I am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions, so I didn’t make any, once again, for this year. Now that we are into our second month of 2022, I feel like I might have more success at doing some of the things I might have considered as New Year’s resolutions if I had been so inclined to make them, and, hopefully, without the failure rate of most New Year’s resolutions that are made each year (e.g., 80% according to this article in Forbes).
One of the things I know I absolutely need to do is to cut back on the amount of refined sugar I eat. I have a sweet tooth, and I admit to being a carb addict, too, but I’ve let both get out of control over the past several months starting back in September, and it’s time to reign them back in again. I just feel so much better when I control what I eat and not let excess sugar and carbs rule my days and my moods, not to mention the other very real risks that come from eating too much sugar.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS):
Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year. In 1970, we ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year. This is equal to 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of sugar consumed in one week!
Nutritionists suggest that Americans should get only 10% of their calories from sugar. This equals 13.3 teaspoons of sugar per day (based on 2,000 calories per day). The current average is 42.5 teaspoons of sugar per day! (Quote source here.)
According to Medical News Today, some of the risks of eating too much sugar includes the following:
Sugar feeds bacteria that live in the mouth. When bacteria digest the sugar, they create acid as a waste product. This acid can erode tooth enamel, leading to holes or cavities in the teeth.
People who frequently eat sugary foods, particularly in between mealtimes as snacks or in sweetened drinks, are more likely to develop tooth decay, according to Action on Sugar, part of the Wolfson Institute in Preventive Medicine in the United Kingdom.
Weight gain and obesity
Sugar can affect the hormones in the body that control a person’s weight. The hormone leptin tells the brain a person has had enough to eat. However, according to a 2008 animal study, a diet high in sugar may cause leptin resistance.
This may mean, that over time, a high sugar diet prevents the brain from knowing when a person has eaten enough. However, researchers have yet to test this in humans.
Diabetes and insulin resistance
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) add that other risk factors, such as obesity and insulin resistance, can also lead to type 2 diabetes.
A large prospective study in 2014 found that people who got 17–21% of their daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who consumed 8% added sugars. For those who consumed 21% or more of their energy from added sugars, their risk for CVD doubled.
High blood pressure
In a 2011 study, researchers found a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and high blood pressure, or hypertension. A review in Pharmacological Research states that hypertension is a risk factor for CVD. This may mean that sugar exacerbates both conditions.
A review of studies in the Annual Review of Nutrition found a 23–200% increased cancer risk with sugary drink consumption. Another study found a 59% increased risk of some cancers in people who consumed sugary drinks and carried weight around their abdomen.
Excess sugar in the diet leads to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which play a role in diabetes. However, they also affect collagen formation in the skin.
According to Skin Therapy Letter, there is some evidence to suggest that a high number of AGEs may lead to faster visible aging. However, scientists need to study this in humans more thoroughly to understand the impact of sugar in the aging process. (Quote source here.)
While that list is a bit daunting as to the damage eating too much sugar can do to us physically, this post is about more then just cutting back on sugar (and carbs). This past week I went in search of not just another diet book to cut back on sugar and carbs (I do know what I should be eating for proper nutrition, but I let my cravings get the better of me), but to put a real purpose behind controlling what I allow myself to consume.
I was shopping in a Hobby Lobby earlier this week and I looked over the selection of Christian books that they sell that are usually located near the check out aisles. One of the books had a titled that caught my eye, “The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation,” by Wendy Speake, a trained actress, Bible teacher, speaker and writer. Several years ago I told myself I was never going to buy another diet book again, but this book is different. It has a spiritual component that goes beyond breaking a sugar addiction.
What would you be willing to give up to experience the presence of God in your life again?
Many of us sign up for a physical detox program, thinking that if our bodies are healthier, then we’re healthier. But a healthy body doesn’t do us a lot of good if we are spiritually malnourished.
Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us more of himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ.
Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us. (Quote source here.)
As Christians, the spiritual side of our lives should take high priority yet too often in our fast-paced and technology-savvy society we run on our own fumes moving at a frantic pace just to keep up with everything, including the constant flow of text messages, emails, and scheduled events and other activities. Grabbing fast food or sweets and any number of the zillions of options we have when it comes to food here in America can obliterate any sense of our spiritual obligation to take care of the only body we get in this lifetime. And many of our chronic health issues come from the choices we’ve made about food over the years, but we rarely think about it as we drive through another fast food restaurant lane one more time.
I also know that I can personally get into the cycle of “mindless eating” usually when I’m bored or frustrated about something, and the last thing I think about when I’m eating that chocolate chip cookie (even if it’s gluten-free!) is the effect it is having, long term, on my spiritual life and my physical health. How often do we connect the dots between what we eat and how it might be affecting our relationship with God except when offering up a prayer of thanks before we eat it? And how often do we even do that (pray before eating)? I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely think about it except in a formal eating setting.
Back in early 2019, I put myself on a healthy diet and kept a journal of every morsel that entered my mouth as I needed to do that to be accountable to myself and to not overeat, of which most of the time I was successful (I’d say 80% of the time). Within two months I had lost 20 pounds and I went on to lose a total of 30 pounds, and I stayed pretty much within the parameters of what I could eat (mostly healthy stuff, no fast food, and following this eating plan). That took about five months total, and to this day with an occasional fluctuation of a few pounds up or down (like 2 or 3), I have maintained that weight loss (even as of this morning). While I still wanted to lose another 20 pounds or so in 2019 (which I have not yet lost), I am happy that I have been able to maintain that weight loss over time. My sugar and carb cravings were mostly gone, and I felt great emotionally and physically (I also exercise regularly and I have for the past eleven years).
While I’ve had my challenges like most people do just living life one day at a time, by eating right I discovered I didn’t get as upset over things that weren’t working out, or regarding situations that were not getting resolved in the way I wanted them to get resolved, and my faith walk was strong as well as my resilience despite things not going the way I had hoped they would go. I also noticed that when I gave into my “emotional eating” tendency and the pull to eat sweets that I felt just the opposite–irritable and tired. So that kept me eating the right foods (even if I ate too much) and steering clear of the wrong types of foods (including fast foods).
So I’ve coasted along since 2019 with my 30-pound weight loss and eating mostly what I am suppose to eat, and then this past fall I signed up to attend a class for women new to living in this area that I moved to over a year ago, and suddenly I was facing all kinds of “goodies” that were available to eat at these once-a-week classes. Because I had stopped eating anything with gluten in it back in 2019, most of the stuff available to eat had gluten in it and/or it was really sweet (and I had weaned myself off of sugar as much as possible). Long story short, over the course of the three months that this class lasted, I found myself giving in to eating the very foods I had stopped eating, and eating that stuff spilled over into poorer eating habits with other meals beyond that class setting.
In other words, I was going downhill in my sugar addiction during the fall and into the Christmas season by eating the wrong stuff that I had previously given up, and I could feel the pull both physically and emotionally that it was having on me (eating or drinking too much sugar really can affect the mind with things like brain fog (read this short article titled, “4 Ways Sugar Can Be Harming to Your Mental Health,” in Psychology Today). In fact, the “negative side effects of eating too much sugar include everything from brain fog and trouble concentrating to anxiety and depression. While sugar in small amounts from natural sources is not a major concern, most people are eating too much of the sweet stuff and could benefit from cutting back.” (Quote source here.)
By the time January arrived, I was eating more food items with sugar in them then I had eaten in years, and my sweet tooth was back and demanding more. I realized as I went through January that I had to do something to get back on track, but my sweet tooth was hard to control (sugar is addictive–read this article titled, “Why is Sugar Addiction a Problem?”).
When I spotted that book I mentioned above this past Monday titled, “The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation,” I decided to buy it and to also get back to the way I was eating before I started eating the “bad stuff” this fall when I was attending that class, and I decided February 1st was my starting date. I thought about waiting until Lent (which starts on March 2nd) as that would be a good time to give up sugar, but I knew that was giving myself too much leeway to keep indulging in sugary type foods during February, so I decided to start now.
So this is Day #4 that I have gone without eating any refined sugar, and I can already feel the clarity of thought that not having a sugar-addicted brain gives you. We really are what we eat–and that’s not just a saying but reality. Of course, we are a lot more then what we eat, but what we eat is crucial to our physical well being, and to our spiritual health and our relationship with God.
Day #3 in “The 40-Day Sugar Fast” is titled, “When Sugar Walls Crumble,” and it opens with the following:
Sugar is a stronghold for many people. Does it hold you back from the good life that God has planned for you? Perhaps over time your sweet tooth has turned into a full-fledged addition, dictating your days, driving you from one sugary fix to the next. Unfortunately, no sugar fix can fix you. In fact, when you give sugar that job, you’ll end up more broken than before because sugar weakens our physical bodies and clouds our minds. If only you could break free from this sweet, strangling stronghold, but you feel powerless. The walls are too thick and to wide, the habits too ingrained, the enemy too big and too strong, and you are too addicted.
However, all throughout the Scriptures, God demonstrates that He has the power to open prison gates and set captives free. Today I encourage you to shout God’s victory over your life even before He helps you tear down the stranglehold of sugar…. (Quote source: “The 40-Day Sugar Fast,” pp.37-38.)
John 4:34 states, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” May our food be more than just food, too. I’ll end this post with the words of Paul in Philippians 4:13…
I can do all things . . .
Through Christ . . .
Who strengthens me . . . .
YouTube Video: “Not My Will” by Kim Walker-Smith: