Tips for a sugar-free, yet still very sweet, life

July 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm 4 comments

 “Sugar and foods that convert rapidly to sugar in the bloodstream are toxic…Sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates are proinflammatory: that is, they an create inflammatory response in the body…Chronic inflammation is the single greatest precipitator of ageing and age-related diseases. These include diseases as diverse as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, certain forms of cancer, obesity, unwanted weight gain, loss of muscle mass, and wrinkled, sagging skin.”

            -Nicholas Perricone, MD  in Sugar Shock! book

I want to thank everyone for sticking with me and supporting me through this challenge. And it certainly is a major challenge. I knew I was addicted to the sweet life, but I had no idea of how badly it was consuming me.  Literally.  I’m beginning to think that a lot of the issues I’ve experienced lately (before this sugar ban), including weight gain, irritability, and poor digestion, are linked to my ginormous sugar habit.  Understanding this, I have a choice to make as to how I’m going to live my life and treat my body.moving forward. I educate others to lead their best and healthiest lives possible. That’s my dharma in life.  But what about MY life, and MY body?  In an effort to help others, I forgot about myself. This has seriously been a wake up call.

 So, how am I feeling, day 5? I began yesterday as a woman on the warpath. The day progressed nicely (lucky for me I was too busy at work to think about cravings), but then the dreaded 4pm slump hit. I  was DYING for something sweet. Anything! I settled for some carrots and nut butter which seemed to help (plus it was a good pre-workout snack). We had dinner at our favorite restaurant in Park Slope, Get Fresh Table and Market. I nearly cried when I had to turn down the special dessert (ginger carrot cupcake), but I’ll fess up to taking the tiniest taste.  It was actually too sugary! I spit it out. So something’s working…

 This morning I feel much more balanced and level headed. I woke up hungry in the morning, not bloated from last night’s treat. My fruit smoothie was like manna from heaven, and I enjoyed the natural sweetness so much. I used to put agave nectar in with my fruit, but instead today I used cinnamon and vanilla extract. It was perfection.  Yumm!

 Continuing my sugar-free life will be a challenge over this weekend. Because I am so relaxed in the Berkshires, I always overeat, especially dessert. And wine. And fruit. And, well, basically everything. This weekend will be a true test of my willpower. I plan on hitting the Lenox Farmer’s market on Friday to stock up on fresh veggies to snack on throughout the weekend.  Wish me luck! (I’ll update you on Monday when I return)

 So, for you, and for me, here are 15 tips I’ve gathered on ways to keep the sugar out. Along with my own 2 cents, I’ve referenced the books Get The Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman and SUGAR SHOCK! by Connie Bennett (a fellow IIN-er, and a really fabulous book)

 

1. Stop adding sugar (and artificial sweeteners) to your coffee, tea, and on top of cereal.  If you can’t do this cold turkey, slowly taper down. I don’t put sweetener in my tea anymore and I don’t miss it. If you use Splenda or Equal, try using something more natural, like stevia, or even BROWN sugar, and then taper from there.

2. Eat whole foods. Nothing processed or refined, nothing fake.  This means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean animal protein.

3. Experiment with protein. If you do have sugar, add protein to your meal because our bodies metabolize sugar more slowly if we ingest protein at the same time. Protein is also known to minimize sugar cravings. But experiment with what works for YOU.  Try eating six mini-meals throughout the day, each with a form of protein, to keep your blood sugar stable and cravings at bay.

4. Use with herbs and spices to flavor your meals, and cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and extracts to naturally sweeten foods.

5. Implement the 80/20 rule. Eat well (or sugar-free/limited) 80% of of the time, and give yourself permission to splurge 20% of the time.  Try a few days restricting sugar, and then one day when you’re a little more lenient. This doesn’t mean eat cookies, cakes, and ice cream all in one day. My experience has been that when I say I won’t eat ANY of something (The 100% rule), I automatically crave (and then eat) that very thing I set out to avoid.  It helps to keep a food journal and plan out when you will have these treats.

6. Watch your salt intake. Too much salt can lead to wanting too much sweet to maintain your body’s balance (very yin/yang).

 7. Read labels very carefully. There’s sugar lurking in almost everything, both the natural and/or artificial sweeteners. The only way to really be sure of what you’re eating is to purchase whole foods and prepare them yourself.

8. Cut out sugary beverages, such as soda, diet soda, and all those crappy vitamin waters which do not hold true to ANY of their health claims. They do offer you artificially colored sugar water, if that’s what you’re going for.  And for all the diet soda fans out there, sorry to be a joy killer, but diet soda is definitely a big N-O.  It is sweetened with Aspartame, depleting the body of chromium, which is needed for sugar metabolism. Also, the aspartame can break down in hot summer temperatures and form toxic chemicals that cause health problems. No thank you! If you like that fizzy feel, try some juice mixed with sparkling water.

9. Use substitutes for sugar in baking, such as applesauce or sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

 10.   For intense sugar cravings, try taking 500 mg daily of L-glutamine up to 3x /day. It’s an amino acid is helpful for people with hypoglycemia, and can really help with sugar cravings. I just popped my first one now. Or, try sniffing a citrus scent, like grapefruit. It’s known to help with cravings.

 11.  Seek a support system of friends, family, or me!, to help you on your commitment to eat less sugar. It’s tough to buck the trend, and in this case, our entire food system, but it can be done. Educate yourself and find some accountability buddies. I have mine!

 12.  Use a mantra to help you. An example could be: “I am an energetic, carefree person who enjoys a healthy life.” Or, it could be a quote that you like written on a Post-it note stuck to your fridge, mirror, or computer at work. Whatever will work for YOU, do it.

13.  Exercise. I can’t stress this enough.  Nothing will squash a craving more than moving your body. You’ll forget about your desires, and you’ll be on an endorphin-induced high afterwards. Sugar…what sugar? I recently started doing Nia, a form of dance-movement, and the surge I get after class beats chocolate cake hands down. So do something different, get outside, and have fun!

14.  Be kind to yourself if you slip.  This goes for dieting, too. You’re human and supposed to make mistakes. That’s how we learn (we’ve heard this since we were 4, right?) But it’s true. Be gentle on yourself if this happens. Pamper yourself, call a friend, and get right back on your path. Just because you digress, doesn’t mean the work you put in already doesn’t count.

 15.  Be proud of yourself that you have taken on this challenge. Congratulate yourself! Set milestones, small achievable goals, and celebrate them. Not with cake, of course, but a big bowl of fruit and a new pair of shoes work just fine!

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Sugar by any other name is still sugar

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jackie  |  July 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    This is amazing advice!!!

    Reply
  • 2. Patti McCabe  |  July 2, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Congratulations on your adventure! I’ve been experimenting with my own intake of sugar as well, and after giving my first Sugar Blues teleclass last night and now reading this…I am all the more inspired to continue on!!

    Reply
  • 3. Brooke  |  July 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Great tips!

    Here’s a question though…I was always anti all those colored waters until my doctor told me that you need some sugar in order for you body to absorb water and stay hydrated. I get afternoon headaches which she suspected were from dehydration even though I drink tons of water. She said that the water just goes right through you if you have no sugar to help absorb it. Skeptically I tried it, and it really works. Having a vitamin water in the afternoon eases my headaches and also helps me stay energized at the gym.

    So what do you think? Is the sugar helping me stay hydrated or just masking the pain?

    Reply
    • 4. Amanda  |  July 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

      That is a REALLY good question, and quite honestly I’m not 100% sure, since that is what a doctor told you. AS for working out, I know that you do not need a sports drink to keep you going. Only really intese workouts (think athletes) need electrolyte replenishment. If you do want something, try a natural coconut water, which has potassium and electrolytes, and doesn’t have any artificial stuff.

      As for a mid day headache, I would question whether you are getting enough water earlier in the day. Usually when we get thirsty, we’re already dehydrated and we have a lot of ground to cover. So perhaps experimienting with water earlier in the day (maybe add some lemon?) will help prevent those headaches.

      And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I would take a look at your diet. What are you eating that is giving you headaches later in the day? Are you eating too many carbs, maybe not enough, or are they the right kind? Any sugar involved?

      In my personal experience, I have found that good ol’ fashioned water works best. If I need a boost, I’ll get coco water or a vegetable juice. But you need to work with what is best for you….Good luck!!

      Reply

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