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12 Steps to Beating Your Sugar Addiction

23 Aug

As anyone who is familiar with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous knows the first step is admitting you are powerless over _______(substance of choice) and your life has become unmanageable. So I admit it, sugar is my drug and I am an addict! There, I said it! Funny thing is, I had no idea I was an addict until I tried to stop. Even funnier, you probably are too. Okay, okay, I’m not accusing you of being an addict, but if you were, it wouldn’t really be your fault. There is sneaky, hidden sugar in almost all of the foods we eat, especially pre-packaged foods we had no part in preparing ourselves. The average American consumes about four times as much sugar as the FDA deems healthy, and we sure know the FDA ain’t all that conservative when it comes to what we put in our bodies.

So why on Earth, do you ask, would I want to do something as insane and tortuous as giving up sugar? It started as a test, just to see how I would feel for a couple days without it. So two days before I went out of town I stuck to a fruits and veggies only mini-cleanse, a summer detox if you will. Then I went on vacation and ate peanut M&M’s and drank wine like the apocalypse was near. Every time my hand went into the party bag of M&M’s it felt like an out of body experience, and I just wanted more, more, MORE, damnit! I couldn’t stop until the whole bag was finished. So upon returning home, feeling slightly guilty for over indulging but ready and determined to get back to healthy eating, I figured I’d return to my diet detox and life would go on as normal.

Welcome to the 8pm sugar cravings. When the sun went down, the sugar demon came out and all hell would broke loose. Let me tell you that fresh fruit, tea, a huge glass of water…NOTHIN’ made that damn sugar demon go away.  So I got curious. Why on earth did I have such a visceral response to the removal of sugar from my diet? So I did some research and found out sugar truly IS addicting, it acts on the opioid receptors in our brain, the feel good chemicals, the same way heroin, cocaine and other drugs do. I remember a documentary I watched about Meth addiction and it said Meth boosts dopamine levels in the brain, making the user feel euphoric but then needing more and more to get the same effect. Same with sugar, my friends, and that is a huge part of the reason I want off this sugar train, damnit! I don’t want some sweet, edible substance being the cause of my temporary happiness when I know I have what it takes to be blissfully happy without it.

Plus, sugar makes us fat, cranky, diabetic, and just plain sick, sick, sick.

So here are 12 ways to get off the sugar while staying sane. And remember, relapse is a healthy part of any recovery, so if you fall off the wagon get right back on! See ya on the other side!

1. Eat protein that has a little fat. Have a healthy snack of nuts or nut butter (almond is my fav), avocado, or some seeds.

2. Do something that nourishes you in other ways: take a bath, read a book, make out with your partner, snuggle your pet, etc.

3. Don’t skip meals! If you’re hungry and you realized lunch was two hours ago, sit down and eat your lunch rather than reaching for a candy bar.

4. EXERCISE. I cannot emphasize this enough. Feeling stressed, sad, angry, etc won’t go away with ice cream but breaking a sweat at the gym or taking a yoga class will releive stress and boost feel good endorphins without the crash.

5. Eat more fatty acids. Your brain loves them. You can find these in fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil and winter squash.

6. Positive affirmations! You might be telling yourself, “I’ll never be able to give up sugar, I’ll fail, I suck the big one,” and I guarantee you’ll never succeed if you keep that crap up. So instead, try “I will do this, I am stronger than my addiction, I am perfect and whole without sugar, I am vibrant, healthy and beautiful and being so is my birthright!” Try it and watch the magic happen!

7. Smoothie time! See the recipe above for a kick-ass and delicious sugarless smoothie.

8. Go ahead, indulge. If you must eat some sugar, pick dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao and don’t eat the whole bar! Share it with a friend or two, or go for a mini-size option.

9. Nix the artificial sweeteners. They don’t lessen your cravings for sugar, and they are linked to cancer, obesity, and diabetes. (Right here you will see me crying because I love me some diet soda)

10. Ask for help. Many of us turn to sugar when we need comfort rather than reaching out to friends and loved ones. So instead of Ben and Jerry, call your bestie.

11. Take 1000 milligrams of Chromium Picolinate. It helps insulin work more efficiently in your body.

12. Brush, floss and gargle! This signals to your brain that eating time is over.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your sugar withdrawl. It may be a long and arduous journey, but I am here with you every step of the way. Please give feedback or comments if you have successfully or not so successfully been able to make sugar eat your dust, I’d love to hear how it went!

Lose Weight with Yoga: 7 Brilliant Ways to Help You Do It.

8 Aug

Weight loss huh? Bet that title grabbed your attention. Google the phrase “weight loss” and you’ll see about 275 million results. We live in a country where one out of three people are obese, yet we are more concerned with weight loss and dieting than we have ever been before. There’s a disconnection present, a preoccupation people have with what they should look like over a holistic approach to health. This, I believe, is where yoga comes in. The literal translation of the word yoga is “to yolk,” or to unite, and refers to the uniting of mind, body and spirit. What makes yoga different from any other form of diet and exercise is that it’s not JUST about calories or JUST about exercise, it’s about looking at the self as a whole, and achieving vibrant and lasting health from there.

I’ll admit it, I have been dieting since I was eleven years old. I’ve seen the scale go up and down more times than the stock market, sometimes as dramatically as 40lbs in one year. But every time that scale has crept up, I can honestly say that weight gain was not a result of simple mathematics. It wasn’t that I was eating fast food every night and playing video games all day; something in my life was very out of balance and for me, weight gain was the result. Now, it’s not that I have cracked the code to a life of model-skinny weight and Madonna’s biceps, but I have found that my yoga practice has led me to a place of a healthy weight and a kind of radical self acceptance that crash dieting, starvation or excessive exercise never could have.

How, do you ask? Here are seven ways that yoga can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:

1. Mindfulness. Yoga promotes it. A yoga practice of asana (poses), pranayama (breath work) and meditation encourages a mindful relationship with the present moment, and helps to create a bit of space between the obsessive thoughts in our minds that often lead to overeating or choosing less wholesome foods. And let’s be honest: you are what you eat. Do you want to be a Ho-Ho or piece of fresh fruit? The mindfulness you cultivate in your yoga practice allows you to make wiser food choices, which in the long run promote weight loss. And  like my friend and Personal Trainer Breanne Curran always says, “you can’t out-train a crappy diet.”

2. Inward Reflection. The more you practice yoga, the more inward your focus becomes and the more self-awareness you develop. You will never lose weight and keep it off long term if you don’t acknowledge what led you to gain in the first place. Most people want a quick fix, to see the numbers drop without any real introspection and work. But as I have found for myself and many others stuggling with weight is that we gained the weight for a reason that goes beyond eating too much and not exercising enough, and if we don’t get to the root of why, we’ll be prisoners of the cycle forever.

3. Self-Acceptance. The biggest killer of any weight loss attempt is self-loathing, criticism and neglect. One of the most prominent messages in yoga is compassion, and as anyone with a spiritual practice knows, you cannot extend compassion to others if you don’t first extend it to yourself. With compassion comes forgiveness, and in order to lose weight you have to be able to forgive yourself for your mistakes in order to move on. If you expect your weight loss journey to go off without a hitch, perfectly according to plan you will set yourself up for disaster. But if you are able to view a setback or slip up with compassion and self-acceptance, you are much more likely to keep going and succeed.

4. Body Awareness. For many years, my body was just a vehicle to transport my head around, I had very little awareness of it otherwise and if I did, I was aware that I didn’t like how it looked. But with yoga I have been able to get quiet, tune into my breath and feel and experience the amazing organism that is my body and as a result, have learned to appreciate it much more. Now I know what hunger really feels like and am able to discern whether I am hungry for food or (insert love, entertainment, a xanax, etc). And the other amazing thing about this newfound awareness is that I am able to discern how I feel after eating certain foods, so I choose foods that help me feel energized, light and alive.

5. Impermanence. One of the biggest obstacles in my own journey has been lamenting and attaching to the “skinny” Meghan. If only I could fit into my skinny jeans or look as good in a bikini as I used to, then I would be content. Um, flashback to 21 year-old Meghan…I wasn’t content! I thought I was fat! Hello! Trying to return to an old version of yourself is the most counter-productive thing on earth, and you will never, ever be satisfied. In yoga we talk about impermanence often, how life is like a river, always moving and changing  and not staying the same for long. If we cling to ideas of returning to an old weight or freak out if the scale hasn’t budged in a few weeks, we have to just face one of the most basic and fundamental truths of our existence: nothing lasts, everything changes and life keeps moving whether we want it to or not. So rather than giving up if you aren’t the weight you once were or things are happening fast enough, remember that change is inevitable and positive change is always in your hands.

6. Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the sister-science of yoga and has been around just as long (like, 3,000 years). I’m not going to wax expert on Ayurveda at all, but I will tell you that we are all made up of the same stuff the Universe is made of, and the Universe does a pretty darn good job at balancing itself out without us mucking it up. And when we do muck it up, we have an over-abundance of some stuff we don’t want (aka excessive natural disasters=excessive junk in the trunk). So in Ayurveda we each have a specific constitution or dosha, and the philosophy is that when our dosha is imbalanced, one of the results is weight gain. You can take a quiz here to discover your dosha and get suggestions on how to balance it out. I’m usually very Kapha dominant, and when I eat according to my dosha, I feel pretty darn good.

7. Increased Metabolism. Okay, exercise does help you lose weight and since the physical portion of yoga IS exercise, it can most definitely help you slim down. What I found for myself is that a yoga practice just challenging enough to make me sweat and push my edge is what I need to see results, especially when I combine yoga with other physical activities like running, cycling and hiking. Now, my edge may be different from your edge, and that is why yoga is so great–one size doesn’t have to fit all. But I do recommend sweating. You will stoke your internal fire (tapas) and in turn up the calorie burning potential of your metabolism. Add that to mindful eating, self inquiry, compassion and food and lifestyle changes tailored to your specific constitution, you will be on the road to long term weight loss success!