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Sugar: The New Fat

If you recall one of my first posts about fat and how important it is for our body, then consider this post as somewhat of a supplement to that one.   In that post, I discussed how fat will not necessarily make you fat and to that conclusion we can say that calories make you fat.  Hold on…excess calories make you fat.

Now that we’re clear with that, let’s explore where these excess calories may be coming from in our diets, especially when we think we’re “eating clean”.

What would you think if I said it’s not your fault?  What if I said you were being “tricked” by the foods you’re eating?  Wouldn’t it be awesome to blame our country’s obesity problem on someone or something?  Perhaps we can.  Here’s a short history lesson for you.

The decade is the ’70’s and Nixon is in office.  He’s up for re-election.  The Vietnam war is happening at this point and Nixon’s not favored by many and they were also unappreciative of food prices soaring.  So in order to gain favor, Nixon had to do something and to this he decided to reach out to farmers.  Nixon reached out to a seasoned farmer whose radical idea soon lead our country to a whole new shape.  His idea was to harvest corn and his results were obesity.

As more and more corn was harvested, corn steadily became the means of fattier foods being friend in corn oil, heartier herds being fed a diet mostly consisting of corn, and the amount of “cheaper foods” rose significantly due to the ingredient corn.

The surplus occurred.  We had enough corn to win over the world! So we figured out an even more productive way to use the crop.  Thus, the invention of high fructose corn syrup.  This was cheap and easy to produce, provided longevity to shelf foods, and it made just about everything taste “better”.

Enter the “fat free” revolution and now we replaced fat with sugar…high fructose corn syrup!  Still going strong by the ’80’s, we continued “reducing fat” and adding sugar because if we didn’t, no one would eat these so-called “fat free” treats.

And this takes us to the present.  Researchers have finally realized that fat was never the culprit for making us fat…the revolution of processed food had indeed left its marks.

So here we are, more than 30 years later.  Those who grew up eating those processed CORN products may even be seeing the consequences of such toxin…weight issues–overweight/obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, etc.  And the worst part yet, they’re drawing conclusions that this stuff is addictive!  Who would have thought you could become addicted to sugar?

What the heck do we do now?

If I’ve already lost you because you’re thinking I’m some hippy, tree hugging, granola head, then I’m sorry.  I apologize for coming off that way.  Really, I’m a middle school health and physical education teacher who became a mom to a beautiful little girl almost 3 years ago and in the midst of all of these responsibilities, I have gained much understanding of the most effective way to nourish young bodies.  And if it’s good for baby, it’s good for big kids, too!

If I haven’t lost you and you’re following along here and are just as concerned as myself, stick with me.  There’s a solution to this mess!

We don’t have to eat corn!  We also do not have to allow these cheap foods to take over our pantries, our snack bags and our family’s health.  If nothing else, I’m hoping this post will simply make you more aware of the foods you’re choosing and the short cuts you’re making.

Let’s figure this out together, but let me make a few things clear:

1) I do not MAKE every food that we ingest.  Let’s be honest here, everyone.  I work 40 + hours a week, have a toddler, a dog and a husband…oh, and a life…at least I’d like to think that!  I do not have a green thumb by any means (and am completely in awe by those that do!) and I am not a foodie by any definition.  These are all bad combinations if my hope is to keep my family on board with “eating healthy”.

2) I am a teacher.  I make enough money to survive (off high fructose corn syrup foods).  You see where I’m getting at.  I don’t have a “whole paycheck” that I can use at “Whole Foods”.  But I do have the internet and Pinterest and amazing friends that share their knowledge and creations!

3) I’m not judging, just hoping to educate.  In that I’m a health & physical education teacher, I feel great pressure to assure I’m sharing the “latest and greatest” info about health and fitness with my students.  Therefore, I find enjoyment in learning about these kinds of things and do not expect anyone else to live the way I’ve chosen.  I simply want to share my findings so those of you struggling with weight loss or energy deprivation can simply do all you can to Accel-HER-ate your fitness (and health in general)!

With all of that being said, allow me to share with you what’s working for our family 🙂

1) We eat homecooked 99% of the time.  Sure, it can be exhausting to work all day, especially knowing your job is never over.  Whether that statement is due to the fact that I’m a teacher and you always bring work home–physically, mentally and emotionally– or because outside of my full-time job, I have several other full-time jobs (wife, mom, housekeeper, etc.)  But I suppose one of my strong points in teaching has allowed me to carry over into my home life:  organization.  I food prep (minimally–this may mean I have a general idea of meals I’ll be making that week).  I DO make a grocery list each week; I DO keep fresh, cut up veggies and hummus on hand in the frige weekly; I DO keep healthy snacks on hand and encourage “treats” in moderation.  But this is one way I can give back to my family.

2) I check nutrition labels (ALWAYS) when buying “processed” or store-bought “boxed” items.  I’m so very thankful to live (somewhat) near several stores that carry a decent variety of “health foods”.  Trader Joe’s is our favorite and Kroger is even closer and has a “health food” specific section I can run to if I’ve forgotten something on the Trader Joe’s list or I just want more of a variety for our food choices that week.  Regardless of where I’m buying or what I’m buying, if it’s a new item in our house, you better believe I’m examining that nutrition label and taking a strong look at all ingredients.  We simply don’t buy things with “high fructose corn syrup”.  Trust me, there are enough alternatives out there– you can do it, too!

3) We still eat sweet and treats.  I love chocolate.  I love baked goods.  I could go without chips or salty things, but when it comes to sweets, I inherited my mom’s side of the family’s genes for that one!  But between Pinterest, personal experiments and certain health foods, I have learned how to “replace” traditional treats with ones that will digest and settle on my stomach in a much better way than their processed alternatives.

4) Fruit has sugar (but it also has essential nutrients!).  Yes, you knew this was coming…fruit as a “sweet treat”.  I get that this may not sound as “fun” to some as a huge brownie ice cream sundae with all the toppings including the jarred cherry on top, BUT, it’s nature’s candy!  Once you train your body against the tastes and desires of the “processed sugars”, you will literally be able to TASTE so much more of the natural flavors of the non-processed whole foods.  And fruit is one of many of these experiences!  And making a batch of coconut milk whipped cream never sounded so good atop some fresh berries!

5)  Transitioning from “processed” to “whole” doesn’t happen in a day.  Give yourself time to process this process!  Maybe start first by simply eliminating corn products.  Check the labels.  If corn is an ingredient, don’t buy it.  Maybe it’s just a matter of avoiding your usual dessert after dinner and replacing it with the above mentioned alternative.  Take it one day at a time, one challenge at a time.  This is literally like a drug detox.  Depending on your current sugar intake, you may even experience a headache or other related detoxification symptoms.  But I promise, you will feel better shortly and you’ll be thankful you’ve made the change.

So, this is my challenge to you, as a friend, as a fellow health enthusiast.  Start now to Accel-HER-ate your Fitness by simply making one change to the sugar you’re ingesting.  Give it a try and let me know how it’s working for you!  I haven’t had chocolate all day and I’m making it through…you can too!

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