Let’s Slay the “Sugar Dragon”!

Sugar is sneaky. We all know the obvious sources of sugar…syrup, donuts, pastries, candy, Grandma’s famous pecan pie, that hidden pint of Brian’s homemade ice cream. You know…those sweets that we LOVE to consume from time to time. BUT it hides in places you might never expect like your morning “healthy” cereal or granola bar. It is no wonder that people are so addicted to sugar. It is EVERYWHERE! Before you know it, you’re hooked, and your body has become a sugar storage unit. Think hoarders of sugar!

Sure, we all determine that we’re going to cut sugar from our diets. We get fastidious about reading labels and knowing all the “hidden” sugars to be on the lookout for. Like we already said, sugar is everywhere…and it’s a real problem in our society. We’re going to take a look today at how much of a problem sugar really is and how we can consciously make changes to our diet to limit the amount of sugar we consume. This in turn, can not only impact our waistlines, but more importantly our overall health.

The Sugar Problem

Sugar isn’t just sweet; it’s a sneaky villain in the story of your health. The consumption of sugar  can lead to a host of problems, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance.

But the trouble doesn’t stop there. Sugar feeds the pleasure centers in your brain. The brain reacts to sugar much like the brain reacts to cocaine. It is an instant hit of pleasure as it releases dopamine (the feel-good chemical). Because of the pleasure-reward response, your brain craves more sugar. This leads us to want more and more of it. So, this helps to explain why we can’t just stop at one cookie, or one piece of candy. Essentially, you (and I) are becoming more and more addicted to the rush that we get from sugar consumption. Maybe we should be as cautious with sugar consumption as we are with narcotics and other addictive substances.

Not only does sugar consumption impact our brains from a pleasure standpoint, it has a significant systemic impact on the body as a whole. For example, sugar converts to fat when stored in the body, thus increasing your waistline. But, did you realize that it goes beyond just making us “fat?”

Consuming sugary foods causes rapid spikes and crashes in insulin levels (important hormone), leaving you feeling drained, but why? It has to do with how our bodies process the sugar in the bloodstream. Too much sugar in the blood stream (often referred to as insulin resistance or diabetes) impacts our kidneys, our joints, hearts, our blood vessels…. etc. As a result, we often see that we deal with more inflammation. Sugar binds to our red blood cells and has an impact on how much oxygen our tissues and organs get during even daily activities. Too much sugar leads to thick or sticky blood which can lead to damage to blood vessels. The body has to produce more cholesterol (nature’s band-aid) to repair that damage…. Starting to see the cascading effect?

How To Sugar Detox

I think we can all agree, that there is a MAJOR need to kick sugar to the curb! It’s not just a matter of the will, completing a sugar detox is going to reset your body’s chemistry and help to improve the not just your waistline, but your overall health as well!

When you eliminate sugar from your diet, you will go through the withdrawals and the dreaded Sugar Dragon (thank you Whole30) will rear its ugly head. There will be headaches. You will get cranky and tired, but don’t give up. Your body has to adjust to the removal and continued absence of this addictive, quick source of energy. Once you remove this source of energy, your body will begin to use stored fat as fuel for daily activities. You become what is called “fat adapted.” This is a much more sustainable and efficient method of fueling your body to be efficient and function as intended.

The Benefits

So, slaying the Sugar Dragon has the benefit of not just shrinking your waistline, but has the potential (highly likely) to improve your overall health in MANY ways. You reduce the inflammation in your body. Your risk of diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease are all diminished. Heck, cutting out sugar might even drastically improve your sleep, clear up your skin, and improve your overall mood. Aren’t those great outcomes from killing the beast? This is NOT just about cutting out sweets. This is about changing your mindset and your overall health for the better. Losing pounds and inches is an added bonus to improving your health markers!

How to Flush Sugar Out of Your Body Quickly

Let’s slay that dragon…. Get your swords ready!

1. Identify Hidden Sugars

As a society, we absolutely MUST get better at reading labels, especially on prepackaged foods. We all know that sugar is in candy and baked goods, soda and Ms. Bev’s Southern sweet tea! But we have got to become experts at identifying sugar in foods quickly. A good first step is to look for anything that is an “—ose” on the label. A couple examples are dextrose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose (think milk). The other place to look is in the nutritional label. Here you’ll find the amount of sugar (or added sugar) in the product. Be sure to look too at alcohol, dairy and bread. These all contain hidden sugars and detract from your health improvement mindset and lifestyle changes! One other thing to be on the lookout when reading labels is artificial sweeteners. They send those same pleasure signals to the brain……

2. Clean Out the Pantry

Time to clean out the pantry and the fridge! Be sure to read labels carefully looking for those hidden dragons! Put these things aside and then be ruthless and get these things out of your house! Many times, especially if something has been recently purchased (canned or boxed items), we will take them to a local food bank or pantry so that someone else can use them….and they don’t tempt us toward sabotaging our progress in changing our health for the better.

3. Plan Your Meals

This is my (Michelle) super power! I LOVE to meal plan. My first step is asking my family what kinds of things they want to eat for the coming week. I then incorporate those requests into the meal rotations and then make my grocery list accordingly. I make sure that our meals are balanced and include proteins, a variety of veggies and fruits, and minimal grains (these do convert to sugar in the body).

4. DRINK…. water

Rule of thumb, when looking at how much water to consume each day, take your body weight, divide that number by 2. The number you get (quotient) is the minimal number of ounces you should be drinking each day. For example, a 200-pound person should ideally drink 100 ounces of water each day. Water is your best friend when slaying the Sugar Dragon during a sugar detox. It helps flush out toxins and keeps you hydrated and reducing cravings, so drink up!

5. Move it!

So, to further boost the effectiveness of the dragon-slaying, exercise is key. Think of it as clearing out the storage unit of the sugar that your body has been hoarding. There are many different kinds of exercises that are beneficial. Some of our favorites include high intensity interval training, running, walking, and lifting heavy things (read weights). Just think about how much stronger and efficient your body will be as you use exercise to further slay the dragon!

6. Document the Battle

Slaying that pesky Sugar Dragon and cleaning out the hoarded sugar is a process. This is where keeping a log or journal of not just meals, but also feelings, symptoms, measurements, emotions, etc., can be beneficial. Be sure to record struggles as well as successes. Once you’ve succeeded, that beast will try to sneak back in, but having a record of your battle can be a source of inspiration to keep going. Track your progress! What gets measured gets improved and keeping track of weight, body measurements, water consumption, and sleep all contributes to not falling back into old habits (when things get hard) that welcome the Sugar Dragon to rear its ugly head once again.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

Slaying the Sugar Dragon and eliminating sugar from your diet is not easy, and there will be challenges along the way. To ensure success, we’ve compiled some of our best tips and tricks for removing the “crack” and replacing it with yummy alternatives!

Cold Turkey?

For some, slowly eliminating or reducing sugar consumption is a very doable journey. Commitment, perseverance, and time are required to effectively slay the dragon. However, for most, “ripping off the band-aid” and going cold turkey is the way to go. Setting a date for “no-more-sugar” and then committing to the process, even the withdrawal symptoms, while it may be a more difficult approach, can be very effective as well. You have to choose which way you want to go…long slow death to the dragon or a mortal wound to the heart.

Cravings. We Don’t Need No Stinking Cravings.

Big greasy double cheeseburger with all the fixings. Peanut butter m&ms at the movies. Glass of wine after a stressful day. Wings and a cold beer during a football game.  Hot coffee with two shots of vanilla syrup and whole milk. While these are not necessarily “hunger” cravings, they are often key places where the Sugar Dragon can rear its ugly head. Sometimes the cravings come with boredom. Wherever they come from, these “cravings” can totally derail any journey toward eliminating sugar and slaying the Sugar Dragon. But, how do you manage the cravings when they come? Go for a walk. Have a fresh crisp apple or a couple of clementines. Get a class of water or fix a cup of hot tea (without sweetener). Call a friend. Grab your journal and write about what you’re thinking or feeling when they hit. You do not have to give into the dragon and succumb to its wiles.

But I Drink Diet Soda!

This is a biggie! For many years, we were fed the notion that diet soda or sugar-free products was the way to go. However, new research indicates that “foods” sweetened with artificial sweeteners generally have the opposite effect. The sweetness of those sweeteners sends the same signals of sugar consumption to the brain. Because many of the sugar free items are lower in calorie, we tend to eat more of them. We still overeat them and mindlessly snack. There is also research on these sweeteners that point to the neurological damage that they cause in the brain and the body. One in particular breaks down into formaldehyde in the body. This is a chemical in embalming fluid…. Last I checked, I’m not dead yet and do not need to be embalmed.

You CAN Do It!

You CAN slay the Sugar Dragon. This is an important commitment to YOURSELF. Sometimes it is a daily, if not minute by minute commitment to stay the course. Your health and wellbeing are worth the investment of time and energy to slay the dragon!

Many times, people find that having a support system in place is beneficial in helping to slay the beast. This is where we come in. Dr. Brian and I work on a daily basis to keep the Sugar Dragons in our own lives at bay. We’ve done the heavy lifting and know just how tough it can be to eliminate the dragon and make lasting changes to your health. We have the tools, tips and strategies that are effective in guiding you toward conquering your very own Sugar Dragon.

Thanks for Reading