This New Year, I secretly vow to fit into my skinny jeans before my next birthday.
I know. How cliché. I shared my resolution with my size-6 neighbor on Opal Cliffs Drive—a woman who couldn’t possibly be one of the millions of Americans who wants to lose weight in 2012—and found out that not long ago, she was a size 12.
Wow. Five-foot Jill Escher was once overweight? Yep. Not only that, she recently self-published a 95-page book, Farewell, Club Perma-Chub, available at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Capitola Book Cafe and Amazon, and she writes The Sugar Slayer Blog.
I know Mark Twain said that we make these resolutions at the same time every year and then “begin paving hell with them as usual” the following week. But I figure that at the very least, I can try to find out Jill’s secret, starting with her book.
Like me, Jill ate healthy meals—no buckets of fried chicken for either of us—and suffered from the same daily sugar-seeking behavior. She described it as “this persistent subsurface urge, this craving to eat something sweet, preferably chocolaty, each and every day and often a few times a day.”
She attributes the craving to a sugar and carb addiction, something that’s socially acceptable and heavily reinforced in our culture—even, she says, by the American Dietetic Association.
Near the end of 2010, Jill went cold turkey. Omitted sugar, flour, pasta and starches—all of it—from her diet, went through some withdrawal but kept up the abstinence routine through the holidays.
“I was steadily losing weight at a rate of at least two pounds a week, and some of my clothes were starting to hang on me like sacks,” she wrote. “My energy was strong and steady, and gone were the roller coaster highs and lows that had plagued me for years. My brain fog was lifting.”
Early in 2011, she’d hit her normal body weight, and her friends asked her to put her weight-loss secrets on paper. That’s when she started to consult some experts.
“Beyond rehashing my experience,” she wrote, “I wanted to understand why this approach worked while others failed, so I dove into the research on nutritional science and biology. It wasn’t hard to find the answer: addiction, hormones and biochemistry.”
Not everyone who eats sugar gets addicted, she found out. But for many, highly processed food can cause lasting brain changes, disruption in the function of dopamine and elevated insulin levels, replacing our normal ancestral food needs with cravings to ingest more junk food.
Today Jill doesn’t eat refined sugars and starches (which are basically long-chain sugars), packaged or processed food and sugared drinks. That means no pizza, chips, cereal or sodas.
At the grocery store, she avoids what she calls the “vortex of doom of the cereal, bakery, cookie, cracker, chip, juice, soda and ice cream aisles” and shops on the outside periphery and at farmers markets.
What does that leave her? Three meals a day of vegetables, fruits, protein (eggs, meat, seafood, dairy), fats, legumes and nuts. She's healthy and fit, without counting calories or popping diet pills. And, unlike before, she has normal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and HDL.
So that’s her secret. She's white-food free. And to think I discovered this not-so-sweet path all because I made a silly resolution to fit into my skinny jeans. What the heck. Good-bye, sugar! Hello, 2012!
Contact Jill Escher at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow "Farewell, Club Perma-Chub" on Facebook and @SugarAwareness on Twitter. Jill is also the founder of EndSugarAddiction.com, home of the Sugar Addiction Awareness Coalition.