Get Sugar Smart: Lose Weight & Feel Better Today

Get Sugar Smart: Lose Weight & Feel Better Today

My sweet tooth is my grandma?s fault. Our family dinners always have a dessert, even if it's not a special occasion.

My grandma?s desserts were the best. She made things like banana split pie, orange creamsicle cheesecake and éclair cake, my favorite.

Turning down something sweet to eat has always been difficult for me. My sweet tooth finally started catching up to me in middle school. It got progressively worse over the years.

There were some facts of life I became accustomed to:
  • My clothing size being a few sizes higher than most of the girls my age
  • Hiding my stomach any chance I could
  • A desire to be a thinner and at a healthier weight
Fight Sugar Cravings

Cutting Back on White Sugar

In my early twenties, I made a couple of attempts to lose weight. I joined a gym that I quit attending and I started a diet that I gave up.

Then, an advertisement caught my eye while looking through the mail one day. There was a picture of a delicious looking dessert on it that talked about struggling to say no to sugar. It talked about how to change your relationship with sugar to lose weight.

This feature was an advertisement for a diet book. Since sugar was my weakness, I wanted to check it out more. The book was called The Sugar Smart Diet, and it soon became mine.

don't get me wrong, I sort of considered sugar a friend, but it had a negative hold on me and my body. The Sugar Smart Diet is about regaining control over sugar by cutting it out and gradually adding healthy, natural sugars back in. You eventually end up eating only 24 grams of added sugar a day.

Becoming sugar smart would help me regain freedom from sugar cravings. It also helped me find the freedom to lose weight while still being able to enjoy nature?s sweet treats when I choose to, and not when a craving does. In order to do this, I had to rebalance my blood sugar levels.

Time to Eliminate All White Sugar

[caption id="attachment_12313" align="alignright" width="280"]Sugar Bomb Step one - eliminate all white sugar from your diet. And that means ALL.[/caption]

The first phase of being sugar conscious is about eliminating sugar...all sugar. I didn't go cold turkey, it was gradually cut out. But, within a matter of five days I was completely sugar free, even from natural sugars in fruit.

The next six days consisted of lean proteins, vegetables and whole grains. No sugar for about a week was the hardest part for me, but it was during this time where I learned the most.

Sugar comes in many forms, and it's more than just sugar and added sugar. Learning its various faces is one of the biggest tools you can use to become sugar smart.

Knowing the various forms of sugar made it easier for me to make healthier choices and choose healthier foods, especially while grocery shopping.

The 3 Sugar Categories

Sugar can be broken up into three categories:
  • Straight-up sugar
  • Secret sugar
  • Sugar mimics
Sugar. Straight-up sugar is found in candy, sweetened drinks, sweetened breakfast cereals, energy and cereal bars, and desserts. It is often listed as ?sugar? on an ingredient label, but it also has many other aliases. For example: agave nectar, cane crystals, caramel, almost anything ending in -ose, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup and sorghum syrup, to name a few.

Secret sugar. Secret sugars are things that you don't think of as sweet, but you will find sugar (or its alias) on the ingredient?s list. Secret sugars include: pasta sauces, frozen entrees, salad dressings, ketchup, barbeque sauce, some deli meats and breakfast sausages.

Sugar mimics. Sugar mimics are foods that don't usually taste like sugar, but are rapidly digested like sugar and behaves like sugar in the body. This is sugar?s sneakiest form. Foods like pretzels, crackers, potato chips, bagels, white rice and pasta are all sugar mimics.

Learning sugar?s various faces made me realize that sugar is everywhere and in just about everything.

Sugar and the Pleasurable Dopamine High

Since refined sugar is so abundant in our food, the brain?s reward center is constantly going off, making sugar addictive like a drug; something I learned very quickly when I went six days without it. A chemical in our brain called dopamine is released when we eat a sugar-filled treat giving off a feeling of pleasure.

But, eating sugar too often causes a tolerance for sugar, which makes the brain produce less dopamine. More sugar is needed to create the same dopamine high as before, so we eat more of it, at least I did.
Woman Eating Cupcakes
Sugar comes in many forms, and it's more than just sugar and added sugar. Learning its various faces is one of the biggest tools you can use to become sugar smart.
Eating more sugar to achieve a feeling of pleasure makes sugar addicting. I ate sugar everyday, a couple of times a day so I could feel good.

But, with addiction comes withdrawals as you try to eliminate the substance from the body. Six days without sugar rids the body of it causing the desire for it to be eliminated as well. The desire for sugar doesn't just go away overnight though. I literally went through withdrawals and cravings as my body was adjusting to no sugar.

I was a little irritable, got some headaches and felt more tired than normal. My symptoms lasted the first three or four days. Those days were the toughest ones of the entire diet.

Sugar, Health and Metabolic Syndrome

Yes, eating too much sugar has bad health effects - a statement we can all agree upon. I used to the think the only health risks of a sugar-saturated diet was obesity and diabetes. Well, I was wrong.

Obesity is probably the most obvious health risk related to eating too much sugar, or at least the one that's thought of the most. But, another negative side effect of consuming too much sugar, that I didn't even think about until I read The Sugar Smart Diet, is metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is group of risk factors:
  • Belly fat
  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • Low HDL (good) cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
These factors raise your odds for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

A bit of relief: being overweight doesn't mean you'll automatically have metabolic syndrome. The cause of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance; when your body requires more insulin to breakdown sugar and carbs because it has become less responsive to it.
Woman Eating Desserts
Turning down something sweet to eat has always been difficult for me. My sweet tooth finally started catching up to me in middle school. It got progressively worse over the years.

Refined Carbs, Just as Bad

Refined grains are just as bad as refined sugar. This is a great piece of wisdom I took away from this diet, because I'm a sucker for refined carbs too. And like refined sugar, refined carbs are found in many products that we consume daily. These products include:
  • White flour
  • Bagels
  • Muffins
  • White bread
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Pita chips
  • White rice
  • Pasta
  • Pizza crust
Because of the way these grains are processed, they behave like sugar in your body. These grains contain just the innermost starchy portion, which is easy for your body to break down, converting to sugar faster.

It doesn't just stop there though. I used to think I was eating healthier when I would eat whole wheat bread, Cream of Wheat or instant oatmeal. Wrong. These foods are not the best choices either. This also has to do with the way these grains are highly processed.

When making whole wheat or whole grain flour, the kernels are pulverized to almost dust. This makes it just as easily digested as white flour or sugar.

This is why you should make most of your grain consumption whole unprocessed grains - steel cut or rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, bulgur or one medium potato. It takes longer for digestive enzymes in your stomach to reach the starch inside whole grains, slowing down the conversion from starch to sugar.

Adding Sugar Back Into Your Diet in 3 Phases

[caption id="attachment_12321" align="alignright" width="280"]Bread and Bread Sticks Refined grains and carbs are just as bad for you as sugar, including products labeled "healthy" and "low fat."[/caption]

The time finally arrived when I could add sugar back into my diet. Just like cutting it out, I had to gradually add it back in.

The first step was welcoming fruit back into my life. For the next six days I could eat fruit up to three times a day. I looked forward to every serving. I was also allowed only one serving of a whole processed grain in the form of a 100% whole wheat tortilla and pitas because they have a miniscule amount of added sugar compared to other grain products.

I was most excited to eat fruit again. My first bite of a strawberry tasted even sweeter than it did before because my body wasn?t used to its natural sugars anymore. It was a treat.

The second phase adds natural sugar into my diet again, but only in one meal. I was allowed 100% pure honey or 100% pure maple syrup, 100% fruit spread, dried fruit and fruit juice. But, I couldn?t go crazy. I could enjoy these natural sweeteners in moderation within my one meal.

My bread options expanded as well to include whole grain English muffins, rolls, bagels (small ones) or sliced bread. Again, I was only allowed one processed grain a day, if I wanted it. I didn't always want my one processed grain like I thought I would. My body wasn?t craving the sugars from it anymore.

Finally, I came to my arrival phase, the phase I?ll follow for life. Now, I can have sugar for pleasure, when I choose to. I have to follow the rules of the other phases, but now I can also enjoy 24 grams (equal to 6 teaspoons) of added sugar a day, not including my fruit or natural sweetener since they?re natural sugars. I know it doesn't sound like a lot of added sugar, and it's not, but that's the point.

Low Sugar For Life

It might seem near impossible to only limit yourself to 24 grams of added sugar a day for the rest of your life. The good news: it's not. Being sugar smart isn't just about going on a diet to lose weight. it's about making a lifestyle change.

Granted, I have my treat days when I eat more than 24 grams of added sugar, but I'm able to do that knowing that it's my conscious choice and I'm not another sugar craving victim. I'm able to enjoy sugar on my terms.

And being sugar smart doesn't mean I have to sacrifice any flavor. Changing the ever-tightening grip sugar has on you improves your health for the present and future; you make better food choices and shed some pounds. I?ve had more energy, lost weight, and improved my self esteem.

Eating better inspired me to improve my health overall, so I even started a normal workout routine. This lifestyle change empowered me. It helped me realize that I don't want sugar to control my life, my choices nor my body and the best part is it never will again.

Editor's note: Trying to slowly cut back on sugar intake? Try a carb blocker. Carb blockers such as Carb Intercept and Carb Block may help to reduce enzymatic digestion of sugars, working to reduce weight gain and improve overall health. 
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