By Amy Lewis
If you want to quickly pack on a few pounds, then eat lots of refined sugar. Oh, wait, why would you want to do that? Let’s eat less sugar, instead, and watch the pounds effortlessly slide off!
We’ve been eating more and more sugar over the past 200 years, which has led to rising obesity numbers. Back in 1822 the average person ate only 6.3 pounds of sugar per year, compared to 130 pounds of sugar in 2012. That’s more than 20 times as much sugar in our modern diet! No wonder we are bigger than ever.
One of the reasons that your diet is filled with so much sugar is that some form of refined sugar is included in virtually every single processed food. This is yet another reason that it’s important to cut those processed and packaged convenience foods out of your diet.
Cutting sugar from your diet is easier said than done. Once it is a part of your daily diet, cravings strike, causing you to eat it even more frequently. But there is hope.
Why is sugar so bad?
Sugar is both empty calories and as addictive as hard drugs. Here are sugar’s other dirty little secrets. Not only does it promote rapid fat storage, sugar weakens your immune system, causes insulin resistance, speeds up the aging process, and raises your risk of disease.
Seven ways to eat less sugar
- Eat more protein. A diet rich in protein keeps you full, satisfied and less likely to crave sweets. A great way to make sure that you are getting enough is to plan each meal and snack around a protein. Plan breakfast around eggs, lunch and dinner around baked chicken breast, and make snacks hardboiled eggs or baked meatballs.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. One of the biggest fitness myths out there is the idea that calorie-free, artificially sweetened beverages don’t impact your fat loss results. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is that the diet soda you’re sipping is making it harder for you to reach your goal weight. While the diet soda itself doesn’t contain calories, it has been proven to cause cravings for sugary foods. Put down the diet soda and instead pick up a refreshing bottle of spring water.
- Steer clear of saboteurs. The sad truth is that people in your life will try to sabotage your low-sugar diet. You’ll run into that pushy person at the office who insists that you eat a donut, the well-meaning family member who dishes you up a bowl of ice cream, and the friend who comes over with a plate of her home-baked cookies. The best avoidance strategy is to sincerely thank the sugar-pusher for the gift and tell that person you wish you could eat it. You can even blame your fitness mentor as the bad guy who says that you need to cut back on sugar.
- Try dark chocolate. For those moments when your sweet tooth is relentlessly badgering you for something sweet, ditch the super-sugary candies and stick with a small square of very dark chocolate. Chocolate that is 70 percent or higher in cocoa content should be the only candy that you keep on hand. The benefit of the cocoa, in addition to the lowered sugar content, is that it makes dark chocolate an occasionally justifiable treat.
- Stick with fruit. What’s sweet, colorful and comes in hundreds of flavors? Organic, seasonal, fresh fruit, of course! As you remove refined sugar from your life, feel free to add in some natural sugar by way of fresh, local fruit. It’s amazing how satisfyingly sweet fruit is–it’s truly nature’s candy.
- Change your palate. As you begin to limit your intake of refined sugars, you’ll find that your tolerance for sugar decreases. This means that something that didn’t taste sweet before–say, a green apple–now has uncanny depths of sweetness. What’s happening is that your sweetness receptors are becoming more finely tuned, now that you’re not overwhelming your palate with sickly-sweet refined sugar.
- Work out like you mean it. A regular, challenging exercise routine will not only get you into amazing shape, it also reduces your cravings for sugar. The endorphin rush brought on by vigorous exercise is an even more powerful feel-good feeling than the pleasure gotten by indulging in sugary foods.
Amy Lewis is the owner of Fusion Fitness in Killington.