Once upon a time I ate healthy…or at least I thought I did.
Sure, I lacked enough energy to get through the day, and battled with the endless colds and sinus infections and hated myself for not having enough willpower to walk away from that candy bar but so did so many people around me so I thought it was normal.
I thought this was normal until I heard some new disturbing information on the effects of sugar, in the 21 day challenge. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome. One in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer. According to several experts, all of these conditions and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet…sugar.
I am just like everyone else and love doughnuts, cookies, cakes, ice cream, etc. BUT I DO NOT love what it does to me. I’ve been on a mission over the last 2 ½ years to kick this addiction and this is what I’ve learned along the way!
I am an addict.
Remember that 21 day challenge I talked about before? One of the requirements was to remove sugar from your diet. This sounds so easy! And I entered this with such dismissal…it was going to be a “piece of cake!”
About 2 days into my first, 21 day challenge I was in complete sugar withdrawal. I was
shocked! I had horrendous headaches, I felt like I had the flu (commonly referred to as the Carb Flu) and just generally felt crappy. I was floored!! “How could this be if I wasn’t even consuming sugary stuff!?!?” After about 2 weeks I came to the other side and felt like a new person. For 21 days I was sugar-free. After the challenge and even to today, I would say I follow my nutrition plan 90% of the time; leaving time for the occasional treat.
BUT….it is a slippery slope. Just the taste of a sugary treat can send me over the edge and back to my old way of eating. Being an addict means being constantly aware of what I’m eating and making meal by meal choices. The great news is the longer I’m away from it the less I crave it. Focus and determination!
I finally learned to honor and listen to my body.
Eating sugar impacts my mood and makes it harder for me to be the kind, compassionate person that I strive to be…to myself. I can’t tell you how many times I talked negatively to myself for giving in, losing the fight, giving up on my goals, etc. when faced with an opportunity to eat something sugary. It was endless commentary in my head – hating myself.
When I removed sugar, I got to the point where I no longer craved it. With this came clarity
and awareness of the innate intelligence of my body to ‘just function’ regardless of the environment (food). When I gave my body what it needed, it started to adjust itself including my mental state. The negative self-talk and depression disappeared and I started to see myself through a new lens with compassion and love.
Being able to listen to and respect my body through healthy choices was an important part of my transition.
Out with the sugar, In with the Fat
When you remove sugar, it is important to increase the good fats in your diet. Fat is and always has been our bodies preferred source of fuel. Our cells are built on fat. Fats are necessary for healthy liver function; for building healthy cholesterol and bile. Fats serve as a protective lining for our organs and joints. Fats play a role in slowing the absorption of food for proper energy regulation – think slow burning log on the fire. AND it makes food taste delicious!
I once was a carb burner; relying on sugar to get me through the day. When I made the shift to being a fat burner my diabetes management completely changed. I significantly reduced the insulin I needed, my blood sugar levels became stable and my energy was finally consistent throughout the day.
Reading labels is important.
Before the challenge, and in general, I tried to keep brownies, cookies, ice cream, and sweets at bay but what I learned through the process of removing sugar was that I really was consuming it every day…in every meal! Yogurt, bread, oatmeal, frozen meals, pasta sauce ALL HAD SUGAR!
Sugar is in everything! If sugar or a sugary ingredient is listed as one of the first three ingredients, it is likely that the product is high in sugar. Here are some common names of sugar:
- Sugars: Brown sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, white sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, date sugar, maple sugar
- Hidden Names for Sugar: High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, disaccharides, molasses, succanat, polysaccharides, sucrose, fructose, invert sugar, dextrose, glucose, lactose, sorbitol, mannitol, honey, malt, malt extract, maltose, rice extract, and golden syrup.
TIP: The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely sugar is going to be included on that list. If you do not see sugar in the list of ingredients but see grams of sugar in the label, it’s most likely that those sugar grams are a natural sugar in one of the ingredients. And that’s okay!
The FDA recently announced new regulations for food labels. Click the link below for more details.
The More You Know: From an NTP “in training”
At this point you might be asking, what’s the big deal about sugar anyway?
The big deal is…
Americans today are inundating their bodies with sugar/refined carbs in the form of processed foods and in comparison have low amounts of good quality fats and complex, unrefined carbs in their diet.
As we have increased the consumption of sugar, chronic disease has reached epidemic levels and the obesity rate has spiraled out of control.
Low Blood Sugar Impacts
When we eat sugar or any refined carb, a large amount of glucose is released into the blood. Because our body wants our blood sugar to remain in a very narrow range, the body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar level down. This often results in a condition call hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
A common symptom of low blood sugar is severe hunger, leading to overeating and obesity. Other symptoms include headaches, panic attacks, dizziness, blurry vision, heart palpitations, numbness in the hands and feet, anxiety, depression, irritability, aggressive behavior, difficulty dealing with stress, fatigue and allergies.
Diabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is constantly too high. There are many causes and types of diabetes, but a fundamental factor is eating too much sugar, which immediately raises blood sugar levels.
Other Diseases Caused by Sugar
In addition to hypoglycemia and diabetes, sugar consumption is associated with many other adverse health effects. This is not an exhaustive list but here are a few that might surprise you:
- Allergies, Asthma
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Increased stomach acidity
- Reduced immunity, frequent infections
- Premature aging
- Poor sleep
What You Can Do To Remove Sugar
If you want to gain more energy or slow down the aging process, I encourage you to start with cutting back on sugar. Sugar can be very addictive and difficult to give up. Here are some tips that have worked for many people:
- Eat regularly. Eat three meals a day, always with some animal protein and plenty of healthy natural fats (Yes, fat is good for you!) like butter, egg yolks, coconut oil, cream, and meat fats.
- Choose whole foods. The closer food is to its natural form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Food in its natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually presents no metabolic problems for a normal body.
- Have breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; never skip it! And always have animal protein and fat to the start the day. This will help curb your sugar cravings.
- Add spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings.
- Choose good snacks. If you feel hungry between meals, eat something fatty and salty, like nuts, cheese or salami.
- Get enough sleep. When we are tired we often use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion.
For more ideas check out this article on the 20 Ways to Get Sugar Out of Your Life.
This journey is not over and I’ve learned a ton along the way. I’ve learned which foods make me feel good and which don’t. I diary my meals and make notes when I’m not feeling well after a meal. It’s just helped me learn if I need to reduce/increase something in my diet. But I’ve also learned to see food as nutrition and not anything else. It is all about finding what works for you and it starts #fromtheinsideout.