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January seemed long didn’t it? The thing with February is it can be a bit flat. There’s been a kind of purpose somehow in January, whether it was the hope that came with a new decade beginning, Dry-January, Veganuary, new fitness regime or some other lifestyle choice. February though is a risky month, it can trundle along, with that newfound focus losing its appeal. So, what can we do to keep us going?
Well, as a nutritionist, for me it has to be something to do with food. I’m in the process of undertaking my interpretation of ‘sugar free February’, this is for Cancer Research UK. I didn’t want to ask for sponsorship, so I decided to recruit my family, this includes my two teenagers, reluctant husband and my 24 year old, who is a work-in-progress! Every time anyone fancies something from ‘the list’ we pop some money into a tin, which we will donate at the end of the month. We have agreed if there is an unavoidable ‘cheat’ day such as Shrove Tuesday where we usually make a huge quantity of pancake mixture and gorge ourselves, we will do an extra 2 days after the end of the month. I know February has begun already but it’s not too late to start, you can continue into March!
We have cut out: Pastries, sweets, chocolate, jam, Nutella (tough one for the kids), biscuits, cakes, pretty much anything with obvious added sugar, also being mindful of hidden sugars such as in processed cooking sauces and cereal bars etc..
We are replacing with: Nuts, seeds, rice cakes with various savoury toppings, fruit, snack vegetables, roasted chickpeas and dried fruit. All in moderation of course.
Apart from the obvious benefits of eating less sugar, did you know
Keeping a healthy weight reduces your risk of 13 different types of cancer?
A great reason to reduce sugar intake!
My primary focus here, in the dark grey month of February, is mood and energy balance.
The symptoms of low blood sugar are very similar to the symptoms of high blood sugar; lethargy, irritability, mood swings, lack of concentration, weak, shaky, feeling anxious. Recognise any of these?
Keeping a handle on your energy balance will pay dividends in combating that afternoon slump, improve mental health, mental resilience, problem solving ability, alertness and generally make us all a lot less grumpy. In our quest for health and weight control we often feel the need to make big changes, but evidence tells us that smaller incremental changes are much more successful in helping develop new habits, contributing to those long-term results we desire.
Foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, legumes and wholegrains have sugar occurring naturally in them, these are fine, these are the types of sugars that will be absorbed more slowly resulting in a slower release of energy and overall better energy balance. Simple sugars such as those added to food are absorbed very quickly, these cause spikes and then dips in blood sugar. Our body doesn’t like this, it wants balance and predictability to function properly. We are extremely efficient at regulating glucose metabolism, but if these fluctuations occur consistently or blood sugar is too high over a long period of time our body will become overwhelmed and slow down or worse still we then develop risk of developing Type 2 diabetes because we can no longer utilise insulin efficiently and cannot convert this sugar into energy.
So, if you are thinking about achieving a healthy weight, if you are thinking you want to improve your health and know you eat too much, if you want to improve your energy balance and mood, start with Sugar Free February.
It’s not too late to start!