Most of us are unaware of the fact that sugars are hidden in most of today’s processed foods. JJ Virgin, a nutritionist, fitness trainer, and an author has written a book which will help us understand how sugars are hidden in processed foods. This book also offers many practical advises on how to wean yourself from this extremely unhealthy ingredient.
In the book, titled, “JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 Sugars to Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks”, she is trying to clear up the confusion regarding sugar. According to JJ Virgin, most people wrongly believe that as long as the sugar is all-natural, it’s fine to eat.
A very big problem is that many of us don’t know that natural fruit juice, raw cane sugar, agave and all of the other natural sugars can also cause serious harm to the health.
“Sugar is really public enemy number one,” she said. “That’s why I chose to focus on it. I don’t think added sugar is really the problem; I think it’s what’s in a lot of our food that we don’t recognize as (sugar).”
“I wanted to create a structured program that could help someone break free of those sugar cravings, drop the weight forever, and then let them go back and [do a food] challenge… in order to connect the dots between what happens when they drink one of those big fruit smoothies that are supposed to be so healthy.”
According to JJ, all types of sugar are the same for the body, regardless if they come from a smoothie, a muffin, or a fruit juice-sweetened yogurt. For JJ Virgin, “Food is information”. And she’s completely right.
If you manage to solve the problem of sugar cravings, (don’t forget that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine!), your energy levels will greatly increase and you will enhance your mental clarity. But in order to achieve this, you will need to teach your body to burn fat as its primary fuel, instead of sugar. JJ’s book will help you deal with this challenge since it addresses the gradual process of getting from burning sugar to burning fat as your body’s primary form of fuel.
“There’s got to be a transition period, where you go from sugar burner to getting your body to be able to start to burn fat again, You have to taper down from where your starting point is, which is what I call a Sneaky Sugar Inventory, of things you would never think about (like sundried tomatoes and marinara sauce) that we’re just using like crazy not realizing how much sugar this is actually adding into our food.”
In order to determine your starting point, it is recommended to measure your body weight, as well as your waist-to-hip ratio. Then, make your own research about the hidden sugars found in the foods you eat. This means that you should read the labels of all of the foods, including the food items for which you don’t expect to have any amount of sugar (example: sauces, condiments, marinades, a jar of pickles etc.).
JJ has detected the presence of sugar in many food items, and she has even invented what she calls “Sugar Impact Scales”, which provides a completely new way of looking at sugar.
“It looks at fructose grams, glycemic load, nutrient density, and fiber. Bad are fructose and glycemic load; good are nutrient density and fiber. Depending on where the food falls, it can either be low, medium, or high-sugar impact”, she explains.
The reason this was so important to me is I keep looking at programs out there, and they either focus on fructose… glycemic index, or glycemic load.
That can be very confusing because it makes things like agave sweetener look great. It makes milk look great… People go, ‘We should have fructose because fructose is low on the glycemic index.’
The difference between fructose and glucose is fructose doesn’t trigger the whole insulin response. Because of that, it doesn’t trigger insulin, leptin, or ghrelin, so it doesn’t tell your body you ate anything. Instead, it just goes to the liver. If there’s no room for it to become glycogen… it starts becoming fat.
You look at that and you go, ‘Okay, food is information. What does fructose say?’ It says, ‘Hey, make fat but don’t tell us we ate. Stay hungry.’ What a nightmare!”
There are many signs which suggest that your diet is rich in sugar. Some of the most common symptoms include bloating, gas, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, sugar cravings, and inability to lose weight.
You can get a clearer picture of how sugar affects your body if you evaluate these symptoms and track your hip, waist, and body weight. This will also help you to determine the progress in terms of retraining your body to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel.
· The Three Cycles of the Sugar Impact Diet
The first cycle lasts for two weeks. During this period, you will need to replace the high sugar impact foods with medium sugar impact foods. For example, you should replace regular pasta with quinoa pasta. Furthermore, she also recommends to schedule the meals and increase the time between meals in order to prevent insulin spikes. After the end of the two-week period, you will need to perform the sugar impact quiz in order to determine your results. You will certainly experience a reduction in your symptoms if you have followed the diet plan strictly.
If your symptoms are reduced, you should start with the second cycle, in which you will reclaim your sugar sensitivity (or in other words: your ability to taste how sweet a food really is).
“What I’m doing is I’m getting rid of all of the fructose. We’re getting down to five grams or less [per day], just as low as possible because you don’t want your body to be good at processing fructose. One thing we know is that the more fructose you eat, the better you get at handling fructose, which means the faster it goes to your liver, the faster you start making fat, and the more fat you make”.
If someone’s used to eating fruit, they eat more fruit, they eat more fruit, and they can handle it. If you never eat any fruit, and you ate a bunch of fruit, you’d be bloated, you’d be gassy, and it’d be horrible. I take fruit out altogether except for things like lemons, limes, avocado, tomato, and olives. And we go down to all low-sugar impact foods. But you’re still eating great stuff. You’re eating wild salmon, grass-fed beef, kale, avocado, nuts and seeds, a little quinoa, legumes, and lentils.”
During the second cycle of the program, most people will be able to make the shift from burning sugar to burning fat as primary fuel in a couple of weeks. However, in a case of insulin or leptin resistance, this change will require more time.
“The reason it can happen so fast is number one, you’ve got to do that initial one-week [taper] period,” she explains. “Whenever you look at a program, you want to jump right into the most intense part, but you can’t because you’ll fail.”
In the third cycle, you can start to introduce some medium or even high sugar impact foods again. At that point, many people will feel overwhelmed by the sweetness. Some of them may even feel bloated or ill by foods that are rich in sugar. For that reason, the psychological grip of sweet foods will reduce, and you will not want to experience that horrible feeling again.
In addition to this, sweet cravings can be reduced even more with regular consumption of sour foods, such as fermented vegetables. Another benefit of fermented vegetables is their ability to improve gut health.
“It’s a sweet tooth strategy. One of the things that I do in these books is I try to keep it simple and give people simple strategies. But I’m always thinking, “How am I healing their gut with this? How am I improving their gut flora? How are we reducing inflammation?”
· Healthy Snack Alternatives
There are many foods that can satisfy the occasional hunger pangs. Nuts, especially macadamia nuts, or pecans, are one of the best options because:
- They contain high amount of good fat, oleic acid, which is similar to olive oil, and
- They are low in protein, which means that you won’t consume the whole recommended daily amount of protein in a few handful of nuts.
Other healthy alternatives include dehydrated kale chips and roasted Brussels sprouts.
· The Maintenance Phase
Nowadays, most people are burning sugar as their primary fuel. In order to check for yourself, you should observe how often you feel hungry. If you are hungry every two hours, it means that your body burns sugar. Your food cravings occur because sugar is burning very fast, and your hunger is a clear sign that your body needs to be refueled again. If your body burns fat as its primary fuel, you can easily go five hours or ever longer without feeling hungry. This occurs because the body needs more time to burn fat.
If your body burns fat instead of sugar, you will completely eliminate your sugar cravings.
Some of you may also ask themselves the following questions:
- How long do I need to continue eating in this way?
- How does maintenance look like?
“The maintenance phase is different from the weight loss phase. It’s like dating and marriage. Totally different beasts, right? During the maintenance phase—for weight loss—it’s about setting new goals and doing different fitness activities. The biggest thing that I want someone to do is to connect the dots between what they’re eating and how they feel. It’s to lose that sweet tooth that they had and reclaim their sugar sensitivity so they really say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s how sweet a blueberry really is.”
During the maintenance phase, you’ve got to mix up your exercise; you’ve got to mix up your food… Food is information. You want your food to tell your body to burn fat, not sugar, keep steady energy, great focus, and reduce inflammation. It’s the same with exercise. Exercise can be therapeutic or destructive. I do no endurance training at all. I do not believe in endurance training. I did so much endurance training [when I was younger, yet] I was always slightly overweight. I was never lean.”
JJ also recommends to choose high-intensity interval-type exercises instead of endurance training since endurance training is one of the least effective forms of exercise for weight loss. She also noted that high-intensity exercises are not necessarily linked to the burning of calories. Instead of that, they cause metabolic changes that improve your overall health and lead to muscle growth and increased fat burning. These changes do not occur when you perform endurance training such as long-distance running. She also strongly recommends exercising in a fasted state because it is really helpful in repairing, restoring, and rejuvenating the muscle tissues.
Furthermore, she also says that you should experiment in order to find out what is the best for you, depending on your fitness and weight loss goals:
“I kind of play with both of them. Because if you eat a little bit before you work out, you can generally work out harder. If you’re doing resistance training, a lot of times you’re better off having a little bit [of food] before. If you’re doing burst training, ideally here’s what you would do: on burst-training days, do it first thing in the morning. It doesn’t take long anyway. It’s 15 minutes at the most. Ideally, do that a couple of mornings a week, two or three mornings a week. You do your resistance training two times a week, have a little bit of food before; have something really good afterward, and you’re set.”
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