Why is it at the top of our "toss this" pile for the New Year? Sugar, is it the "devil?" It seems like it could be with it is duel personalities, the whole, is it simple, is it complex. I mean which is it? Well, it's both, and we just have to accept it and learn more about this substance before just discarding. I'd like to delve a little deeper about the characteristics of this possibly misunderstood beast in a moment, first let's talk about what it is about that sweet, happy feeling we get on our taste buds and in our brain from eating sugar.  Addiction: "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance. Persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful"  Well, those are some powerful words. I am a person who will never take the word addiction for granted. I am also a recovering addict for almost a decade now. If my drug of choice had been sugar perhaps, the meetings I attend would have a salad bar instead of cake and doughnuts. Can I just throw it out there that I would like a savory cake for my ten years anniversary, maybe squash pie?  Now, back to this definition, "known by the 'user' to be harmful." A gray area here when it comes to food addiction. Can certain foods do so much damage that it results in altered mood behaviors, physical destruction, possibly lead to death? One hundred percent yes!  It depends on circumstances, environment, when did the abuse begin. It is a bizarre experience writing about this; the lines are blurred because indeed drugs and sugar are both addictive substances. I've written about my sobriety in the past, for other reasons but not in regards to food. But am I making a craving for a doughnut into something too serious? I don't think so. Maybe being on the other end of one I can see openly how another can be harmful as well. Studies have shown that our happy memories from childhood connected to sugar have traveled with us to adulthood. When you reward a child, it is usually with a sweet treat, ice cream, cookie. I do not see much of "good job Johnny, here's a kale chip." Huh? Am I right or what. Not placing blame or judgment, just stating facts and my observances.  I have always admittedly had a sweet tooth, long before I confronted my other demons. My family would be in shock if I ever passed on dessert and as much as my culinary rituals have changed, I have more then a challenging time refusing a cookie. Nowadays I just have more knowledge, awareness and the ability to honor my choices when it comes to indulging in sweets. 

It is a new year, a new start. "Diet" health and exercise are among the top topics for resolutions. Eating better, I will drink a green smoothie every morning. Work out more, or at all. Buy a step tracker and be more active. Start that fitness program. Fit in my skinny jeans again. Stop eating sugar. Sound familiar? Are you playing the same record over and over, it is getting warped and difficult to make out the tune? So, what's the plan Food Athletes, is this your story your sticking to it? Alternatively, how about being the boss of the what and why of your decision process? Making a choice is picking between options, and it is nice to have the options, however, if you have not a clue as to the benefits or possible harming effects then why are you making the resolution? Sure, cutting out sugar for a month or two or the year could have plenty of potential health positives but why bother if you are just going to go back to your old ways next year when resolutions roll around again?

It is a fact; our country has got a gut issue.  Angry bellies, angry bodies. When we have aches and pains, it is our system giving us that check engine light like you might see in your automobile when it needs maintenance. We humans do not come with a manual, well, I guess it is Google these days, but when there's so much info how do we know we are looking at the right instruction book for the proper model. The good news is that the make-up of the body, our anatomy, our insides and out are comprised of all the same materials. For the most part, our skeleton and necessary working insides, (assuming something has not been removed for disease) are all "almost carbon copies" You know what I am saying; the functions are intended to be that same. 

So how we break down glucose aka sugar in our body is scientific. Our body is designed to store fuel in the form of glycogen (a form of sugar) in our liver and muscles. Glucose, another form of sugar cannot be stored, but it is converted and used. Carbs are the primary source we get our glucose from; it is "simple & complex." They differentiate due to the way and duration these carbs breakdown in our body. "Simple," like table sugar, honey, cakes, doughnuts, candy. Complex like grains, dark greens, oatmeal, legumes. Where some of you may get confused is when your tired and reach for a soda, or even an energy drink and feel a burst of energy, euphoria. It is actually not sustainable I would like to call it a false high, and you will notice the decline or "bonking" in energy shortly after you ingest.  Here's what I would like to point out. Is anyone sitting at home eating cookie dough at ten p.m. because he or she have a fitness class to get to and need some energy? We do not use sugar specifically as our go-to fuel source; that is why we have carbs and fat as the key players to support a tough workout, a long day, and a busy schedule. You can fool your energy system for perhaps moments, but in the long run, your body is much smarter. 

Processed sugar is going to effect you in the same way I've spoken about processed savory foods. Fake is fake. Processed and preservatives added to make it last for five to ten years. I can be cake or a bag of chips, processed isn't "whole" or fresh for that matter. Sugar causes inflammation in your body and mostly in your gut. Some people medically need to cut back or eliminate to narrow down the source of what's causing your body pain. Checking your blood sugar levels can be a first step to preventing a more dangerous situation like diabetes and heart disease. Sometimes It takes a village and if you feel red flags have arisen then seeing a doctor may be for you. My teachings come from a place of thoughtfulness, education, experience, and love but sometimes There are easy ways to moderate your sugar intake and reducing the processed I would say is the smart route.

Yes, a banana contains sugar and it is in the "sweet" category. It also contains vitamins and minerals that make it a lovely component in a breakfast meal, smoothie, dessert or snack. A doughnut would not give you that same energetic support from a nourishment stand point, nor would it help replenish lost minerals you may have sweat out during a long run or spin class. Keep the fruit, don't take away these rich antioxidants. It would be a shame. They provide some many health benefits in the form of vitamins and minerals that far outweigh the natural sweeteners they contain. Dark chocolate, one hundred percent an antioxidant with proven elements of health-boosting power, don't eat the entire bar, but enjoy and indulge in a small piece. Balance, portion control, and smart choices will ultimately lead you down a path of wellness.

AI love using dates as a sweetener. In smoothies, oatmeal, as a snack with almond butter. I made this delicious Tomato Soup (see recipe here) the other day and to make it sweet; I threw a date in the mix. It is going to take some planning and creativity, and of course, there is guidance out there, Me for example. I love coming into your home and redesigning. I can help you to set up your kitchen and pantry for success. My goal when you are my client is to provide you with information and inspiration, so that in the end your confident in you choice making. Check out some of my services here.

Are there differences between table sugar, honey, agave. "Six of one half dozen of another," or something like that. Are they better alternatives? Honestly, it boils down to what your "diet" is comprised of as a whole, along with other vital lifestyle habits that ultimately determine your choice to eliminate or balance out certain foods.   

I'm not sure why these New Year Resolutions seem to come in the form of punishment. I can take some guesses and pick it apart. It's probably a stupid question when I think about it. Some of them seem harsh, and others are necessary. I'm all for quitting smoking, practicing a random act of kindness once a week, learning how to meditate. When the resolution is about restricting or eliminating food it just becomes a "diet" mentality. So unless your doctor has deemed your sugar addiction, your doughnut habit, unhealthy and harmful to your existence I suggest you examine why you've chosen to curb a particular behavior. That quick fix that I've mentioned time and time again, that never works, isn't going to sustain the fix this time because it's a new year.  Smart, simple balanced adjustments in your food lifestyle works. Not quickly, it takes time and effort. There is magic in this human body, our system, how we function and the miracle that we are. 

I wish you a healthy, happy 2017, free from depravation and worry. Happy New Year Food Athletes!

Be Happy, Be Healthy, Love Your Body,

xo Jessi (Your Food Athlete) xo

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