diets · fitness

Six reasons this feminist isn’t giving up sugar


Tracy and Anita are giving up sugar. You can read all about it here.  I like a good challenge too but I won’t be joining them and here’s why.

First, they didn’t ask me! To be truthful, they knew I’d decline. And that’s okay. We don’t all have to agree. I’m offering up my reasons not to quit sugar to explain how I think about it. But I don’t mean to say that those who decide otherwise are wrong. YMMV.

To quote another popular saying, You do you!

We enjoy exploring areas of disagreement around here whether it’s biking (I’m keen, Tracy’s not), nutritional tracking (again, I’m keen and Tracy’s not) or now taking a break from sugar (Tracy’s keen and I’m passing.)

Second, I am usually not a moderate person but I aspire to be a moderate when it comes to food. Generally though if I like something, I like it a lot.  COFFEE!! Also chocolate, raspberries, bagels and croissants. Bike riding, dancing, Aikido, and boxing. And if I don’t like it, I want none of it at all. I don’t drink. I don’t watch network TV, hate shopping malls etc etc.

That said, I’ve been been aiming for more moderation in my life when it comes to my food choices. I eat dessert, but not with every meal, and not even every day. I eat vegan meals about half the time.

Third, I like my carbs fast and simple when I’m running or riding. That means sugar. Yes, of course you can eat dried fruit but gels and shot blocks and sports drinks are easy and efficient. My favourite are the maple syrup shots designed for sports. Other stuff takes time to digest and I like fast acting carbs when I want to go fast.

Fourth, it’s also beach body season! This whole thing smacks of the ritual spring diet to me. I strongly associate the “it’s spring, let’s give up sugar for our health for 30 days” with the quest for the better beach body. It’s a ritual in which I choose not to participate. I gave that up a long time ago. Like people who give up carbs for “health reasons” (what health reasons exactly?) this whole thing sounds like seriously restrictive eating to me. No thanks. Repeat after me: A beach body just is the body you take to the beach.

Fifth, I’ve read a bunch of stuff about sugar and I am very skeptical it’s the demon it’s made out to be. We as a society eat far too much of it. Yes, yes, yes. But I don’t see a need to give it up entirely. That’s the kind of all or nothing thinking about food that I try to avoid. I’ve got a partner with diabetes and so I’ve read lots about carbs, sugar, and insulin. Unless you’re going to give up fruit and other carbs, I don’t quite get the point. Jam sweetened with concentrated fruit juice isn’t that different from jam sweetened with sugar. See In Defense of the Sweet Stuff. Also in my own case I’ve had enough people look at my blood sugar levels to know that I’m at no risk for type two diabetes. Why fix what isn’t broken?

Sixth, and finally, joy and cupcakes! Human celebrations that involve delicious food aren’t trivial things. They’re deep and meaningful. And they bring joy to our lives. I already miss out on social times that involve alcohol and meat. I’m not about to miss out on birthday cake and pie for Pi Day. Come join me for a cupcake!

Additional Reading:

Sugar is not evil and you don’t need to avoid it entirely (unless told otherwise by your physician) nor should you eat it in copious amounts throwing caution to the wind. As in many cases, moderation is the key.

You don’t have to quit something altogether to improve your health. Are you going to be that much healthier if you never eat sugar versus if you cut your sugar intake way down but still can enjoy sweets sometimes? I think you know the answer to this question. Not depriving yourself altogether of a single nutrient can help your diet be more balanced and enjoyable. You won’t have to feel a sense of dread anytime you want an ice cream cone or when you’re out with friends; you can eat like a normal person and not try to find the lowest-sugar item on the menu which you probably don’t feel like eating anyways. Trying to avoid sugar in all situations can be more stressful than you imagine. Not worth it.

Sugar is one of our main sources of energy when broken down in to glycogen. We hold about 350g of muscle glycogen, 90g in the liver and about 5g circulating in our blood. We replenish it when we eat. Predominantly we break sugar down from carbohydrates (not just sugars) so grains, potatoes, vegetables, pasta and rice among other sources provide our dietary intake to keep us well stocked up on energy. Sugar is just classified as a carbohydrate- we were made to use sugars as an energy source, completely ignoring it as a way of producing energy you could argue is like driving a car with three wheels- it’s possible but it’s not exactly going to be a comfy ride and is going to cause some major damage to the road as well. – See more at:

Vegan Cupcakes,
Vegan Cupcakes,


14 thoughts on “Six reasons this feminist isn’t giving up sugar

  1. Loved this. I like a good cupcake and gel shot and my cat and I have a whole jellybean thing (I eat them then throw them around for her; she stickhandles them around the hallway in the middle of the night). I like the message of making the choices that work for you. That said, I really appreciated Tracy’s post and admire the transparency that she has with her choice-making. You do you indeed.

  2. It’s really great that, on this blog, we can explore areas of disagreement or (in this case) differing approaches to selecting practices that feel healthy and fulfilling to us. Your two posts have really got me thinking about attitudes toward restriction and structure (two different things). I admire Tracy’s practice of sticking to healthy-to-her eating approaches (e.g. veganism), and I admire your practice of maintaining active exercise and healthy-to-you eating with built-in flexibility. Both of these require some work and commitment, support and (maybe) particular temperaments. For my part, I admit to feeling quite stuck between the two approaches– I wish I could just adopt one or the other, but am flailing about right now. These posts are giving me something to think about, so thanks to both of you.

    1. “I wish I could just adopt one or the other, but am flailing about right now.”

      The good news is that not everything we do has to operate with the same rules. Temperament is part of it, but we don’t have exactly the same “temperament” for every domain. For example, I’m a serious optimizer, but I’ve had pretty good success accepting the value of just satisficing for stuff I am not that invested in. And I’ve also made progress learning to identify stuff I can safely shake off heavy investment in (<– best ROI!)

      In business, there is a concept called "pain points." It's a way to organize how your focus your business or market a product – you discover and really learn the customer's "pain point," and you relieve it. That can be a good way to decide where to focus our efforts – as long as we make sure we don't just trade one pain for another. A classic problem in this area is "this restrictive diet gives me desired weight loss, but it makes me hate my life and myself," but it can happen in other areas, too, like, "this personal chef controls my nutrition and intake in the most delicious way, and I love the result, but I am totally going into debt" or even just "I have a perfect method for fitting everything in, but now I feel vaguely uneasy when I do something spontaneous."

      The transtheoretical model talks about "decisional balance." For a given approach or change, you make a list of pros and cons. The longer list has the "heavier weight," and can help you decide whether you're ready to make the change or need more information or preparation. (My mom has a colleague that says, of people who make 3 or 4 – or more – attempts to quit cigarettes or alcohol, "Sometimes we have to flirt with a change before we can make a commitment.")

      Maybe there's some stuff in there that can help ease the flailing 🙂

  3. I too am on the “yes to sugar” team. Elimination rules are extremely brittle, and while they might be a helpful intermediate step while you ingrain other behaviors, you’ll almost always get more bang for your buck in the end by going back to those “can’t control it” factors and working through them to find a method for managing them.

  4. I can’t imagine managing without sugar, and it’s not because I especially have a sweet tooth. When I need a burst of energy or when my day is flagging, it’s sugar or total burn-out for me. I am quite sure I eat substantially less sugar than the average north american, but I experience it as necessary medicine not infrequently – kind of the opposite of Tracy I guess. I also really agree with you that it seems strange to give up cane sugar rather than fruit juice and so forth if you’re claiming it’s a feel-good thing rather than a weight loss thing, since the effect on the body is the same.

  5. You know, usually when I see a post I disagree with I just keep it moving, but I was surprised to see so much active disagreement on Tracy’s blog! It reminds me how different this space is from a lot of places, where no one would bat an eye at someone adopting some unnecessarily restrictive food rules. It’s neat that we can challenge each other a little bit.

  6. I welcome your voice of moderation and the “You be You” mantra. It’s a first world problem, and a bit self-indulgent, to endlessly think and talk about food choices and ability or inability to manage nutritional needs. Of course I’m not trying to be shaming to those who are dealing with significant health issues. It’s the garden variety, stealth competition of keeping-up-with-what-the-Jones’-eat, that saddens me. Sometimes I wonder if the self focus is a result of our social isolation. I have attended too many gathering where the entire conversation over dinner is about restrictive eating and special diets. What happened to the notion of good food bringing people together to have interesting, stimulating discussions that nourish our hearts and heads, as well as our bodies.

  7. I like your view. I honestly wish there had been more “you be you” response to Tracy’s blog. I felt some of the comments were personal attacks. Which seems pretty unacceptable for a blog about food.

  8. I have enjoyed reading both sides of this and the follow up to boot. I too would not give up sugar for some of the same reasons you have given. I’m also a supporter of everyone’s right to choose the eating plan that best nourishes their mind, body, and soul. And…..I can’t stop thinking about those cupcakes!

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