14: Stop the Sugar Madness

Stop the Sugar Madness- podcast episode 14

Today, I’m taking a break from normal podcast interviews to step on my soapbox for a few minutes. I love doing interviews (you can check them all out here), but a recent experience reminded me of the importance of this issue and I didn’t want to wait for an interview to talk about it.

Any guesses as to what the issue is?

I’ll give you a hint- it is an addictive substance that is linked to various types of disease and is especially harmful to children who are exposed.

Nicotine? Nope.

Illicit drugs? Those too, but no.

Asbestos? Yes, but not today’s topic.

Another hint- It is molecularly similar to cocaine and harmful to the liver.

Alcohol? No.

Vegetable oils? Nope, but those are bad too.

Toxic cleaning chemicals? No, but I would recommend using natural alternatives to those as well.

Today, I’m ranting about SUGAR.

Why? Because I decided to count for a week and my children were offered refined sugar in some form 21 times! The scary part is that we avoid a lot of situations where they would most logically be offered it and these were just places like the bank, the gym (!!) and friends’ houses.

All things in moderation….

A little bit won’t hurt…

It’s fuel for the brain…

All justifications for consuming sugar in some amount. The question is: should sugar ever be consumed and if so, in what amount?

I suggest that refined sugar should be avoided completely. Not so sure? Consider this:

  • 27 million+ people suffering from thyroid problems
  • 66% of the population overweight or obese
  • Rates of cancer and heart disease skyrocketing
  • estimated 95% of the population obese in next few decades
  • 1/3 of the population suffering from metabolic syndrome

Also, consider…

  • In 1700, average sugar consumption was 4 pounds per year.
  • In 1800, that number jumped to 18 pounds per year.
  • In 1900, this had more than quadrupled to 90 lbs per year.
  • Currently, Americans average one-half pound  PER DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year! (or roughly equal to a person’s bodyweight in sugar per year)

I wrote about the problems with sugar in depth here, but a paper called The Harmful Effects of Sugar on the Body and Mind explains:

Many times, so much calcium is used to neutralize the effects of sugar that the bones become osteoporotic due to the withdrawn calcium. Likewise, the teeth are affected and they lose their components until decay occurs and hastens their loss. …Refined sugar is void of all nutrients, consequently it causes the body to deplete its own stores of various vitamins, minerals and enzymes. If sugar consumption is continued, an over-acid condition results, and more minerals are needed from deep in the body to correct the imbalance. If the body is lacking the nutrients used to metabolize sugar, it will not be able to properly handle and rid itself of the poisonous residues. These wastes accumulate through the brain and nervous system, which speeds up cellular death. The bloodstream becomes over-loaded with waste products and symptoms of carbonic poisoning result.

Listen to the episode to hear more about the potential problems and how to transition away from it.

I offer this challenge to you: Drop refined sweeteners for 30 days. Stop eating breakfast cereal (two words that should never go together) if you haven’t already and focus on whole nutrient dense foods without the added ingredients. My recipe index has a lot of real food recipes to get you started.

Think it will be tough? It probably will, but most things worth doing are. If you need the support, recruit a few friends to join you and let me know in the comments how it goes.

Also, I’d love it if you could take a second and subscribe to the show via iTunes, Stitcher.

Reasons to stop eating sugar

Are you ready to give up sugar for a month? Can you do it? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Wow! That is some scary information. I have been reducing the amount of sugar that my family is consuming. After this, I am going to try even harder to phase it out completely. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. What do you do for yours and your children’s birthdays? If they go to a friends house and a parent continues pushing sugar on your child, what do you do?

    • I try to teach them to only accept food that is healthy for them (doesn’t always work 🙂 ). Just as they would decline foods they don’t like if offered by someone else, I try to instill the same for sugary foods which they do like.

      • Hi Katie, I surf everyday for 1-2 hours and do like sugar, mainly in the form of cookies : ) I know you are saying don’t have any sugar but there has to be a safe amount to take if you are active and healthy? If I only have sugar straight after exercise, do you think that is alright? Thanks, Graham

  3. How about unrefined cane sugar? Is it just as bad or is it at least a slightly better option?
    It’s really hard for me to eat no sugar at all, but I’m trying to cut it down little by little – my blood sugar is really low and my doctor told me I could go on eating sweets, but after reading a book on hormones and how insuline production is regulated I decided that eating less sugar would be a better way to rise my blood sugar levels! So far I’ve started to drink my occasional coffee black, reduce soda consumption even more (only for special occasions now), and switched to dark chocolate made with raw cane sugar (again, sometimes I make an exception). I haven’t found mints made with xylitol yet, but chewing gum!

    • I am wondering the same thing. Is baking with small amounts of cane sugar, maple syrup or honey ok?
      I already keep my kids pretty protected from refined sugar and will start to make these changes myself too.
      I am definitely addicted to sugar.

  4. I have been slowly trying to cut sure out of my diet for a few months now. I have been introducing more raw foods and cutting way back on processed ones. However, I still get massive baked goods cravings. I have been trying to find a relatively healthy sugar alternative to use in my baked goods. I purchased some xylitol to make your remineralizing toothpaste recipe, and have used it successfully in baking, but I wasn’t sure of the actual health effects of ingesting in regularly. I was wondering if you have any go to processed sugar alternatives that you would suggest.

  5. My family had to phase out sugar over a year ago when my little brother went on growth hormone. We never had much sugary stuff to start with but it was still difficult. I however still give in to my sweet tooth on occasion but I am a huge sweet tea freak!
    As far as birthdays go, we all “suffer” in my family. However my mom did find a great way to compensate. We make homemade ice cream with coconut milk & honey (which is a healthy alternative to sugar that won’t spike bloodsugar & is 2x’s sweeter than sugar! Cuisinart has an awesome ice cream maker that only takes 25min if the chamber is frozen-we just keep it in the freezer. As far as recipes go you can find all sorts on google. Hope this helps the ice cream fiends out there! Good luck going sugar free in a healthy way!

    • Honey absolutely spikes blood sugar, FYI…

    • Honey is not a good sugar alternative. Look into how time body processes it……

  6. Great post! Sugar is a drug and I hate when I see it being fed to children who are too young to even ask for it!

  7. I’m astounded by how often kids are offered sweets, too. Can you offer some advice? How do you handle this??

  8. You are right in your assessment of gross sugar consumption and the danger it is to our bodies. However, I’m a science gal with a chemistry background, and it really irks me when I see molecular compounds compared as above since there are SOOOO many things that are super-close in combination. One little piece makes a HUGE difference. Wellness Mama, I love and use your site for reference on many things, but when you write stuff like this (alarmist and lacking in scientific evidence, which should be peer-reviewed as well) you lose credibility.

    • I agree. I have heard often over the years that a compound or molecule is “almost identical.” I use the examples of carbon dioxide (we breathe it every day) and carbon monoxide (will kill you). Another good example is O2 (oxygen, vital for life) and O3 (ozone, toxic even at low levels). If the chemical compound is different, the substance is not the same.

      By the way, I am drawing on the knowledge obtained through ONE college level (barely, I was in the dum-dum class) chemistry class taken over 20 years ago. As much as I hated that class, it has helped critically evaluate a lot of information over the years.

      While I agree that sugar is a huge problem in the American diet, it is only one part, an important part, of the issue of obesity and some of the other health problems mentioned in the article.

    • Ditto.

      Two scientists walk into a bar.
      The first one says “I’ll have some H2O.” The second one says, “I’ll have some H2O too.” Then he dies.

  9. I eliminated sugar 2 years ago, and now I only sweeten our foods with local raw honey. Lauren at Empowered Sustenance makes a strong case for why our bodies need good sugar sources. So, I feel a bit confused. I have been wondering if we are eating too much sweetened food even if it is just honey (I sweeten our tea with it and use it atop pancakes). My kids are always hungry, and we are on a limited budget, so I just can’t feed them meat and veggies for every snack and meal. I like to have other snacks that I can make easily like coconut granola (sweetened with honey (3 TBL/1/2 gallon) and fruit. Do you have thoughts to help with my confusion. Should I take out honey as well? If not how much honey can I feel comfortable giving them daily? Thank you!

  10. absolutely loved this!!! this is a simple explanation of what sugar is doing to our kids, their health and their future!! moderation shmoderation!!! sugar is sugar is sugar!!! i can’t stress this enough to my children, their relatives, friends and other people they encounter that hand sugar hand-outs. how much sugar declares moderation, how much is too much, how much sugar in this item makes it ok to eat?!? my family is struggling to keep candida at bay and sugar from the daycare is one of our heaviest hitters. i try to educate them but their boat is already sunk. so thankful you have podcasts to listen to so i can stream it in my car speakers!! loving your blog, keep it up!! 🙂

  11. Thank you for the post. I think you should consider taking out the part about comparing the molecular structure of sugar to cocaine. They are actually very different. Also, in other posts with recipes, when you say to use either distilled water or boiled water, I hope that you know they are two totally different things as well. I work in a lab so these are things I pick up on in blogs 🙂

  12. This is incredbly helpful! But I was wondering is Organic Sugar is exceptable?

    • I am generally in favor of organic stuff, but in the case of sugar, it’s not the purity of the product in question, it’s the nutritional value of the substance itself that is the problem. Therefore I avoid even organic sugar.

  13. Good article but as a single mom of 3 very young kids I feel I face very different challenges. I cannot control what my ex-husband feeds my kids. BTW not my choice to be divorced but it is what it is…so I can only do my best but either way my kids get sugar from parties, their dad, grandparents etc…I have them 80% of the time but I have no control over the other 20%.

  14. I recently completed the “I Quit Sugar” 8-week detox program and read the book “I Quit Sugar” by Sarah Wilson. It is the best thing I have ever done to improve my knowledge of food and nutrition in general and improve my health/wellness. It has been an amazing positive change for me and my family. I would recommend it for anyone trying to reduce or eliminate sugar! Thanks for the post Wellness Mama!

  15. Diane Sanfilippo has a great 21 day sugar detox, I did it a couple months ago.

  16. Hi Katie,

    I would love to hear how you gracefully handle social situations where food that is outside of your diet is offered. Rants have there place but as you know food is often a vehicle that connects us to others, so how do you handle a dinner party where your friend has cooked a meal that includes grains and factory farmed meats?

    I totally respect any person’s adherence to a diet that makes them feel most alive but I’m also curious how you make it work when you’re among friends/family that eats differently.

    • I would like to hear about this as well. I am a people-pleaser so it’s hard for me sometimes to be vocal about things especially sugar.

    • I can totally relate to this. I’ve been down that train of thought and I’m confident you’ll come to what works best for you. But, I will gladly put in my thoughts in hopes of helping anyone.
      Eating quality food is so important to our health–there is no denying that. I had a moment in time where my naturopath was very adamant that I follow her advice to the letter. I did that, and my friends understood since they knew the physical ailments I was trying to overcome.
      Since overcoming those obstacles and healing my body, I allow myself to enjoy a meal out with friends or at a friends house who may not be able to afford quality meat or not have my same priorities. Our bodies are amazing machines. We want to support them. However, my relationships are amazing too! I want to nurture and enjoy those relationships and sometimes (what I have chosen as a value–it doesn’t make me right or wrong), that means I relax my mind and enjoy the food given.
      I know my limits too though. If I have a slice of pizza (I avoid wheat), then I won’t fall off the bandwagon. However, a “little bit of sugar” does not exist in my brain….I will continue to eat more for weeks until I break the cycle!
      Good luck, ladies–be confident in your choices….we always ebb and flow in our values as we learn.

      • Great point! I love how you worked that out. I’m going to share that with my daughter, who’s struggling with her food choices. Are sugar cravings genetic? If so, the deck is stacked against the poor girl. 🙂

  17. I’ve tried many times to rid my diet of refined sugar, but a bad day can throw me off course. Sugar is so easy to come by, keeping it out of my house just doesn’t seem to be good enough. For me, it absolutely is a drug. I have tried to convince myself that one honey bun is OK I deserve one, before I know it the whole box is gone and I’m so embarrassed I hide the box before my husband comes home and lie, if he finds the box. I tell him the kids ate it. I’m so ashamed, but ridding my life of sugar is the best for me to do.

  18. I am astonished as I read this article!!! I am cutting down my sugar intake everyday, but it goes into my body in one or the other form. Thanks for the post.

  19. Love this! It really is amazing how often sugar is pushed on kids via holidays, special occasions, treats,etc. whenever my kids are offered sugar anywhere and I decline, I usually hear the “just a little won’t hurt” argument. My reply is “If you don’t make it a big deal, it won’t be a big deal.” But it’s still a struggle with relatives who equate childhood fun with sugary foods! Childhood can be fun even without a constant sugar high

  20. SO glad to find an article about sugar on here. I’ve been doing a lot of digging into the effects that sugar (particularly fructose) has on the body, and it’s been an astonishing little research project. Basically, a large chunk of the problems/diseases that most people face is caused/worsened by sugar (obesity, diabetes, thyroid malfunction, etc.). I recently gave up sugar (about 8 weeks ago), and let me tell you . . . not only have I lost weight (p.s. I barely exercise), I sleep like a baby every night, I have clear, glowing skin, I no longer get hangry (hungry/angry at the same time), I have more patience and concentrate better. The most rewarding thing gained from quitting sugar is that I’m not controlled by cravings anymore. I used to be the person who had to have chocolate EVERY. DAY. in order to give me a boost, but now, I don’t crave sweetness of any sort. It’s the most liberating feeling. I aggressively encourage others to start adopting this lifestyle or at least start looking into it. If only just one person reads this, I will be happy to have spread the message. I have a new relationship with food now, and it’s all because I’ve quit stuffing my face with poisonous sugar.

    And a special shout-out to Haley in the above comments who did the 8-week I Quit Sugar Program from Sarah Wilson, which is what I did. You go girl!

  21. I hear the “Everything in moderation” phrase a lot. I like to counter it with ” Even dog poop?”. If I made a batch of brownies completely out of dog poop, would you eat one? Of course not. But what if I made a batch of brownies and only added a teaspoon? Would you eat one then? Sugar = dog poop for me. Moderation doesn’t always apply.

  22. Dear Katie:

    I really appreciate your view on sugar and totally agree. However, I would not advocate trying to just go off sugar. I followed a program which enabled me to stop desiring sugar. Many of the steps in that program are like your recommendations to ‘fix’ lepton. I felt the genius of the program was in the way the steps were meant to be done one at a time until they became habits. I imagine that most of your readers have already been changing their lifestyles in this direction anyway but for some stopping sugar ‘cold turkey’ would be more stressful and discouraging than the benefits of going off sugar in the short term. I’d rather advocate a longer term, sustainable letting go of sugar through boosting health, balancing blood sugar and fixing leptin. I love your very balanced and respectful way of helping your children make healthier choices.

    • Which program did you follow?

  23. I can’t tell you how hard this hit home. We live in an area with pockets of people who understand the sugar madness, but alas is still predominated by Sonics and Jamba Juice. We are assaulted at birthday parties and school by purveyors of sugar, because it’s “fun” for kids. It can be so frustrating when your child is served a sugar and dye-laden snow cone without your permission.

    I thought you would be very interested in this youtube video which shows a look back in time at someone struggling with obesity, and how early habits can influence choices later in life: Thank you for leading the charge in the war on sugar!

  24. It’s interesting how this post attacks the term “Only in moderation” and lists statistics of how unhealthy America is, but there is no way to prove how much sugar all of those people included in the statistic consumed.

  25. I think what I will do is just throw out everything sugary in house and resist the craving and temptation.I really do know how hard this choice is from personal experience but I can’t emphasize how much better you feel.It is totally worth it and for your kids too. I encourage you to pledge BAN SUGAR FROM YOUR KITCHEN!

  26. What is your favorite non-sugar cookbook or recipe source? We are already a very low sugar family. No refined sugar, no cereal, no soda, no candy, 10 gram or less in yogurt, etc. We do use honey some. We are now working on lowering carbs. My children are feeling especially deprived of “real food” they say. I”d like to normalize them a bit in a healthy way.

  27. I’ve seen more than a handful of articles showing scientific research that there’s no difference in the result of a very low sugar diet and a sugar free diet. Small amounts of added sugar (6 tsp. per day or less for women…about the same amount we consumed in 1700, as reported above and what is recommended by the AHA) show no negative affects. I eat no processed food, but I do add sugar to my morning coffee and sometimes to morning oatmeal and I feel fine. I eat an abundance of produce, exercise daily and sleep 8-9 hours a night. I think counseling people to completely cut ALL sugar out unnecessarily will only cause undue stress. You report all of these health problems that come from consuming EXCESS sugar, but there is a middle ground here.

  28. I use maple syrup and honey quite a bit, what do you think about that?

  29. I LOVED this episode! I love when you get on your soapbox!! It made me emotional hearing you speak so passionately to defend the health of your children and the peer pressure they and you face. I got rid of all sugar in our house last week and have started using your recipes and eating lifestyle. For the past decade or more of my life I have always craved chocolate and munchies at night. Since eating quality fats, meat and veggies these cravings are all gone, I’ve lost weight, and I feel amazing. Thank you for changing my life and my children’s lives.

    I would love to hear an episode that covers anemia. I have suffered with this and the only way I have been able to fight it is with iron pills. I am hoping this new lifestyle will help. Would love to hear a conversation around this.

    Thank you for all the incredible work you do!

  30. You make it sound ?ike sugar is the ONLY problem in our diets. I challenge you to go 30 days without meat, dairy and eggs and you tell me how you feel after. Cutting sugar won’t even compare to the benefits you’ll gain from this diet.
    Btw i dont have the same sugar cravings since i started on this diet.

  31. I’ve been following a no-sugar diet for years, by recommendation of Dr. Zyrowski. We don’t use sugar, honey, or maple syrup, and use xylitol and stevia in moderation. It’s made an incredible difference in my health and the health of my family. He recently came out with a cookbook that’s been extremely helpful with this called the Heal Yourself Cookbook. I use it every single week to help me meal plan 🙂 Hope that helps some of you guys too.

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