Different sugars – are natural sugars better than table sugar?

Sugar….. that white crystal powder that makes food sweet. The majority of people have heard that sugar isn’t good for you, that it can lead to negative health consequences. Some people talking about sugar addiction. A debate between sugar and sweeteners, many believing sugar is better because it is “natural”….. but forget that there are plenty of “natural” foods that would be incredibly dangerous or toxic to consume, so natural doesn’t mean healthy.

So I thought I would do a little break down of sugar and different types of sugar.

Are dates and dried fruit better than white sugar? What about agave syrup compared to high fructose corn syrup? Is fruit sugar actually bad?

I have a previous post about sugar vs sweetener, which you can read HERE. There are a lot of different sweeteners, so to get into all of those I would have to dedicate a post just to them. So instead I will just mention them a little in this post and compare them to sugar.

So let’s start off with…. What is sugar and what other names/types of sugar are there?

So white sugar which we all know as caster sugar or cane sugar, or in other terms: Sucrose which consists of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. [Glucose is typically found in some fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose is found mainly in fruit. And there is also galactose which is a single sugar molecule and is found in milk and dairy products]

In the body, sugar (Which I will now refer to as sucrose or table sugar) breaks down into glucose and fructose. The enzyme sucrase has to break down glucose and fructose which have two different absorption methods in the body. Glucose is absorbed directly and used as energy, both for your brain and muscles while fructose goes to the liver first where it is either then converted into energy or stored as fat (if there is an excess of calories).

There are other forms/names of sugars:

Lactose: This is the sugar found in milk and is built up from galactose and glucose. This is why dairy products usually have some sugar in them because of this natural sugar content.

Fructose: This is the sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. It is a single molecule/simple sugar.

Glucose: Typically found in starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Dextrose is also comprised of only glucose, and this is because glucose is the main source of energy for the body as well as the only energy source the brain uses. It is the quickest energy source and also spikes the blood sugar.

Corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually 100% glucose, whereas high fructose cornsyup is a mixture of glucose and fructose, just like table sugar.

Other types of sugars: Icing sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple sugar, dextrose.

Sweeteners:

Sugar alcohol: So sugar isn’t really sugar, but it is a carbohydrate and consists of a chemical structure that is similar to sugar and alcohol. It is also called polyols, and they are considered sweeteners. They aren’t fully absorbed or metabolized in the body meaning that they contribute with less calories than sugar. These sugar alcohols are also called, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol. Because the structure of these polyls can resemble alcohol structure, some people can get digestive issues from these sweeteners.

With this in mind, you realise that it is not just white table sugar or syrup that has sugar… but many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, dairy. But this isn’t a bad thing, as mentioned above glucose, fructose and lactose (a disaccharide) are infact natural sugars. They provide energy and your body needs glucose found in example starch vegetables and also in fruit.

However, just like with table sugar too much sugar whether it is from potatoes, dates or mangoes isn’t good either. They also spike your blood sugar, insulin is released and too much energy does get stored in the body. However, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver which is important as the body closely regulates blood so if haven’t eaten for several hours and your blood sugar begins to dip, glycogen will be broken down from your muscles and used to increase your blood sugar.

“In the process of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the body is unable to distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, since they are chemically the same.”

The difference between glucose and fructose is that glucose is absorbed rather instantly in the intestines and goes straight into the blood and can be used as energy for your muscles and your brain. Whereas fructose first has to go through the liver and then be absorbed by the blood, so it doesn’t have the same quick response and release of energy as glucose.

So, what about table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that consists of both glucose and fructose…. This is where sugar/HFCS stands out compared to just fruit or vegetables that consist of single sugar molecules. Table sugar and syrups have to first be broken down by the enzyme sucrase, then the glucose is absorbed in the intestines and then the fructose has to go to the liver where it is metabolised before being released into the blood stream as energy or converted into triglycerides or stored as fat.

The difference between fruit and white sugar, example candy or soda:

Well first off, fruit contains a lot more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than candy or soda. You have to chew fruit (well, you chew candy as well), there is fiber that is important for your gut bacteria, and of course you get vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. The fructose does of course have to go to the liver to be released into the bloodstream, but the amount of fructose you get via 1-2 fruits is very little compared to the amount of fructose/glucose you get via 1-2 handfuls of candy or chocolate. Not to mention, when it is dairy chocolate you are getting lactose sugar as well as fructose and glucose.

Candy or soda basically only have sugar and very little nutrients.

What about fruit or vegetables compared to example buns or cakes? Cakes, buns, cookies all have a lot of sugar… but they also have other ingredients such as butter and flour. So the butter, which is a fat will also slow down the emptying of the stomach and therefore the digestion of nutrients as well as flour containing gluten which is a protein. So yes, you get a lot of sugar but you also get fat (mostly saturated) and white flour (which of course is processed), but you could look at it like cakes/buns/cookies etc would be better than straight up sugared candy or sugared soda. The same goes with chocolate, you could look at it like you are infact getting some dairy which contains calcium (if you consume dairy chocolate), or if you eat dark chocolate you will be getting some antioxidants and iron as well… even if it is miniscule amounts it still contains a little more nutrition rather than just syrup/sugar.

So how does example baking syrup compare to agave syrup or honey?

Agave syrup or honey, just like baking syrup is straight up sugar. There isn’t so much difference aside from agave syrup and honey maybe having 5% more nutrients than regular baking syrup.

What about dates as sweetener compared to white sugar or syrup?

Being objective and sticking to the facts… then dates and dried fruit as sweeteners is rather similar to white sugar or syrup. Granted, it is mostly fructose and not fructose and glucose. But 100ml of dates/date syrup compared to 100ml sugar or syrup, it is similar in sugar content. Of course, if you are using whole dates they will have a little fiber… but they are mostly just fructose i.e sugar, and the same goes for white sugar. But dates and date syrup is a lot more expensive.

Of course, I do believe that using dried fruits as sweeteners is better than white sugar or syrup which consists of 2 sugar molecules. But you can’t forget that dried fruit or agave syrup or date syrup consist of a lot of sugar which will spike your blood sugar and be stored as excess energy. So using those isn’t necessarily that much better, but if you enjoy using them… use them. Just don’t drown your oatmeal, pancakes or toast with them and thinking it is healthier. (Of course, healthier is a relative term as for some that might infact be healthy).

It’s all about marketing:

Date syrup, coconut sugar and any other fancy sugar substitutes have all been marketed as healthy and better than sugar, but nutritionally they are pretty much the same as sugar. Just that some may have a difference in what sugar molecules they are made up of. The best would be to go for sugars made up mostly of glucose. The “healthy” marketed sugar alternatives are just pricy and not always worth the money.

Of course… if you prefer using them and can afford them… then go for it. They do give a different texture and taste which you may prefer in your baking. Just don’t begin pouring agave syrup over your oats or adding coconut sugar to your fruit smoothies or eating 15 dates a day (unless you have a reason for it such as low blood sugar, athlete or need to gain weight). Sugar is still sugar and will break down into the same molecules and have the same effect in the body whether it comes from syrup, honey or raisins.

So how much sugar should we consume? How much is too much sugar?

The recommendation for sugar is c.a 25-35g per day, or about 5-6 tsp. Or nutritionally, only 5-10% of your total calories should come from sugar. Meaning, if you have a requirement of 2000kcal, only about 100-200kcal of those should come from sugar. I.e 1 330ml coke is 35g sugar and your total sugar for the day (according to recommendations). However the majority of people consume double or triple this amount daily.

In the future I might make a post about “Hidden sugar” in certain foods which many aren’t aware of. That is of course not to scare you or make you avoid those foods completely, just to become aware of certain foods that may need to be limited and not eaten on a daily.

To be noted, is that you could also see the sugar recommendation as c.a 210g sugar per week… meaning that you may have one day a week where you eat a bunch of candy and chocolate and drink some wine, but the other 6 days you keep your sugar intake minimal (not including fruits). Or maybe you are someone like me, who likes to have a little bit of chocolate a few times a week and instead of having one day you eat a lot of sugar I keep it minimal/moderate each day. So find what works for you in regards to your sugar intake.

**Important to remember that consuming sugared soda or candy with lots of sugar isn’t the same as eating fruit or if you eat a meal and then some fruit. Because of the fiber and chewing involved when eating the majority of fruits – not all of them, it will give you more satiety as well as vitamins and minerals. If you eat a full meal consisting of protein, carbs and fats, the fat in your meal will actually slow down the emptying of your stomach and your digestion (this isn’t a bad thing… unless maybe you are going to run a half marathon and want quick energy, then eating primarily glucose may be beneficial) and the release of sugars won’t be as quick compared to if you just drink soda or eat candy, where the break down and release of sugar into the blood stream will happen rather quickly.

Which also leads me to: Carbohydrates, i.e which include sugar molecules, begin to break down in your mouth when you chew as you have enzymes in your saliva which begin to break down the sugar molecules. So when you drink sugared soda or eat candy where 50% is glucose, some of the sugar will be broken down and absorbed rather instantly… which can be a good thing if you are feeling faint, need quick energy or have low blood sugar.

Juices and smoothies? Not as much fiber, a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there will also be a lot of sugar that will spike your blood sugar rather quickly because so much of the fiber – and chewing – is gone when you drink juice and smoothies. Of course you do still get lots of nutrients and vitamins, so it is better to give your child – or yourself – a fruit smoothie than a McDonalds milkshake, but don’t underestimate the amount of sugar in a fruit smoothie.

Excessive sugar intake isn’t good, whether it comes from table sugar, date syrup or mangos. It does spike blood sugar, which in turn can increase risk of developing diabetes or metabolic damage. Not to mention the damage on teeth from consuming too much sugary products. But as previously mentioned, fruit is not the same as eating candy. And nutritionally dried fruit contains more nutrients than candy so it is better to opt for that for the majority of time, but at the end of the day too much sugar whether it is from sugared candy, sugared soda or 10 banana smoothies isn’t healthy or recommended.

I know some people may not agree with this post and may think that “Natural” sources of sugar are better and when it comes to agave syrup in comparison with high fructose corn syrup I will always recommend agave syrup in first hand. Just like I will tell people to opt for dates with peanut butter or go for a fruit instead of grabbing a handful of sugared candy. But at the end of the day, all of those need to be limited and whichever you choose to consume in moderation and limited amounts is up to you because they are all similar in the body anyway.

Final notes, try to avoid added sugars and the clearly obvious sugary products i.e cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, soda, syrups etc

Dealing with stomach pain: Elimination method, FODMAP & tips to cope

Many people in todays society deal with stomach pain and discomfort, to certain degrees. Some people just get a little pain from time to time after overeating or maybe eating certain foods, while others can barely live a normal life due to their stomach issues.

In the past, I was the latter. I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and pain.

In this post I am giving you some tips on what you can do to figure out what causes your stomach issues via an elimination method. Though I do advise you to seek help from both a doctor and dietitian so that you don’t end up restricting your intake far too much and far too long so that you end up unhealthy or with nutrient deficiencies.

I have written a post about FODMAP and IBS, which you can read here.

Also a post about dealing with bloating HERE

As well as a post about eating a high fiber diet, which can often lead to cramps and digestive issues, HERE

When you are dealing with stomach pain or digestive issues it can easily lead to a very restrictive diet, either because you don’t want to eat something that triggers the pain, but you don’t know what causes the pain and therefore restrict everything you think might cause pain. Or you infact become scared of certain food because you don’t want the stomach pain and therefore cut it out and get scared to eat those foods.

FODMAP

When someone has IBS they are often recommended to try doing FODMAP with the help of a professional. FODMAP is not a longterm diet or way of eating, it is a way of eating for a (short) period of time to help figure out which foods that cause flareups and stomach issues and which foods you can tolerate.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”

Common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar and most added sugars.
  • Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
  • Fructans: Found in many foods, including grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
  • Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol. They are found in some fruits and vegetables and often used as sweeteners.

These carbohydrates/fibers don’t fully digest and some become nutrition for gut bacteria while others don’t digest at all and can therefore cause bloating, gas, cramps.

In some individuals, FODMAPs are poorly digested, so they end up reaching the colon. They draw water into the intestine and get fermented by hydrogen-producing gut bacteria.” (Healthline.com)

A low FODMAP diet means you eat very little or no foods which contain those carbohydrates/fibers. I.e limiting the amount of foods which can cause symptoms.

When following the FODMAP diet for a period of time you are very restricted in what you can eat, and even more so if you are vegan. (I had to try the FODMAP diet for 3 days during one of my university courses and I didn’t eat much those three days as I was so restricted in food choices.) But overtime you begin to reintroduce foods and eventually have a much more varied diet and will hopefully have figured out which foods you can tolerate and you may even figure out which foods you tolerate in smaller doses and which you can consume in larger doses. However along with FODMAP you also have to look over your lifestyle and the way you eat.

Sometimes the problem may not actually be the food, but it may be that you are very stressed, that you are anxious around food, that you don’t actually sit down to eat or you eat your food within 5 minutes while standing or on the go. All of these can cause stomach issues, but also foods such as gum, carbonated drinks, alcohol, certain sweeteners and caffeine can lead to gas, stomach issues and caffeine can heighten anxiety which can lead to stomach discomfort or pain.

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HOW YOU EAT:

So along with looking at what you eat, you also have to look at how you eat. Changing how you eat and even where you eat can make a big impact on your stomach issues. If you are eating in very stressful environments or you don’t have time to eat, then you can easily feel anxious and stressed or you don’t really enjoy or chew your food and all of that can lead to stomach discomfort. So making time to eat while resting and preferably sitting and in quiet environments can make a big difference.

As mentioned above, a FODMAP diet should be done with the help of a professional, otherwise it is easy that your diet becomes far too restrictive and that you don’t actually begin implementing certain foods again, instead you just stick to the “green” foods. It is also important to note, that everyone is different. Some people with IBS may be able to consume foods that are listed as red, while they get stomach pain while consuming certain foods that are green. So you do have to try

different foods and see what works for you.

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WRITE A FOOD DIARY

If you don’t have IBS, just stomach issues, the first thing you can do is to write a food diary for 2-3 weeks.

Write down what you eat, what time you eat, the environment/situation when you ate and even how you felt before/during/after, along with any symptoms you felt during or after the meal.

This will help you get a better overview of what and how you eat as well as tracking symptoms.

After 2-3 weeks it will give you better understanding and overview, compared to just a few days or one week of tracking. The important thing is to eat just as normal… don’t begin cutting out food or changing your diet. Write down everything, even the handful of nuts, the latte on the go or the piece of chocolate you eat standing in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook.

The diary may just be for you to analyse and get a better understanding of how/what you eat, but may even be useful if you do go to a doctor or dietitian for help.

Once you have written the food diary, begin to look over it. Are there certain meals with certain ingredients that cause symptoms or flareups? Are there certain situations that cause pain and discomfort… such as the rushed lunch during school/work, or maybe the dinner straight after training or the lunch you ate while super stressed?

Once you have found out which meals or situations cause the most flare ups it can be easier to make adjustments.

However, now is when the long process begins. The important thing is to not cut out everything at once…. Instead, you do it one by one. If you think that maybe garlic, onion, chickpeas and gluten cause stomach pain… then begin by just omitting garlic from your meals and diet for a week… see what happens and how you feel. Then the next week omit onion and add in garlic (depending on how you felt the previous week i.e symptoms or no symptoms). It is a long process of finding out what works.

You could of course group certain foods together such as all beans, all sweeteners, all foods with gluten, onion and garlic, all dairy products etc and then one week remove all the foods in one certain group, and slowly reintroduce them one by one. Because it may be that you are sensitive to chickpeas but not to blackbeans, or it may be that you can’t tolerate aspartame but you are fine with stevia.

I would also recommend that you do infact limit your caffeine intake (coffee, black tea, energy drinks) as well as not chewing gum or sugar free pastilles, as they can all cause stomach discomfort.

I do also want to note that many believe they are gluten intolerant and cut out all products with gluten, however many products that include gluten also include certain fibers that are hard to break down. So it may not be the gluten you are sensitive too, but the fibers.

Which is an important thing to note, fibers can cause stomach discomfort and pain. There are certain fibers that are hard to break down and cause gas and bloating. So limiting fiber intake and drinking plenty of water can be one step if you don’t want to do the whole elimination process. Though then you won’t be able to tell which foods cause pain or symptoms if you eliminate them all at once.

I also recommend that you keep your meals very simple, just 2-4 different ingredients. The more ingredients and foods you eat in a meal the harder it can be to digest as well as figure out what causes your pain or discomfort.

FOODS THAT CAN CAUSE STOMACH PAIN

There are certain foods that are more likely to give stomach discomfort and they are:

Beans and peas – this is due to their fiber content and that the fibers are hard to break down

Sweeteners – Many sweeteners aren’t broken down or absorbed in the body and therefore lead to gas and bloating

Carbonated beverages, sugarfree pastilles, gum – the bubbles in carbonated drinsk along with both caffeine and sweeteners, basically a triple whammy. With gum, when you chew you are swallowing air which can lead to gas and bloating, as well as gum usually having sweeteners (even if it’s only very small doses)

High fat meals – including creamy and/or, oily dishes. Typically fast food, dairy full fat (specifically cream) or certain takeout meals such as Chinese. Fat leads to feeling full quicker and is also harder to break down compared to carbohydrates. It can also often lead to heartburn. Many find that eating fat sources from avocado, nuts, nut butters and seeds don’t cause the same stomach issues.

Food with lactose or gluten – many cut out lactose and gluten thinking they are intolerant to them. Some may be, but as already mentioned. Many foods with gluten also include hard to break down fibers which may be the issue and not the gluten. With lactose, many can’t handle a lot of lactose or they don’t have enough lactase enzyme which breaks down the dairy. Though this isn’t so strange considering that dairy is actually for baby cows, and not for humans… or well, not in the huge amounts that many consume dairy products now a days.

Too much fruit – Fruit has a lot of fiber but also fruit sugar which can cause certain individuals discomfort if they eat too much of it. And by that I mean eating maybe 4-6 fruits in one go.

Note, just because i mention these foods doesn’t mean that YOU are sensitive to them. Everyone is individual and everyone reacts differently to different foods. You may be able to digest those in small amounts, ,aybe not at all or maybe they don’t trigger you at all.

When you are dealing with stomach pain, it is easy to get scared of food because oyu don’t want to deal with the stomach pain. But you can not completely restrict yourself, the best is to get proffessional care, but if you can’t because of reasons- Then remember to not completely cut out food and if you do cut out food youshould try to reintroduce it. Otherwise your diet can become very restrictive. Also be reintroducing it into your diet after not eating the food(s) for a while you can better understand what is causing stomach pain.

Also remember, if you do think you are sensitive to gluten and want to get it checked. Youahve to eat gluten to do the tests… so don’t cut out gluten and then get checked because the results won’t show any intolerance/allergies then.

Stomach issues and pain is complex. Many get the diagnosis IBS because doctors can’t find any other diagnosis that causes the pain. But IBS is about more than just food, as previously mentioned. Stomach issues aren’t always due to food, but due to other factors which also makes it hard to treat. It often requires changes in diet, lifestyle and way of eating.

It is incredibly debilitating to live with stomach pain, I did for several years. Many plans that were cancelled, many evenings I lay curled in a ball on my bed with extreme pain, many tears due to the discomfort and a lot of constant bloating. What helped me was to go vegan and start eating plantbased, but of course that also meant letting my body adapt to a higher fiber diet. I can still get stomach pain from certain foods, but I have learnt to figure out which foods cause me pain and also know that too much of certain food will give me discomfort… and then it is up to me to make the decision whether I want to eat the food and deal with the discomfort afterwards or to just skip the food or choose something else.

For stomach pain and nausea ginger or peppermint tea can help, as well as having something warm on your stomach.

If you are dealing with a lot of stomach pain, I highly recommend you go to both a doctor and a dietitian. Be persistent with your doctor so that you get all tests done, just to rule out any serious conditions. However, I do also recommend that you keep a food diary for 2-3 weeks, get an overview of your symptoms, how and what you eat and see if your symptoms may just be due to anxiety and stress and certain foods such as caffeine, sweeteners and high fiber.

(From personal experience I can also add that when I am very stressed and anxious, then I can get stomach pain and bloating even if I am eating the same as usual. So it is important to look at your stress and anxiety levels).

Antiweightloss and anti-dieting?

Something I have noticed a lot of online recently is antiweightloss posts. I have even been asked myself where I am against dieting or weightloss… as I often write about balance, learning to love yourself, gaining weight, intuitive eating… and that doesn’t always go along with dieting.

 

However I am not against weightloss…. Infact weightloss is necessary for some people and is something which is needed to be healthy. While for others weightloss is very unhealthy and not recommended, and weight gain could be the healthiest thing for thing.

However I think it is important to ask yourself how and why you want to lose weight. There is a lot of societal pressure to be thin, specially for females. And many females can feel the need to diet and lose weight even if they don’t need to. Maybe all they need to work on is healthier habits, more self love, balance and a different mindset to food, exercise and their body image. And that losing weight wouldn’t be healthy or necessary for them and wouldn’t necessarily make them happier.

So I can understand the antiweightloss posts that just promote self love, eating everything and all you want and going against weightloss. But it can’t be forgotten that some people do actually need to lose weight and there is nothing shameful or wrong about it. Infact almost 50% of the population in certain countries are clinically obese and need to loseweight. I do of course think that an important step in losing weight is also changing mindset and habits. Because you could diet on 600kcal a day for 4 months and lose weight, but if you don’t learn to find balance with food and learn to enjoy exercise and do it regularly or learn to love yourself and your body, then the weightloss won’t be sustainable in the longterm. And that is often the problem. It is easy to do a quick diet where you lose a bunch of weight quickly, but if habits and mindset don’t change then the person is very likely to regain the weight or to live a life with very disordered eating and body image. Sustainable weightloss means a lifestyle change.

How and why you want to lose weight?

So how and why you lose weight are important questions before you actually begin a weightloss journey. Are you doing it because you actually need to do for health reasons, i.e clinically overweight or obese, or are you doing it because you think you should… because you have some stomach roles or cellulite? Also how…. Is it a quick fix diet, or are you making lifestyle changes that will give you long term results?

I am not against weightloss, however I am against weightloss for the wrong reasons. But also one of the most important things is change in habits and mindset to more healthy, sustainable changes… not just focus on the number on the scale.

There is a lot of focus on weightloss when weightloss may not be necessary.

For those of you who don’t know I studied health promotion with specialisation nutrition, and so my main  focus is on promoting health and of course nutrition. It is important to look at the individuals needs when it comes to health and promoting health…. Some people may need to lose weight, others may need to gain weight, others may need to just focus more on their mindset and learning to love themselves. But looking over lifestyle, habits, choices and mindset are key to promoting health and creating lifestyle changes towards the more positive and healthy.

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Even if weightloss may be necessary… losing weight doesn’t automatically mean you gain health. You could lose weight in a very unhealthy way and still not exercise, smoke, dirnk and stress and then the weightloss won’t make you healthy. Not to mention it most likely won’t be sustainable.

Which is also why making lasting changes with your diet should be one of the first steps… because if a person just loses weight eating a very small amount or following a trend diet, it will most likely not lead to lasting changes in mindset or weight. So even if weightloss doesn’t have to be bad, the way you do it matters alot.

Anti-dieting?

And with diets… I guess you could say I am anti-trend diets. A diet is basically just the way you eat, but a trend diet is often a quick fix diet which is trendy…. A set of rules of what, when and how much you can eat of certain foods. I don’t believe in those diets as they aren’t sustainable in the long term. Any diet which cuts out too many food groups or leaves you feeling restricted in someway isn’t a diet that will be maintained for a long period of time.

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So I promote intuitive eating and balance, even if I also believe that for some people in certain times of their life they may need more control such as a meal plan or set of rules regarding their eating. But that may just be a short period of their life to get some control and structure to their food and eating, but in the long term a balance diet where you don’t have any rules or regulations regarding how, what and how much you eat. But instead trying to tune in with your body’s signals.

I would love to know your opinion on this!

Periods,PMS, bloating, weight gain? |Tips and advice

Periods, bloating and weight gain…. Not the most fun topics to talk about, but important to mention.

Also as i know that alot of people who read my blog may struggle – or have struggled with body image or food issues, and then it is even more important to talk about these things. Not to mention how things like bloating during that time of the month is completely normal, even if it can last several days and be uncomfortable.

Periods… .or “that time of the month” as some people call it. For me, whenever i get my period i also get serious pain and cramps. So bad that i sometimes just have to curl into a ball and lie there until they pass. And have had times i have had to skip lectures because the pain is so bad and it radiates to my back and my whole body. (I am pretty sure having pain this bad isn’t normal, but i have yet to actually talk to anyone about it.) Also let’s not forget the mood changes and extreme tiredness that also happen.

But it is not just pain and cramps, it is the bloating and hormonal skin flare up…. not to mention the increased appetite.

These three things, i.e i get VERY bloated and hold alot of water, not just in my stomach but the rest of my body as well. My face gets a bunch of hormonal spots, and i feel like i am non stop hungry. It’s funny how i never really make the connection between these three things and “that time of the month”. It is always when i get my period and the those three things go away that i realise… oh now i know why i was so bloated.

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I am not the type of person who sees having a period as a beautiful thing…. i.e many women see their menstrual cycle as a beautiful thing as it means that they can (hopefully) have children, and also that their body is healthy.

For me… it is just an unwelcomed pain and disturbance in my life which i would rather not have – and would gladly skip it. Though not having a period would most likely be a sign of an unhelathy or unbalanced body, or having too much/too little hormones which can interfere with your period. So even if i hate that time of the month, i can atleast appreciate the fact that it means my body is working as it should – hopefully.

So let’s talk about the bloating, because i know that many can find it uncomfortable and tough. Not only are you already extra sensitive because of the hormones, but the bloating can make you feel uncomfortable and feel not like yourself.

I have posts about bloating HERE and HERE(tag). They are mostly about bloating in recovery, but may be helpful.

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The important thing to remember is that the bloating and water retention will pass. It won’t last forever, even if it can sometimes feel like it. I wish i could give some tips on how to make the bloating go away, but the only tips i can give is: Keep drinking plenty of water – peppermint tea, chammomile tea and green tea can help, limit amount of salt eaten, exercise if you can. Some people think that drinking lemon water can help them, and things like chewing fennel is supposed to help debloat. Also avoiding foods you know bloat you.

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The bloating and water retention is due to the change in hormone levels… so there is no real way to affect the bloating, without also changing the hormone levels. But wearing comfortable clothes, maybe fixing your hair or make up to sort of “compensate” can help. Also, just accepting how you look/feel.

For me personally, the worst thing is the feeling…. the feeling of being 2 times the size i am, not feeling like  myself and the constant tiredness which make me feel unproductive and like i am not doing enough. But the feeling DOES pass.

Some people find that yoga, meditation and exercise can help them both with bloating and pain!

What about the hunger….? There are lots of things happening in your body during your period and your body does use more energy, so it is not strange that you feel extra hungry. But also if you are feeling very tired then the tiredness can lead to feeling extra hungry because food=energy, and your body/mind knows that. Eat more if you are hungry, the extra hunger will pass as your hormones balance out again after your menstrual cycle.

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I feel like the only way to balance out hormones and not get PMS or your menstrual cycle is to take hormones, but because of past experience with birth control and taking hormones i am not a huge fan of them. I worry about the side effects which makes me very hesitant to take them.

I do suggest that if you have extremely bad period pain you should go to a doctor and check up on it incase it is something such as endometriosis or even PCOS. But also if you don’t have a period or have had an irregular period you should go to a doctor and check up on it. Having a period is a sign of a healthy body and that everything is working as it should. (This is of course a note to myself as i should go to a doctor and check up on things).

Why am i writing this post…? Well to remind you that the bloating and water retention will pass, your extreme hunger and non-stop-hungry feelings will pass, and the other symptoms will also pass.

Don’t freak out or take it out on your body just because you are bloated. It will pass! Take some time for self care instead – take a long bath or shower, drink some tea, wear comfortable clothes, put on a facemask, eat your favourite foods. I really wish i could give some better tips…. but i guess the only really thing is to deal with the symptoms each month. Some people get no symptoms, and i get symptoms for c.a 2 weeks each time i get my period… so it varies from person to person how bad the symptoms are, as well as what actually helps.

From what i have heard, all the extreme PMS symptoms do lessen the older you get (hopefully), but also that if you do struggle alot with PMS or lots of pain in combination with your period, then maybe you should talk to a doctor.

 

I also get asked frequently on how to get your period back so i thought i would write a post about that…. i know many people have already written about this (and i am pretty sure i have made topics on this post before). But it will be easier to link to a post than answer people seperatly all the time! If that would be interesting to anyone just let me know (of course.. talking to a doctor is the important thing!)

Good food = good mood | Listening to your body | Perfect diet and balanced intake?

Sometimes i think i give off the image that i have a “perfect, balanced diet and intake”….. Or maybe i don’t. But i think i can give off the image that i always eat vegetables, always have balanced meals and always listen to my body… which isn’t always the case.

I mean, if listening to your body was easy, then everyone would do it. But it is not always easy to listen to your body or interpret your signals. 

Sometimes tiredness can be interpreted as hungry so you eat something instead of actually going to sleep. Sometimes (or quite often) i can eat just out of boredom. Sometimes i drink coffee instead of eating (or sleeping) (but then realise it is food or sleep i needed, not caffeine). Sometimes i eat more food than my body may call for, just because it is delicious. When i am stressed or anxious or nervous i can feel too sick to eat or lose my appetite and not eat because i don’t feel hungry, and sometimes the stress can lead to stress eating. I follow my cravings and try to listen to my body and eat regular meals but listening to (my) your body and interpreting the signals isn’t always easy. It is not just the body and hormones that send physical signs, but the mind also plays a role in hunger and what you eat.

 

 

The truth is i don’t always have a perfectly balanced diet, i am just like anyone else and can have days i overeat or days where i undereat. I can have days where i eat lots of processed food with little to no vegetables all day.

Of course, in a way you could see that the ability to overeat and not feel guilty or compensate is a sign of health and balance. But also the ability to eat less than usual when i am not hungry and not feel like i “Have to eat”, like i once did in the past when recovering from my eating disorder.

I am writing this post just to be honest. Listening to your body sometimes means you overeat or undereat. Sometimes you think you are listening to your body but you aren’t actually because there are different thoughts that are interfering with the physical signs/how you eat.

Some people can’t listen to their body, especially if hormones and hunger signals aren’t working as they should. Whether it is because you never feel hungry or you never feel full. Or maybe you have a far too negative relationship with food so you don’t trust your body or can’t judge right portion sizes. Or maybe you are going through very stressful times or feel very anxious or worried which affects your hunger signals. Or maybe you need to gain or lose weight which means you need to eat more/less than your body signals for. Or maybe you are taking medication that affects your hunger levels.

In all those cases, then maybe following a meal plan or more strict form of eating (i.e eating at certain times and having certain meals planed and measured) can be helpful, instead of just eating whenever and how much you want.

The one thing i have realised throughout my years is that regular meals with focus on “whole foods” is what makes me feel best – physically and mentally. Food and eating impacts so much more than just giving you a satiated feeling. It impacts your thoughts, your energy, how you feel. The food you eat becomes the building blocks in your body and part of your cells.

 

 

For me personally, whenever i go through times when i don’t really listen to my body and maybe i overeat/eat lots of processed food, or times when i undereat it always impacts me in different ways. More tired, sluggish, don’t feel as great about myself, end up bloating and getting stomach pain. Not to mention it usually impacts my skin as well if i consume too much of certain food . Such as the times i end up consuming a little too much sweetener ex. i.e i add sweetener to yoghurt/chia pudding or drink too much diet soda, it gives me this weird feeling and i don’t feel so great in my body/ in myself after a while. So it is not just eating too much chocolate or bread or overeating, but also consuming too much sweetener and “low kcal/sugar free” foods that can give me that strange, not so great feeling.

 

 

The times i eat regular meal times with predominantly whole foods (i.e vegetables, grains, tofu, legumes, nuts) is when i feel best. Nourishing my body with frequent/regular meals is when i feel best physically and mentally. And when i listen to my body, that is naturally how i eat.

The quote, good food = good mood really is true. (I hate the term “good”, “clean”, “bad” “healthy”, “unhealthy” when it comes to describing food because no food is good/bad/healthy/unhealthy.. it is all about the amount you eat, not to mention it is very individual on what is healthy or unhealthy. There is food which has more nutrients than other foods, but that doesn’t meant the food with less nutrients has to be bad… it is about the amount you eat.)

I like to eat rather big meals 2-3 times a day, and usually some smaller snack 1-2 times a day depending on life/if i am hungry or not. Sometimes 2-3 meals a day with no snacks works, othertimes i am more hungry and want to snack.

Why am i writing this post…? Well because i wanted to share with you that normal eating and listening to your body isn’t always perfect. We are just humans and our thoughts, cravings, feelings impact how we eat… not just the physical hunger signals. Even things like what others are eating, ads we see in our daily lives impact how we eat. Example if you are with friends or family and they eat or buy some food, you are more likely to eat as well even if you aren’t hungry. Or if you see an ad for some new food you want to try, or maybe you smell freshly baked buns or bread you might go buy and eat some even if you weren’t actually hungry…. that’s called being a human.

Food is more than just energy and nourishment. Food can give you a good/happy feeling, it is a social thing, it is delicious and can make you want to eat more.

The problem of course is when people begin to abuse food and rely on food to make them happy, such as emotional eating – when food and eating gives them a calm or happy feeling.

I really hope this post helps someone and makes you realise that a perfect diet or a healthy diet isn’t always eating the same meals at the same time each day. A balanced and healthy diet can sometimes mean that you eat more or eat less than your body calls for – even if that of course shouldn’t be the goal. The thing is to not feel anxious or guilty if you do overeat, instead just get back to your regular meals the next time you eat.

Also remember, that people only post some of their meals online, i don’t post all the meals i eat and don’t post about the times i undereat or overeat, so don’t base your own intake off of what people show online because you never really know how a person eats.

 

 

 

Intuitive eating: Is it really intuitive eating if….? | Nutrition post

Intuitive eating…. that should be the eating goal for everyone. However intuitive eating is sort of trendy now… but people seem to forget what intuitive eating actually is. It means listening to your body. Eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full. It’s mindful eating.

Intuitive eating isnt for everyone, especially not if your hunger and fullness feelings are messed up due to example stress, illness, periods of restriction or binge eating. But also if have very disordered eating and mindset towards food then maybe following a meal plan made by a dietitian is better until you are in a better place physically and mentally to begin trusting your body.

I began thinking about intuitive eating and how it may not be as intuitive as we think/want it to be. Because whether we want to or not… we are all affected by media and different food rules, guides, tips and recommendations. We may not follow them consciously but in the back of your mind they are still there.

diet mentality vs non-diet mentality

I no longer do these things, but here are some of my thoughts…. is it really intuitive eating if:

You drink liquids before and after your meal to fill you up more?

If you make sure to have veggies with your meal because it’s recommended even if you aren’t craving them for certain meals?

If you make sure to eat a protein source with all your meals because that’s whats always recommended?

If you don’t add salt to your meal because you don’t think you should use salt?

If you eat the dessert/cake/cookies just because it’s there but you aren’t actually hungry?

If you make yourself wait x time until you eat again even if you’re still hungry?

If you choose a high protein/low carb/low fat option even if that’s not actually what you want?

If you skip meals to compensate for certain meals you know you will eat later?

If you eat meals at certain times despite not being hungry?

If you eat even when you’re not hungry? If you don’t eat when you are hungry?

These things aren’t intuitive eating… not according to me. There are still food rules, certain eating times, compensation and too much thinking involved when to eat/what to eat etc

Image result for intuitive eating

Of course eating vegetables and eating a protein source with all your meals is recommended. But if somedays you just want pasta and tomato sauce or potatoes and guacamole it’s ok. If that is what your body is telling you. Because your next meal may be more balanced… but also your body should send signals of certain foods it knows it needs.

And like mentioned, intuitive eating isn’t for everyone. Somedays you just got to force yourself to eat even if you have no appetite. Or example if you have a weightloss or weight gain goal, then you may need to eat more/less than what your body signals send. Or if you have an illness/recovering from an illness that affects your appetite or hormones, then you may not be able to eat according to your bodies signals because you will end up eating too little or too much.

But also if you example only eat and crave chocolate, pizza and cookies then you may need to follow certain recommendations and guides to eat a more balanced diet. Then “just follow your signals and body” may not be the best recommendation if that means someone will eat a very unbalanced diet.

It is also important to be aware that as humans, we are affected by our emotions. We are affected by stress, anxiety, feelings, situations which all affect our hunger and fullness feelings and how much we eat. It is easy to just say “don’t treat yourself with food” or “don’t eat due to emotions” or “don’t overeat/undereat when you’re stressed”. But we are just humans and no matter how intuitive we want to eat, sometimes our body sends us wrong signals or our mind/emotions interferes with the signals. Or example if you are very nervous, anxious, worried, stressed that can make you undereat/overeat. Even illnesses like IBS can impact your hunger/fullness feelings and the ability to eat intuitive and trust your body.

Intuitive eating isn’t always possible. I mean as an example -if i meal prep and have meals planned i can’t always just go buy food everytime i get a craving. As well as if i am at work and maybe don’t have enough food or enough time to eat then maybe i might not be able to eat as much as i wanted at that time.

However for me intuitive eating means that i maybe eat more of my meal prepped food if i am still hungry. Or maybe my body is calling for more vegetables or more potatoes and then i eat that.

Intuitive eating is different for everyone. And like i said…. we’re all influenced by different media and that affects our food choices and intake whether we are conscious of it or not. I mean me just writing a post about intuitive eating is me reflecting and analyzing over my food and food choices when in reality food intake should just be free from rules and mindful.

Which brings me to a last point…. mindful eating in connection with intuitive eating. I usually watch YouTube or series or use my phone when eating, which infact can make intake less intuitive and less mindful. Because when you just sit and eat with no distractions you are more in tune with your body and signals compared to if you distract yourself.

I don’t always eat intuitive, i sometimes eat more than my body/hunger signals tell me just because the food is so good. Or sometimes I’ll eat a cookie or cake just because i have it at home and not necessarily because i crave it. But for me that is also balance and part of my healthy diet/intuitive eating.

This is just my thoughts and i have more posts/advice about intuitive eating on a previous post HERE

Intuitive eating pdf
Intuitive eating quote
Intuitive eating
How to eat normally
The healthy version of intuitive eating

How did i learn to eat intuitive

Learning hunger and fullness feelings – always feeling the need to eat

Helpful posts about extreme hunger, hunger and fullness and intuitive eating

Also wanted to share this from a previous post, HERE. Healthy version of intuitive eating:

There is none.
THERE IS NO “HEALTHY VERSION OF INTUITIVE EATING”. Don’t do it. It will backfire.
Wanna know why? Because what you are really saying is: I am going to try and, like, trust my body. But I, like, can’t ever really trust my body. Obviously, so I’m gonna like fake trust it and, like, listen to it but only let it eat, like…. healthy foods.
No!
Your body will know what you are doing. And the part of your mind that you think you are tricking will know what you are doing too!
You cannot do the healthy version of intuitive eating, because intuitive eating is the healthy version of eating.
And it is healthy, even if you are eating lots of brownies.
It is healthy because it is free and curious and pleasure based.
It is healthy because it takes your eating controls away from your mind, and gives them to your body.
It is healthy because even if you are craving foods that you decided before were “not healthy” (or that anyone would tell you are “not healthy”), letting go of fear of food is immensely important for mental health.
Mental health is immensely important for physical health.
Learning to trust your body is the healthiest thing you could do.
But not even that, the idea is to neutralize all foods. Cravings have less power when they are allowed. Irrational cravings do not exist when they are allowed. They become neutral.
Your body knows what it needs. Your body needs calories. And your body needs to know it can eat.
Intuitive Eating is not about eating the smallest amount possible. Or being “so in tune with your body” that you only need to eat celery and goat keifer and sunlight.
No, intuitive eating allows you to EAT. For God’s sake EATEat the things that nourish you and please you. The things that make your mouth water and that you only let yourself eat in your dreams.
That is the food your body is asking for.
And anyway, you’re never gonna really crave Kale til your body and mind both believe that it can also eat cake for dinner whenever it wants.
Fuck. IT.”

Nobody can eat according to hunger 100% of the time. Mostly, you should eat because you’re hungry. Sometimes, you eat because something is fantastic, even if you’re full. And always, you eat what your body wants. Always.
At first, eating intuitively was hard. I had to think about it a lot. But now? I don’t really think about it at all. I feel free.
I no longer have to measure out every tablespoon of food. I don’t have to track everything in a stupid weight loss app on my iPhone. I don’t have to count and weigh and measure and go to sleep hungry. The food that I eat isn’t classified into “healthy” or “not healthy” categories. I just eat and I’m happy.
My body image is better than it’s ever been and I love it.
Intuitive Eating, My Style “