Balance (and 5 top tips!)
I can remember the days when I used to drag myself out of bed and struggle through the day feeling so frustrated that I had so much I wanted to do and be a part of but I just couldn’t summon up the physical or mental energy to do them.
If that sounds at all familiar then let me paint a picture of how my life used to be and you see how much of it it sounds like your day.
Does this story like you?
I used to drag myself out of bed most mornings feeling completely exhausted and then grab my first strong coffee of the day because I knew that it would kick start my energy enough to get me to work.
I'd regularly wake up with a headache and feel very low for no reason I could put my finger on and even before I’d left the house I’d be irritable and snappy with my family.
Once I got to work I'd be fine for the first hour or so but then the irritability and moodiness would kick in again and I'd begin to struggle to concentrate or remember information that I needed.
I'd instinctively put the kettle on for another coffee and raid the office cupboards for a chocolate bar or some biscuits and within a short time I'd feel fine again – happy and alert.
I often planned to skip lunch as I desperately wanted to lose weight for a holiday or special event but instead I'd end up with plain salad bowl from the canteen with a cup of tea because I figured it wouldn’t add to the weight I wanted to lose from around my midriff – apple-shaped they called it and I didn’t understand why my waist band was expanding.
It all felt like such a mystery; I'd skip meals, count calories, keep my portion sizes really small and yet the weight kept creeping up!
The first hour after lunch was always fine but then I'd became increasingly sluggish and by 3pm I'd feel exhausted again. My eyelids were heavy, I was struggling to concentrate and it was all I could do to keep my head off the desk!
Another coffee with a chocolate bar and a packet of crisps always woke me up though and would give me enough energy to finish the day.
On the way home I often stopped off at the supermarket to get food for dinner and although I’d had every intention to cook a home-made meal that night, when it came to it, I just couldn’t summon up enough energy so I'd grab oven chips and chicken dippers (again) and vow to do better tomorrow.
Finally my evening would be spent slumped in front of the TV with a glass of wine and some ‘well-deserved chocolate’.
Sound familiar? If so then Like me, you may have found it easy to slip into guilt, anger or frustration at yourself and into thoughts like ‘I’m useless’ and ‘I’m a failure’.
But I discover it's nothing to do with any of that. Something else was going on…..
I had a rollercoaster of blood glucose levels - highs and lows of blood sugar that sent me careering through my day, dragging me up and down with it.
I learnt how to switch things around in my day, to eat and drink the right things at the right times in order to balance my blood sugars so that I could have steady supply of energy throughout the day, right up to bedtime!
Here's how you can get off that rollercoaster too and regain your energy!
First understand what’s happening:
Too much sugar is getting into your blood stream all in one go sending your sugar levels sky high, making you feel energised but this is short-lived as it’s followed (after an hour or so) by plummeting sugar levels and as they fall, exhaustion, moodiness, poor concentration etc kick in.
The body’s fuel is glucose (sugar) just like a car runs on petrol and sugar comes from many different sources ranging from table sugar (granulated, caster, icing etc) through to the natural sugars in grains, fruit and milk. And just like a car, the body needs a slow but steady supply of fuel in order to run well all day which is depicted by the green undulating line in the diagram below. That line spells energy, alertness and stable moods.
However, foods or drinks high in sugar (including fruit juices and white bread/rice/pasta) inject too much sugar all at once; depicted by the red line below.
The red line leads to:
Weight gain around the middle
Other factors that can cause sugar spikes:
They trigger a stress response in the body that releases sugar from the body’s stores into the blood stream so even if your morning coffee doesn’t have any added sugar, it can still raise your blood sugar too quickly.
Why is this a problem? After all more sugar is more fuel right? So I should be even more energised.
Take a look back at the diagram – the red line has risen above the black lines that are marking out the safe zone; above or below that and the levels are dangerous and if left unchecked would actually kill you!
However, the body is perfectly equipped to deal with the sugar surges that naturally follow a meal or a snack but only as long as there is not continually too much sugar day after day.
The hormone, insulin is released into the blood stream and it’s job is to push the sugar into the body’s cells to be converted to fuel and it pushes any excess sugar into fat cells to be stored as fat hence the weight gain around the middle.
So insulin brings that dangerous level of sugar down in the blood but unfortunately overcompensates and brings the level down to below the black safety line to a low sugar level where the symptoms emerge and a craving kicks in for something sugary or caffeinated to make you feel better.
All this excess sugar means a lot of extra work for insulin but your pancreas will continue to pump insulin out for as long as it can to keep you safe but eventually this system will seriously struggle to meet the high demand either because the pancreas gives up or the body cells stop listening to insulin and won’t take the sugar.
Time to make a change!
If you carry on eating and living the same way you will continue to get the same tired result but make a few key changes and just watch your energy levels improve.
Just think what a difference it could make to your life, your relationships and your sense of fulfillment to have your energy back to really enjoy each day, meet daily challenges head on and to finally feel back in control…. that’s your motivation to make the changes!
Five Steps to Balancing Your Blood Sugar Levels
A few key changes to your food and lifestyle choices can make a fantastic difference to how you feel each day and for many it all starts with balancing your blood sugar levels. The highs and lows of sugar rushes followed by sugar lows are robbing many of their energy and feelings of wellbeing.
Struggle with exhaustion, moodiness or sugar cravings? Try out these tips below and feel the difference.
1. Cut down the amount of sugar you’re consuming
We are drowning in sugar! Have you noticed? One hundred years ago the average person consumed 2lbs of sugar a year. Want to guess what the average guy is consuming now? …. can be 150lbs per year! I think drowning is the only appropriate word for that.
Problem is, apart from the obvious sugary foods and drinks, sugar is also hidden in the most unlikely places – tinned soups, beans, vegetables, bottled sauces, flavoured yoghurts, breads, fat-free or low-fat products.
Fruit juice has an alarming amount of natural sugar; some have 10 teaspoons of sugar!
Much better to eat the whole fruit as it contains fibre which will slow down the fruit’s natural sugar entering your blood stream. You may not have given any thought to your daily take-away coffee but check out this report for some shocking news about the amount of sugar in coffee shop drinks! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35593007
Start checking ingredients labels and find the number of sugar listed in grams and note that every 4g equals a teaspoon of sugar. Start to make some swops i.e. swop a flavoured yoghurt (about 4 tsp) for plain, bio yoghurt and add your own fruit to it.
If you have a very developed sweet tooth, this is going to sound like torture and at first everything will seem tasteless without a load of sugar in it but if you persevere you will find that your taste buds change and you actually start to taste the other flavours of food perhaps for the first time.
A recent attendee of my Live Well 4 Good course reported that within a week of cutting out a lot of the sugar from her diet, her sugar cravings had subsided and she noticed that some foods tasted too sweet now. So be encouraged, you may make the change quicker than you may think.
2. Include protein to every meal and snack
Protein takes longer to digest and will slow down how fast any sugar will get into your blood stream.
Protein is found not only in meat but also in fish, whole grains, quinoa ‘keen-wa’ (cook like rice), eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, soy foods such as tofu and dairy products.
Think about your breakfast, lunch and snacks; these are the areas that protein often doesn’t get a look in. Try unflavoured yoghurt or eggs for breakfast and add tinned fish, eggs or lean meat to a lunchtime salad.
Vegetarians need to team grains and pulses to get complete protein, an example would be oat cakes (grain) and humous (chickpeas) or a bean chilli (pulses) and brown rice (grain).
All the above make great snacks too or you can try protein bars with no refined sugar added such as Primal Pantry bars and Nakd bars or even better, try making your own.
3. Replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains
Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and white pasta have been stripped of their fibre (along with most of their nutrients) leaving just starch which converts to sugar speedily when eaten and will raise your blood sugar levels as effectively as a spoonful of sugar.
So choose whole grain pasta and brown rice and try other whole grains such as oats, barley, millet and quinoa because these will provide a slower, steadier release of sugar into the blood stream.
Wholemeal bread is also a whole grain choice but make sure it’s ‘wholemeal’ and not just ‘brown’.
4. Don’t skip meals – especially breakfast
If you have rollercoastering blood sugar levels, skipping meals can make things worse by causing your blood sugar to drop too low. This can then lead to sugar cravings to get a quick boost and off you go on the rollercoaster again.
Make sure you have a protein based breakfast and then regular meals during the day and if you have a gap of more than 4 hours between those meals then add in a protein based snack.
5. Try a chromium or L-Glutamine supplement.
The mineral chromium helps maintain normal blood glucose levels so taking a chromium supplement, either on its own or combined with other vitamins and minerals, can provide extra support while you get your blood sugar levels bacon balance.
L-Glutamine can help eliminate sugar cravings as explained in Dr Briffa’s great book ‘Waist Disposal’; a teaspoon of L-Glutamine powder in a bottle of water and sipped throughout the day.
Chromium can also help to eliminate cravings for sugar – a past attendee of our Live Well 4 Good course found that her sugar cravings went within a week of starting chromium so may be worth a try.
Please note: If you are on any medication please check with your GP or Pharmacist first to make sure you’re ok to take a chromium or L-Glutamine supplement.