Welcome to our new stuck-at-home reality: we’re anxious, we’re bored, we might be sad, and we’re stress-snacking with abandon. Trips outdoors have been replaced with trips from the couch to the kitchen, and back again. Binge-eating as a way of quelling anxiety is an understandable and expected behavior. After all, comfort foods give us that dopamine hit we so desperately crave during times of uncertainty and disquietude. The reality, though, is that they leave us feeling worse, and there’s nothing worse than the thought of feeling worse right now. Amiright? Foods packed with sugar not only affect mood and sleep, they also wreak havoc on immunity. Currently our immune systems need all the TLC they can get. Now, I totally see how it might be hard to feel inspired to start a diet during a pandemic, but quitting sugar is easier than it sounds. Why? Because it doesn't entail dieting. How do I know this? Because we reached out to Michele Promaulayko, Lifestyle Author, Wellness Expert, former Editor-In-Chief of both Womens Health and Cosmopolitan, and Editorial Director at The Well, to discuss her latest book, Sugar Free 3: The Simple 3-Week Plan for More Energy, Better Sleep & Surprisingly Easy Weight Loss. Michele’s easy-to-implement plan for going "sugar-free” is not a diet or a detox, but rather a why-did-I-wait-so-long lifestyle change you’ll be endlessly grateful you made. Even now. Especially now. I highly recommend reading this book along with watching Promaulayko's videos on Openfit, a digital streaming service that will connect you with others on the plan while providing you with videos filled with informational tips. Here are some highlights from Sugar Free 3 to plant sugar-free seeds of inspiration for a healthier, happier life during our current stay-at-home existence---and beyond.
YOU CAN STILL EAT SUGAR, JUST NOT ADDED SUGAR
Not all sugars are created equal. There are sugars, and then there are naturally occurring sugars. The Sugar Free 3 Plan advises us to stay away from the former. In other words, any sugars added to foods when they are prepared or processed should be avoided, “as opposed to the naturally occurring sugar in, say, an apple or a glass of milk,” says Michele. Refined carbs like white bread and artificial sweeteners like Splenda are also big no-nos. One of Michele’s go-to desserts in accordance with the plan? “Whipped ricotta with whole fruit on top.” Delicious.
BEWARE OF HIDDEN SUGARS
Many of us think we have our sugar intake under control if we’re not eating cookies, cakes, pies, and ice cream on a daily basis. Sadly, food companies have been feeding us a lie. “The FDA has calculated that there are over 60 different names used for ‘sugar’ on food labels—including covert monikers such as dextrin, sucrose, and malt syrup” Michele writes. Seemingly innocuous foods (think breads, pasta sauce, granola, yogurt, crackers, and salad dressings) are often packed with sugar. “You think you’re eating a healthy salad, but then you’re dousing it in a dressing that may have a ton of added sugars,” says Michele. In the book, readers learn how to decipher labels so they’re able to make healthier, more informed decisions and spot the hidden sugars in ostensibly healthy foods. “As a consumer, you might think a food labeled as 'natural' sounds healthy and free of processed ingredients, and you choose it thinking you’re making a great decision. But the food labels mislead you, alluding to a food having redemptive benefits, all while being packed with way too much sugar".
TREAT YOURSELF, A LITTLE BIT
Michele’s three-week plan requires that we give up what she labels as Not Allowed Foods, but it does allow for a once weekly “mindful indulgence.” This means you can have that glass of wine or that slice of pizza, as long as you think it’s going to help you stay the sugar-free course. “It really depends on your personality,” says Promaulayko. “You have to ask yourself, will having this glass of red wine help me or derail me?” It’s also a psychological tactic. “While testing SF3, we found that most participants liked the idea of knowing they could have a treat once a week, even if they didn’t end up partaking.” A complete list of Not Allowed Foods is in the book along with Totally Allowed, Allowed in Moderation, and Barely Allowed.
Registered Dietician and Nutrition Expert Keri Glassman with Michele Promaulayko. Glassman contributed to Sugar Free 3.
DON’T COUNT CALORIES
Save the calorie counting for diets because, again, this is not a diet. “Some people prefer to do it ‘by the numbers,’ but many of us really don’t want to deal with all the math that comes from counting calories,” writes Michele. “The beauty of the program is that when you eat a balance of foods in the Allowed category, and avoid those that are Not Allowed, you don’t have to get hung up on the details.” What’s most important is that you read labels and track what you eat. Watch out for sneaky language in packaged foods and condiments, and keep a small food journal so you’re aware when “higher calorie foods may creep back in.”
REMEMBER, THREE WEEKS CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
While Michele’s plan is a three-week commitment, it’s nearly impossible to go back to the way you were doing things once you’ve completed the plan. Why? Because you will have experienced proof that it works. Your sleep, skin, moods, and weight will all have improved. Also, your cravings for sugar will have diminished dramatically. “Freedom tastes so much better,” says Michele. For those weaker moments when cravings start cropping back up (and they will), Michele’s book offers easy-to-copy “snack hacks,” like fruit with almond butter, a baked cinnamon apple, and pistachios in the shell. Most importantly, when you do slip, go easy on yourself. “If you do have a bite of ice cream or a gulp of soda, don’t freak out and fall into a guilt spiral. Turning a mistake into a full-on sugar binge sesh will undo all the hard work you’ve already done.”
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