sugar

How to unlock the jaws of a sugar craving?

Eat protein. 

It is a pretty simple test, but does require prep.

First, you have to have protein with you.

I'd like you to have animal protein. The kind you have to chew (ie no shakes). 

Eggs, chicken, steak, pork.

The less processed the better. 

The test:

When you hear the cries for skittles (WE NEEEEDS THEM)...

...or a pastry (PUHLEEASE)

...or a donut (I MUST)

...or even dried fruit (BUT I AM TRYING TO AVOID THE DONUT!!)

1. Eat 2, 4, 6 ounces of your protein option first -

2. Wait 20 minutes (set a timer if you need to) and see - do you still really want the sugary delight? 

If the answer is YES? Well, ok.

If NO. Excellent!!! You are rewiring your brain! Let's celebrate with a self hi-five! 

Rinse. Repeat.

 

Food is hard so I might as well just eat Twinkies

Nutrition is tricky.

But then again it isn't.

The problem shows up in looking for the quick fix, the perfect diet, or the holy grail of food. 

There is no perfect.

There is no diet that suits everyone.

And there is no magic food. 

When first delving into understanding food better there is A LOT of conflicting information.

It can be paralyzing.

Fat is good. Carbs are bad.

Fat is bad. Carbs are good.

Protein is great. 

Red meat will kill you.

Kale is a superfood.

Kale will kill you.

Lemon in water is excellent!

Lemon in water is terrible for your teeth.

AHHHG! It is maddening.

So. I might as well go eat Twinkies, and Skittles, and Fruit Loops, and Lunchables, and Fruitsnacks, and... EVERYTHING.

Makes sense.

Perfect logic.

:I

No.

Highly processed refined foods are not the answer. This is something - in the vast world of nutrition - pretty much everyone can agree on.

As for the rest of it the body craves balance. Going too left (aka a million green kale smoothies all day er'yday) or going too right (aka all meat no veg all the time) is generally not the best place to land.

You will eat differently at different times in your life.

What you eat should be dictated by your needs and goals.

There are times when more restriction makes sense.

There are time when a therapeutic approach makes sense.

There are times when you can get away with indulging yourself. 

And there are times when you cannot.

Figuring out what you need for specific weight loss goals, health concerns, and/or performance CAN be tricky and take time and experimentation to figure out (I can help you).

But, in broad strokes eating foods that are high quality, foods that are whole, avoiding refined grains and sugars MAKES A LOT OF SENSE and is something you can do if you'd like to push the pendulum toward health. 

My No Refined Sugar Journey

I've been posting a lot about sugar. 

It's kind of a big deal.

We know that sugar isn't a great choice.

We know that donuts are not a super food.

We know that cookies are not the key to longevity. 

We know that candy isn't a vitamin. 

We know all these things, but if you pay attention to the marketing it is easy to forget.

It is January and there is already Easter Candy in the stores. Whoa capitalism! Take the reigns!

We normalize the overconsumption of sugar to the point where WHO knows what is normal. We measure ourselves by the people around us.

She is skinny and had two cookies... so I am practicing restraint by having my one - OR - well my signf. other eats a bowl of ice cream EVERY NIGHT and I only have a half a scoop every other night, so that's good - OR - you're right commercial on tv I SHOULD treat myself. 

We have awkward measuring sticks. 

This year was the first year I stayed off all refined sugar for the holidays. No sugar, no flour, no chips, no corn tortillas, no candy, no baked goods. I did still have wine... and I also wrapped some dates in bacon (my specialty). 

This is a big deal for me usually going home to Michigan AND holiday season means the ULTIMATE CHEAT MEAL STREAK! Pockets full of Peanut M&Ms, Peanut Butter M&Ms, AND! Reese's pieces (seriously, I put them in my pockets for easy snacking access, great combo). SO GOOD. SOO BAD. I wrote more about that in my first post "SUGAR, SUGAR, SUUUUGARRRRRRRR | PART 1".

So the question = how'd it go? 

The answer = really well.

I did have moments of gazing longingly at things I could not have, but then the moment passed something else happened and I forgot. 

The hardest time I have is when someone ELSE thinks I should be eating a treat and THEY feel put out by me NOT doing it.

This doesn't happen too often, but it does happen.

I was at my Uncle's house and he ALWAYS has candy out and about. My sisters and I were doing a quick visit and my Aunt and Uncle always like to have something out for you to nibble on (very hospitable). Unfortunately, all of the things out were not things I could eat - now this was okay - because after his house the plan was to make dinner BUT my Uncle really felt like I should be eating something.

He gestured.

And then he gestured again.

And again.

These types of situations are the tough. You want to do the socially normal thing. You want the person to know you appreciate their efforts, but this time my health was the priority.

Eventually he stopped gesturing, but as we were leaving he said "well I hope you are eating", I reassured him I eat plenty, and then he told me he was proud of me (which was nice). 

Social situations are no joke.

The one thing that I think has been THE MOST beneficial during this time is the mindset of SUGAR IS NOT A CHOICE. 

I am currently one week away from four months of eating this way and I am toying with the idea of keeping with it for all of 2015.

That seems huge.

I might keep that goal to myself... we shall see. 

Sugar, SUGAR, SUUUUGARRRR | Part 3

Blood sugar regulation is no joke.

it looks sooo tasty!

it looks sooo tasty!

The other night I was staying strong on my NO SUGAR promise and I found  myself gazing at delicious looking popcorn. My sister and her husband gifted it to my Dad for Christmas. It was a Chicago Mix - cheese and caramel - I was staring at two pieces and picturing the delight of eating them.  

I was making an internal deal. TWO PEICES! NO ONE WOULD KNOW. I just wanted to experience caramel and cheese popcorn... just two... 

But then I thought about the fact that I haven't had ANY refined sugar in about 3.5 months. The popcorn WOULD have an impact. 

ONE - I'd be going against rules that I set for myself. There is something super satisfying about accomplishing what you commit yourself (to yourself) to.

TWO - It WOULD spike my blood sugar and that is what I have been looking to avoid. SPIKE.

So let's talk about this. What is a blood sugar spike? What happens in the body? Why is it a bad thing?

The body. 

It likes things to exist within certain perimeters. 

Like your thermostat. You set the temp to 70 degrees. It heats up to get there - stops - heat drops - it heats up again. It just keeps on keeping on trying to maintain that 70 degrees.

So let's talk about this in relation to blood sugar. 

Blood sugar is the amount of sugar in the blood.

We are always meant to have some sugar in the blood, but we are not meant to continually spike that amount. If you think about it... like really think about it... we humans haven't had sugar in our diet for a very long period of time. 

Source: Stephan Guyenet

Source: Stephan Guyenet

In 1821 the average amount of sugar was 10 pounds per person per year.

In 1970 it was 120 pounds per person per year. 

In 2004 it was 141 pounds per person per year.

And now it is estimated to be 170 pounds of sugar per year.

Let that sink in that is an additional 160 pounds per person in about in what is really a short amount of time.

WOW.

The thing that makes me the saddest is that this type of overconsumption is normalized in our society. Treat yourself! You deserve it! Etc. Etc. It makes me angry and it takes a lot to make me angry.

So, like our thermostat being set at 70 our blood sugar has a particular place it is comfortable. If it goes HIGHER the body regulates, if it goes LOWER the body regulates.

Most people are aware of the hormone that lowers blood sugar aka insulin, but do you know that insulin's primary job is actually to get energy into the cell?

So insulin is now used more frequently to mitigate the damage of too much sugar in the blood which is tiring for the body.

There are 3 primary organs that are involved in this process - the Liver, the Pancreas, and the Adrenal glands. 

Here is a basic (basic) explanation of what happens when blood sugar is spiked.

KT0C3268.jpg

So let's say I was seduced by the caramel/cheese popcorn.

I grab a handful and crunch in delight. My brain is happy as quick energy surges into my body, dopamine pathways light up and I am all heck yea!

Now. 

It does not take long for the popcorn to break down and make it into the blood stream. My blood sugar soars and the body takes action. It is like OH NO YOU DIDN'T! TROOPS LET'S GET THIS REGULATED!

And the pancreas springs into action.

It releases the hormone insulin (hormones are messengers) insulin is now telling the cells HEY WE HAVE A LOT OF SUGAR HERE I NEED YOU TO LET IT INTO YOUR CELL WALL. This message needs to be received by insulin receptor sites for the sugar (aka glucose) to go into the cell and be converted into glycogen (stored energy) in the liver. The muscles can also take in some glucose and convert it to glycogen to be stored (which is great for intense workouts or sprinting). 

But, there is only so much room. Eventually everyone is full up on their need for stored energy and the rest of the glucose gets converted into triglycerides and cholesterol for storage. So that weight you carry around that is stored energy. Fun.

So this is the basic process.

Blood sugar goes up, insulin is released, it tells the liver and muscles to let the glucose in by connecting with the receptor sites, glucose gets in and gets converted into glycogen aka stored energy.

And remember carbs are also sugar because they get broken down INTO glucose so you might think... huh... I don't eat much sugar... but do you drink OJ? Do you eat bread? Enjoy pasta? All these things become glucose and RAISE the blood sugar.

Over time the system goes out of whack. 

Insulin is being pumped out like crazy to normalize blood sugar and the receptor sites begin to need more to respond correctly. Also too much sugar in the blood leads to AGEs (advance glycation end products) which are basically proteins or lipids (fats) that become glycated. Which means they are STICKY.

You now have sticky proteins floating around. These sticky proteins can STICK TO RECEPTOR SITES! 

And from all of this you start to become insulin resistant

Which means the receptor sites are not getting the message. 

Yikes.

That means your pancreas is doing it's part, but the message is not being heard so it keeps on pushing out insulin (yes this is tiring for the pancreas).

So now, finally, after a boatload of inuslin, blood sugar drops - but - in this non normal world it drops WAY low. 

And the body is like CRAP! WE NEED TO GET THIS REGULATED (once again).

The pancreas leaps into action and releases glucagon which is the opposite of insulin. Glucagon is a hormone (messenger) and it tells the liver to release the stored energy (glycogen) and convert it back into glucose (raising blood sugar). 

But it isn't enough.

And that is where the adrenals come into play. Now cortisol AND epinephrine are released as well to try to spike the blood sugar back up. Cortisol and epinephrine are both hormones that they are part of the flight or fight response. You might notice your heart-rate go up because you are in a stress response.

So now we have your pancreas, liver, and adrenal glands working OVERTIME trying to regulate blood sugar - and those organs have a whole host of other things they need to be doing as well - but here we are working them to bone.

Riding a sugar roller coaster. Eventually something is going to give.

The pancreas wears out.

The adrenals become exhausted.

The liver goes caput (potentially leading to fatty liver disease). 

And it is bad news bears for everyone.

Which is why blood sugar regulation disrupts ALL aspects of human physiology. It hits your energy, the integrity of your tissues, the balance of your hormones, AND your brain health. 

It is one of THE most important systems to get back in line to begin to tackle other pieces of health.

If you want to drop weight you need to get this under control, it is THE sustainable way to get weight off and keep it off. 

If blood sugar regulation is not working properly then health CANNOT be achieved.

Which is why in the end I did not eat the popcorn.

Getting this system in line is a huge undertaking and a huge priority. 

The instant gratification of crunch, crunch, is not worth sacrificing the long term benefits of having a system that works properly. 

The more I feel good.

The more I want to feel good.

It's Christmas Eve... How'd That Happen?

Time. It just keeps on moving.

I woke up today at the dark hour of 7am. Here in Michigan it is coldish and rainy. A pretty dreary day. Last year it was an ice storm and we had no power.

I will take this year. 

My sister and I got up early and headed out to my Michigan gym (Major League Fitness). It's a great gym, great community, great workouts. My sister Nicole and I have a routine.

My sister and I last Christmas. 

My sister and I last Christmas. 

We wake up.

We don't talk.

I make coffee.

She fills her water bottle.

We get into the car and then we talk.

It takes about 30 min to drive to the gym, we usually get caught behind a slow car (like really really slow) which makes us sigh.

Then we talk about how much we don't want to workout.

How we are scared of what the workout might be and we joke about not going, but we always go.

Then we get there. We stare at the workout. We sigh. And we do the workout. 

The fantabulous Christmas Eve workout - turns out 50 is a large number. 

The fantabulous Christmas Eve workout - turns out 50 is a large number. 

We drive home and talk about how happy we are that we went.

It's a good time.

I actually really treasure this time with my sister. There is something about spending time doing challenging physical work together that brings you closer.

Post workout today we went to the local grocery store. We needed to pick up some very important supplies for Christmas Day (aka extra champagne).

Champagne makes the holidays smoooooooothhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Champagne makes the holidays smoooooooothhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

As we were in the store I was looking at all the holiday treats and YOU GUYS I wanted so very very much to make a special Christmas Day deal with myself and have sugary amazing treats.

The cereal isle called to me and I looked longingly at Captain Crunch (they even had the JUST CRUNCH BERRIES CAPTAIN CRUNCH!!). Sigh.

It is REAL the hold that sugar has on my body and my imagination. My brain is like SO TASTEY, MUCH ENJOYMENT, EATTT! 

I think I would have caved if I hadn't written my post on sugar.

I find this interesting.

The temptation to stray is strong and there are certain things that I will be allowing myself (read: mimosas), but hardcore refined sugar, cookies, ice creams, treats, are not part of the plan. One year. One Christmas. No sugar treats. 

This post is really a shout out to intention

I kept saying "this year I am going to try not to eat the candy" and I realized that I was mentally creating a loophole.

Writing that post allowed me to harden my "try" into a "I will not".

Sugar, SUGAR, SUUUUGGGARRR | Part Two

What is sugar?

As I plunge into the topic of blood sugar regulation and why IT IS SO SO SO SO SO VERY IMPORTANT!

Let us first take a moment to define what SUGAR is and what I mean when I refer to it.

Candy.

We are all pretty clear that candy is sugar.

And sugar.

We are clear that sugar is sugar.

But what about honey?

Maple-syrup?

Dates?

Agave?

Orange juice?

Bread (whole wheat!)? 

Rice-cakes?

Pasta?

Cereal? 

The answer is yes to all the above. 

For the purposes of blood sugar regulation ALL the above have quite an impact. 

And blood sugar is what we are looking to normalize. Everything I mentioned above is like a PUNCH to the system where the blood sugar gets spiked which puts quite the load on the body.

Orange juice you guys - orange juice not a solid breakfast choice. 

Same goes for cereal (and man I do miss cereal).

Looking at the box of your pasta or your rice cakes you don't see the sugar lurking, but what happens is it goes into the system QUICKLY and becomes glucose QUICKLY.

And glucose. Glucose is sugar. 

Which begins the process of raising blood sugar which means the body needs to lower blood sugar because the body is a big normalizing machine. 

It likes to keep things in a certain range. 

Next up! Blood sugar! The organs involved! And more!

Sugar, SUGAR, SUUUUGARRRRRRRR | Part 1

EVERYONE SHOULD GO TO A NUTRITION WORKSHOP BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS (OR MAYBE NOT).

In my "normal" everyday life I do not eat sugar. At. All.

Now it took a while to get to this point (aka a LOT of ebbs and a LOT of flows), but  now I can say with confidence I do not eat sugar (yes I do consume alcohol, but that is another story). 

When I worked in an office there were ALWAYS (always... always) treats coming in through the door. People would bring in donuts to share, there would be homemade cookies, pies, brownies, and more!! There were ALSO candy dispensers that were always stocked full o' tasty treats (gummi bears, m&m's, reeses peices, skittles, etc).

My rule was to just NOT partake. Just don't do it. And I never did.

Things become easier when the rule is absolute. 

I would however sometimes get into a gluten-free treat kick. French macaroons, gluten-free cupcakes, gluten-free brownies, gluten-free cookies, coconut milk ice-cream! Now, NONE OF ME thinks the absence of gluten makes ANY of these treats "better" or "good" sugar is still sugar in whatever form. I would treat myself one day... and then I wanted to treat myself the next, and the next. Once a week would become twice week... to three times a week.

Just not optimal.

So.

About three months ago I tweaked my diet a bit and HAD to take out the sugar and the chocolate (I'd been allowing myself 70%+ dark chocolate). In three months I have had a bit of honey, but that is it. The reason for the diet tweak is therapeutic, I am working on my digestion and sugar is trouble for a lot of digestive issues. It feeds some of the bad stuff (if you have bad stuff) in your gut (more on that later).  

And you know what? It has been awesome. My skin looks better, I've dropped weight, my energy/mood is better, pretty great right?

So now let us fast forward today. Michigan. My home.

The cupboard of death (and delight)!

The cupboard of death (and delight)!

I come to Michigan about four times a year and when I am here I typically throw a lot of the rules to the wayside. The way I live in Seattle I say ... eh WHATEV. And do what I want in Michigan.

My parents are a fan of candy. You can see the pictures. There are cupboards just lurking with tasty sugary treats. 

Now not everyone has a thing for candy. I do. And I don't want just a "taste" I want A LOT !

I want candy until I am overloaded with sweetness and am bordering on sickness. (Handfuls, you guys, handfuls is what I want.)

The drawers of merriment (and pain)!

The drawers of merriment (and pain)!

In Seattle, I follow the first rule of self defense aka don't be there. In Michigan, that isn't possible so I indulge! At first it is great... and then it isn't... and then I feel pretty terrible. 

But.

It is Michigan!

It is my special time!!

Not this trip. 

The weekend before coming here I was at an onsite nutrition workshop and blood sugar regulation was a HUGE topic. Learning what it does to you internally when you overload your system was really impactful. Like really impactful. It gave me the resolve to say no to sugar for the holidays, for my trip to Michigan, and for the foreseeable future. Like I said I do REALLY well when I work in absolutes. Grey areas are where I get tripped up. Michigan has been a grey area, but no more my friends no more. 

Next post I will be getting into the nitty gritty of what good blood sugar regulation looks like... and what an overworked system looks like and why it is harmful for your awesome body.

Until then. 

Cheers!

You all rock.

Gluten Free

If the box says "gluten-free" it must be good!

Right?

I mean, right?

Well no.

What I truly, TRULY, believe in - is REAL food. The jury is out on whether or not "gluten intolerance" is a thing, it might not be the gluten after all! But what IS true is that refined carbs tend to be fairly terrible for most people. (Celiac is legit, no questions there.)

And the items you see in the store that are marked "gluten-free" are REFINED CARBS TO THE MAX!

It is kind of like Snackwells.

Remember Snackwells? NO FAT! Must be good! I'll just eat twenty. 

All that sugar! All that processed food! You blood sugar sky rockets and you aren't getting anything your body can use by way of nutrition.

Your body needs nutrients to do all the crazy and amazing stuff you do every day! Your BRAIN needs fat to operate. You need real food to operate properly and essentially kick ass at life.

 

Food for the BRAIN

I remember one of my first jobs in Seattle -

I worked at a Tully's slinging coffee to the masses. One of my regulars was a Personal Trainer. She would always order an 8 oz Americano and we'd chat while I pushed buttons and pulled shots. The Atkin's Diet was back on the scene and we'd gotten to talking about the low-carb approach. I didn't know much about the diet, but scoffed at it on principle. I remember her saying, "Your brain needs carbs!" Yeah carbs! I agreed sticking staunchly to my eye-rolly disdain of anything low-carb. 

I had a lot of fervor regarding something that I knew little about. I should also mention that while my mind was screaming Atkin's = UNHEALTHY I had probably eaten half a bear claw and many many ounces of coffee and soy milk (because, you know, soy is healthy) and white chocolate flavor (because, you know, white chocolate flavor is... white chocolate). Point being - what leg was I standing on to judge anything? Answer: None. 

It is easy to get swept up in what is "healthy" vs. "not healthy". It is super easy to debate these viewpoints passionately with other people that will also debate them passionately, but what have you actually tried?

That is where everything gets interesting. 

In my last post I talked about what comes first the belief or the shifting of behavior. The answer for me was both.

I had to get to the point where I could begin to consider that carbs were not as necessary as I thought. Where I could look at Atkin's and other methodologies on the market objectively and where I could begin to experiment and try out different ideas, different plans, different thoughts and see what fit me.

That point came from me beginning to question everything. 

I had always been raised that LOW-FAT was the way. Carbs shmarbs HOW MANY GRAMS OF FAT DOES THAT HAVE? I didn't care how many chemicals a thing contained as long as those chemicals magically rendered the thing I was consuming fat free. And you know what? I was always hungry. See: here

And this threw the whole system out of whack. 

So... IF LOW-FAT was "the way" - then why wasn't I seeing success? 

I had a lot to learn, eventually I found out eating carbs causes you to crave more carbs. EATING FAT is actually what is needed for brain function. So I started to eat fat. And I started to eat protein.

And I started to get results. 

 

 

 

 

 

What Happens First?

Yesterday I brought up belief. 

I mentioned that belief drives behavior which drives results.

Think about that. 

I mean really take a moment to consider it. 

What are your behaviors?

What are your beliefs?

Does changing your behavior also change your belief, or do you always need to start at belief?

For me it was really a combination of both. By shifting my behaviors I had more space to question what I believed.

Whoa. What do I mean by that?

YEA YEA YEA Annette - WORDS! What do your WORDS MEAN?

Ok. What I mean is the relationship between how you feel and what you put in your mouth. Sugar is killer for me. As I mentioned in the last post it is like pure cocaine for my body and sugar begets sugars - meaning the more you eat the more you want to eat. When I am consuming sugar my brain is less happy. I am less likely to make good choices and I actually don't even really care because I am feeling pretty crappy. In this frame of mind I could give a flying eff about beliefs and results. I don't have energy to care, I don't think anything will change EVER because things feel hopeless. 

Let's level set here. 

I am not going to feel this way from one square of Dove chocolate, but in general if I am going on a bad food bender I am leading myself inevitably down a path of low grade depression. And when you are in that kind of muck everything seems SO very hard. 

My point?

The behavior had to shift for me to be able to get the space in my brain to reflect on what I actually care about. 

Tomorrow I will delve into this further. 

Spoiler: It is all about food. 

 

STOP.

About 6 maybe 7 years ago I was in a play.

It was a really bad play, but we had established an amazing sense of community. Our rehearsals were physical and long and we'd often bring snacks to share. It was around Easter and my FAVORITE in the whole world candy - ROBIN'S EGGS - were available. They are an amazing blend of malted milk ball and candy shell they just melt with such a wonderful sugary burst on the tongue - it is incredible. 

So these candies were there and I was NON STOP moving candy from bag to mouth. Oh the joy of mass consumption! After about 10 the joy was fading and the sickness was setting in, but I really didn't want to stop. WHY STOP? The pleasure of pure refined bliss was just moments away!!

I remember turning to a fellow cast member explaining this and he just looked at me and was like - "Annette. Just stop." 

HA. I thought, HA. I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW I SHOULD! 

But I really didn't feel like I had control. Their mere physical presence spurred me on. If they existed where I existed HOW WAS I TO NOT CONSUME THEM?! WHO AM I!? A FICTIONAL CHARACTER THAT MAKES CHOICES BASED ON HEALTH?? HA! SCOFF! HA!

Lately, I have been reflecting a lot on moments like this from my past and wondering what has shifted from then to now? What actually allowed me to stop?

Knowing I should stop, wasn't the thing.

Wanting to stop, wasn't the thing.

Having a logical understanding that 30+ Robin's Eggs is not the way to a trimmer waistline and a greater sense of wellbeing, also was not the thing.

I love the phrase "simple, not easy" and that pretty much sums it up. The way I got from point A to point B wasn't revolutionary, but it did take a lot of self discovery and a lot of understanding of what motivates my choices. 

Belief drives behavior which drives results - so what was I truly believing? And how could I shift that belief to be in-line with  my actual priorities? And how could I create an environment to support the results I wanted?

What things do you do that you KNOW you shouldn't be doing, but feel powerless to stop?

What are you actually believing?