My husband, Seth, was recently told by our naturopath that he was hypoglycemic and that he needed to cut down on his sugar intake dramatically or he was on his way to some pretty serious issues (autoimmune, hormonal, etc).
I mean, we both knew that Seth ate a lot of sugar, but we didn’t know he officially had an issue with it.
This blog post is about how Seth was an otherwise-Paleo sugar addict, and he’s successfully shaken himself of his little problem. And if he can do it, anyone can.
I mean, this is the guy who was eating Whatchamacallits for lunch when I first met him…
“Otherwise-Paleo sugar addict”? That’s kind of an oxymoron, right? Here’s what I mean. While he wasn’t eating any grains, dairy, legumes, or vegetable oils, and only the highest quality meats and veggies, he was eating a ton of sugar in the form of watermelon, cherries, bananas, plums, peaches, Whole Foods jelly beans, ginger chew candies, and natural sodas.
He’s sort of a watermelon freak, actually.
You may not think that watermelon could possibly contribute that much to a person’s sugar load. It’s mostly water, right? But he was eating about half of a VERY large watermelon every day, which adds up to about 340 grams of carbs, including 280 grams of sugar a day. Holy sugar. I just actually looked that up for the first time right now and I’m a bit horrified…
The thing is that despite all this sugar consumption, he’s not overweight and never has been. Here’s a picture of him climbing in Rifle, CO. He’s got a hot bod; what can I say? :)
It’s easy to assume people are doing just fine with their blood sugar when they’re not overweight.
His hypoglycemia was especially sneaky because he didn’t exhibit the symptoms I’m accustomed to: He wasn’t getting irritable, shaky, weak, or anything like that.
He didn’t have the classic symptoms that I’d had pre-Paleo when I was hypoglycemic, i.e. “Do NOT talk to me – I haven’t had my breakfast yet,” or “If I don’t eat something right this second I’m going to pass out…”
No, he didn’t have that, but he was anxious.
A low-lying undercurrent of anxiety had become the backdrop for his life, and it was incredibly uncomfortable for him, to say the least. That was his main symptom of hypoglycemia, said our naturopath. Well, that, and his cravings for sugar all the time.
So what did he do?
He went cold turkey on the sugar. No more root beer, watermelon, ginger chews, Whole Foods jelly beans, or copious amounts of other fruits. The doc told him he could have one pluot or one handful of berries three times a day, plus all the veggies he wanted. Plus, of course, his normal meats and fats.
What happened was really amazing.
I’d always been really confused by the fact that he ate less food than me at meals, even though he weighs 30 pounds more than me and he’s a man. He was never hungry for as much hearty food as I was. Now he’s eating double the amount of breakfast as before (meat, veggies, eggs, lots of fat), and more lunch and dinner. He’s always made fun of me for how much fat I crave, but now he craves it too.
He was not a happy camper for the first few days while he detoxed.
He was grumpy, tired, and all he wanted was sugar. In fact, he’d email me from work whining, “ALL I WANT IS SUGAR!!!” It was hard for him, but he realized this problem of his was of the 1st world variety, so he sucked it up and didn’t give into his cravings. I was impressed.
The results of his efforts so far…
After a couple weeks, his energy was higher, he wasn’t grumpy anymore, he was less anxious, his skin cleared up a lot, and he wasn’t craving sugar anymore. He also lost a bit of weight (good news for a climber) and was climbing really well. He was asked to go back to the doc a week after his first appointment to check some other markers, and surprisingly they found that his blood sugar had already markedly improved!
I think the lessons here are:
1. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on until you get some blood work done.
2. Everyone’s carbohydrate needs are different. I’m sort of a carbohydrate spokesperson of sorts. If you read my blog often, you’ll find a bunch of articles about how athletes need lots of carbs, how people are too gung-ho about being very low carb, and that sometimes going too low carb can sabotage a person’s attempts at Paleo. I’ve said a few things about the benefits of carbs, and I know that I personally need about 100-150 grams a day to be a functional, happy person.
But Seth seems to need fewer than I ever thought he did. I thought he was a “carb burner”, but now that he’s eating even fewer than I eat, he actually has more energy and fewer symptoms than before.
3. Don’t eat half a watermelon a day :)