Friday, September 28, 2012
When I joined Spark People four years ago I didn't have terrible eating habits, I just needed to reduce my portion sizes and reduce my sugar intake. I made some changes to my diet but still had sugar cravings. I added lots of exercise too. My changes gave me some pretty amazing results. Over the past few years, my body shape has changed. I am much more muscular and toned. I have about four times the amount of stamina as I did when I first started. My clothes fit better, my energy level has increased and I sleep better. I stopped drinking diet soda or fruit juice and chose to drink sixty four plus ounces of water per day. My lab numbers drastically improved and my doctor was surprised. Still, I had sugar cravings and the weight wasn't coming off even at the rate of one to two pounds a week. That portion of my journey really frustrated me.
Several weeks ago I made the decision to join a weight loss program. I wanted to seek outside help with my diet. (Exercise is no problem for me - except that I tend to do too much of it every day.) I wanted help for those sugar cravings and felt that a closer look at what I was eating might be in order. What I found was that I was eating foods with the wrong combination of nutrients. I also wasn't eating enough quantity of food. I needed to increase my consumption of power foods and decrease my consumption of food with added sugar. I started to read food labels.
Reading food labels is an eye opening experience. The Spark articles about labels was a good one and I used it as my guide. The sugar listed on the label doesn't necessarily mean that it actually represents all of the sugar contained in the food. I found that I was eating foods that naturally contained sugar plus they had added sugar. All of that sugar adds up. If a food has a sugar content that isn't combined with fiber and protein, you eat it and then your blood sugar spikes. Sugar is digested quickly. As quickly as your blood sugar level spikes, it will crash and leave you feeling tired and dragging. In my case, I also felt a craving for more sugar. Maybe I was on to something here!
My new program has me look at four things when deciding to eat a food. The four things are carbohydrates, fat, fiber and protein. The program separates fiber from carbohydrates even though fiber is a form of carbohydrate. Sugar falls in with the carbohydrates. Fiber and protein are digested more slowly and they enter your system slowly over time. Fiber and protein usually don't cause sugar spikes or sudden crashes in blood sugar levels. If the carbohydrates and fat don't balance with the fiber and protein, then I might be in for some serious cravings. I decided to give the process of selecting my foods more careful consideration. Achieving a good nutrient balance, yet still being able to live my life normally is my goal. I don't want to be obsessed with food because that would mean I can't think of anything else. (Thinking about food all the time can cause cravings too.) I needed to increase my knowledge base so I could just make better food choices. Then a strange thing happened. I started looking at food differently.
When I look at food content instead of just looking at the food itself, my perception of food changes. I am looking at food as fuel and nourishment rather than as something that stops the growling in my stomach. I realized that when I have a food craving, I notice what the food looks, smells and tastes like - period - nothing more. Cravings, especially those for sugar foods, don't take into consideration what nutrients are in the food. I decided to read some of the labels on the foods that I was craving. The ingredient list contained mainly fat, sugar and chemicals. There was a noticeable lack of protein and fiber on the ingredient lists. What this means is, if I eat this food, I know ahead of time that my blood sugar is going to spike and then crash, leaving me to feel awful later and possibly craving more sugar. This knowledge gave me power I didn't even know I could have!
Taking this new powerful knowledge, I am starting to use it to make different food choices based upon what nutrition the foods will bring to my body. This doesn't mean that I no longer eat foods that taste good. (There are many tasty foods that are very nutritious.) It also doesn't mean that I've cut out all foods with added sugar. It is all about balance. Then, a funny thing happened. I started to eat more volume and felt fuller. I felt satisfied and had more energy. I looked at the nutrition tracker on Spark People and for the first time in four years, I am within the range for my vitamins, sodium, calcium, fiber, and protein. I still need to work on getting more healthy fats but I'm a work in progress. Guess what else happened? Most of my sugar cravings have almost stopped and I've lost four pounds. My food is working for me, not against me. Amazing!!!
I am finally "getting it" now. No food is off limits unless I don't want to eat it because it has no nutritional value. I literally am what I eat. I am in control of food, it isn't in control of me.