In defense of sugar

I kid you not, as I'm beginning to type out this blog, I'm eating a chocolate chip cookie...and it's delicious.

 
In defense of sugar
 

There is a lot of controversy in the health and fitness world over what diet is healthiest, what foods should be avoided, what should be consumed, the optimal ratios of foods, etc. But what most people can seem to agree on is their take on sugar. I mean, there seems to be an all-out war on it. I hear people talking about it ALL the time: "that has way too much sugar," "that yogurt is practically like eating ice cream," "sugar is the cause of all of our health problems, and we should cut it out", and on and on. 

And while I don't encourage people to eat donuts for breakfast, Little Debbies for lunch, skittles for a snack, and cake and a coke for dinner, I do think we need to give sugar a break. You guys, ANYTHING in excess is harmful. You can drown by drinking too much water. Vitamin A in high doses can cause tumors. Too much calcium causes painful bone deposits in the joints. So I would agree that too much sugar is not a good thing. But sugar in itself is not the problem--it's about the totality of the diet. 

It's interesting to me that major proponents of cutting out simple sugars or refined sugars often turn to alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, organic sugar, dates, etc. because they are "healthier" (don't get me started on people who say we should cut out fruit because of the sugar content...). But can we break those things down for a second? All carbohydrates--I'm talking ALL of them--regardless of whether they come from table sugar, maple syrup, white pasta, or beloved sweet potatoes (side note: did you guys know sweet potatoes are rated the #1 most nutritious vegetable?) are eventually broken down into the same three molecules--fructose, glucose, and galactose. The foods we eat are a complicated combination of those three molecules with varying linkages. Some have linkages that are easily digestible and some have linkages that our body can't actually digest (fiber). BUT, they are all going to be broken down into fructose, glucose, and galactose.

In defense  of sugar...carbohydrate breakdown

I get that this is an oversimplification and that a lot of other factors come into play. And I'm not saying that we should just forgo our veggies and whole grains and instead eat all refined carbs and simple sugars, but what I am saying is that we need to let go of the fear of refined sugar. It's broken down into useable energy, just as our sweet potato is. And energy isn't a bad thing. And if our sweet potato is broken down into glucose and fructose, then why do we fear table sugar that is broken down into glucose and fructose? The fear and morality we form around eating sugar is going to do far more harm that the sugar itself. Restricting sugar and then overeating/bingeing on it is far less healthy physically and emotionally than having moderate amounts on a regular basis. Fearing any food is going to wreak havoc physically on your body (um, hello cortisol!), your ability to foster relationships, and your ability to truly nourish yourself.

So I encourage you to challenge those beliefs you have around sugar. It's broken down into the exact same molecules as other types of carbs, and your body knows how to handle those other carbs. Again, I'm not promoting eating sugar all day everyday--your body is not going to feel good, and I promote eating in a way that makes you feel energized and good. But let's stop the fear-mongering that is going on around sugar and just eat our food, enjoy it, and move on. 

2018: Not new you, but your best you

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! It blows my mind that 2017 is already over. I’m incredibly excited about what lies ahead this year while still basking in the joy of the holidays these past few weeks. While thinking about this new year’s time, I started to think about all of the pressure that has been mounting for how we are suppose to change and become a version 2.0 in 2018 (woof, that’s way too much pressure for me). It seems as though our culture identifies growth or becoming a “better” person only with becoming thinner, fitter, and healthier. Yeeshh, what a narrow view—and one that often ends  in disappointment.

 
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So this year, I would like to propose a different goal for 2018—not becoming a more aesthetically pleasing person or a food-pious person, but instead to become the you you want to be (or used to be).   

Growing up, I was such a ham. I LOVED putting on plays and productions for family and friends. I thrived on attention. I was also super creative and enjoyed scrapbooking, making things out of clay, cutting hair (I had a life size Barbie doll head—kinda creepy when you think about it), building miniature towns from foam, and drawing. I was compassionate, and felt emotions strongly (I cried for WEEKS after seeing our high school’s production of flower’s for Algernon).

Somewhere along the way, those characteristics started to fade. My goofiness disappeared and was replaced with perfectionism and worry. My creativity was clouded by thinking more logically and analytically. My emotions were muted. In college I recognized how different I was, but figured it was normal to change as we mature and have life experiences. 

However, as I go through this intuitive eating journey, I’m becoming more of who I used to be. My carefree nature is coming back, and I’m enjoying life a lot more. Things that used to rock my world, just aren’t a big deal anymore. I’ve been freed up to enjoy life without taking it too seriously. I’ve also noticed that I’m WAY more emotional. I cry during every episode of This Is Us (but then again, who doesn’t? You’d have to be heartless...). When people cry, I cry with them. I find that I now experience a whole range of emotions much stronger.

 
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And all of these characteristics came as I loosened my control of food and my body. Letting go of the restraint allowed me to have less anxiety and just enjoy life without having to control every little area. As I stopped restricting, my brain stopped thinking about food all the time, which freed me up to actually feel things. I no longer numb or avoid my feelings using food/restriction. And it’s WONDERFUL!! I missed the person I was as a kid and am so glad to be back. 

Intuitive eating and eating disorder recovery is about more than just food. It impacts every area of your life—freeing you up to live the life you want and be the person you want to be.

With the new year, there is all kinds of talk about becoming a better version of yourself. But what if the “better” version of yourself is actually the old version of yourself before you became bogged down with weight and food concerns? What if the better, more compassionate, more present, more available person is the one that is less concerned with looks and health? What would it look like for you to pursue that rather than what we’re sold all the time?

I’d love to hear how you plan to do this!  

Why we need a point of reference in eating disorder recovery

 
Why we need a point of reference in eating disorder recovery
 

I’m beginning to learn more about the use of metaphor in eating disorder recovery. Anita Johnston, the author of Eating in the Light of the Moon, stated that metaphor is so powerful because it accesses your the intuition, imagination, and emotions all at the same time. So when you make new discoveries, you create new brain pathways. New brain pathways=new patterns of behavior. Cue the analogy/metaphor (I google searched the difference between the two but didn't understand what it is, so I'm using them interchangeably 🙈)

I was reading my daily devotional the other day and it started by talking about a phenomenon called “museum feet.” I really enjoyed the analogy that it drew and began thinking about how it applied to my own life in various areas. I couldn’t find the phenomenon when I searched online, buuuuut I’m gonna go with it, because I think it can be really helpful. And if my analogy gets lost on you, I apologize…I’m still learning this skill. As the author of the blog described it, “museum feet” is the phenomenon that happens when someone is put into a very large space such as a museum, amusement park, etc. and gets overwhelmed with how vast it is that they just want to leave. They have no idea where they should go or what they should do that they just give up. In order to avoid this, architects put in a large landmark or point of reference. For example, in Disney World, it’s the magic castle. It’s something that people become familiar with and it helps them orient themselves to the new space. For me as a kid, it was the Big Kahuna at our local water park. Every time we would go as a family, my mom would tell me that if I got lost I just needed to go to the big Kahuna. I didn’t have to fear not knowing where she was, I just needed to find the massive water ride and head towards it.

So how does this apply to my life? I‘m in this new stage in which I see all of the possibilities in my career/social media and I also recognize all of the various things I need to do in order to grow in my skills and proficiency, and yet, it is SO overwhelming that I don’t end up doing anything.  In this glorious park I've entered, I don’t want to try a new ride or play a new game, I just want to get back to something I know and find comfort in. There are no clear directions on what steps to take or the order of those steps, so I need my reference point. I need my “Big Kahuna”.

In what other areas do we open the gates of new opportunities and get so flooded with the vastness of uncertainty that we give up and go back to what we know? What do we miss out on in the park because of a lack of reference? In eating disorder recovery or exploration of a life without dieting, it is so easy to get overwhelmed with this newfound space of freedom that it’s too overwhelming. It makes sense that we don’t want to explore what life is like without calorie counting, over-exercising, restricting, overeating, bingeing, purging, etc. because that is what we know. We are familiar with every inch of that small world and incredibly unfamiliar with this new large one.

 
why we need a point of reference in eating disorder recovery
 

So what can we do to gain some reference? What landmark can we look to in order to ground us and keep us from feeling overwhelmed and giving up? I think this looks different for every person so you have to figure out what it is for you. Maybe it's personal time in the Word and prayer. Perhaps it’s your dietitian or therapist who points you in the right direction until you become familiar with this new space. Or maybe it’s a mindfulness practice that helps to decrease your anxiety and give you perspective. Maybe it’s developing a realistic, flexible plan that gives you something to refer to. Or perhaps it’s looking to other people who have recovered, are very familiar with the amusement park, and can give you directions. Figure out what can be your landmark so that you don't get so overwhelmed and give up. Discovering and exploring this new world is totally worth it.

How does this analogy/metaphor speak to you (if at all)? How could you apply it to your own life? I’d love to hear in the comments below!