How to Lose Weight by Identifying Hidden Sugars in Your Diet

Story at-a-glance 

A new book reveals how and where sugars are hidden in your diet, and provides practical tips on how to wean yourself from this pernicious ingredient that will decimate your health

Once you break free from sugar cravings, you’ll experience newfound energy and clarity of mind. To get there, you need to retrain your body to burn fat as its primary form of fuel instead of sugar

Symptoms of a “high-sugar impact” diet includes gas, bloating, joint pain, headaches, fatigue, inability to lose weight or weight loss resistance, and sugar cravings

By taking inventory of your high-sugar impact symptoms, while tracking your waist, hip, and weight, you get a clearer picture of how sugar impacts your body

Not all sugars are created equal, and they’re  hidden in most of today’s processed foods. Nutritionist, fitness trainer, and  author JJ Virgin has written a new book that helps open your eyes to the way  sugars are hidden.

The  book also provides practical tips on how to wean yourself from this pernicious ingredient  that will decimate your health.

In The  Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 Sugars to Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks, she  tackles the confusion surrounding sugar. Many health-conscious people are still  under the mistaken belief that as long as the sugar is all-natural, it’s fine to  eat.

Not so. Agave, natural fruit juice, raw cane  sugar, and any number of other natural sugars will still wreak havoc on your health.

“[S]ugar is really public enemy number one,” she says. “That’s why I chose to focus on it. I  don’t think added sugar is really  the problem; I think it’s what’s in a lot of our food that we don’t recognize  [as sugar].

Whether it’s having apple juice (which is worse for you  than a soda), or having a yogurt sweetened with fruit juice concentrate, or  whether you’re just thinking that fruits are free for all, these are all  creating problems.

I wanted to create a structured program that could help  someone break free of those sugar cravings, drop the weight forever, and then  let them go back and [do a food] challenge… in order to connect the dots  between what happens when they drink one of those big fruit smoothies that are  supposed to be so healthy.”

To End Sugar Cravings, Your Body Needs to Burn Fat as Its Primary  Fuel

As JJ notes, whether the sugar comes in the  form of a muffin, a fruit juice-sweetened yogurt, or a smoothie, it’s all the  same thing to your body. “Food is information,” she says. And she’s right.

Once you break free from your body’s constant  need for yet another sugar fix (remember, sugar  is more addictive than cocaine!), you’ll experience great levels of  newfound energy and clarity of mind. But in order to get there, you need to  retrain your body to burn fat as its primary form of fuel instead of sugar.

This can be a real challenge for many. JJ’s  book specifically addresses the gradual  process of getting from burning sugar to burning fat as your body’s primary  fuel, in order to maximize your chances for success.

“There’s got to be a transition period, where you go from  sugar burner to getting your body to be able to start to burn fat again,” she explains.

“You have to taper down from where your starting point  is, which is what I call a Sneaky Sugar Inventory, of things you would never  think about (like sundried tomatoes and marinara sauce) that we’re just using  like crazy not realizing how much sugar this is actually adding into our food.”

The Sugar Impact Scales: A New Way of Looking at Sugar

As an initial step, you’ll want to weigh  yourself and measure your waist-to-hip  ratio, to determine your starting point. Next, you do an initial inventory  of all the hidden sugars in your diet.

This means reading the labels on all the  foods you eat, including items you might never expect to contain sugar, such as  that jar of pickles, condiments, sauces, and marinades, and so on. JJ lists all  the sneaky places sugars hide in your diet in her book, and by creating what  she calls Sugar Impact Scales, she’s created a new way of looking at sugar.

“It looks at fructose grams, glycemic load, nutrient  density, and fiber. Bad are fructose and glycemic load; good are nutrient  density and fiber,” she explains.

“Depending on where the food falls, it can either be low,  medium, or high-sugar impact. The reason this was so important to me is I keep  looking at programs out there, and they either focus on fructose… glycemic  index, or glycemic load.

That can be very confusing because it makes things like  agave sweetener look great. It makes milk look great… People go, ‘We should  have fructose because fructose is low on the glycemic index.’

The difference between fructose and glucose is fructose  doesn’t trigger the whole insulin response. Because of that, it doesn’t trigger  insulin, leptin, or ghrelin, so it doesn’t tell your body you ate anything.  Instead, it just goes to the liver. If there’s no room for it to become glycogen…  it starts becoming fat.

You look at that and you go, ‘Okay, food is information.  What does fructose say?’ It says, ‘Hey, make fat but don’t tell us we ate. Stay  hungry.’ What a nightmare!”

So what are the basic symptoms of having  high-sugar impact? Gas and bloating are common, as sugar feeds yeast, fungi,  and detrimental bacteria in your gut. Other symptoms include joint pain,  headaches, fatigue, inability to lose weight or weight loss resistance, and sugar  cravings.

By grading yourself on those and other symptoms,  while tracking your waist, hip, and weight, you’ll get a clearer picture of how  sugar impacts your body, and your progress in terms of retraining your body to  burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel.

The Three Cycles of the Sugar Impact Diet

The first cycle is a one to two-week  long taper cycle, in which you switch from high sugar impact foods to medium  sugar impact foods. As an example, if you typically eat regular pasta, you’d  switch over to quinoa pasta.

She also recommends scheduling your meals to  where you’re not eating every two hours; rather you stretch the time between  meals to prevent insulin spikes. This is one form of intermittent  fasting. At the end of this taper-down period of one or two weeks, you  retest yourself on the sugar impact quiz, to see how you’ve done.

If all is going as planned, you should notice  a reduction in your symptoms. At that point, you move on to cycle two, in which  you’re really resetting your taste buds and reclaiming your sugar sensitivity,  meaning your ability to taste how sweet a food really is.

“What I’m doing is I’m getting rid of all of the  fructose. We’re getting down to five grams or less [per day], just as low as  possible because you don’t want your body to be good at processing fructose.  One thing we know is that the more fructose you eat, the better you get at  handling fructose, which means the faster it goes to your liver, the faster you  start making fat, and the more fat you make.

If someone’s used to eating fruit, they eat more fruit,  they eat more fruit, and they can handle it. If you never eat any fruit, and  you ate a bunch of fruit, you’d be bloated, you’d be gassy, and it’d be  horrible. I take fruit out altogether except for things like lemons, limes,  avocado, tomato, and olives. And we go down to all low-sugar impact foods. But  you’re still eating great stuff. You’re eating wild salmon, grass-fed beef, kale,  avocado, nuts and seeds, a little quinoa, legumes, and lentils.”

Most people can make the shift from burning  sugar to burning fat as primary fuel in this second cycle of the program in a  couple of weeks, although it may take longer if you’re seriously insulin/leptin  resistant. “The reason it can happen so fast is number one, you’ve  got to do that initial one-week [taper] period,” she explains. “Whenever you look at a program, you want  to jump right into the most intense part, but you can’t because you’ll fail.”

In the third cycle of the program, you start  to challenge yourself by reintroducing some of the medium or even high sugar  impact foods. Most people will now find that they’re overwhelmed by the  sweetness, or they’ll feel bloated or downright ill by the high-sugar food. As  a result, the psychological grip of sweet foods lessen, as you simply do not  want to go back to feeling horrible once you’re feeling really great. Interestingly,  sour taste, such as that from cultured vegetables, helps to reduce sweet  cravings, too.

This is a doubly-beneficial thing, as fermented  vegetables also promote gut health. “It’s  a sweet tooth strategy,” JJ says. “One  of the things that I do in these books is I try to keep it simple and give  people simple strategies. But I’m always thinking, “How am I healing their gut  with this? How am I improving their gut flora? How are we reducing  inflammation?”

Healthy Snack Alternatives

Nuts, which are one of my favorite snack  foods, are also great for satisfying the occasional hunger pang. Typically, when  I’m at home, I only have one meal a day, a very large salad. But I will snack  on nuts, specifically macadamia nuts and occasionally pecans, because of two  criteria:

  1. They’re very high in  fat – the good fat, oleic acid, which is similar to olive oil, and
  2. They’re low in  protein, so you won’t run the risk of eating a whole day’s worth of protein in  a few handfuls of nuts (which could be the case if you eat a lot of almonds)

That said, as JJ warns, be aware of your food  triggers, and if you cannot keep a jar of nuts in your house without polishing  off the whole thing in one sitting, you just turned a good thing into something  bad. While nuts do contain healthy fats, they also tend to be high in calories,  so moderation is in order.

“If you know something’s your trigger, don’t bring it  into the house. It doesn’t matter if it’s healthy or unhealthy. But I think if  you put them into little serving baggies, that’s a perfect way to go with it. I  also like that because most people aren’t home all day long, so I say, ‘Put one  in your car. Put it in your purse. Put it in your office so that you have them  scattered around if you ever get in trouble.’

Another healthy snack that is much harder to  overdo is dehydrated kale chips. I’m in the process of planting six dozen kale  plants on my property to create a surplus for this very reason. That way I can  have kale chips year-round. Roasted Brussels sprouts are another alternative  that you can’t really “overdose” on.

Last But Not Least—The Maintenance Phase

It’s quite rare to find someone who’s not burning  sugar as their primary fuel these days. To check yourself, simply observe how  frequently you feel hungry. If you’re hungry every two hours or so, you’re  burning sugar. You’re craving food because sugar is fast burning, and your  hunger is an indication that your body wants to be refueled. Once you’re  burning fat as your primary fuel, you can easily go five to six hours or longer  without feeling hungry, as fat is a far slower-burning fuel. Sugar cravings are  also virtually eliminated once you’re burning fat rather than sugar.

Most everyone watching this would benefit  from applying a program such as the one JJ has put together. The question is,  once you’ve successfully made the switch, how long do you have to continue  eating this way? What does maintenance look like?

“The maintenance phase is different from the weight loss  phase,” JJ  explains. “It’s like dating and marriage.  Totally different beasts, right? During the maintenance phase—for weight loss—it’s  about setting new goals and doing  different fitness activities. The biggest thing that I want someone to do  is to connect the dots between what they’re eating and how they feel. It’s to  lose that sweet tooth that they had and reclaim their sugar sensitivity so they  really say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s how sweet a blueberry really is.’

[In the maintenance phase] you’ve got to mix up your exercise;  you’ve got to mix up your food… [F]ood is information. You want your food to  tell your body to burn fat not sugar, keep steady energy, great focus, and  reduce inflammation. It’s the same with exercise. Exercise can be therapeutic  or destructive. I do no endurance training at all. I do not believe in  endurance training. I did so much endurance training [when I was younger, yet] I  was always slightly overweight. I was never lean.”

JJ recommends high intensity interval-type  exercises over endurance training, and for good reason. Endurance training is  actually among the least effective forms of exercise when it comes to weight  loss, and research has shown that the benefits of high intensity exercise are  not necessarily related to calories burned. Rather, it creates beneficial  metabolic changes that promote health and muscle growth while boosting fat  burning.

These metabolic changes, which include  boosting human growth hormone (HGH), do not occur when you’re doing endurance  training such as long-distance running.

She’s also a big proponent of exercising  in a fasted state, as this actually helps repair, restore, and rejuvenate  your muscle tissues. A conflicting approach calls for loading up on carbs and  protein before and after exercise, to boost performance and muscle building. So  which one should you follow? It may be worth taking JJ’s advice, and experiment  to determine what works best for you, depending on your fitness and weight loss  goals:

“I kind of play with both of them. Because if you eat a  little bit before you work out, you can generally work out harder. If you’re  doing resistance training, a lot of times you’re better off having a little bit  [of food] before. If you’re doing burst training, ideally here’s what you would  do: on burst-training days, do it first thing in the morning. It doesn’t take  long anyway. It’s 15 minutes at the most. Ideally, do that a couple of mornings  a week, two or three mornings a week. You do your resistance training two times  a week, have a little bit of food before; have something  really good afterwards, and you’re set.”

More Information

If you’ve tried cutting calories while still  eating foods like gluten, pasteurized dairy, and processed fructose, yet failed  to lose weight, the problem lies not in insufficient calorie restriction.  Rather, you were still eating the wrong foods, albeit in smaller amounts. Once  you start viewing food as information,  you can begin to appreciate how certain foods, fructose in particular, instructs your body to store fat and not  let any of it go…

What you eat makes all  the difference, and when it comes to successfully losing weight, a major key is  switching your body from burning sugar to burning fat as its primary fuel. In  order to do this, you need to cut down on the fructose-laden foods that tell  your body to:

  • Store  the sugar as fat
  • Eat  more (as fructose doesn’t trigger insulin, leptin, or ghrelin to the same  degree as glucose, which means it doesn’t tell your body you just consumed a  whole bunch of calories)

The take-home message here is that you CAN “reset”  your body to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel, at which point sugar  cravings will disappear. To learn more about JJ Virgin’s program, which takes  you through this process step by step, I recommend picking up her book, The  Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 Sugars to Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks, available for pre-order now through Barnes & Noble and will be on Amazon November 4th.

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