I think we would all agree that everyone strives to be healthy. We all want to feel good, live a long life and reduce our risk of disease as much as we can. When deciding to adopt a healthy lifestyle the biggest challenge for most people is changing the way they eat (incorporating exercise is a close second). If you want to change your eating habits and the prospect seems daunting, you can start slowly and change the way you think about food. This way your mind is working with your body and not against it. You need to stop dieting and counting calories and use science and biology, not willpower, to detox your mind and body from the hold certain foods have on you.
The most basic thing you can do to begin to balance your hunger hormones, decrease cravings and eliminate a host of inflammatory responses, is to get rid of refined sugar from your diet. The average person consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar every day. This is actually not that shocking as sugar is found in almost everything we eat. There are the obvious sources like soda, cake and candy, but there is also added sugar in marinara sauces, yogurt and mayonnaise. There are over 50 different names for added hidden sugars in our foods like maltose, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup and cane juice. But why is sugar so bad for you? Sugar increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. When eaten it also begins a whole hormone cascade that leads to raised insulin, blood sugar crashes and fat storage. Sugar is also highly addictive. Studies have shown it affects the brain the same way as cocaine. These negative consequences do not apply to natural sugars in fruits and vegetables. They are balanced by fiber, vitamins and other things that slow the body’s processing of sugar and allow it to deal with it more appropriately.
Artificial sweeteners are not any better. Diet sodas have been shown to raise your risk of diabetes. These sweeteners trick your metabolism into thinking sugar is on its way causing your body to pump out insulin, which then promotes fat storage. In addition to that they hijack your taste buds and make you crave more sugar. Some also have side effects such as headaches, dizziness and bloating.
So it’s time to break up with sugar. If the idea of giving up sugar has you panicking and sweating, just commit to cutting out all sugars for a week or 10 days and see how you feel. To make the break-up easier make sure you are eating protein, fat and veggies at every meal. Protein helps keep you full and balances your blood sugar. Healthy fats also help keep you full, reduce insulin levels, slow digestion and curb cravings. Remember fat does not make you fat, sugar does! Vegetables have fiber, vitamins and minerals. Having all these components at each meal will makes you feel satisfied and balanced and ease the withdrawal from sugar.
What will you experience after the break-up? You will reduce your risk of many diseases. You can have clearer skin and more energy (because your blood sugar won’t be spiking and crashing). You will probably lose weight and sleep better. There are only positive things that can happen when you give sugar the boot. I challenge you to try it and see how you feel. Remember when you eat well, you will feel well and live well!
By Jacqui Kimmel
Jacqui Kimmel P.T., NLC, is a certified health coach through The Nutrition School and a licensed physical therapist with 20 years’ experience. Her healthcare training and nutrition training combined allow her to connect the dots between physical activity, nutrition and well-being. She is the owner of Wellsquared Nutrition, a health coaching service with a holistic approach to educate you on proper nutrition and wellness to empower you to live an overall healthy lifestyle.