Sugar. ‘Bad’ or ‘good’?

I try not to demonise foods or cut out or food groups and live by the idea that there are no ‘bad’ or ‘good’ foods. I see food as ‘healthy’ or ‘not so healthy’ and if I am eating healthy 80% of the time, then I’m generally feeling pretty good. Sometimes the so called ‘not so healthy’ is good for you too, such as enjoying a cake, coffee and a catch up with a good pal! That’s food for the soul.

Why the 21 sugar detox?

Since embarking on our home renovations it’s been harder to live by my 80% /20% protocol. We have been without a kitchen for two weeks and I’ve had a lot of other life stuff going on. I’ve been tired and stressed and as a result and I’ve been reaching for sugar for energy and to boost my mood. Also, with no kitchen we can’t cook and it’s pretty hard to live of pre-packaged foods and not consume sugar. It’s in everything! Even the precooked chicken I have been adding to my so called healthy salad.

Sugar urges

After listening to Brooke Castillo’s podcast on The Urge Jar. I realised I’ve been having urges for sugar. You should definitely check this out! Urges are strong desire or impulse for something. The urge jar is a brain hack to allow your urges to pass rather than acting on them.

Urges can creep up. I had a negative relationship with food in the past. I worked on myself and found balance. But, over the past few weeks the urge for a sugar fix has come back. I’ve been using it as a quick pick me up when I am tired and stressed. Rather than the odd treat, it’s become a daily habit which in the long run is just making me more tired and stressed. I know the only way to kick a habit is to repeatedly not do that thing to rewire my brain. 21 days has been shown as the length of time to make it stick.

A little bit about sugar

Sugar is a carbohydrate a.k.a ‘carb’. Which is one of the three macro-nutrients we need to function optimally. The other two being protein and fat. So, if sugar is a carb and we need carbs. Sugar is good! But alas, hold your horses as not all sugar is equal. There are different types of sugar.

Naturally occurring sugar.  Nothing has been done for it to be there. Fruit (fructose), honey and milk products (lactose) for example.

Refined sugar. The ‘white stuff’. It’s gone through a process to extract the sugar and usually comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. It’s what you add to sweeten cakes and biscuits. It can also be highly processed such as high fructose corn syrup. This stuff has no nutritional value and it’s pumped into processed junk foods to make it more palatable…and addictive.

It’s the refined sugar I am looking to remove. Here is why….

How you digest sugar

Any carb we eat is eventually broken down in our body and converted into glucose to be used for energy. Glucose is a form of sugar! So what we eat breaks down into sugar for energy.

The key thing to be mindful of here is the rate your body breaks down food in to glucose. Slow is best for optimal health.

Say good bye to refined sugar

Refined sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Meaning it’s easily and quickly broken down for energy. Great it you are after a boost of energy, but when this simple surge of sugar enters your blood stream insulin is released by your pancreas to bring your blood sugar levels down again. If it’s released too quickly it causes a quick spike in insulin. This is not good as it over works your pancreas.

When it drops back down it can go lower and leave you feeling tired and wanting more sugar. You give in to the urge for the white stuff again and so send your blood sugar up again and you need more insulin to bring it back down.

You have just boarded the blood sugar roller coaster. Not good.

It’s not a fun ride because the constant ups and downs leave you tired, cranky and in a bad mood. Your only temporary relief is more sugar in whatever form you can get it. This is something I can relate to of late. Also, it’s not always about reaching for a sweet treat such as chocolate. Sugar is hidden in all types of foods and pre-packaged food. Which is why this sneaky stuff and cravings has crept up on me recently. It’s even savoury stuff such as mayonnaise!

To keep healthy and balanced you want avoid blood sugar high and lows so you don’t go on that roller-coaster ride. Save roller-coasters for Disneyland!

My sugar detox boundaries

I’ll be cutting out added sugar and processed sugar but I won’t be completely cutting out fruit. Low sugar fruits like berries and apples are nutrient dense. These also have added fibre and along with added protein like plain yogurt, are a great meal or snack as the added fibre and protein slows down the digestion of sugar and therefore that nasty insulin spike we want to avoid. 

I’m not going to completely obsess over it though. This is a danger zone for me. I still have no kitchen so won’t be able to make everything from scratch. But no brainers like dessert and chocolate are out. If I have yogurt it’ll be plain and natural. I’ll also be avoiding sugar substitutions. While these don’t have an effect on blood sugar levels they still keep you in the habit of reaching for something sweet.

I have chosen 21 days as it’s manageable. Long enough to feel the effects but too long that it’ll be hard to adhere to.

What I hope to get out of this detox

So, here’s to the 21-day detox to kick my urges and make me feel good again. For me this isn’t about cutting sugar for life. It’s about taking away the urge and making it a choice. When we succumb to urges, and as Brooke Castillo puts it ‘eat against our will’, it’s not fun or healthy. I also like to challenge myself. It’s interesting to see what comes up. I’ll be back on the blog to update my progress and I’ll be posting on my Instagram stories @healthcoachjana

It’s Tuesday today. You don’t have to start a new regime on a Monday. Anytime is a good time to start. So if you feel like you could benefit from kicking sugar for a few weeks join me! Tag me @healthcoachjana with your progress.

Jana xo

Photo by from Pexels