May 29th, 2012

The more you know

Mostly sugar-free for 29 days and counting

So, I am day 29 of the sugar-free endurance test. Just to reiterate the goals:

1. See how long I can go without *intentionally* ingesting refined sugar that does not occur naturally, which inlcudes surcrose, frutcose, high-frutcose corn syrup (HFCS), or sugar from beets, cane, or corn.
2. Admit when I made a mistake and why as part of my ongoing personal study
3. Sugar substitutes are allowed (like Stevia, saccharine, aspartame, etc)
4. Things with naturally occurring sugar, like fruits, are allowed but not artificially over-sweetened like fruit juices, which while they claim "100% juice" are artificially sweetened with concentrates of fruit juice, which is essentially sugar.

Maybe this will help others.

Now, yesterday, I had a mistake and an intentional ingestion, which I am not admitting to be all martyr on anyone, but to illustrate something I discovered.

So, I was sitting at Balticon Ops, and asked if they had a sugar free soda back there, and someone said, "We have caffiene-free diet Pepsi." That sounded fine, as water can only be used so much before you kind of get sick of it as your only drink. I was handed a can, and shortly after I took a few sips, someone behind me slipped on a cart and smacked me HARD in the head right on an old head injury. I have a bump on my skull from an old injury I got when I was 17 and hit my head when I fell on my friend's foot locker at the foot of her bed. This produced a crack in my skull that just seems to geet getting re-injured because it protrudes a bit, and so anything that grazes my head slides into the groove and hits the crack again like a speed bump attracts low bumpers. Almost immediately, I had an electric shock of a migraine, and I tasted metal in my mouth. Now, when I get migraine attacks, sometimes this happens: a horrible, teeth-squeaking feeling of copper or rusty metal, followed by a similar smell. This time, the taste was brutal but no smell occurred, which I was grateful for. After I made sure no blood was seeping from my head, I continued to sip my diet drink, and the taste got WORSE instead of better. Normally, if I suck on a mint or something, the taste goes away. I had to suck on several to get this horrible, metallic taste out of my mouth. When my soda was halfway done, I noticed I was smelling metal; but it was coming from the can, and not a usual migraine symptom. On a hunch, I looked at the side of the can to see the ingredients.

High frutcose corn syrup.

It was "caffiene free" but not diet. After a short discussion with others, some confirmed that people not used to HFCS often hate the taste, and it's gotten steadily worse over the last 10 years. So I dumped the rest of the soda, and after rinsing my mouth out in the restroom, most of the metallic taste went way. I had to eat a few Altoids, though. Looking online, there are connections between HFCS and mercury, but I seriously doubt my mouth could really tell those kinds of minute levels.

I wondered if this was my brain and/or mouth "waking up" to detecting the sugars. So later that night, I ate a "Men in Black III" donut (I wanted to try one since they are limited time only) to see if I got the same reaction. And I *did*. I felt like I was eating salted aluminum foil. So I looked up the nutritional info online. The "Brownie Batter Buttercreme Filling" has both sugar and HFCS listed, which was so strong and salty (these donuts are really high in sodium too, apparently, 330mg), that is actually was rivaling the chocolate flavoring. And those who study confectionery know chocolate flavoring is so strong, it's often used when a cake batch goes "bad," because it covers up pretty much every mistake, including burnt sugar. So... that's like saying another ingredient in a grilled cheese sandwich is so strong, it overpowered the caramelized onions or something.

I am not sure if I am reacting to the sugar or the HFCS, though. I may have to test this further, but I don't have the reaction to artificial sweeteners.

This is sort of good news, because obviously, cutting out sugar and HFCS would be beneficial, but concerns me because I hate being "a fussy eater." For instance, this weekend, I was graciously offered half a dozen candy bars, sweet drinks, and the like... and I had to decline. "I am abstaining from sugar," I'd say, explaining the endurance challenge I had set up. I already don't drink alcohol, which has caused some problems in social events as it is.

The hardest thing to avoiding sugar is not the cravings, but that it's in practically every processed food out there: yogurt, ketchup, pizza crust, chicken fingers, fish sticks, hot dogs, and so on.

I am glad I am having an easy time with "cravings." To be honest, the cravings for sweet things are not nearly as bad as last time, and hardly even worth mentioning. With the memory of the "metallic taste" now, it makes reduces the cravings even further. In addition, the weight gain seems to have stopped, and I am back to my starting weight to boot, although some of that may have been all the exercise I got at Balticon combined with skipping meals due to time, scheduling, and just remembering to eat (I usually have Scarlet for that). Thank goodness Tiger took up the slack and asked me if I time every time she passed by me.