I am not the expert by any stretch of the imagination so this post will be quite simplistic and free of the scientific backing. I will however attempt to include some additional links to further reading where possible.
These are a few things I have learnt since beginning this “sugar-free” JERF journey …
1. It all comes back to hormones
Our hormones impact so much of how we function. The balance of your hormones impact on your energy levels, weight gain (or loss), mental alertness, stress (cortisol levels), fertility, sleep … and the list goes on. Our body is one incredible, intelligent and interconnected machine. The more we can make “hormone-healthy” choices when it comes to our diet, the better that machine functions.
Some of the points below relate directly to improving hormonal health and gut health (which is equally important).
But a good place to start is…
- Avoid soy milk and products like the plague
- Don’t start your morning with coffee (particularly on an empty stomach)
- Find ways to reduce the nasty toxins/chemicals you are absorbing or consuming
Some useful links:
2. Bring on the broth!
Bone broth! Truly a miracle food. I did 2 – 3 weeks following the GAPS diet principles, which entails consuming only bone broth (and veggies or meat cooked in broth) for every meal. It was like it reset something in my system. Even some allergy issues I had been having have all but disappeared. Why? Bone broth (and the goodness it holds) goes a long way to healing our gut. Gut health, bad gut bacteria and messed up gut flora is the course of so many of our modern ailments – including allergies, autoimmune diseases and even psychological problems!
These days I try to have a small cup (1/4-1/2 cup) of organic bone broth once or twice a day (usually at breakfast and before or during dinner).
Here are some links if you need further convincing:
3. Fermentation is your friend
…as is soaking and sprouting!
Going back to the principle that “it’s all about your gut”, fermented foods are your best friend! This is one way to help to replenish good bacteria in your gut flora and therefore bring your whole system into a more balanced healthy place.
At home we now make a number of fermented foods:
- Milk Kefir
- Coconut Kefir
- Kefir Soda (water Kefir)
I am not Paleo … but I almost eat Paleo. I avoid wheat because I have a slight allergy to it resulting in an autoimmune response. I don’t eat a lot of rice (due the carb factor) and although I do allow myself a drop of cream in my coffee and a wee bit of cheese, I try to avoid excess dairy. However, I do eat legumes! The reason the Paleo diet excludes these is that they are hard to digest, and therefore can mess with your gut health. However, one way around this is to soak them. I find I can stomach them pretty well most of the time these days.
4. Ditch the dates
My ‘go-to’ reference point for how to “quit sugar” is the godmother of the subject in my opinion, Sarah Wilson – author of “I Quit Sugar”.
While originally I ditched the white stuff and began baking using dates, honey and maple syrup as alternative unrefined sugars, all of those are high in fructose. Fructose is the part of sugar that we really want to avoid. It messes with your blood sugar levels, metabolism and results in a rollercoaster of cravings and weight gain. The best options are natural sweeteners that are glucose based, not fructose. Sarah’s picks are Brown Rice Syrup and Stevia. Your body can process these and convert them to energy.
Here are some links from I Quit Sugar:
5. Axe the artificial
In the beginning I “quit sugar”, but was still consuming things with artificial sweeteners – energy drinks, protein bars, chewing gum … the list goes on! This was bad because it feed into my craving for sweet things and messed with my digestive system. Artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other synthetic additives to food are hard for the body to process and put stress on the liver (and other organs). I feel so much better now that I avoid this stuff … I actually “feel” better! That is “clean eating” to me.
See what Dr Josh Axe has to say about this here.
6. Cut the caffeine!
Recently I did a bit of cleanse that included not drinking coffee. It made me realise how reliant I was on a caffeine hit in the morning! For a
bout four days I felt so drained and tired. From what I have read, coffee is not the best for women in particular (because of the way it impacts our hormones). However, I do still enjoy a coffee every now and then. The golden rule seems to be not to consume it on an empty stomach or before around 10am. If you start your day with a caffeine fix in it elevates your cortisol levels and puts your body into that “fight or flight” mode from the get-go and you will undoubtedly experience a crash at some point.
At the moment, I start my morning with a glass of warm water with some apple cider vinegar and lemon. If I feel like a coffee later on, I opt for decaf with a dash of cream (or a real one once or twice a week).
- “Better ways to wake up”
- Alisa Vitti’s recommendations for coffee – click here (I’m not all the way there yet)
7. Nutrition is more important than exercise
What they say is true. Weight loss and getting healthy is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise (give or take). For the last five years my exercise routine has been more or less the same. I hit the gym 5 – 6 days a week doing a mix of HIIT, cardio and strength training. But it wasn’t until I began making significant changes to my diet – starting with cutting out the white stuff – that I began to see changes.
Also I have learned that the most important thing is to be patient and stay consistent. You don’t notice physical results straight away, but overtime things will change, you just have to remain committed.
8. Quality over quantity
Clean eating, Paleo, low-carb, sugar-free – all these approaches to nutrition really have the notion of quality, natural and whole food at their core. I find that when I am eating foods rich in nutrients, fibre, protein and especially satiating fats, I am full for longer and don’t need to eat as much!
9. Create alternatives!
I think my love for cooking and creating in the kitchen has grown out of necessity. I have always had a sweet tooth (and still do), so I knew it would be a process of slowly training myself to crave less sweet food. My “risk” time would be after work or in the afternoon. In my “old life” this is when I’d go for a sneaky chocolate bar or ice cream. Now, I am prepared. I do a big cook up most weekends which always includes some sweet sugar-free treats. This way I never feel like I’m missing out. I don’t even desire to eat things I know are full of refined sugar anymore and my taste buds are changing to become more savoury.
10. Lifestyle over ‘fad’
People often find all the nutrition advice floating around confusing. Ultimately it comes down to J.E.R.F. Just eat real food. Commit to doing this long-term. Small and consistent changes overtime add up to a whole new lifestyle … and you will love how you feel as a result. It isn’t about a “diet”, it isn’t even about “weight loss” (although that will probably occur also), it is about being health and living a balanced and fulfilling life.