I arrived in Costa Rica in 2008, addicted.

Unlike addiction to heroin or cocaine, my addiction was socially acceptable and even proudly proclaimed. I was part of up to 70% of north Americans who are addicted to sugar.

I have beat my addiction – but mostly because I moved to Costa Rica. I know it is more difficult to do in north America. One of my sons, Jonathan has recently beat his addiction, which I will get to below.

One may say, ‘I’m not addicted to it. I just like it a lot!’ The facts say different. Evidence shows that sugar works on the body the same way cocaine does. Addictively.

So now that we know sugar is addicting, how bad can it be?

“Death by sugar” may not an overstatement according to mounting evidence.

Several years ago, Robert Lustig, a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine gave a lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth, which was later posted on YouTube. As of yesterday, that 90-minute video detailing the biochemistry of sugar and human health was viewed by more than 2 million people. And this was before Lustig appeared on “60 Minutes”  blaming sugar for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses plaguing modern society.
Read more: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/pure-white-and-deadly-is-sugar-toxic#ixzz3XZRLUatg

How did we get to this?

I got into my addiction pretty innocently – like millions of other Americans. In the past thirty years, we’ve gone from a nation that consumed moderate amounts of sugar to a nation drowning in it!

It was partly the cholesterol panic that got us here! Remember back in the 80’s when cholesterol became a bad word? Everyone was busy trying to get cholesterol out of their diets and began focusing their wrath on fats and eggs! The food industry found that taking the fat out of foods made the food unappetizing. So they added sugar. An astounding 80% or 480,000 of the 600,000 food products sold within the U.S. have added sugar, which, according to researchers and medical doctors, is why we have the world’s highest obesity rate at 31 percent.

The soda pop industry takes the lead! “On any given day, half the people in the U.S. consume sugary drinks; 1 in 4 get at least 200 calories from such drinks; and 5% get at least 567 calories—equivalent to four cans of soda. Sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day).”  National Cancer Institute. http://riskfactor.cancer.gov/diet/foodsources/   What began as medicinal health drinks from Europe in fact have become toxic liquid candy in cans or bottles! Nearly half of Americans now drink one or more cans of soda/day. With each 8 oz. can equivalent to about 11 teaspoons of granulated sugar – the problem is gigantic. For a wonderful history of soda pop, http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-toxic-history-of-soda-pop/

The recommended amount of sugar/day for women is no more than 10 teaspoons per day!  The average American exceeds 20!

My story of addiction

In 2005 I was living in New Mexico. I fell into a fairly sedentary lifestyle due to some debilitating sciatic pain. Standing was difficult, so fast food and processed food became my habit. Driving through a fast food line was about as much as I could manage during the worst of it. On top of that I rewarded myself for teaching classes and workshops with desserts of ice cream or flavored frozen yogurt. When I finally lost my home and livelihood to the 2008 financial crash, I made the decision to move to Costa Rica and start over.

Within a little over a year I had lost 20+ pounds and I wasn’t sure how it happened. I took a good look. It happened because I stopped drinking sodas and stopped eating processed foods. There were no fast food places readily available near me. The water where I lived tasted really good and though I am still mightily drawn to ice cream, I just don’t buy it anymore. I do have a banana split on my birthday each year and if someone gives me a package of dark chocolate, I will eat the entire package at one sitting. I’m not proud of it but have learned to accept it.

Then I met Frank, an organic farmer and Canadian ExPat – who further encouraged my venture into totally organic food and no sugar or diet drinks.

The new movie, Fed Up

The movie, Fed Up is an excellent documentary with the latest in shocking truths about our food in America. The film was done by Atlas Films with producers Katie Couric, Laurie David, Heather Reisman, Regina Kulik Scully and Michael Walrath, directed by Stephanie Soechtig.

Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. Fed Up is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see.

The movie asks basic and important questions such as: “Why is obesity in American children an epidemic?” “Why for the first time will this generation of U.S. children not live as long as their parents?” The answer: Sugar.

  • From 1977 to 2000, Americans have doubled their dietary sugar intake. As if this weren’t disturbing enough, since 1995, corn-based sweetener companies have received over $8 Billion in subsidies.
  • Between 1970 and 1990, the consumption of high fructose corn syrup in America has increased by 1000 percent. Did you know that a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 16 teaspoons of sugars from high fructose corn syrup?  High fructose corn syrup is NOT natural fructose and is another subject of concern.
  • By 2010, two out of every three Americans were either overweight or obese.

In the past several years, people are hearing about the dangers of too much sugar. Many of us, and I’m including myself, thought we were doing a good thing by switching from cokes to diet cokes and other diet drinks! In New Mexico I’d have several diet cokes during the week and thought that was a good thing I was doing for my body.

It was not.

Be careful about Sugar Substitutes

It turns out that once again the buyer must beware!

Artificial sweeteners added to beverages are generally either Sucralose or Aspartame. They are not the same.

  • Aspartame is he most common artificial sweetener used. According to Dr. Mercola, Aspartame is by far the most dangerous substance added to foods and responsible for 75% of the adverse reactions reported to the FDA. Aspartame is absorbed by the body and has a rather tainted history of its own that involves brain tumor incidences, the FDA and more…

Sweet Misery

Aspartame: The Bitter Truth Behind this Toxic Sweetner

Which sodas use aspartame? All Coke and Pepsi products. Sprite and Dr. Pepper, 7Up free, Fanta and even Gingerale. About the only sodas that don’t use Aspartame and use Stevia (from South America) instead are Hansen’s Natural sodas, Pepsi One and one version of Diet Coke (but you have to really look at the labeling since the other versions do contain aspartame.

  • Sucralose is a sugar derivative and in less widespread use. Because it is about 600 times sweeter than sugar and three times sweeter than aspartame, less of it goes a longer way in sweetening. There is also evidence that it is not absorbed by the body.

What we can do?

For myself, I drink only water or coffee, eat fresh fruits and vegetables year around and consume no processed foods. But I’m one of the lucky ones – semi-retired and living in Costa Rica with very little stress in my life. It is pretty easy to live a healthier lifestyle here.

But what about non-retired people in North America who are living high stress lives and working so hard to provide for their families and futures? My son Jonathan fit the profile! His work in computer-based marketing for a firm required energy and focus – and in the past he relied on coffee and sometimes an energy drink to keep him on track in his relatively high stress lifestyle. As a new father, he was also needing to have energy and focus for his wife and son. A friend introduced him to a 24-Day Challenge health plan through Advocare.  The 24-Day Challenge is a comprehensive supplementation and nutrition program designed to jump start the body toward healthier eating. He says there’s something for everyone – whether you are looking for weight management, energy, overall body composition or overall wellness. Thousands of people have experienced success!

Jonathan says,

Jonathan and Jack

“I lost 10 pounds while doing it, and then 15 more after I finished the challenge. It changed my cravings and my eating habits. Most importantly, it changed how I felt! I was clear, energetic, balanced, and motivated. I was able to better focus! Alethea really helped me follow the eating guidelines and joined in!, Limited dairy products, whole grain breads (100% whole wheat, etc.) with lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and occasional red meat.”

Both Jay and Alethea have continued their healthier lifestyle and now Jay now uses Advocare’s Spark as his drink during the day. He even gave up coffee! At about $1.30/packet that is mixed in water, he gets the continued energy boost, nutritional additives and focus he needs all day.

And they didn’t even have to move to Costa Rica to do it!

They are addicted no more! Feel free to contact Jonathan here  or through his personal email,  jonathan.d.owens@gmail.com

Check out the Advocare products that Jonathan and Alethea are advocating!