Intervention: Sugar. – life+running

Intervention: Sugar.

(Trigger Warning: this post could be triggering to those who have had experience with eating disorders.)

I’ve spent the week in DC for a conference for work, and in true Calee-fashion, I’ve cruised every grocery store in the area. Not looking for anything in particular — just browsing. How do you think a grocer would respond if he or she asked, “Can I help you find something?” and you replied “Just browsing”?

Am I the only one that window shops at a grocery store?

I’m guessing not.

So I went into a DC-area Trader Joe’s with my friend Sarah and her cousin (who actually needed to get legitimate groceries), and I was looking around to see if there was anything that was interesting enough to actually purchase.

I found this:
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Yup. Cookie butter. It is what it sounds like: cookies, and butter (or rather, hydrogenated oils, sugar, and flour). No nuts. No nutrition. It’s gingerbread cookie and peanut butter’s bastard step-son, but he’s so bad, that you just can’t help but take him home with you. You tell yourself no, no more, but you can’t stop. And before you know it, he’s gone.

I can proudly say that didn’t happen to me. But the sheer number of comments I got on Instagram about how “dangerous” this product is, coupled with the fact that I ate a good portion of it with my finger (yes, my FINGER and in the back of a car on top of a box), prompted the thought pile on a note paper that I’m crafting into this post.

What is my point? Sugar. It’s addicting. And not in a “tee hee, I had so much sugar, I’m an addict” way. No, seriously, sugar is a for-real addictive substance. Your body craves it. Our bodies use sugar in the cave-people days as a signal to tell us what foods were nutritious, and sugar triggers our bodies to shut off the mechanisms to tell us to quit eating because, as cave people, we needed as much of the sweet, sweet good stuff (i.e. calorie-rich, nutrient-dense food) as we could get.

As you know, sugar doesn’t mean nutrient dense. It usually means calorie-rich.

Ignoring calories for a second (and for the rest of this post, because I really don’t give a rat’s ass about calories anymore), let’s get back to this frightening factor: sugar is an addictive substance.

Sugar in itself can lead to all sorts of crazy things: dependancy, crazy shifts in blood sugar, and even diabetes (these are just a few things I can think of). Oh and new research shows that your liver can’t digest a bunch of sugar at once so some is turned directly into fat. Frightening. Just like the other research showing that heart disease is actually caused by sugar (both of these studies are in Sweet Poison — which is probably skewed, but it got my attention).

Eating sugar makes you feel good (while you’re doing it). It releases happy chemicals in your brain. Sugar’s essentially an upper. When your blood sugar calms down, you feel a down sensation, which causes another craving for sugar. At least this is what I’ve experience now that I’ve removed calories from the whole food equation and have been paying attention to how i feel. I feel like crap about 20 minutes after eating a sugary substance (I’m not talking a piece of fruit, or some yogurt, I’m talking a big-time sugar bomb). I’ve even had sugar hangovers before. And the only cure is more sugar!

I went as far as to actually quit sugar back in January. That lasted a few weeks. I had two major realizations during this experiment: 1) sugar is in EVERYTHING and 2) if I restrict anything (even sugar), I will want it all the time. How do I walk the fine line between restriction and limiting something that actually is addictive? I don’t know, but I’ve been trying to figure it out.

After the quit-sugar experiment, I cut out added sugar from products that don’t need sugar (bread, yogurt, etc.). I decided I could live without unnecessary sugar, and that cutting that out would help my addiction (it did). Prior to the quit-sugar experiment I used to search the house for something sugary every night so I could get a sugar fix so I could have a sugar crash so I could go to bed. Usually that fix came in the form of nut butter (since I didn’t keep actual sugary snacks in the house). Ever since I quit eating products with added sugars (besides dessert), I’ve noticed that the life span of a jar of nut butter in my presence has gone from mere days, to weeks. What an achievement!

Which brings me full circle to the cookie butter.

I had a bite. It was good. So I had another. And before I know it I had a few more bites, and I didn’t even realize it was happening. This was not a binge (though it could be classified as one — I know the difference — no emotion was involved). This happened in the morning, and all day I was needing sugar fixes to keep myself awake and functioning. Tomorrow will probably be similar until I can get the sugar out of the system.

This was kind of a thought pile, but the points I want to be sure to drive home are:

• I fully believe that sugar is an addictive (and potentially dangerous) substance.
• We need to take sugar off the pedastal we’ve got it on and treat it like any other food — something we can eat whenever but not all the time.
• But there is a fine line between restriction and knowing your limits with sugar since it is addictive.
• When in doubt, put the spoon down, and walk away.

I think we all need to be aware that sugar is actually addictive and that our diet habit of restricting and glorifying it doesn’t help our consumption of it. If you can deal with sugar and it doesn’t affect your health, great, but I can’t. So I’m not going to buy another product like cookie butter again because it’s not worth starting the sugar chain again for something lame like that.

Have you had cookie butter? And have you ever had an issue with sugar?

30 Comment

  1. Yes! This! I absolutely agree with everything here. As someone with PCOS, I’ve had to take a hard look at what was making my body feel so tired and run-down all the time. It took some research and experimenting but finally discovered it wasn’t because I wasn’t taking the right vitamin or wasn’t working out the right way/amount, it was because of the sugar. I have a friend with type 1 diabetes that described sugar as shards of glass moving all through his body and slowly shredding it. PCOS people process sugar and insulin similar to a diabetic, so that struck a chord with me. Even if I’m not diabetic, my body can’t handle the sugar like a normal body. But even a normal body, applying this concept of shards of glass, should be nervous about the amount of sugar being taken in. It just can’t do anything to help you.
    I feel like as a society, we learn to train ourselves on food- you’re rewarded for good behavior with food. There have been several times I’ve done a really hard workout and decided the rest of my day is free to eat whatever I want because I burned so many calories. Facepalm.
    The wonderful part is when you break up with sugar, the cravings start to go away (as well as the exhaustion) and your tastebuds become so sensitive to even the smallest portion of sweets. When I’m eating a lot of sugar, I need more. But when I’m not, a cookie seems like a huge sweet.
    I’m currently detoxing from sugar- I had oral surgery recently and could only eat soft foods, which usually have a TON of sugar in them. Ice Cream and Cheesecake, every day. Terrible. But this has definitely been on my heart lately and your post comes at the perfect time!

    1. calee says: Reply

      Sorry it took me so long to respond to this, Megan!

      I love that you came to this conclusion. I had a sneaking suspicion that all that baking you were doing probably wasn’t helpful to the PCOS, but I didn’t want to say anything given what you were going through at the time with everything else (ugh, not a good time at all. hopefully things are much better now!).

      We really do train ourselves with food. The best thing I ever did was read (most of …. I need to finish) that Intuitive Eating book. It not only untrains those of us who’ve dieted for years, it untrains those learned habits of rewarding yourself with food (whether or not you diet/exercise) and teaches you to listen to what you’re hungry for, why you’re hungry for that, and to find ways to honor those cravings sometimes, but look towards healthful choices without feeling restricted.

      I need to detox from sugar. I just got back from a conference and I ate a ton of protein bars b/c the conference food was all stuff i was allergic to. protein bars have a TON of sugar in them. I didn’t have much choice though and I didn’t plan ahead like I usually do, so that was what I was stuck with. Also, I drank a lot of different alcohols (because I had to taste them!) and I need to just do a straight up detox.

      Totally hear what you’re saying — when I’m eating a lot of sugar (usually hidden, which is why I quit buying products w/ added sugars if at all possible) then I NEED more sugar. It’s like smoking. If that makes sense. You get a bit of nicotine (or sugar) in your system, and then your body craves more, but then you give it more, and then you need MORE. Just like any addiction really.

      I really probably should do a 1-day green-juice only cleanse …. buuuuut, I really don’t want to. So I may just stick to eating veggies most of this weekend and nothing processed to hopefully get it in check.

      And, ew, totally hit the nail on the head with shards of glass. :/

  2. Mom says: Reply

    First, yes, I am a grocery store browser. I remember visiting Jody in Colorado for the first time and guess what we did.
    And yes, you get this addiction from me. I crave sugar. Like you, I have tried to cut down and do really great during the day but have a hard time at night. Something I have to figure out how to fix.

    1. calee says: Reply

      I found all the alternate names for sugar, and then looking at the sugar content in all of my food products (from bread to yogurt, etc.) has been supremely helpful. I try to get products with no added sugar (except dessert b/c it’s dessert) and then I don’t eat anything sugary during the day. I even switched from eating smoothies for breakfast b/c fruit has a ton of sugar in it, to eating something else (like a piece of toast w/ homemade nut butter — no sugar, or an egg if you have time), and then doing my smoothie for lunch or dinner. I did best when I do smoothies for dinner (but it’s hard if you’re making food for two). it was like dessert for dinner.

  3. I’ve had people tell me that I NEED to try that stuff and that it’s SO good, but honestly, I don’t want to. It may tempt me every time I go to Trader Joe’s but ultimately, I know that won’t go over well if I buy it and I’d rather do what I know is best for ME (mentally AND physically) and leave it be. I know sugar is INSANELY addictive and I easily fall into it’s spell so I do have to be very careful about when, how much and how often I indulge. And I do indulge, but only from time to time.

    1. calee says: Reply

      don’t. it’s just hydrogenated oils, flour, and sugar. Janetha said that it originated in Belgium made with some crushed belgium cookies, so I’d try that if you get a hold of it (or are IN belgium). I may try to figure out a healthy alternative (or healthier) alternative to this stuff that tastes about the same, but I feel like that’s something to leave up to Sarah. 🙂

    2. calee says: Reply

      actually, you can find the original stuff probably in your area. it’s called speculoos. i have a feeling it’s better for you, or at least it’s the original stuff so there’s a real reason to have it besides gluttony.

  4. I refuse to buy cookie butter. The idea of ground cookies and fat sound disgusting. I will always eat junk food. It’s unavoidable. I’m going to have days where I really want a cookie, or ice cream, or cheese and crackers. The thing is, in my opinion those feel less evil than cookie butter. At least ice cream is a good source of calcium! lol. Cookie butter just sounds like it’s going to make my pants tight! But enough of my rant! 🙂

    Are you coming to HLS??

    1. calee says: Reply

      Um, i was under the impression that this stuff was made with nuts and was cookie flavored (like Nutty Butter). not the case. And then I ate it anyway. Dumb. Ass.

      I totally feel like those things aren’t evil. The difference is (for me anyway) that one serving of those things is a decent size (1-2 cookies, or 1/2 a cup of ice cream, etc.) and not a freaking teaspoon. Also, butter’s meant to be spread on things, and I bet you that nobody actually does that with this crap.

      It’s cool. TSA took it away anyway.

      Not going to HLS, but I’m going to be in town that weekend (Mark’s rents’ place is in the cities) so I can hang out.

      I am, however, driving through WI 4th of July weekend on the way up to MI. I’ll let you know what the itinerary is once we have one.

  5. janetha says: Reply

    i ate a big ol’ spoonful of speculoos last night. it’s the same thing, only originated in belgium instead of trader joe’s. i def have sugar problems, but am working on them!

    1. calee says: Reply

      I have a feeling that the speculoos is a bit better than the TJs stuff. just a thought. and i’m curious about making some out of nuts and not crap.

      but totally have an issue with sugar. it’s so much better after i did the quitting sugar experiment (for 3 weeks. it was rough). if you’re brave enough to try it (I think you are!) I did Sarah London’s e-book (I have a copy … if you’re interested). What really made me want to quit sugar was reading “Sweet Poison”. Wow. Seriously. All the research we’ve been hearing about that fat isn’t bad for you is echoed in this book and it talks about how heart disease is from sugar, and that no matter how many hours you spend in the gym and how much you diet if you eat sugar, you will have extra body fat (unless you’re blessed) because our livers can only process a certain amount at a time and the rest is considered extra energy, so it’s converted immediately to fat. Fun stuff.

  6. Iris says: Reply

    I loved this post, Calee! Thanks for addressing the issue with such a balanced approach. I have a love-hate relationship with sugar as well. I love it because, well, no explanation needed! And I hate it because it makes me feel like poo, it’s not particularly good for me, and it makes me want more and more and more of it. But also like you, restricting something just makes me want it more. So while I would love to quit sugar and honestly believe my body would really appreciate that, I just don’t think it would serve me in the long run. Moderation is my goal!

    Iris @ Anatomy & Intuition

    1. calee says: Reply

      So agreed — the quit sugar experiment was super helpful to me to realize just what sugar does to me, but I knew going into it that I wouldn’t be able to do it for the long run. I did Sarah Wilson’s Quit Sugar experiment (her book tells you to try it for 6 weeks … I did 3 weeks), but through that I realized just how dependent I was on sugar (used to eat something sugary just to get the crash to fall asleep every day), and how much it was making me feel like crap. I need to do a mini-detox (with no labels b/c then I would feel like I’m on a diet) where I focus on eating mostly veggies and NOTHING processed (usually I go about 80/20 and my processed stuff is things like bread and cereal).

      anyway, thanks for the comment.

  7. That cookie butter is WAY good. I brought home a jar, and have stayed out of it for the most part, but Phyll has killed most of it.

    Ever since becoming more aware of sugar in what I’m eating, how I’m feeling makes way more sense. I’ve learned how certain things will make me feel, which is helpful. And I crave the sugary stuff way less – in fact, a lot of it is gross to me, now. Can’t believe how many things have added sugar though. Yuck!

  8. I definitely agree that sugar is massively addictive and I have also been trying to figure out ways to deal with that.

    I didn’t realize that TJs carries products with hydrogenated oils! I’ll have to be extra careful when I check labels next time.

    1. calee says: Reply

      um. yeah. i need to go back to checking labels. i quit when i started eating intuitively b/c i knew i’d look at calories and that wasn’t what i needed. but if i looked at that jar, i would have seen all that shit in it, and wouldn’t have gotten it.

      it’s ok. TSA took it away anyway. I told the gal who took it out of my bag not to take it home b/c she’d regret it.

  9. Tamara says: Reply

    I go back and forth on sugar. Sometimes I do better to keep it to a minimum, but there is, as you mentioned, always that risk that I’ll perceive it as restriction.

    I’ve not had the crunchy cookie butter, but the regular is amazing. We have some now, in fact! Luckily I can usually limit myself to a relatively small spoonful after a meal (I haven’t been brave enough to try it at any other time!).

    1. calee says: Reply

      it’s scary that there’s such a fine line between restriction and being smart with sugar. good luck!!

  10. I am happy to say that since our dinner on Monday, and the butter binge confessions, I have not had a nut butter ‘incident.’ Granted, I also haven’t had any open nut butter around…but maybe that’s the key?

    I find that I’m getting better–GETTING, being the key–about stopping when I’ve had enough. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast this morning happened…but I was able to put the pan away after one (and a half…). I was able to NOT eat the entire bag of local chocolate toffee…but man, it is hard. Sugar is a drug, and it affects me, too!

    1. calee says: Reply

      WOO! I try to quit buying that shit unless I have a reason to. Party food is for parties (I think that was in “Sweet Poison”, which was the book with all the frightening research about sugar). I don’t drink booze every day, so why do I think I need to have dessert every day? Dumb.

      1. calee says: Reply

        Also, on that note, you wouldn’t give an alcoholic a beer, so why do I think I can have straight up sugar every once in a while? Buying that cookie butter was like an AA member getting a bottle of wine to have “one glass” every once in a while. Not happening. I seriously swear that I have a sugar addiction.

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