October is coming to an end next week. So you know what that means? It’s time for “No Sugar November”! Can you go from November 1st until Thanksgiving (November 26th) with no sugar? It might seem like a monumental task, but take a few minutes to read the rest of this post and I’ll guide you through the four weeks that will hopefully change your life.
Before getting into the details of the challenge, I feel like I should take a minute to remind everyone why sugar needs to be eliminated from your diet. Here are some of the things that sugar/sweeteners do:
- Promotes fat storage and weight gain
- Decreases your body’s production of leptin, a hormone critical for appetite regulation (i.e., it makes you not realize that you are full).
- It thickens the blood
- Compromises your immune system
- Fuels cancer cells (cancer LOVES sugar)
- Disrupts transfer of amino acids to muscles
- Triggers inflammation
- Causes Type 2 diabetes
- Causes nerve damage
- Causes Cardiovascular Disease
- Has addictive properties
- Causes tooth decay
If you want to know more about all of the horrible things that happen to your body when you consume sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, do a simple Google search.
So if you want to join me in the challenge, here’s what you do:
Starting now, look at the labels of everything that you eat. If the word “sugar” (in any form) is listed in the ingredients, don’t eat it. But it’s not that simple. Sugar can come in many forms. It can be very tricky to find hidden sugar in foods that you don’t even think of as being sweet. It’s obvious that candy bars and donuts are off limits, but would you ever think that pasta sauce, peanut butter and yogurt have added sugar? Even simply drinking a glass of sweet tea can trigger the release of huge amounts of dopamine into the brain. It’s the same chemical that causes people to become addicted to gambling, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.. So when your brain gets this release from even a small amount of sugar, it makes you want it more. The only way to keep from getting cravings is to cut it out completely.
Hidden Forms of Sugar to Look For:
So what should you look for on labels other than just the word “sugar”? Check for sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, galactose, lactose, maltose, dextrin, corn syrup, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), fruit juice concentrate, cane crystals, and evaporated cane juice.
All of these are off limits. Even though the artificial sweeteners don’t have the calories of their natural counterparts, they are toxic to your body and send mixed signals to your brain. Artificial sweeteners cause you to actually eat more because they break the connection between a sweet sensation and a high-calorie food, thereby changing your body’s ability to regulate calorie intake naturally.
What about eating in a restaurant (can we do that again yet)?
So what about when you are not buying your food from the grocery and you are out to eat (or getting it to go if there's a pandemic) at a restaurant? When you are not preparing the food, it’s a little more difficult to find the hidden sugars. I usually try and order a salad with oil and vinegar instead of the dressings listed on the menu. Nearly every salad dressing out there has added sugar. Many salads also have caramelized nuts, so look to avoid those or just pick them off. Ketchup and BBQ sauces will always contain sugar. Often, sandwich meats at fast food restaurants are treated or injected with a sugar solution to add to the flavor. It’s not easy, but it can be done if you take the time to look at the menu and ask the server questions. Things can be left off or put on the side very easily if you just ask.
Are you up for the challenge??
So if you are up for it, join me in going cold-turkey on sugar (and artificial sweeteners) from now until Thanksgiving. I’ve gone without sugar for weeks at a time before and while the first week or so is tough, it’s amazing how the body transforms and you no longer care about sweets. After going a few weeks without sugar, you will be able to walk by that vending machine or that plate of cookies without the slightest urge. If you slip up and have a soda on day three, don’t quit – just start over from that point. In order for this to work, you cannot have “cheat” days. Once you introduce that sugar again, the cravings will come back and it will be harder to get sugar off of the brain. It literally starts to control your thoughts and you will start thinking about that next sweet treat.
Hold yourself accountable
If you want some accountability, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and let everyone know that you are going to give it a try. Use hashtag #NoSugarNovember. We also have a Private Facebook group. If you would like to join, just send me a friend request. If your family members, friends and co-workers all know that you are avoiding sugar, you are more likely to stick with it. You must also remove all sources of sugar from your home and replace them with real, unprocessed foods. Out of sight – out of mind. If you have a craving during the first few days, eat some berries or a banana. If your immediate family is not on-board this could be a big test for your will power.
If you are still on the fence about cutting out sugar, here are some additional benefits that you may not realize will come once you eliminate it:
- Clearer Skin – A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 showed that those participants who had a high-sucrose diet also had a higher level of systemic inflammation than those who had an overall decrease in sucrose consumption. Sugar spikes insulin levels—and more insulin and inflammation means more acne.
- More Energy – You may think that without sugar, your energy levels will drop. Fact is, after a few days, your body will recognize that you are not going to pump sugar in every few hours like usual and it will start to switch to burning fat as fuel. This results in sustained energy, instead of a roller-coaster throughout the day as your blood sugar spikes and drops. You will notice this particularly in the afternoon when most people usually get an energy slump between 2pm-4pm that calls for a candy bar, soda or another cup of coffee to get them through the rest of the afternoon.
- Motivation – Once you start reading labels and being mindful of sugar intake, you will find yourself making better choices in other areas of health and fitness. You will be motivated to eat the salad at lunch instead of the sandwich. You will want to exercise as you get more energy and see the pounds coming off!
- Better Sleep – Sugar triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which interferes with sleep. By giving up sugar, you should be more awake and alert during the day, and also better prepared to fall asleep at bedtime.
- Clearer Thinking – Keep forgetting things? Sugar could be the culprit. A study at UCLA found that a diet high in sugar hinders learning and memory. Over time, eating sugar may actually damage communication among your brain’s cells, the study showed.
I hope you will give No Sugar November a try this year. Get your spouse or partner on board and make it a challenge. If you slip up, start again. Let’s take this journey together and see how much better it makes you feel. And you can still enjoy that pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole on Thanksgiving!
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,