Sugar is a natural human necessity that we can find in fruits, vegetables, milk, and some grains. These are natural sources of sugar because they are unprocessed foods. But as humans grew smarter and we learned to cultivate our own sugar such as table sugar, and liquid sugar such as high fructose corn syrup which has been found to be the culprit to many diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
These problems alone are a major reason as to why there’s a movement today to reduce and eliminate sugar intake from our diets. This means having an awareness of what foods you’re eating and how to slowly reduce your daily sugar intake and live a healthier life to live longer. Before we can tackle this we must learn to understand what the cause of the problem. We must begin to understand sugar.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a great natural resource for carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give our bodies energy to perform our daily activities. Everyone enjoys being able to do the things they love to do such as dancing, boxing, and even the love (laugh with me) of our daily chores. Sugar is a quick energy booster for us that we use to accomplish these tasks but we all know can become an addicting go-to energy source for when we have a lack of sleep and long hours at work.
When your lives are out of whack we can find that we crave sugar more and fulfill that craving with energy drinks, sweets, or overeating of even healthy foods. Just reducing your sugar intake doesn’t mean you’ll get rid of your sugar cravings completely but that means that to reduce sugar in your diet you’d have to get more sleep, more exercise, and get our eating habits under control.
Reducing Sugar First?
You may believe that to reduce your sugar intake you would need to start by changing your diet first but in reality, you want to change your other life habits so that you crave sugar less. Fewer sugar cravings will mean an easier transition into a lower sugar diet than just shifting completely from your sugar full diet to a reduced sugar diet which can make you spaz out.
This transition should be done slowly as to not stress yourself out and lose motivation to continue this new lifestyle. The first step to a new sugar-free or less sugar life is to get your daily schedule straightened out.
Someone who has an erratic schedule is more likely to intake more sugar because of the lack of a consistent schedule. Not having the same amount of hours of sleep every day or at least the same weekly schedule in which you know every Monday and Wednesday you’ll have less sleep but all other days you’ll get 7 hours of sleep can get you to lose control of your bodies needs.
If you know that on Monday night you’ll have less sleep for Tuesday, you will learn to expect that on Tuesday you may want to eat more. This is why getting a constant schedule is important because you’ll learn to read and understand your body over time. For example, if I don’t receive a cup of coffee within the hour I wake up I will receive a caffeine headache. I know that of myself and so when I do receive my headache I know it’s either because of no coffee or a lack of sleep if I did have coffee.
Scheduling sleep is the beginning to a healthier and more energetic lifestyle and once you’ve achieved a month or two of this new schedule you’ll probably notice you won’t eat as many extra calories or carbohydrates to make up for your lost hours of sleep.
Now, of course, sleepy head, you must now begin to live a more active lifestyle. Whether you want to be fit in your cardio, muscle training, or both, or even just do the bare minimum of at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, you must do something. This means either getting a gym membership, running before work, lifting weights at home, calisthenics, or using stairs instead of escalators, you must start somewhere.
Adding exercise to your schedule is a lot easier once your daily schedule has been set up and you can follow it more easily, and stress-free. There is absolutely no excuse or reason as to why you cannot add exercise to your schedule. You can’t have enough kids, enough hours of work, or enough responsibilities that are more important than your health.
You cannot help others if you’re not physically able to. Whether you must take a shorter lunch, skip certain activities, or make less time for your television, you have to find a way to fit in exercise. I also suggest that if you want to get more fit that you challenge yourself slowly as to not get uninspired by trying to overachieve while at the gym.
What I mean by this is if it’s too hard to run a mile under 10 minutes for you, run a mile as fast as you can. Keep that pace up constant for a week and get faster and faster week by week. Do not overexert yourself. Once you begin to work out more you will find that you will get hungrier once again. This is because you’re burning more carbohydrates and sugars again and so you may find that your old cravings will come back. Do not fall for the trap and overeat! At this point of your new lifestyle change, you must begin to learn about your diet.
Time to Diet or Eat Better
I don’t believe you can completely eliminate sugar from your diet only because apples, and oranges contain sugar and if you want to eat healthier most people can agree that you should be eating fruits and vegetables to have a well-rounded diet. This is the beauty of reducing sugar in your diet because the goal shouldn’t be to eliminate sugar completely but to reduce any unnecessary sugar intake that you may have found yourself partaking in.
I don’t want to be a bummer but many of us know by now that we must begin to cut the ice cream, carmelized popcorn, and processed foods as much as we can. This means you must begin to learn what is in the foods you eat and will that means you’ll have to pick up cooking more and planning out your meals.
Before we get far ahead of ourselves I suggest taking thing one step at a time. Using myself as an example, if I decided to delete sugar completely from my diet tomorrow I will become discouraged from continuing on my project. I don’t want to delete certain foods from my meals right away. I’m human, I am weak!
I believe we can start with one thing at a time. Ask yourself, “What’s the one thing that I know I can delete from my diet completely?” To me, I couldn’t give up the sugar I needed in my coffee (as of yet) But I can eat cereals without sugar and at least stop drinking those juices with high fructose corn syrup.
This thought leads me to read nutrition labels. The biggest culprit to our excess of processed sugar is high fructose corn syrup and foods or drinks with added sugar. You must begin to read the ingredients to your foods and how many grams of sugar are in each serving of your even so-called healthy options for food. This includes culprits like yogurt, granola bars, and even smoothies or soda. Read, read, read all your labels!
This new awareness will give you insight on how your new meal plans will be like and what your new grocery list should look like. You’ll see that you’ll buy less soda, and more lemons to make your own lemonade. Reducing sugar can be done in small steps and with this new diet, more exercise and better sleeping schedule you’ll find that your cravings will be subdued and fulfilled with apples, more water, and maybe, just maybe, a weekly cup of chocolate ice cream.
The whole point of reducing sugar from your diet is to not give your body more sugar than it can handle. It’s not about holding back sugar from yourself completely but making better decisions in how you want to fuel your body. Natural sugars you find in grains, milk, vegetables, and fruit are more easily processed by the body than processed table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar can be found in ketchup, melted cheeses, and even our bread from our favorite burger joints. Our bodies weren’t made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose. Excess sugar gets transformed into fat on our bodies which in turn slows us down and makes our heart work harder to pump blood to our bodies.
Sugar overloads your liver because it is the only organ who can convert sugar or fructose into fat. Fructose also tricks your metabolism in where Dr. Mercola explains that:
Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body’s appetite-control system. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or “the hunger hormone,” which then fails to stimulate leptin or “the satiety hormone.” This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance
Being aware of sugar, its uses, effects on our bodies and its whereabouts in our daily foods is the beginning to a healthier and reduced sugar diet. Remember to take things slow and make your transition into a reduced sugar lifestyle bearable. You’ll find yourself less dependent on fructose and sugar and more reliant on water, exercise, sleep, and healthier food choices.
I also found that the article, “Negative Effects of Sugar” by Helen Sanders on HealthAmbition.com brings more information about sugar addiction and shares that it’ll take about 5 days to break any body dependency on sugar. They challenge you to take the sugar diet challenge and at least experience your body without a sugar addiction for a few days.