If Aaron Sorkin needed a few hits of cocaine to tap in to his creative nerve to write “A Few Good Men,” “Moneyball” and “Steve Jobs,” I need at least 50 grams of the other white stuff – sugar – to bang out readable sports copy.
It took a Cherry Coke, doughnuts and a candy bar to crank out a Nyjer Morgan profile back in 2011 and more cinnamon rolls than I will ever admit at a local coffee shop to pound out a Brett Favre project in 2008.
I had no Dove Dark Chocolate & Mint Swirls to write this column. (Which means I don’t like it.)
I hate this about myself but here’s the deal. Giving up sugar, for me, feels a little like giving up breathing.
But I’ve been trying to at least reduce it. My sugar demons have affected not just my health but my fitness goals all year long. My blood pressure is up and my race finish times are slow and it bothers me as much as the weight I’ve gained.
I’m not talking about having that cookie once in a while. I’m talking about sugar accounting for a third of my daily calories in MyFitnessPal. I use it to power through work, to be “up” for social requirements, to celebrate and to comfort. Some people have their coffee, some people have their wine and beer, some people have their cigarettes. I have sugar.
So for two weeks before Halloween, which kicks off “the eating season,” I tried my best to give it up. How’d it go?
_Day 1: MyFitnessPal, the food journal, wants me under 50 grams of sugar a day. A medium banana is about 21 grams. (Sigh.)
_Day 2: I’m cold and tired. I’m not hungry at all, but there are cravings and then a crash in the afternoon that’s brutal. I eat everything else in the house that isn’t sugar including a packet of hot cocoa mix.
_Day 3: Sure, I can stand here all day and hold this door open for you without needing the courtesy of you saying thanks. No, you go ahead and cut in front of me while you’re texting and driving, I hope she dumps you with a text message. Four-inch heels or cardboard flats – those are my boot choices – for $180?
_Day 3 night: I might be a little crabby.
_Day 4: Here’s irony for you: the harder I work, at work? The more I sit on my butt and stare at this computer like a lump of human mashed potatoes.
_Day 5: Forgot to pack a snack in my gym bag, and had no time after the workout for lunch. I raced to my assignment, interviewed elite athletes for a story, and had three cookies for “linner” in my car. I suck at life.
_Day 6: This is ridiculous. There are parents escaping war-torn countries with their children in rickety rafts. There’s a second civil rights movement in my own country. I need to get over myself. It’s just sugar.
_Day 7: I have a dream where I walk into a doughnut store with every kind of doughnut imaginable and I can have whatever I want and I’m so happy, only I’m so overwhelmed by the choices I just stand there and don’t even take one.
_Day 8: I’ve eaten 6,000 calories. I mean, probably. I stopped tracking at lunch. I don’t know if you can convert ground turkey and quinoa into high fructose corn syrup but my brain sure is trying.
_Day 9: No I don’t want ONE dove mint dark chocolate square. Would you bring a spray bottle to a four-alarm fire?
_Day 10: My son reads a blurb from his textbook that some Holocaust survivors died within a week after their rescue because soldiers gave them bites of chocolates and sugar. Isn’t that about the saddest thing you’ve ever heard in your life?
_Day 11: Not one pound lost. My bosses will not let me publish the words that go here now.
_Day 12: I unfriend the people on Facebook who keep posting quick and easy recipes for peanut butter chocolate graham cracker things.
_Day 13: Caved. Cake.
_Day 14: Doorbell. Little cuties at my door in costumes for trick Or treat.
I can’t do this.
From the Expert
Nicole Kerneen is a nutritionist, registered dietitian and expert when it comes to explaining food. She works with pro athletes like the Brewers, consults at Froedtert and has her own nutrition and fitness business, Way of Life. I like her because she keeps it real and yet is never judgmental, not even a little.
She tackles the sugar demon.
“Sugar is addictive. As addictive as caffeine, drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, the internet and anything else that lights up your brain and screams, yay, yay, we are SO excited and we can’t stop, we need more and more.
“Halloween, office parties, holiday parties, birthday parties, Packer parties, sport events suites and the dessert car (at Miller Park!), etc. All these things are hard on sugar addicts. It can be a daily struggle.
“You can approach a sugar addiction as any addiction and do a 12-step process around it. You can also help yourself by taking your one-third calorie intake from sugar and reducing it to one-fourth. Start there.
“You can help yourself by accepting that this is your thing and letting go of the shame around it … stop beating yourself up and start working with yourself.
“It takes patience, desire to change and compassion for yourself through the change process. It takes a complete rewiring of the brain. That can be challenging and painful momentarily, but then it gets much better and you can be free of your addiction or at least have a much better relationship with it.”
_I hate it. I admire the real elite athletes who aren’t even tempted …
“Elite athletes avoid this stuff and eat small amounts of it when they are in off season or a day off from training or playing. They, too, try to get away with it every now and again, but they also know the consequences of how it causes so much inflammation in their already inflamed bodies and inhibits their muscle tissue healing.”
_OK, so I want you to tell me we can have this X amount of sugar a day to be healthy …
“This is what I won’t say. Typically its 10 percent of your total carbohydrate intake of the day. I don’t feel that’s realistic to even be healthy. What’s important is how much added sugar you have in a day, not total. Apps like MyFitnessPal don’t distinguish between natural simple carbohydrate from fruit and added sugar from Sour Patch Kids.
“Typically for weight management, it’s acceptable to have about 10 percent of your total calorie intake be of discretionary calories. So if your goal is 1,600 calories per day, then 160 calories can be discretionary. If you want 160 calories to come from sugar, then that’s about 40 grams of sugar that you can play with.
“Healthy is relative. Healthy as far as food intake goes is going to be different for everyone based on their activity level, metabolism, hormone situation for the day, stress levels, etc.
“What we need to be concerned about is fueling our bodies well with as much whole food as possible. If fries and a burger with a shake pop in there every once in a while, so be it. It’s what you give and do to your body on a regular, daily basis that indicates long-term health and other biomarkers, not the occasional food mishap. Eating and life is not about all or nothing.”