People often ask me why i am so strict with my eating. The amount of times a week i hear ‘live a little’ or ‘treat yourself’ when i say no to a chocolate bar, or when we have cakes in work and i say no. I know where people are coming from and that they have good intentions but there is a method to my madness, i promise.
I often tell people that from my own personal experiences i have found when it comes to diet it really is all or nothing for me. A few years ago i really struggled with my eating and went through an awful ‘binge and restrict’ cycle for many months before i finally got to the root of it and got back in control. I think it’s pretty self explanatory but for those who don’t know it’s where you binge eat uncontrollably and then feel so guilty afterwards that you seriously restrict your diet to compensate in the following days or exercise excessively to make up for it. Obviously from restricting calories so low and upping the exercise your body is not getting the energy and nutrients it needs and you seriously crave carbs… which is when you find the fastest digesting sugary carbs possible and binge again – repeat repeat repeat! It’s a viscous cycle.
Anyway like i said thankfully i got to the bottom of my food related anxieties. I started to learn as much as i could about nutrition so that i could eat healthily and make sure my body was getting all the nutrients it needed and work my diet efficiently around my lifestyle and training.
Now a lot of this is of course a mental battle. However the main thing that i found helped me to get out of this cycle and stop those insane carb cravings was by eliminating simple/refined sugars from my diet and only consuming natural sugars with a low GI index.
I’m going to keep this as simple as possible.
There are three main types of carbohydrates – sugars, starches and fibres. Some carbs are ‘simple’ and some carbs are ‘complex’.
Simple carbs are easily and quickly digested by the body. Because of the structure of simple carbs and because of the way they are digested they cause the blood sugar levels to spike. Your pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin which is what tells your cells to absorb the sugar from your blood. This then causes a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels. Research has shown that when our blood sugar levels drop dramatically we lose our ability to control our desire to eat. Our body will crave the fastest source of carbs we can get and unfortunately the fastest digesting carbs are usually the unhealthy ones such as cakes and sweets.
Complex carbs as you might be able to get from the name have a more complex structure. This means that it takes the body a lot longer to break them down and digest them. Complex carbs usually have a lower GI which means that a lower amount of sugar will get released at a steady pace. This provides you with a longer, steadier and much more effective flow of energy (as opposed to the sugar rush and sugar drop of simple carbs).
Now do you see why i say no to the cakes and sweets? I’m not being boring i’m being smart. I know that if i have that cake my blood sugar will spike and drop. Then i will be craving more unhealthy carbs and go for more simple sugars… binge and restrict. So i choose to say no and keep my blood sugar levels steady. It’s actually a lot easier than you would think. The first week or two is usually the hardest as you are still craving the simple sugars because you have been eating them recently. But it is very surprising how little you will actually crave unhealthy foods/sugars once you have managed to get your blood sugar levels under control. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving it a try for a few weeks.
So how do i do it?
Choose foods low in sugars.
Throw out the refined sugars. Say no to breads, fizzy drinks, biscuits, energy drinks, cakes, sweets, pasta.
Say yes to vegetables, fruit, oats, sweet potato, beans, lentils, muesli.
Make smart choices. For example most rices have a very high GI so i would stay clear of them. However white basmati rice has a GI of 52 which makes it a really good option IN SMALL PORTIONS. Berries have a lot less sugar than bananas. Now i’m not saying don’t eat bananas, as i personally eat one every day, but what i’m saying is if you have already most of your sugars for today then opt for the berries over the banana later on.
Always exercise portion control. Try eating smaller amounts more regularly during the day for a steady release of energy. This will also stop you from getting really hungry between meals and then getting cravings.
Remember that just because something is a ‘natural’ sugar doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Fruit is very nutritious but at the end of the day it is still sugar. So again.. portion control. I stick to two portions of fruit a day usually.
You can check out the GI of your food online, there are so many websites but i will include a link for one at the bottom of this article.
Try and keep your overall sugar consumption as low as possible. I personally eat between 20-30g of sugar a day and no higher. THIS INCLUDES NATURAL SUGARS. If you eat 2000 calories a day it is recommended you eat less than 50g of sugar a day.
A good way to keep track of how much sugar your eating as well as overall calories and nutrients is to download an app to input your meals. The one i use is myfitnesspal. Of course this is not necessary all of the time but it is really handy to use at first until you get a general idea of what your foods contain. This will also give you a shocker if your not used to counting calories, it can be a real eye opener when you find out how many calories are in some of your favourite go to foods.
Eat enough fibre. Fibre slows the absorption of sugar and therefore helps regulate blood sugar levels. This is why even though some fruits have a high GI they are still a good option because fruits are very nutrient dense and also full of fibre.
And last but not least. Believe that you can do it! If you fall off the wagon and eat some sugary foods or if you do find yourself in the middle of a binge don’t beat your self up about it. As soon as you realise you have slipped up again just stop what you are doing and take a few conscious breaths. Make note of where you went wrong and start again.. and again.. and again.. until you get it right. Nobody said it was easy, but it is worth it.
If it makes you feel any better i fell off that wagon more times than you could possibly imagine before i finally got it right, i still do from time to time. The power is in the return. Keep trying as many times as it takes and remember YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
Love and light.