Sugar blues

I once had the prettiest girlfriend named Kerry. She had red hair, she was Irish, and she was from the County of Kerry. She was also a ranked tennis player and a really good triathlete. I don’t know what she saw in me and eventually she didn’t either.

One evening I noticed a book next to her bed called “Sugar Blues.” Maybe the fact that I was in her bedroom and checking out her books was part of what was ultimately missing. It was such a good title though that I couldn’t help opening it up. Maybe the fact that I was in her bedroom at night and reading her books was the other part of what ultimately was missing.

The book was all about how sugar was the reason for the downfall of every civilization since the beginning of time, and ours was next. It was a wacky book but attention grabbing. “Hey, look at this!” I excitedly told her as I browsed through the part about Babylon. I still remember her sitting on the edge of the bed in a negligee not looking especially excited about me being especially excited about the role of sugar in ancient Babylon.

“Oh,” I thought, and threw down the book. But it was too late.

I did later buy a copy of the book and read it. It was nutty except for its premise, that refined sugar isn’t very good for you. I tried to quit eating sugar for a few days but, uh, no fuggin’ way.

A couple of months ago a good friend of mine got Keto religion. The Keto diet is like the Paleo diet except even less fun, which is like being depilated with an electric iron, except less fun.

Every time I would check in on my friend, she would report on her Keto diet. Leaving aside the fact that she looked fantastic, the diet had been good for her. Blood sugar had dropped from pre-diabetic to normal, etc. So I was glad for her but also insanely jealous, mostly because I knew there was no way in hell I could ever do a Keto diet. My last foray into weight mismanagement had been several years ago with the infamous kimchi diet, self developed in the laboratory of Seth Davidson, Bicycle Injury Lawyer, and it resulted in significant weight loss accompanied by world class flatulence, notable even for a blogger and bike racer.

So I knew the Keto diet wouldn’t work for me, not only because I’m a Capricorn but also because, at 153 pounds and 5’11”, I’m already what the World Health Organization calls “malnourished.” Yes, we may ideate Jeff Konsmo’s 132 pounds of bone, translucent skin, and subcutaneously visible gristle, but recent data suggest that even he won’t be racing the Tour this year, so, no Keto diet for you, old feller.

But, but, but …

I did like the idea of no refined sugar and I am a touch competitive and what if?

So a couple of months ago I quit eating sweets. And if a thing obviously had sugar added to it, I quit eating that, too. And I haven’t missed any of it. In fact, when I dug into my wife’s blueberry cobbler on Sunday after the Big Day ride, I was done after one small piece. She uses very little sugar, but it was so cloyingly sweet I could barely choke it down. Here’s what I’ve found after this little experiment:

  1. Your sense of taste gets much more acute, just like when you cover your eyes for a few minutes and your hearing immediately sharpens. I think sugar overwhelms all other taste perceptions, and once it’s gone, you actually start to taste more.
  2. Naturally sweet things are sweet beyond belief. Bananas now are almost too sweet to eat. Half a banana sweetens an entire bowl of oatmeal, and I do mean “sweetens.”
  3. No weight loss. Sorry.
  4. I had my one and only physical about 30 years ago, so no idea what effect it’s had on my blood sugar, but I’m guessing it’s less sugary.
  5. No more sugar spikes followed by sugar crashes.
  6. On our Big Day on Saturday, I took a few squares of bread and unsweetened peanut butter. It did just fine. When I finally ran out of gas at Cross Creek, 30 miles from home, I drank a small bottle of whole milk and washed it down with a can of Starbucks espresso. Yes, it had sugar, and yes, I got a quick spike, but the fat in the whole milk is what got me the rest of the way home. Plus I was fuggin’ desperate and Surfer Dan was actually eating a foot-long Subway.
  7. You realize that everything is flavored with sugar.
  8. I enjoy the taste of things that were previously inedible without sweetening, and it reminds me of when I was in Iriomote-jima, where the only vegetables available were tropical vegetables. Tropical vegetables are to vegetables what British cuisine is to cuisine. At the time I couldn’t believe how bad everything tasted. But now I realize that all of those strange things simply had their own taste and if you didn’t spend a lifetime salting and sweetening everything, you’d probably learn to like it. Especially if you were hungry.
  9. Diminished hunger.

There you have it.



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.


28 thoughts on “Sugar blues”

  1. I’ve been trying to avoid added sugars since 2013 when I saw results of a study where mice were fed a “diet of 25 percent extra sugar – the mouse equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda daily” that concluded female mice were twice as likely to die and have fewer babies than those on a diet without added sugar. Males were 25 percent less likely to present normal territorial behavior and reproduce. [Potts, University of UT, Aug 2013] My anecdotal results are the same as yours. Two anecdotes prove the general case?

    1. From the vantage of eating alone, food just tastes better. I think everyone pretty much agrees that lots of processed sugar isn’t the best. But it sure does sell!

  2. There is much less sugar and salt in the food here in France. So much so, it’s a little jarring on the taste buds each time I return home to American food. Fortunately, that passes quickly, and I’m once again happily nursing on the teet of big sugar.

    1. Same in Japan. Much less sugar and very noticeable when you go there, especially their desserts. A third or less of the sugar.

  3. With regards to snarky British culinary exerlence, when a food item is sold in both the US and the glorious British Isles, typically the major difference is the outstanding better Great British one has half the sugar and salt added. Of course with the Glorious United Kingdom still vying to be the 51st state and top 10 fatest in the union, there is starting to be parity with the recipes.

    1. When British anything has to compare itself with US anything in order to show superiority, we have entered dark, dark times.

      1. I meet people in August, quite sane ones at that, who were stockpiling food in case of nuclear war.

  4. I’m halfway through The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. It includes a fascinating history of how the sugar industry supported “research” to show that sugar had no bad health effects and blamed dietary fat for our rising levels of obesity, hearth disease and diabetes. Turns out it’s the other way around.

    Low-fat, sugar-spiked yogurt, anyone?

    1. I read a review of that in The Atlantic, which also included a review of current research. Conclusion: Eat less sugar. Who knew?

  5. “At the time I couldn’t believe how bad everything tasted. But now I realize that all of those strange things simply had their own taste and if you didn’t spend a lifetime salting and sweetening everything, you’d probably learn to like it. ”

    This is why dog blessed this great earth with the ingredients necessary for Tapatío, Siracha and the like!

  6. Us Yanks even put sugar in salad dressing. Lettuce & sugar, mmmm! Try finding prepared salad dressing without sugar as an ingredient, even in places like Whole Foods.

    So, why not just add a glazing directly to the lettuce leaf?

  7. Seth – I commend you for not lumping naturally occurring sugars, like the ones you find in fruits, veggies, and grains, in with added sugars.

    Nice post.

    – D

    1. Thanks–just trying to avoid the more obviously bad stuff. Ice cream doesn’t have sugar, does it?

  8. I gave up too many things to give up sugar. That said, I only like good tasting sugar. Like excellent ice creams, and excellent pastries. I wouldn’t waste the calories on soft drinks

    1. When I make my own ice cream I use 1/2 the sugar listed in the recipe. Never noticed the difference in taste.

  9. Arkansas Traveler

    My dentist had bottles and jars of common consumableson a shelf, coke, catsup, etc.
    They contained the amount of sugar used in each by volume- this was pre corn syrup.
    All were almost half full.

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