About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Just too Damn Tired, and by the Way: Most Modern Forms of Sugar Suck

Over the course of my career working in the realm of Product Safety & EMC Compliance, my work tends to be a feast-and-famine sort of living. Often, for months I'd work hard, long hours and sleep like the proverbial log (which doesn't so much sleep, does it? I guess that proverb is broken!). These months of long work were typically followed by a month or more of relatively little work, which would allow me to catch up on paperwork, review test equipment, justify purchases, and even publish articles in trade magazines.

The feast-and-famine work cycle isn't a bad one to have. There are days when you want to be very busy, and you get a good productive feeling, but before you get burned out, famine arrives and you can shift gears and recharge. Then again, before boredom can set it, the feast arrives again and gears are shifted...you learn stuff about a new product and usher that new product through the last stages of the Product Development Cycle and into the marketplace. Then: famine.

This cycle for me has been broken for the last two years or so. During this time the cycle has been feast-and-feast-harder. I've currently got three extremely high-priority projects on my hands that need to be delivered in the next two months. Days are long and non-stop and I end up doing some of the famine-time work on the weekends.

This is a bad way to live for too long. I'm thinking that it'll be over shortly (since those projects have such firm deadlines), but in the meantime I'm exhausted every night, and looking for some mindless time on the weekends. Thank goodness it's tax season! :)

As the wise ones say: this too shall pass. Hopefully Gandalf isn't standing in my way too!

In the meantime, I'm also constantly looking for ways to be a healthier person. It's a rotten paradox that when we're young we don't pay too much attention to doing things to improve our long-term health, but as we get older and lose our health we regret not behaving better in our youth and we look for ways to recapture our health.

One of the things I've been looking at in the last months has been my intake of processed sugar. Everywhere I have been looking, I'm reading what a scourge this stuff is on society. I read over on my fellow New-Englander's blog (Austanspace) about how just a couple of donuts ruined at least a full day.

This put me in mind of a news item that, while sitting in an airport, I caught a piece of a short time ago. I went out to youtube to find it, and I think it's one of those things that everyone should watch. It's long (like an hour long), and some of it is very dry, but overall I found it very interesting. You can see it here:

YouTube Video "Sugar: The Bitter Truth"

As I've come off of the processed sugars, my weight didn't change immediately, but my shape changed within a month: I lost my pear-shaped gut almost completely. I've been concentrating on consuming simple sugars instead of processed ones; I use honey in my tea, nothing in my coffee, and moved to the Kashi cereals and snack bars (which are surprisingly good, actually...I think they are better tasting than the Quaker or Granola ones that I used to eat).

If you can tolerate being off of the sugar for about a month and a half, my experience is that you won't want to go back, because it tastes gross. It ends up being what you're used to, I think. As a "for instance": initially, coffee without sugar was hard to drink, but I was motivated and kept at it. A little more than a month later, I noticed that I had a broader pallet for what made an acceptable cup of coffee, and having had a sip of sugar-filled coffee, I found it disgusting.

The last time that I had a cup of coffee that left me with that "mmm...good coffee" feeling, it had sugar in it. But, as I say, I have not since leaving the sugar behind had a cup of coffee that left me with that "ugh...I can't drink this crap" feeling either.

Watch the video, watch your sugar (and start using whole grains as well, instead of the stripped-down variety), and be healthier.

I'll no doubt have more of my work-to-health information in the future. From a scientific / engineering point of view, I'm seeing some interesting results and patterns in my health and weight, but that'd make for a very long post here today.

Be well!


  1. Good for you giving up sugar. I hope that means the sugar substitutes as well.

    1. Absolutely. I've never been on any of the alternative sweetener bandwagons; that stuff is worse for you than cigarettes!

  2. When I gave up salt it took a while before things like eggs or tomatoes tasted right. These days even a small amount of added salt makes a meal inedible (by me). And yes, sugar is next on my 'to go' list. As an aside, it does make eating out harder.

    1. I've had similar experiences with salt, although it's still in my diet in little measure, I rarely go out of my way to put it on my food.

      Pepper: that's a different story!

  3. Hey STG! I'm so happy to hear I'm not alone in finding sugar gross! How did I ever love it? I'll still have a little honey or maple syrup once in a very great while, and a dark dark chocolate now and then, but industrial sugar? Never again. It was about a month & a half of dropping it when I found it intolerable, too. Yeah, your shape changes for the better. Who knew? Well, we know now.

    1. I do use pure maple syrup on the rare occasion that I have pancakes. And I've found that Newman's Own dark chocolate is frickin' AWESOME; I like to have a small piece of that with decaf tea in the evenings.

      For all my dietary changes thus far, month-and-a-half is a magic number for not only tolerance, but also for the "how did I ever eat that crap" reflex. I'll just keep moving forward.

    2. They're expensive, but the Ghirardelli darks are incredible. My daughter got me to try the "Chili" and "Midnight" ones and they're perfection.

  4. I converted to veganism and I do not eat gluten because I am allergic. These dietary changes were extremely difficult. I plan on reducing my sugar intake, but at the moment, it's too overwhelming. To rid myself of a panic disorder many years ago, I did remove all sources of sugar, except through fruits and vegetables, and it changed my life, but to do again...I don't know. I admire you.

    1. The happy news, as I understand it (which, of course, may be very flawed) is that you don't have to completely eliminate all sugars. I hear that Simple Sugars are fine, but Complex Sugars you need to get rid of.

      Fructose (except what you get from fruit)
      High Fructose Corn Syrup
      essentially, all the "XXXose" sugars.

      Use honey, or sugar in the raw. When the label says "Pure Cane Sugar", I think that's still ok. I haven't done an exhaustive study thus far, but that's where I am, and I think that in a couple of months there's a big benefit.