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Entry for May 20, 2008

Note: This is not a new entry but rather a re-posting of one that was accidentally deleted.

Sugar Rehab! And How to Survive a Trip to Starbucks!

When I was a kid I craved sugar in the form of a can of Sprite every couple hours. But then I kicked that can to the curb and really never craved the sugary stuff again. Even in college I would watch the women around me in awe of their addiction to chocolate and sweets. Don’t get me wrong, I headed up a few roommate outings to Baskin Robins every once in a while in my day, but really it was more about the social aspect of those trips that kept me going and less about the need for sugar at 9:59PM (BR’s closed at 10PM, I distinctly remember the chaotic rush of making that deadline and the sound of 4 college girls very concerned about those doors being locked upon arrival).

Something happened between then and Present Day. That something being… I like chocolate. A lot. Don’t look at me like that, trainers are people too!! But I now understand the craving that most women - and many men - have for just a chocolate something every night after dinner. Well I don't exactly understand it, but I have empathy. So what happened? Did my taste buds grow chocolate-feelers?  After much research, I learned that researchers say that those of us who crave sweets at some point in the day, every day (uh, how about 99.9% of the US population!), do so because we have an addiction. That’s right, my name is Crystal Thomas and I am addicted to 72% cocoa bars at 8PM.

What they really mean by an addiction is this: “Sugar stimulates receptors to activate the same pathways that are stimulated directly by drugs such as heroin or morphine.” Gee, I feel so much better now. But wait! It gets better! “When this phenomenon was studied in lab rats, researchers found that after 21 days on a high-sugar liquid diet, one group, whose feeding was delayed by 12 hours, showed signs of withdrawal, including anxiety, teeth chattering, and depression. While no human trials have been conducted yet, researchers hypothesize that sugary drinks, especially those consumed on an empty stomach, are similarly addictive for some individuals. So if you regularly replace breakfast with a sweet coffee drink, you could be setting yourself up for a sugar addiction.” Aha!!

So we’ve got that going for us. But did you know that by constantly eating sugar, you also force your pancreas to work overtime? As you eat more, it pumps out massive amounts of insulin; eventually, your body may become less sensitive to sugar and, essentially, build up a resistance to it. Just as a frequent drinker needs to knock back more beers in order to feel their effects, you can begin to need more sugar to feel satisfied. That’s just wrong. Who’s running this circus?!

Have you ever really taken a close look at how much sugar you’re consuming in one day? Humor me for a day and monitor your intake and see where it adds up. Keep in mind, sugar is in everything from ketchup to peanut butter and even cold cuts. How much do we actually need? For teens and adults (80+ pounds), we need to aim for no higher than 50 grams of sugar each day, which amounts to about 200 calories in an average 2,000 calorie diet. The limit for toddlers and those less than 80 pounds is 25 grams. Ready to kick your addiction in favor of more energy, a more efficient pancreas and a stronger immune system? Hey, why not?! Then don’t look at cutting back as some kind of deprivation. Just focus on reducing the amount you consume each day and your body will get used to it. Look at it as a way to feel better. And know this: There are more than 100 different names for sugars. Ack! Take note of sugar's pseudonyms and look for red-flag ingredients like dextrose rice syrup, and cane juice. You'll also realize that many products touted as healthy are still high in sugar. There are no laws regulating the use of the words "all natural" on food packaging, so manufacturers can label their products with abandon. Take this example, for instance:  One ounce of dried pineapple has about 21 grams of sugar, compared with 2.6 grams for the same amount of fresh pineapple.

Here are some of the most popular alternative names for sugar when listed in the ingredients list, but there are many more:


brown sugar

cane-juice crystals

cane sugar


corn syrup



ethyl maltol

evaporated cane juice


fruit juice

fruit-juice concentrate


high-fructose corn syrup





raw sugar



Speaking of sugar, been to a Starbuck’s lately? How shocking! It’s not like there’s one on every block or anything. Do you have a “usual” that you order? Do you do this because it’s what you’ve always drank and frankly you don’t want to take the time to search for something you know is better for you because decoding a coffee menu these days is like reading hieroglyphics? I completely get it and I feel your pain. So I bring you this mini survival guide! 8 Ways to Survive a Trip to Starbucks!

1.  Always order your drinks "Nonfat" and "No Whip."

2. Tempted by those Frappuccino Blended Coffee drinks that come in a zillion crazy-delicious flavor combinations? They're ALL available as Frappuccino Lights, most with just about 150 calories and hardly any fat for a 16-ounce Grande.

3. If you order a flavored coffee, make sure the flavor comes from the actual coffee grounds as opposed to added sugary syrups.

4. Remember that "reduced-fat" pastries aren't necessarily low in calories or fat. (You're better off avoiding cake-y items altogether.)

5. Lose the idea that anything with "tea" in its name is diet-friendly. It's not.

6. Order a "Short" size drink (it's not on the menu, but your friendly neighborhood barista will happily accommodate you...or unhappily, but either way she must do as you request!), if you want to indulge without going overboard.

7. Skip regular syrups, full-fat milk and cream, and sugar. Always opt for sugar-free syrups and fat-free milk. If you're not opposed, you can also use no-calorie sweetener.

8. For guilt-free tea, order a plain unsweetened iced tea, then ask for a shot of sugar-free syrup and use no-calorie sweetener (again, if you're not opposed) to flavor it.

And before I sign off - Here's a little trivia in celebration of May Day! Well not really, but it sounds festive!

Did You Know?

Coffee was originally used for medicinal purposes, treating everything from heart disease to fevers and coughs. It wasn't until people started craving the caffeine-buzz "side effect" that coffee took on the hot beverage form we know and love today.

So...now you know!

Happy May Day!!

2008-05-20 19:30:49 GMT