My Letter to Liz Applegate

by HEAB on September 7, 2009

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On August 25, the Wall Street Journal published  Sweet Surrender, Sugar Curbs Urged, an article on the American Heart Association’s new recommendations for sugar intake.  According to the article, women are encouraged to limit their sugar intake to 100 calories, or about six teaspoons, and for men, the recommendation is 150 calories, or nine teaspoons.  For comparison’s sake, one 12 ounce can of soda contains 130 calories, or 8 tsp of sugar.

In a Letter to the Editor, Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of California, Davis wrote the following:

The American Heart Association’s strict limit on sugar as a means to better health through weight management may sound straightforward to some, but to those of us who have been working with dieters on the front lines for decades, it is unrealistic.

Asking Americans to limit their sugar intake to 100 calories for women and 150 for men means asking the average person to cut added sugar consumption by more than 70%. The AHA limits mean most of us are prohibited from having a single can of soda on a hot summer day, a slice of cake at a party, and even a third of a cup of dried cranberries as a snack.

“Just say no” won’t get us a slimmer and healthier America. Instead, I suggest the AHA put its muscle behind promoting physical activity.

Letter from HEAB:

Dear Ms. Applegate.

I was shocked when I read your Letter to the Editor last week suggesting that we as Americans are not capable of limiting our sugar intake. The promotion of physical exercise is extremely important, but I believe the first step in ending the obesity epidemic is to promote a healthy diet full of whole foods naturally low in sugar. Why not put down that can of Coke and take a walk around the block instead of consuming unnecessary sugar and then exercising to make up for it? Yes, an extra 30 minutes of running might help someone stay trim, but it in no way negates the fact that they just filled their body with high fructose corn syrup and other unrecognizable chemicals.

Refined sugar is not healthy.  It’s not, and why not do our best to reduce its consumption?  Unlike you, I am in no way certified to hand out nutritional advice. Nor, have I ever worked professionally with dieters. However, I know that many Americans are scared of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and I think we should do all we can to prevent this from happening.  Americans sure went crazy removing the fat from everything not too long ago.  Why don’t you think they could do the same with sugar?

Sincerely,

Heather

{ 70 comments }

Amanda September 7, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Bahahaha at your first response, love it! Very good points in both letters though! I totally agree! I don’t know why people get so defensive about cutting back on their sugar. It’s pretty frustrating.

Teresa September 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I think that you should hit the submit button. Your letter is perfectly written and very respectable (although I DOO love the first version). I think it is important too the point you bring up about “justifying” poor eating habits by increasing exercise. Why do people think they cancel each other out? It’s not so much about the weight as it is about one’s health.

HelpMeghanRun September 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Love it! :) Everything you said was spot-on.

Liz September 7, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Amen to that. We don’t need to have soda on a hot day. What about unsweetened iced tea or ice water. Sure, it is hard to wean people off sugary foods, I know that from personal experience, and I’m still working on it. But, I don’t think exercise is the solution either. Just like the recent TIME article suggested, exercise is not the solution to healthy living if you use exercise to justify indulging in un-wholesome food. You have the right idea Heather!

WholeBodyLove September 7, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I don’t know, I prefer the first one. JK . I agree, something has to be done and the time is now for so many people. Type two diabetes is scary and refined sugar addiction is tough. I don’t have a huge problem with a LITTLE honey, daily fruit, and agave and the like. But, there are many that need to take a look the HFCS that is in almost every refined food product in America and how much of that and other refined sugar products they are consuming.

Maggie September 7, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Well said, Heather. I’m actually shocked at her response. You should send the first one :P

All kidding aside, America needs a biiiiiig wake up call. Did you hear that statistic about how 1 in 2 kids born after 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes? It’s freaking scary.

missyrayn September 7, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I love your witt in the first response even if the second is more appropriate.

The reason america got fat is the feeling of entitlement of stuff like this. We should limit it and we will be much healthier for it.

anon September 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm

I’ve really enjoyed following your blog for a few months now, and while I agree with your outlook on health, I think lately its become a little bit opinion-oriented. You don’t eat refined sugar, that’s awesome! Good for you. But personally, I like getting more information on how you lead your healthy life. These last few posts seem really emotional, and I appreciate your passion. I guess I just miss the old heather is all. Sorry if this offends you, I don’t mean to. I just miss your other type of posts!

Jess September 8, 2009 at 12:07 am

you are so right! i really love your posts and i actually wish that i had a full week to read all your previous blogposts, as i’m sure i’d learn a LOT! thanks for your honesty!

Meg September 8, 2009 at 1:11 am

Hi Heather! I agree that eating too much sugar is not healthy, but i think too much of anything is not good either. Everything in its proper amount. Do you think perhaps she is coming from the approach of a little bit (like a soda) is fine considering the entire diet? I live in Japan and their diet is mostly white rice/bread/pasta with some veggies and some meat or fish (always with lots of fat in the meat). They often laugh at Americans for our “extremism” when it comes to diet and exercise and how we are still the fattest country. They eat their sugar here. One of the most popular desserts is anko paste. An equal mixture of red beans and white sugar blended together and usually inside of a pancake. Granted the portion is fairly small, but it would definitely equal the amount of sugar Liz is suggesting. If we were to analyze the “sugar” component of their carbs and pastries here, we would be well over what Liz recommended yet this country is among the thinnest in the world. Overall, they do not eat as much as we do. And yes, they walk or bike to many locations. I guess I am against the extremist type thinking in any capacity. Everything in moderation still sounds good to me. But I love that you posted this and while we may not agree, I think it is thought provoking!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) September 8, 2009 at 1:38 am

Heather I commend you for writing letters and fighting a fight you believe in! Helping People Become and Stay Healthy. I, however, must be too damn tired cuz I don’t have it in me to write letters. Somehow trying to convince others or “show them the light” so to speak, seems so tiresome and I just don’t want to persuade or convince. Now, I only do what I know is right for me, my body, my family, and I blog about what we do, and if people don’t like it, or don’t agree, cest la vie. Guess that’s a long way to say that it’s awesome of you to stand up so publicly for something you are passionate about. It’s a reminder to me to not be complacent :)

jennieinwonderland September 8, 2009 at 2:55 am

I like the first one! :-)

My ‘beef’, so to speak, with her is this misguided notion that somehow we *need* a can of pop (sorry, Canadian here…) on a hot day. What about unsweetened ice tea, or a glass of cool water, or even unsweetened iced coffee?

No one NEEDS sugar, and it is distressing when someone in a position of authority makes it seem like North Americans can’t possibly limit their intake because it’s just not ‘natural’. When in fact, what’s not ‘natural’ is how much sugary crap we eat in the first place!!

Shelby September 8, 2009 at 4:22 am

Amen to that girl!

Erica September 8, 2009 at 4:27 am

;) You’re hilarious. However, did they mean ADDED sugar? If so- I’m all for it. But natural sugars is fruits AND veggies?

Carolyn September 8, 2009 at 5:03 am

Glad you’re back ;-)

Carolyn September 8, 2009 at 5:13 am

“Director of Sports nutrition at UC, Davis”… Wonder how many sports drink..nutritional bar supplement… aka high sugar… sponsors provide stuff for that school… or those schools associated with her…What would happen if she came out saying what we really know about sugar…Might not go over well..

I think sugar is mainstream America’s Crack, no way around it…It’s become accepted and expected…

…Stay your course HEABS…Which by the way IS WHO YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN…

Going in for a complete physical at 9:15am today… We’ll see if she weighs me, runs the bloodwork, takes the tests…and then sits down to tell me to eat more sugar..i’m thinking not

Ryan September 8, 2009 at 5:24 am

Yep, I saw the AHA’s journal article the day it was released and immediately dismissed it as another idealistic, “never gonna happen” recommendation. If anyone is interested, the entire 11-page article can be found at http://tinyurl.com/kt7a4d. Read it and get a laugh. ;)

greenbean September 8, 2009 at 5:36 am

I totally agree with you. I’m anti-processed crap, but I think part of the author’s POV is that not everyone will realistically go to the extreme and eat the way many of the bloggers and your readers may eat. It would be awesome if they did. Its probably even easier than they think. But its not realistic for all.

April September 8, 2009 at 6:03 am

I also like the first letter better. That is a great first step. Just quit drinking cola. How simple? I’ve done it, as have many others. Once that addiction is gone it’s amazing how you don’t really crave the sugar anymore.

Abby September 8, 2009 at 6:04 am

I agree that added sugars are completely unnecessary and for me, even natural sugars (fruits) are consumed in moderation. However, to play devil’s advocate, I think that the author was most likely suggesting that people need to be conscious of their intake, but not feel so restricted in their diets.

What I mean is, most people will never have the knowledge or the desire to eat the way most bloggers here do. They couldn’t care less about what pop does to them or what a Chia seed is. If we can make them aware and encourage a decrease in this consumption–limit it to a special treat instead of a daily habit–it’s a step in the right direction. For most people, as soon as you tell them they “can’t” have something, they rebel and want it more. Sugar is no different.

So while I am on your side of thinking, I also don’t know that moderation isn’t the key. If someone wants a piece of birthday cake, they shouldn’t feel guilty for indulging. If they make healthy choices a majority of the time–the REAL goal and solution to the problem–the occasional treat (for them, not everyone, I understand) is completely okay.

hayleycepeda September 8, 2009 at 6:21 am

This is another one of those issues where I can see both sides of the coin. I agree that the obesity epidemic here in the US is out of control and the amount of processed food we consume is ridiculous, but I can also see your commentor Meg’s perspective, too. I think for the most part it’s the poor quality and highly processed food that makes us fat. I agree that sugar plays a significant role, but I also think that if you want a piece of cake at a party or you have a couple of cocokies after dinner the world isn’t coming to an end. On the other hand, everything I’m reading lately says that sugar and carbs make us fat so what do I know? :) Then in contrast to that, Meg says that people in Japan eat lots of white rice, white bread and pasta and they’re definitely thinner there than we are here!

After all that what I really want to say is that I think you make some great points and I definitely think you should send your response in. I love the first, but I’d go with the second. :)

Lindsey512 September 8, 2009 at 6:22 am

Thanks Heather! I hadn’t seen this WSJ article.

hayleycepeda September 8, 2009 at 6:25 am

You get so many interesting comments – I forgot to click the “email follow-up”. I also meant “cookies” not “cocokies” although I kind of like that word…:)

VeggieGirl September 8, 2009 at 6:31 am

Amen, sista :-D

Sarah (from See Sarah Eat) September 8, 2009 at 6:32 am

I love it and your initial response as well ;-)

This just goes to show that you can’t always trust the experts, you have to educate yourself and make decisions based on what is best for you and your body.

I do not think those things she mentioned need to be avoided all the time but as far as everyday intake goes, none of us need that Coke, cake, etc.

Way to go Heather!

Susan September 8, 2009 at 6:59 am

I think people need to get educated about sugar! People see 20g sugar on a yogurt container and don’t think twice about it because they don’t actually know that’s an obscene amount! That’s five teaspoons. You don’t put that in your coffee, why put it in your yogurt?

Lara September 8, 2009 at 7:12 am

There has been a lot of research done on what types of messages help people make lifestyle changes. One of the main findings is that “scare tactics” or messages with more extreme instructions just simply don’t work unfortunately. So from that perspective, I see where Liz A is coming from (although I agree that soda comment is ridiculous). A typical person eating the typical SAD would see that and think that is crazy I can never do that and dismiss whereas if perhaps the message was about cutting down to more moderate levels it might be taken more seriously by more people.

MelissaNibbles September 8, 2009 at 7:26 am

Great letter. I also think it’s worth mentioning that she’s promoting over exercising in order to lose weight. This can be very dangerous and lead people down the road to eating disorders. I hope she reads your letter and takes it to heart.

caronae September 8, 2009 at 7:30 am

I agree that we don’t need pop or pretty much anything with refined sugars/HFCS, but what about fruit? I think a few servings of whole fruits a day might put us over the 100 calories…

CaSaundra September 8, 2009 at 7:46 am

The great sugar debate–will it ever be solved? Prob not, but that’s ok..I am on your side :0)

Scott in Ohio September 8, 2009 at 7:47 am

Totally understand your frustration.

How can someone of her credentials not understand that you cannot out-train a bad diet?

And saying cranberries are the same as cans of soda or pieces of cake? Really?

courtlove111 September 8, 2009 at 8:11 am

Not sure how I haven’t found your blog before, but I’m in LOVE!!! :>
Of course we need to keep giving people excuses to continue unhealthy behaviors…it is too hard to be healthy, you have to make sacrifices and maybe do things that are out of your comfort zone. That is what it sounds like to me, and it is too bad because I think we need to encourage people to take a hard look at what goes in their body and take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY (god forbid) for their health and that of their families.
Thanks for the great post, I will be following your blog daily now!

Courtney
Adventures in Tri-ing

sickofit September 8, 2009 at 8:11 am

oh my god, u are annoying with this whole no sugar no sugar thing! seriously, ur food looks like the diahrrea of the orphan kids i took care of for 6 months in nepal last summer. i know its ur blog and free speech and everything, but everytime i visit it,(and that is not alot), u have the same old sh!t again and agaiN!

so you used to be fat…get some counselling and GET OVER IT!

justrun September 8, 2009 at 8:26 am

What stumped me is why she didn’t recommend REPLACING those things? I have four friends that are nutritionists and NONE of them justifies drinking soda, no matter how hot the day.

Deb September 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

Well crafted letter Heabs- the first one – no! Kidding! The second one! :-)

Funny how I thought that the soda comment sounded ridiculous, yet the birthday cake one made sense! (I don’t want to forgo a little bit of birthday cake but I haven’t had a real soda in ??15 yrs so I could care less about that).

My question is what is the AHAs stand on ALL sugars. Face it, those lovely raisins, cranberries, any fruit, milk, even higher starch root veggies and winter squash have sugars…what to do there?

I know that you are super ultra wonderful about not having refined sugars in your life. I’m just not so great. I may have a few M&Ms or a square of chocolate (and goodness knows, a shake of rainbow sprinkles in my milk foam!) and I hope that it won’t mess up my health. I guess those are some of the risks I’m willing to take. But you have no idea how I admire what you do Heabs.
D

s September 8, 2009 at 9:42 am

“I also think it’s worth mentioning that she’s promoting over exercising in order to lose weight. This can be very dangerous and lead people down the road to eating disorders.”

LOL, and cutting out aaaaaalll sugar (or fat, or carbs, etc.) would never lead people down the road to eating disorders.

No, no one physically NEEDS a slice of birthday cake. But food serves social and spiritual purposes, not just physical.

I am a HEALTHIER person now when I savor an ice cream cone on a summer evening with my family, than when I was deep in my eating disorder and went to the ice cream parlor with them, refused to order ice cream like everyone else, opted for iced tea, asked if the iced tea was sweetened, found out that it was, and sat there with nothing while my family enjoyed their cones, feeling sad and ashamed that I couldn’t partake but also oh-so-superior for not eating SUGAR and SATURATED FAT and DAIRY.

(And I’m not some fat pre-diabetic lazy American, now, either. My weight is still very low [not that weight should matter above all else but...], and I’m extremely fit – I run and lift weights and OMG drink juice and Gatorade because I like the taste but also eat spinach and avocadoes and nuts and oats and chicken…among the many other things that make up my diet.)

I’m glad you’ve found a way of diet and living that works well for you and makes you happy, Heather. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for everyone else. Think of how much money you spend on food – not everyone can afford $12 jars of almond butter and $30 bags of chia seeds and tons of organic produce. I would argue that the sugar issue is largely a structural one, not an individual one – get the government to STOP subsidizing corn and soy, or at least subsidize fruits and veggies in addition, so that good food is equally as affordable as faux-foods made of HFCS, hydrolyzed soy protein, corn/soy oil, etc. A huge percentage of Americans are on food stamps – you think WIC covers almond butter and chia seeds? Think again. Yes, it does cover fruits and vegetables and whole grains now, which is awesome, but when you have young kids and an unstable financial situation, you’re gonna opt for whatever gives you the most calories for your buck. If that means buying $3-worth of mac’n'cheese instead of $3-worth of lettuce and cucumbers…well, $3 of mac’n'cheese = a couple of meals. Not everyone has a job like massage therapist and two household incomes that allows them a lot of leisure time and disposable income.

Extremist messages DO NOT WORK in crafting public policy. Just because something works for you does not make it The One Way. (Why I have tons of respect for VeggieGirl’s blog.)

joelygolightly September 8, 2009 at 9:57 am

Good for you for speaking your mind… did she respond to you?

Ozlen September 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

Hey Heather,

I bought and tried the truvia. I added that in my tea — I did not like it at all. Maybe it is because I am used to drinking my tea black. I just thought I would share the information with you.

Sugar – I must break the habit!!

Sally September 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

I respect your opinion. However I think it is important to note that Americans, when going crazy taking the fat out of everything, only replaced that ft with artifically hydrodgenated fats that are even more detrimental to our public health. I don’t think you or I would be suprised should the same thing happen with artificial sweetners in place of sugar. I believe the point that Liz was making was moderate sugar intake is not THAT detrimental in the long term. Not all Americans devote as much fanaticism or time to food as the blog community does (I am surely guilty of this). We can all say what we would do if we ran the AHA, but only the AHA is in charge of makin sound public
policy that will be practical on a large scale. Thanks for stirring things up in a respectful way. Have a good one!

Sally September 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

Please excuse typos. Typing on an iPhone is a skill I have not yet perfected.

s September 8, 2009 at 10:19 am

(I wrote a paper on the US “obesity crisis” last semester; here are some studies I cited that you might find enlightening/interesting.)

“The Availability and Cost of Healthier Food Alternatives”
http://tinyurl.com/mrfluk

(“Many people, especially low-income consumers, do not successfully follow dietary recommendations to eat more whole grains and less fat and added sugar. The food environment may have a significant impact on the choice by low-income consumers to eat healthier foods, as both the availability and price of healthier food items may limit their ability to eat a healthier diet. We investigated the cost and availability of a standard market basket of foods, and a healthier basket that included low-fat meat and dairy and whole grain products.

Results: In neighborhoods served by smaller grocery stores, access to whole-grain products, low-fat cheeses, and ground meat with <10% fat is limited. Among all items that were unavailable, 64% were in small grocery stores. For the 2-week shopping list, the average TFP market-basket cost was $194, and the healthier market-basket cost was $230. The average cost of the healthier market basket was more expensive by $36 due to higher costs of whole grains, lean ground beef, and skinless poultry. The higher cost of the healthier basket is equal to about 35% to 40% of low-income consumers’ food budgets of $2410 a year.

Conclusions: The lack of availability in small grocery stores located in low-income neighborhoods, and the higher cost of the healthier market basket may be a deterrent to eating healthier among very low-income consumers. Public policies should take the food environment into account in order to develop successful strategies to encourage the consumption of healthier foods.")

"Food Prices"
http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/what_we_do.aspx?id=85

("During the same two decades when food prices dropped in comparison to other purchases, prices for fruits and vegetables increased nearly six times more than the price of soft drinks. Your dinner is cheaper today than it was in 1980 only if you avoid eating your greens.

Researchers from the University of Washington have shown that calories from vegetables like zucchini and lettuce are 100 times more expensive than calories from oil, butter and sugar. People who rely on food & nutrition assistance programs to feed their families, or whose budgets for food are tight, are likely to purchase inexpensive foods. These are generally calorie-dense and nutrient-poor compared to healthier but more expensive fare like fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish. Continually choosing foods loaded with sugar and fat leads to higher rates of obesity and obesity-associated chronic disease.

When issues of food security and food access combine with higher relative prices of healthy foods, it is not surprising that obesity, diabetes, and weight-related illness are more prevalent in poor communities.")

fruitsveggieslife September 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

First of all, both letters were poignant, and brings everything back to the issue of moderation! I never got to comment on the Moderation Post, because of time issues, but I just went back and read it – wow! I have similar-ish story, and I never want to hear how nice my face is, or that my eyes are nice. Moderation is truly the key… but with certain things (sweets) I don’t seem to be capable of limiting myself! I, like you, just try to avoid them. I’d rather have a nice bowl of oats anyway. :)

Marissa September 8, 2009 at 11:14 am

When people say “a calorie is a calorie” I want to slap them. A calorie from sugar is much different than a calorie from broccoli.

Her response to the AHA sounds like the response of an enabler. Let’s just substitute some key words here…

**The American Heart Association’s strict limit on heroin as a means to better health may sound straightforward to some, but to those of us who have been working with drug addicts on the front lines for decades, it is unrealistic…

“Just say no” won’t get us a healthier America. Instead, I suggest the AHA put its muscle behind promoting moderation.

**edited for my purposes ;-)

charlotte September 8, 2009 at 11:50 am

My first thought upon reading this was to wonder if the AHA limits the source of the sugar? You’d be over their limit with one serving of plain (not even sweetened!) non-fat yogurt with a cup of berries – both foods that are recommended by the AHA as a “healthy” snack. However, if the AHA is asking American’s to limit ADDED sugars then heck yes, I’m with you! And the first letter is def. the way to go. I love properly utilized sarcasm:)

livingfreeforever September 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm

You go girl!:) I think it’s awesome that you were bold enough to send a letter like that. One of the problems I have seen in the low-fat movement is the fact that fat-free usually means LOADED with sugar to make it taste decent. I used to be all into the low-fat movement and I’m tellin’ ya, it did NOT help my sweet tooth one bit! I am in the middle of doing LOTS of veggie juices to try and break that sweet tooth. I don’t typically eat refined sugar etc. but find that like you-I always want ‘something’ sweet. And, if I have ANY refined sugar, it is all downhill from there. I did terrible this past weekend because I was out of town and with people who eat anything they want. I don’t cave like that very often, but I have to STOP making excuses because it made me very sick! I have an article that I got from my ND about sugar that made me think of you. I’ll get it to you:)

Pam September 8, 2009 at 1:11 pm

What a great letter! It is well said and makes a great point. I can’t wait to hear the response!

Elina September 8, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I think Americans have tried to cut back on their sugar, the problem is that it resulted in “sugar-free” everything which was filled with artificial sweeteners. I think giving up soda is a great idea but personally for me I know that limiting my sugar to super low levels will just make for a cranky Elina. This is where exercise and other healthy foods help with balance of it all. I still can’t believe that a can of soda was used as an example in Sports Nutrition!!

lynn September 8, 2009 at 2:38 pm

hi heather~

I have been reading your blog this summer and i love your perspective! i must admit that i read it the first time because the name cracked me up…my husband and kids joke that i would bathe in almond butter if i could get enough:)”mama…are you putting almond butter on that too? this is the first time i have commented on anyone’s blog…just wanted to compliment you on speaking your mind in a very healthy and “common sensical..?..” way.
Keep it up and enjoy your days:)

Jordan September 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Just to play devil’s advocate, I wonder if LA’s only trying to appeal to the extreme end, those that lead sedentary lifestyles, with her letter to the editor. If someone who was obese and looking to lose weight -starting from scratch- turned to the AHA and other organizations for guidance, they may be discouraged at how drastic their lifestyle would have to change. Seeing that a hypothetical 4 sodas a day habit must change to <1 might deter someone before they even get started.

A walk around the block is the smarter choice than the soda, and once the cycle is broken it's hard to believe there was ever a choice to begin with. But starting off, you don't want to hear that all of your choices have been wrong and must all be modified at once. A gradual reduction can also encourage healthy habits, but everyone's different. I wish I had taken the walk around the block instead much earlier in my life, believe me.

Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree with you as far as her letter reading as a promotion of physical activity to cancel out intake of harmful chemicals and poor food choices. I think she could have worded it more responsibly and provided positive suggestions on the rewording of the sugar intake guidelines, rather than just throwing exercise out there. That's where she goofed. Your letter is very thoughtful and passionate and I hope you don't hold back your opinions bc they might not sit well with some. It is YOUR blog after all ;) and I appreciate your passion and all you share with your readers!

PS- LOVE the coconut butter + almond butter oat bran combo!

psychoj1 September 8, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Love your second (and first :D ) letter! So true, thank you for this!
<3 jess

Rachel September 8, 2009 at 3:25 pm

100% agreement with your letter. Where did this sense of “need” for sugar come from? Perhaps from Big Agra, who, after performing tons of research, created cheap products pushed by highly effective marketing? How is it that we are “denied” when it’s recommended that we not put nutritionally devoid crap in our bodies? The American palate has been assaulted for so long by these overly sweetened products, coupled with their messages of necessity (cakes at parties, soda on a hot day, sugared fruit(!) like Craisins as a snack) that we’re addicted. But thinking we need something, and actually needing it, are very different things. Maybe if people stepped away from the sugar, they would discover that difference.

kalhendr September 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I understand your point. (Yes, I am still reading haha.) But I know I could never eat like you…for instance, I am moving to Spain to work with missions organization, and my options will be way limited!! I will not be able to find things like: stevia, chia seeds, almond butter :( , etc. My life would be severely limited if I tried to just be perfect in my diet.

But I guess I am somewhat different from you in that I am good at saying no, and I can eat one bite. It’s not EASY, but it’s not terribly difficult either.

ProteinGirl September 8, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Way to go Heather!!!!

Tiffany S. September 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Here’s hugs for HEABs who’s getting beaten up on today.

{{{{{{{{{{{{HEABS}}}}}}}}}}}}

You go girl!

M September 8, 2009 at 5:54 pm

You can disagree with Heather without being nasty — just look at her (second!) letter as evidence you can get your point across without being rude. That said, I do agree with the dissenters that drastic restriction, even of “poisons” can be a recipe for disorder. Reducing your sugar intake by 70% can certainly lead to binge eating.

I think Elina makes a great point regarding artificial sweeteners. When Americans reduce their sugar intake, they will surely replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. (And that’s no better.)

Rosey Rebecca September 8, 2009 at 7:09 pm

You’re amazing. Enough Said.

mandyrd September 8, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I agree with your letter, but keep in mind the population in general. I’ve done a lot of nutrition counseling, and you’d be surprised by the percentage of people who are NOT INTERESTED in making changes. Those recommendations would be too extreme for most people, especially those used to a high-sugar lifestyle. I know that some people have any eye-opener when they develop a disease like diabetes, but not most. Not many patients, though. Their medications treat the blood sugar anyway.
As a sidenote, I think she promotes Sports Beans, those high sugar jelly beans marketed for exercise. So, I’m not surprised by her letter.

Alix September 8, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Wow, fascinating what a hot button this is, and how quickly people assume that value judgments are being made about them. It is totally possible to formulate dissenting opinions in a respectful way, people. Just FYI.

Sugary food, more than any other type of food, seems to have such deep-seated emotions associated with it. Why do people feel such a deep sense of loss when told that a healthy sugar intake is such a small amount? It seems like we all dispensed with trans fats, white flour, even meat so easily but we just can’t quit sugar…or if we can, we have to build up our position by vilifying it. I don’t really think that sugar is “poison”-I don’t think demonizing food leads anywhere remotely positive. AFAIK, there’s not a whole lot of difference between fructose from an apple and white table sugar on a molecular level or in terms of what it does to our blood sugar. So why do we all sound like a bunch of addicts defending our drug of choice? “Well, it’s only a couple of times a week/a little something after dinner/on weekends/at parties. It’s no big deal, I can quit any time I want.” I’m not sitting here obsessing over the apple in my fridge, but the half-gallon of the husbeast’s Haagen-Dazs in the freezer? Hell yeah.

That’s what freaks me out about sugar. Maybe some people don’t get the crazy drug feeling, but I totally do, and it creeps me the hell out that something that makes me feel like that is getting mainlined to such an extent that it would take a 70% reduction in intake to get most people to a healthy level. Holy yikes!

Meredith September 8, 2009 at 8:42 pm

I agree with you! It’s important that we know the number we should strive for. Of course that doesn’t mean we can’t have a slice of cake on our birthdays and perhaps go over . . . but for the majority of days, we know where we should aim!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) September 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Every time I see these nonsense recommendations and declarations from government organizations about what we should or can eat, all I can think is that I will never in my lifetime be able to retire as, sadly, I will never be out of work.

Jules September 8, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Really good response! We really don’t need sugar at all, and I’m glad that you replied to Liz in such an honest and informative way. Every time I read your blog you inspire me to do healthier things :)

Emily September 8, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Oh, Heather…if only more people had the motivation you do! Having worked with a number of people who don’t even understand or care what a carb is (even if they have diabetes or some other related chronic condition), I understand what Ms. Applegate is saying. I wish America were disciplined enough to make the restrictions necessary, but I just can’t see that happening. It’s a struggle just to get people to do simple things like eat vegetables.

I don’t think Ms. Applegate is suggesting that we completely give up on telling people to reduce their sugar intake, but maybe that the AHA’s efforts are better spent on teaching people to exercise rather than placing a moratorium on sugar consumption.

Just another perspective. :-) Thanks for also sharing yours!

Gaby September 8, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Awesome! You should definitely send it. I never hesitate to send those kinds of emails, they are very much needed and I can promise you she’ll appreciate any feedback, even if it’s negative. Americans need a HUGE overhaul of their diet. I find nutrition interesting and am always learning, so I guess I take for granted how easily it all comes to me. I’m always shocked at how little the average person knows about what they’re eating. Even seemingly healthy people are simply clueless. And I go crazy watching some people I know do this whole see-saw thing of going out drinking all weekend and then “sweating it out” on the treadmill monday morning. Sure the run is healthy for you and you should do that anyways, but not as a way to make up for all your unhealthy habits. It’s all about simple foods and life balance!

Alapai September 9, 2009 at 5:23 am

I agree with you! It's important that we know the number we should strive for. Of course that doesn't mean we can't have a slice of cake on our birthdays and perhaps go over . . . but for the majority of days, we know where we should aim!…

Erika September 9, 2009 at 7:47 am

I guess I am on the fence with this one. I agree that people need to take a good hard look at what they are consuming and empty calories in a can of soda is just not necessary. However, restricting myself to no refined sugar ever is just not realistic for me and I do not want to have any regrets. I do not want to regret eating carelessly and ending up with diabetes nor do I want to regret not enjoying a birthday party complete with a small piece of cake. I think our culture needs to realize that no one needs soda or birthday cake daily and if they eat right most of the time in addition to being active, the occasional treat will be that much more appreciated and certainly less harmful to our health.

Marissa September 9, 2009 at 9:29 am

Just a little addition….I lost 30 lbs in 3 months by changing my diet, I didn’t really exercise much at all during that time. Exercise isn’t the key. It helps, and is definitely good for you…but losing the soda is MUCH better for your overall health than keeping it and getting more exercise.

Trilby Drew September 9, 2009 at 10:43 am

My response to that woman’s statement followed by your first sarcastic letter is as follows: ahem… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!!

Nellie September 9, 2009 at 7:38 pm

wahh i wish i got to read the first letter!!! although i must say i agree with everything you wrote in the second!

while i understand where some of the (unnecessarily rude) anonymous commenters are coming from in their view that natural, whole foods low in sugar can be rather expensive, it’s not an excuse. there is no reason for major companies to be mass producing “food” full of sugar, chemicals and other additives just because they can do so cheaply. if americans stopped demanding such highly processed foods, these companies would have no choice but to cease production on them.

you go, heather!

Annie September 9, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Interesting, interesting, interesting… love your letter (didn’t see two letters one sarcastic, one not)… I think you’re dead on… I’m reading a couple of books right now one of them is “The End of Overeating: Taking control of the insatiable american appetite”.. by David Kessler (Doctor and former FDA Commissioner best known for his work in getting more defined, accurate food labels and tobacco regulation)… very very very interesting book.. there is a host of science supporting the limiting or elimination of processed sugars..

I do not think people are even aware how much HFCS they (we) eat… and how much we feed our kids.. being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean buying chia seeds or organic everything for heaven sakes…and you never present it that way… geez.. as I’ve said before one of the reasons I enjoy your blog is that you say what works for you… your passionate about a few, “sacred” things – sugar being a big one. Fortunately, science is behind you.

I don’t have any studies but I do have personal experience. I recently started eating whole foods… eliminated fast foods and only eat out once every couple of weeks.. my food bill went waaaaayyyyy down.. not up.

Lastly, you can never (and I do mean never) out exercise a bad diet… it’s sort of a tongue in cheek video but it makes it’s point http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQbuzsY_34Q

Blog On Heather!

Courtney September 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

I think that telling people “you can’t ever have that piece of cake” is going to never, ever work. If you take something away that people like, they’re never going to stop thinking about it. The second I hear that sentence, suddenly my entire day becomes “cake cake cake cake” on eternal loop.

Moderation. Go a couple weeks/whatever without much sugar, then when your friend has her party, eat your piece of cake. Don’t freak out. Eat the serving of pineapple. Fruit is good for you. Things like that. You won’t die, or become diabetic, from going out to eat once in a while, or having that piece of fried chicken, or whatever. Humans have been eating sweet treats for ages upon ages. It’s not like this is new.

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