Advice From a Weight Loss Expert: How Do You Handle Sugar?

Erika Nicole Kendall runs BlackGirlsGuideToWeightLoss.com — an amazing, no-nonsense source on all things fitness related. Her posts are funny, full of information, and leave you feeling like you can go out and make changes in your lifestyle. I’ve especially enjoyed reading her posts on sugar. Erika was kind enough to answer a few of my follow up questions — here they are!

Erika Nicole Kendall
Erika Nicole Kendall’s before and after shot. Photo credit: blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com

Martha van Gelder: What do you recommend to people trying to get rid of a sugar addiction?

Erika Nicole Kendall: Therapy, and the book The End of Overeating by David A Kessler. Seriously. Learning to cope with life out of the context of binge eating is hard, and getting assistance with that is always okay.

Martha: So, what’s the big problem with juice? Can something made from fruits and veggies really be bad for you?

Erika: Now, I’m not a juice drinker because I prefer to eat my calories, not drink them, but also because I’m a recovering binge/emotional eater; sudden and swift intakes of sugars aren’t emotionally healthy for me.

However, there are two big things that I struggle with with people who juice: 1) I can’t understand adults who refuse to eat vegetables unless they can drink them in a glass full of juiced fruits, and 2) I’m relatively certain that the intake of sugar, in the absence of fiber, is what contributes to high blood sugar and, thereafter, type 2 diabetes. (Robert Lustig talks about this an awful lot.)

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Photo Credit: blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com

If people are juicing tons of fruits and there’s no fiber to soften the blow of that sugar on their system, then that’s a problem. If people are just juicing kale with pineapples, apples, strawberries, pears and mangoes because they can’t stand to try to find a way to cook the kale healthily, then that’s neither sustainable nor sensible.

Martha: What has been the hardest thing for your readers to hear from you?

Erika: They seriously struggle with the fact that I don’t do juices, supplements, diets or detoxes. It’s almost like it’s an affront to everything they’ve learned about what it truly means to be healthy.

Martha: Kids LOVE sugar – what do you do with your daughter to help her learn about healthy eating?

Erika: It’s hard with kids, especially since they’re in school, and they’re learning about life WITHOUT you. It’s more important for me to reinforce for my daughter a standard understanding of what “healthy” is, because she WILL eat the Oreos when I’m not around. I’ve accepted that. So, I try to ensure that she not only knows what “healthy” is, but also what “tasty” is. If I take her to a bakery and pick out a macaroon, and sit that next to an Oreo, she’s going to choose the macaroon. She knows quality.

Photo Credit: Mohoda of Flickr
Photo Credit: Mihoda of Flickr

I also don’t spaz on her if she manages to eat the Oreo, anyway. They’re kids. I’d rather her grow up healthy than teach her the specifics as a teen, than have her develop a complex that results in her hiding in bathrooms eating “bad foods” because she doesn’t want Mommy and Daddy to look down upon her.

Martha: I thought your “come to fitness moment” in your blog was a pretty powerful story – but it also seemed to illustrate that making such a huge change in your life requires a huge change in mindset. Do you think your message can reach people who haven’t had a big shift in clarity like that?

Erika: Yes, only because I think people often wonder what’s separating them from making the kind of progress they may want to make for themselves. I find that most people are waiting for a big motivational push to come from the sky to make them get moving, but it never happens that way, and I think the “come to fitness moment” is the cornerstone of that realization. No, a giant foot will not descend from the clouds and kick you in the hindquarters. You’ve just got to breathe deeply, stand up, and dive head first. And, more often than not, you’ve been made better for it.

You can read more from Erica at her website here, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Low Sugar Cookie Recipe

Hey Green Americans, remember me? I’m the editor who bragged about kicking her sugar addiction. Well the sugar-free fast is no more. While I don’t eat much sugar nowadays, every once in a while I do break down.

I’m not proud. But because of the fast, normal desserts are just too sweet for me. So, instead of making a straight-up batch of cookies when my inevitable fall to delicious cookie temptation occurred, I made a low-sugar variety.

To compensate for the decrease in sweetness, I added more vanilla extract, and a dash of cinnamon. I’d really love to do a vegan version of this, and I’m planning on trying out a low sugar version of this vegan cookie  recipe next.

Ingredients:low sugar cookie recipe

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar*
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract*
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate*
  • 1/2 cup broken walnuts

* Starred ingredients are moderately common in Fair Trade form.

Directions:

You know the drill: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then grease the cookie sheet unless you want to live dangerously. Mix the wet ingredients together in one bowl, and the dry ingredients together in another bowl. Then mix them together. Warning: if the butter is too hot, it will melt some of the chocolate chips (you can see by my photo that this happened to me).

Final word of warning: don’t go eating three times as many cookies just because it has 1/3 less sugar. That sabotages the whole effort.

“I’d never do that!” you say.

Yes you would. These cookies are so darn good.

Advice from a Nutritionist: How to Gently Detox from Sugar

Guest blogger and Certified Nutrition Specialist Tricia McCauley
Guest blogger and Certified Nutrition Specialist Tricia McCauley

Guest blogger Tricia McCauley is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and herbalist, and the author of the popular  Green American article “Managing Stress with Herbal Support.”  Twenty years ago, Tricia began her exploratory journey with food and cooking as she coped with severe food sensitivities. Learning to cook with brand-new staples; cutting all gluten, corn, soy, garlic, canola oil, and sugar out of her diet; and discovering the connections between digestion and stress taught Tricia a great deal about patience and self-care.  She is thrilled to have recently re-introduced her formerly forbidden foods back onto her plate! She’s the resident herbalist at Common Good City Farm in Washington, DC, and through her business Nutricia Consulting, she helps clients adopt healthier relationships with food, specializing in identifying food sensitivities, undertaking dietary transitions, and managing stress. See the end of this blog entry for a special deal on her e-book and e-workbook on detoxing.

Green America asked Tricia to talk to us about how to best cope with “detoxing” from too much added sugar.

Does the title of this article make you feel anxious or a little jittery?  Does the idea of taking the added sugars out of your diet seem overwhelming?  Do you feel like you have a Relationship with sugar, that it functions in your life as a friend or maybe even a significant other?

These are good signs that a sugar detox is exactly what you need.

For all the reasons outlined in the “Sickeningly Sweet” issue of the Green American, taking a break from sugar is a worthwhile experiment.  Maybe you’ll find that it’s not a problem in your life.  Or, maybe you’ll find that you actually are an addict and that the detoxing process is a true rite of passage.  I’m a big fan of having as much information as possible about the effects of food on my body.  Even if you decide, after a detox, to return to eating candy corn for lunch, you’ll have a clear idea of how sugar affects you, and how much power you have over your cravings and addictions.

What can you expect when detoxing from sugar?  That depends on two things:  (1) how deeply you are addicted, and (2) how gently you approach your cleanse.  Going cold-turkey from sugar can be a huge challenge.  You might experience shakiness, sweatiness, lethargy, mood swings, or even skin breakouts as the body re-orients itself.  It seems counter-intuitive, but often when we take out toxins, things get worse before they get better.  Sort of like when someone quits smoking and then gets a bad (or worse) cough.  The body is readjusting itself to the lack of toxic inputs, and that can feel disorienting. Or, you may feel just fine and have no side effects.

If you skip the cold turkey and instead plan a GENTLE, gradual detox, it’s very possible to have a delightful experience.

I took refined sugar completely out of my diet for about two years, over a decade ago.  It was in conjunction with a lot of other dietary changes in an attempt to get my food sensitivities under control.  When I couldn’t eat any gluten, corn, or soy, it was so easy to avoid sugar.  Lately, though I’ve noticed that the sugar has crept back in—this past year of unrestricted eating has been a slippery slope of temptation!  When I’m at a party, I can actually have a piece of cake; and when my friends Olivia and Jeff invited me to their Seder, ohmygosh yes I did sample all three decadent desserts.

I’m currently leading my annual spring cleansing group (students learn how to design a gentle detox for themselves, and then we support each other as we embark on our cleanses), and I’m very excited to get my food choices back on track .  (Full disclosure: I’m more of a salt-and-fat girl than a sugar girl.  So for me, an off-track diet is surviving on store-bought hummus, cheese, and nut crackers, rather than cooking up the salmon, kale, and brown rice.)  And even though nutrition is my profession and I’m an experienced cleanser, I’ll still follow all my own rules to create a gentle experience for myself.

Here they are, in a nutshell:

Rule #1: Practice Kindness and Patience

Why is removing sugar such a challenge?  Because as with any addiction, we’re dealing with both the physical and the psychological triggers.

Physically, the body will experience cravings when something is missing. Cravings are like a red flag: Are you dehydrated?  Are you hungry? The body is trying really hard to keep you alive, and when something is awry, its first go-to craving is sugar.  This is because, historically (as in, before the invention of refined sugar), sweet foods such as berries and honey are nutrient-dense and safe.  Isn’t the body smart??  It’s amazing.

Psychologically, the relationship between a sweet taste and nurture is reinforced by holiday treats, birthday cakes, and even lollipops given out at the dentist’s office. We’ve been programmed to equate sugar with reward, safety, and comfort.

So there’s a lot riding on the relationship you have with sugar.  For some people, the physical addiction is the biggest challenge, while for others, it can take a lot of work to root out the psychological triggers.

Whatever your particular relationship with the sweet stuff, practice compassion for yourself.  Remember that you and your body are on the same team, despite all those cravings.  And keep in mind that a detox is not punishment!  You’ve already been punishing yourself by ingesting sugar, right?  So breathe deeply and make the commitment to this journey.

Rule #2: Make A Plan

To effectively, gently detox, you’ll need a plan.  You can make this plan in a journal dedicated to your sugar-free experiment, or on the computer, or on a coffeehouse napkin—whatever works for your brain.  But you will need a plan to support you when the going gets rough.

Start by gathering information.  Identify the ways sugar shows up in your daily routine, read labels, and observe when you seem to crave it the most.

Choose a start date that works for you, and put it on the calendar. From there, sketch out the rest of your detox.   I’m not a fan of going cold turkey: it can be harsh for the body and intense for the mind.  In the spirit of gentleness, I put my vote in for gradually easing the body off of an addiction.  For example, Day 1, no more candy from the office candy dish.  Day 2, no ice cream after dinner.  Day 3, use honey in your morning coffee.

Rule #3: Add Things In

Deprivation is no fun.  So once you’ve gotten through your plan to eliminate sugar, you get to the joyful part: adding things in!

Address both the physical and the psychological aspects.  For the body, stay hydrated; get dense nutrition through vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins; indulge in sleep; and exercise.

For the taste buds, add in healthy sweet foods—fruits and root vegetables.  It may take your taste buds some time to readjust and find the sweetness in natural sources. If your addiction is particularly intense, you can use a tablespoon of honey as a treat.  One student of mine had to add honey to her fruit smoothies, because fruit didn’t taste sweet to her. That’s not the perfect long-term solution, but satisfying the craving will help get you through the early days. Honor your body and start where you are.

For the mind, add in other forms of sweetness: creative projects, massage, time in nature, a special adventure.  Really nourish yourself, body and spirit.

Rule #4: Get Support

It helps to have community when doing any sort of detox.  Find support by announcing your project to friends and co-workers, finding a cleanse buddy, or simply by reading about the experiences of others through this blog!

Rule #5: Remember Rule #1  :)

SPECIAL OFFER: You don’t have to be in DC to get Tricia’s advice on detoxing your diet. Her e-book Cleansing & Detox Made Simple: Create Your Personalized Healing Diet for Any Season is available for $9.99 at NutriciaConsulting.com .  Green America blog readers can get a free companion e-workbook, which includes 11 worksheets to help you plan and focus your short-term detox, plus shopping tips, recipes, and more resources to guide you along the way.

To get your free e-workbook, visit NutriciaConsulting.com, add both the Cleansing and Detox Made Simple e-book and e-workbook to your shopping cart, and use coupon code SugarDetox.

Don’t forget to let us know how your sugar detox is going in the comments below!

Is Juice Bad for You?

is juice bad for you?
Photo Credit: Teresa Qin via Flickr

Is juice bad for you? As the New York Times reported last week, the juice craze is in full gear, with juice bars popping up all over the country. You may be hearing talk about this cold pressed juice — full of vitamins, minerals, and veggies that you would never dream of eating, but taste pretty amazing in juice form.

But there’s also talk of a more sinister side to juice. Nutritionists are claiming juice has all the sugar of soda, with none of soda’s bad reputation, and that it is contributing to America’s obesity epidemic.

is juice bad for you?
This is Mountain Dew’s “Fruit Punch.” It’s not covered under this blog’s definition of juice. Photo Credit: theimpulsivebuy via Flickr

So which of the two is it? Superhighway of vitamins or liquid sugar?

Before we dive into that question, let’s quickly define juice.

By juice we mean 100% juice with no added sugar. “Fruit Punch” beverages like the one on the left have absolutely nothing in common with fruit, and their health effects do not even deserve to be debated.

So, is juice bad for you?

Yes — even 100% juice is chock full of sugar, and as we explored in the last issue of our magazine, sugar is horrible for you.

How does it harm you? Let us count the ways: 1. obesity, 2. brain damage, 3. heart disease 4. skin aging and more. The sugar you get from juice includes fructose and sucrose — the big villains in those health issues. Sugar doesn’t become good for you just because it’s squeezed from a fruit.

A cup of Coca-Cola Classic has 30 grams of sugar in it, while a cup of orange juice has 21. Researchers are now suggesting that people exercise the same moderation around juice as they do around soda.

Then should I avoid fruit?

If juice is so bad for you, then do we have any business eating fruit? Yes — you should still eat fruit in moderation. Fruit is full of sugar, but it’s also full of good stuff including fiber, which has a tricky way of keeping that sugar in check.  It helps to slow the body’s intake of sugar, preventing insulin spikes, and also gives a feeling of fullness.

is juice bad for you?
Photo credit: You as a Machine on Flickr

The best illustration of the importance of fiber in fruit that I’ve read is a simple experiment by Travis Saunders on the number of oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice.

After exhausting orange-squeezing, he found that it took six oranges to make the equivalent of one small bottle of OJ.

So, back to the topic of avoiding the sugar in fruit,  don’t go out and eat six oranges in one sitting, because that would be too much sugar. But you know what? You probably won’t be temped to, because by the time you get to orange number three, the fiber will be telling your brain that you need to stop eating the oranges right now.

No such signal will occur in the case of orange juice, and you could easily consume the sugar of twelve oranges by drinking two tall glasses of orange juice before your body made you quit. Twelve. That is a lot of sugar.

Bottom line? Keep eating fruit in moderation, but treat juice as you would soda. It’s fine for an occasional treat — but don’t consider it part of a healthy breakfast regimen.

At Green America, we’ve become very interested in sugar lately, and have been writing about it from a number of angles.

Tracy (our Editor in Cheif) took a look at table sugar vs. high fructose corn syrup and how salt and fat play into our sugar addiction.

I’ve shared secrets on how to kick your sugar addiction and asked, are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

Andrew (our online editor) looked at fair trade sugar.

Get information like this delivered to your inbox and sign up four our free e-newsletter at GreenAmerica.org — and keep your eyes peeled for the sugar issue of our magazine — it should be arriving in your mailbox any day now.

Table Sugar vs. High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Which is Worse?

high-fructose-corn-syrup-corn-sugar
Coca-Cola sold in the US is made with high-fructose corn syrup, while in Mexico, it’s made with cane sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has gotten a bad rap for the past few years. Popular belief is that it’s worse for our health than sugar. In fact, a good friend of mine regular buys “Mexican Coca-Cola” rather than mainstream Coke because it’s made with cane sugar instead of HFCS. According to some sources, there’s a “Mexican Coke Craze” afoot in the US for this very reason.

(And yes, Coke is not an ideal  beverage by any stretch of the imagination—both from a health and a social responsibility perspective. But I digress….)

So, is the Mexican Coke Fan Club onto something? Is high-fructose corn syrup worse for you than sugar?

In a word, no.

In “Sickeningly Sweet,” our upcoming issue of the Green American, we detail numerous health effects that have been increasingly linked to overconsumption of added sugars—from obesity and heart disease to diabetes and stroke to Alzheimer’s and cancer. The culprit behind those ill effects is fructose—the sweet molecule in both table sugar and HFCS.

HFCS is 55 percent fructose, while table sugar is close behind at 50 percent. At only five percent more fructose content than HFCS, table sugar is pretty much the same dietary nightmare as HFCS.

When you eat fruit, which contains fructose, the fiber helps you digest it slowly, so you don’t get the blood-sugar spikes that contribute to ill health. Also, as blog commenter and holistic health coach Maria Hoffmeyer noted on a previous post, “The fructose in fruit comes in a package including fiber. The fiber slows down the digestion and your liver doesn’t get hit with it all at once like it does with the processed forms. Just like we ideally don’t overwhelm our liver with alcohol, we would do well to have some consideration for it as well with fructose.”

In addition, both table sugar and HFCS are highly likely to be genetically modified (GM). (What’s wrong with GM foods? See our “Frankenfood” issue for details!) Ninety-five percent of the sugar beets grown in the US are GM, which make up most of our domestic sugar supply. And if you see high-fructose corn syrup on a label, you should just assume it’s GM, as 88 percent of the corn that it comes from in the US is.

Bottom line, the Mayo Clinic notes that “controversy exists … about whether or not the body handles high-fructose corn syrup differently than table sugar.” But Mayo and Green America are on the same page when it comes to sugar and HFCS: Avoid overconsumption of both.

We at Green America take it a step further and say avoid both conventional table sugar and HFCS altogether for good health and to keep GM foods off your plate. (I should probably put quotes around “foods” when it comes after “GM” as a rule, right? Or you can just picture me making air quotes with my fingers….) If you do want to still enjoy sugary treats now and then (and how many of us are going to voluntarily give those up forever?), look for those made with cane sugar—preferably Fair Trade and organic. Cane sugar isn’t yet GM; the organic label limits the number and type of pesticides and herbicides applied to the crop; and the Fair Trade label ensures that sugar plantation workers were treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.  As for packaged foods, anything that’s certified organic will, as a rule, not contain any GM ingredients.

And, of course, everyone should try to stay within the American Heart Association recommendations most of the time for optimal health. If you want to use alternative sweeteners, see associate editor Martha van Gelder’s comparison chart in the upcoming Green American, and view her fun video preview here.

I’m happy to report that I’m doing really well with my new low-sugar, low-salt, high-leafy-green-stuff dietary adventure. As I noted previously, my palate has shifted, since I don’t get as much extra sugar and salt in my diet as I used to, and I now appreciate the natural sweetness of foods that previously didn’t taste like much at all (think roasted carrots). I feel great, I’ve lost some extra pounds that have been hanging on since my youngest daughter was born, and my mindless workday snacking is much more under control. I actually opt for carrots with raw almond butter more often than not, and I like them!

I did go off the rails the other day and have more than my fair share of Fair Trade dark chocolate, but I just jumped back on the wagon and continued my improved eating habits from that point on. The lesson there: Maybe it’s good to take a break from totally clean eating from time to time and indulge in a comfort food, to keep from feeling deprived and keep yourself on track.

How is your sugar-free or sugar-lite lifestyle coming along? Any new tips to share? Any thoughts on HFCS vs. sugar?

[VIDEO] Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for You?

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you? In the video below, I zoom in on four artificial sweeteners — saccharine, stevia, sugar alcohols and sucralose. I’ll tell you what the research says about their comparative health effects.

But What About Aspartame and Neotame?
are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

We’ll have more information on 11 different alternative and artificial sweeteners in the next issue of the Green American. Meanwhile, keep up with new green living tips by signing up for our free email newsletter at greenamerica.org. 

Similar:

is juice bad for you?

Is Juice Bad for You? — We take a look at the health effects of juice. Is it a superfood or the equivalent of a soda?

is juice bad for you?

Table Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup — Is HFCS really that much worse for you?

A Fair Deal for Global Sugar Workers

My colleagues Martha van Gelder and Tracy Fernandez Rysavy have been sharing their experience with kicking the sugar habit on this blog for the past week or so.Sickeningly Sweet

We’ve all been delving deeply into sugar issues recently, working to prepare “Sickeningly Sweet,” the latest issue of our Green American magazine, all about the American sugar habit, and its effects on our bodies and our health.

For my part, I confess to being a little stunned at the amount of sugar Americans consume per capita, partially because I don’t tend to consume that much sugar myself.   I don’t keep any sugar-boosted foods in my house — no soda pop, no sugary breakfast cereals, no sweet treats like boxed cookies or or ice cream, and no processed snacks with hidden sugars.   I don’t even put sugar in my coffee, and if a recipe calls for a bit of sweetness, I’m likely to either leave the sugar out, or replace with a few drops of organic honey, maple syrup, or molasses.

Continue reading “A Fair Deal for Global Sugar Workers”