It’s once again the season for giving, family centric activities, planning back-to-back holiday parties and aiming for the ideological slowing down of ones daily routine all for the sake of achieving internal peace, reflectivity, and calmness to bring the year to an end and start the new with a refreshed outlook on all the SMART goals we dare to set. Year after Year, come Thanksgiving, this frenzy of abnormal activities appears that tempts us and almost validates us to sabotage our hard earned fitness and health goals of the current year. What was once a time for internal facing reflection, has turned into the busiest times of the year. Coincidental, the internal peace we have found is accepting the holiday rush and the average weight gain of 7 lbs.
If the average is 7 lbs, then for my frame size and fitness level, it would probably mean 1–2 lbs.
I could go on and on about the hypocritical nature of the holidays, but this year I told myself to suck it up, file it under #firstworldproblems, and go along with all of it, because I AM fortunate to be able to completely stress myself out like this and squeeze way too much into my already full schedule. But the problem is none of it makes me feel very cheerful. So I have come to be known for my bit of “sour holiday cheer.” There is not a red coffee cup in this world that can get me to feel my childhood holiday excitement – except for one thing.
And that is sugar. Chocolate santas, chocolate Christmas ornaments, buttery cookies sprinkled with vanilla sugar, ginger bread, sprinkled chocolate marzipan, and my absolute favorite, Contessa by Bahlsen. Growing up, my uncle would send us a big holiday box made by Bahlsen. My grandmother used to make German Fruit Cake that was just heavenly when lathered in thick butter and enjoyed with a glass of milk. This is what Christmas was about in my childhood. That, and lots of candles. No other season brought more sweetness and addiction than this time. Fond memories of laying on the sofa with Contessa, Mom knitting, the gas fireplace on high surrounded by candles, watching movies while filling my stomach with absolute deliciousness are traveling through my mind as I sit here, with the two Advent candles shining bright. I was unaware of the effects sugar had on my body and I was filled with cheer and happiness.
But here is where we come to a screeching halt. Just one single Contessa has more grams of added sugar than I consume on a DAILY AVERAGE. With 18g of sugar per piece, it will offset my insulin levels, hormone levels, fat burning ability, skyrocket my blood sugar to a degree that I can’t help but reach for one more, and one more Contessa. My brain will experience neurological fireworks on the the same pathways as those of cocaine!! 1 ENTIRE box of Contessa is easily enjoyed with tea and a good movie.
Our livers can metabolize only 24g of added processed sugar per day, that’s 6 teaspoons. Maximum. And that doesn’t mean we should consume this much. Simple calculations shows me that one box of Contessa has 91g of sugar. So even just eating 2 Contessas will jaunt my body towards nutrition hell. Just one day of allowing my body to indulge in the sugar has the potential to create a domino effect of more cravings for the next several days. And before I know it, I have just undone and sabotaged all the hard work in just one single week.
Sugar is an addiction and with a personality drawn to extremes, this is a very slippery slope for me. So I opt to say “No Thanks.”
You may think, So what about alcohol?
Alcohol is an interesting topic because just like sugar, alcohol is at every event during the holidays. And we all know those family gatherings are far more enjoyable with a few glasses of it.
As I sit here analyzing the importance of sugar as the 3rd Advent is fast approaching, I realize it is a matter of value and boils down to your intention.
I place higher value on something that fermented in french oak barrels and can be enjoyed during special occasions, than mindlessly consuming a chemical produced to make us want to have more of it. Sugar is linked to cause cancer, type 2 diabetes, dementia, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and expedites fat deposits. Alcohol has been linked to basically the same diseases. So it isn’t really any better for my health. I would be lying if I said my motivation not to eat excess sugar is because I don’t want to get diabetes or cancer. Sure, a life without these is on my yearly wish list. And so far the the wish has been granted. Both can cause an addiction. The difference, our sugar addiction was imparted upon us during childhood.
Last night during a special holiday steak and wine dinner, I brought up the question on the difficulty to say no to the gourmet Michelin quality sweets that we kept passing on after dinner. It was a seemingly unanimous decision that simply knowing and understanding how bad sugar is suffices to reject all of it. But I disagreed. This is not the whole story. Not for everyone at-least. Definitely not for me. Food is emotional, and for most of us, the foods we grew up with are holding us by the throat and fueling our addiction.
So here you have it:
My name is Anna, and I am a Holiday-Sugar Addict-and I have a problem.
They say, recognizing you have a problem is the first step to improving.
So my INTENTION is to stay away from the sweets and stick to my values. I will enjoy 2–3 Glasses of quality red wine together with my family and friends, because I know that if I wanted to, tomorrow, I can say no to wine, and continue to eat in a way that stabilizes my energy, supports muscle growth, supports fat burning and makes me feel good and accomplished. So perhaps I have actually found the internal peace this season. I will no longer feel tempted by the sweets because I realized why I am tempted and thus can break through this addiction with self awareness.
I will set myself up for success for 2016 and continue along the path of becoming the best version of myself and the best triathlete I can be.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and a mindful transition into 2016.