Sugar vs. Fat: Which Is Worse?

Sugar
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we bring you The Thriller in Vanilla, the long-awaited fight to crown the World Obesity Federation’s heavyweight champion. It’s the battle to decide, once and for all, which contender is most responsible for making us fat. In one corner, we have our long-reigning champion, The Heartbreak Hammer, Fat! In the other corner, we have the up-and-coming challenger everyone’s been talking about, The Soda Pop Kid, Sugar!

As the undisputed nutrient kings of our fast food world, this is the bout that everyone’s been waiting for. Fat has been the people’s champion for a long time. Sugar, on the other hand, has only been around as long as humans have been altering foods from natural sources. Lately, a lot of money and science have changed our challenger’s traditional fighting style, leading to a string of TKOs (technical knockouts) en route to its shot at the title. Going into tonight’s fight, however, the experts still favor The Champion by 2-to-1 odds.

The tale of the tape
Sugar—Weighing in at 4 calories per gram, the challenger is slight in stature compared to our champion and will look to speed to gain an advantage. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but the form we consume it in is much different than how we find it in nature, where’s it’s surrounded by a fruit, grain, or other plants. The Soda Pop Kid is synthetic crystalline sugar—the kind that goes into soda, candy, and many convenience foods. Its main weapon is the speed with which it rushes into your system.

Fat—At 9 calories per gram, Fat outweighs its challenger by more than double. Unlike Sugar, Fat is its own food group and an essential part of our diets, just like carbohydrates and protein. It’s easily found in nature in many forms and doesn’t need to be processed. This, of course, doesn’t mean we don’t process it when it’s convenient or cost-effective. As opposed to Sugar, Fat moves into your system slowly. Then it remains there for as long as it can. In abundance, it clogs things up. Its main weapon being bulk, its goal is to wear you down.
As you can see, we’ve got a classic tortoise-vs.-hare matchup between these two heavyweights.

A brief history
Sugar—Since all carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in our blood, it’s always been a part of our diets. However, when eaten as a complex carbohydrate or encased in fiber (as in fruit), it affects our bodies differently than it does as processed sugar. Bees were the first sugar producers, and humans have been eating honey for about as long as bees have been making it. However, it didn’t become a major part of our diets until thousands of years later. Westerners began the production of sugar around 1500 BC. Originally made from sugarcane and sugar beets, it’s now manufactured from other crops, like corn and wheat, which makes up the bulk of the sugar consumed in the U.S.

Modern technology has enabled us to tamper further with natural sugar. Traditional sugar, like honey, had a much lower glycemic index (GI) than many modern variations. Since the higher the GI number, the quicker the sugar rushes into your system, we are now essentially able to have sugars affect the body like a drug, creating exaggerated hormonal responses, particularly the hormone insulin. You may have heard of insulin because, when we have trouble producing it, we have a disease called diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the result of eating poorly. It’s also the fastest-growing disease in the world, which, in Sugar’s camp, means they think it’s time for a shot at the title.

Fat—Like we stated earlier, fat is dense—it has a lot of calories for its size. It’s also an essential nutrient and helps us feel satiated or full. Therefore, when we’re hungry, we tend to crave it. And since we don’t really need much of it, it’s very easy to overeat. When we eat more food than we can put to good use, our bodies store it in adipose tissue. We call this tissue fat, or fat tissue. But it’s not really fat, as in the kind we eat. It’s something else. Well, it’s adipose tissue, but we’ve always called it fat. Anyway, the point is that we call it fat whether we get it from eating too much fat, too much protein, too much sugar, or too many carbs, or by drinking too much alcohol. And because of this, Fat gets a worse rap than it deserves.

But make no mistake, fat is formidable. We like fat. We like it a lot. Many fat-laden foods are considered delicacies. And we like fat so much that we’ve found ways to consume just the bad parts of fat that serve little to no dietary purpose. Stuff like butter, margarine, lard, and trans fats are completely unnecessary for our survival. Yet, somehow, our culture has taught us to crave such things. And these cravings have led to heart disease becoming the planet’s most popular way to kill people. Fat has been the undisputed champion of the obesity world for a long, long time. It’s not going to relinquish this title easily.

So let’s get ready to rumble!
Round 1: Smaller but faster, Sugar comes out in a rush and pummels Fat mercilessly. Because of The Kid’s smaller stature, Sugar’s punches seem to have little effect on The Champ. But Fat hardly lands a punch himself and is looking old and slow. Could The Hammer’s reign be over?

Round 2: The Sugar rush comes to a quick crash. The Champ, in no rush himself, seizes control of the pace and takes the round.

Round 3: All of our sponsors are major lobbyists on the side of Sugar. The Kid replenishes with some Gatorade and responds in another flurry of activity. The Champ is back on his heels, waiting for The Kid’s next inevitable crash.

Round 4: The Kid jabs, moves, and controls the pace, but The Champ seems unfazed. Fat knows that Sugar is only an effective nutrient during and immediately after activity, when blood sugar is being used up. So Sugar must keep moving, otherwise it has no nutrient value. The Hammer, being experienced, is willing to bide his time and wait for an opening.

Round 5: Sugar bobs and weaves, employing a psychological game that confounds The Champ. Complex carbohydrates and the simple carbs in fruit break down slowly and provide sustained energy during performance. This gives Sugar an advantage of public misconception because the junk food sugar can be lumped together with healthy carbohydrates. This underhanded attack is clearly something Fat hadn’t counted on. It seems to anger The Hammer.

Round 6: The Champ counters, big time. Two can play the public misconception card, and Fat uses its adipose tissue to absorb all of The Kid’s body blows. The statement that size matters seems to be holding true. In spite of nearly unending corporate support, Sugar seems to be tiring and its punches are growing less and less effective.

Round 7: Fat is now clearly in control of the bout and uses a cholesterol combo to further weaken The Kid. The Hammer’s corner men, Meat and Dairy, are loaded with it, and too much cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease. Could this spell the end for the gallant challenger?

Round 8: A savvy move saves The Kid, who notes that cholesterol is a necessary part of a healthy diet, and that with a proper ratio of fiber and complex carbs, it will have little negative effect. It’s a beautiful defensive move, but how long can it work? The Hammer just seems to be warming up his arsenal.

Round 9: Offended by The Kid’s trickery, Fat comes out smokin’ and unloads an entire 7-Eleven of chips, whipped cream, hot dogs, margarine, and even “vegetable” oils at The Kid. Since they all lead to heart disease, now the leading cause of death in the world, Sugar’s only defense is the rope-a-dope. He’s clearly in serious trouble.

Round 10: Down goes Sugar! The Champ plants a trans fat to the head and levels the challenger. This could be it, folks. The Kid staggers to his feet, but the referee has stepped in. He seems to be holding up a can of Crisco to see if Sugar can identify what hit him. If not, he’s going to stop it. Oh, but wait a minute! The Kid seems to be okay, and even looks to be smiling. The ref flashes a thumbs-up and the fight continues. Sugar dances away from a series of haymakers. The Hammer obviously wants to end the contest right now. But he can’t connect. The Kid survives! In his corner, he’s given a Coke.

Round 11: His face is bloodied, but The Kid is back at work. The Champ’s attack has been slowed with the news that the Food and Drug Administration has required that trans fat be listed on the side of every food label, while sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and glucose syrups can be used with virtually no regulation. This tactic has clearly befuddled The Hammer, whose punches are beginning to miss more often than they connect.

Round 12: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a new fight! Left for dead just a few rounds ago, Sugar is now controlling the pace. Still a long way behind on points, the challenger is using an intriguing combination that’s hurting The Champion. But The Champ fights back. The Champ first points out that many fats—the type in nuts, olives, seeds, avocados, fish, and many other foods—are essential for optimal health and then notes that nothing in sugar is needed for human survival; he then combines that with the fact that a “no fat” label can be on a food containing 100 percent sugar. Then he uses the fact that sugar alters the body’s pH levels, a clear example that an all-sugar food is far worse than a no-fat food. That’s gotta hurt.

Round 13: The credit probably goes to The Hammer’s corner men, all major corporate CEOs, but Sugar has got to be one of the craftiest fighters in history. He comes after Fat with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibromyalgia, an offensive that clearly caught The Champ off guard. Apparently, they’re illnesses attributed in part to excessive sugar in one’s diet leading to insulin-resistance problems. The Hammer may have amassed enough points to win a decision but is now clearly on the defensive and reeling. Who knows what The Kid’s got up his sleeve at this point?

Round 14: With only one round to go, Sugar swings wildly with a combination of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and soda pop. This is one of the most lethal offensive combinations in the history of obesity! HFCS is the cheapest and lowest-quality sugar produced, and is now added to many items that aren’t even sweet—things like salad dressings and peanut butters, items once clearly in Fat’s corner. And soda, a substance with no nutritional value whatsoever, has become the singularly most consumed item on the planet. I don’t see how The Champ can survive this. He’s staggering around the ring, basically out on his feet! Somehow, and it must be experience, The Hammer avoids going down.

Round 15: It all comes down to this: one round to crown the World Champion of Obesity. Fat, the longtime champ, is clearly in trouble but still has enough points to win thanks to his mid-fight dominance. But Sugar has owned the latter rounds thanks to heavy lobbying, effective marketing, deregulation, and public misconception. The Champ was barely on his feet at the end of round 14, and his corner is working furiously to limit the damage. The question is, does Sugar’s corner have one last trick up its sleeve?

And here we go . . .: The Champ still manages to show some swagger, and comes out flashing heart disease as the number one killer, recently eclipsing lung disease and cigarettes—no slouch in the death department. But Sugar barely flinches and counters with type 2 diabetes, the fastest-growing illness in the world, that’s almost single-handedly controlled by Sugar. It’s like Ali’s “anchor punch” against Liston. And it sends The Champ sprawling. Down goes Fat! Down goes Fat!

And I don’t think the Champ will be rising from this one. Nope. Fat is out cold. The Hammer’s reign is over. There’s a new kid in town. Sugar is elated, dancing around the ring and pointing at the crowd, screaming, “I want YOU! I want YOU!” Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the NEW heavyweight champion of the obesity world: SUGAR!

Tips to Break the Sugar Habit and Prevent Cravings

Sugar
People who eat sugar on a daily basis typically crave even more sugar. It can correctly be called an addiction. Blood sugar levels spike after eating sugar and then plummet, resulting in a craving for more after a couple of hours. Some people eat sugar in response to stress or depression, relying on the emotional comfort of say, cookies or cake to feel better. Eating balanced, healthy meals and controlling blood sugar are pivotal when trying to stop cravings.

Stop Sugar Cravings with Balanced Meals

Craving sugary foods can be an indication of a lack of certain nutrients in the body, such as chromium (found in broccoli, grapes and dried beans), phosphorus (found in nuts, legumes, grains, fish and eggs), carbon (found in fresh organic fruit) and tryphtophan (found in cheese, liver, raisins, sweet potato and spinach).

Combining protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy oils at mealtimes reduces the risk of triggering sugar cravings. Both healthy fats and protein leave the body feeling full longer than sugary foods and complex carbohydrates contain many of the essential vitamins and nutrients the body needs. Protein slows down digestion so that even when consuming complex carbohydrates, there is no rapid rise in blood sugar.

How to Control Blood Sugar to Prevent Cravings

Not eating regularly or going for long stretches between meals can cause a person’s blood sugar levels to drop. When blood sugar levels drop too low, cravings kick in because the body craves food that can quickly be converted to energy. Typically, this is when people reach for a chocolate bar or quick “pick me up”. Since the boost of energy is not sustained, another craving will take place a couple of hours later. The key to controlling blood sugar levels from dipping is to eat small meals and snacks frequently.

Excellent choices for snacking in between meals would be nuts (such as almonds, walnuts or Brazil nuts), seeds, fruit, dried fruit (such as raisins, dried cranberries, dried peaches) or vegetables (such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices). These foods will provide fiber, vitamins and nutrients and at the same time will keep blood sugar levels from plummeting.

The easiest and quickest way to stop the sugar habit? This would be to go cold turkey. Gradually trying to cut down is not likely to work as well. Coming off sugar may be hard, but cravings will subside after the first few days and the individual concerned will likely be astounded at the increase in energy levels he or she experiences.

If stress is given as the reason for turning to sugar, alleviate stress in other ways. Find the route cause and change the situation if possible. Exercise is an excellent stress-buster and will improve overall health.

5 Tips to Help You Stick with a Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy Lifestyle
So you’ve decided you want to live a healthy lifestyle. Fantastic! Now the key is to commit to it.

Here are 5 tips to help you stay on track:
1. Portion sizes for high-calorie food should be small. Portion size for vegetables should be large.

2. Distract yourself when you have a very strong craving. Cravings will disappear after a few minutes if you walk away and turn your attention elsewhere. Do something positive to distract yourself.

3. When you really crave something unhealthy, finish this phrase: “What do I want more?” For example, that piece of chocolate cake or a body I feel proud of? On rare occasions, it’s okay to pick the chocolate cake!

4. We are works in progress. No one eats perfectly every day, so don’t allow one bad choice to result in bingeing the rest of the day or falling back into old habits—and that includes on vacations. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean that your eating habits are, too! Look forward to all the free time you’ll have to exercise or sightsee on your long walks while on your next getaway.

5. As hard as it may seem at times to get into shape, it’s often more stressful, depressing, and even potentially life threatening to remain overweight.

9 Hard Truths About Weight Loss

Hard Truths about weight lossYou don’t need us to tell you that losing weight — and keeping it off — is hard. About 80 percent of people who lose weight gain it all back, and sometimes more, within a year, experts say. But understanding why weight loss is so difficult can help you stop beating yourself up over every little setback, and increase your chances of success. Forget the gimmicks, and come to terms with these difficult weight-loss lessons.

Hard Truth No. 1: Your Body Works Against You

It’s not your imagination. When you try to lose weight, you’re not only fighting your cravings, but also your own body. When you lose body fat, you decrease the hormone leptin, which signals your brain that you’re full, and you increase the hormone gherlin, which stimulates hunger, Australian researchers found. The bad news is that this hormone imbalance continues long after dieters succeed at weight loss, making it even harder for them to keep the pounds off. But if you try to cut too many calories for weight loss, your body will go into hibernation mode so that you don’t starve, and your metabolism will slow, Sarah Dolven, MD, an endocrinologist in Charleston, S.C. explains.

It’s also important to realize that once you reach your weight-loss goal and start eating a little more again, the pounds can come back pretty quickly, so it’s smart to increase your calories gradually.

Hard Truth No. 2: There Are No Quick Fixes

Wishing you were 30 pounds lighter in time for your high school reunion next month will not make it so, and there are no magic pills or miracle cures that can make it happen. “When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s hard to be patient,” says Mark Pettus, MD, chief of medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y., who also developed and teaches the Healthy Living program at the Western Massachusetts Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge. But you have to be patient because quick starvation diets can wreak havoc on your metabolism, damaging your weight-loss efforts for the long term. As you start your diet, remember that slow and steady weight loss is the easiest to maintain, Pettus says, and aim for one to two pounds of fat loss each week.

Hard Truth No. 3: Exercise Can’t Conquer All

Yes, exercise helps you lose weight and keep it off — the National Weight Control Registry reports that people who maintain their weight loss exercise for at least 60 minutes most days — but it’s nearly impossible to lose weight from exercise alone, Pettus says. Just do the math: A 135-pound person biking 60 minutes at 12 miles an hour will burn 369 calories. You can put all that back on with just a post-workout protein bar. To lose a pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume, so you can see how hard it is to exercise your way through a poor diet. Instead, you have to watch what you eat and exercise, Pettus says. If there’s any “magic” to dieting, it’s in that combination.

Hard Truth No. 4: Diet Supplements Don’t Work

Those little pills that claim to supercharge your metabolism are tempting, but there’s little evidence that they work. After a review of thousands of dieters, researchers at Beth Israwl Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that liquid diets, fad diets, and over-the-counter supplement were not linked to weight loss. So what worked? Portion control, regular exercise, and group support. As Dolven says, “nothing replaces a low-calorie diet and exercise for weight loss.”

Hard Truth No. 5: Fad Diets Don’t Work

Grapefruit. Maple syrup. Cabbage. Apple-cider vinegar. Juice. All these “miracle” diets are supposed to help you melt pounds and trigger fat burning. The hard fact: Not only is it hard to lose weight on fad diets, but also they can be so restrictive that they’re almost impossible to follow, and they can damage your metabolism. When it comes to weight loss, Dolven warns that if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Not to belabor the point, she says, “but the key to weight loss is to be diligent about eating quality calories and staying physically active.”

Hard Truth No. 6: One Diet Doesn’t Fit All

Every body is unique, so the diet that works for your friend, your co-worker, your mother, or your sister might not work for you. When looking at how best to lose weight, consider your health and family history, your metabolism, your activity level, your age, your gender, and your likes and dislikes. When you’re dieting, it’s important to allow yourself some foods that you enjoy, Dolven says, or else you’ll feel deprived and be less likely to stick with an overall healthy eating plan. For weight-loss success, tailor your diet to your body and accept that one diet won’t work for everyone.

Hard Truth No. 7: Building Muscle Is Hard Work

Because a pound of muscle burns more calories at rest than a pound of fat, an increased muscle mass is the key to a revved metabolism — plus it helps you look more sleek and svelte. Unfortunately, many dieters skip strength training when in reality, it’s one of the most important components if your weight-loss plan. Schedule it into your routine two to three times a week, along with at least three 30-minute cardio sessions.

Hard Truth No. 8: He Can Eat More Than She Can

It doesn’t seem fair, but men can eat more than women and still lose weight. That’s because men tend to naturally burn more calories than woman, thanks to their larger size, muscle mass, and elevated levels of the hormone testosterone, which promotes muscle growth. Plus, the male body is genetically designed for more muscle and less fat than the female body because men do not have to store the energy required to bear children. Once you come to terms with this fact and start eating less than your male partner or friends, the scale will thank you.

Hard Truth No. 9: It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Change

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to change your behavior not just until you reach your goal weight, but for the months and years to follow. That’s because as soon as you stop your “diet,” you’re likely to gain back the pounds you worked so hard to shed. To be successful at weight loss, you need to make lifestyle changes, healthy food choices at most every meal, and exercise almost every day for a minimum of 30 minutes a session (60 is even better). Getting to your healthy weight and staying there really has to be a way of life for the long haul, Dolven says.

Sweeteners

Sugar
In this tip, we’ll look at sugar and fake sugar, and then try to come up with a reasonable strategy to deal with our sweet teeth.

Sugar
Remember, this class is the ultra basics, so instead of using words like saccharide and galactose, let’s just say that sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates. It’s sweet, yummy, and easy to crave. In nature, it’s found in plants. As you recall from Part I, plants have fiber, and this minimizes sugar’s impact on your system by causing it to be digested slowly. Carbohydrates, whether from potatoes, lentils, or bananas, all break down into sugars in your body, and you use these sugars as fuel when you do stuff. So, if done right, eating carbohydrates is a good thing, especially when you’re active.

Refined sugar, the white grainy stuff you’ll find in gummy bears, chocolate, Coke, and most desserts, is sugar minus the fiber that surrounds it in nature. What you’re left with is a sweet but highly caloric food that your body absorbs very rapidly, causing a “sugar rush.” This “rush” is a temporary imbalance in your system that your body tries to regulate—a spike of energy followed by a lull.

But your body hates the lull, so to bring you back up, it’ll crave, you guessed it, more sugar. It’s an ugly cycle, considering refined sugar’s only nutritional value is similar to a nitrous injection in a race car—a quick burst of energy that burns right out. This might be a good thing if you’re in a drag race (or, in human terms, if you need an extra burst of energy during a workout), but it’s a bad thing any other time because, if you don’t put that excess sugar to use, it gets stored as fat.

Bottom line: Refined sugar is okay for sports performance (while you are skiing, bicycling, running, and so on), but it’s bad at all other times. Unfortunately, we tend to want it at all other times. Therefore, straight sugar consumption should be limited. Now you’re probably wondering, “So the best time to eat gummy bears would be during a marathon instead of at night in front of the TV?” The answer is yes, absolutely. And now you’re probably thinking, “But I want dessert after dinner!” Right, we all do. Something sweet after a meal is pretty darn ingrained in our society.

Artificial Sweeteners
I’m not going to do a breakdown of the artificial sweeteners on the market—because we already have. I recommend that you read “Sweet Nothing,” issue #58 (refer to the Related Articles section below), which will only take you a couple of minutes. Essentially, there are a bunch of different artificial sweeteners to choose from. Most are made of various chemical reactions that your taste buds think are sweet but aren’t used by your body and have zero calories.

There are also some, called sugar alcohols, which have fewer calories than regular sugar because they’ve been combined with an artificial fiber that you can’t digest. These have “-tol” at the end of their names, like “xylitol.” One, Stevia, or “sweet leaf,” is natural. It’s basically a, well, sweet leaf that you can chew on or that we can grind into a powder, like sugar. Now you might be thinking, “This all sounds great! What’s the catch?”

The catch is that a lot of recent science is showing us that calories might not be the only reason we’re fat. In fact, a handful of studies cited in “Sweet Nothing” concluded that those using artificial sweetener regularly tended to be more obese than those who used regular sugar. Then there’s the little fact that sweeteners may not be safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some, but given their track record (Vioxx, etc.), we can easily—and should—be a bit skeptical. With a cursory search of the Internet, you can find both pro and con studies for each alternative sweetener. The FDA is highly influenced by lobbyists and does not accept all viable studies, meaning that you might want more than FDA approval before blindly trusting what you put into your body. So let’s use some logic to try to assess how best to choose a sweetener. By adding two and two together, we should be able stack the odds in our favor.
Time. Saccharin is the most maligned of this bunch, yet it’s been around for more than 100 years and is still on the market. Sure, there is some negative research out there, but it can’t be that bad! A lot of people consume a lot of different artificial sweeteners. If people were dropping like flies, we’d probably hear about it. In fact, sweet leaf has been used for thousands of years. FDA approval or not, that’s what I call time-tested.
Research. If one of these sweeteners were so good, why would other people keep trying to come up with better ones? From this fact alone, we know that at least some of those negative findings must have an inkling of merit.
Money. The influence of big business can keep need-to-know information from the public (again, Vioxx, etc.). Most sweeteners have become American staples, such as aspartame in diet soda.
Artificial or natural? “Artificial” sounds bad and “natural” sounds good. But just because something is natural does not mean it’s good. Tobacco and opium are natural. So, the claim that Stevia is good because “it’s natural” bears little relevance. Many very beneficial drugs are artificial. However, you generally don’t want to take them habitually, which is how some people use artificial sweeteners. Artificial doesn’t mean bad, but it should mean caution.
Anecdotal. I’m going to share two quick stories: First, my sister is a sweet leaf proponent. It’s time-honored and natural but lacks FDA approval. She lobbied Starbucks for a natural alternative to Splenda (chlorinated sugar). She got a long line of positive responses up the chain of command until, finally, they stopped returning her calls. A short time later, her local market (a chain that she used as an example for Starbucks) was forced to stop offering sweet leaf with their coffee and only sell it as a “supplement.” Coincidence or a blatant case of big business (Starbucks and/or the folks who bring you Splenda) using strong-arm tactics against someone who truly cares about your health? In the wake of the FDA scandal, it’s hard not to at least harbor a little suspicion.
Next is a female athlete whom I trained; she could not lose weight, despite being in great shape and eating a strict diet. Her vice was about 100 ounces of no-cal soft drinks per day. She would eye double Big Gulps like a junky does crack. When we were able to get her off the stuff—she even drank some sugared soft drinks to do so—she lost 15 pounds. This example is now being echoed with science. Two large-scale studies spanning many years have shown a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity.
Bottom line: There is no hard evidence that any one sweetener is better than the others. Most likely the stuff won’t kill you, at least not quickly. But given that we also know it’s not 100 percent safe, it would seem wise to limit your consumption as much as possible.

So now that we understand that sugar should be limited, let’s look at some ways to do it.
5 Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
So what’s a dessert-loving health seeker to do? Here are my five favorite ways to cut your sugar consumption without ruining all of your fun:
1. Portion control. I recently saw a sign in a Denny’s window saying, “Remember, an apple a day.” The sign was of an apple surrounded by about 2,000 calories of sugar and fat. Our society has gone crazy for “bigger is better.” After dinner, your body is not hungry. You don’t need 2,000 extra calories. You don’t need 200! If you savor a square of chocolate or a tablespoon of Ben & Jerry’s slowly, it will curb your cravings without a noticeable effect on your diet.

2. Don’t snack on artificial sweeteners. Gum is probably the worst snack because it creates a stimulus-response action that causes you to crave sweet stuff constantly.

3. Add some fruit to your sugar or artificial sweetener. Fruit is both sweet and good for you. However, I realize an apple might not be enough all by itself to satiate your sweet tooth. But you can dress up fruit with a very small amount of a “real” dessert and make it pretty darn decadent.

4. Make sure you have some complex carbs in your diet. This sounds boring, but complex carbs, like whole grains, sweet potatoes, rice, beans, ‘n’ stuff, all slowly break down into blood sugar. If your blood sugar is steady, you won’t crave sugar. You might still habitually crave it, but that’s a ton better than a sugar-crash craving, which will likely lead to bingeing.

5. The protein powder trick. Most protein powders have a small amount of sugar and a touch of artificial sweetener, and are 90 percent protein. If you can find one you like (our Whey Protein Powder is fantastic, ahem, ahem), you might be able to curb your cravings with a high-protein snack. Chalene Johnson, the creator of Turbo Jam®, uses chocolate protein powder as a base for pudding, and Beachbody® advice staff member, Denis Faye, sprinkles it on cereal. If you get creative, the possibilities may be endless.

How to Lose Weight on Any Diet

Lose WeightWhen it comes to losing weight, everyone has an opinion about what works best. Low fat, low carb, or Mediterranean style—you’ve probably heard stories of people dropping major pounds by following one of these diets. The truth is you’ll lose weight on any diet as long as you take in fewer calories than you burn. Keep reading to find out which diet is best for you.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied more than 800 overweight adults over 2 years, and researchers found that as long as people made healthy choices, the percentage of protein, carbs, and fat consumed didn’t really matter. All the study participants (divided into groups eating low fat, high fat, high carb, or high protein) lost about the same amount of weight when they ate fewer calories than they burned.

The bottom line: The diet you choose should make you feel good, keep you satisfied, and limit your cravings for unhealthy foods. So how do you decide what plan will work for you?

• Try balancing various amounts of lean protein (poultry, fish, and lean beef), complex carbs (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and healthy fat (nuts, olive oil, and seeds). Find the combination that makes you full and energetic.

• Keep a food journal of what you eat and how you feel. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns emerge.

• Visit the Eat Smart section of Team Beachbody and choose from three different pre-populated meal plans (Balanced, Low Carb, and Active Lifestyle), or custom design your own according to your preferences.

When you decide what kind of diet to follow, here’s how to get the most out of it:
Low-fat diet
The amount of fat you eat varies according to the diet’s creator. The Ornish Diet, designed by cardiologist Dean Ornish to help people reverse heart disease, recommends that you eat 10 percent of your calories from fat. The American Heart Association, on the other hand, considers low fat to be up to 35 percent from fat. A low-fat diet should consist of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes, and little meat. It is not an excuse to eat mountains of pasta or processed carbs (like fat-free cookies or crackers), as these will spike your blood sugar, make you hungrier, and add a lot of unnecessary calories.

Low-carb diet
Plans like Atkins, South Beach, and the “Paleo” diet claim that by cutting carbohydrates your body will have to dig into its fat stores for energy. That is often true, at least at first, until your body adapts to the decreased energy from carbs and rapid weight loss slows. Plus, if you chow down on artery-clogging bacon, butter, and steak every day and don’t choose heart-healthy protein and fat sources (like lean meats, nuts, and olive oil), you can develop other health problems and nutrient deficiencies. Watch out for saturated fat in foods like whole milk, butter, and meat, and be mindful of portion sizes when you’re following a low-carb diet. You might find it hard to sustain a low-carb diet over the long term because you have less energy and feel tired a lot. If that happens, just switch to another diet plan.

Mediterranean-style diet
This has gained popularity over the last few years as a healthy, balanced approach to eating. It emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats from nuts and olive oil, and lean protein like fish and chicken. You don’t want to overdo the pasta, cheese, and alcohol on this diet because these calories add up quickly. This is a moderate-fat diet that offers a variety of choices and will suit many different tastes. You’ll find that most Beachbody® nutrition plans follow guidelines that are similar to a Mediterranean-style diet. It’s easy to get all the nutrients you need to sustain a healthy, energetic lifestyle with this method of eating.

When you’ve found the diet that suits you, you may notice that your weight starts to drop without a lot of effort. You’ll be more satisfied and less prone to cravings, which will help you be consistent with your plan. As long as you stick to your diet and combine it with a workout program that also fits your preferences—Slim in 6®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, or whatever you choose—you will be able to lose weight and keep it off.