Congratulations. You’ve no made it to the 30 day mark in the challenge. Just 15 left to go. For those of you that have got this far here’s what you may have discovered.
Your sugar addiction was worse than you thought
For those of you who had terrible symptoms from quitting sugar this should pose as a warning that you are in essence addicted to sugar. Sugar and dopamine are also heavily linked. When an individual eats sugar, the brain produces huge surges of dopamine. This is similar to the way the brain reacts to the ingestion of substances like heroin and cocaine. Researchers think that this might be because our bodies have adapted over time to seek out foods that are high in calories. For most of human history, it was important to eat a lot of calories in order to survive. With modern food technology and the widespread availability of high-calorie foods, at least in Western nations, this is no longer necessary for survival.
However, our brains and evolution haven’t yet caught up with that shift. So, our brains still perceive sugar as beneficial and release huge amounts of dopamine when we consume sugary, high-calorie foods. In the long term, this can mimic the effects of addiction and create high tolerance and cravings for sugar. Furthermore, can even lead to withdrawal when we cut it out of our diets. That’s why it can be so difficult to resist the urge to consume sweets, biscuits and cake.
Obviously, sugar doesn’t have the same negative effects of Class A drugs, but excessive consumption is the primary cause of obesity, diabetes and is also strongly correlated to the risk of other chronic diseases.
It’s tough to snack without bread
Bread has become a staple of most of our daily diets, with toast our favourite choice of breakfast combined with sandwiches being what seems like the only option for lunch. In addition, we reach for pitta and dip, another slice of toast/bread or some other bread substance when we need a quick snack.
Why are bread and sugar a problem?
The problem is that bread has a very high glycaemic index. This is a scale out of 100 that measures how quickly foods will raise blood glucose. Pure glucose is 100. Bread is actually 74 which is high. The glycaemic load of bread which some consider a more useful measure (this considers carbohydrate content per 100g) is around 40. (greater than 20 is considered high).
Starchy foods such as bread and pasta have a similar effect of blood glucose levels to sugars. In that they cause a spike in blood sugar that will result in a large insulin response from the body. This will cause the blood sugar to drop and usually to a point in which you crave more sugar/starch to get your blood sugars back up. This is a cycle that continues throughout the day.
Why you can’t burn fat
Your body burns fat by using a hormone called Glucagon which works to raise blood sugar levels by converting glycogen back into glucose and then in the absence of glycogen releasing fatty acids (bodyfat) for energy. Glucagon and Insulin are antagonists, meaning they are not present in the body at the same time. This means your body cannot burn fat in the presence of insulin or glycogen.
In layman’s terms this means if you are consuming excess sugars and starchy carbohydrates throughout the day then you will not burn fat.
What should you try to do for the last 15 days
Here’s a challenge for each of you for the last 15 days.
Avoid all replacements
This is something I’ve done on many occasions whilst testing various diets. Finding a substitute for my usual snacks. In the case of sweets and cakes we find a low sugar alternative packed with polyols (Fake sugars) or stevia (plant based fake sugars). For alcohol we substitute a non-alcohol variant. (I do this!). This is one of the ways we are not building good habits from the challenge. All that will happen as soon as we stop the challenge is to switch our replacements back to the real thing. If you’ve completed this challenge to get healthier then you should be looking to break these habits.
This doesn’t mean that we never eat sugar, bread or drink alcohol again. But what it means is that we stop using these foods as our regular appetite/craving suppressors. We try to stop having a drink every single night of the week, we don’t go for dessert after each meal (my bad habit) and we don’t jump straight for the easy fix snack whenever it suits. Where we’ve changed as a society is that a drink used to be reserved for a night out at the pub or a special occasion. Before drink was widely available at supermarkets it used to be a special trip to get some. Now we have it as a water replacement. The same was for cakes and sweets and chocolates. Just a few decades ago sweets would mean a trip to the sweet shop, and cakes would be home baked or purchased from a bakers. Now we have sweets and cakes as our breakfast cereal.
Make treats worth it
My goal when finishing the challenge is to make these treats worth it. To have a drink when it’s a nice meal or a Saturday night. To eat an amazing bacon sandwich made from a freshly baked white crusty loaf and to get cakes and treats when I’m our for a meal or passing an amazing bakery. The only way I’m going to accomplish this is to start the good habits whilst I’m not in the midst of the ‘addiction’.
The second challenge is to reduce snacking to only when you’re hungry and not just bored! If we accept that burning fat doesn’t happen when glycogen (converted carbs) are present and when insulin (post meal hormone to break down carbs) are in the bloodstream then we can safely say that snacking every 2 hours is not going to help. Now that your blood sugars are hopefully less volatile due to your reduced intake of starch and sugars you should be able to control your cravings and avoid the mid-afternoon snack. If you are hungry have bigger meals to ensure your calorie intake is sufficient.
Ensure your calories are high enough
One mistake people make when cutting out foods is to drop calories too much and be constantly hungry. This shouldn’t happen. Use a food tracker such as myfitnesspal to ensure your calorie intake is sufficient. This will allow you to know the difference between hunger (from not enough calories) and cravings (from poor habits and a psychological need for food)
Great work so far guys. Remember just 15 days to go, let’s finish strong!