SPRING! FINALLY! It’s that time of year again here in Massachusetts where people actually decide to start smiling again. (Just this morning, someone held a door open for me AND said hello. Whaaaaat?)
The sun is shining brighter, the birds are waking earlier, and it’s getting warmer and warmer with each day that passes.
You know what this also means?
Dairy Queen is open.
Ice cream shops are unlocking their doors and dusting out the winter cobwebs. Dunkin Donuts is finishing up their final marketing campaigns for their Summer 2019 frozen drinks.
Advertisements are beginning to depict people both young and old, sitting by a pool, living the life, sipping on cute little umbrella drinks.
You’re just coming down from your New Year’s resolutions which may have lasted a month or two and you remember, “Oh, sh*t. Only a couple months left to get that summer bod I wanted!”
But that Dairy Queen commercial just ended – you know, that one where the blizzards are basically screaming at you, saying, “I AM SUMMER FOOD!” and now all you want is to indulge in a rich, creamy, cold cup of sugar.
As soon as spring hits, marketing and advertising take the warm weather excitement and make it their b*tch.
“Real fruit juice, real refreshing!” “What’s better than this frozen treat on a hot summer day? Nothing!” “Sip in the chocolately graham crackery flavor of summer!”
You get the point.
Meanwhile, you sit in front of your television watching these hip, fit, attractive young people who appear to be insanely happy, head over heels in love, or so relaxed to the point where you can’t tell if they’re dead or just chilling.
The coffee dances around the ice as it’s slowly poured into the cup. The ice cream twirls beautifully around and around to make the perfect cone in the entire world. The palm trees sway back and forth as the hott ass bartender winks and pours the daiquiri into a luscious coconut.
Your mouth begins to water without you even realizing it and that’s when it hits you. “I need one. Right now.”
Woah, wait a second! What happened between the moment the horrifyingly sad Sarah McLachlan commercial started and that Dunkin Donuts commercial ended?
How did you go from scrolling through Petfinder, crying your eyes out to grabbing your keys and asking Siri where the closest 24-hour Dunkies is? “I NEED THAT COOLATA! DID YOU SEE THOSE COOKIE CHUNKS?!”
I’ll tell you what happened. This transfer of our feelings from one set of items to another is called affective conditioning. You were brainwashed. In other words, you weren’t aware that affective conditioning was happening to you. Most ads take part in this. Otherwise, how would they sell anything?
BUT, affective conditioning mixed with an ad that is promoting something filled with refined sugar is a different animal altogether.
You watch tons of commercials and ads each day. A swarm of people carrying their tailgates up a hill in exchange for the new Sierra, Flo being even more annoying than you ever thought she could be, and Tide working its magic on the nastiest of white tees.
However, your brain and your body respond differently to a snickers bar breaking in half, someone chugging Lipton iced tea in the hot sun, or swirly creamy ice cream falling so delicately into a sugar cone.
Why is this?
Well, for one thing, you experience physiological responses when faced with ads promoting sugar because sugar is sort of like a drug and you’re a little bit of an addict.
Ok, maybe you’re a lot a bit of an addict.
But why am I even talking about sugar?
Because if there’s one thing I want you to take away from any of my blogs, it’s the fact that you will never live your best, conscious life if you can’t control what you’re putting into your own body.
Take a quick second to just check out how your brain reacts to sugar:
Interesting, right? This is the stuff that’s not advertised on television or billboards.
Believe it or not, studies show that intermittent access to sugar can lead to behavioral and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. Some will even argue that sugar is the most dangerous drug of our time given the effects it has and how easily accessible it is.
“But if sugar is so bad, then why is it in everything?”
“Why does the media make it seem like it’s so harmless?”
“Have I been brainwashed into thinking that sugar makes me happy? Because I’m DAMN HAPPY when I’m crushing ice cream and chugging drinks on a hot summer’s night.”
I don’t doubt that you’re happy when you’re consuming sugar. In fact, I know you’re happy and smiling and enjoying every morsel because, well, it tastes damn good. I also know it makes you happy because processed sugar also increases endorphins that can boost mood and provide a temporary chemical “high”.
This processed sugar (also known as sucrose – look for this on ingredient labels) causes significant spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. What this means is that you experience the high and then, later on, you come crashing down.
Ok, so we saw how sugar affects the brain. Now, how does sugar affect your body?
Let’s see, shall we?
Excess sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. It has also been linked to feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
This video is wild. (5 minutes)
Did that freak you out? Because it should have. Sugar is crazy addicting but even scarier, it is in almost everything we eat! Even when it says “sugar-free” on the package!
Sugar comes in many forms. Keep an eye out for the following forms of sugar on all ingredient labels: glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, starch, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, raw sugar, and honey. Our brains and bodies have the same reaction to all of these because they are all another name for “sugar.”
Added sugars can be hiding in things you least expect such as…
wine, alcohol, yogurt, sauces, dried fruit, granola bars, ketchup, canned soup, flavored coffee, iced tea, and much, much more.
Sugar is literally everywhere and if you’re not careful, you will consume about 94 grams of sugar a day like the average American.
That’s 23.5 TEASPOONS!
If I handed you 23 teaspoons of sugar right now, would you eat them all? And then if I handed you 23 teaspoons of sugar the next day and the day after that and the day after that, would you keep eating them? Hell no! You would beg me to stop!
But chances are, you are doing this exact thing to yourself over and over and over again. However, the sugar is hiding in your food or you’re sneaking little treats here and there throughout the day. Be aware that this stuff adds up!
I want you to take a moment to really let this sink in. Once you know this information, it’s hard to keep making the same blind decisions and choices about what you’re putting into your body.
One little trick I like to use before deciding whether or not I want to consume something sweet is to first find out how many grams of sugar are listed on the nutrition label.
Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar.
So, I then calculate how many teaspoons of sugar I would actually be consuming. For example, Vitamin Water has 32 grams of sugar in it. That’s eight full teaspoons of sugar. Then I ask myself, “Would I eat 8 teaspoons of sugar right now? Nope! Moving on!”
As I said, you absolutely cannot live your best life with an excess of sugar in your body.
You just can’t. You can’t make conscious decisions, you can’t feel as awake or alert as you should feel and you won’t feel good about your physical, mental and emotional state.
It is a FACT that too much sugar results in slowed cognitive function and memory and attention deficits.
It is a FACT that high sugar intake and processed foods can lead to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
It is a FACT that excess sugar causes blood vessel damage, resulting in diabetes and even brain damage.
Just because people on television or people you know in your own personal life always indulge and/or chug wine every night, it doesn’t change the fact that sugar will eventually wreak havoc on your mind and body.
My point here is that your conscious journey and even most of your personal goals (especially goals around health, fitness, and weight loss) will be stunted if you are pumping your body with refined sugar and foods that we are made to believe are okay to consume.
I understand that the opposing forces are strong here. Media is making us think and feel as though we’re missing out on something if we don’t consume these products AND our brain has such a strong, addictive, chemical reaction to sugar.
However, when you practice being conscious, you end up not falling victim to either of these forces. Instead, YOU control your brain’s reactions and YOU control your behaviors.
In other words, you begin to make the absolute best and healthiest decisions for yourself so you can start to live a life full of happiness and overwhelming joy.
Doors that you weren’t even aware of will begin opening up for you.
When you feel healthy, you feel awake. When you feel awake, you feel alive. When you feel alive, you become more aware of everything going on around you.
You become more aware of your own sense of self and you are able to make quicker, smarter, more meaningful decisions that will have a true and lasting impact not only on your own life but on the people around you as well.
When you become more conscious, you automatically become a happier, more relaxed person that people really enjoy being around.
You start to plan for success and you never settle for less than what you deserve.
Take the time to educate yourself even more on the effects of sugar and learn whether it’s hiding in some of the foods you are consuming every single day. Pay attention to your cravings, your snacking, and how many times a day or week you allow yourself a little “treat.”
I’m not saying don’t ever eat refined/processed sugar again or don’t reward yourself. I’m also not encouraging you to diet and to constantly worry about what you’re eating. I’m just encouraging you to be conscious and aware of the overindulgence you might not think you’re taking part in when it comes to refined sugar.
So, with the warm weather on its way and your health and fitness goals (and any other goals) creeping back up on you, remember all of this.
Remember all of this when you’re fighting off the urge to indulge, saying, “this is too hard.”
Of course it’s hard. But you’re a badass and you deserve to experience a life beyond the one that has been clouded by overindulgence.
Remember that you have the strength no matter who you are to achieve the life you envision.
There are many ways to get to this point and conscious and mindful eating remains top of the list.
A happy, conscious life starts with your health. You only have this one body. Take care of it and experience the magic it will provide you in return.
Eat right. Be Mindful. Discover your true potential.