Holistic Healing Kuel Category Expert: Carol Lee
The sugar-free approach to eating and health has become quite ‘in vogue’ as people discover that it is sugar, rather than fat, that is the true enemy of vibrant good health.
In my work as a Nutritional Therapist, I have known this for many years. But, after decades of trying I have actually only been sugar-free for 3 years.
Here are three game changing facts I discovered on my journey to a healthy relationship with food, more energy, a balanced weight, and no anxiety.
1. Our Brain Chemistry Can Keep Us Feeling Addicted.
“My brain was hot-wired to associate sugar with all things good”
When our brain grows and develops it creates neural pathways. As a child, this growth is prolific and the network that we create lays the foundation for the messages that travel to our brain thereafter.
For me, my childhood was full of sugar: sugar for reward; sugar in quick easy processed food meals (my mother wasn’t a cook); sugar for treats (even as a baby). Because I was small, my milk was supplemented with sugar-filled condensed milk. My brain was hot-wired to associate sugar with all things good: comfort, love and a full belly.
As I grew up sugar became my friend, my solace, and my comfort. I turned to it to celebrate, commiserate, or block things out. It was a fix- all. This is because the pleasure centre in the brain (called the nucleus accumbens) can be particularly triggered by sugar. When we eat too much sweet food our body is flooded with the good feeling effect of the hormone dopamine. To help manage this overwhelming flood, the cells reduce the amount of dopamine it can receive. Unfortunately, this means that every time we eat sugar we need to eat more to give us the same wonderful blissed out feelings of pleasure, hence why cravings can feel so strong.
When we give up sugar we are re-setting our brain chemistry (hence the brain fog) and establishing normal levels of dopamine in response to eating.
But, here’s another key thing to remember; these riverbeds will be there in our brain forever. For those of us who feel addicted, eating any triggering sugary foods can reawaken a dormant pathway. As with a river bed, a few drops occasionally soaks away. However, any more than that and the momentum and flow of the water can soon create a flood; a tsunami of reawakened desire for the sweet white stuff and some quick-hit bliss.
2. Processed Carbohydrates Are Sugar.
“ My brain was getting it’s fix another way.”
Time and time again I hear from people that bread feels as addictive and ‘more-ish’ as sugar. Here’s why. All carbohydrates are metabolized into glucose, the primary fuel for our cells. How quickly this happens depends on fibre. When this is stripped from carbohydrates during processing we are left with the ‘sugary’ part that floods the cells in exactly the same way as table sugar does.
When I look back, it is all so obvious. Previously, when I tried to be sugar-free, I would manage for two or three weeks. Then, I would start to gravitate towards eating more perceived sugar-free items such as hot cross buns; tea-cakes; pasta; scones; fruit bread; and croissants. It was a very loud ‘ding-ding’ moment when I clocked that I was actually eating sugar in another form. My brain was getting it’s fix another way. Of course, it always escalated until I was back on the ‘real’ sugar. Perhaps like me, processed carbs throw you back under the sugar bus?
3. Fancy Sugars Are Still Sugar.
The food industry is a master of disguise, getting us to believe the message that will sell their product. What I have learned is that a healthy label doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sugar-free. Low fat ‘diet’ products focused on calorie count are packed with sugar to give flavour. Lentil chips from the health store are still processed carbohydrates; the list goes on.
Coconut blossom sugar; honey; maple syrup; brown rice syrup; agave nectar; rapadura sugar; dried fruit (yes even those delicious medjool dates); and blended fruit smoothies; these all light up the brain in exactly the same way as simple table sugar. Thus making us want to eat more and more. If you have had trouble giving up sugar this is worth taking into account.
The Sugar Game Change.
“It still feels like a miracle everyday.”
These three bits of information changed the sugar-free game for me and brought sugar-freedom. When I stopped eating sugar-full food, processed carbohydrates, blended fruit, and dried fruit, the ‘river bed’ dried out. The messages from my brain, telling me to eat sugar, miraculously stopped. I had no triggers, no cravings, zero interest. It still feels like a miracle everyday. But, actually it is hormones and brain chemistry doing its thing.
If you are interested, I run a free Facebook group called ‘My Sugar-free Journey’ which you are welcome to join.
I also have a special offer for the Kuel Life Community on my ’21 Days and 21 Ways to Sugar-Freedom’ course.
About the Author:
Carol Lee is a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist, Sugar-freedom coach, Creative Kinesiologist, Teacher and Author from the U.K. She has been working in Complementary Health for over 25 years. Her holistic approach to healing and transformation is about listening to, witnessing and working with the body’s ‘knowing’. Carol believes this is where we hold our wisdom, experience and capacity for change, especially as mid-life women. She works with women wanting to kick the sugar habit, those who are navigating health challenges, or who are wanting to up-level their life in some way; helping them to clear the blocks to success and wellbeing. She is currently enjoying her empty nest, and the freedom it brings, with her partner Jon. She loves the coast and walking the wild landscape of South West UK, snuggling her sweet rescue cat Stevie, gardening and eating delicious, nutritious food.