by Kris Parfitt
– The Capitol Hill Times –
If food is just fuel for our bodies to burn, and cells are fueled by sugar, it would be dangerous to assume that we can eat all of the sugary foods we want for energy, right? So, what can we do to fuel “smart”? – Mark B.
Like a high-performance sports car, our bodies are complex and require a well-combined high-octane fuel to perform effectively and efficiently. What we often overlook when trying to lose weight or eat healthier is that the food we eat isn’t just calories to burn.
Food is the standard nutrition required for the cells in our body to function at a basic level. These cells make up our brain, blood, systems, muscles, organs, and tissues, etc. When we starve to lose weight we starve the engines in our cells. When we indulge on sweets we overload our cells with too much fuel. Either situation can be detrimental to our overall health and weight, just like an empty gas tank or a flooded engine is temporarily detrimental to a car’s performance.
I suggest the analogy of the high-octane gas required to fuel a sports car as a guiding principle for loading our bodies with quality nutrition because the food we eat has a direct impact on our body’s performance. In other words, without knowing the value of nutrition, putting food in our mouths only to gain energy (or lose weight, feed an emotion, indulge an addiction), is akin to putting soda in our fuel tank only because it’s an amber-colored liquid.
The main ingredient in our high-octane fuel is sugar, but not from refined or sugar substitutes that are found in many processed foods or simple carbohydrates; the type of sugar our cells require for optimal fuel is found in fruits and vegetables.
Unfortunately, our typical intake of refined sugar is much higher than what we actually need, and our bodies have become used to that high level. Therefore, when our sugar levels get low, we crave more sugar. Many of us find that we physically and mentally crave sugars after high-carb meals while some of us crave sugars in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, or especially for desert. The physical craving, which is a response for fuel from our cells, can be managed by decreasing our refined and alternative sugar intakes, and replacing those sugars with ones found in fruits and vegetables. This one small shift can make a profound difference in our weight and our blood sugar levels.
The mental cravings are a conditioned response that we experience, triggered by many variables. One can be simply the time of day, for example the time span between lunch and dinner is when we find that we crave something the most. Another variable is the external stress that we put upon ourselves such as not watching our daily protein-fat-carb balance, being dehydrated, sleep deprived or not exercising. An additional variable includes internal stresses such as an addiction to sugar (or anything) due to emotional stress, unresolved conflict, the need for control, or feeling unworthy to look and feel good, for example. Fortunately many of these variables can be managed by being mindful of how we live, eat, move and nourish ourselves.
Here’s an experiment to try for the following week, one that could help fight those pesky sugar cravings while fueling the body with optimal nutrition. Pick one or two a day to practice, and observe how they impact energy levels and cravings:
- Eat a breakfast high in protein
- Eat more fruits and veggies with each meal.
- Drink more water throughout the day.
- Get the sleep that your body needs (naps and meditation are complimentary actions for more and better rest.)
- Take a walk, work out or do yoga – doing any kind of exercise will expend energy, which, in return, promotes more restful sleep.
- Practice a form of artistic or spiritual expression.
Have a nutrition question for Kris? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org