Put down the double chocolate chip cookie. Hands where I can see them.  Step away. Slowly. Slowly. Don’t even glance at the brownies. Keep backing away from that table you’ve piled improbably high with snowman cupcakes and fudge squares and what the f*ck is that dark brown mound covered in sugar icing? Figgy pudding? Lemme have a taste. WHAT DID YOU JUST PUT IN YOUR MOUTH?! SPIT IT OUT! SPIT IT OUT! Oh for chrissake, a godiva salt toffee caramel?

Come on, people. What’s it with sugar and the holidays? That stuff is poison. Would you use the birth of baby Jesus as an excuse to pile a table full of alcohol and then try and drink all of it before January 1? Oh, you would. Ok, so you have. Still.

Followers of this blog know that I usually focus on what’s good for you: running is good for you; push-ups are good for you; butt-slapping is good for you; asking for help is good for you. There’s hardly ever a mention of what’s bad for you.  That’s because I’ve committed to limiting the scolding on this blog to a single post a year.

Well, this is the one.

Here’s the scold: sugar is an evil toxin being fed to us by giant food conglomerates, to the delight of pharmaceutical and health insurance corporations that want us all to become reliant on the medical establishment, and we should quit it. 

By sugar, I mean both sucrose (aka refined sugar, aka cane sugar, whether white or brown) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Both things are highly efficient delivery systems for fructose, which gets shot straight into your liver, which turns it into fat. Not the kind of body fat that makes J.Lo juicy. The kind of liver fat that makes a duck paté delicious. And you miserable. This liver fattening thing happens only with fructose. Glucose, which comes from starches, gets metabolized in every cell, not just the liver.

Once you get a fatty liver, your cells become insulin resistant. Here, we should pause to stress that when it comes to health, having a skinny liver is a hell of a lot more important than having a skinny ass. Fat people can have skinny livers and skinny people can have fatty livers.

Anyway, back to insulin resistance. Insulin’s the stuff your pancreas pumps out to regulate your blood sugar. Once in your bloodstream, insulin smooths everything out like a Luther Vandross song. But if insulin is a Luther Vandross song, an insulin resistant cell is that surly friend of yours who just can’t accept love. And no matter how much You’re Amazing or Stop to Love or Always and Forever your pancreas pumps out, insulin resistant cells just fold their little mitochondrions together, purse their chromatin, and ignore all that good insulin love.

You pancreas, though, is all John Cusack Say Anything persistent about its insulin/love…

say anything

…and just keeps pumping out more insulin. And pumping. And pumping.  Until it gets really tired – pancreatic exhaustion – and says f*ck it and then damn, you have diabetes.

Now, you may be one of the 17 people in the United States whose diet is primarily fresh vegetables and meats. If that’s you, a few cookies and slices of cake won’t hurt you. But if you’re like the rest of us, there’s already so much refined sugar and HFCS stuffed into our jams and honey baked hams (130 pounds a year, in fact) that adding sweets and sodas on top of that is just murder on your John Cusack pancreas.

Another way we’re coming to understand the problems with massive fructose intake is that the insulin resistance is a cause of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of not only diabetes, but heart disease and stroke as well.

There’s a lot of sniping among the white coats over whether insulin resistance is a direct cause of metabolic syndrome, and whether metabolic syndrome is “real” in a diagnostic sense, yadda yadda yadda, but what we all know from direct experience is that eating sugar tends to make us feel great for like 0.08 seconds, and then like crap burgers.

But we keep eating sugar because the crap is addictive. More addictive than cocaine, even. The good news is that if you can cut out the sugar, your liver will skinny right up. And your insulin resistance will almost certainly melt away. Can’t you hear Luther just singing to your little insulin loving cells?

If you want to quit, your best bet is to quit it cold. And now is the best time, while you’re moaning over that fifth brownie that found its way into your mouth last night. Start by getting it clear in your head that sugar is not food. It’s a lot of things – entertainment for your mouth, a token of caring, a craft project – but it’s not actually food. Then clear all the sweet non-food out of your cupboards and refrigerator, and refill your countertop with fruits, nuts, and all the great good bounty of a globalized food economy that your liver and pancreas are begging you to eat. Roasted Spanish Marcona almonds, sprinkled with sea salt. The crisp snap of Braeburn apples. Margarita’s handmade tortillas and tamales.

Go eat real food! And we’ll see you at queerfit tomorrow at 10:00 (it won’t be cold, it’s just your skin, but bring gloves if you have them, b/c the ground will probably be wet).