We all know one of the top priorities in a fat loss program is to reduce sugar consumption. This can be easier said than done though for a lot of folks. There is no question that excess sugar in the body is one of the primary culprits behind the hormonal imbalances and inflammation that promote weight gain. However, the problem is not the idea of cutting back on the sugars, it’s often the way it’s gone about.
Alright before we go much further, let’s first review some basics so we’re all on the same page. Consuming a diet high in processed sugars, refined foods, and starch carbohydrates combined with a lack of exercise is a leading contributor to low insulin sensitivity, progressive insulin resistance, and eventually left unchecked a condition called metabolic X syndrome. This is where the weight gain comes fast and furious and the body succumbs to suppressed health and wellness.
More on how we get there.
As you may already know, one of insulin’s main jobs is to regulate blood sugar levels by transporting glucose (blood sugar) the body doesn’t immediately need for energy to the muscle cells and the liver for storage. When blood sugar levels remain elevated over long periods of time due to the above-mentioned reasons, the cell receptors start shutting down to insulin. This is how “insulin resistance” is caused.
The resulting acidic state in the body and inflammation due to perpetually elevated insulin and cortisol levels begins to degenerate tissue around the pancreas, adrenals, and other glands. Beyond unwanted weight gain, left unresolved the individual will eventually be vulnerable to things like type II diabetes and heart disease.
I tell you all of this simply to get your attention on how important it is to get control of blood sugar levels in your body. Cutting back on processed sugars, refined foods, and starches is priority number one if you’re overweight and want to take control of your health.
As a fitness coach for the past twenty years, I’ve consulted with literally hundreds of individuals on how to go about reducing sugar content in their diets. During that time, I’ve discovered a frequently used strategy that while “well intended” can actually help keep an individual stuck on the sugar wheel.
I call it…
“The Great “Sugar Substitute Deception”
It goes something like this. An individual with sugar issues will set out to fix the problem by replacing all the processed and refined foods in their “healthier choices.”
Think along the lines of the following:
I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Now let me ask you, haven’t be conditioned to believe that all these actions are “healthier” choices? Well, I’d make an argument that while some of these may ever so slightly move the health meter in a better direction, most have minimal impact.
What?! How could that be Shane? This is eating healthier!!!
Ok, so let me ask you, “how’s it working for ya?”
You see this is where the rubber hits the road. Regardless of what we feel should work, what we believe should be “healthier,” and so forth, the impartial judges are the scale, the mirror, your clothes, and lab work.
Is it working? A simple yes or no is all we need.
It’s been my experience that this type of strategy seldom ever works. Here’s why.
The individual simply substituted one form of sugar for another.
They’re still stuck on the sugar wheel!
With continued high blood sugar levels that the body is not able to use for energy, hormonal imbalances and inflammation remain unchanged. This is the root of the problem and you’re not going to “fix it” unless you condition your body to use something other than sugar as energy.
Like what wise guy? Well, how about fat for example. Just saying.
So how would one best go about this.
While there are different approaches to use, best determined on an individual basis regarding what’s going to most feasible and doable, the common denominator in any effective approach at breaking a sugar addiction is REPLACING the sugar with another energy source.
You notice I didn’t say SUBSTITUTE and I didn’t stay ELIMINATE.
We already know now what substituting one type of food or drink high in sugar for another does. Nothing.
And we don’t necessarily want to go the scorched earth route either. Listen, sugar isn’t the boogeyman. The primary component of energy used in the human body comes from glucose, which is guess what, sugar.
But see, we could get glucose in a lot of ways, the most basic of which might be a vegetable instead of a Dorito.
If you’re addicted to sugar and you go cold turkey and pull it all out without replacing it with something else, you’re simply looking to restrict your way into a fix. This typically fails miserably. You’re using willpower in this instance, fighting against some pretty strong physiological impulses your body is sending to your brain. Good luck with that route.
This is one of the reasons why typical diets that rely on excessive restriction are so hard to follow, not to mention terribly ineffective. Don’t fight the biology of your body, learn how to reprogram it.
So instead of cutting everything out make the following changes.
The “BIG 4” Components of Breaking a Sugar Addiction and Changing Your Shape
So, what do I eat?
Lots of lean protein, greens and vegetables, some low sugar fruit like berries, healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc, and an occasional tuber (root vegetable).
Lots of ways to go about it, none of which have to be some sort of religion or cult. Just pretty much stick to the above if you want to move the needle.
If you find some foods don’t work for you due to whatever reason, simply leave them out or use in moderation. The premise here is we’re not starving ourselves, but rather conditioning our body to get off the sugar wheel.
Listen I’m all about various intermittent fasting strategies and different methods so long as they work for that individual to help make a positive change. But you know what doesn’t work….doing intermittent fasting then eating a bunch of “healthy” high sugar content foods (as one example).
Anyone who has tried to pull all the sugars out of their diet before has probably found that after a few days’ irritability, cravings, headaches, and other side effects start kicking in with a vengeance. This is where most people cave in and go back to eating in their old habits.
The secret is minimizing the withdrawals and riding out the urge to slide back for the first couple of weeks then a magical thing happens. All of a sudden, the cravings start to subside as your body becomes conditioned to using other fuels for energy. You have to go through that uncomfortable period though before you can experience the dramatic change on the other side. Your energy levels will increase, fatigue fades away, sugar cravings subside, and the weight starts slowly coming off.
You just have to hold on long enough for the changes to happen on the inside first. It’s important you understand this battle with sugar is just as much physiological as it is psychological. Sugar is a very addictive substance and works on the opioid receptors in the brain the same way drugs do. You’re dealing with strong neurotransmitters and chemical signals that no amount of willpower alone can overcome.
The only way to win is to change the signals by dramatically altering the way you eat. Cutting calories and eating Lean Cuisines won’t ever help you break a sugar addiction.
Neither will replacing processed sugars with so called “healthy” whole grains, breads, low-calorie wraps, etc. To defeat the sugar addiction once and for all you’ve got to declare all-out war. Make a commitment to following some plan of incorporating the Big 4 for a mere thirty days and you’ll see the difference for yourself.
Over time as your body begins to get a handle on regulating blood sugar levels you can start integrating foods like potatoes, rice, and other starches more frequently back into your diet.
Just take it one step at a time and be patient with yourself. You won’t be perfect but if you stick with it, you’ll win. Don’t let small slip-up’s cause you to fall of the wagon completely. Stay the course and get right back on track if you give into a craving.
Avoid being drawn into the lies that permeate marketing messages with claims like “eat all your favorite foods and still lose weight” ….simply take this pill, powder, or follow this breakthrough strategy. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. There’s simply no substitute for healing your body with natural foods and regular exercise. Everything else is a short-cut and sooner or later you’ll have to address the root of the problem.
Going about beating a sugar addiction all alone can be tough sledding. This is where the support and accountability of a personal health and fitness coach can pay significant dividends. If myself and my team of coaches can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Be blessed.
Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a fitness professional and expert on exercise and body transformation for middle age and mature adults. He seeks to make a difference in the lives of others by providing instruction and coaching with a servant-based attitude. Since 2004 his Charleston personal training programs have helped over 3,000 Lowcountry residents.
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