Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting Off the Sugar

Ever since I posted this blog, I've gotten a ton of comments and e-mails and Facebook messages asking, "How did you get off the sugar?" Well, let me tell you a little story.

I grew up in a household where sugar was not allowed. My mom had worked for a chiropractor and had a firm belief in the badness of sugar. Now, don't get me wrong - she was doing the right thing here. But because it was such a no-no, whenever I'd go to a friend's house, I'd eat as much as I was offered. When I got a little money of my own, I'd spend it on candy. Treats just didn't happen. We'd have birthday cake, or we'd have one candy bar at Christmas, and that was it. I found myself really looking forward to going to friends' houses or any other opportunity I could find to have a treat. And because I have an addictive nature anyway, and because sugar is, by its nature, addictive, it was like a match to a stick of dynamite.

Something else to know - when your brain doesn't create the proper chemicals, you don't feel emotions like you should. We've all heard of seratonin uptake inhibitors and the like. Well, picture a brain that doesn't produce happy chemicals. And then picture eating some sugar, which mimics the happy chemicals. Suddenly, we've taken a stressed-out Tristi and made her feel better. I felt genuinely better when I ate sugar.

So here we have:

Tristi doesn't get treats, so Tristi hunts them down.

Tristi is an addictive person, and sugar is addictive.

Tristi's brain doesn't tell her to be happy, so Tristi feels better when she eats sugar.

Add to this the fact that I also didn't grow up eating very much protein, and that let the sugar wreak even more havoc than it would have normally.


Put those components together, and you have the circumstances surrounding how I grew up and how I got this way. Or, I should say, the way I used to be.

By the time I got in for treatment, I had tried going off sugar a number of times. But because I wasn't getting system support to buoy up all the reasons why I was on sugar in the first place, I would fail miserably. After a while, I wondered if I was going to have to just give up. And you know what, I kind of wanted to. I love sugar. I wanted to spend the rest of my life eating sugar. Going off it would be hard. It would be stripping out my emotional crutches. I honestly did not think I could survive the stresses of my life without it.

When I got in to the doctor, my pancreas (the organ in charge of taking care of your sugar) was so enlarged, when I lay on my back and he looked at my stomach, he could see the pancreas through my skin. That is seriously enlarged. He showed it to my husband, and my husband could see it plain as day, too. But I had no idea. See, I'd had my blood sugar taken not too long previously, and it was just fine. My triglycerides were way high, but I got those down to less than half of what they were previously. I didn't think I needed to worry about my sugar. But when you've got an organ so enlarged that you can see it through your skin - and keep in mind, back then I had a lot more skin than I do now - that is serious.

I didn't want to go off sugar. But I had to. It was a matter of my entire quality of life. I didn't want to end up with diabetes or some major pancreatic dysfunction. So I stopped eating it ... with one exception. I had to break my Cherry Coke addiction.

Now, I have never been a caffeine drinker. Never. But I started getting headaches about three years ago, and they were so severe that the only way I could kick them was with two Ibuprofen and a glass of Coke. Well, that started something I wish had never started. I got to the point where I could not function without the Coke. My adrenal glands were shot, and the Coke was taking the place of my adrenalin. I couldn't work without Coke. Just couldn't do it.

But did you know that 20 ounces of soda has seventeen teaspoons of sugar? (I learned that on The Biggest Loser) Yes, I know there's diet stuff, whatever. But I was drinking the real stuff because fake sugar makes me even sicker. So if you do some math here, I was drinking about a liter of Coke a day ... and holy crap. Okay. I haven't done the math until just this minute, but check this out. One liter has 33.81 ounces in it, and the sugar breaks down to 1.17 teaspoons per ounce. 33.81 x 17 ... I was drinking the equivalent of 39.5 teaspoons of sugar a day without even knowing it. That's over 13 tablespoons. Every single day. And I had no clue until just this second. Why didn't anyone tell me???

Okay, back to what I was saying. I couldn't seem to get off the Coke. I was off everything else, but not that. And then I had a wake-up call. The caffeine and the sugar were taking a toll on my heart. I'm not going to go into details here, but I had to get off it now.

And so I did.

When you ask me, "How did you get off the sugar?" my initial response is going to be, "Kicking and screaming." It was not easy. It has been miserable. I'm not going to lie to you. But I had to. I was killing myself, and because my blood tests seemed normal, I had no idea the damage I was doing. I have had withdrawals. I have had moments where it was all I could do not to run down the store and get a whole triple chocolate layer cake and eat the whole thing myself. But let me tell you something. I am so proud of myself. I'm doing things I never thought I could do. I'm now officially down 50 pounds - picture coming soon - and I have faced six months of really horrible life circumstances without relying on my emotional crutches. I can't even tell you how that feels.

I'm not saying all this to brag, although hey, I am proud of myself. I'm saying this to help you all understand that while getting off sugar is hard, it can be done. If this girl, who used to eat Zingers for breakfast and drink 39.5 teaspoons of sugar a day, can get off sugar, you can get off sugar. You really, really can.

PS: Let me just throw in a little note here. This eating plan is something that has been recommended for me, personally, and it's not to say that every single person in the world should do it this way. I do believe that as many people as possible should get off sugar or really limit their sugar - the stuff will kill you if you overdo it. But the fact that I'm not eating fruit right now doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't, etc. I'm just sharing what I'm doing, not saying that it's the "right" thing for everyone to do. Because everyone's body is different, and everyone's health concerns are different, we need to have different eating plans in order to be as healthy as possible.

43 comments:

Karen Adair said...

Wonderful post Tristi! I have been off sugar for three weeks now, and my body knows it. For good and bad. :) I'm losing weight and feeling healthier, but the craving for a candy bar still lingers terribly. I worry about that craving and why I have it. I'm eating plenty of natural sugars in fruit, so it has to be mental. Congrats to you for all your efforts and success!!! We CAN be healthy. :)

Danielle Thorne said...

What an excellent, informative post. Thank you for sharing! I quit drinking soda years ago because of ulcer problems and every now and then I get tempted... Your story is a great reminder and example.

I wish you luck w your sugar-free journey!

Danielle Thorne said...

Thx for sharing your story. You are a great example and reminder that too much of a good thing can make us very, very sick. Good luck!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Way to go, Tristi. I really hope your health issues are enough to keep you off sugar because once your start saying yes--even once--it's way to easy to stop saying no.

I've read that sugar can be harder to come off of than heroine. Scary, huh?

Christine Kersey said...

Tristi, you're an inspiration. Sugar has always been my downfall too. I have some sort (or multiple sorts) of goodies every single day. I've always heard that cutting refined sugar out of your diet makes you feel better and I've wanted to find out, but darn it's hard to give it up. Good for you for sticking with it! Maybe I'll give it another try :)

Diony said...

Awesome Tristi!

Rebecca Talley said...

Wowee! You. Are. Awesome. I am so proud of you!! I'm sorry you've had some rough patches the last six months!

I've never been a soda drinker. I prefer water so that's never been an issue for me. But I love chocolate. And I love refined sugar. However, I feel much better when I'm either off sugar or severly limiting it. When I have a lot of sugar (i.e. candy and treats) I feel great when it's in my mouth and going down my throat but when it hits my tummy I feel yucky. Sugar was never banned from my house growing up but Grandma didn't focus on it. We always had a salad for dinner, plenty of fresh veggies and fruit (a plus of growing up in CA), and protein.

Are you off fruit too? I don't think I could cut out fruit permanently. I do when I've had a lot of refined sugar and need to get all sugar out of my system, but I bring fruit back in. Generally, I try to eat protein, fruits and vegies, grains, and drink plenty of water.

Josi said...

That is awesome, Tristi. I'm glad you're proud of yourself and I'm so proud of you too, and inspired. I can't wait to see the new you and am just dang impressed. Way to go!

Abby said...

That is an awesome accomplishment. I know I feel so much better when I don't drink pop. It was one of the best things I ever did. This is an impressive story. I'm so glad you shared.

Krista said...

Awesome, Tristi. Just wonderful!

franklycreative said...

Way to go Tristi. I'm very proud of you. I know how bad sugar can be for you. I feel so much better when I don't eat it.

Melissa Lemon said...

Thank you for sharing this! Sugar is so evil and I have tried again and again to get off of it. Have you ever been to the simple. healthy. tasty. blog? I think you'd love it.

Jordan McCollum said...

Good for you, Tristi! It's really inspiring to see your success in kicking the sugar habit.

1.) Are you allowed sugar substitutes? (And have you tried xylitol?)

2.) I'm sure your doctor has checked this, but it really worries me to hear that you had bad headaches that often. My dad had severe headaches for probably a decade, and he took care of them with a painkiller/caffeine combo (Excedrin) almost every day.

Turned out he actually had high blood pressure, and the headaches went away once he was on HBP meds. But the damage was already done—unbeknownst to him, he'd developed a stomach ulcer, which a few years later, turned into a bleed ulcer for a little while. He had to be hospitalized. (On my mom's bday, and the day I was planning to announce my last pregnancy to them, no less.) Colas are very acidic, too. So not good for us!

Anna del C. Dye said...

Sugar makes me depress so I don't do much of it now days. I hate depression and figure I don't need sugar to ruin my life. When I am very tempted I buy a small bag "they always come in a small bag) of sugar free candy. Usually the kind I'm craving by the time the package is gone so is my craving. And my mind and body are happy. If I am to tempted to eat it all at once, I will asked my husband to hide it and give me one every day. (It works, he doesn't like to see me sad either)
Great post Tristi.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

That is so awesome Tristi! I've tried to cut out sugar and it is hard. I can't wait to see your updated picture!

Stephanie Abney said...

Congrats, Tristi!!
I've gotten off of sugar LOTS of times. LOL... The longest I've ever been off is 18 months. All it takes is ONE LITTLE EXCEPTION and you're down that path again. Hold on to your resolve. Very cool.

Mandi Tucker Slack said...

That's amazing, Tristi!! Seriously, I love reading these posts. They give me hope for my own healthier future! Great job!

Robyn Mulcahy said...

Thanks for sharing.I am at the point, again, that I have to stop eating sugar. I can quit a thousand times, a thousand and one.

G. Parker said...

Way to go Tristi! I remember reading a book over 30 years ago about sugar and it's adictiveness...but it didn't make me stop. We don't buy refined sugar anymore, but I have used stevia. Do you use honey and agave? Or do you use any sweetening at all? You're an inspiration, and I hope it continues. We just wish our daughter could meet you and understand where she's going. sigh. Thanks for sharing!

Diane said...

Okay, it's official. You're still my hero!
I, too had to go off sugar, but I did it by following the HCG drops diet for one term. It got me off. And incidentally made me lose weight. But I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. It's pretty drastic. And one can only follow it for 40 days.
But it did kick my craving for sugar!
PS. Can't wait to see the new pics!!!

kbrebes said...

I'm sooo happy for you!!! : ) Congrats!!!

Stephanie Black said...

Tristi, you are absolutely amazing! I am in awe of your willpower.

ali cross said...

Wow, what a story, Tristi. Thank you for sharing it and for being so candid. I have just been getting fatter and fatter since my hysterectomy. And where I never craved sugary treats before (I preferred salty, lol), NOW it's like I can't get enough. It's terrible and makes me feel so, so sad. Not to mention all the negative self-talk we give ourselves when we don't like how we look. Or we have to go shopping not because we WANT to, but because we need BIGGER sized clothes.

I don't know where I am, emotionally, in response to your story, but I'm taking it in. Trying to come to terms with it all.

((hugs)) Thank you again!

RaShelle Workman said...

Great post, Tristi. Congrats on all of your hard work. I'm happy for you. Sugar is the bane of my existance. I usually stop eating it for a month or two at a time, just to give my body a break. It's been a while. I probably should do it again. ;D

Jenn Wilks said...

Holy guacamole, Tristi!! You are a freaking rock star! I can't wait to see you and your new body! I bet it feels fan-freaking-tastic to know you're in charge of your body like that. I want to believe you that I can go off sugar, too. I mean, I do believe you, but I'm still at that I-don't-know-that-I-really-want-to stage. I want to, but I don't. I'm sure you understand that feeling well.

I have one question. When you say no sugar, do you mean just candies and cakes and such? Not fruit or things that naturally contain sugar, right? Our do you avoid that, too?

Anyway, good job and keep it up!

Taffy said...

Great, encouraging post, Tristi! My daughter totally feels the effects of sugar on her system. She actually craves veggies and bananas and pineapple because she's so carefully with her sugar intake. I know I can do better! THANKS!

Sarah Allen said...

Wow. I just...wow. I admire you so much!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey Rebecca,

I am off fruit, for now. My pancreas needed me to back off of every form of sugar so it could heal. Maybe down the road I'll add some back in, but I don't know at this point - we'll see.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey Melissa,

I haven't been to that blog, but it sounds like a place I need to go! Thanks for recommending it!

Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey Jordan,

I can't do sugar substitutes because they weird me out - I've tried several in the past, and they just don't work for me. In addition, a lot of them don't work well with the pancreas.

Thanks for asking about the headaches - they have been mostly brought under control. I needed to completely change my diet, and once I did that, they began to decline until now, I only have one occasionally, usually from stress or eye strain now.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Gaynell,

Nope, no sweetener of any kind. But considering that right now, I'm eating meats, veggies, nuts, and seeds, I'm not sure what I'd put the sweetener on. :)

It took a pretty abrupt wake-up call for me to realize what was happening to me ... I hope your daughter doesn't have to go through that.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Stephanie, believe me, it didn't start out as willpower. It started out as being forced into changing my behavior. The willpower had to come along later. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Ali, you are amazing. And this is an emotional journey, no doubt about it.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Jenn, no fruit, for now. But as I mentioned above, that may change down the road, depending on how my pancreas does.

Terri Ferran said...

Dear Tristipie,
I love you less than I used to (because there is less of you now!). You are awesome. But I grieve a bit--with whom shall I sneak off with to the kitchen to indulge in my favorite caffeinated beverage?
Keep up the awesome amazing work.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Yeah, Terri ... sneaking off to the kitchen to eat carrot sticks is probably not going to be the same ...

Renae W. Mackley said...

Way to go! Your words are food for thought but I'm not convinced they taste as good as sugar. I would like to cut down, but totally? Hmm. Maybe you have inspired me to make some changes. At least I don't do the soda thing. Enough rambling. I am proud of you!!!

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

The thing I've loved about this diet is that I don't have to worry about eating fat as much. So I do still have that to make my food taste better. I eat nuts, eggs, peanut butter, real butter and tons of veggies and protein with VERY minimal fruit. It hasn't been that hard and like I told you before, my husband and I started this diet to kill our Candida. It has worked. I do believe I'm cured and I have no desire at all to go back to the way I used to eat. I no longer crave sugar at all. THAT is the best thing. I've also lost 5 pounds (depending on my hormones) the first week I lost four, the second, only one, but I figure if I keep eating this way, the extra weight will come off slowly and surly. Feels good, huh?
Thank you for being the pivotal motivation to get me to do it. It truly was you, Trisi. I admire you so much. YOU ROCK!!!

Shanda said...

50 pounds!?! That is so awesome.

I know what you mean about health issues forcing your hand. I'm dealing with a liver that is swelling from NAFLD. I've introduced green smoothies, exercise, increased water intake and cutting out fried/fatty foods, esp fast food. My last liver enzyme test showed normal numbers (YAY!) but my liver is still swollen so I know I have a lot more work to do.

It has been HARD. My biggest downfall has been meal planning. Not very good or consistent with it. How have you modified meal planning on your journey?

Best wishes for continually improving good health!

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Tristi, you rock! Self control brings some amazing blessings. That's been my experience at least.
I think you're awesome...did I say that already?

Sheila said...

I have already told you that you are my hero and inspiration. After I read another one of your blog posts, in disbelief, I decided to try what you are doing. I have now lost 10 lbs. after eating no sugar and cutting out the carbs, only eating veggies and protein,cheese, and no fruit. My blood sugar levels are not wacked out any more. my sugar/carb cravings had gone away, I have more energy and I am sleeping much better. Eventually I will start adding in some fruits and more carbs, but for now I am doing fine. What do I do with the people that tell me this is not good for me? They tell me I won't be able to stick with it and will be fat again later. I haven't felt this good in years! When my Dr. said that I was pre-diabetic, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol...it scared me so much. Thank you for being honest about your experiences and your encouragement. Sorry for the story, just wanted to say I love you and am very proud of you my friend!!

Rachelle said...

Tristi, you are awesome! I'm so happy for you and hope you continue to feel even better. My kids think soda is poison (so do I, in all forms, including diet) but I need to work on changing the mentality about sugar. It's hard getting little kids to be friends with veggies, but we're making lots of smoothies and working on it.

Rachelle said...

I wanted to mention one more thing because I think it's so awesome that you had the motivation to break your difficult habit of soda. If you think of the amount of sugar you were drinking in cups it makes it sound even more horrifying (motivating?). There are 16 Tablespoons in a cup. Measure out one cup of sugar and imagine eating all of that. And that doesn't include the simple carbs that turn into sugar usually within 30 minutes after eating.

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