Picture this… I go over to my mom’s, open the fridge to grab a bottle of water, and I see almond toffee in there. I open the box to take a peek and “magically”, one or two pieces leap frog from my hands, and into my mouth. In the first few moments of eating them, I look something like this:
Within 10 minutes, I feel something like this:
I then go into a full day of remorse and regret, realizing it takes superhuman strength to shut the fridge door, and leave that sweet goodness where it was before I got there.
While this is totally normal for almost anyone, those of us with a mouthful of “sweet teeth”, have to deal with a lifetime struggle of maintaining a nutritional balance that keeps us healthy. And as we get older, the struggle becomes REAL. So how do we combat this, to ensure we don’t end up looking like White Goodman in Dodgeball?
Self-realization, discipline, and education. In other words, start listening to your body, be good about what you’re putting in it (as often as you can), sweat it out, and learn how it operates. You’d never put the wrong grade of gas in your car, would you?
Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s meant not getting the best of diagnoses, when it came to allergies. Back then, you were allergic to dander, pollen, dairy, or nuts. Things like Celiac Disease were still considered 3rd-world country diseases and were not widely accepted as mainstream ailments. This meant I spent 28 years of my life, not consuming dairy, but being allowed all the wheat I wanted. Yet, week after week, I’d be doubled over in pain, miserable, cranky, tired, heavier, and sick; perplexing doctors, and making my mother think I was lying to her about consuming dairy products (to this day, I’ve never actually had a glass of milk).
When I moved to San Diego in 2006, my cousin let me know that her son was diagnosed with Celiac, and urged me to see a doctor and get tested. Sure enough, my Greek family members either carry the gene or they have the disease. I immediately stopped eating wheat (there really were no substitutions back then) and focused solely on what I could eat (which wasn’t very much).
But then I hit a plateau. I was so focused on only those foods (and beverages) that I could consume (which included many of my favorite candies) that I was ignoring the life-long side effects I’d have, from the damage this disease did to me; including inflammation, mood imbalances, a weakened immune system, a weakened digestive system, sleep issues, and ADD. Little did I know that sugar would be the culprit that would exacerbate these issues even more.
This led me to dissecting what was happening to my body, why it was happening, and then doing the research on how to re-balance myself appropriately.
What’s the Root Cause of Too Much Sugar? Inflammation.
Those of us, prone to inflammation, feel and (oftentimes) look something like this when it happens:
For me, Celiac has made my body super sensitive. Too much salt, too much sugar, pain, etc. can make me swell (if you see me in leggings and a baggy sweater, out in public, chances are, this is why), going from being my ideal weight, to 5-7 pounds heavier, in less than a week. It is the most miserable thing in the world. But I digress.
Now, think of a puffer fish and what happens when they feel threatened. Our bodies are not meant to consume bad things in mass quantities and as a result, will pull out all the defenses (resources) it has, in order to kill off the foreign substance (in this case, and for the rest of the post, we are talking about sugar).
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, “The insulin-resistant fat cells you pack on when you eat too much sugar, produces nasty inflammatory messages (cytokines), spreading their damage to the brain. In fact, researchers have suggested calling depression “metabolic syndrome Type II” because instead of just having a fat swollen belly, you also get a fat swollen (and depressed) brain.” In other words, you’re trying to turn yourself into a depressed, acne-prone teenager.
And, in addition to causing insulin and blood sugar imbalances, sugars use up the B vitamins we need to sustain good moods. This means a moody, depressed, acne-prone teenager.
Let’s say you can deal with the bloat, the acne, and the mood swings. Let’s add in the following, from the Brain Bio Center, a non-profit in the UK, “Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose, it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.”
So picture a bunch of rebels attacking your body, and they are double, maybe triple the number of thyroid hormones (we’ll call them ninjas) you have. Those ninjas are gonna work their asses off to protect the thyroid (the Grand Central Station for your body), in order for you to keep yourself up and running. If the thyroid gets gets attacked, due to lack of ninjas to guard it, the result can be a severely impacted metabolism, stunted growth and development, and/or an increased body temperature.
All of this is just in a normal body with no ailments, allergies, or life-threatening diseases. Imagine the impact if you throw one (or more) of those in the mix.
What This Meant for Me
Sure, that’s what this felt like at first. So then I started finding healthier diets that I mashed together, to create my own. It was through a ton of trial and error, to realize what my body needed, in order to be in tip top shape.
Think of going through your storage closets at home and finally tossing out everything you don’t need. That’s exactly what I did with my diet and so far, it seems to be working. The trick? A routine that is tailored to how YOUR body responds to what you put in it (and sweat out of it). For me, the following plan seems to be ideal, and is working:
- First three days of my new diet was all protein. That meant chicken, steak, egg whites, and non-fat yogurt – as much as I want, until I feel full.
- On the fourth day, and every other day after that, I include veggies (no corn, beans, or high-carb ones allowed), and low-carb, sugar-free desserts (I user Truvia baking blend in my egg-based custards, as well as egg-based “cheesecakes”).
- The days I’m not protein and veggies, I’m protein only.
- One day a week, I allow myself a cheat day with no guidelines. This is important, as it keeps my body used to understanding how to digest bad foods (note, don’t go hog wild – eventually you won’t feel so well).
- I drink tons and tons of water!
The drawback to this diet is how sleepy you can be for the first week. However, it’s imperative to work out and begin to build that as a healthy habit. Since I tend to need an extra boost to go work out I use this:
Kidding. It’s MusclePharm Assault. It gives you a complete natural energy boost with no crashing side effect. It’s done wonders for my workouts and my fat burn rate. I highly suggest it when needing an extra push to get in that early morning workout, or when you’re just “not feeling up to it”.
So Where Am I At Now?
Yeah…. not really… it’s more like this:
I’m happier, more alert, more energetic, sharper at work, physically in better shape, healthier, and more confident. I’ve learned it’s not so much about the physical weight, as it is about the mental shape you’re in.
Does this mean I won’t let one of those almond toffee candies, disappear into my body, in the future? No, it does not. It just means that when I consume it, I’m more mindful of what the impact will be, leading to me making better decisions about what/how much of something I am allowing myself to digest, in the future. After all, I have me, and only me, to live with the rest of my life. And since that’s the case, I don’t want to live with a grumpy, thin person, who deprives herself of even the smallest of happy moments, from time to time :)