"Just Say No!" An Old Slogan Becomes the New Battle Cry
In our last blog, "Understanding the Addictive Power of Sugar," we discussed the two-pronged addictive power that sugar holds over us as a nation.
First, there is the physically addictive properties of refined sugar that are comparable to the hard-core recreational drugs.
Second, there is the omnipresence of sugar in our national diet that is seemingly impossible to escape, especially since government health authorities have been complicit with the food and sugar industries in convincing us that overeating and lack of exercise were the real causes of type 2 diabetes (in spite of the overwhelming historic and scientific evidence).
We also declared that our best weapon in winning the War on Sugar is for type 2 diabetes patients to conduct their own clinical trials. This should be simple since regular testing of blood sugar levels is a critical part of managing diabetes health.
The hard part for those with type 2 diabetes, as well as the multitudes of Americans with pre-diabetes, is following three basic words from an old familiar slogan: "Just Say No."
If we can JUST SAY NO, we can significantly improve our health, especially since type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes is reversible for many patients.
- Just Say No at the breakfast table.
- First thing in the morning, take away the sugary cereals and the fruit juices. It is alarming how many adults still prefer the cereals they enjoyed as kids, or rationalize the "honey-nut" or sweeter alternatives to their healthy choices as still being healthy.
- Stay away from the "foo-foo" coffee beverages at your favorite café.
- Just Say No to sweet snacks in between meals.
- Avoid chocolates, chips and candy like the plague. Even a single portion bag of chips can contain 2 grams of sugar.
- Say yes to healthy snacks, like nuts or fruits that can also give a healthy energy boost to get you through the mid-morning doldrums.
- Just Say No to processed foods and sodas at lunchtime and dinner.
- This is a tougher challenge since you only have 30 minutes to an hour for lunch during the workday, and our busy lives don't leave much time for dinner either. Bringing your own lunch or finding a good salad bar gives you more control over what you put in your body.
- Substitute fruit for sweets and fresh vegetables for chips.
- Substitute water for soda; by this one change alone you will be consuming significantly fewer calories and losing weight in the process.
- Just Say No to the break room at work.
- It seems like every day there is a birthday cake for a staff member or sweet leftovers from another function that someone puts in the break room for all to enjoy. These are perhaps the worst temptations, especially since co-workers partake and the blast email compels everyone to stop what they are doing and "have a nosh." Sign a birthday card or give a personal greeting, give an email reply thank you to the snack benefactor but explain that you just entered a "biggest loser" contest with your friends and have to refrain from the yummy part of the celebration.
- Take advantage of the free wellness programs that your HR department offers, and appeal to your HR representative for healthy eating events or incentives that emphasize a sugar-free diet.
- Just Say No to trendy kids' food & beverage products.
- We have to raise the bar for our kids for two reasons. First, we have to re-establish responsible eating habits in order to change the frightening forecasts for this national health crisis that is also a global pandemic.
- Second, for more selfish reasons, we need to get these items out of the house. Many parents finish their kids' meals in place of making one for themselves, and the fruit snacks, juice boxes, chocolate milks, sugary cereals, etc. are just as tempting to adults as they are to children.
- Just Say No to alternative or artificial sweeteners.
- Many of these sweeteners have the same addictive qualities and harmful health effects as sugar, and the verdict is not in yet as to other health risks like stroke that are associated with artificial sweeteners.
- Just Say No to the interior aisles of the supermarket.
- Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store for fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as the butcher. It's a lot to ask, but voting with your wallets will put pressure on packaged food producers to come up with healthier options, and you will be going a long way to improving your health and possibly reversing type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. (Just look at how fast food restaurants were forced to create healthy menu options in the last decade in response to high rates of obesity among their key demographics.)
- SAY YES to reading labels.
- The American Heart Association recommends a daily added sugar limit of no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men and 24 grams (6 teaspoons) for women, or 150 calories and 100 calories respectively.[i] Many of the sugar readings include both added sugars and natural sugars, so adherence to the healthiest options are still the best way to plan your diet.
- SAY YES to regular exercise.
- Taking a walk 30 minutes before meals has been proven to curb appetites, and an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise routines minimizes the temptation for added sugar cravings during down time.
- SAY YES to raising local and national awareness.
- Write or call your congressman, senators and other elected officials to make them aware of our War on Sugar.
- Contact local or favorite food producers to make them aware of your boycott of their products until they can reduce or eliminate altogether the added sugar levels in their recipes.
- Contact your children's schools or attend a board meeting to advocate for responsible nutritional education and healthier options in the cafeteria.
- Find advocacy groups on your social media networks and share links and blogs like this one to help raise awareness.
- SAY YES to setting your own example!
- Bring healthy snacks to work.
- Consult with your HR department about a "Biggest Loser" contest focused on reducing added sugars from our diet.
- Take a cooking class and try cooking from scratch at home, or at least trying recipes that do not call for added sugars. The internet is abundant with healthy recipes.
As Gary Taubes argues in his recent article (based on his new book, The Case Against Sugar), sugar executives would not be surprised by "Before and After" scenarios that show better health from patients who avoid added sugar in their diets.[ii]
Americans with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes need to lead this new War on Drugs. This War on Sugar is not just a fight for our national health and for our children's future. For many of us personally, it could be a matter of life or death.
[i] “Sugar 101,” American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.WJNzIFMrLIU. Updated October 11, 2016.
[ii] “Is Sugar Killing Us?” Gary Taubes, Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2016