BY: Maria Flynn
I was asked a couple of weeks ago to write or recommend an article regarding sugar…specifically about cutting sugar from your diet.
I believe a realistic view on sugar must be addressed, first.
So let’s get to it…
I love delicate pastries, ice cream, and as far as I can tell…along with love…dark chocolate fixes just about anything. How do I move from that to cutting sugar out of my diet? Well…you just do…and you don’t.
Sugar is complex and fundamentally a part of our culture (especially here in the USA). I want to give you some things to think about as you consider cutting sugar–how it impacts your life–and a few tips to get you started.
Look at Your Lifestyle REALISTICALLY
What is your lifestyle? Are you single? Do you have children? Do you work at a donut or ice cream shop? I think the first thing to do as you prepare to cut sugar is to get real about your lifestyle. I happen to be a mom of two children and while I’ve cut out (refined and processed) sugars in our home…my life is continuously accosted with birthday parties, social gatherings and celebrations, and even an occasional girls night out. Am I going to cut out sugar entirely? The reality is…probably not…especially if you’ve made a homemade dessert to celebrate. Oh…and if it’s got dark chocolate…damn…I’m all in but not all of the time.
You know, nothing drives me more batty than 50 somethings who preach “the answer” (now that the kids are out of the homes). Or, single professional health coaches and mentors giving you the reasons why you must cut sugar without recognizing your lifestyle, first. STOP THE MADNESS, PLEASE….
Because of my lifestyle, I know that sugar will show up every now and again…and so I let it and I won’t stress out about it. BUT…I will control what I can when I can and to be sure…the bulk of my diet (my lifestyle and our home) has healthy food choices and no refined and processed sugars and definitely no chemical sugar substitutes.
When you get real about your lifestyle and how sugar plays a part, you can approach the journey to cut sugar with your eyes wide open.
Know Thy Sugar…And Know It Well
“Our bodies crave what is in our blood stream.
Wheat, sugar, alcohol, coffee and de-vitalized foods are designed to be addictive.”
– David Wolfe (Health, Eco, Nutrition, and Natural Beauty Expert)
I can spew all I know about sugar and its detrimental effects on your body and especially your mind…but it’s important that YOU do the research, too. The more you know…the more you know. In truth, the more active you are about your own well-being then the more likely you’ll follow your intuitive nudge to do the right thing above and beyond my tips here in this blog post…because you’re responding to what inspires you to make the change and that goes a long way to setting the stage for success.
What motivates you about cutting sugar from your diet?
Is it the connection to Alzheimer’s disease, and brain fog and function?
Is it the connection to mood swings?
Is it about your immune system and the sugar connection to a host of allergies and headaches?
Is it the connection to acidity in the body and cancer?
Is it simply because you want to drop some weight and have healthier looking skin?
Each question gives way to its own research paper. I’ll share some of the teachers I’ve found particularly informed and whom I consider “forward thinkers” yet practical in this era of so much information.
- JJ Virgin (for health, diet and the sugar impact…JJ’s perspective on sugar and the body is accurate in my view). Her books and blog is real talk and to the point. I’ve found success with her teachings. She loves what she does and provides immense value.
- Dr. David Perlmutter (for sugar, eating and their brain connection–from its contribution to Alzheimer’s Disease to brain fog and function and repair). I humbly ask you to consider his teaching not as a reaction to a problem in later days…but as a preventative to practice now. Develop good habits and if you have children…make the habits an easy “no brainer” for them.
Most important about these two experts is that they both believe in REAL FOOD. JJ Virgin does subscribe to some processed smoothie mixes, however, she is a HUGE proponent of keeping her products as clean as possible.
Arm Yourself Before You Cut The Sugar
If your diet consists of processed foods like cereal, granola bars, “healthy” protein bars, most yogurts, frozen pre-packaged meals, store bought dressings, marinades, and restaurant foods… then your diet consists of a lot of [hidden] sugars regardless if it says “all natural” or “organic” or “no additives” or any other food marketing labels.
This is an important point to understand, because if the foods I list above are in your daily food consumption, then you may also have a “grab it and go” habit with your food–not requiring you to really think about your food choices. This makes the journey to cut out sugars too easy to give-up when you can’t get your instant gratification or your 30 minute meal done before you head out the door, again.
Set the stage for success by preparing foods ahead of time. I’m a lifestyle expert, an energy healer and teacher…and when you understand that energy is everything and everything is energy…then know that the love and care you put into this first step will increase your momentum toward success as you ride out the days you are struggling.
Keep foods like berries, fresh cut lemons for marinades and hot lemon water (to help curb the cravings), chopped cooked chicken (for salads), hard-boiled eggs, chopped bell peppers, and homemade hummus on hand and ready to go.
Get comfortable eating and incorporating good quality fats to your diet like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, almonds, wild caught salmon, grass-fed beef and lamb.
Cutting sugar doesn’t have to be boring…so have fun and make your selections organic (whenever possible) and delicious. Here’s a little trick to share…if you have children who like to snack…keep a selection of berries or a veggie tray with hummus out on the counter. Remove the question about what to snack on out of the equation and simply offer it, first. Everyone likes a no-brainer.
Understand Your Cravings
When you crave the sugar snack…what are you thinking about? Is it habitual and addiction? Is it stress related? Is it an emotional response to what you were thinking? When you make the connection you can then make adjustments to what you are thinking and deal with it in a healthier manner.
I love mantras or affirmations and I research or create a meaningful one for myself when I’m making the emotional or stress connection.
Replace Foods and Make Adjustments
Read labels and get familiar with how sugar is labeled. JJ Virgin explains this really well in her book, The Virgin Diet. Also, consider how carbohydrates turn to sugar, too (reference, The Virgin Diet). Where can you make smart cuts and adjustments in your food choices? For example, replace pasta with brown rice pasta (the flavor is excellent), replace rice with quinoa, use lettuce wraps and replace the bread…add more hearty salads to your diet. Dark green and leafy is always a good choice.
Does your morning brew have sugar? Consider reducing the sugar daily until you eliminate it completely and acquire a taste for bitter coffee. I’ve often found my clients disliking the taste of new things like organic peanut butter. Truly…to go from one brand of peanut butter laden in sugar (corn syrup) to real peanut butter can be a drastic (and unpleasant) taste difference. I recommend removing peanut butter completely for about 30 days while you cut other sugars, and let your tongue adjust. When you bring the peanut butter back into your diet, you’ll enjoy the flavor of real peanut butter. This tip works well with children, too. Removing items from the menu allows your brain to “forget” the taste…then re-introducing a healthier option later will taste good. Don’t give your brain a chance to compare flavors.
Last, but not least, make yourself accountable. Let others know what you’re up to and make commitments before you’re caught off guard at the next social gathering. Join Facebook groups and openly share and receive support from others about your health goals.
Set up your Facebook feed to reflect what you want with posts from the people you desire to learn from versus some of the fluff (hint: JJ Virgin and Dr. Perlmutter are pages I’ve liked and I enjoy their posts). I, too, would like to be a part of your newsfeed. Join my community and I’ll offer daily inspired messages along with food ideas and recipes.
If you have a smartphone, get an app that helps you mark each successful day without sugar. I use the Strike App for the iPhone. It feels good to measure and see your progress. You got this!
Cutting sugar is not a trendy diet fad. Too much research has been conducted to prove that sugar is damaging our health and contributing to the escalating poor health of our children from obesity and their delicate minds to diabetes. Cutting sugar is a huge deal and you will notice improvement once you get past the few days of struggle and cravings. I promise.
Cheers to your success and vitality!