One of the biggest reasons a lot of my clients have found it difficult to lose weight is because they feel the need for a quick sugar fix to help them beat the dips in energy that they encounter during the day. The fatigue that sets in due to a full schedule of work, children, clubs, household chores, dinner prep, forgetting to drink water during the day and disturbed or minimal sleep. You may be nodding at this point.
But here is the interesting thing… that Kit Kat, handful of biscuits, piece of cake or extra teaspoon of sugar you are putting into your coffee or tea, could very well be the likely culprit to the rolling waves of high and low energy you experience during your day. The very reason you experience fatigue. I have many clients who have reported that after the first four weeks of reducing sugar in their diet, they have more consistent energy through the day, and an improved emotional mood.
Yes, eating ‘quick fixes’ like Kit Kat’s or biscuits that are high in sugar, give you a temporary spike of sugar and energy. But then you experience a low which makes you feel like you want another ‘hit’ to get some more of that energy. This need for sugar does not come from physical hunger, but from a thought that creates an overdesire to get more of that ‘hit’ in order to get the 30 – 60 minute reward of energy. The downside is not just the low you may experience after the sugar reward, but in time, an increase in weight. The excess ‘energy’ or fuel you consume is converted and stored on your body as fat.
If you eat due to a craving or overdesire, and not because your body is physically hungry, you are overeating. Overeating will lead to weight gain. Carrying around more weight as you move through your daily tasks will make you more tired. Compare it to carrying around a backpack all day. It requires more effort and energy. Not only does sugar create the uneven flow of energy, but the side effect of more weight adds to the feeling of fatigue. This may have you increasing your sugar intake to compensate! It is a vicious cycle.
Eating more sugar has also been linked to disturbed sleep. A 2016 study showed people who have diets high in sugar tend to sleep less deeply and display more restlessness at night. Less sleep equals more fatigue. It is a catch 22 with sugar and fatigue.
So, if you want to improve the consistency of your energy levels and avoid those lows that you may have only put down to leading a busy life, and to lose or maintain your weight, experiment with a few of the below.
1. Stay well hydrated during the day. Studies show that being mildly dehydrated can lead to low levels and decrease your ability to concentrate. Try having a bottle of water by your main workspace. Try some herbal tea if you want some flavour, or pop a lime or lemon wedge in your water. Too much caffeine in the day can affect your sleep.
2. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. You may need to go to bed earlier. Our brains are programmed for the instant gratification that binging on Netflix and a glass of wine or 2 provide. It is a short-term pleasure that will not lead to long term health and wellbeing, or weight loss. Experiment by going to bed earlier a few times in the week. You will thank yourself further down the track, as you don’t find yourself rummaging around the kitchen cupboards for that packet of biscuits to have with your coffee the next day.
3. Reduce the amount of sugar that you eat. Instead eat more whole foods like vegetables, nuts, fruit, protein found in meat, dairy, eggs and beans. Whole food is a fancy way of saying foods in their pure form, not processed down where they can be stripped of their goodness and other things added to make them last longer. Once again, experiment by swapping out 2 or 3 of your normal processed or refined foods for whole food. Swap a muesli bar for a banana and palmful of nuts. Making small changes each week to your current patterns can often be more sustainable.
4. Be prepared to experience the discomfort that comes from reducing sugar. If you reduce sugar slowly you should not experience the withdrawals from going cold turkey, but you may experience sneaky thoughts that you have about sugar. Thoughts like ‘this will get me through the day’ or ‘I deserve this’. Question your thought and perhaps have a mantra ready for when you spot this thought. Try on one of the below:
· I can do hard things for me and my health
· I deserve to feel good about myself
· I deserve to be happy in my body
· Little decisions lead to achieving my big goal
· Everything is a choice
If you feel you need a reward in your day…Ask yourself a great question about how you can reward yourself without using sugar. Remember if you continue to make a series of small decisions for your health the long-term reward will be more energy and weight loss.
5. Get some exercise. That doesn’t mean spend 2 hours going to the gym or pool, unless that is what you want to do, it can mean going for a walk around the block or a home workout. Getting fresh air and exercise is great for the mind and the body. It can improve stress levels which may have had you reaching for the biscuit tin in the first place. Improving stress levels helps improve sleep. Write the walk or exercise into a plan, and if it is raining, put on a coat and go anyway. I always find when you are out in it, it is not as bad as it looks from inside a warm house. I am always grateful to myself for making the effort. Doing what we perceive to be hard things for our health really does build the relationship you have to follow through on yourself.
Beware we are habitual creatures, so your brain may want to resist change. Make the choice to improve the quality of your life and the way you feel about yourself. Write a plan 24 hours in advance or for the whole week. Follow through on that plan. Include how many bottles or glasses of water you will drink the next day, how many cups of caffeine you are going to limit yourself to and when you will drink them, what your bedtime is each night and ways in which you are going to reduce your sugar intake in the week. If you want to know more about the importance of a plan check out one of my previous blogs here.
I have an online workshop coming up in November where I have teamed up with Nutritional Therapist Ruth Harries to share some great tools to ensure your success in weight loss. Sign up to my blog to receive details on how you can book into the workshop.
Have a brilliant week.