Did you know that the average American consumes an astounding two to three pounds of sugar each week? This certainly begs the question, “Are we all too sweet on sugar?” For many, the answer to this question is a resounding, YES! Moreover, for those of us actively trying to lose weight, any attempt to sans the sweet stuff and cut the carbs can often be one the biggest roadblocks on our road to a successful slim down!
By now, most of us have heard the phrases, “good carbohydrates” and “bad carbohydrates,” as well as “good fats” and “bad fats.” Well, that same train of thought can be applied to the categorization of sugars. “Good” sugar is found in whole foods, like fruits and vegetables. In this form, sugar arrives in our bodies bundled with lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. On the other hand, “bad” sugars are those not created naturally by Mother Nature, like the refined stuff used to sweeten sodas, candy and baked goods.
Let’s talk about these “bad” sugars for a moment. In its most basic form, sugar is a simple carbohydrate that elevates the body’s blood sugar levels. An influx of sugar into the bloodstream upsets the body’s blood-sugar balance and triggers the release of insulin, which promotes the storage of fat. So, when you eat foods that are high in sugar, you’re creating the perfect storm in your body for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease! Not cool, sugar…NOT COOL!
Simply stated, our bodies were just not designed to consume sugar! Not only does sugar in almost any form impede our body’s ability to burn fat, but it is also one of the primary reasons why so many people trying to lose weight can never reach their goals or build lean muscle mass! As painful as it is to say, there is simply no way an individual can continue to take in excess amounts of sugar and still expect to slim down and build the body they desire!
That means the answer is simple, right? All we have to do is sans the sugar, bid a fond farewell to the sweet stuff, break up with bread and kiss the carbs good-bye, yes? Well, as easy as that sounds, there’s one giant problem that makes this ‘to-do’ item incredibly difficult to accomplish…sugar tastes really, really, really GOOD! Once we start eating sugar, it’s often difficult to stop. In fact, the more we eat, the more we crave. It is actually very addictive in nature, and therefore, can often be a really tough habit for many to kick!
Despite its delicious flavor in almost any form, excessive consumption of sugar can destroy a person’s health over time, rotting teeth, disrupting normal brain function, promoting heart disease and directly causing diabetes and obesity. Ok, so now that we know WHY we should start to step away from sugar, the question then becomes, HOW do we really do so? In a word…PALEO! [Read more in CFC’s previous blog entry – The Paleo Diet: It’s Not Just for Cavemen Anymore!]
While removing sugar from your daily meals can be tough at first, it’s completely possible and the benefits of doing so are truly life changing! If you are used to consuming a diet rich with foods containing sugars, then it’s safe to assume that you will most likely experience withdrawal symptoms as you transition to a diet that’s lower in both carbohydrates and sugars.
These withdrawal symptoms, while fairly mild, are still uncomfortable and often prevent people from staying on track. After all, headaches, lethargy, emotional distress, anger and even nausea, all potential side effects of sugar withdrawal, are not easy to ignore and cannot always be eliminated with sheer willpower alone! Your body is going through withdrawal because it has become addicted to sugars, grains, high carb foods and chemicals contained in foods previously consumed. As you begin to wean yourself off of the sweet stuff, you will experience cravings for the foods you are starting to remove from your diet, like sweets, salty foods and products containing grains or potatoes. If this happens, it is extremely important to remember that these symptoms, however unpleasant, WILL PASS! Depending on the person, withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from one to two weeks, but if you can remain disciplined and stay away from the sweet stuff long enough to make it through this withdrawal period, you’ll be amazed by the results!
However, if sheer willpower alone just isn’t enough to help keep you on track, here are some additional ways in which you can address the discomfort of your withdrawal symptoms. For example:
Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up
Eat something every 4-5 hours to help balance blood sugar levels
Do something that will distract you from eating sweets, like readings a book, cleaning the house, watching a comedy, going for a bike ride, or calling a friend, etc.
Drink LOTS AND LOTS of water!
Keep and accurate food journal for accountability
Lean on your consultants, family and friends for support!
Google It! Learn about sugar and its effects on your body; learn more about Paleo too!
Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to the craving. You’re human. Don’t let the occasional slip-up discourage you.
At the end of the day, the key to overall health and to successful workouts is to cut sugar from your diet. However, hidden sugars could be lurking in many of your prepackaged favorites, so be extra cautious of these sly sugars when planning your meals and snacks!
Learn to read labels and recognize the names of sugars and other undesired ingredients. If you’re heading out to eat at a restaurant, review menus online before you dine. Many restaurants are happy to substitute starchy sides for veggies or fruit! Order sauces and dressings that come with your meal ‘on-the-side’ too. This way, you can take them out for a taste-bud-test-drive before they are completely covering your food!
Stealthy sugars are everywhere, so pay special attention to the sneaky, sugar-filled products that can really undo all your hard work, like:
Yogurt and yogurt drinks (can contain anywhere from 27 to 60 grams of sugar per serving…yikes)!
BBQ sauces, marinades, ketchup
Frozen and takeout meal
Oatmeal, cereal, granola bars, etc.
Vitamin waters and sports drinks
Fruit juices – juice contains anywhere from 30 to 80 grams of sugar per serving AND lack the fiber that eating whole fruits will provide. An ice-cold glass of water is sounding better and better.
Dried fruits (no way, it’s fruit, it should be totally healthy)! Wrong! A 1.5 oz box of raisins contains 30 grams of sugar! Granny Smith just called, and she’d like to offer you a fresh apple instead!
Giving up sugar may not be easy, but it’s certainly going to be worth it! Plus, if your sweet tooth is really screaming, don’t forget that CrossFit Country now sells a variety of Paleo-friendly cupcakes, which should help keep your inner sugar monster at bay… om nom nom nom…
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Write This Way, LLC