Imagine with me: You're cooking a nice spaghetti dinner for your fam. You're even putting your lean ground meat and sauce over spaghetti squash because you're killing it. A little side salad for some extra veggies. You're a healthy-eating boss.
Would you be mad if I told you that there's added sugar all over your meal? Crazy right? Sugar is basically taking over the world. We hear all about the diabetes epidemic, but sometimes we assume that can just be for "sick" or "unhealthy" people. Truth be told, it's become such a huge problem because we're so unaware of just how much sugar we're consuming on a daily basis. Let’s kick this off with the insane effects sugar has on our bodies: 1) It turns us into a junkie! An actual straight up addicted junkie. Sugar triggers the pleasure part of our brain to release chemicals called opioids and dopamine. But just like any feel-good substance or drug, our body develops a tolerance. Which creates a need for the "next fix" only each time your body will need more and more in order to hit that same level of "high." Sorry for all the drug references, but they operate almost identically within our brains. Fructose (sugar) stimulates our brain’s built-in ‘reward system” which is in charge of creating the cycle of habit and dependence. So please welcome to our stage...SUGAR ADDICTION.
2) It makes you hungry. (Anyone get hangry? Asking for a friend.) Sugar scrambles your body’s ability to tell your brain, “Hey big guy. You’re full. Put the fork down." Plus, it gets used up by our bodies so quickly that it sends that hunger signal AGAIN only an hour after eating. You were never actually satisfied and the cycle begins again. Addicted.
3) It tires you out. We all know about sugar rushes. Watch a 4 year old eat some ice cream (especially on an empty stomach!) and you can see it fully embodied. Sugar initially gives you the boost of energy to push through the next 30 minutes or so, but it never lasts. And it never ends well. After your body has the spike of insulin to put the sugar in your blood, it comes crashing down. And leaves you feeling terrible (and the 4 year old crying in a corner.) It’s brutal on your energy levels and literally tears up your insides.
4) It causes dysfunction in your metabolism. There's a diagnosis getting thrown around pretty often these days called Metabolic Syndrome and sugar is THE culprit. Weight gain, Type II Diabetes, decreased HSL (the "good" cholesterol), increased LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), high blood pressure, and elevated triglyceride (calories stored as fat) levels are all included in that diagnosis, and over half of our population has at least one them. And I bet you can think of a handful of people that you know who have more than that.
5) It wears out your liver. Whenever your body has too much trash in it, it shuttles the garbage to the landfill where it metabolizes it and helps get it out of your body as fast as possible. In your body’s case, your liver is the landfill. It detoxifies our body from harmful or excessive junk. So when we're constantly having too much sugar, it always keeps your liver in high-gear. This never gives it a break to recover and wears it out eventually.
A LOT of people I talk to consider themselves a pretty healthy eater. They don't drink soda, moderate the sweets, eat enough veggies...but still find themselves battling to hit their goal weight. Can't get rid of those last 5-10 pounds. It's not that they are extremely unhealthy people, but they just don't look and feel their best.
The biggest way to sprint over to that illusive "best, healthy self”?
Get rid of the sugar.
And what's difficult is that I don't JUST mean the white sugar you add to your coffee. There's sugar hidden in aaaall sorts of "health foods." Remember our spaghetti squash and salad from earlier? There's most likely added sugar in the sauce and the dressing. Low fat foods usually don't taste so "low fat" because they add sugar! Bread, lunch meat, peanut butter, salsa, crackers. Added sugar, added sugar, added sugar, added sugar, added sugar. Read. Your. Labels. I can hear "the more you know" shooting across the screen with rainbow star as we speak. So what happens if you do your best to get avoid the sugar? Is that the end of the story? Sadly, no. Remember the addictive qualities we chatted about earlier. It's gonna have a hold on you.
So my biggest recommendation to break the addiction is a 21 Day Sugar Detox. We did one in our office last year and it was amaaazing. And hard. Research proves that it takes at LEAST 21 days to START a new habit. So this isn't the end-all-be-all to it. What you need is to break the old habits and develop new routines and mindsets.
You've got this. We're rooting for you.