For a very long time I believed that weight management is simple – calories in versus calories out and there’s nothing more to it than maths. But there was obviously something missing!
What’s up with all the cravings, and why am I not slim yet even though I eat so little? If sugar is supposed to give you energy, why is it that I want to take a nap 20 minutes after I finish eating my doughnut?
Say Hello to my friends, Insulin and Cortisol. They’re good guys, they both do very important jobs and you want them around. However, you want them in the correct quantities and not hanging out together.
Imagine your body as a full fridge and your extra fat storage as a freezer. If you don’t consume what’s in the fridge, every time you go shopping you’ll add the products into the freezer.
Every single time you eat, there’s a spike of blood sugar. Your pancreas releases Insulin, which has role of taking that extra sugar from your blood to other tissues – mainly muscles and liver. You want that, you want your muscles to have energy available for any type of movement. But what if the storage of your muscles is already full, and same is the storage of the liver? Yep, the fridge is full, so everything goes to the freezer.
If there’s a lot of extra sugar in the blood, you need a lot of insulin. And if you do this on repeat, you will need more and more insulin. Unfortunately, at some point, the body will stop responding to it – hence, insulin resistance and diabetes (Note: insulin resistance is just one of the possible causes of diabetes)! Now you have an additional problem and another cause of fat storage.
But going back to my area of expertise, the cycle is as follow: Full fridge? Then you eat and store. So how do we manage this?
What you eat matters
Not every food will trigger the same response and the same amount of Insulin. For example, fat doesn’t trigger Insulin and this is why the Keto diet is so popular at the moment. However, I do not recommend it and it is not sustainable!
You still want to eat carbohydrates but pick the ones that will release slowly into the bloodstream and will give you balanced energy throughout the day.
- Eat: Vegetables, fruit, grains, beans
- Avoid: Sugar, flour
There’s also a bit of experimenting involved. For example, for me, rice is not great. You know a food asked for a lot of Insulin if not long after you finished eating, you either have no energy or you have cravings. What happened is that there was so much insulin, that it took more sugar from the blood than it needed to. So obviously, blood sugar goes down and all you want is a nap and a doughnut.
How often you eat matters
If Insulin is released every single time you eat, then 3 meals and 7 snacks is a very bad idea. I always say that whoever invented the 3 meals and 2 snacks strategy probably had some food to sell you.
If you don’t have any medical conditions, Intermittent Fasting is something you might want to try. We all fast through the night, it’s only a matter of extending that period. I talk more about it here.
IF is not about not eating at all, but allowing your hormones to take a chill pill. Most people do the 16/8 protocol, which means you only eat in an 8h window and not eat for the rest of the 16 hours in the day. That might mean skipping breakfast or dinner.
I only eat between 2 pm and 10 pm due to my schedule and the fact that I would rather go to bed feeling satisfied. But I also fast between meals – absolutely NO SNACKING.
The beauty of quitting sugar and flour is that you’ll start burning through the fridge food and eventually get to the freezer. You’ll finally start using fat for fuel, and even better, your own fat. You’ll get fewer cravings, you’ll be able to go without food for long periods of time and have balanced energy throughout the day. No lunch? No problem, “eat” some fat off your belly, butt or boobs. It’s called being “fat-adapted“, and you’re now basically a unicorn of fat burning.
One step at a time
If there’s something that you should do right away, that’s quitting sugar and flour. With no processed carbs, your insulin will go back to normal slowly and you’ll transition to being a fat burner, rather than a sugar burner. Unfortunately, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms, expect that! But after 2-3 weeks of hell, there’s heaven waiting for you.
Then, intermittent fasting will seem easy since you won’t feel hunger as intense as when you eat sugar. I rarely feel hunger nowadays and when I do, I know it’s no big deal, I just visualise a bit of fat off my belly melting down to give me fuel until I reach my eating window.
Cortisol is released with the body’s fight or flight response to stress and works with adrenaline to raise blood pressure, and get you ready to run or kick. It also releases sugar into the bloodstream so you’ll have fuel for the getaway in case there’s a bear chasing you.
It’s one of those hormones that kept us safe while we were living in caves, but there’s no more bear chase now. And unfortunately, the brain doesn’t know the difference between real danger (the bear) and emotional stress, the little things you experience every day.
Cortisol stimulates appetite and is associated with cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. It can also cause insulin resistance, so letting it get out of hand can have a lot of negative physical consequences.
The solution seems simple. Eliminate stress. Easier said than done! However, any activity that promotes relaxation will have an effect, so try things like Yoga, breathing techniques, a massage, walking, or any form of self-care that’s pleasant for you.
If you’ve missed the previous post, “Why do we love food?“, go ahead and give it a read. Everything will slowly start to make sense.
Questions? Please let me know either in the comments, on social media or email.
Also, how do you feel about not eating sugar anymore?
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