One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to move. You have already made that commitment with 99 Walks, and now it’s time to do one of the other best things: reduce your sugar consumption.
Why: I am sure you have seen the image that compares your brain on sugar to your brain on cocaine. It's a little scary, right? The image shows dopamine release in your brain exploding with joy. Your brain loves sugar and it is addictive.
Your body craves it because sugar is a fast fuel. Your body prefers to burn sugar for fuel because it takes almost no energy to do so. When marathon runners "carb up" before a race, all of that pasta is creating a sugar supply of energy to get them through the race. While that's great for the big race, what is your body not doing if it is burning sugar? It's not burning fat. If you work out like crazy and can't figure out why you're not losing weight, well, you do the math.
Sugar creates cravings. When your blood sugar rises, you feel awesome. Your taste buds are excited, your dopamine is rising and you feel elated. Then, your body uses that fuel - fast - and you crash. Your body craves the same thing all over again. It becomes a vicious cycle.
If you need more incentive, sugar causes spare-tire weight gain, acne, brain fog, sleeping troubles, aches and pains, inflammation, and so much more.
How: In a few simple but deliberate steps, you can go a week without sugar.
Start reading labels. Go to your kitchen and pantry and look at every label. Don’t look at the nutritional values (calories, fats, etc.). Just look at the ingredient list. (Use this list to learn the many different names for sugar.) This is important information. You will be surprised what has sugar in it. Right down to your crackers, deli meat, and yogurt. Some people choose to throw these items out right away. Others prefer to use it up and then read labels when they go shopping again. For the 99 Walks Sugar Challenge, at least set these items aside for the week. Your next shopping trip will take a bit longer because you have to find other brands/products to replace the ones you are used to grabbing. Be patient. It’s worth it.
Stop drinking all those sugary drinks. This includes, but is not limited to soda, energy drinks, sweetened teas, fancy coffees, and wine. (I know, that last one hurts.) It’s like hooking up an IV with sugar straight into your bloodstream.
Eat at home. Restaurant meals, from the sides to the condiments, are almost always sugar-laden.
What to expect: There will be some side effects that will show up around day two and should be gone by day five (if not sooner). Sleep, hydration, light walks, and relaxation techniques will help minimize these. Possible side effects are (but not limited to):
and Overall feel-like-crap syndrome
Please don’t give up! Once the exhaustion passes, you will feel amazing.
It is important to remember over the next few days, as you start to feel some of these (and other) symptoms, why you are feeling them. These are the exact feelings that bring on cravings and the urge to eat "comfort" foods. Don't give in! I promise it gets better.
Is it worth it? Can you imagine a day without cravings or without the midday crash? A day where you can say no to the plate of cookies in the office or to all of that holiday candy? You don't know how much control sugar has over you until you take control. People think they don’t have the willpower to say, "no," but it’s not about willpower. I believe if people understand the science of sugar and our brains, they will find it easier to quit. It’s not that you don’t have the willpower to stop, it’s that the sugar has taken control of your cravings. It’s time for you to get control of your food, not the other way around.