By Craig Fear
So now that we’ve established that sugar is truly the leading culprit in our national health epidemics, let’s start getting it out of our diet!
These 7 steps are the foundation of where I start with almost everyone who walks through my door. Regardless of what the health issues are be they weight loss, diabetes, digestive issues, skin issues, depression, etc., it all starts with getting sugar out of the diet.
Dr. Thomas Cowan, in his article, “Treating Diabetes: Practical Advice for Combatting a Modern Epidemic”, writes:
During the 1980s, researchers began to ask whether obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension and other common medical problems that occur together are really separate diseases, or manifestations of one common physiological defect. The evidence now points to one defect and that is hyperinsulinemia, or excessive insulin levels in the blood. Hyperinsulinemia is the physiological event that links virtually all of our degenerative diseases. It is the biochemical corollary or marker of the events described in heart disease.
And as we know now, excessive insulin levels are directly related to too much sugar in the blood.
So what to do? Get the sugar out! Have I mentioned that yet? Here’s how to do it:
#1 Increase fat and protein
This is the key. Boosting fat and protein will start to shift your metabolism from a fat storing one to a fat burning one. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, I know, but the science behind this is unmistakable. Excess sugar in the blood gets converted to fat. Eating more fat and protein will start to release the stored fat and boost your metabolism. It will also shift your taste buds away from constantly craving sugar. It will satiate you. It will slow digestion and keep you from reaching for sweets for a quick boost in energy. Remember, we burn through carbs much faster than fats. This is why you can sit on the couch at night and mindlessly chomp through a box of cookies, a tub of ice cream, a bag of potato chips, etc. There’s a reason Lays motto is “Nobody can eat just one”.
As logical as this sounds, we’ve been so thoroughly conditioned to believe that fat is unhealthy, that for many people, in particular women, it can take a great leap of faith to start eating more of it. So you must also overcome your fear of it! When I sense this fear in someone, I always send this article, “Taking the Fear Out of Eating Fat”.
#2 Reduce grains
This of course is implied with #1. Grains are converted to sugar in the digestive process. The standard American diet is very high in grains. This is primarily because the food industry can grow them cheaply and efficiently and convert them into the tons of processed foods in the middle aisles of our supermarkets. Wheat and corn (yes, corn is a grain), along with soybeans make up the majority of processed foods. Just look at the ingredient labels. And if you want to see it for yourself, get in your car and drive across the country. Starting around western Pennsylvania and continuing all the way to the Rocky Mountains, you will see a tremendous amount of corn, wheat and soybean fields. Much of that will go to raising animals in factory farms as grains fatten them up too. The majority of the rest goes into junk food.
#3 Don’t skip meals and snack regularly
As you shift from a sugar to a fat burning metabolism, your body will still crave sweets for awhile. Skipping meals can cause your blood sugar to dip, causing you to crave sweets even more. Don’t do this. And especially don’t do this with breakfast. Snacking between meals will help keep your blood sugar stable so that you not only don’t reach for the mid-morning or mid-afternoon sugar treat, but it will also prevent you from overeating at your regular meals. Of course, eat healthy snacks. Nuts, nut butters with veggies, pickles, avocados, cheese, hard boiled eggs, hummus and veggies are just a few examples of some simple, low carb snacks.
Of course, some of you may be saying that if you’re eating 3 meals and snacking that perhaps you’ll be eating too many calories.
#4 Don’t restrict calories!
Never do this. The over-consumption of sugar will slow metabolism. It withdraws vital nutrients from the body which feed our hormones, in particular our thyroid and our adrenals, important endocrine glands that help keep our metabolism healthy. Low thyroid and sluggish adrenals are extremely common in our country. What we’re trying to do is to re-set our blood sugar levels. Counting calories can exacerbate sugar cravings, in particular if we’re restricting fat. This is why low fat diets leave most people fatigued and hungry. Eating more fat and protein will help us begin to regulate our appetite naturally. When the sugar cravings fall away, we begin re-connecting with normal, healthy food cravings. And in the end we don’t have to obsessively rely on a scale or some controversial label to tell us how much to eat.
#5 Eat cultured and lacto-fermented foods
This is not only helpful for cutting sugar cravings, it’s incredibly healthy. All traditional cultures, before the advent of refrigerators and freezers, consumed cultured foods on a regular basis. Culturing foods preserves them for long periods of time. It’s a natural process by which the starches and sugars in fruits, vegetables and dairy are chemically broken down by naturally occurring bacteria and converted into lactic acid. Thus culturing is also referred to as lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid preserves food and prevents spoilage. More importantly these chemical changes have some remarkable health benefits. They are truly super foods with powerful healing properties. Sauerkraut and kimchi (my personal favorites), pickles, yogurt and cheese are just a few examples.
Why do cultured foods reduce sugar cravings? Actually, I’m not sure. Something about the bitter/sour flavor in lacto-fermented foods seems to counteract our cravings for sweets. Countless people have told me this and I’ve clearly noticed this in myself too.
#6 Drink kombucha
This lacto-fermented beverage deserves a separate mention on its own. It can be pure magic for zapping sugar cravings, especially when the urge hits at night after dinner. That’s when it usually hits for me. One cup of kombucha and it’s instantly gone.
What is kombucha, you ask? It’s a fermented tea drink from Russia. With lots of sugar! But the sugar is transformed in the fermentation process into beneficial acids which are great for digestion. So is a good amount of the caffeine. What’s left is a soury, slightly fizzy, slighty sweet, delicious beverage somewhat akin to ginger ale. It’s catching on too. You can find it bottled in most health food stores now. But it’s a lot more fun (and cheaper) to make it at home. It’s super easy too. You’ll have to find a kombucha starter culture (also known as a kombucha “mother” or “mushroom”) to get going and there are plenty of online sources with directions for how to make it. If you ask around though, I bet you’ll find a neighbor or nearby friend who can give you a culture and show you how to do it.
#7 Go easy on yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a setback. It’s common. Just keep at it. Little by little your taste buds (and your blood sugar) will reset itself naturally and your sugar cravings will be replaced by healthy food cravings. In the process weight will come down, cholesterol will come down, mood will improve, energy will improve, digestion will improve, skin will look better, hair will look better, you’ll get enlightened, etc etc. OK, maybe not that last one. But I bet your health will greatly improve.
Keep in mind, if you’ve been consuming a mostly sugar based diet, you probably won’t want to go cold turkey right away. Cut back by little by little each week until you feel ready to take it all out. And be prepared for cravings, moodiness, irritability and fatigue. Your body is used to using sugar as it’s primary source of fuel and it can take some time to wean off this. Those that do go cold turkey with success usually report a two to three day period of fairly intense misery.
No one said this was easy. But compared to weight gain, fatigue, heart disease and type II diabetes, a little suffering though can go a long way to averting A LOT of suffering.
Try this for two to three weeks and let me know how it goes. And if you need a little extra help and support, give me a call. This is what I do.
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Craig Fear, NTP is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. His business and practice is named Pioneer Valley Nutritional Therapy and is located in Northampton, MA. Craig consults with people both in his office and long distance via phone and skype. He specializes in weight loss and digestive issues. To find out more about Craig and his approach, please visit http://www.pvnutritionaltherapy.com.