5 Amazing Reasons to Cut Down on Sugar

Sugar, in its many forms, is everywhere and letting it creep back into your diet can be an easy thing for even the staunchest anti-sugar peeps.

Also winter is around the corner and the change of season often means that we spend more time indoors and, as a result, are less active. And being less active can lead to, well, putting on our “winter coat”.

A great way to reduce the chance of this happening is by drastically reducing your sugar intake. Reducing refined sugar intake isn’t necessarily easy as it’s found in virtually all packaged foods, drinks and food at fast food restaurants are laden with it (a large Big Mac meal deal has 85 grams of sugar–236% of your daily allowance). Although it takes a little effort and planning to avoid sugar, it is very worth it in health and wellness rewards.

Here are 5 pretty amazing benefits of eating less sugar:

1. Improved sleep

Insulin levels are regulated when our blood sugar is balanced and one of the benefits of this is deep, restful sleep. Regulated insulin also has a balancing effect on the rest of our hormones as they all work together. This balance helps to improve our energy levels, brain function and, again, the quality of our sleep. A restful sleep gives us consistent and lasting energy throughout the day, increases our ability to focus and makes us less susceptible to sugary afternoon treats to get through the day, helping us to naturally cut down our sugar consumption.

2. Weight Loss 

Did you know that you can lose weight by cutting down on sugar without even reducing calories? This often happens because sugar spikes our blood sugar levels and insulin levels, as well as disrupting neurotransmitters in our brain. All of this increases fat storage. Eating more protein, fiber, fruit, and vegetables increases our metabolism, which then helps our bodies burn calories more efficiently. Losing or maintaining weight isn’t just about the daily calories consumed, but about the quality of foods we eat and the way our bodies process them.

3. Mental Clarity

Expect to feel more focused and clear-headed when giving up or cutting down on sugar. When our blood-sugar levels are consistent and healthy, our brain is more alert and we don’t feel as sleepy throughout the day. Also, too much fructose from foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (many processed, packaged foods) taxes our liver and pancreas. When this happens, these two organs have to work harder to manage all of the low quality sugar in our systems and remove it from our blood stream. While doing this, they exhaust energy reserves which otherwise should have been used for breaking down fat and converting it to usable energy. This can result in an unpleasant cocktail of moodiness, anxiety and even exhaustion.

4. Anti- Aging

Sugar is a primary contributor to the aging process, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a physician who has extensively researched sugar’s effect on the human body. He says fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, is seven times more potent than the glucose portion of sugar. Fructose (ie. high fructose corn syrup) forms free radicals in our bodies, leading to higher rates of cell damage and death.

In a way, we “rust” as we age, he says. Oxidative stress turns our tissues brown. Overindulging in excess added sugar will speed up this browning process and speeds along the aging process in general.

5. Heart Health

It’s easy to imagine how having excess fat in our blood stream and arteries can lead to heart problems, but less people know about the role sugar plays in cardiac issues. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars (6 teaspoons) for women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons) for men for optimal heart health. Unfortunately people now consume 22 teaspoons per day, on average.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association has also shown that people who ate between 17 and 21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with people who consumed 8 percent or less of their calories from added sugar. So less sugar, along with moderate exercise equals a healthy, happy heart.

So, there you have it, some excellent reasons to think about dialing back your sugar habit.

Next post will have a delicious, sugar free dessert to help make living without refined sugar easy and delicious.

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A Return to Love

My cousin was the first one to tell me about A Return to Love about a year ago. At the time, I was beginning to be interested in spirituality but didn’t want to read anything too heavy and certainly nothing that would require me to change in any significant way.

After my cousin’s glowing recommendation, I decided to buy the book and slowly made my way through it. There were things I liked and could relate to and things that I thought “No WAY!” Too idealistic I said. We’re living in the real world. This isn’t doable at all. Also, the ego isn’t a bad thing, I argued with her. Hasn’t the author heard the term “healthy ego”?

The book quickly found a place in the corner of the bottom shelf of my bookcase and life went on.

Flash forward a year and 12 energy healings later. The healings were with an amazing woman named Karen Heywood. Find out more about her here. All of a sudden I found myself craving the words and wisdom of ‘A Return to Love’. I dusted off my copy and opened a page. And, wow, what a different experience. Now Marianne Williamson’s words made total sense. There was no healthy ego I realized as I read the words all over again. Finally I felt ready to learn what this book had to teach me and I couldn’t wait to dive in. When the student is ready, they say, the teacher will appear. In my case, I guess, the teacher will appear again.

I’ll be writing more about this amazing book in upcoming posts but, in the meantime, here are a few of my favourite thoughts and quotes I’d like to share with you. I hope you like (read: love) them as much as I do:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.

You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.

Do what you love.
Do what makes your heart sing.
And NEVER do it for the money,
Go to work to spread joy.

May my heart be your shelter, and my arms be your home.

Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of heaven.
Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell.

Just let go

I’ve been thinking about people who offer unsolicited advice to others (and the uncomfortable realization that I’m occasionally guilty of this behaviour).

This is on my mind today because I was out with the girls last weekend and a friend of a friend went on the attack over a decision I had recently made. I was surprised at her reaction but defended myself pretty well, the whole time thinking ‘why is this almost stranger so invested in my life?’ The whole exchange was emotionally charged though and managed to bring down what could have been a fun evening out.

By the end of the evening I had the sense that the only personal power this woman could muster was at the expense of others and with the conviction that her opinions were ‘right’. A very sad and, ultimately, powerless way to walk through the world.

The silver lining of this experience, however, is a wonderful one. It made me realize that if someone wants my opinion, he or she will actually ask and if they don’t ask, then my opinion is probably not needed. It also made me realize that I don’t need to defend or explain my life to anyone.

Imagine if we were all a little less judgy and just let people be who they want to be and do want they want to do. Imagine if we focused on understanding and acceptance instead of the upmanship (upwomanship) of judgement.

Imagine how much more wonderful the world would be.

Disclaimer: None of this applies if someone is being abused or harming themselves. Then it’s our duty to, with love, make their business our business.

Gentle

My word for 2017: Gentleness

Dictionary definition: “Gentleness is the quality of being kind and careful. Your gentleness with a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her. The noun gentleness is perfect for describing the way someone acts when they are soft and calm and sweet to other people.”

We are all in this world together, doing the best we can and often our best isn’t all that great. We mess up, hurt each other (hopefully accidentally) and are just in general perfectly imperfect.

Imagine if we practiced more compassion and gave each other the benefit of the doubt more often. Imagine how we could transform the world if enough of us did that. So 2017 is my year of learning how to be gentle, with myself and with everyone around me. 

I think it’s going to be a good year 💖

For the Love of Volleyball

I lived to play volleyball in high school. For two years it was my full time, happy obsession. I tried out for and made the team in grade 10 and started out as a decent player. But then, a deep, deep love for the sport took hold of me and I started practicing for a couple of hours every evening and as much as I could on weekends. When there was no one around to play with I’d go out behind the house and serve the ball against the wall and dive and lunge to keep it slamming against the wall without touching the ground. So, in a pretty short time I went from a decent player to a really good player. And I practiced for a couple of hours every night not because I thought I  should or I had to but because I wanted to. Desperately wanted to. Playing volleyball was the happiest I felt in life. It gave me structure, a great physical outlet for stress and, last but not least, hope. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I lived for the game for those two years.

Then, in grade 12 I had to stop playing. The story of why I had to stop is too long and too sad to write about here. But I had to give it up. And I buried my love of the game…for almost 40 years. Oh, occasionally I’d try to get friends to play beach volleyball with me and once in a while they’d say yes. But some people are intimidated by the game and other people just don’t love it the way I do (which I can’t quite understand lol) so my games were few and far between.

But, this year, magically and happily, I found a group of friends who want to play. And they want to play every weekend, and, as I play with them, and my moves from high school are slowly but surely coming back to me. Something I had to bury a long, long time ago is un-burying (is that a word?) itself deep within my being and I’m starting to feel the happiness and joy that I used to feel when I was one of the tallest girls on the team spiking the ball mercilessly over the net. And I’m starting to practice my moves with a beach ball in my apartment just like I practiced in the “old days”. My dog gets in on the act to and pounces on the beach ball every chance he gets, so he’s loving the volleyball life too.

volleyball

volleyball

It’s too late to take this love of the game to a professional level like I dreamt of doing as a teenager but it’s not to late to let myself incorporate something that makes me feel such deep happiness and excitement back into my life. It’s funny how some of the things that bring such get buried over time.

The obsession is back and it’s a happy one.

The Happy Hiker Club

Every time I go adventuring in the forest, I am surprised at how quickly my problems and worries seem to disappear. I also notice that when I think of my life in the city, it seems less like my real life than trekking through the forest does.

“How can I get out of the city and into my happy place on a more regular basis?” I pondered this as I stood, packed like a stressed out sardine, on the bus home from the office last week.

“Start a hiking group” my inner voice whispered. It hits all of the important prerequisites for happiness: friendship, camaraderie and time spent in nature. Hiking is also a great way to stay fit. I couldn’t think of a downside to this.

That evening The Happy Hiker Club was born. Every hike we do will be chronicled in the blog this summer. Tips, highlights, things to watch out for and any inspiration nature gives me will be shared here.

wild flowers

 

What Did Intuitive Eating Teach Me?

So, my intuitive eating experiment taught me a number of things but the biggest and baddest ones are that my body doesn’t like wheat and dairy.

This is sad news but, if I want to feel better, I know what I have to do. Also, did you know that we sometimes crave the very things we are allergic to?  This was definitely apparent as I looked back on my dairy consumption.

Example:

I buy a wheel of brie at Whole Foods. Take a bite and put brie in the fridge. One day later, I open the fridge to eat some cheese and there’s only one sliver left. One sliver. My thought process: Where did the cheese go? I didn’t eat all of the cheese. I DID NOT eat all of that cheese. Who broke into my house and ate my cheese?? Then, eventually, I realize that I had, in fact, in some weird, dairy induced, dissassociative state, eaten all of the cheese. Not good. And wheat is usually a very similar situation. Insert baguette for brie and repeat story.

Coffee, it seems is also not my friend. Since I may love coffee more than life itself, however, and therefore refuse to give it up.

Moderation though. I will, once again, try moderation with my coffee consumption… Sigh. Wish me luck…

Next on my sad little list of things my body doesn’t react well to? Alcohol. Yes, it’s true. And just in time for patio season.

I’ve noticed lately that even when I have a couple of drinks,  the next day I wake up with bags under my eyes, my face breaks out in blotchy red bumps and I walk around all day with a killer headache. Not good. So, again, I will strive to be moderate. One cocktail, one glass of water. It’s going to be an interesting time ahead.

Here’s to finding health and balance.