It's Friday night. The weekend. You've worked hard all week, and you're ready to kick back and treat yourself.
What's on the table tonight? Cookies? Ice cream? Cupcakes?
If you're anything like I was when I struggled with my weight for the first 20+ years of my life, then you have a sweet tooth. In fact, all humans are biologically designed to have a sweet tooth...
See, thousands of years ago, our ancestors didn't have the luxury of dealing with the changes of the seasons like we do today. When it gets too hot out during the summer, we go inside and turn on the AC. When it gets too cold out during the winter, we go inside and turn on the heat.
Furthermore, we can get virtually any food we want whenever we want today. Grocery stores, convenience stores and food delivery services can bring us any type of food we want within a manner of minutes.
Guess what? Our ancestors didn't have the luxury of going inside, flipping a switch and getting out of the elements. And in many parts of the world, food wasn't particularly abundant during the winter months. Between crops freezing over, game going into hibernation, etc., our ancestors had to get creative to survive these long, brutal winter months.
So what did our ancestors do to get through the winter?
They had to do two things: 1) Fatten up, and 2) Conserve food. During the summer and fall months, various fruits would ripen and would be collected by local tribes and inhabitants. It was during these three-to-six months of the year that it became crucial to fatten up in preparation for the winter.
Our ancestors would go to town on all the sugary fruits that they could get their hands on before winter came. And guess what? THEY LOVED IT!
During the winter when food was scarce, many groups would ration the food that they were able to store, and would primarily live off of their newly acquired fat stores thanks to the ripened fruit they ate during the summer/fall. Once spring emerged, crops began to spring up, animals came out of hibernation, and it became hunting and gathering season. In the summer, the process I just described above would repeat itself.
Fast forward to today. As I previously mentioned, life is a lot easier for us today than it was for our ancestors. Abundance is everywhere, and this applies particularly to foods that are not good for us.
The reason our ancestors loved eating the sugary fruits that sprang up during both the summer and the fall months was due to their sugar content. Sugar triggers a 'fat switch' (credit to Dr. Richard Johnson for that term), beginning something called the Insulin Resistance Cycle.
Long story short: We ingest a high carb (or sugary) food, and our bodies produce the hormone insulin to regulate our glycogen (or blood sugar) levels. The more sugar we eat, the more our bodies begin to RESIST insulin, and as a result, the less that sugar is used for our body's optimal processes. Instead, the excess sugar is stored as fat, which over time can lead to obesity.
Lest we forget that insulin resistance is Step 1 of acquiring Type-2 Diabetes...
Sugar triggers this 'survival' instinct within us that our ancestors implemented prior to winter coming. Ever see those CT scans comparing the average person's brain after sugar consumption to a cocaine addict after he/she got his/her fix? They're nearly identical, proving that sugar is just as addictive a white substance as an illegal narcotic.
The scary part is that we put sugar in everything. Sugar in your coffee? How about some milk? That "caramel" they pump into your coffee in the morning loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup?
These all active our 'fat switch.' As a result, obesity rates in America were the highest they've EVER been in 2015. Just 36% of Americans weren't in the overweight/obese category.
Which brings us to how we can survive WITHOUT sugar. The vast majority of our ancestors were able to turn their 'fat switches' off, so how do we? Below I'll lay out three simple changes you can make today to insure that you minimize your sugar intake.
1) Use Stevia Instead.
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the stevia plant, which is indigenous to many parts of South America. Unlike sugar or harmful artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Sweet n' Low, stevia has no effect on your blood sugar levels, and (in my opinion) is the best natural sugar substitute on the market. I recommend that if you decide to go in this direction, you should invest in a stevia extract powder that's Certified Organic and devoid of dextrose and other detrimental chemicals on the ingredient list.
2) Skip the Carbs at Breakfast.
Whether you do fruit, shakes, yogurt or cereal at breakfast, ALL of these food sources are full of sugar. When you wake up in the morning, your body is in a fat-burning mode, having not eaten since before you went to bed the night before. In order to keep fat burning and to avoid blood sugar spikes, it's important to stick with a high fat, high protein breakfast.
Foods like organic, free-range eggs, organic avocados, organic coconut oil, organic grass-fed butter and organic uncured bacon (see a trend with the organic?) are just a few of the many foods you can eat at breakfast. Make this change and you'll do away with that 2:00 feeling before noon, you'll be fuller for longer, and you'll stay in fat-burning mode for much longer.
3) Avoid Food Products with Ingredients Ending in the Root 'ose.'
When you see an ingredient on a food's ingredient list that ends in 'ose,' that ingredient is a form of sugar. Just to review, when we ingest a sugar of any kind, our body switches out of fat-burning mode (fat is our body's preferred form of fuel, by the way), and immediately utilizes the sugar that's just been ingested your body's regular processes. Whatever sugar isn't needed right away will be stored as fat, and will initiate the Insulin Resistance Cycle. If you don't want to be heavy, and you don't want Type-2, it's best to avoid these foods.
If you have a sweet tooth like I did, I'll be straight with you: These changes aren't going to be easy. Like I mentioned earlier, sugar is addictive, and if you're a sugar-holic, laying off a great deal of what you typically ingest will be difficult in the beginning.
However, by making the changes I recommend above, and by tweaking the energy source your body uses (fat instead of carbohydrate), you'll be able to not only improve your overall health, but minimize any detriment obesity or Type-2 has had on you.
Here's to you taking that first step!