Welcome to week 21 of our ongoing series about refined sugar & me in 2017. This week I am (somehow!) down three pounds from last week — for a total of 16 pounds down from when I first started avoiding most added sugars and processed foods at the end of December 2016. At least a pound of that is likely because I’m wearing leggings today instead of jeans, but we’ll take it, right? 🙂
Today, I’m pondering the mixed and changing messages about what’s “good” and “bad” for us
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mixed and ever changing messages about what’s “good” and “bad” for us to consume, as well as the sensational click-bait headlines that shape our thinking about food.
Just for instance…
I’ve been drinking flavored sparkling water a few times a week since giving up Diet Coke several years ago, and was feeling pretty decent about that: No calories, no artificial sweeteners, all that good stuff. Then of course, what do I run across this week?
- Fizzy Water Could Be Leading to Weight Gain!
- Is Seltzer Bad For You? (positing that it could erode tooth enamel)
This is why we can’t have nice things! But then if you start reading past the headlines, you’ll find out that:
- The weight gain study above was very small (conducted on rats, and then on just 20 men ages 18-23), nor did it account for variances in lifestyle.
- There’s no actual evidence that sparkling water specifically harms tooth enamel, but that a study last year classified most sparkling waters as “minimally erosive” — and it’s probably not a cavity-causing factor in the average healthy person.
So, not nearly as scary as the sensationalist headlines would have you believe, right? I’m going to keep right on drinking my seltzer, thank you very much.
But also, science
What do you do with headlines like: 50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists to Point Blame At Fat? I grew up in the 1970s and 80s being indoctrinated with the notion that fat is the root of all evils. And guess what? I surely didn’t grow up skinny after all those years of margarine and cardboard tasting food…
And now, of course, the pendulum is swinging back the other way to blame sugar as the root of all evils. Unless maybe it’s carbs. Or wheat. Or soy. Or red meat. Or whatever this week’s bad guy might be. I think one of the main reasons it’s so difficult to eat “healthy” is these ever-changing notions of what “healthy” might be. Name any food, and I could probably find you an article about why it’s bad for you in one way or another, or find an article about how once we thought it was bad, but now it’s proven to be good (or vice versa). No wonder so many of us just throw up our hands in disgust and reach for a bag of Cheetos!
But also… loaded language
You’re reading this on a blog, so I understand the temptation to write those click-bait-y headlines. But guess what? Terms like “toxic” and “poison” and “clean” aren’t especially helpful or meaningful when it comes to figuring out what (and what not) to eat. Dramatic language, over-exaggeration, and loaded terminology are usually my own cues to steer clear or to take things with a grain of salt (no pun intended).
But who do you believe now?
Here’s what I believe:
- I think that everybody (and every body) is different. It’s not as simple as calories in, calories out, and there’s not necessarily one best eating plan for everyone.
- Sugar seems to be my own personal downfall, and I absolutely do feel better now that I’ve eliminated most of it from my diet. Other people may be able to do sugar in more reasonable amounts.
- The most compelling arguments to me are those against processed food — which incidentally is where most people get the majority of their sugar, salt, and fat. “Real food” makes more sense to me than “clean” food, and much of my own progress this year is likely due to eating much less processed food, not just sugar per se.
- I believe that we need to be responsible as food shoppers and as consumers to look beyond the headlines and read beyond the hype — because most news sources and online outlets aren’t going to do so for us.
Throughout this whole refined sugar experiment, I’ve tried to share my own experiences in the hopes that something about these will resonate with some of you — or that you’ve already had similar experiences and can help me figure things out. I’m not a scientist, I’m not an expert, and I clearly don’t have all the answers. 🙂 What do you believe? Who do you find credible?
So, that’s me this week…
This year is all about slowly figuring out my own pitfalls, it seems like, and mine may or may not be the same as yours. How are you doing on your own healthier eating plan so far — and what have you found that helps you stay on track?
Earlier installments in this series
Dip your toe in with a few highlights:
- Week One: The Experiment Begins
- Week Three: By Any Other Name (+ a printable list of common names for sugar on ingredient lists)
- Week Seventeen: Deserving Dessert
- Week Eighteen: Sugar Substitutes
- Week Twenty: Social Eating
And you can catch up on the whole Refined Sugar and Me series here.