Friday, January 17, 2014

Battling the Sweet Tooth

You may think you are the Queen (or King!) of Carbohydrates, but let me tell you, there was a time when I could have given you a run for your money. I'm pretty sure I made it through grad school on a diet of pure carbs. I may have eaten a sugary yogurt once or twice (which is still high in carbs) and a little bit of cheese, but the bulk of my diet was made up of bakery products: bagels, muffins, cookies, cake, bread, etc. Plus cups of coffee and tea. Oh yeah, I did also eat fruit and veggies. But absolutely no meat, fish, eggs, tofu, or any source of high quality protein.

Did I survive? Sure. I was even skinny back then. Of course, this was not due to my atrocious diet. It was due to the fact that I almost never stopped moving. I walked everywhere I went in NYC. A fifty block walk was a daily stroll for me. I rehearsed 6 hours at a stretch several days per week for a modern dance company as well as taking dance classes and teaching dance classes. Simply put, I burned off all that sugar.

But I also instilled in myself a nasty, clingy, tenacious sweet tooth. Since you may have one, too, I thought you might like to hear about how I battle mine. Because a tenacious sweet tooth never dies. (This is my own personal opinion based on my own personal battle. Perhaps you, or someone you know has successfully killed off their sweet tooth for good. I would LOVE to hear how this was done.)

Here are my rules. All of these rules conform to the Whole 30 guidelines.

1) Do not feed your sweet tooth sugar. (This may sound obvious, but this is really the key.) Every time you give in to your sweet tooth and let it have its way, it becomes stronger. More deeply entrenched. Sneakier.

2) Do not give your sweet tooth "natural" sugar replacements such as honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup, or anything ending in "syrup." These are all just alternate forms of sugar. Yes, you can read all about the "wonders" of honey, but the bottom line is that it is a highly processed (by bees) highly concentrated form of sugar.

3) Do not drink or eat foods containing artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, aspartame, etc. Even "natural" sweeteners such as stevia leaf or Truvia will keep your sweet tooth active and alive.

4) Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol is another source of hidden sugar. Some beverages have more, like a dessert wine or a liqueur. Some have less, like a dry wine or hard liquor. But all forms of alcohol will tend to arouse your sweet tooth. Did you ever notice that you begin to crave certain foods as soon as you start drinking? Pay attention next time, if you don't believe me. Alcohol also breaks down your will power and resistance. And I am still talking about your sweet tooth here.

5) Do not substitute dried fruit such as dates, raisins, etc. for other sugary treats. Dried fruit is another form of highly concentrated sugar. Yes, those dried fruits might contain some fiber and vitamins, but they are ridiculously high in sugar and will stimulate your sweet tooth.

6) Cut way back on fruit in general.You might disagree with this because you probably believe fruit is very healthy. Sure, fruit contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc. But you can get all of these, in higher concentrations, for fewer calories, and (most importantly) with LESS SUGAR, in vegetables. Choose veggies over fruit most of the time and I will bet you will lose weight and also diminish your cravings for sugar. (Fruit is certainly a better choice than a bowl of Ben and Jerry's or a fat slice of layer cake, but once you have eliminated all of this junk from your diet, fruit should be the next culprit you examine closely when it comes to killing off your sweet tooth.) When you do eat fruit, choose lower-sugar fruits like apples instead of higher-sugar fruits like grapes.

7) Eat more high quality protein. If you are depriving your body of protein, you will crave sugar and refined carbs like crazy. (This has been my experience. If you don't believe me, test it out for yourself.) How much protein do you need? Estimates by experts such as Dr. Barry Sears (Zone diet) begin at about 21 grams per meal for a small woman who is moderately active. (About 80 grams per day.) I have recently read that aging adults should UP their protein to about 30 grams per meal or closer to 100 grams per day. I'm guessing you consume nowhere near this level. Try eating more protein at each meal and snack. Get ready to watch your overall appetite and sugar cravings DROP. What is high quality protein? Grassfed beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, wild-caught fish, seafood, eggs.

8) Eat more high quality fat. But doesn't eating fat make you fat? NO. This is the major myth of the 1980's and the main cause of today's obesity epidemic. Try introducing more healthy fats into your diet. Eat some fat with every meal and snack. Choose grassfed butter (high in Vitamin K-2) and fatty fish like salmon as well as organic coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Eliminate all processed oils and transfats from your diet as these have been proven to cause heart disease. Avoid vegetable oils derived from soybeans and corn; aim to get more omega-3 fatty acids instead of omega-6's.

There you go! A plan for reducing your cravings for sweet treats while boosting your intake of vital nutrients. If you can follow these guidelines for 30 days, I guarantee you will lose unwanted fat, gain energy, feel better, have clearer skin, reduce dental problems, and win the lottery. Well, possibly not the last one. But all the rest are true!

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