Thursday, January 30, 2014

Through the backdoor

I started out this blog with writing about what it really takes to loose the last 5-10 pounds that seemed to often between me and a weight with which I am content. That weight is different for everyone, some love their curves, some like really skinny, there is no right answer besides the one that I have to be happy with me. Over the time there was frustration when I felt I did everything ‘right’ but the weight would either not budge or go up. It happened for years. Things that defied the opinions of physical law or current dieticians like “if you burn more energy than you eat you will loose weight.” Nope, never did anything for me.  Others are ‘lean proteins!”, think Greek yogurt and organic chicken. Nope, not for me, I bulked up seemingly having a propensity to build muscles really fast, which would be great if I would like to become a body builder. Only clean eating and eventually vegan eats made a significant difference and I finally ended up without problems at the weight I am happy with and definitely don’t want to loose anymore, and keep it there for more than 10 days. I would be able to maintain for a half year without a problem.

Sometimes, of course, there are times when the some pounds come back on. For me it is often stress, stress at work, private stress, sometimes it is things like too many parties and invites or eating out, or the holidays. But normally I know if I get back to vegan eats, avoid bread, and if that does not help cut out wine for a while, I am back to my ‘happy weight’ in no time.  --- This is why this time around it started to become quite frustrating when it did not work. I scratched my head “what am I doing differently/wrong?” Yes, there was a stressful phase at work with a deadline but that was a while ago. Yes, I don’t sleep well some nights and the next day seem to want to inhale carbs. But still, ….. and the scale continued to creep up.

I started to feel depressed. Yes, it is cold, winter, dark, but not enough snow to go skiing and get some mood lifting fresh air. I lost interested in dressing up, and all my tasks at work started to feel like a drag. I felt depression looming and asking myself how I would get through the days with out being  a major grump. I blamed it all on the weather and work.

But on Monday, it finally clicked. I saw that I had eaten almost 2 bars of my favorite chocolate in 2 days. Drinking a cup of hot tea I would break off a piece of the chocolate and eat it instead of sugar. But 2 bars in 2 days? I think it all started with the Christmas cookies. Cookies in my office with that cup of Starbucks. The tasty Gingerbread lattes with the 3 pumps of syrup (unfortunately, there was no sugar free version but those taste terrible any way). A spoon of sugar with the hot tea. Some chocolate here and there. And through the backdoor, refined sugar had entered my diet again, in a major way, spoonful by spoonful.

Tuesday I went cold turkey. I paid attention to the sneaker upper of sugar. Switched to Tazo Orange Blossom tea instead of flavored lattes. Had maybe half a cookie a day, not 10 here and there. Now, 3 days later I not only feel lighter, but also more energized and my brain fog has lifted. The onset of depression has completely dissipated,and I have more energy than is good for me. Plus, I have a clear mind again. No more grumpy, complaining grouch. ---- It is really a wake up call for me, because refined sugar was one of the first things I ever weaned myself from to keep my weight. Before bread, crackers, stress, and everything else. And here it was, back in my diet through the backdoor in the form of Christmas cookies and Gingerbread lattes.
(courtesy bakerella)

Intrigued I did some google-research to find out more about the chemical link of sugar and depression. I suspect it has to do with the hormonal balance. This is what I found:
“Refined sugar consumption suppresses brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, an important growth hormone in the brain. This growth hormone is extremely important for the health of neurons in the brain. BDNF triggers new connections between neurons in the brain which is crucial for memory function. Studies have shown low BDNF levels in patients with depression and schizophrenia. The consumption of refined sugar has the potential to exacerbate depression and schizophrenia by contributing to low BDNF levels.”

“Refined sugar is notorious for causing increased inflammation in the body. Regular consumption of refined sugar can lead to chronic inflammation which can disrupt immune system functioning. Chronic inflammation is implicated in arthritis, some forms of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease among many other illnesses. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to a higher risk of depression and schizophrenia. Psychologists who have become aware of the recent research on sugar and mental illness have begun recommending sugar free diets to patients.”

“Dr. IIardi, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, stated that he has encouraged depressed patients to remove refined sugar and refined foods from their diets. Patients who were willing to comply to these recommendations reported significant improvements in mental clarity, mood and energy. Research and patient experiences indicate that a diet high in whole grains and low in refined foods and sugar can provide significant improvement in mental health, clarity and reduced risk of mental illness.”

Learn more:

So,  the cycle of  “I am so tired, I deserve a little sugar boost” might lead right into the symptoms one wants to beat: exhaustion, being tired, lack of energy. --- Without refined sugar, the scale is also moving. In the right direction again. But just being happy again is really the benefit worthwhile.

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