So, I have this trick. I basically discovered it by accident. I have a thyroid disease and my body is really sensitive to a lot of refined foods with high sugars, food additives, chemicals and colors (ok, that’s not the trick!). I’m on full replacement for my thyroid activity and will be the rest of my life. So with that comes the necessity for me to eat a lot of whole foods and lower-sugar items.
As I was in process of getting my mind and body back on track after my last kiddo was born in October 2009, I learned slowly over time what my body liked and disliked. Basically my body’s filters are super sensitive and they let me know what I can tolerate. It changes from time to time, but generally speaking I can tolerate very LITTLE of: alcohol, sugars, and dairy.
I can, however, enjoy whole grains, red meat, vegetables, and love to eat salts and fats (pizza, burgers, and chips!) and my body does not pitch a lot of inflammation and water retention with those items. So I eat those guilt-free in my macros and love that my body uses it to my benefit (mentally and physically!) Of course I do enjoy sugar, it’s just that I don’t wear it very well. Too much of it makes me sleepy, causes me to crave more, and makes me really bloated and soft on my physique.
Here was the discovery by accident: At the beginning of my 2014 building season coming out of contest prep, I was very insulin sensitive. That means I had had very little sugar in my diet for the past 24 weeks prior, so any higher amounts of sugar would spike my insulin and really offset my hormonal balance. I was adding more calories into my diet each week and was not anywhere close to the stage, so my food choices were more liberal.
I really went OPPOSITE of the ways I had been following in the past: I was eating more dairy to grasp the muscle-building proteins. I was studying in a bakery and enjoying their homemade treats a few times a week. I also discovered Kombucha, what I thought was a good choice for my system at the time (but now I know my body would convert it to the similarity of processing alcohol!). However, as I got lax in my food choices and ate more sugar from a variety of sources, I craved more and I got HUNGRIER and the scale ticked, ticked, ticked up!
“Oh, good,” I thought, “My metabolism is roaring!” and “Bring on the muscle gains!”
What was actually happening was that I had skewed my hormones with the spike in sugar and my insulin levels were trying to balance out. It then threw off my hunger signals and there were times I just could not get full. I seemed hungrier and hungrier the more I ate and I found myself in small times of binge mode, which was not a good habit to get into! In time I was able to choose sugar less often and my body became more balanced hormonally.
I was able to take back control because most importantly, I learned what was really happening. I had become a student of me!
So once I got an awareness and control of my hunger, I had already put on weight pretty fast about three months into my 2014-15 build season. At that point, I had then realized I had to slowly reintroduce sugar into my system and eat it in small, not large doses. In time I was able to tolerate more sugar, but eventually I realized that was not what was most optimal for me.
So in the Spring of 2015, when it came time to start my contest prep for my summer competition season, I was starting at a weight of 153. That was a size and feeling more than I wanted to be. The header picture at left is me marching down in weight over time, weighing at 136 in late July, slowly ridding my body of the off-season, higher-sugar eats. You can see how my leanness revealed in my stage pictures (at the right below) and at the posing clinic shot (September 14th), the further I got from sugar more prevalent in my diet. More importantly, I FEEL better, too!
So now as I write this in the fall of 2015, I’m also coming off of a long contest-prep mode and my sugar intake has been very minimal since April 2015. In fact, after my winter stint with the “Mindy sugar experiment”, I discovered in the late summer that I have a candida overgrowth in my GI tract because somewhere along the way I had more sugar than this body could handle and it threw off my system’s homeostasis. Thankfully I’m currently being treated for that with some meds and an elimination diet…..what a relief! However, to keep the balance, in time, I’m planning to still eat sugar very minimally and in small doses (such as an occasional chocolate ice cream!)
As of October 1, I am now weighing in at 127-128, very near my stage weight. It is my goal NOT to yo-yo back up to the weight in the 140s and 150s ever again, but rather keep my weight around 128-132 at max, a very healthy range for my 5’6″ frame. That said, I’ll still have to keep my sugar intake to a minimum, as I know that is what really causes my system to get off kilter.
How do I plan to use sugar in my diet?
I track my foods on My Fitness Pal daily and follow macronutrient guidelines (carbs, fats, and proteins) from my Coach Brooke Erickson Fitness. My focus is to keep my daily sugars below 25 grams from ALL sources 90% of the time. So that means I look at the total sugar impact on my system from dairy, grains, vegetables, fruits, and added sugars (sweets and baked goods). 90% of the time I’m eating one-ingredient, whole foods and therefore the sugar content is pretty low.
In the 10% range, when I’m dining out, enjoying some special occasion foods, or having a treat, I’ll allow my sugars to go above the 25 gram mark in a day’s time. This is my way of keeping my insulin levels in check and making sure my weight stays in my goal range.
Additionally, I watch my fiber and water intake like a hawk. I aim for fiber to be 25-40 grams per day from all sources. I’d say I don’t even eat the vegetable load that I used to intake because honestly my digestive tract doesn’t tolerate it like it used to. Instead I’m getting the bulk of my fiber from whole grains like oats, oat bran, Ezekiel bread and muffins, and the occasional Quest Bar.
My water intake is 128 ounces a day and I usually supplement that with an additional 60 ounces of black tea and black coffee, sweetened by stevia. Those are my calorie-free treats and keep me mentally sane!
Overall, having a lower-sugar diet year round is helpful on so many levels, and more to just the physique. Yes I’m leaner and yes my weight is lower. Ultimately I’m stronger, have better mental clarity and a healthier immune system. too. All that in combination with my physique goals make a low-sugar lifestyle a win win for me!
Although it may sound opposite of what I’m saying, I’m not anti-sugar. I’m just pro-awareness to the foods we’re eating. I’m about taking a look at habits and routines and really diving into what’s in the food we eat on a daily basis and then choosing what IS most optimal for our systems. It’s not the treats here and there in our 10-20% that really impact our wellness and physique goals. It’s the foods we eat day in and day out in our 80-90% that have the compound effect on our systems. My little sugar stint from the winter of 2014-15 is a good reminder to me and others of how quickly a body can be impacted by a diet with frequent sugars!
Lowering sugar will make an impact on your leanness AND your strength, mentally and physically. Whole-person wellness, now THAT is the ultimate goal!