January 7, 2014

Misty Watson: A new year, a new diet

Misty Watson

— I guess the beginning of a new year is just as good a time as any to revolutionize your diet, habits or whatever area of your life you feel needs a change.

I like to change, or at least challenge, my dietary habits in January because I feel like I’m undoing all the bad I did during the holiday season. A cleanse is in order!

Last January I went strict vegan. I learned a lot about veganism and discovered it was not only very doable, but also affordable to have vegan foods at home and at local restaurants.

After the month was up I decided to basically be dairy-free (with the exception of a rare treat; in other words, pizza) and only eat fresh eggs from local chickens and fresh honey from local bees.

This January, in addition to being strict vegan for my annual cleanse, I’ve also added being completely sugar free. No, I’m not talking about natural sugars found in things like fruit. I’m talking the rot-your-teeth sugars.

That means what you think it does. NO CHOCOLATE! Eek. Thirty-one days without chocolate, even dark vegan chocolate. (White sugar is not vegan as it is processed with bone char, but brown sugar and raw sugar are vegan.)

Again, I question my reasonings for seemingly wanting to torture myself, albeit temporarily.

I’m only a week into this challenge, but I already feel like I’ve discovered a major secret: I know why Americans struggle with weight! Sugar is in everything we eat.

Let me tell you, it is harder to go sugar-free than dairy-free, and not just because the temptation to eat sugar is stronger than my temptation to ingest dairy. It’s also because sugar seems to be in more food than dairy.

I was shocked when I picked up a loaf of seemingly harmless bread, which has a list of ingredients I can actually pronounce, only to find sugar was one of the top ingredients. It’s hard to find a peanut butter without sugar added.

I’m not sure why tortillas need sugar. I know it’s best to make everything at home, but when you have a toddler and work full-time, sometimes you need a little help getting your veggie burritos on the table faster.

Seasoning salts have sugar. Some pastas have sugar added. Most breads have sugar added. Of course things like marinara have sugar added. I make pasta sauce at home because it’s so quick and easy, and guess what? I don’t add sugar. It tastes delicious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of Americans are obese. I teeter on that line myself, though I’m quite healthy otherwise (sugar levels are good, blood pressure is perfect, cholesterol is great, etc.)

I’ve always wondered why — why I follow a healthy diet and continue to struggle with weight. Now I know. Lesson learned.

Why do we keep allowing companies to feed us junk? Why isn’t someone holding these people more accountable for what goes in foods? And this is just sugars I’m talking about, not some of the other questionable ingredients that are used, like L-cysteine, which is at times made from human hair.

The more I research what goes in food, the more afraid I am to take of bite of something.

But for now, anyone know where I can get some vegan, sugar-free bread without having to attempt baking some myself?

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can reach her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com; facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN and on Twitter, @mistydwatson. She says thank you for all the positive feedback about last week’s column on loving others.