One minute you read that gluten is a no no, the next it’s dairy. Then red meat is the devil and too many nuts are not good for you. Sugar is the enemy and, according to some press reports, you’re better off drinking wine every night because it helps protect against cancer. Let’s just eat kale and do that then shall we!
Do you feel confused, bewildered and despondent about what is really good for your health? You’re just getting your head around cutting down sugar when your friend says that you shouldn’t be eating that yoghurt because it does xyz to you.
Great, so just when you’d managed to resist the chocolate cake at the weekly coffee morning by whipping out your oatcakes, someone pipes up that oatcakes contain gluten and additives that will make your hair fall out. Ok an exaggeration perhaps, but you know what I mean?
Healthy eating is amazing. I love what it can do for people, especially a transformation around sugar, however since being in this industry I have seen a judgmental side of things too, especially since becoming a health coach and finding myself in uber health circles. I’ve been guilty of too much rigidity myself at times as my interest in health and nutrition developed (sorry friends) but I like to think I’ve grown fully confident of my own choices and outlook on health, fully respecting others for whatever they decide to do – which is the stance I’d advise you to take too. I’ve previously video blogged about what to do if others around you are eating a ton of sugar and I’ve written another post around how I’ve handled being labelled the ‘sugar-free’ one – another challenge that hit me with all the change.
As part of my Institute of Integrative Nutrition course I studied over 100 dietary theories – everything from Atkins, to vegan to heck, even the ice cream diet (yes, there’s an ice cream diet and no, it doesn’t mean you can eat ice cream all the time and lose weight!).
Fair to say there is a TON of information out there, much of it conflicting at times. The raw food, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, fructose-free diet …. oh and don’t forget the banana girl! Seriously, the list goes on. There are many scientific studies to support most of dietary theories from one angle or another and there are real life transformations where people have found a certain way of eating that on a personal level makes them feel incredible or lose loads of weight.
That is what is worth remembering here – it is completely personal and down to you as an individual. You just need to work out what makes you feel the best you can through trial and experimentation – both physically and emotionally. If you’re stressing that your diet isn’t ‘perfect’, over-restricting or over-complicating things, then actually it’s worth remembering that stress is probably more harmful to your fat-burning metabolism than the food you’re putting in your mouth.
One thing that is agreed on…
Two and half years ago, the day before I set up Happy Sugar Habits I e-mailed Ian Marber – the founder of The Food Doctor, a health guru I really respected. I asked him one question:
If you could get EVERYONE in the UK tomorrow to stop eating one single substance, what would it be - saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, salt, sugar, red meat?
His answer, REFINED SUGAR!
In light of all the dietary theories out there, I think it’s fair to say that most of them (ok maybe with the exception of the ice cream one) will agree on two things that are worth avoiding excessive or over consumption of:
So, if you’re still in feeling controlled by sugar cravings or eating a slab of dairy milk each night, and right now oatcakes are helping you with that, then to hell with the rest of it and focus on the one thing you can do to improve YOUR health straightaway. This is actually why I developed the Mentor Me Off Sugar detox programme to just focus on controlling sugar cravings as a first priority. The meal plans I developed are wholefood based and thus don’t have any processed foods and minimal gluten, but the programme doesn’t make you tackle too much at once or bombard you with restrictions that I know hamper success. It’s one of the reasons why the programme really works for people and many find it surprisingly easy to stick to.
I don’t eat a 100% gluten-free, dairy-free or even completely sugar-free diet these days. I just don’t eat 5 ginger nuts, a bar of chocolate, carrot cake and 50 odd raisins to satisfy my daily sugar cravings like I used to. This still feels like a big achievement for me and allows me to appreciate how much I have improved my health in the past few years. I’m not diet ‘perfect’ although I do eat a shed load of vegetables! To me these days health is so much more than what you put in your mouth anyway. I carefully consider and experiment with other health advice by trying everything on myself for myself encouraging my clients to do the same once the sugar cravings are out of the picture.
If you’re feeling bombarded with conflicting messages, overwhelmed, confused and despondent, then take a step back from information overload and re-focus on a single goal. Commit to shifting some of the refined sugars from your diet, or try a gentle transition to less processed foods. Once you’ve got control over sweet temptation and are no longer as reliant on convenient sugary snacks, then you’re in a better place to experiment further with gluten-free, dairy-free or a daily glass of wine as you wish… although the latter is not officially recommended!
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And of course, if you’ve an opinion then please comment below.