Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

French Fry Ingredients

McDonald's French Fries:
"Potatoes, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor (wheat and milk derivatives)**, citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent)), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). **CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.)"

Wendy's French Fries:
"Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following: soy, canola, cottonseed, partially hydrogenated soy and/or cottonseed), Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate (color protector), Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Dextrose. Cooked in Vegetable Oil. Note: may be cooked in the same oil as Fish Fillets and French Toast Sticks (where available), Crispy Chicken Nuggets, Crispy Chicken Patty. Seasoned with Salt."
Burger King French Fries:
Potatoes, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Modified Potato Starch, Rice Flour, Potato Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate added to preserve natural color.
Carl's Jr. French Fries:
Potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (to promote
color retention), dextrose.
Dairy Queen
I could not actually find an ingredients list for their french fries. They list nutritional facts, but not ingredients. However, I read something on their main web page that I think is especially funny, "The dietitians at International Dairy Queen, Inc. are registered with the American Dietetic Association. They are available to answer your questions regarding any of DQ's delicious products." I didn't know that fast food restaurants had dietitians!

By definition, a dietitian is, "According to the US Department of Labor, Dictionary of Occupational Titles, one who applies the principles of nutrition to the feeding of individuals and groups; plans menus and special diets; supervises the preparation and serving of meals; instructs in the principles of nutrition as applied to selection of foods." I always thought a dietitian meant someone who promoted the healthiest food options. Boy, was I wrong!

French Fries, Anyone?

Last night I ate pub food. I ordered a seared ahi steak and green salad with delicious purple onions and crisp cucumbers. My dinner was incredible and I felt satisfied and alert afterwards! I ordered french fries for an appetizer, but all of the dipping sauces had sugar in the ingredients! (Ketchup, Terminator Mustard, A-1 Sauce-corn syrup) After looking at these bottles of sugary dips, I ate my fries with a little bit of vinegar. If you like vinegar, this is a really excellent treat. If you don't like vinegar, like our server, then this is very stinky and will make you speak your mind!
Speaking of french fries, there is a rumor that McDonald's uses sugar to coat their french fries. The other rumor that I heard more recently is that they "lace" their straws with sugar. This seems like a silly rumor because what is the point since most straws will be plunged into a sugary drink anyway? I actually visited a McDonald's to ask about french fry ingredients, but that list was not available. However, McDonald's has an ingredients list of all of their foods online and here is what I found: Their french fries contain a lot of horrible ingredients (they are not just potatoes and vegetable oil like we would like to think):
  • hydrogenated oils,
  • partially hydrogenated oils,
  • dextrose-"commercially the term ‘glucose’ is often used to mean corn syrup (a mixture of glucose with other sugars and dextrins) and pure glucose is called dextrose."-Wikipedia (This means a form of sugar is added to the fries!)
  • TBHQ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tert-Butylhydroquinone)
  • and other ingredients that you can look at:

I could not find an ingredients list for straws. As gross as I believe McDonald's food is, I think it is awesome that they provide a list of ingredients. I've often wondered what would happen to the restaurant industry if all restaurants were required to post all ingredients either on their menu, or in their front window next to their hours.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sugar Addiction

The first seven minutes of this video is about sugar and it is fantastic. My blog is not about a vegan or vegetarian diet, so if you watch more than seven minutes of the video, please note that I have only posted this for the relevant information in the first section. Enjoy!

The Psychology of Sugar-Part Four

I came across a website that addresses the psychology of food, a little bit. Here is a part I liked: "Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won't fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won't solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You'll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating."
This comes from a website called intuitiveeating.com, based on a book that was written about eating intuitively. I like this idea a lot. Now I just have to be aware of what intuition is, versus what my brain may be justifying for my pleasure!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Psychology of Sugar-Part Three


I'm having a super immature tantrum and reminiscing my high school days of weekend slumber parties. Those were always about sugary treats, candy, and ice cream. My best girlfriends and I would take my mom's largest mixing bowl and we would make a "community" ice cream sundae. We'd top it with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, marshmallow creme, M&M's, peanuts and then whip cream. I have one old, tattered picture depicting that disgusting mix! We would sit around the huge green mixing bowl, each with a spoon, and eat as much as we could. At some point when it began to melt and look too runny, we would get grossed out and just eat the candy instead. Okay, I'm not feeling the same sugar craving that I was a few minutes ago. Just thinking about those times is enough for me. I can't help but wonder, though, if and when my sugar cravings will subside. If they are truly psychological at this point, will they ever go away? What sort of psychological substitute is there for sugar?

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Psychology of Sugar-Part Two

What a difficult task this is, of finding credible sources of information about sugar and psychological addiction! I'd hoped to have a lengthy list of articles and sources, but so far these were the only valuable links I found:

"Food Cravings: In Your Head or Tummy?"

"Sugar Cravings"

"Sugar and Fat: Cravings and Aversions"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Psychology of Sugar-Part One

Someone left a comment asking if I still crave sugar. No, but yes. No, because I have no physical cravings for it. My body doesn't "need" or expect it anymore. In fact, at parties, I have watched people load up on sugary treats and then later, watched them walking around looking very tired and lethargic. Meanwhile, I feel energetic and distant from those sugar highs and lows. Watching someone else have a sugar crash definitely reinforces my plight! The "yes" part of my answer deals with the psychology of sugar and goodies in general. Because of what I have been experiencing over the last couple of months, I believe that sugary treats are more of a psychological addiction than a physical addiction. Here's why I think that, and how I am going forward to overcome this savvy, ingrained, psychological beast:
I think it is psychological because ever since I quit having cravings, I still "yearn" for that shared moment of eating donut holes with someone. After dinner at a restaurant, I "want" to enjoy hot chocolate (loaded, and I mean loaded, with whip cream) with my friends. Not having one feels like I am not participating in this ritual. I feel left out in a way. I always try to get something else instead so I am not just staring at everybody else's drinks, but tea does not bring the satisfaction and merriment that hot chocolate does! Sharing a warm, homemade dessert together as a family is a very cozy, safe feeling. Opting out feels like it brings some sort of negativity to the scene. It seems to automatically make someone aware that what they are about to partake in, is unhealthy. If everyone participates, no one has to feel guilty or think twice about it. In the past (pre-2008) when I have tried to say no to desserts, I have actually experienced people getting upset. There is tremendous pressure to conform and eat dessert. What I am saying is that there is much comfort and psychological ease in sharing desserts and goodies with people. It is a predictably warm, safe, fun feeling. The moment you opt not to eat dessert or pass down a piece of birthday cake, you have suddenly made the group aware of something. Some people may become aware that they probably shouldn't eat dessert either. After all, they are extremely full, or they are trying to lose weight, or they are just giving in to peer pressure (especially when they don't even like what's being served!). I think that this tends to make the host or hostess feel a bit uncomfortable, as they are surely thinking similar thoughts. Even worse though, because they are the ones providing this sugary, fattening dessert.

Another similar, psychological role goodies have played is being the reward. When you were little, how many times did you hear, "If you are good, you can have some _____ for dessert,"?
Our culture has learned to celebrate using sugary goodies as the highest mark for good behavior. Every birthday, holiday, graduation, winning event, and wedding celebrates with desserts and candy. I can't think of any event that's excluded. When did this begin? Thousands of years ago, you read that people celebrated events with their best wine. Before sugar was available, how did people celebrate, and why did people celebrate with food? I think sugar is a learned, psychological addiction. I am excited to find out when it became important to celebrate with, and what people did long ago before white refined sugar was available!
I would like to relate a personal experience that I find quite indicative of the extent of the psychology of sugar. When I arrive at certain places, I am asked if I would like this or that (almost always a sugary treat of some kind). When I say, "No, thank you," my answer is not good enough. The host or hostess will push his/her dessert on me, trying to convince me to change my mind. Every "no, thanks" I utter is taken like a personal insult to that person. What I have got to thinking, is how strange it is that people try and push their sugary goodies on you, and yet, no one will try and push a tray of fruits or vegetables on you. It is not the food itself that they are pushing, but the meaning of the food. I believe this to be true because otherwise wouldn't people offer and try to push healthy food on you, especially if they liked you and had your best interest in mind? Why is it that someone will push a sugary, fattening, artery-clogging, cavity-causing, blood-sugar raising dessert on you? It is not because they want to fatten you up or clog your arteries or give you cavities or raise your blood sugar. It is because the meaning of their dessert is their way of saying they like/love you. Rejecting it is rejecting (not acknowledging) their time spent preparing it and the thoughts and love behind the motivation to make it.
There. Consider this Part One of The Psychology of Sugar. I would LOVE to hear your comments and similar (or not so similar) experiences.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Artificial Sugar Sweeteners: Part 2: Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)

"Aspartame is 160-200 times as sweet as sugar.
  • In 1965 James M. Schlatter synthesized aspartame while producing an antiulcer drug candidate. In fact, the compound was considered as a potential sweetener only after Schlatter happened to lick his finger, which had accidentally been contaminated with the compound.
  • When ingested, aspartame breaks down into several constituent chemicals, including aspartic acid, phenylalanine, methanol, and further breakdown products including formaldehyde and formic acid.
  • It is unstable under heat and changing pH conditions.
  • Initial safety testing suggested that this caused brain tumors in rats.
  • In 1980 the FDA's Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) recommended against approving aspartame at that time, citing 'unanswered questions about cancer in laboratory rats.'
  • In 1981 newly appointed FDA commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, citing data from a Japanese study that had not been available to the PBOI, approved aspartame for use in dry foods. Hayes had confirmed ties with the artificial sweetener industry; most notably, he was close friends with Donald Rumsfeld, at the time CEO of the company that manufactured NutraSweet (aspartame).
  • In 1983 the FDA approved aspartame for use in carbonated beverages, other beverages, baked goods, and confections.
  • In 1995, the FDA Epidemiology Branch chief reported that aspartame complaints represented 75 percent of all reports of adverse reactions to substances in the food supply from 1981 to 1995. Consumers and physicians reported approximately ninety-two different symptoms and health conditions.
  • In 1996 the FDA removed all restrictions on use.
  • Individuals with the previously mentioned condition PKU should not consume this product.
  • Aspartame is available in approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide."
-Get The Sugar Out, by Ann Louise Gittleman, pgs. 55-56

here's more:

"STOP EATING AND DRINKING PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN ASPARTAME! This includes diet sodas and sugar-free foods that have NutraSweet or Equal.
When aspartame was put before the FDA for approval, it was denied eight times. G.D. Searle, founder of aspartame, tried to get FDA approval in 1973. Clearly, he wasn't bothered by reports from neuroscientist Dr. John Olney and researcher Ann Reynolds (hired by Searle himself) that aspartame was dangerous. Dr. Martha Freeman, a scientist from the FDA Division of Metabolic and Endocrine Drug Products, declared, 'The information submitted for review is inadequate to permit a scientific evaluation of clinical safety.' Freeman recommended that until the safety of aspartame was proven, marketing the product should not be permitted. Alas, her recommendations were ignored. Somehow, in 1974, Searle got approval to use aspartame in dry foods. However, it wasn't smooth sailing from there. In 1975, the FDA put together a task force to review Searle's testing methods. Task force team leader Phillip Brodsky said he 'had never seen anything as bad as Searle's testing' and called test results 'manipulated'. Before aspartame actually made it into dry foods, Olney and attorney and consumer advocate Jim Turner filed objections against the approval.
In 1977, the FDA asked the U.S. attorney's office to start grand jury proceedings against Searle for 'knowingly misrepresenting findings and concealing material facts and making false statements in aspartame safety tests.' Shortly after, the US attorney leading the investigation against Searle was offered a job by the law firm that was representing Searle. Later that same year, he resigned as US attorney and withdrew from the case delaying the grand jury's investigation. This caused the statute of limitations on the charges to run out, and the investigation was dropped. And he accepted the job with Searle's law firm....
In 1980, a review by the Public Board of Inquiry set up by the FDA determined that aspartame should not be approved. The board said it had 'not been presented with proof of reasonable certainty that aspartame is safe for use as a food additive.' In 1981, new FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes was appointed. Despite the fact that three out of six scientists advised against approval, Hayes decided to overrule the scientific review panel and allow aspartame into limited dry goods. In 1983, he got it approved for beverages, even though the National Soft Drink Association urged the FDA to delay approval until further testing could be done. That same year, Hayes left the FDA amid charges of impropriety. The Internal Department of Health and Human Services was investigating Hayes for accepting gratuities from FDA-regulated companies. He went to work as a consultant for Searle's public relations firm. Interesting. The FDA finally urged Congress to prosecute Searle for giving the government false or incomplete test results on aspartame. However, the two government attorneys assigned to the case decided not to prosecute. Later, they went to work for the law firm that represented Searle. Fascinating. Despite recognizing ninety-two different symptoms that result from ingesting aspartame, the FDA approved it for use, without restriction, in 1996...
Aspartame is a $1 billion industry. The National Justice League has filed a series of lawsuits against food companies using aspartame, claiming they are poisoning the public. In September 2004, a class action lawsuit was filed for $350 million against NutraSweet and the American Diabetics Assocation."

"Skinny Bitch," by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, pgs. 32-35