Saturday, May 2, 2009

Holistic Hottie™: Sugar Denial

Last week, a friend asked me an effective way to stop eating sugar without feeling deprived. Unbeknownst to her I was indulging daily on chocolate just like her! Fortunately my chocolate was certified organic, dark and free-trade. But that doesn't excuse the fact that I was eating refined sugar - when I knew better.

Sugar is a drug. Studies suggest that it is as addicting as cocaine and heroin. I believe it.

Sugar sends us on a temporary "sugar high" that disrupts and spikes insulin levels. High levels of insulin promote fat storage and prevent the use of fat as fuel. Plus it sets us up for an energy crash a couple of hours later. When we crash, we search for something to pick us back up - this is usually more sugar. And the cycle continues. This insulin disruption has been proven to cause or be a factor in:

  • obesity and weight gain

  • depression (incl. Season Affective Disorder)

  • sleep disturbance

In the long-term:

  • Diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Premature aging

  • Arthritis and osteoporosis
But really, I think most of us know that refined sugar isn't good for us. My friend's question was:

How can I stop eating sugar without feeling deprived?

Answer: Maintain stable blood-sugar throughout the day.

1. Eat 5 times a day (3 meals and 2 snacks).

This involves planning and probably carrying some of your meals or snacks with you. By eating this way you will never find yourself in a state of low blood-sugar where you will crave something sweet to pick you up.

2. Do not eat carbs by themselves.

Generally, eating a carb by itself is setting yourself up for a blood-sugar crash later. People who eat a bagel or doughnut for breakfast, for instance, are setting themselves up for an energy crash in the late morning. Most likely they will later fuel themselves on more sugar or caffeine.

To avoid this, pay attention to the glycemic index of your meals. If the meal is higher on the index, the faster that food will convert into blood-sugar. The faster the conversion, the more insulin your body will have to make and the harder it will be to maintain homeostasis. Eat your carbs with a protein and do not fear consuming fat.

Fat slows the entry rate of sugar into the bloodstream. It eliminates the sugar rush. It stops the crash that would come later. Fat can help you lose weight! (Other factors influencing glycemic index include: fiber, metabolic type/biochemical individuality, activity level and age.)

For meal planning ideas, check out the Healthy Urban Kitchen Cookbook.

3. Supplement with L-glutamine.

L-glutamine is an amino acid that can stop cravings for sweets and alcohol (also a sugar). Take between 500mg - 1g between meals. If you're jonesing for something sweet, take a scoop of powder or open 1 capsule and let it dissolve on your tongue.

Try these tips and let me know how they work out for you!

The day my friend asked me for this information was my last day of chocolate excess. As I was dishing out advice, I knew it was time to take my own and get real with myself . :-) First 2 days of "chocolate detox" weren't my best. But now, I can walk down the chocolate aisle at Whole Foods without feeling deprived.

There's another blogger who has publically challenged herself to ditch refined sugar - Ana Caban, an award-winning pilates dvd star. Check out her Sugar Free Challenge experience here.


  1. Amira,

    I have taken your class twice and I must tell you that you are really awesome at what you do. Your class is actually the best I have ever taken and Ive taken alot. I really admire your fitness level and I hope that NYSC is paying you very well because you make fitness look damn good and you really inspire people to work, it would suck to lose you!

    I do have a question that I have debated with my friends and I think other people may be wondering the same but are scared to ask. You really seem to know alot about health and fitness so i thought Id ask. OK, when you are losing weight, how does it leave your body? My friend says that your "biness" will float because it has a high fat content. Another says that no, the "biness" will sink. Then I read something that says it actually works like gasoline and exhaust and you end up breathing it out. Some sources say its through perspiration but that its mostly water not fat. So what is the answer? lol so many of us are looking for those little indicators other than the scale which isnt always nice, to know if what we are doing is working.

    Thanks so much!


  2. Thanks for the compliments, Steph!

    To answer your questions regarding fat loss:

    In my opinion, a great and easy tool for monitoring progress is Measuring Tape. Use it to measure the girths of your chest, waist, hips, thighs, arms, etc. This is a lot more useful because while your girths shrink, the scale may never budge. Losing size seems to be the end goal for most people I think.

    Exercise boosts your metabolism or the rate at which you expend energy. This can be likened to a furnace. When you exercise, you are producing heat and burning fuel. Sweat while exercising is a cool-down mechanism so that you don't overheat. When you exercise you are training your body how to use the fuel that you give it. Exercising regularly is a great way to continuously train your body to use food as fuel and not to simply store it as fat. You will train your body to store it as usable energy for another round of activity.

    Regarding "biness" (stool):
    You mentioned the kind that floats and the kind that sinks. Both are signs of an impaired digestive system.

    If a stool is lighter in color due to it's high fat content, floats and is hard to flush - that means the body is having a ploblem digesting fats. This may indicate a deficiency in bile. Bile, from the liver, is what breaks down fats.

    If a stool sinks AND is foul, a safe detoxification protocol would be helpful.

    According to Paul Chek (one of my mentors), a healthy stool should be:
    1. well-shaped and consistend in color
    2. pass easily and pleasurably
    3. be light brown in color
    4. smell natural, almost earthy - not foul
    5. float, yet doesn't require multiple attempts to flush. (Eat, Move and Be Healthy)

    A healthy disgestive system makes "losing weight" easier. That's the connection between "weightloss" and "biness."

    Thanks for your questions!