UCSF’s Michael Wood Needs a New Belt After Limiting His Sugar Consumption

Published on April 10, 2016


“The No Sugar Challenge offered a class on hidden sugar,” said Wood, Principal Disability Analyst in UCSF Human Resources. “When I went to the class I realized my ‘healthy’ choices had hidden sugar in them. I began replacing those items with food that had no or significantly less sugar.”

Wood said the No Sugar Challenge taught him to look carefully at food labels. “One sparkling beverage I was drinking every week because I thought it was healthier had 32 grams (8 teaspoons) of sugar in each drink. Most soft drinks have 35 to 40 grams. I thought I had made a wise choice, but the label said otherwise.”

Laura Ishkanian, Wellness Coordinator at UCSF Living Well, said Michael’s experience isn’t unusual. “Added sugar is contained in so many foods that most Americans consume nearly three pounds of sugar per month without even knowing it. We’re not talking about the sugars that naturally occur in fruit and milk – but the many hidden types that are added to drinks and sweet and savory foods.”

These added sugars include maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, and many others. According to UCSF’s SugarScience.org, there are at least 61 different names for sugars listed on food labels.

Wood said understanding how to spot hidden sugars and taking the time to shop for healthy foods were the lifestyle changes he needed to make in order to lose weight. “It takes more planning and time to prepare for the work week,” he said. “I purchase vegetables and fruit at Berkeley Bowl every Sunday evening and plan my daily menu. It takes a little more time than grabbing something with my coffee but it has resulted in significant benefits.”

Wood’s belt is proof that reducing sugar can make a big difference. “Right before the challenge I was on the last punch hole and thought I was going to need a new belt. Now, I’m at the last punch hole at the opposite end and still may need a new belt! That’s approximately four inches off my belt size.”

Wood said he’s trying to lose an additional 15 pounds so that he will be in the healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) range but he’s over the cravings for sweets he had the first three weeks of the No Sugar Challenge. “Sugar was a daily part of my diet before the challenge,” he said.

Wood said a small team of coworkers participated in the No Sugar Challenge with him and provided a support network. “One of my teammates also lost 16 pounds,” he said. “I’ve certainly seen the benefits of reducing my sugar consumption.”