_forced_enjoyment-d4cfq1a

When E.J. and I started our Whole 30, I read a lot about sugar and what it does to our bodies long term.  I guess I always knew that sugar was bad for me, but I always thought it was kind of like caffeine – something that was bad, but not going to kill you long-term.  In fact, growing up, so much emphasis was put on low-fat foods that sugar was considered the lesser of the 2 evils.  But when you start reading about Paleo and Whole 30, there are some things that you’ve observed with your own experiences that just seem to make sense all of a sudden.  Here are some truths I’ve observed personally over my journey:

  • Sugar is everywhere – like, in way more places than you think it should or would be.  Finding any type of processed foods that don’t contain some form of sugar (dextrose, corn starch, corn syrup, cane sugar, etc) is really hard, and requires careful reading of labels.
  • Sugar is addictive – as in cocaine-like addiction. Seriously.
  • Sweet (ANY sweet) feeds the Dragon 

Ok, that last one is really hard to admit until you have actually tried a Whole 30, but I swear it’s true.  ANY sweet, and that means artificial sweeteners, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and other sweeteners that you can technically have under Paleo & Primal will feed the Dragon.

Call it a sweet tooth, a sugar craving or whatever you like, but Whole 30 introduced me to the term “Sugar Dragon” and I think it’s spot on for me.  And mine is such a monster, I decided to call him George.  George and I have a long and sordid history together, and even when I am able to banish George for short periods of time, he’s always there lurking in the shadows.

This past weekend I was describing our diet to some friends who are starting to dabble in Paleo and were asking questions about sweets.  I explained that the beauty of Paleo is that there is pretty much a Paleo version of any food out there – most are not going to be exact replicas, but often are very tasty in their own right, so they’re easy to transition to.   So of course, I was challenged to make a Paleo chocolate chip cookie… oh hell yes, challenge accepted! (And I had already had a couple of glasses of wine which (duh) also becomes sugar, so I had primed the pump, so to speak)

Good news, I found a Paleo chocolate chip cookie that is absolutely TO DIE FOR.  Bad news, it fed George, and I found myself craving cookies all day the next day.  For me, it seems I can handle sweet better when it’s paired with savory – like honey & mustard glazes or a little balsamic vinegar with pork, but the minute I start having dessert-like sweets, even when made from better sugars than refined sugar, I have to watch out for George.  And George is a beast – I mean dreaming about donuts and waffles bad.   The only cure is to banish the sugars from the diet again for a few days and the cravings go away, but it’s that first 24 hours that is the slippery slope towards going back to my old habits.

Good news again is that I’m getting better at recognizing George and knowing how to tame him when he appears.  You see, while E.J.’s strategy involves restricting temptation as much as possible and trying to have a mindset of NEVER eating certain things again, I’m taking a much more practical approach.  There will be days when I am going to choose to eat something off-diet, or borderline off-diet (like this salted paleo fudge and paleo thin mints which are also really good).  But if I can learn to recognize the ledge and step back from it rather than assume I’m already falling and I might as well hit the ground, then I’m just that much closer to a happier, healthier me (both mentally and physically).

I may not ever be able to slay George completely, but maybe he and I can learn to live together with a healthy mutual respect.

Hello World!

me

Ok, so for those that don’t know me already, I’m a geeky software developer-turned-manager chick, and some traditions must be upheld.  So, Hello World!  I’ve never been much of a good blogger in the past, because frankly, I never seem to have much to say that I feel is worthy to publish to the very public and permanent realm of the Internet, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have something to share.

After being a pretty heavy person most of my life, I am less than 20 lbs from being “Normal”.  I’ve lost more than 50 lbs since September, and I’ve dropped 4 dress sizes.  Now, any rational person would say, “That’s amazing!  You should be so proud of yourself!” and while I am to some degree, the truth of the matter is that I’m terrified.  I know that makes absolutely no sense, but it’s the truth.  Part of me thinks this is just some kind of fluke, and that any day now, reality will set in and I’ll start gaining it all back, and part of me is afraid that I’ll never feel “normal” if I keep the weight off.  You see, there’s a kind of bliss in ignoring your weight.  The freedom to eat what you want, where you want, when you want is enormously satisfying and is one of the great pleasures of my adult life.

I live in Houston, the fattest city in America and home to an incredible quality and quantity of restaurants.   You could eat every meal at a different place for years and never repeat.   And because there are so many restaurants here, they have to be good (both in food and service and price) or they don’t survive.  Good food, at good prices, delivered with a smile vs. grocery shopping, planning, prepping, chopping, and slaving in a hot kitchen only to be rewarded with a mountain of dishes and dirty countertops – it’s a wonder anyone cooks anymore.  And for years and years we did what every other busy family with kids did – we ate quick and cheap on the run between everywhere else because it was convenient and way less stress (as long as the kids were behaving reasonably well).  The price we paid was with our health and our weight.  And because everyone else is doing it too, it’s easy to ignore the ever increasing waistline.

But all of that blissful ignorance takes a toll.  Small pains become big ones, and heart disease, cancer, and other scary medical conditions start happening to people around you and at some point you have to ask yourself – what are the chances that I’m next?  E.J. and I both had high blood sugar and were technically diabetic.  We were starting to get tingling and small pains in our arms and legs, and under it all is a well-repressed sense of self-disgust that just wouldn’t go away with the standard rationalizations anymore.  At what point is enough enough?

Honestly, if it had been up to me, I don’t think anything would have changed.  E.J. finally hit his breaking point – and for his sake I agreed to go down this crazy path.  I told him he was out of his mind and that there was no way we were going to be able to change our diet so radically, but when someone you love with all of your heart looks you in the eye and tells you that they’re pretty sure that their life is at stake and that they need your help, you do what needs to be done.  And here we are, almost 6 months later and more than 120 lbs lost between the 2 of us, and I’m still not doing it for me.

My goal with this is to share my thoughts, fears, successes and failures in the hopes that it inspires someone else to take one step and then another toward a healthier self.  If not for yourself, then for the people in your life who love you fiercely.