Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar Report

Okay - here is a summary of my two weeks without sugar, and then I promise I'll get off the sugar soapbox. For awhile.

I didn't go 2 weeks without eating refined sugar.

You know, of course, that I was allowing myself 1 meal each week to eat whatever I liked. I did that on Friday night for both weeks. I had pizza and ice cream, and one week I had a sip of Joe Beans' Iced Mocha as well. Mmmm!

Those were my permissible flumps. (Don't you like that word? I just made it up!)

I had a few other Cheat Moments.

#1 - The homemade chocolate cheesecake at a friend's party last Saturday. I held out through the cookies. And the chocolate raspberry truffles. And the pizza sauce for dipping the Stromboli. But when they sliced the cheesecake....I said "who cares?" and ate a small (very rich!) piece. Oh, It. Was. That. Good.

#2 - I ate a few dried dates that had sugar on them. (Honestly - who in the world thinks they need to sweeten dried dates, of all things? As if they weren't sweet enough?)

#3 - I almost gave in yesterday when Mom served fudge pie for Sunday dinner dessert. The only thing that kept me strong was knowing I'd have to blog about my naughtiness. (I knew there was something to the accountability theory!)

So, what did I observe, and what did I learn?

Well, I'm not sure which was hardest to abstain from; the known sweets (chocolate, ice cream, etc.) or the "hidden sugar" (bread, cereal, crackers, mayo, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc.) I certainly craved the desserts more, but the "regular food" was hardest to avoid. I was hard pressed to find food that I could eat.

And that surprised me a little bit.

For example, let's say you, like me, are "good about sugar." You don't drink soda, you don't munch candy bars, you dislike Pop Tarts, and love most any veggie. Great. Let's create a example menu and see what the sugar content is.

Breakfast: Granola
Lunch: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Supper: Lasagna, Salad, and Rolls (let's say you're good and you skip dessert)

Sounds okay, right?

That's what I thought before these past two weeks. But I can't argue with the math.

The math says that (depending on what brands and how many helpings you have), this menu supplies you with - are you ready? - 52 grams of refined sugar.

100 grams sugar = 20 tsp. sugar

So, 52 grams is about 10 tsp. .....

That's almost 1/4 cup of sugar.

Picture a quarter cup of sugar dumped onto the table. Now pick that up and ingest it.

And we thought we were "good with sugar"?

Enough with the depressing news.

Anyway - so my eyes were opened to the way sugar has invaded my diet. But I also learned that skipping dessert is possible.

And I learned all sorts of ways to sweeten food naturally. ...But I'm kinda sick of raisins. :) :) :)

All in all, I'm glad I did these two weeks. I feel good about it.

How will I eat tomorrow?

Well, my tongue craves some old-fashioned granola and chocolate, but my mind feels a little sick at the thought of what that means for my body. One TBS of sugar sounds like a TON. I think I view sugar in a whole different light now. Hopefully that lasts for awhile. I will definitely be looking into ways to limit my sugar, but I don't think I'll go cold-turkey. At least not yet.

How do you think a sugar fast would affect you if you did one?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This post struck home with me. Something about it moved my heart.

I had to share it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm happy about my shopping ...

So I must tell you about it!

Usually, I hate shoe shopping.

Gasp! Breathes there a girl who can say those four words and mean it?

Hello, folks, and my name is Amber.

Yes, I usually despise shoe shopping.

Not that I hate shoes. No, no. Don't believe that for a minute. I used to think I'd escaped the fatal feminine sickness of shoe-love, but I no longer labor under that delusion. I am now quite aware of my weakness for shoes. All the boxes are neatly stacked in the bottom of my closet. I won't say how many.

I do try to control myself. I don't want to be consumed with a love of fashion - there are too many more important things to think about! But I like pretty things, and when I can afford new pretty shoes without stealing funds from worthier causes, I like to get them.

So why do I hate shoe shopping?

It's a remnant of my past, I guess. Memories of spending hours as a young girl, wandering shoe store aisles with Mom, going from store to store, vainly searching for the perfect shoe. ...Melting in tears when I can't find it.

I'm very picky, you see. Very conservative (or shy) in my tastes. I remember one shoe-shopping trip where Mom could not accompany me, and Dad had to take me. When I came home, I told her, "Now I know Daddy is patient."

Anyway. I have bad associations with shoe-shopping. Shoe-shopping means tears, and a lot of wasted gas.

I'm also a cheap-skate. And shoes are not cheap. So I hated that part of it, too.

That explains why I ripped a hole in the bottom of my trusty black ballet flats back in September, and didn't go shopping for a new pair until this week. And I wore that old pair multiple times each week throughout this month. With a pea-size hole in the sole. Yes, I'm that cheap. And lazy. And that afraid of shoe shopping.

That couldn't last forever. I needed a pair of black flats. And a brown pair, as well, since the button on my old brown flats was hanging on by a few threads, and I regularly pulled the sole lining out when I removed my feet from the shoes. I literally remember wearing those shoes when I took the test for my driver's license...quite a few years ago.

Proof positive: I was afraid of shoe shopping.

But I knew I wasn't being frivolous this time. I needed shoes. ...So I began to get excited.

And God was with me in a special way on these trips. (Yes, I made two trips!) The first time, I spotted an exact copy (different brand)of my old pair of black flats. Right away. An identical brown pair was close by. On sale; buy two, get each one for $10.

A sign. It was meant to be.

I grabbed the boxes, bought them for $20, and took them home. Record time for a shoe shopping trip.

Just when I thought I might get excited about shoe shopping. I buy an exact copy of my old pair of shoes. How exciting.

Only problem was, one pair didn't fit. Exact same shoes - the brown ones fitted, the black ones didn't. Stubborn. Must have been related to that old pair.

So I went back today to exchange them. This time I was going to live a little. Find a different black flat style.

I walked into Show Show, and not only did I find a nice black flat, but I noticed a lot of sales going on. And I realized I wanted to have some fun. So I did. I tried shoes on I never would have tried on before, strutted the aisle (it was empty!) in front of the mirror, played dress up, and shed not one tear.

I came home with 3 pairs of shoes. Plus the brown ones at home.

I don't have photos, but I looked online for similar pictures:
#1 - Brown flats:

They look exactly like this, but are a different brand.
(Incidentally, my hated old black flats looked just like this, too.)

#2 - Fun plaid shoe (summer shoe on sale):

This isn't really close...the plaid is like this, but the style is different.
Picture a ballet flat in these colors...sorta. More of a "sailor shoe" than a ballet flat.

#3 - Needed black flats:

Something like this, only with a ribbon ruffle on the toe,
and polka-dots inside (Don't you love those little touches only you see?
My pair is TONS cuter:

#4 - And, last but not least, my personal favorite. A pair of red heels. I've secretly wanted one for years, but I'm not a heels girl. Too uncomfortable, and I don't like the "swing" they add to your walk. But these are supportive, comfortable, and even my mother agrees they aren't so high that they add any swing. I love them. Wish I had an actual picture. Imagine:

Something styled like this:
With colors like this, in patent leather:

(Now you know I'm lazy when it comes to taking pictures and uploading them.)

Best of all?

Remember how I said I'm cheap?

I'm rejoicing.

I got 4 pairs of shoes.

Normal cost: $82.96

Way beyond my price range for an impulsive shopping spree.

Guess what I paid after sales?


For 4 pairs of shoes.

That's less than $10.00 a pair, in case you didn't do the math.

Yes Ma'am. I'm happy.

P.S. I forgot to add: I came home and had a party and threw the old black flats in the trash, and got rid of the old brown flats, and gave away two more pairs of shoes - so I got 4, and got rid of 4! Pretty good for a girl who likes shoes, huh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two Flavors

So....yesterday night was hard.

Supper was green beans, rice, and slow cooker chicken. It was yummy! The chicken was especially good, and I enjoyed a whole leg, which is a lot for me. I usually have just a bite or two of meat with my meal. (Yeah, I know that's pitiful.) I knew I didn't need to save room for dessert, so I filled up. I even had seconds on rice, which is another unusual occurrence for me. (I've developed a habit of skimping on the good food so I have plenty of room for a big dessert. One reason I knew I needed to do this "sugar fast." ...This look even worse in print.)

At the end of the meal, my tummy was full, but my tongue wasn't. I roamed the kitchen like a crazy girl, looking for something sweet I could eat. I'm so accustomed to that sweetness to finish off a meal! I finally settled for a dried fig.

Here's a list of foods to help satisfy that sweet ache:
Dried figs or prunes
Dried fruit, if there's no sugar added (hard to find, with some brands)
Blueberries, 'specially good if they're frozen
Nuts can help, too, though they aren't sweet

I've come to a definite conclusion. Americans are programed to enjoy only two taste sensations; sweetness and saltiness.

Think about it - almost every food we eat has sugar added, from pizza sauce to bread. The foods that aren't sugar-enhanced are the savory type, and they all have salt added. Canned veggies, soups, lunch meat, chips, etc., all taste strongly of salt, but unless you're used to eating those foods without salt, you don't notice that flavor. The flavor you expect from canned beets, for instance, comes mainly from the salt in the can. We think that's "beet taste," but if you cook up a garden beet and eat it, then take a bite of canned beets, you immediately notice that you aren't tasting true "beet" from the can. You're tasting salt. Our tongues automatically expect to taste either sugar or salt in every mouthful of food we eat. We don't even notice it any more. We think salt or sugar equals flavor.

Even if salt and sugar wasn't so disastrous for your health, wouldn't this still be a sad state of affairs? There are MILLIONS of flavors in the world - why mask them with the two we've been programmed to like best? These other flavors are milder, and with a tongue accustomed to the strong bite of salt and the pervasiveness of sugar, it's hard to pick up any deep taste, but once you avoid sugar and salt for awhile, I've been told you taste everything else much better.

Wouldn't it be worth it to avoid two flavors for the sake of experiencing zillions of others in their place?

...Not that I'm ready to give up salt and sugar entirely. I think some in moderation is enjoyable. But I am hoping that through my "experiment" these two weeks I will be able to enjoy some richer flavor in the foods I eat.

What do you think? Are we over-salted-and-sweeted?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet Overkill

The USDA reports that the average American consumes anywhere between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars (this includes glucose, fructose, and sucrose) in one year.

That's a lot of sugar.

What does 150-170 pounds look like? Imagine 30 to 34 five-pound bags of sugar lined up next to each other on a counter. Now imagine eating all of that sugar. To break it down even more, eating 150-170 pounds of sugar in one year is also equivalent to consuming 1/4 to 1/2 pounds of sugar each day.

1/4 pound of sugar is equivalent to 30 teaspoons and 1/2 pound of sugar is equivalent to 60 teaspoons.

Studies have shown that consuming 75 to 100 grams of simple sugars (about 20 teaspoons of sugar - the amount found in two-and-a-half average 12 ounce cans of soda) can suppress the body's immune responses considerably. These sugars are known to create a 40 to 50% percent drop in the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and germs within the body. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours. By consuming 150 to 170 pounds of simple sugars each year, a person may have up to 80,000 hours of immune suppression!

(These facts were taken from:

No wonder we are a sick society. And this isn't even taking into consideration that other effects of sugar - it's the leading cause of dental problems, and we all know what sugar can do to children's attention spans. There are studies that show that sugar feeds cancer cells, and causes heart problems.

Enough already.

I've always known sugar is bad for you. Refined sugar, that is. I know we need a little sugar in our bodies - it actually feeds the brain, I've been told. But that's natural sugar - the kind found in fruits, honey, and molasses. Refined sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) is not at all necessary. Your body survives much better without it.

As I said, I've known that for ages. I've tried to watch how much refined sugar I eat, and I thought I did pretty good. At 6 or 7 years old, I was famous in Sunday school for refusing any candy offered me. (Yes - you can say it...."health nut!")

Lately, however, I've gotten sloppy. My trouble with low blood sugar flared up again this year, and it just seems too easy to eat a few chocolate chips mid-morning, or nibble a piece of chocolate before bed. I've always loved ice cream. Chocolate chip cookies? Mmmmm! And my real weakness is "real food" that is chocked-full of sugar. Sweet potato casserole. Quick breads. Especially quick breads. Pumpkin bread, banana bread - you name it, I'll eat it 'til the cows come home.

And don't forget granola. That stuff could be served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I wouldn't complain.

All that has lots of sugar. It's addictive. Sugar is addictive. And yet it's so bad for you.

Wow. Now why does that sentence remind me of sin?

I can't snap my fingers and remove all the sin in my life, but I can try to do something about this sugar thing. I've become motivated to see if I can go for two weeks without putting any refined sugar in my body.

Do you have any idea how hard that can be in America? That not only means no chocolate or ice cream, but also no spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, store-bought bread, or granola!

Of course, there's still plenty left to choose from. God's a creative Creator, and He made plenty of "real" food that is delicious. It will be hard, but I fully believe it's possible. That's why I'm going to do it.

Two weeks. Cold Turkey. Nit-picky. Starting today.

Now for the big question - will you join me?

I'd love some accountability. And some companionship. Somebody to say "keep going!" and to tell me I'm not crazy.

Maybe cold turkey is a little much for you - but what about making a smaller commitment for these two weeks? Maybe you'll skip dessert every day. Or drink your coffee black. Anything to show us you're challenging yourself!

If you decide to do a challenge for these two weeks (Oct. 18- Nov. 1), please post a comment and tell us what it is.

If you want to join the same challenge I'm doing, let me tell you the rules I'm giving myself:

1 - The obvious; no refined sugars. This means I read the labels on everything, and if it contains any unnatural sugars, it's a no-no. I have a feeling I'll be eating a lot of from-scratch foods for awhile. :)
2 - You can "cheat" on one meal each week. (Don't you love making up your own rules?) I already know which meal I'm going to "cheat" on; Friday nights. It's our family pizza night, and I'd hate to miss out on that!
3 - Don't starve yourself. Be sure to fill up on good foods.

So what can we eat? Lots! Oatmeal sweetened with molasses and raisins, homemade bread made with honey, vegetables, baked potatoes, cheese, sour cream, apples, oranges, bananas, beans, noodles with herbs and butter, carrots, grilled chicken, meatloaf, fried potatoes, tuna-cheese-butter-and-lettuce sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, ...and much more!

If you discover a "hidden" source of sugar, that some of us might over look (like ketchup or BBQ sauce) post a comment to remind us! And be sure to post a comment if you join the challenge.

If you feel like it, post about the challenge on your own blog, to keep up your spirits.

On of the best parts about this challenge, I think, will be the new recipes we come up with. I've created one already! I had it for breakfast this morning. Shall I share?

Oven-baked French Toast

- 4 homemade rolls
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup or so of milk
- lots of cinnamon
- 2 TBS molasses
- 1 TBS honey
- 1 TBS water

Slice the rolls into 1/4" slices. Layer in a 9x9 glass baking dish. Combine eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Pour over bread. Mix molasses, honey, and water. Drizzle evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until eggs set. Don't over bake.

This was delicious as-is; sorta like cinnamon french bread on the bottom, and gingerbread cookies softened in milk on the top, but next time I might add a TBS of melted butter to the molasses mixture, and pour it all in the bottom of the dish before I add the bread, eggs, and milk.

I'm also sprouting 1 1/2 cups of navy beans for a recipe later in the week. Start today if you want to try it! Sprouting is easy. ...but this post is long enough, so I won't give detailed instructions. Just google it. :)

Anyway....I am holding my breath for comments! Remember, if you meet this challenge, you've just escaped 3 1/2 POUNDS of sugar (or 420 tsp.) that would have been in your body if you ate the normal 1/4 pound a day.

Let's do it, folks!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I see the moon

One thing I love about night falling earlier this time of year is the chance I get to see the moon and stars whenever I come home from an evening outing. I routinely stand in the driveway and star-gaze for a few minutes before I can manage to break away and go indoors.

A few nights ago I was captivated once again by a nearly-full moon in a clear sky. I stood there in the driveway gazing up, gravel hurting my feet through the thin soles of my shoes, and the cool night air touching my arms. I could almost feel a cold-ish warmth from the moon, if you know what I mean. I wonder if a person's cheeks can moon-burn? Though I have seen it hundreds of times, I never get over the sheer amount of light the moon can reflect.

Nearly every time I see a full moon, I think about the science behind it. The moon is a ball of rock, dust, earth, and craters. No light source of its own. I know, in my head, that it reflects the sun, but that's so hard to imagine, in a dark sky. The sun is far away, on the other side of the world. How can it be causing this yellow glow I see?

I wondered, the other night, how the moon manages to reflect anything. It's dirt, after all. Grey, dusty, dirty dirt. How does dirt glow like that?

And then I couldn't help but think of myself.

I know the Great God. The King of kings. His glory far surpasses any earthly glow and beauty, even as glorious as the sun is. And I am made to reflect Him, in a dark sky. I am not a star - I don't have my own light source. I am a moon; a humble circular mass of grey rock and dirt. And I can't figure out how dirt is supposed to reflect light, but somehow it happens.

No credit to the moon, of course. It doesn't do anything. I mean, it sits there - or hangs there, rather. And it does have to be in line with the sun to catch its light. But really, all that glow comes entirely from the sun.

Of course, sometimes earth casts a shadow on the moon. When that happens, less of the surface of the moon is lit by the sun. A crescent moon doesn't even compare to the glowing radiance of a full moon.

A full moon is beautiful. The sun lends its stunning rays to this humble object, and manages to makes the dirt beautiful, while at the same time teaching the observer something about the nature of the sun itself. Even though the sun is hidden. Even though the sky is dark.

I think I'll stop here. I won't continue to explain for you the obvious parallel to be seen between the moon and ourselves. You'll see it - and feel it - all for yourself, if you will just go outside the next time there's a full moon to be seen, and stand there for awhile looking at it.

Beautiful dust. Because of a glorious Son.