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Dancing With The Sugar Plum Fairy

No matter what, they call about food. People want to feel and look better and they suspect there is a connection to the food they eat. I have some clients who have been addicted to sugar most their lives.  Many of us grew up on sugar beginning with childhood.  Now we can’t get through a day without at least one meal or one snack that has sugar in it.

As men and women age, its harder to keep the weight off.  A thickening waistline is a common occurrence.  One of the truths of aging is that exercise alone isn’t enough to control weight. If you have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or at risk for cancer, it may be time to consider ending the sugar habit.

Kicking the processed sugar habit is difficult. Processed sugar is engineered as food that demands frequent dosing just like any other addictive drug.  Once you start eating it, it’s hard to stop. Your brain lights up as your blood sugar levels rise and then drowsiness and fatigue follow as insulin converts and stores glucose in your fat cells.  Soon you will be looking for another sugar dose or fix.  Food manufactures add sugar to cheap processed food like cookies, breakfast cereal and health bars to attract our dietary attention and begin what can be for many of us a lifelong addiction.

Rest assured, your grocery store has a sugar plan for you.  Grocery stores have aisles dedicated to mass processed sugar in the form of sugar beverages, cookies, sweetened bakery goods and candy.  Although I rarely shop the interior of the grocery store anymore, candy always makes an appearance at the check out stand. Convenient shelves showcasing your favorite candy bars next to check out is not casual marketing.  The grocery store is counting on your sugar habits and impulsivity to win your over as you unload your groceries from the cart.

Let me share an example of how powerful it can be to give up sugar.  I have a coaching friend who gave up sugar early this year and she is at her lowest weight in 20 years.   She is exercising too, but cutting out processed food and sugar changed her appearance dramatically.  Hanging out with her at Duke I got a first hand look at how she maintains a free sugar life.  She eats a fair amount of fresh fruit and bits of dried fruit mixed with nuts along with lots of vegetables and animal/ seafood protein.

Make no mistake about it, giving up sugar is really hard. The first few days are brutal. Like a hunter gatherer most who give up sugar will find themselves foraging in the usual places in their home looking for a sugar dose. Before going off sugar, it is vital to toss all the sweets out.  A thorough sweep of the pantry, freezer and refrigerator for anything with processed sugar is essential.  If it’s in your house, it will call your name. You will need some acceptable quick fixes/ substitutes that can get one through sugar cravings.  In coaching, we use a whole bag of acceptable substitutes and new patterns of behavior to distract your brain from the cravings.  Toughing it out doesn’t work for most people.

Fastforward to three to four weeks later and it gets easier. You start to feel less puffy and see some thinning around your waist.  Most people need less sleep and feel less foggy. Old patterns of sugar consumption die hard.  You may still find a deep yearning for sugar, but over time it lessens.  For many of us, we have been dancing with the sugar plum fairy for many years.  Like sobriety, binging on sugar will reactivate the sugar addiction and undo most of your good work.  But if you hold out, sampling a favorite cookie or candy bar weeks later you find out it doesn’t taste quite as good as your remember. It will taste overly sweet, artificial and powerful.

Who should consider giving up sugar? Those at most risk for inflammation from sugar include; individuals with high LDLs ( bad cholesterol), family history of diabetes type II, diagnosed diabetics and those with pre diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer survivors or those at risk for cancer.  I mention high LDLs because there is some talk among some cardiologists that sugar consumption has a connection to high lipids and coronary artery disease.

Having an integrative health coach who has experience with sugar addiction is very helpful when working up to a big decision like eliminating sugar. I hold my clients accountable in a positive way.  Often we will look at a typical day and figure out some work arounds for the cravings ahead of time.  We will work in the area of building up one’s readiness to change. Personal strategies and an action plan are set before day one of no processed sugar.

New Years resolutions are around the corner.  A gift on coaching for yourself or a loved one could be one of your best decisions this year.  If you hire me you get the benefit of my behavior change skills and my years of medical practice.

Health Coach Advantage has a new tag line.  Vision  Values  Voice.  I  gave a talk on health coaching for the annual Behavior Energy and Climate Change Conference in Sacramento, California earlier this month.    I learned that some of the best minds in the world are looking at ways to combine public health with strategies to minimize climate change. In sharing my experience with health coaching and behavior change, I realized it was time to change up my tag line to reflect my coaching experiences with clients. I have found the clients who get the biggest results focus on pairing their vision and values with behavior change that is personally significant. Together we collaborate on developing their voice in the role of personal behavior change.


One Comment

  1. What a perfect article for this time of year especially!!! I just threw out remaining cookies and pies from the holiday feasting….as you mentioned, they kept calling my name. (Now why doesn’t fruit call my name?!) Just the act of tossing it all out felt good – thanks for the information and incentive to stop dancing with the Sugar Plum Fairy!

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