As I have mentioned in a few other posts, I was debilitatingly afraid of what sugar would to do my health for years. It was the main reason I never fully trusted myself to eat intuitively. The taste of sugar sent me into a panic. I thought every small taste of sugar was ruining my body, insulin, hormones, and weight. I truly convinced myself I did not like sugar.
This ‘sugar is evil’ theory however, is fully supported by mainstream media and doctors, not to mention the smaller sects of diet extremism (think: some sects of Paleo, some sects of Raw Veganism, some sects of GAPs, …. am I making this sound like Religious Fundamentalism? Good.). There was a lot of buzz about Robert Lustig’s lecture on the evils of sugar. “Experts” are even wary of fructose: the sugar in fruit.
But in fact, I think very few people ever argue in defense of sugar. No one seems to ever have anything neutral to say about it. It is always portrayed as an addictive villain. I guess they don’t assume that anyone will become as scared of it as I did. Or, actually, maybe they hope people will. I don’t know.
Apparently, people are developing insulin resistance and type II diabetes at alarming rates. And, because insulin’s function is to carry blood sugar into the cells, sugar is getting blamed.
In fact, when I was diagnosed with PCOS at 15 after a hormonal blood panel, the doctors said: PCOS is caused by insulin resistance. Watch your carbs. Keep your weight down.
So I went on the Atkins diet. At 15. I wasn’t even close to being “overweight.”
We are villainizing sugar all over the place. Not just in extremist diet beliefs like Paleo, and fad diet books like Atkins, but in the doctors office too.
Here is what WebMD has to say about how insulin resistance is diagnosed:
“There is no simple test to diagnose insulin resistance syndrome. Rather, your doctor may suspect the syndrome if you have three of the following:
- A waist size of 40 inches or more in men and 35 inches or more in women
- Increased levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood)
- Low HDL, or “good,” cholesterol level (Less than 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women)
- High blood pressure of 130/85 or higher, or being treated for high blood pressure
- Fasting blood glucose levels of 100 mg/dL or above, or being treated for diabetes
The current epidemic of obesity in children also puts them at risk for the development of insulin resistance syndrome.”
It all seems quite arbitrary to me.
But I had a serious serious fear of sugar. It could not be trusted. And neither could my eating. Let’s not even get into the fact that this started me on a yo-yo diet and starve/binge eating disorder that consumed the majority of my life for the next 10 years. But that can be another topic for another day.
All I knew was: I had insulin resistance. This was bad. I also shouldn’t eat sugar or carbs because this is bad for insulin resistance.
The good news is…. they are wrong.
They are wrong they are wrong!
Sugar is not the cause of these problems at all. Instead it is an innocent and accidental accomplice in a much more complicated process.
It was so hard for me to finally unravel my sugar fear. Here are a few things that started my sugar-is-fine-wake-up-call:
1. Robb Wolf’s Podcast. Yes I used to listen to Robb Wolf’s podcast. Robb Wolf is a Paleo Guru, who advocates for a very low carb plan of eating. And I will never forget something he said about living off of fat for energy instead of carbs (I paraphrase): “When you become a fat burner, it increases your insulin resistance. It actually puts you in a more insulin resistant state, but thats ok, because you are not eating enough carbs for that to be a problem”.
I remember thinking…. WHAT!?!?!?!?!?! That is not what I want at ALL. I am trying to make my body work BETTER! Not become more insulin resistant! How is this even logical!?
2. Matt Stone at 180 Degree Health. He wrote a new post on eating carbs improving your glucose clearance- one on why insulin resistance is not a sign of overconsumption, but of starvation. Basically, low carb slows your body down. And introducing carbs again, will in time speed your body back up again, which makes it work better. We are making things work worse by taking carbs out of the diet. (Please note that I don’t think all of his work is fully anti-diet or food neutral, but those posts were helpful for me. I used to link to his posts here but the links changed!)
3. Ray Peat, and another blogger to decipher him: Danny Roddy. Ray peat has done extensive research on the thyroid, and though sort of a sect of Paleo (he doesn’t really advocate for grains), his writings have helped me to bust my fear of sugar. Danny Roddy writes here about how sugar actually has anti-stress functions, and how running on fat promotes stress. (Of course, if I took to heart everything they wrote I would have a debilitating fear of Polyunsaturated fat. But I choose not to, because food fear is the worst, and even though I don’t think that industrial seed oils are a nourishing part of one’s diet… don’t fear food.) Again, I don’t think Ray Peat’s or Danny Roddy’s work is food neutral or anti-diet, but it was a helpful part of my understanding of food and health.
I intend to write more on the subject of sugar, but maybe not til after I bust up some other
Just remember what Mary Poppins said. In fact, I would say it is the medicine.