The clientâ€™s food log was extreme. She kept track of every bite she ate and calculated the calories in each item. In the food log, she described every workout she did and the calories she had burned. She was working out several times a day.
But the most extreme thing about her food log was that it included almost nothing but sugar: pastries, chocolate, malted milk Whoppers, fat-free muffins.
Her health issues were also somewhat extreme, at least in severity. The problems were varied. She had irregular menstrual cycles, endometriosis, breast engorgement and tenderness, chronic fatigue, and quite a bit more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, none had been diagnosed as linked with her diet.
She didnâ€™t feel ready to quit sugar, but was willing, in her words, “to cut back.”
While I saw a drawback or two with that approach, I was convinced that her long list of health issues had a great deal to do with the sheet volume of sugar she was consuming. All day, every day. I was ready for any improvement I could encourage her to take.
Basics of Sugar Reduction
Cutting back on sugar is pretty basic; everyone knows these basics:
Donâ€™t snack on cookies or other sugary foods.
Donâ€™t add sugar to coffee or tea.
But environment matters. Especially at home, where what you have — or donâ€™t have — in your kitchen can make a huge difference. Figuring out which foods to stop buying — and which ones would be okay to swap for them — is important. The bad news: It requires an ordeal called Reading Labels.
Itâ€™s important to know what to look for on those labels. Sugar can hide behind many names. Here are the names Iâ€™m currently aware of — but please keep in mind that the list keeps growing as new sugars are created. Some are technically not sugar, but have virtually identical effects on insulin and brain chemistry. A few are simply different names for the same thing. For example, Cane Sugar and Sugar Cane are, obviously, the same.
Overt and Covert Sugars
Fruit Juice Concentrate
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates (HSH, Maltitol Syrup, Lycasin)
Why Use the List?
Whatâ€™s true is the first time or two that you shop using this list — and itâ€™s a good idea to take it with you to the grocery store at first — you might need to spend a little extra time reading all the labels.
The good news: After a couple of trips to the store, youâ€™ll know what you can buy and what to skip. At that point, shopping will be just as easy as it is now.
As for my sugar warrior client, sheâ€™s been working on reducing sugars for a while now. Yes, during her cutting back process, some of my fears were justified. Eating little bits of sugar made her crave more sugar. That made it tough, even impossible, for her to eliminate cravings. She still thinks of desserts as a viable option when sheâ€™s stressed, and has to tell herself “no” each time. The individual “no” doesnâ€™t always work.
But her health has been improving. Her energy has increased a lot. And that has provided enough encouragement and motivation to get her committed to quitting sugar altogether.
Nutrition geek that I am, thatâ€™s what I live for; it is, after all, all about the client.
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