Kicking Sugar for Better Health
Jill Escher has a few reasons to get rid of white stuff and the rest of starches too
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by Maria Grusauskas on Mar 06, 2012
Don't pour some sugar on me. Photo by Chip Scheuer.
Jill Escher had me at “clear skin” and “lifted brain fog.” Armed with a copy of her book, Farewell Club Perma-Chub: A Sugar Addict’s Guide to Easy Weight Loss, I hurled myself cold turkey into a sugar-free existence a few weeks ago, just as Girl Scout Cookie season commenced. And it wasn’t just the white stuff, either. All starches had to go.
“A bowl of pasta isn’t that different from a bowl of sugar, metabolically speaking,” said Escher as we sat in a sunny courtyard on Beach Hill the morning I took the plunge. My heart sank. I braced myself for a difficult withdrawal phase and briefly considered canceling all of my appointments and strapping myself to my mattress. Ten days later, I set down the fork I used to polish off two eggs fried in coconut oil (no bread to sop up the yolk), and I’m finally able to say: the woman has a point.
Escher, a.k.a. the Sugar Slayer, is a petite woman in her forties with clear olive skin, warm brown eyes and a self-effacing sort of demeanor that begins in her voice. It’s hard to imagine her ever having had her “toe in the obesity column,” as she describes her former self, but then, that was before she kicked the white stuff.
Escher describes it like waking up. “I had this compulsion for stuff that really is not food, and stuff that is really making my body sick and addicted,” recalls Escher, who lost 34 pounds in four months after nixing sugar (and yes, she’s kept if off). She’s also experiencing clearer skin, fewer wrinkles, clear-headedness and her favorite benefit of all: “this really steady, stable, very healthy energy level throughout the day.”
Farewell Club Perma-Chubreads like a girlfriend telling another girlfriend what worked for her. It’s easy on the science talk, yet loaded with profound insights into that ubiquitous, seemingly innocent, ingredient in our daily lives.
“I figured out that I had to treat my problem like alcoholism. That my compulsions were like an alcoholic has for alcohol,” says Escher, who used sugar like many of us do: for the quick pleasurable rush it gives when the brain releases opioids and dopamine (the same neurotransmitters stimulated by many drugs of abuse).
Sugar is an inflammatory. It wreaks havoc on our skin, catalyzes aging, feeds bacterial infections in our bodies and messes with our intestinal flora, leptin, insulin, hormone and energy levels. It’s a shape-shifter too, appearing as high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice and a slew of artificial sweeteners that double as preservatives and microbicides.
“With any addiction, it’s a biochemical imbalance,” says Escher, who says she really reclaimed her biochemistry about three weeks in, when the sugar-fiending “gremlin” in her head quieted to a mere whisper.
After 10 days without sugar, my own scale has not budged and my skin remains temperamental, but my energy is steady and I’m inspired. Although there's a chasm where dark chocolate and freshly baked sourdough used to be, I’m reveling in a high-fat diet (osteoporosis be gone!) rich with proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts and smoothies made with full-fat plain yogurt. And when, out of curiosity, I finally decided to try my favorite Girl Scout cookie of all time, the Samoa, the sickening sweetness almost turned my mouth inside out.
Farewell Club Perma-Chubis available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and Capitola Book Café. All proceeds benefit the Morgan Autism Center.