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:

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. Oh man, I love/hate cookie butter. Esp the crunchy one! Sooo good! I love sweets and treats! They aren’t too much of a daily occurrence for me tho. I just try not to buy that stuff so it’s not in the house. If it’s a special occasion or catered lunch for work or something like that I def never turn it down! 😉 I totally agree that it’s addicting. I find it hard to limit it in my daughter. I really try to go with clean snacks for her, clif bars, organic yogurts, fruit smoothies, but the sugar really adds up in those things too! Hard to avoid it sometimes!

    1. calee says: Reply

      agreed. i’m not sure how i’m going to deal with kids b/c if you restrict them to only “healthy” stuff all the time, then eventually they figure out that their friends get to eat crap, and I feel like that could lead to binge eating. But it sounds like you’ve got a good balance with your daughter b/c she’s getting snacks, and clif bars, smoothies, and yogurt are healthy, yet they’re fun for a kid to eat (though you’re right, the sugar does add up — but so not in the way that it does with stuff most kids eat!).

  2. As you know..I’m all about moderation! I think sugar can be bad and even addicting just like alcohol or caffeine.

    With the cookie butter, I’d say a. Treat it like dessert. Eat it after a meal so it doesn’t mess up your blood sugar and b. Never NEVER eat it straight out of the jar. If you do get a spoon full, close the jar and put it away! It used to drive me nuts when Dave would sit with a full bag of chips and salsa and eat right out of the bag because with those types of things..your body doesn’t really know when to stop. He now gets out a bowl for chips and a bowl for salsa and it makes me happy. 🙂 Portion control is an amazing thing. 🙂

    1. calee says: Reply

      oh man — see Missy’s comment below. She hit the nail on the head. Yes — I treat something like that as a treat/dessert, but there are certain things that I just can’t have. I’d rather treat my sweet tooth with something that I can handle (like a single slice of cheesecake, split w/ the bf, or a single-serving ice cream/cookie from the bakery) than getting a jar of something like this again. it’s just not worth it. it’d be nice if they made single-serving packets like justin’s did b/c it’s something fun to have around sometimes, but I would never be able to have it in my house and not eat the whole thing in a couple of days. I put the lid on. I put the jar up where I can’t reach it. I’ve tried everything with things like this that are just sheer addicting. I even leave the house, and when I return, it’s right there. I really think that sugar is an addictive substance, and this stuff has so much of it in it (unlike regular nut butters, even the coveted vanilla almond from Justin’s — which I control myself around). It’s like having straight up cookie dough in the cupboard. Not cool! And so not worth it when there are so many other delicious things around.

  3. Missy says: Reply

    Oh gosh I can talk for ages about sugar… LOL. I almost get a bit militant about it.

    Here’s a story: I went into a treatment center for Eating disorders — their model of recovery is food addiction and so the meal plan is NO sugar NO flour (can have sugar as long as lower than fifth ingredient).

    I was like “I got this”.. I’d been “sugar free” for years. Then I got THE LIST. It had like 100 names for sugar and it is in EVERYTHING. I got home and had to give up all my sugar free labeled products as well as crazy shiz — MRS. DASH!! What?

    I avoid it for the most part, but like you can’t be too militant or either my inner rebel or inner tyrant comes out. Now, though, when I do have it I realize that I CANNOT STOP EATING and afterwords feel like crap. I’m looking at you artificial crab meat. Crack meat.

    I think for some people they can have it in moderation but for people like me it is too addictive. Like… there would be NO “one spoon” of that butter. Nope. It wouldn’t matter if I just had a meal either. Portion control is something I “trick” myself into believing I can handle often and it bites me in the azz everytime (popcorn belly!).
    Best not to have in my house.

    1. calee says: Reply

      OMG yes — this totally makes sense to me. I was going to talk about things that are high glycemic and spike your blood sugar too, but this post was getting too long. This makes sense. There is no one-spoonful of things in my house. It’s all or nothing. I try to allow myself to have something like this every once in a while, but there are things I know I just can’t have and they’re not worth it. This is why I love that Ben and Jerry’s now has single servings (not pints!) and that Justin’s nut butter (and a few others) have single-serving squeeze packets. I make my own nut butters (and actually had to switch to tahini anyway b/c of allergies) and I leave out sugar. I noticed that I never overeat my own homemade stuff. Just the crack that comes in a jar that’s full of sugar.

  4. […] Intervention: Sugar. […]

  5. […] in TJ’s, I found cookie butter (as I mentioned last week), and I was starving after walking around for nearly 4 hours sightseeing. I poked my finger in to […]

  6. I have not tried cookie butter and for precisely all the reasons you mentioned up above 🙂 A couple years ago, when I realized that I needed to cut back on my sugar, I did begin realizing it was in EVERYTHING processed. So I called it quits on everything processed with added sugars (except for the occasional semi-annual celebratory ice cream). If I wanted something sugary, I would have to make it myself, in my kitchen, and therefore be fully aware of exactly what is going into my food.
    Since then I’ve had ups and downs and sometimes parties (esp. buffets!) can be pretty difficult to control myself. But now I try and keep in mind a couple things:
    1. Am I really enjoying this food anymore? Is this 3rd serving really all that great?
    2. I always know that I’ll be returning to a sanctuary in the end. A place where the most sugar lies in actual fruits in my fridge or on my countertop.
    3. My body and I have never felt better than being without processed foods 🙂

    Thanks for your post!

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