Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘sugar addiction

New Love

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My love for ready-to-eat foods, especially cereals, is no secret. That passion fell under severe constraint a few years ago when I became better informed about the impact of excessive sugar in my diet. I quickly came to recognize that I was very much addicted to sugar and took steps to address that fact by significantly adjusting my eating behavior.

One of the most dramatic changes for me, since I already had chosen to avoid one of the highest sources of sweetness: the liquid sugar of soft drinks, was to control the amount and kind of cereals I ate. I learned to pay close attention to serving size.

My rough guideline was based on the World Health Organization’s suggestion to constrain intake of free sugars to 10% (or better yet, 5%) of total calories consumed. I converted that from the very approximate measure of a 2000 calorie diet to allow myself less than 50 grams of added sugars per day.

To allow some occasional treats, I aimed to stay at or below 10 grams of sugar per meal. That required BIG changes in the cereal I eat at breakfast. To stay below 10 grams, I was rarely able to allow myself to have a full serving size.

When it came to my much-loved granola cereals, it was hard to stay below 10 grams without constraining myself to a mere 1/4th cup.

Since Cyndie does our grocery shopping, I relied on her creativity to explore the options available on store shelves. One day, she came home with a package of granola that I had never seen before, Gustola Granola.

Oh. My. Gosh. I now have a new love.

The first flavor was pistachio, pumpkin seed, coconut, & cherry. It had a tantalizing hint of saltiness mixed in with the natural sweetness of the ingredients that I think is one of the great appeals. It enhances the mix of flavors wonderfully. Best of all, in a serving size of 1/3rd cup, there are only 4 grams of sugar.

That is amazing compared to the granola cereals I have previously been eating.

After finishing off that first bag of pistachio, etc., I pleaded with Cyndie to find more. She decided to order online, direct from the source and served up an additional flavor: almond, pecan, cashew.

Just as good to my taste buds and equally low in sugar. I’m in love!

I can’t wait to try the other flavors.

Now when I measure out the normal quarter-cup sized serving I have become accustomed to for breakfast, I can let it overflow just a little and not worry. Only 4-grams in a third-cup!

Every bite is pure joy. Mixed with a fraction of a serving of Fage plain Greek yogurt, I get textures I adore and flavors that are above and beyond satisfying. It’s like a celebration going on in my mouth.

Sorry, Grape-Nuts (5-grams per 1/2-cup) cereal, I’ve got a new love in Gustola Granola.



Surviving Halloween

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Today is the first day of November, so that means last night was candy-stravaganza! It also means the next week or so will consist of people trying to unload leftover treats.

All holidays are challenging for those of us striving to conquer cravings for sweets, but Halloween is particularly ominous. There tends to be an overwhelming amount of bite-size treats in seductively colored wrappers well within reach at every turn.

I have been enjoying uncharacteristic success with my self-control in the days leading up to last night. I celebrated by raiding Cyndie’s secret stash of Reese’s Peanutbutter Cups hidden in a drawer. I ate exactly one and was just fine with that.

I think I’m getting the hang of this routine. The longer I go without consuming more sugar than is healthy each day, the less my body craves.

On the way to the airport on Tuesday morning, I mentioned that I would be home alone on Halloween and Cyndie told me where I could find candy if anyone decided to venture up our long driveway and knock on the door. No one did.

In the six years we have been here, we have received a total of two visits on Halloween night. Both were by the same family that lives around the corner –a couple of miles away– on two successive years. It’s the only time we have ever talked with them.

I’m guessing their son is old enough now that he doesn’t want to be dragged to all these strangers houses by his parents, just to listen to them gab for 20 minutes at each stop. It wasn’t as much trick or treating as it was social networking.

Now, after the sun comes up, if there is no toilet paper hanging in our tree branches, and no egg stains on any of our structures, that will be the true, full measure of surviving Halloween.

The next thing I need to do is survive the days after. In the end, that’s possibly the bigger challenge.



Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2018 at 6:00 am

Improvement Movement

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In my grand scheme of a continuous improvement movement toward optimal health, I have recently added new attention to not cleaning my plate. It’s an old habit, but eating everything served has long contributed to my consuming more food than my body needs at a sitting. I’ve decided to take another crack at altering that pattern.

It’s a project I tried off and on in the past, just like my attempts to stop snacking directly out of the bag, or trying to get a full 8-hours of sleep a night. I have not accomplished everything I set out to achieve.

I’m hoping to springboard on the success I have been experiencing with my daily regimen of planking and stretching exercises.

Actually, it parallels well with my recent decluttering effort. The latest accomplishments have inspired me to keep going to the next level of clutter out in the shop.

My planking success –started about 6-months ago and still making daily progress, well beyond the initial 30-days-in-a-row goal– seems to be inspiring me to take the next step toward better (and consistent) attention to portion size.

This whole portion control thing rides on top of my earlier focus to kick a sugar addiction and rein in the percentage of my daily sugar consumption in my diet.

Last night, I took a moment to calculate the number of grams of sugar in a serving of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Coconut Almonds that Cyndie brought home as a treat on our anniversary. It’s the coconut that sends these over the top. It calls out to me every time I walk past them.

Sixteen grams in a 1/3rd cup serving, which is a little under 1-gram per coated almond.

I have tried to satisfy myself with eating just 2 or 3 almonds at a time, but then the challenge I face is to honestly track how many little visits to the well I make in a day.

Craving is a powerful thing.

I’m happy that I have developed a bit of a craving to do my daily planking routine, and I struggle with the craving to sleep that washes over me at times of the day when I can’t.

Now, if I could just get myself to crave small portions of really delicious large servings of food on a plate in front of me, I’ll really be getting somewhere.

Here’s to continuous movement toward optimal health, one step at a time. Mind, body, and spirit.

Join me, won’t you?



Cereal Torture

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With our Thanksgiving holiday less than a week away, the inevitable overindulgence of delectable foodstuffs is close enough to taste. Yesterday, Cyndie unleashed the first assault with one of my all-time favorites: Chex mix.

The most difficult healthy change I made in my diet when I decided to monitor my daily sugar consumption was to control how much cereal I ate. Sure, I love ice cream as the absolutely best treat around, but I even garnish some of the best scoops with Grape-Nuts cereal to take it over the top in extravagance.

Admittedly, one of my big reasons for loving cereal so much is the fact it is ready-to-eat without cooking. Can you say instant gratification?

Unfortunately, most cereals are also high in sugar, among any number of other less than ideal potential additives. While I used to avail myself of unfettered bowlfuls, my servings now are precisely measured to keep portions at or below 10 grams of sugar per meal.

It’s torture.

I have one other persistent craving. I like snacking almost more than a meal. Appetizers are better than dinner. Finger foods are the best!

Yesterday, the house smelled amazing. There was a fire in the fireplace and Chex mix baking in the oven. Butter and salty spices slathered all over the cereal, pretzels, garlic chips, and nuts, slowly roasting.

This morning the giant oval roasting pan filled with gold sits atop the stove and I am desperately trying to pretend it isn’t there.

I already snitched a double-dose beyond my ration yesterday, so I would like to demonstrate a little more restraint today.

Cyndie is gone for the day, so I had a very respectable serving of some banana nut crunch flakes for breakfast. Two bowls of a half-cup each. Ten grams.

I closed the box and put it away. Washed my bowl.

Then I lifted the lid on the roasting pan, just to see if the treasure was still there.


I told Cyndie yesterday that I noticed she forgot to include any Cheerios.

As if that will make it any easier for me to resist.

Oh for the love of cereal.



Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2017 at 11:19 am

Power Treat

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With thanks to my sister, Judy, I have discovered a new homemade energy treat that offers a sweetness, but is not particularly high in sugar. One reason it is a low sugar snack for me is, my ability to be satisfied with a single serving.

I can get a batch to last more than a month, barely eating one per day.

What makes them so satisfying? I think it is the brilliant balance of ingredients, including crunchy peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, and as of last night, a few of my own enhancements.

With Cyndie’s guidance in the kitchen while making dinner, I concocted a souped-up version of the recipe Judy originally shared with us. Per Judy’s suggestion, we replaced raisins with craisins. Beyond that, I added some millet, chopped coconut, chopped almonds, chia seeds (because Cyndie found some in the cupboard), protein powder, and chopped pumpkin seeds. Finally, as much as I love crunchy peanut butter, I reduced the quantity and finished the amount with the addition of almond butter.

If there is a “super crunch” version of almond butter, I haven’t discovered it yet. I would dearly love to try that.

Cyndie did the honors of buttering her palms and forming the bite-sized balls for me. I’m not that interested in getting my hands covered with ingredients. She shaped these a tiny bit bigger than a previous batch she made from the original recipe. Even when small, my method of enjoying them involves nibbling to get many more bites than one per serving.

At this size, we calculate a single ball is about 3-4 grams of sugar. The average cookie often comes in around 7 grams.

I’m still aiming to stay below 50 grams per day in my average 2000 calorie/day diet. By trying to stay close to 10 grams per meal, I have almost 20 grams of space available each day to keep from being a total party-pooper when treats are served.

Having a choice available with only 4 grams of sugar gives me a quick and easy option and helps me land well below my goal on days when these are the only treat I end up eating.

Of course, this would never have satisfied my old palette, when my sugar addiction was allowed to direct my choices, uncontrolled. Having weaned myself off the high sugar diet, I am now able to get sweet satisfaction from much lower amounts.

It is a great reward to have arrived at a healthy pattern of eating and find out it no longer feels like a place of deprivation. It is perfectly pleasurable and sustainable, as long as I acknowledge and remain vigilant about paying appropriate attention to my history of addiction to the sweet reward my brain celebrates every time I give my body sugar.



Written by johnwhays

October 31, 2017 at 6:00 am

Not There

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It has been 15 months since I began paying attention to how much sugar I was consuming on a daily basis and trying to achieve a level closer to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of limiting sugar to only 5-10% of my daily calories. Prior to that time, I was consuming the daily total and more by the completion of my breakfasts. By the end of the days, I was likely hitting somewhere around quadruple the recommended amount.

dscn5149eFor more than a year I have been measuring the amount of cereal and yogurt I serve myself to keep the serving size small enough to provide no more than 10 grams of sugar per meal. Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, I was aiming to stay below around 200 of those calories to come from sugar.

One gram of sugar contains 3.87 calories.

One trick with my plan is keeping the total calories at the daily target of 2000. The average American diet all too easily exceeds that amount. So, by wanting to reduce my sugar intake, I found myself also bringing my total calories down. That is not something I ever bothered measuring before this effort.

I simply knew that I should aim for a balance of obvious healthy choices. At the same time, an addict will respond to urges that exceed what they know to be healthy. I was addicted to sugar.

Not only were the lab results for my blood work revealing I was pre-diabetic, I was uncomfortably pudging out. The love-handles and belly bulge, the flabby arms, and my usual full face were ever present and slowly expanding.

My main goal was to appease the pressure from my doctor to get my numbers down for glycosylated hemoglobin, or HbA1c. After a year of working on it, I was looking forward to this year’s physical to learn the results of my efforts.

Much to my surprise, I’m not there yet.

Two years ago, my HbA1c reading came in at 5.8. My clinic seeks a level of <5.7, so I was just barely outside their “normal” range. Thus, the diagnosis of “pre-diabetic.”

My results this time, after a year of attention to my sugar intake, came in at 5.9.


Doc says there may be some genetics involved, as well as the fact that as we age our pancreas function deteriorates. I figure it’s because I had eaten so many of Cyndie’s sweet caramel rolls over the years, it will take me longer than a year to purge the glucose from my system.

So, my HbA1c may not have come down where the doctor wants to see it, but in the past year I have pleasantly reduced most of that flab that I never liked and I’ve dropped 8 pounds since my last visit to the clinic.

I’ll claim that small victory and keep measuring my sugar grams in search of a lower number for the level of my hemoglobin-bound-to-glucose next year. I want to keep my diet below the daily amount of recommended sugar to help my body as much as possible.

My poor pancreas isn’t gettin’ any younger.












Precious Sleep

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ZzzzI have been coming up short of sleep lately and I can feel everything suffering as a result. For one, it makes commuting for 2-hours a day a hazard of droopy eyed distracted driving. I’m too exhausted to think clearly, I’m getting grumpy, and my sugar cravings are defeating my best intentions of thwarting them.

It becomes a vicious circle of fatigue breeding fatigue. On Tuesday night I had hoped to get to bed promptly in the evening to allow time for a full 8-hours of slumber. Circumstances foiled that plan and I stayed up about 2-hours later than I planned. In and of itself, that would have been manageable, but then my keen mind and body betrayed me an hour before my alarm would have gone off Wednesday morning, leaving me wide awake, when that was the last thing I could afford to experience.

Precious  sleep got lopped off on both ends of the cycle.

It hasn’t helped at all that our internet connection has been totally unstable of late, causing me to languish in the limbo of half-loaded pages and images in my quest to toss up another entry in the daily blog effort.

I have a plan to get back at the dang fickle connection. I’m writing a short post and getting it done fast, so I have more time to sleep. Wish me luck…












Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2016 at 6:00 am