Perilously destructive, deceptively sinister, completely debilitating, and absolutely delicious.
Sugar gets the blame for making you fat as well as a drove of other crimes, including diabetes, dementia, cardiovascular disease, dementia, eye problems, kidney failure, and high blood pressure.
If I had to point a finger at the largest culprit to america’s ever-expanding waist line, it would be sugar.
So…just eat sugar in infrequent moderation.
Just kidding! It’s a wee bit more complex.
What does sugar do in our bodies?
First, it’s important to understand what happens in our bodies when we consume sugar.
Sugar has two options when it hits your bloodstream.
- It can be burned as fuel. 🙂
- It can be stored as fat. 🙁
Our genes and activity level dictate how much sugar is stored as fat and how much is burned as fuel.
Once sugar hits your bloodstream, the body (the pancreas specifically), releases a hormone called insulin to manage excess sugar. Insulin acts to convert sugar in the blood to stored sugar in fat cells.
When our body receives a massive dose of sugar (curse you Donut Man!) a huge amount of insulin is released into the blood. Insulin pushes the sugar you ate (and then some) into your cells to be stored as fat. This causes our blood sugar to fall too low and we end up in a sugar crash.
The bodies response? Look for more sugar. It’s a vicious cycle.
This is explained phenomenally well by this short 3-minute video called Why You Got Fat.
Worse yet, over time, if we consume too much sugar, our cells become resistant to insulin. This means sugar molecules are left in our blood stream to wreak havoc. This is fundamental mechanism behind diabetes.
All or nothing
If it’s so evil, why not just eliminate it altogether?
Sue was a client of mine who eliminated sugar. Sue lost 15 pounds over the course of four months following her sugar ban.
She’s not alone. Most people I know who’ve eliminated sugar completely end up losing weight.
But, for most people in our culture, it’s nigh impossible to not eat sugar.
We’re inundated with the stuff. Sweets are interwoven into culture. Apple pie during thanksgiving. Valentine’s Day chocolate. Birthday cake. Halloween. Maybe we shouldn’t celebrate special occasions with sugar. But, our culture does. Eliminating sugar altogether is pretty much out of the questions for most.
The other end of the spectrum
If we only ate sugar during special occasions, our weight loss problems would likely cease.
Unfortunately, sugar is addictive. It’s not easy to eat it in moderation.
Magalie Lenoir, an addiction researcher, and her colleagues studied sugar consumption. Their findings were shocking.
“The supranormal stimulation of [sugar] receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.”
According to researcher Dr. David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., the part of the brain that lights up is the very same part of the brain that’s triggered by cocaine or heroine. Meaning
cocaine sugar is really addictive.
Yeah. Sugar can be as addictive as cocaine.
For most, sugar is either all or nothing. That’s the problem.
If you’re the type that goes all in and eliminates sugar for a few weeks only to fall off the bandwagon later, you need to adopt a different strategy.
I’m all about moderation. I think we should be able to enjoy any food we want.
Eating well involves eating mindfully and eating in moderation. Especially when it comes to eating sugar.
Strive to eliminate sugary foods and drinks you consume in your day.
- Added sugar in your coffee
- Sauces and sugary dressings
Eat sweets mindfully. If you don’t take time to pause and enjoy what you’re eating, why eat it?
Don’t make eating dessert a daily or nightly occurrence. Save it for special occasions.
What about fruit?
When you eat a piece of fruit, you are not only consuming the sugar in fruit, you are also ingesting a host of fiber and other nutrients.
Fruit has a very similar effect on our blood sugar as processed sugar. But, it’s usually a lesser effect than traditionally sugary foods.
Fruit should be consumed in moderation. Do you need 6 servings per day? 2 to 3 servings per day is a good starting point.
Fruit juice is problematic.
Juice has all the sugar of fruit. But the nutrients, vitamins, and fiber have been squeezed out. Juice causes the same insulin-spiking, sugar-crashing cascade as sugary foods. If you’re going to have fruit, eat it in its pure form or squeeze it yourself.
If sugar is so evil, fake sugar should solve our problems, right?
Unfortunately, fake sugars cause weird things to happen in our bodies. When we ingest
something sweet, the body prepares itself for glucose. When we don’t get that glucose, hunger hormones are released. This leads to overeating later in the day.
Most diet of diet sodas contain aspartame.
The research linking aspartame to cancer and other long-term diseases is a bit controversial so I won’t touch on it.
This is a naturally occurring sweetener derived from sunflowers.
It may not have the same consequences long-term as chemical sugar-alternatives. However, it still causes the same response in our bodies as aspartame.
The honey badger may not be the smartest of all animals, but he sure is smart about his sugar intake.
The beauty of honey is that it’s a multi-faceted sugar. It contains a mix of different sugar compounds and nutrients. Honey was shown to have a more beneficial effect on blood sugar, inflammatory markers, and blood lipids.
- Eat less sugar.
- If you do eat sugar, try to get it from naturally occurring sources (honey) or fruit.
I’ve seen many clients eliminate sugar and have amazing results.
For most, elimination is unrealistic.
Temporary elimination often leads to overconsumption later on.
We need to stop the on or off mentality when it comes to diet and exercise.
Find a way to do moderation. Get some accountability. Eat sweets slowly. Take your time and enjoy.