5 ways to eat less sugar, for good

When I told you about my top 5 secrets for keeping fit over 50, I left one out. I learned how to eat less sugar. A lot less.

I didn’t leave it out on purpose. It goes along with my focus on whole plants (#5). But with the number of inquiries I get from women who want help in doing the same, it really deserves a deeper dive.

My goal is not to argue for less sugar. I’ve made the decision and my desire is to help others who want to do the same. If you’d like to do the research, here are two resources to get you started: Sugar and Cardiovascular Disease and Does Sugar Lead to Weight Gain.

To be clear, I’m talking about added sugars. Not those naturally occurring in a food. The cool thing is that nutrition labels now highlight added sugars compared to total sugars for processed foods. Super helpful.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

If you want to learn how to eat less sugar, try these five things:

  1. Get the majority of sweetness in your diet from whole plants. These natural sugars have less effect on your dopamine levels, helping to keep your consumption of these foods in balance. (E.g. ever notice that once you eat a cookie, you crave another? But you probably never crave a second or third banana or bowl of strawberries. One suffices.) My favorite “dessert” is 2-3 dates dipped in almond butter.
  2. Choose unsweetened beverages. Sodas and juices pack a huge amount of sugar per serving. Try a tasty cinnamon tea (my clients love this) or one of the many sparkling waters with a fruity essence. If you drink alcohol, here’s a helpful graphic to see the sugar content of various drinks.
  3. Make the switch. Beyond the obvious baked goods and candy, identify what you eat regularly that contains added sugars and consider switching to something with less (or no) sugar. Yogurt can be healthy, but sugar content varies widely among varieties and brands. My choice is plain, greek yogurt to which I add my own fruit. For peanut butter I always choose unsweetened (just like the peanut itself!). For bread and cereals, I look for those with the least added sugars. I really like Ezekiel products.
  4. Beware the condiment. Foods like ketchup, barbeque sauce, pasta sauce and salad dressings can have more sugar than you’d expect. Find options and brands that help you limit your intake. I tried a plant based recipe recently that called for a sauce I hadn’t tried before. Upon discovering the first ingredient was sugar, I decided to be creative and exchange it for something else. It was delicious.
  5. Stop fantasizing. If a client tells me how hard it is to not eat sugar and how much she loves something (like ice cream, cookies, etc.) I know she’s in for a long haul. Unless she stops ogling all the sweets. I can relate. I used to do it. I’d see something and tell myself how good it would taste. Especially something with chocolate. Or buttercream frosting. Or my afternoon cafe mocha. But all that thinking about sweets – and that I deserved it, of course – only made me desire it more. Start fantasizing about what you really want. Sugar is a disappointing substitute.

There you have it, five ways to eat less sugar. Once you put these steps into play it becomes easier, almost automated. Take it at a pace you can manage. Pick one thing and master it. Then go to the next. If you can do several at once, go for it. The most important thing is to keep at the forefront of your mind that this is a lifestyle. That you are discovering a new way of eating and being. Now, go fantasize about that.

My Top 5 Secrets For Keeping Fit Over 50

My Top 5 Secrets For Keeping Fit Over 50

At 40, I recall looking at a picture of myself at 32. I was on the beach in Ensenada with a few girlfriends for my bachelorette party, wearing a tankini. Dang, I looked good. But you know what? I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It wasn’t good enough.

It was during my forties that I gradually re-framed my thoughts on aging. And when I hit 50, it somehow clicked into place. I dropped the last 10 lbs. And I want to share with you how I keep fit over 50:

  1. Exercise is a genuine habit. It’s not something I try to fit in. It’s part of my lifestyle. I do it five to six days a week, barring significant illness or injury. Even then, I can usually do something. (E.g. I injured my foot a couple of months ago and walking was difficult. I figured out the strength exercises I could manage and did them M-F for a few weeks while my foot healed.) I’ve developed the identity of a regular exerciser.
  2. I got serious about strength training. It’s not my favorite and even when I was a personal trainer in the 90s most of my personal exercise routine consisted of cardio. Mentally, I had to decide it was a priority to build and preserve my muscle mass so that I could be strong and healthy for the next 50. This was no longer about wearing a bikini (which never provided the motivation I needed). 
  3. Stretching is a necessity if I want to feel good. I have a routine I do every morning that consists of a few things I learned at a Kundalini Yoga retreat mixed in with some standard stretches. At night I do a couple moves to loosen my hip joints and anything else that needs it. If I’m sitting a lot during the day, I get up and stretch my chest, hip flexors and neck. 
  4. I’m totally okay with feeling hungry. For most of my life, I ate the moment I felt any bit of hunger. Like I was afraid to get too hungry (with good reason…it feels terrible and leads me to overeat). But I’ve learned enough about the cues to know when I genuinely need to eat and when I can wait (which is most of the time). Instead of eating soon after waking, I’m able to wait 2-3 hours. I no longer snack between breakfast and lunch. And I’m done with food at dinner. No more after-dinner snacking. Even the “healthy” kind. 
  5. Whole plants are the priority in my diet. I’m always looking for ways to get more into my day. And I always seek to trade out refined carbohydrates for whole grains. Even when animal protein is on the menu, I add plants. Like when we have eggs and sausage on a Saturday morning, you can bet a sweet potato, avocado, salsa and grapefruit are on the plate, too. At a Thai restaurant I’m trading out white for brown rice and my protein is tofu. Dessert for me is a couple of dates dipped in almond butter. Because my mind is focused on plants, it feels abnormal to not eat them. 

These habits did not start out feeling natural. I’m not someone who grew up in an athletic, or even active, family. I don’t get a high from exercise (they say it exists, but I have yet to find it). I used to think stretching was unproductive (even though I knew better). There was a time I felt deprived if I didn’t have a little dark chocolate every night. And a time when I regularly told myself I was “starving” and needed a snack. 

My Top 5 Secrets For Keeping Fit Over 50
Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

What I really want you to know is, I created a lifestyle that’s thoroughly enjoyable! I curated habits that feel good. I’m not rigid, but I don’t slack off. This isn’t a drudgery. It’s how I’ve learned to enjoy food and love life. 

And you can do the same. In a way that works well for you. That feels good to you. That you genuinely enjoy. 

Have questions? Let’s talk

Top 3 Ways to Lose Weight When Everything Fails

Lose Weight When Everything Fails

I know it feels hard. To try again to lose weight when everything fails. It probably seems like you’ve tried it all.

Keto. Check.

CrossFit. Check.

Vegan. Check.

HIIT. Check.

Running. Check.

Moderation. Check.

And the list goes on…

It’s at this point you likely feel defeated. Hesitant to try again. Doubtful it will work this time. 

But I promise. You’re poised to turn it around. 

Lose Weight When Everything Fails
Photo by Alexandra Tran on Unsplash

You can take all your failures and use them to succeed. And here are the top three ways to do that:

  • Keep the Good: Reflect on all the diets and food plans, gym memberships and exercise equipment, apps and smart watches you’ve used. Ask yourself what you liked and what worked well for you. What foods keep you satisfied longer, stabilize your blood sugar, and taste good? Which exercises challenge you, feel good to your body, and are fairly enjoyable? What time of day is best for your energy and schedule to do things like meditate, meal prep, and exercise? Make a list of all these things you want to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle.
  • Dump the Rest: Foods you hate? Exercise you dread? Apps that harass you? These all contributed to past failures. If carb counting makes you cranky, stop doing it. If attending meetings is annoying, find another form of support. Trying to follow rules that don’t fit your lifestyle is a set up for failure. Remember, you can use willpower for just so long. Eventually it runs out and you’ll stop. “Nothing works” you think. “I’ve failed again” you say. Not true – it was just a square peg/round hole fiasco. 
  • Identify Patterns: What else took your healthy habits off track? Was it late-night treats while watching Netflix? Working late? Mid-afternoon snacking? Never met a cookie…cake, chip, licorice whip, cheese stick…you didn’t like? Hitting the snooze button? Staying up too late? Not saying “no” to others when they offer food? Take each pattern and break down the trigger for each one. Then decide how to either remove or address that trigger in the future.  

That’s how you lose weight when everything fails. You use those failures to set yourself up for success by creating habits around the foods, exercise and motivational tools that work well for you. You stop beating yourself up for not eating/doing all the things you hate but feel like you “should” do. You prepare for challenges and learn how to prevent or overcome them. 

Failure is only failure when you stop. Otherwise it’s simply a lesson. 

And know that the lessons keep coming. There’s never a point of perfection where you have it all handled. But as you learn the lessons, it gets easier. If you keep going, never accepting failure as a reason to stop, you will lose weight when everything fails. 

And hey, my FREE Back on Track Challenge starts soon. You can sign up here.

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