Ok , if you're reading this chances are you already know that sugar is no bueno. Maybe you've tried to cut down on or quit sugar before with little to no long-term success. Maybe you're COMPLETELY ADDICTED to sugar and love every single bite, but are noticing the negative effects on your health and want to learn more about what it's doing to your body.
No matter what's going on in your head right now in terms of sugar I invite you to first let go of any self-judgement around your relationship with it.
Our addictions and habits are rooted in real reasons and those reasons just need to be brought to the surface of our awareness so we can make some educated choices.
I always say, nothing good comes from self-judgement but everything can come from awareness and self-empathy.
With that said let me tell you a bit about my past relationship with sugar. Know that it was bad...really bad.
It started when I was about 7-8 years old. I remember my mom baked a chocolate cake for my Grandma's bday and everyone was coming over to ours for a party.
The cake sat there on the counter all afternoon with no one guarding it (rookies). I would pop in there, grab a piece off the back of the cake (I thought I was super smart, like when I used to pour my soup out the kitchen window until one day they caught me doing it) and tell myself that was the last one.
Then I'd go back. Take another piece and run away to eat it like a little squirrel in a dark corner.
This kept happening until the cake was literally lopsided and my mom was super pissed that I had ruined Grandma's b-day cake (Let's be honest, she was prolly more pissed that the cake was ruined cause my gran already didn't like her and now this lol).
I was a cake, Joe Louis, Flakie, Pop Tart and cookie MONSTER!
My love of carbs and sugar grew as I grew older. We all remember that story I told about hiding in Loblaws from the 2 fit trainers I knew who were already in line so I could eat a whole box of gluten and dairy free Oreos without being caught.
I'd buy boxes of cupcakes and hide in my car to eat them while praying a client wouldn't somehow see me.
I wasn't only addicted to sugar I was also bingeing and hiding my addiction because I was supposed to be healthy! I was supposed to be a beacon of self-control and positive choices...but the truth was that I was struggling the same, if not more than many of my clients.
The shame kept me stuck for a long time. That's why I'm such an advocate for letting go of any shame surrounding any addiction whatsoever and solely focusing on the why.
Why was I so strongly addicted to sugar? Well, I needed to invest the time and energy to figuring that out and the below 6 steps are what helped me kick my sugar addiction for good as well as coach many women (and men!) to do the same.
1. Stop putting sugar in everything. Just stop.
I've coached countless clients who when they first come to me are in the mindless habitual practise of buying sugar, keeping it in their pantry and adding it to coffee, tea and desserts.
Many of us grew up that way. Our parents probably did it, we began doing it as we started drinking coffee and tea and now it's as easy as requesting a double double (that just rolls off the tongue so easily, doesn't it??) or tossing a teaspoon of it in our cup of freshly french pressed java.
There are SO many alternatives to sugar nowadays. Stevia and monk fruit extract are at the top of my list personally.
I know, I know, they taste different. Get over it. You'll get used to it, I promise! I think now would be a good time to ask yourself, how important is it to try to get used to a new flavour to achieve your goals in health and body composition versus continuing to do the same things that lead you to feeling dissatisfaction with your current health situation?
2. Reduce, eliminate or change your alcohol intake.
Alcohol is one of the biggest contributors to us intaking excess sugar in our diets. There isn't one type of alcohol that doesn't negatively impact our blood sugar.
Some are better than others and we'll unpack that below. But for now, remember, if you want a healthy gut, immune system and body composition, alcohol may and probably should be one of the first things you look at reducing or eliminating altogether.
Reduce: Take stock and ask yourself how much are you drinking each week (don't lie to yourself) ... K, now that you know, are you ok with that number?
Some answers may be 5 drinks per week, some may be 50! Wherever you are, know that it's ok. It's ok! You know to let go of the self-judgment and shame and focus on what's next , right? Right. So...what's next? Make a decision and act.
Life can still be fun without getting your glow on all the time and the process of learning how to do so is the juicy stuff in life.
Eliminate: Ok, ok, before you close your laptop and completely unfollow me, think about this...How is alcohol negatively impacting your life in general?
Do you feel lethargic all the time? Are you less productive, grumpier, is your sleep shit, is your digestion negatively affected, does it lead to behaviours that make your sober-self cringe? If you answered yes to any of those, ask yourself now - am I ok with that?
I quit drinking 5 months ago for many reasons. I was committed to eating keto and didn't want to negatively impact my blood sugar or body composition (ya'll know I love me a good 6 pack!). But also, I want my gut health to be top notch and I love having mental clarity.
There's nothing worse than having to go to work and try to adult when you're even slightly hungover...for me, anyway.
Since being sober and off alcohol I have learned to use mindfulness to avoid awkward social interactions. I listen better, speak with intention, ground my energy by reminding myself I'm safe and no one is thinking anything weird about me (maybe they are, maybe they aren't wither way, who cares!)...these were just a few reasons I would socially drink in the past. Social anxiety.
What are your reasons for drinking? Are you ok with them? If not, what can you do to break the pattern and fully step into your power?
Some peeps are not too negatively impacted by their relationship with alcohol, and that's great! Though they may want to just make better choices.
This list is for you.
3. Read labels. It's shocking.
When grocery shopping I look at the boxes of any pre-packaged foods I buy. Since going keto I've gotten even better at this and the results are showing.
Bypassing nut milks that contain sugar, packaged nuts at gas stations on road trips, jars of mayo, protein bars (they're actually crap and I always go for the meatbar now), cured and deli meats etc., all usually contain added sugar and that adds up.
Other common places sugar sneaks in:
Brines and marinades of prepackaged meats as well as from restaurants contain a TON of unwanted ingredients including sugar.
Skim milk for all you dairy eaters is actually higher in sugar due to the lack of other nutrients that aid in slowing down blood sugar release.
You'd actually want a high fat or homogenized milk because the high fat content (high fat is good when it's the right fats) helps to slow down your blood sugar release, therefore having less of an impact on your hormones and potential for weight gain.
Cereals and breads are naturally high in carbs though will also often have sugar added to them. What was once thought to be staples in a healthy diet (thanks Canada food guide, not.) due to high fibre (we can get fibre from better sources), and high B-Compex vitamins (take a supplement) are honestly irrelevant in my opinion.
We can ditch the pre-packaged foods that lead to inflammation, weight gain, autoimmunity IBS etc., easily, when we take the time to heal our bodies and change our diets to support our health vs eat mindlessly in a very old school fashion.
4. Ask questions
At restaurants and at friends' houses it's ok to ask questions about the materials you are literally putting into your mouth and entering your body. Sorry, that may sound a little graphic but think about it. What's more intimate than the relationship you have between you and the things that enter your body? God, let's be honest here, sex included!
You have the right to know if a food contains things that you don't want to have inside you. So let go of the fear that you're a troublemaker, a nuisance or dramatic. Own the conviction you have about your commitments to health, and do so unapologetically.
It's actually a great filter. ANYONE who judges you for taking care of you may not really have your best interests at heart. Again, a great situation to reflect on whether you want them to be a part of your life or not.
Common places sugar sneaks in at restaurants and hosts' dinners:
You could always ask ahead of a dinner party, bring your own meat, salad dressing or a whole dish to contribute! If at a restaurant, just kindly ask if they have a sugar-free alternative, they usually do.
5. Plan ahead and bring healthy alternatives
How may times have you made the commitment to eat better then you go to the movies and as you sit down to watch your latest crush on screen you notice a HUGE bag of fucking popcorn or candy has landed on your lap?!
Yea. I know...it just happens!
It's easy to get caught up in habitual acts that were from a past lifetime. You're evolving and growing! You're making changes so you can live a more conscious and healthy life.
That means change. So change, dammit!
Pre-plan. Smuggle healthy snacks in your bag (my mom recently smuggled like 5 chocolate bars in hers then showed the staff at the movies lol...she's so cute and sometimes has no idea 🙈).
Having a girl's night and want to snack with everyone? Try making enough sugar free snacks and dessert for everyone and avoid the bloat, sugar hangover and guilt.
6. Fix your microbiome
There are a lot of reasons why one might be hooked on sugar and one of the major ones is dysbiosis (an imbalance of good to bad bacteria in the gut).
When you have too much bacteria in the gut that prefer to feed from sugar vs prebiotics (an indigestible sugar/fibre that fuels healthy microbes) you can get into trouble.
Trouble being IBS-like symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation and/or loose stool. This could also lead to hyperpermeability of the digestive lining (leaky gut) where you can develop food intolerances, chronic fatigue, joint pain and lowered immunity.
These microbes (including yeast) actually signal to your brain that you need sugar because that's how they survive. They're very powerful 'beings' that help to control your metabolism, mood, digestion and assimilation of nutrients as well as support our immune systems...when in the right amount and right balance.
If you're suffering from chronic sugar cravings as well as gas, bloating, food intolerances, constipation and/or loose stool and a painful belly chances are you're dealing with an infection in your gut that needs clearing.
I find many people try to avoid this truth. I get it, it's daunting thinking that you have to invest a chunk of change as well as many weeks or months into changing your diet, taking supplements, eliminating alcohol and of course, quitting sugar in order to feel better.
But I'll tell you one thing from experience, both as a practitioner and sufferer, you can't ignore a gut infection away...it follows you (and will get worse!) when left to run-a-muck in your body.
I opened an Academy 2 years ago and we focus solely on clearing infections in the gut and restoring balance in the microbiome. Head on over and take a peek at our programs, they have a 90% success rate at restoring balance and giving our clients their sugar-craving-free selves back again <3
I hope these 6 points have given you sugar mountains full of motivation and inspiration to quit that shit - or at least reduce your intake and feel much better.
Be well with hope
Cassandra Hope RHN + CPT
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