I remember reading a book by David Gillespie called ‘Sweet Poison’ which totally changed my view on eating processed sugar. This book was written by a 40kg overweight, sleep deprived father of four that had run out of diet options to lose weight. One day he decided to eliminate sugar out of his diet completely and the changes not just physically but mentally to the way he felt was radical. David started to investigate the link between our soaring obesity rates and the worrying diseases that were emerging in the 21st century. He found links between the introduction of processed sugar in the 1940’s and the increase of heart disease and diabetes.
A background of poor health is what also drove Sarah Wilson to quit sugar and start a successful company and movement in the process with her ‘IQuitsugar.com’ online program and books. The I quit sugar movement proved to fill a gap in the market with over 1.5million people in over 113 countries joining her online program to learn the tools to successfully ditch sugar for good. The results from her devotees are astonishing, with some displaying increases in fertility, decreased symptoms of chronic and auto-immune diseases whilst for others it has assisted with the management of diabetes and helped many others lose that stubborn belly fat for good.
So knowing all of this this let’s look at specifically how sugar affects our overall health.
Sugar is stored as excess fat around the mid section:
According to the Heart Foundation (heartfoundation.org.au) more than 64% of Australians are overweight or obese and more than 1 in 4 children. These are worrying statistics as being overweight lends itself to the likelihood of having chronic diseases such as cardio thoracic diseases and diabetes.
There are 2 types of belly fat the first one is called subcutaneous fat that is fat located just under the skin. Subcutaneous fat is often referred to as ‘ love handles’, ‘saddlebags’ or ‘back fat’. Whilst carrying excess weight around the mid section is not ideal with changes to your diet and moving more it is possible to reduce this area.
The second more concerning fat is called visceral fat which is generally indicated by a ‘pot belly’ or an apple shape. This type of fat is of concern as it is much deeper under the skin and surrounds the vital organs. Visceral fat can cause changes to our hormonal profiles and has links to both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Sugar may promote cancerous cells and recurrence:
In 1924 there was a German Scientist named Otto Warburg who discovered that cancerous cells need a lot more sugar to grow and divide than normal cells this became known as the ‘Warburg Effect’. Cancerous cells metabolise sugar differently to normal cells and there has been a lot of research as of late to discover new treatments for this process.
Let it be known however that eating sugar directly does not cause cancer however, there is an indirect link between cancer risk and sugar. We know this because having a diet high in sugar lends itself to being overweight or obese. According to the Cancer Research UK, being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer. In fact, after smoking, obesity is the second most preventable form of cancer in the UK.
There have been some further research groups which looked at the recurrence rates of women with breast cancer. A ‘PREDIMED’ study followed 300 breast cancer survivors for 3 years, 199 eating a ‘normal’ healthy diet as advised by dieticians and 108 eating a Mediterranean style diet comprising of 4 serves of vegetables, 3 serves of fruit, 1 serve of whole grains and plenty of olive oil, fish and seafood 3-4 times a week and a little red meat.
11 patients experienced a recurrence whilst on the normal diet whilst no one on the Mediterranean diet underwent a relapse. The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating whole foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and olive oil whilst being low in red and processed meat and alcohol is kept to a minimum. Whilst only a small study it is promising.
Sugar can damage your heart:
It has been noted that sugar can cause contribute to cardiovascular diseases, however, a 2013 article in the Journal of American Heart Association displayed strong evidence that sugar can actually affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and could increase the risk of heart failure. The findings specifically pinpointed a molecule from sugar called glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) that was responsible for changes in the muscle protein of the heart. These changes could eventually lead to heart failure.
High sugar diets can age you:
I used to remember my mum telling my in my youth that drinking lots of alcohol will age you. I used to think this was her one of her many attempts of trying to keep me away from it. Now I understand that the sugar content in alcohol and many processed foods ages our cells and causes many of them to die prematurely. Excess processed sugar can cause dark circles around your eyes, wrinkles, dehydrate your skin and can fast track the ageing process.
Basically, sugar bonds with proteins in your body in a process called glycation. They also harden collagen and elastin, and prevent your body from making more. All these effects mean your skin looses elasticity, lines and wrinkles start to set in, and signs of visible ageing become more apparent.
Beware Sugar is hidden in most things that we eat:
Whilst many of us strive to avoid eating processed sugar like chocolates, lollies, cakes and pastries sugar is also in a lot of everyday foods that we consume. For example dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cream, butter, ice cream and cheese all contain ‘lactose’ which is a sugar found in dairy products. Whilst this is a more natural occurring sugar than say the sugar found in biscuits it still is made up of the same composition of fructose and glucose.
So basically, whether it’s in a piece of fruit, a fizzy drink or a pastry, sugar is made up of the same two components: fructose and glucose. The molecule structure and composition of sugar molecules is the same no matter where they come from. Let’s not get confused that the sugar found in cake has the same effect on the body as say the sugar found in fruit (which it doesn’t). For one thing, fruit offers good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and water whilst cakes, lollies and biscuit offer zero nutritional benefits.
When it comes to choosing what to eat the old adage ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘everything in moderation’ couldn’t ring truer. It’s important to ‘eat the rainbow’ when it comes to a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables so we get all of our essential vitamins and minerals plus the all important fibre requirements to aid digestion. Sweet processed treats and alcohol should be limited to special occasions or on the weekends. In the health and wellness world we educate our clients to understand that 70% of how you look is what you are eating and drinking and the other 30% consists of what you are ‘doing’ .
If you are looking to detox off processed sugar start by making some small changes every week. It could be something as simple as cutting back your alcohol consumption from Monday to Friday or not eating dessert every time you go out for dinner. Over time you will notice your sugar cravings have all but disappeared and you wont even think twice about eating it nor miss it. The benefits of the weight you lose, how much more energy you have and the clarity of your thoughts will be motivation enough to cut back or ditch the sugar for good!
There is nothing like a hint of a balmy breeze and days spent by the water after the cold winter months to inspire us to start thinking about getting healthy. The Summer months are definitely a time where we are more conscious of what we are eating and how we are feeling. You would be forgiven for being confused about what are the best foods to eat and the right type of exercise to participate in, for you to feel your best.
There is a proliferation of information out there especially on the internet, advertising the latest diets and exercise plans. This combined with ‘fitspo’ influencers spruiking the latest and greatest supplements and training gadgets can cause an overwhelming information overload for anyone researching these topics.
The old adage ‘if it sounds to good to be true it generally is’ a good philosophy to adopt when you are reading about the latest Celebrity weight loss plan and wondering whether it is for you. Unfortunately, there is no ‘quick fix’ to losing weight or getting fit! It takes time, consistency and is often one step forward and two steps back!
In order to cut thru the white noise of the health industry the best approach for looking and feeling your best is a ‘Balanced Lifestyle Approach’. This process looks into all areas of your lifestyle from nutrition, movement, hydration, stress management , sleep and mental health. The philosophy around the balanced lifestyle approach is, if any of the above lifestyle factors are being neglected, then you have a problem with this health equilibrium.
Lets address some of these lifestyle factors that could be inhibiting you from getting the results that you desire.
The best part about the warmer temperatures is our food persuasions move away from stodgy heavier meals to lighter foods such as salads and fruit. Berries, melons, mangoes and kiwi fruits come into season allowing us to make up some delicious fruit salads as snacks or a healthy dessert option.
When it comes to eating healthy, it’s important break the overnight fast of a morning with an energy fuelled breakfast that helps set us up for the rest of the day. Try to include a protein, carbohydrate and good fat source in your breakfast so that your body feels fuller for longer and you are getting all of your essential nutrients and vitamins.
Proteins could be anything from lean cuts of meat, eggs, dairy or a range of vegan options such as beans, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas or beans.
Healthy carbohydrates include vegetables, healthy grains such as quinoa, brown rice or pearl barley. Good fats can include olive oils, avocados, butter, nuts and seeds.
Some healthy vegan options for breakfast include coconut yoghurt with granola and berries with a hint of honey. A non-vegan option would be scrambled eggs with roast tomatoes, mushrooms and a slice of spelt toast with butter.
Picking the perfect snack is where a lot of us fall down as we are unprepared and often opt for snacks made of convenience rather than what is necessarily good for us. Coffee and a sweet laden muffin or biscuit tend to be our ‘Go To’s’ which give us an initial surge in blood sugar and energy only to come crashing down some time later. All of this processed sugar and caffeine send us on a viscous cycle of peaks and troughs of energy and concentration throughout the day that can be disastrous when we are trying to lose weight. You can find yourself caught in a mouse wheel of chasing energy throughout the whole day and craving empty carbohydrates.
More optimal snacks to keep your energy on an even keel include a piece of fruit combined with a small handful of activated nuts a tub of coconut with berries or some vegetable sticks with some homemade hummus.
Remember ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ and preparation is the key to success when trying to lose body fat. Pack a lunchbox the night before that includes a healthy lunch and snacks so you have everything you need to support your healthy eating plan.
In terms of lunch and dinner selections, you cant go past a lean source of protein such as chicken, fish or for a vegan option of tofu, lentils or beans. Combine this with a fresh salad of walnuts, feta cheese or pomegranates for a refreshing take on a plain salad.
Supporting your healthy eating should be a solid hydration plan that involves drinking 2-3 litres of good quality water per day. Drinking enough water allows our body to get rid of excess toxins and promotes healthy digestion. Excreting toxins regularly enables us to lose weight and diminishes bad cells that can cause cellulite.
The right type of exercise for you is the one that you are most likely to stick with whether it be Pilates, weights or Zumba. Obviously training variety is the key to obtaining the bodies most effective result’s.
Your body is uncannily smart and will adapt to the same type of training very quickly. Adaptation generally occurs after 6-8 weeks of performing the same type of exercise so it is important to mix up some component of the weights you are lifting or the type of cardio exercise you are participating in.
In today’s world we are restricted with the amount of time we have to dedicate to exercise so there has been an explosion in popularity of 20-30 minute options such as HIIT or class style circuit workouts. Both of these type of workouts combine both cardio and strength training elements whilst getting the heart rate up, a popular choice for many time poor people. These formats tend to offer ‘bang for buck’ for people looking to burn a lot of energy and get a good sweat on.
In order to change the shape of your body you cant go past some form of resistance training. Resistance training can be in the form of weights, body weight or using more functional equipment pieces like cables or resistance bands to name a few. Resistance training increases our lean muscle tissue that in turn assists us in burning energy even when we are inactive. This is very useful when we are tying to lose weight as lean muscle tissue will help us burn off excess body fat whilst also giving our muscles the appearance of looking firm and toned.
It is also hard to go past Mind/Body classes like Pilates or Yoga for their holistic health benefits and stress management techniques. Ten minutes a day should be spent practicing some ‘quite time’ such as meditation, journaling or listening to music to recalibrate your spirit and your mind.
Balancing Your Lifestyle:
Did you know on average that most of us spend 10 hours a day at working including commuting to work?
This is a pretty scary statistic when you combine that with 7- 8 hours sleep that only leaves us with approximately 6 hours a day for leisure and relaxation.
The quality of your time off makes all of the difference to balancing your lifestyle. Invest time into activities that are good for your mental health such as exercise, meditation, reading, or spending time with friends and family.
Balancing our lifestyle helps reduce our stress levels which in turn reduces our levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that can cause excess amounts of sugar production and in turn increased blood sugar levels. Carrying excess weight particularly around the mid section is a sign of excessive amounts of cortisol and long term stress.
Long terms stress can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression and physical problems like high blood pressure, muscle weakness and fatigue.
In summary, the right weight loss program for you is one that is sustainable and fits into your lifestyle. Sustainability is the key here, if it involves too much deprivation or sacrifice the body will feel overwhelmed and it will only end up being a short-term weight loss solution.
If you want to transform your health then all of the 5 key lifestyle factors need to be addressed from mental health, movement, nutrition, water, sleep and stress management.
Small changes over time is the best approach as trying to change too many things at once will be overwhelming and again you may abandon all of your efforts before you have even started.