Sugar is like crack (or so I imagine). I’m going to miss my crack.

I try to maintain a relatively active lifestyle and keep my health in check. I always get an annual physical, during which my P.A. (physician’s assistant) and I recite a recurring script.

PA – How many times a week do you exercise?

Jor – At least three.

PA – That’s good. How would you describe your diet?

Jor – Pretty good. I don’t eat much in the way of processed foods.

PA – That’s good. Your blood pressure is 100/60. That’s excellent (said in a slightly incredulous way). Is it usually this low?

Me – Yes.

PA – OK. Well, your weight is 145 pounds today. A female your height should be between 118 and 141 pounds. Things that you can do to lose some weight include exercising several times a week and eating healthfully.

Uh huh. Thanks for the info.

I know my P.A. is utilizing the highly complicated CYA system taught in her medical training (no offense intended; I’d do the same if I were her), but I want to respond, “You should see the other women in my family. We’re sturdy folk. And we do like food. And I’m not going to lose four pounds just to get into the prescribed healthy range.”

What do you mean your mom didn’t look like she stepped off of the Dynasty set? Were you or weren’t you raised in the 80s/90s?

I got my annual physical about a month ago, and – like ya do – I got my cholesterol checked. It has always been high. When I was a kid, surviving on a diet of Mickey D’s kiddie meals and Domino’s Big Foot pizza (one symptom of Working Mom Syndrome in the 1980s; another was shoulder pads), my older sister Lauren and I had our cholesterol checked. When the results came back that Lauren’s was 227 and mine was 212, I felt pretty smug. Yeah, that’s right: sisters can make anything competitive. Unfortunately, my mother got a call about a week later that the levels had been reversed. I’ll never live that down.

In response to the high scores, we were sent to a nutritionist. When the nutritionist tried to reason with Lauren, she threw a fit, at which point the nutritionist retrieved a sizeable tub of lard and placed it on the table. “This is your body on fat. Any questions?” But Lauren’s an aggressive negotiator, and she managed to haggle her way into a concession of – at a minimum – once-a-week fast food stops theretofore.

A year ago when I got my cholesterol taken, it came back as 189, which is well within the “healthy” limit of 200. Clearly, getting rid of the fast food habit has contributed. At about the same time, I stopped throwing out my egg yolks. I used to eat egg whites for breakfast every morning, and I decided to run an experiment for the year to see if eating a whole egg seven days a week would have a significant effect.

Well, after my most recent physical, my total cholesterol came back as 234, and I had a moment of utter despair. I don’t want to give up the yolk! No!

My friend Chris is a nurse practitioner midwife, and I spoke to her about the results. I don’t know about you, but I never knew what all the cholesterol numbers meant. She explained:

Have I put you to sleep yet? I find it interesting. What can I say? I’m a nerd.

The LDL number indicates the density in one’s blood of the “bad” cholesterol that leaves the liver and gets stuck to the sidewalls of one’s blood vessels. The HDL number indicates the density in one’s blood of the “good” cholesterol that, while also produced in the liver, travels back to the liver to be expelled, snagging LDL cholesterol from the sidewalls of blood vessels on the way. So the higher the HDL number, the more molecules available to pull LDL from the sidewalls, preventing plaque buildup and, potentially, cardiovascular disease.

For a woman about my age (29), any HDL number over 40 is considered good. Mine was 76, which is pretty friggin’ awesome, if I do say so myself. What can I say? I’ve always been an overachiever. And the best part is that I can continue eating the whole egg. (Listen, I ate egg whites for years, and if you say egg whites actually taste better than whole eggs, you’ve pulled the wool over your own eyes, for which I commend you.)

I know that a good portion of my cholesterol destiny is attributable to genetics, but I do think that some of it is dictated by diet and by the fact that I’ve given up most processed foods. While that goes a long way toward keeping my weight and health in check, I do have a serious sweet tooth. And once I let myself indulge a little, sugar and other simple carbs create an addiction that tends to snowball.

Snowmen cupcakes. The situation is getting out of hand.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working my way toward a full blown snowman, and it’s not even officially winter yet! I’ve been rationalizing it by saying that I’ll lose plenty of weight come March, but when it comes down to it, my body can only take so much in the way of sweets binging before I no longer feel at my physical peak, nonetheless at physical sea level.

So yesterday I started what I like to think of as a sugar purge. I’m not cutting healthy carbs or calories severely. I’m just avoiding refined sugar. Goodbye, leftover Halloween candy at the office, you evil temptress. Goodbye, Wholefoods fresh baked goods department (they have gluten free stuff too. le sigh). From now on it’s just you and me, fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grains (at least until Thanksgiving, as a short term goal).

Oh no, I didn’t anticipate the mountains really being made of sugar. This may be challenging to resist for the whole of a six month trek.

Instead of looking forward to the A.T. and saying I’ll lose a lot of weight, I’m now looking forward to the A.T. and thinking I don’t want to be addicted to refined sugars going into it. The peaks and valleys associated with sugar boosts and crashes would be like adding a ten pound weight to my pack. I’d rather go in with stable energy levels in mind and save the peaks and valleys for the landscape.

The next few weeks in which I’ll be “withdrawing” from the junk food habit I know will be hard. They always are. I’ll hit my energy lulls and won’t have anything to pick myself back up. Then again, I have recently revived the art of napping. Sigh of relief. My treasured naps should be able to pull me through.

Meandering on,

Jordana

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25 thoughts on “Sugar is like crack (or so I imagine). I’m going to miss my crack.

  1. I actually read an article that said sugar was just as bad and addictive as some drugs and casually suggested that it should be regulated like drugs. Well, hasn’t stopped me yet. Good luck, I’ve done the sugar purge a few times and I feel so much better without it. Why do I keep going back? Addictive?

    • I’m not surprised at all. I think certain people react differently to sugar as well. A couple of my sisters can have a dessert and be sated, but one of my younger sisters and I tend toward the “binging” effect. So, yes, definitely addictive.

  2. Egg whites ARE more delicious than the yolks. 😉 The last time I got my cholesterol done was in July, and it was 136–which the doctor described as being laughably low.

    • Oh my gosh. I’ve never heard of cholesterol so low before! Did the doc have a theory as to why? Or do you have the self control I long for?

      P.S. – I could see where you’re coming from with egg whites…as long as they’re mixed with sugar, almond flour, and cocoa and turned into a flourless chocolate cake.

  3. I’d be interested post-AT what your test results come back as. Once you’re doing the exercise equivalent of a marathon a day, the food world is your oyster. You have to become an opportunivour. there are two food moments on my hike that I remember clearly – one was walking into a Pizza Hut somewhere in PA, ordering my own pizza (and eating it all), with three trips to the salad bar mixed in for good measure and then crawling to an ice cream shop for dessert. It had to have been a 10,000 calorie meal. The other food moment was the day that I ate 6 snickers bars and there wasn’t an ounce of enjoyment in it – it was pure fat and calories necessity. The AT is every girls’ food dream come true. Hike your ass off all day and destroy whatever unfortunate food product gets in your way at night. The most important thing I learned about my body on the AT was that my body is what it is – after all that hiking and eating I lost 5 pounds (some of the men on the trail lost 50!) – now granted I was a lean machine by the end but still, I was able to put to bed forever the idea that my body shape was going to change much at all over the next rest of my life. Prepare to eat many yolks.

    • Oh! Great thought! I will definitely have to get a thorough blood check afterward to see the change in my cholesterol and other stats. I am also really interested in seeing what my “lean machine” body will look like. At this point, I’ve pretty much accepted my shape, but I’m still curious what I may look like minus (let’s say) 15 pounds.

      Speaking of Pizza Hut and Snickers, the one thing I actually am starting to get a little concerned about is food. Since I’m gluten intolerant, I’m guessing most of the frequently accessible restaurants will be off limits (unless there’s Asian, which = rice). And I can only eat so many peanuts before I start to feel a little off. Hopefully I’ll be able to find Rice Chex everywhere and down a box while I’m waiting to check out…that could help with getting enough calories/carbs.

      • i think even pizza hut does a gluten free crust. you’ll find your way to gluten free calories – I hiked for a while with a vegan. now THAT was impressive. I think she ate 13 tons of homemade granola along the way. total dedication and a little bit of madness.

      • Aw, you got me all excited with talk about Pizza Hut gluten free crust, but I couldn’t find it on the website.

        Holy crap, a vegan thru hiker? I agree, total madness…and that’s coming from someone who was a vegetarian for nine years.

  4. My cholesterol didn’t hit the high range until I was over 50, and I have a perfect diet. There are many schools of thought on whether high cholesterol is bad if it is simply a genetic factor. We shall see……….But I do eat one of our fresh organic chicken eggs each day. Not gonna give that up!

  5. Refined sugar is bad – and if you can get off it and junk food, you will lose the 4 pounds – AT or no… My mom is working at eliminating white sugar from her diet – still can have honey, maple, etc. It might be a way for you to transition if you need to. As for your energy lows – once you stop relying pon sugar for that, and keep your protein levels up, you will find you don’t need the pick-me-up like you used to. The body is an amazing thing – treat it right and it serves you well!

    I have been meaning to tell you that i really enjoy your blog, and am looking forward to hearing how the AT goes. I live in Maine and would be willing to help out with trans/lodging/food etc when you get here – just let me know if I can help you achieve this incredible goal.

    • Oh, I totally agree. It’s one thing to know the rules, and another to follow them, if you know what I mean. Over 4 years ago, I lost 20 pounds by giving up sugar (and incidentally gluten). I usually keep away, but every once in a while it creeps back into my diet. I tend to let it go for a bit before I reign it back in.

      That’s so nice of you! I may just have to take you up on that offer. If I’m closing in on Maine and don’t reach out, it’s most likely because I’ve forgotten where I put your comment and contact info. So, please, if the offer still stands in, oh, say, 8 to 10 months, I’d love it if you reached out again. That’s very generous!

  6. Ohhhh, I’m so on the same page – love my sugar but have to stop the addiction! I don’t smoke, or drink (sometimes I swear) but it’s just so unfair that I have to quit the one thing that always makes me happy… sugar. My dr is threatening me with pre-diabetes and high cholesterol, etc. so I’m really trying to lose 20 lbs. I’m walking every day, I never eat red meat, and yes, I’m cutting out sugar. Not sure how I’m going to get through the holidays. I feel your pain; good luck!

    • You. Can. Do. It. It’s amazing how flavors become more intense when you’ve cleansed your taste buds of gobs of sugar. I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous holiday season, filled with cinnamon baked apples, homemade pumpkin pudding, and sweet potato casserole (minus the marshmallows)…or whatever other healthy sweet indulges strike your fancy.

      About 4 years ago I lost 20 pounds with the help of Weight Watchers. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a great way to learn healthy substitution tricks, to find support in a community of others struggling with their weight/health, and to encourage a sense of accountability.

  7. I feel like I am addicted to sugar. After meals, I search the cabinets for anything sweet… dark chocolate, chocolate chips, nutella, etc. I have a really hard time avoiding them even though I don’t buy the traditional “dessert” items. I’ve heard good things about the 21-Day Sugar Detox program!

    • I know what you mean. I purposefully do not keep sweets in my pantry…mostly because they wouldn’t last long if I do. I truly do believe in the need for detoxing from sugar, whether through a professionally recognized program or just sheer will power. If you end up trying the 21-Day Sugar Detox program, please report back how it goes!

  8. Pingback: Good thing I braved the weather. More REI Exaltations! « My Meandering Trail

  9. I stumbled on your blog. Pretty good. I just finished thruhiking the AT this summer. It was a blast and you will do fine. A good blog to check out is “mouse” on trail journals, at the end she gives a list of all of her gear. I had to laugh at this blog entry on sugar being like crack… Wait until you get a hold of Nutella It is Hiker Heroine. Don’t worry about the whole diet thing now. Trust me, you will lose all of the weight and then some. You will need the energy of the extra body weight in the first two months. You will go through so much ice cream, soda, and snicker bars and will still lose 30 pounds when the whole thing is done. Eat well and enjoy good food now because you will be eating a lot of cheese and dried processed food, and yuppers plenty of sugar. Good luck in your planning, Enjoy your hike. It will be here fast.

    • Uh oh, Nutella. I totally forgot about that as an option. Maybe I should buy a case from Costco to put among the other planned items for my mom to send along the way.

      I’m a relatively short woman. I could see ten, maybe 15 pound weight loss, but 30? That’s deathbed quality.

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