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Thom Barker: Coming to terms with the insidious presence of glucides

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Submitted

Sugar-free gum has calories.
Who knew?
Recently, I had to cry uncle and admit I am no longer 35 years old, or even 45 for that matter. Back in the day, if I gained 30 pounds over the course of a couple of years, I could easily drop them in a couple of months.
No more.
Roughly 30 pounds was sort of a de facto limit for me, but over the past several years, 30 became 40 became 50 became 60. 
During the past few weeks, I finally reached a new de facto limit, but not before my weight became a pretty serious Catch-22 situation. Carrying around all those extra pounds (around 70, in fact) creates aches and pains, particularly in joints, as well as coronary and respiratory challenges, which, in turn, makes it difficult to do the things I would traditionally do to quickly turn things around.
One of those things was not reducing carbs.
I have on many occasions been on the receiving end of well-meaning advice along the lines of, ‘if you wanna lose weight, what you gotta to do is cut out the carbs.’
I have on many occasions responded to that advice with something along the lines of, ‘I’d rather put a bullet in my brain.’
In fact, I am so averse to cutting carbs that, despite also being seriously averse to pharmaceutical solutions, I actually went to my doctor and asked at one point the risks and potential side effects of obesity outweigh the risks and potential side effects of drugs?
Fortunately, my doctor is a reluctant prescriber. He briefly outlined my options, but it was clear his preference was that I attempt a low-carb diet.
I did some research and, yada yada, suffice it to say, I came to the same, if reluctant conclusion.
On April 8, I started counting calories, carbs and fat.
It is absolutely shocking how fast they add up. 
I drink coffee in the morning with Coffeemate (don’t judge me, I live on the north coast of Labrador) and, formerly, sugar, now artificial sweetener.
There are 15 calories and two grams of glucides (carbs) and one gram of fat in every teaspoon of Coffeemate. That means, even after I cut out the sugar, if I have three cups of coffee, I’ve already had 90 calories, 12g of carbs and 6g of fat—respectively five, 10 and eight per cent of my daily allotment—before I’ve even eaten anything.
For the first few days, I felt like I was starving to death. As someone who has quit smoking (more than once unfortunately), I can tell you, cutting carbs is every bit as difficult giving up nicotine, at least for me.
Hence, I thought, gum. Surely sugar-free gum would help by satisfying the psychological desire for oral gratification, if not the physical need for glucose.
It turns out, it does help, but probably more because it has sugar in it, or more precisely, sugar alcohols. Substances such as Maltitol are sugar-alcohol hybrids, so technically not sugar, so technically the manufacturer can print “sugar-free” right on the package. Maltitol is about 90 per cent as sweet as sugar, but has half the calories.
When you look at the Nutrition Facts, it’s only five calories and two grams of carbs per two pieces of gum, but I defy anybody who feels like they are starving to stop at two pieces. Two packs maybe, which is 60 calories (3 per cent) and 24 grams of carbs (19 per cent).
As I said, it is shocking how fast it adds up. 
It is not that any of this is stuff is stuff I did not already know. Like addicts of all kinds, I have been in denial.
Fortunately, like addictions of all kinds, the human body quickly gets over the physical withdrawal. I no longer feel like I am starving, but overcoming the physical is only step one. Beating the psychological might be a bit more work.
Hence, vigilance is my watchword, because you never know where carbs might be lurking.


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