Kimberly Garrison: How sugar became my bitter enemy

The Journal of the American Medical Association says Americans eat an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
The Journal of the American Medical Association says Americans eat an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
Posted: June 09, 2011

I HATE TO ADMIT this, but I'm an addict. That's right. I am a slave to sugar, and until I came to terms with this simple fact, I struggled to keep excess weight off.

Until quite recently, every confection I encountered called my name. I had the absolutely most wicked sweet tooth - one I honestly got from my parents, who are both confectionery snobs, if you will. I could even overindulge in nature's sweets like dates, figs, prunes and raisins.

I can remember a time when I would go to Essene Market & Cafe in South Philly and dust off an entire tub of coconut date rolls on my stroll back home. Foolishly, I rationalized to myself that coconut dates were all natural and healthy, so I could eat 10 with impunity.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that just one coconut date has a whopping 120 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates. Just one date exceeds the American Heart Association recommendation of 6 teaspoons of sugar a day (equivalent to 24 grams or about 100 calories).

But hey, dates are high in fiber, right?

So I thought. But a date has a mere 2 grams of fiber. A medium apple has double that amount and only 80 calories.

All natural or not, too much sugar is just not good for you.

My addiction to sugar might have been broken sooner if the doctor who diagnosed me with low iron and low blood sugar as a teen had instructed me and my parents on some nutrition fundamentals.

When I was about 15, I started passing out for no apparent reason. In retrospect, I realize I was involved in dance and theater activities and had gotten into the bad habit of skipping meals and not eating enough of the right types of food.

Sadly, the doctor never delved into the underlying causes for the problem. The doctor's vague recommendations about not skipping meals and taking iron supplements were not the long-term solution. I continued to suffer from fainting spells until I figured a few things out for myself.

Through many years of studying nutrition, and trial and error, I have deconstructed and broken my personal sweet code.

As a teen, I had no idea that every time I ate a sweet treat, I sent my blood sugar soaring and my insulin levels rising to process the flood of sugar - then plummeting below normal. Quite naturally, I thought the cure was to eat something sweet again, which continued this deadly process.

I also didn't know as a teen how insulin drives fat into your cells, preventing fat from being released from cells and simultaneously making you feel hungry. Or that high insulin levels contribute to obesity, type II diabetes, and kidney and cardiovascular disease.

But once I did know all this, I continued - for more years than I'd like to admit - to play Russian roulette with my health, thinking, "Hey, I work out . . . I can get away with eating sweets most days and be just fine."

My last physical, however, got my attention and revealed that the time for indulging my sweet tooth was effectively over. My cholesterol and triglyceride levels were inching up to that borderline range. Despite no obvious signs - or any action recommendations by the doctor - I knew the jig was up.

I decided once and for all to arrest my addiction to sugar, giving up my mother's delicious pound cake, Snickers bars and even those all-natural coconut dates.

I realized that my body was sensitive to excessive carbohydrate consumption and, if I wanted to be in optimal health, I would have to eliminate or severely restrict consumption of my favorite goodies.

Besides, I had read the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that said Americans eat an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Put another way, that's an additional 336 calories, which translates into an additional 36 pounds a year if it isn't exercised off!

Giving up sugar I have lost all of my baby weight and probably saved myself some cavities, heart disease and diabetes, too. It's tough, but so worth it.


Body After Baby

Week 10

Many new moms have no problem getting back to their pre-pregnancy weight. Often, though, they have an issue with cellulite. Many women have come to me complaining about cellulite and asking what to do about it.

While general calorie counting is important for weight loss, to get rid of cellulite you also must consider the quality of foods you eat and the quality of your exercise routine.

The right combination of strength training, cardio and flexibility work is a must. Sorry, it's not enough to just go through the motions exercising, any more than it's OK to go through the motions at your job. Performance, that's what they're paying you for!

Exercising to your optimal level is about giving your best performance - and then besting that consistently. Not to be mean, but you simply must exercise consistently and correctly; otherwise, why bother? So start by being honest with yourself: Only you know if you are working at a quarter, half or 100 percent. Then do yourself a favor - give it all you've got!

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia ( Email her at Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!

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