For many of us sugar is almost like crack, we think about it late at night, we wonder when we are gonna get to enjoy it next, and let’s face it some of us are cranky without it. Sounds a bit unhealthy does it? You don’t feel that way towards broccoli do you? That’s because sugar can be addictive. And unfortunately it can be your enemy when it comes to your weight loss goals, and your ability to maintain stable energy levels throughout the day. Excess sugar can cause diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer and many other complications.
Unfortunately, in today’s food supply it’s hard to avoid over consumption with all of the places it hides; sweets obviously, but think about cereals, granola bars, terriyaki sauce, instant oatmeal even yogurt. Items you may think are health are also just gimmicks! The average American in 2010 consumed 132 lbs of sugar that year, compared to 4 lbs. in 1700, and you wonder why our health is in such shambles.
The American Heart Association recommends that we limit our daily sugar consumption to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake—that’s about 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar and 130-150 calories. One glazed donut contains 6 teaspoons, and a half cup ice cream contains 4 teaspoons of added sugar!
When a client starts my San Diego weight loss program, one of the first areas we focus on is cutting back there sugar intake and weening them off of this bad habit. Because sugar does trigger the release of serotonin in the brain, it causes a sort of euphoric feeling before giving you that crash, and headache later on. Over time, frequent indulgences of sweets build a tolerance to it’s effects and actually need to consume more in order to get that high. And in fact, they actually crave it. Fortunately, this tolerance can be reversed within a few weeks and you can rid yourself of the addiction and actually develop low intolerance for it, which will actually curb you from ingesting the garbage.
The first step:
1) Go through your pantry and throw out all the obvious sweet culprits: cookies, cake, ice cream, ho-hos, whatever. Then go through and read the ingredients list for all the other items you consume. If any of the following are listed within the first 5 ingredients throw it out and don’t buy it anymore:
Brown rice syrup
Cane juice crystals
High fructose corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Grape juice concentrate
Even items that we think are healthy like granola bars, sports drinks, flavored yogurt and instant oatmeals actually harbor a lot of added sugar! And don’t think that aspartame, and splenda are better options. Stick to stevia. Keep in mind that fruits, veggies and non-flavored dairy products contain natural sugars that are okay for you.
2) So now that you have thrown out all the bad items, let’s go through and replace them with sugar-free counterparts. Replace those cereals with low to no-sugar whole grain cereals, and steel cut oats. To sweeten add fruit! Replace sweetened/flavored yogurt with Greek or plain and add nuts or berries. Replace your sugar protein bar or shake with Shakeology. Instead of orange juice, eat whole oranges.
3) Now that you have rid your kitchen of temptations, now you will have an easier time sticking to the plan. When you find a sugar craving come on try eating a piece of gum, a handful of nuts, drinking some water, or even going for a short walk. The first week is the toughest but stick with it! After a couple sugar-free weeks, your sugar threshold will start to decrease and you will find that you no longer crave sugar or sweets as you once did. As with any lifestyle change, the first couple of weeks are the hardest. Eventually, it will become habit to reach for a piece of fruit instead of candy.
4) Once you have successfully gone through 3-4 weeks without sugar, it is okay to allow it back in with moderation. An indulgence every once in awhile is okay but don’t make a habit of it. I tell my clients they can have one dessert a week. Then it becomes an indulgence that they enjoy that much more, but they also won’t go back into their old ways. You may actually notice that sweets you used to consume now give you tummy aches or even headaches. There is good reason for that! Listen to your body!
Andrea King helps her San Diego personal training clients achieve great results through incorporating both sound nutrition and exercise programs. Working as a San Diego fitness trainer, Andrea motivates her clients to become healthy through effective lifestyle changes.