It’s Halloween, and you know what that means: sugar, sugar, sugar! Beginning in late summer, stores begin taunting and tantalizing us with prominently displayed festive treats conveniently packaged in small, easy to eat servings. By the time the actual holiday rolls around, we’ve been wading through candy corn and “fun sized” candy bars for months.
All holidays have their peculiar food traditions, but Halloween perhaps wins the prize for being the most focused on candy and other sweet treats as the center of attraction. And no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will undoubtedly find yourself staring down a confection before all is said and done.
Will you give in?
While one piece of candy won’t make or break your health, few of us stop at just one (I’m guilty of this myself on occasion.) In fact, most of us see Halloween as we see every other festive occasion from Thanksgiving to our neighbor’s cookout: as a perfectly good time to indulge in whichever kind of sweet temptations are presented to us.
But that indulgence takes its toll when it’s done for every holiday and festivity, and is manifesting itself more and more in the current epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes. It is called an epidemic because of the shocking increase in new cases of diabetes. Less than 5% of the population had diabetes in 1990. That figure is now up to 7%: a 40% increase.
Every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Much of the food that you eat is turned into glucose for your body to use as energy. After a meal, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin which helps the glucose, or sugar, move from your bloodstream into the cells in your body where it can be used for energy.
When you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin that it produces. The result is a buildup of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream.
High levels of blood sugar cause extensive damage in the body such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even amputations. Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die early as those without diabetes.
What’s the connection?
The connection between Halloween and Type 2 diabetes is simple: the more sugar you eat, the harder your pancreas has to work to produce insulin and keep your blood sugar within a safe range.
But the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin are the only cells in your body that actually wear out from use. If you overwork them, they will eventually cease to perform in a way that can keep up with the demand.
Your body can also become resistant to the insulin that your pancreas produces. The more resistant your cells become to insulin, the more your pancreas has to make in order to have an effect. When these situations develop, you have Type 2 diabetes.
Also, sugar creates cravings for more sugar! Have you ever noticed that once you have some sugar (even in the form of a cookie or muffin) that you find yourself wanting more later on? This is why sugar is huge when it comes to weight loss as well!
The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is completely preventable. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you will never have to experience this disease. And if you already have Type 2 diabetes, you can do much to control it naturally.
The best strategy is to keep your weight within normal range, eat a healthy diet full of whole foods and very little sugar, and exercise at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week.
These simple lifestyle changes are the enemies of Type 2 diabetes.
This Halloween, choose future health over present pleasure. Enjoy one or two treats, and then stop. It’s not worth the price you will pay later.
And if you’re like me, your body will tell you the next day that it didn’t like the sugar-overindulgence (along with effects of the artificial colours and flavours!) and you’ll wonder why you did it in the first place.
Wondering how to take back control of your cravings, so sugar is no longer at the steering wheel of your food and snack choices? Join my FREE 5-DAY SUGAR-FREE CHALLENGE and then make sure you're in my NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE STRATEGIES private Facebook group for women. We'll run through the challenge together there shortly after Halloween!
If you're in, write I'M IN in the comments below!
We’ve been hearing for years that sugar is bad for us and causes weight gain, and that information led to the onset of artificial sweeteners, especially in the diabetes and weight loss industries.
Artificial sweeteners have actually been around for decades (and one in particular since the late 1800’s), with several being banned and then re-introduced again later on.
Before we begin, let’s back up a bit to find out more about how artificial sweeteners even came to be.
Let’s start with sugar.
Why is this toxin so prevalent in our society? Most people aren’t even aware of what they are eating. One third of dietary sugar comes from soft drinks, making soda the #1 dietary source of sugar.
(Please note that when I talk about sugar here, I am referring to refined sugar and the over-abundance of it that is added to our packaged and processed foods, and not naturally occuring sugars in whole foods that actually contain beneficial nutrients.)
The statistics in this blog are based on American data, however for my fellow Canadians, we can anticipate numbers close to these.
Americans average about 55 gallons of soda per year and it takes 30 cups of water to neutralize 1 can of soda.
High fructose corn syrup increased from 0% of American diets in 1966 to 63lbs a year in 2001.
The average American drinks 55 Gallons of Soda per year!
Sugar is in everything and these are just a few examples of things you might not expect it to be in:
Pasta sauces, Lunch meats, Canned foods, Condiments like ketchup & Mayonnaise, Sauces, Salad Dressings, Crackers, Fruit Drinks, Yogurt, Snacks, Breads.
Balancing blood sugar is a primary component of the work I do with my clients and also in my 5-DAY SUGAR-FREE CHALLENGE because blood sugar balance is that important.
For those wanting to lose weight, long-term weight loss will NOT happen if blood sugar is not balanced.
A few facts about sugar:
If sugar is so bad, is there anything worse than sugar?
Why yes, there is.
Introducing Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have long been positioned as “guilt free” and safe alternatives, causing many people to turn to them. We know now that “safe” and artificial sweeteners do not belong in the same sentence.
The slogan for Splenda is that it is made from sugar so it tastes like sugar. Strictly speaking this statement is true. However, by the time a single sugar molecule is transformed into Splenda it becomes something completely different.
Some serious side effects: gastrointestinal problems, seizures, dizziness, migraines, blurred vision, allergic reactions, blood sugar increases, weight gain, carcinogenic potential when cooking, and Splenda could kill as much as 50 percent of your microbiome.
Here are a few reasons artificial sweeteners negatively impact both your waistline and your health:
1. Artificial sweeteners mess with your brain chemistry and metabolism.
We’re led to believe that because diet soft drinks are calorie free or low-calorie that they’re a good option for our waist size, but the opposite is actually true. Drinking diet soft drinks can make you gain weight because the stimulate your taste buds and trick them to think you’re eating real sugar. Your body becomes confused and revs up the production of insulin, your fat-storage hormone. This causes your metabolism to slow down, which causes you to burn less calories every day. You then become even hungrier and more prone to eating carbs (like pasta and bread). Increased belly fat is the result.
(Fact: Artificial sweeteners can be 1000 times sweeter than sugar!)
2. Artificial sweeteners increase your risk for diabetes.
Studies are showing that sugar substitutes can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and weight gain, among other things.
3. Artificial sweeteners are highly addictive (even more than sugar!)
Artificial sweeteners can become addictive quickly and diet sodas can be really hard to give up. We’ve been midled to thinking they’re guilt-free alternatives to regular soda. The truth is losing weight in NOT all about the calories. Blood sugar imbalance, hormone balance and metabolism have everything to do with weight loss, and artificial sweeteners mess with all three of these.
These sweeteners also alter your food preferences. They’re so incredibly sweet that your palate shifts from being able to enjoy fruits, veggies and whole foods to liking only the super sweet stuff. This is why I help people avoid sugar entirely for the full 5-days in my 5-DAY SUGAR-FREE CHALLENGE, so they can reset their taste buds, so to speak, making it much easier to be satisfied with the taste of real, whole foods again.
So what can we use as a sweetener?
Stevia and xylitol can be used without raising blood sugar. Other natural sweeteners, but that do spike blood sugar and should be used in moderation are honey, dates and maple syrup. These contain beneficial nutrients as well.
In my 5-DAY SUGAR-FREE CHALLENGE, I guide you through the best and worst sweeteners, and show you which sweeteners can be used in moderation after the challenge is over, so you can take back control of your cravings, without giving up all sweets.
Most of us have been on a diet at some point in our lives, hoping to lose the extra weight, so we can feel better about ourselves and like what we see in the mirror.
It’s so tempting to want a quick fix with weight loss because let’s face it, diets are NOT fun! Who would actually WANT to deprive themselves of everything they love?
Fads are everywhere, from magic diet pills to juice detox diets to cutting out whole food groups. People are desperate for that quick fix that will make them feel better quickly.
But are these quick-fix, often-extreme diets effective, and more importantly, what are they doing to our health?
One thing that most nutrition experts agree on, is that the biggest problem with fad diets is that they’re not sustainable. You may be able to survive on way less calories than your body really needs, but the motivation level with all-or-nothing dieting hardly ever lasts for long. And rightfully so.
Also, fad diets can be dangerous. A common result of dieting is slowing down your metabolism because of not eating enough.
And then what happens after you lose your goal weight? Are you going to stay on that fad diet? Of course not! So, guess what happens? That’s right, the weight will creep right back on again and then the whole cycle repeats itself over and over again.
Statistics show that over 90% of people who lose weight gain the weight back again within 5 years, and 95% of those people gain back EVEN MORE.
Also, every time you diet you risk damaging your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight the next time.
I remember starving myself as a teenager wanting to be as skinny as possible and I ended up looking and feeling pretty unhealthy. My body wasn’t getting the nutrients it needed to run well and I sure felt it!
Your body needs the proper balance of nutrients to function and it needs a steady supply of fuel to run well, and without it, it’ll do whatever it needs to survive.
So in the case of under-nourishing your body, your body is smart and it will hold on to whatever you do eat to protect you, so even when you do exercise or exert energy, your body won’t release the weight that it normally would if you were eating more.
So bottom line, you don’t have to eat less, you just have to eat right.
Another negative effect of dieting is the increase in anxiety or stress over your food choices. This often comes with all-or-nothing mentality.
Thinking that you’re either on the wagon or off the wagon. The truth is, life happens and you’re not always going to eat perfectly. Christmas parties and family dinners happen, and you’ll choose to indulge a little more on certain occasions. That’s life, and it’s ok.
I personally live by the 90/10 rule, where 90% of the time I’m intentional about eating whole, live foods as close to nature as possible and making sure I eat balanced meals, and I don’t get stressed out about the other 10% of the time or if I’m in a situation where my choices are limited.
A better way, that I’ve seen work time and time again (and which is what I teach!) is to practice patience and putting your effort toward making a lifestyle change, where you develop healthy, sustainable eating habits that are life-long and enjoy life without restrictions or starving yourself.
If you want my help ending the destructive cycle of dieting and discovering how to make a lifestyle change that involves eating in a way that works for everyday life, (without giving up everything you love!), send me an email HERE.
Share this with anyone else who would like to ditch the diets and discover a sustainable way of eating that leads to a slimmer (and healthier!) body.
May Anne xo
May Anne Jordens-LaFlamme is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the owner of "Wellness with May Anne." She is passionate about helping women look and feel their best, so they can live a more fulfilling life - without dieting, deprivation, relying on willpower or cooking separate meals for the family.