Today marks the debut of a new feature, which I’m dubbing, "Kick-Sugar Success Story." The idea of this Q & A is to offer you some inspiring, motivating, possibly mind-boggling, real-life tales of people, who have achieved remarkable transformations in their lives just by kicking their habit.
To be interviewed for a Kick-Sugar Success Story, you need to have either completely cut out or heavily curtailed your sugar consumption and achieved wonderful results. Now, bear in mind that your transformation from stopping sugar could involve many different components. It might be the obvious, which is that you’ve lost weight. But I’m also particularly interested in telling your tale if you’ve found that properly maintaining your blood sugar and eliminating or reducing sugar gave you better moods, improved your concentration, or almost did away with your insulin resistance. Or perhaps confronting your quickie-carb consumption sent your severe PMS packing. Or maybe taking control of your sugar habit increased your sagging libido.
Now, I invite you to read this fascinating Q & A with the articulate, dynamic, personable, now-healthy, glowing Jaime Jackson, who I had the pleasure of meeting while we both attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Kick-Sugar Success Story: Jaime Jackson, New York, New York
Occupation: Attorney and Holistic Health Counselor, Website: www.TheNourishingBalance.com
Hobbies: Reading, playing with my dogs, outdoor activities
Age: 33; Weight Now: 124
Benefits From Kicking Sweets & Refined Carbs: Energy and overall wellness
Jaime: When I had arthritis that no one could successfully diagnose and I became tired of taking drugs for an unexplained ailment. After doing my own research, I found a disorder called bacterial dysbiosis, which is a gastrointestinal disorder often caused by too much sugar in the diet. The sugar provides the perfect environment for the growth of bad bacteria in the intestines, which crowd out the good bacteria. The result is a gastrointestinal system that no longer functions properly: it doesn’t properly remove toxins, it doesn’t properly digest food, and it doesn’t properly utilize nutrients in the food one eats.
Connie: Just how bad were you feeling? What ailments did you have? Please be specific.
Jaime: I could never get enough sleep. I would get 12 hours of sleep and still be exhausted. My body just ached liked I’d been working out hard for days on end. I felt nauseated almost all the time and had serious acid reflux. And I developed arthritis, starting first in my pinky finger on my left hand. Within a month, I found it difficult to write and to walk, with arthritis affecting my hands, feet, hips, shoulders, and back.
Connie: Describe any pivotal moments in a doctor’s office, an embarrassing event that made you decide to tackle your sugar habit, etc.
Jaime: My internist told me to cut out all foods that were "hard to digest." She suggested that I NOT eat whole grains or leafy green vegetables! I practically ran out of her office, and I’ve never been back. That was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard, even though I didn’t really know why it was ridiculous at the time.
Unlike my internist, my first rheumatologist did not see a connection between any of my symptoms and my diet. When I suggested that perhaps my arthritis was connected to my sugar consumption (which was a connection I was beginning to make), he merely rolled his eyes and told me the two "were not related." His solution: "Take this Vioxx twice a day."
My second rheumatologist was not much better. She did make a concerted effort to try to diagnose my arthritis, but when she could find no diagnosis other than "unspecified arthritis." She prescribed an even more serious arthritis drug: Enbrel, a drug that is given by injection. Enbrel is what my mother takes — she has had crippling rheumatoid arthritis for the past 45 years.
I knew that I did not need the same drug that my mother takes. When I suggested this to my rheumatologist, she patted me on the shoulder and said something like, "You’re going to have to come to reality sooner or later. You need medication to help you." I took the prescription from her, but I never filled it. Finally, I did my own research. That’s how I came to the diagnosis of bacterial dysbiosis.
Connie: Did you find a doctor or other health professional (acupuncturist, nutritionist, etc.) who understood all about how eating sugar triggers drastic blood sugar swings, etc. Tell us about him or her.
Jaime: When I was researching my symptoms and found bacterial dysbiosis, I Googled the term and, to my surprise, up popped my acupuncturist, Dr. Frank Lipman. I learned that he’s a New York-based internal and integrative medicine specialist, who has been treating the disorder through diet and acupuncture for years! I immediately went to see him and got on the no-sugar, no- caffeine, no-dairy, no-wheat/gluten diet.
Dr. Lipman’s theory, in my own words and in a nutshell, is that chronic fatigue is caused by bacterial dysbiosis, caused from too much sugar, and/or food allergies, most often caused by dairy or wheat gluten. So, I cut out all four categories — yes, there are still things you can eat! — for four weeks. Then, I started working them back in, one at a time, to see which one was causing the problem. It was sugar.
Connie: What made you finally decide to eliminate sugar and refined carbs to help with your health issues?
Jaime: Once I started working sugar back into my diet, and in particular, alcohol, I immediately started feeling sick again. It was an easy decision to make once I realized how bad the sugar was making me feel.
Connie: How did you first learn about the dangers of sugars and refined carbs?
Jaime: Just through my own personal experience of eating or drinking a certain sugar item and seeing how I felt later that day or the next morning. Not until I started school to become a Holistic Health Counselor did I begin to learn the science of why it makes me feel so badly.
Connie: What did you used to eat before you began curtailing the culprit carbs?
Jaime: Bagels, pretzels, pizza, beer, wine, and alcohol were staple items in my diet. And, of course, so many items from whole wheat bread to salad dressing to fruit juice have sugar added to them.</p>
Connie: What do you think most people don’t know about processed carbs that they need to know?
Jaime: That they have almost no nutritional value so they don’t nourish your body when you eat them. In fact, your body must draw upon its own nutritional reserves to process the food. In essence, you are not only NOT giving yourself nourishment when you eat sugar and processed carbs, but you are leaching out the nutrients from the other good foods that you eat.
Connie: What have been your biggest challenges to kick sugar and refined carbs? Can you help prepare others for any potential pitfalls ahead?
Jaime: Not drinking socially and not having dessert when we go to a nice restaurant. As far as drinking goes, I know which alcohols "do me in" and which are not so bad. For example, I can’t drink more than one glass of wine without getting sick — literally. But I can have a few cranberry and vodkas and still be okay. Most times, I just get a cranberry and vodka for my first drink and then get cranberry and seltzer for the rest of the evening. I feel better but still feel like part of the party.
And if I know that I want dessert after dinner, then I don’t get an alcoholic beverage and/or don’t eat the bread that always comes when you first sit down at the table. It’s all about your own personal balance. You have to experiment and see what your body can handle. If you listen, it will tell you.
Connie: Do you have any favorite websites, blogs, books, organizations or support groups that have helped you to lick your habit?
Jaime: Dr. Frank Lipman’s book Total Renewal.
Connie: What are your best 3 tips and tactics to help other people kick sweets and quickie carbs?
Jaime: (1) Don’t use sugar to "treat" yourself when you’ve done something good. (2) Be creative in your alternative food choices. (3) Lighten up and focus on feeling well or losing weight or whatever your goal is rather than focusing on all the things you think you can no longer enjoy. We have so many food choices in this country: you’ll find something else that you like just as much.
Connie: What are the biggest benefits you’ve gained from taking control of your habit of eating sugar and processed carbohydrates? In other words, please tell readers, "What’s in it for me?!"
Jaime: I don’t have mood swings. I am MUCH calmer and handle stressful situations much more easily. And I don’t fall asleep at my desk, because I’m exhausted. What’s more, I have enough energy to go to the gym and enjoy my life! It’s a whole different life — so much sweeter — without all the sugar!
Connie: Please share some final words of wisdom, inspiration or motivation to others who are thinking of cutting out sugar and simple carbs.
Jaime: Be good to yourself.
Note from Connie: Wasn’t that an exciting, fascinating, motivational, kick-sugar tale? Jaime serves as a wonderful inspiration to all of us, doesn’t she? To be considered for inclusion in this feature — which will run periodically — e-mail me please and tell me why you think you’d make a good fit for a future Kick-Sugar Success Story. If you desire, you could answer the same questions I asked Jaime and send those to me, too.