We get lots of questions about eating better, especially at the end of the year, and thought this would be useful to share. Happy 2023to you!!
Q & A: How do I cut out sugar for New Years? I’ve tried this resolution before, but I’ve always struggled with it.
A: The best advice I have is to modify this resolution. When you feel like a failure your motivation wanes, and I don’t know how to not feel like a failure at cutting out sugar in 2023. Well, I mean, theoretically it’s super simple because you just don’t have any sugar for the year… but, in practice it’s essentially impossible for several reasons.
#1. Not very effective
A picture is worth a thousand words, and here’s one from Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Despite what the book of faces would tell you, sugar consumption has been going down since the year 2000, and we Americans have still been gaining weight. How could this be? Calories. When you are in a calorie surplus (even if the surplus is from fat, and/or inactivity) you will gain weight. Fat is generally more fattening than sugar, and the amount of time stealing technology we have today makes it really hard to get enough steps per day.
#2. Moving the Goal Line
One reason cutting out sugar will be nearly impossible is how many opinions you will get about the definition of sugar. In the age of social media you can’t stop the onslaught directly or indirectly. Your keto friends will tell you that this means you give up all fruit because of the naturally occurring sugars.
If you reject the silly nonsense about avoiding fruit, does that mean that all naturally occurring sugars are ok? If so, you have to contend with drawing a line for what is “natural” vs not. White table sugar is a refined plant extract in that it is the juice of sugar cane (natural) that has been refined until it is white. At what point does it stop being “natural?” Does this mean that it’s less refined cousin sucanat* is “natural” and ok?
When it is hard to keep the definition of the resolution straight it is very hard to not feel like a failure.
*Sucanat is dried and powdered, and minimally refined sugar cane juice so it is still brown. It’s more like a power than crystals. One teaspoon has 16 calories, which is the same as white table sugar.
#3. Limitless Temptation
We are surrounded by unlimited opportunities to eat an unlimited variety of food – especially foods high in sugar and/or fat. If you have an office job then you’re likely to be literally surrounded by candy bowls and treat baskets. Then there are birthday parties, dinners out, and any sort of family or social function. If you have kids, nieces or nephews and one of them tries to sweetly sweet talk you into a sweet it is hard to say “no” forever.
These are changes that have well defined limits and will make a big dent in your calorie intake. BIG! These are also changes that you can keep up for a lifetime.
These are not easy, effortless or devoid of sacrifice. The only free cheese is in a mouse trap. Only con artists will be telling you that you can somehow lose weight, get in shape, etc without sacrifices or trade-offs.
#1. Don’t drink your calories: you could, perhaps make a caveat for protein shakes, and/or wine, but you must draw the line.
- About 20% of the calories consumed by adults in the USA come from liquids. 20% is massive.
- What does this look like?
o Coffee and tea without caloric sweeteners are calorie-free, and work.
o Diet soda, or if that seems unnatural (because soda is oh so natural), then sparkling water.
o If it is a liquid with calories, decline or modify.
- It’s pretty simple. It is easier than “cutting out sugar,” and also more effective.
- This is a black and white rule, not a grey one. This isn’t something to contemplate each and every time you have a liquid because if you do that you neutralize the simplicity of it. This works if you work it, and if you keep it simple.
#2. Don’t eat anything in front of a screen: screens include phones, tablets, TV, etc.
- Eating in front of a screen translates into eating about 10% more calories than you would otherwise.
o Why? Does it matter? You don’t need to understand the mechanism of why something works to take advantage of it. Something about distracted eating leads us to eat more during the screen time, and often later as well.
o The important thing is the 10-ish%. That’s a big chunk of calories.
o What does it look like?
- Eat popcorn at the table, or while the TV is off… this might translate into a massive reduction in popcorn (or whatever you eat while watching a movie), and, well, that’s kinda the point.
- Eat dinner and then watch TV.
Similar to the drinking your calories this is black and white. Black and white rules are helpful because you don’t have to think about them, you just do them. When you think about your rules of conduct often they are not rules, and you are renegotiating with yourself often. As it is with other people, when you have to renegotiate boundaries and whatnot a few times a week, the relationship is more trouble than it’s worth… in other words, don’t be a drain on yourself here.
#3. Don’t eat any desserts or sweets at work: you have to draw the line somewhere, and work is often a practical place to draw the line.
- Why? Because treats are available at work and in your personal life, and there are so many of them offered so often that most people can’t afford to eat them all. Most people would prefer to eat some treats in their personal life if they had to choose between the two.
- We can have cake, and eat some cake, but we can’t eat it each time it is offered.
- Simple rules don’t tax your brain the way that renegotiating your life does at each office birthday party does.
Eating better is not easy, but it is worth it.
Here’s to a healthy 2023!