Kelly Neider, the owner of Fit Now, LLC, started off her “Lunch and Learn” presentation to the North Branch Area Chamber of Commerce Feb. 23 by noting the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year.
Neider, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, continued that in the early 1800s, the average American ate 4 pounds of added sugar a year. That amount increased to 50 pounds by 1850, and then nearly tripled to 120 pounds in 2000.
At the amount average yearly sugar consumption is currently, Neider said, that equates to about 27.5 teaspoons a day, or 440 calories.
“Can you imagine if you ate 440 calories of a healthy food and how your body would be fueled?” she asked. “Sugar causes stress, depression and it causes obesity. By giving up sugar you can combat a whole host of things without pharmaceutical avenues.”
Ceasing sugar can be tough
Neider said although the health benefits of giving up added sugar, or at least reducing it in one’s diet, are many, making that reduction is tough, especially during the first few weeks.
“Sugar goes straight to the brain and produces dopamine, and dopamine is a strong hormone,” she said. “Your body wants more of it, because it feels good.”
Neider said initially people who substantially cut down on their sugar intake can experience fatigue, fuzzy thinking, gas or bloating, headaches, joint pain, stomach issues, skin problems, allergy symptoms and mood swings.
The good news is those withdrawal symptoms will go away over time, and if a person understands the symptoms before decreasing their sugar intake, they’re more likely to continue sugar cessation, especially when they experience the benefits, which include weight loss, increased energy, lower blood pressure and fewer cravings.
Reading the labels
Every type of packaged food a person buys from the grocery store has a label on it, but the problem, Neider said, is much of the time people either don’t read the labels on food or they don’t understand what the labels mean.
“Check the nutritional label for things like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup,” she said. “Watch for anything that ends in ‘ose.’ Dextrose, maltose — these are all forms of sugar. Then check the serving size. Typically, the serving size is a tablespoon.”
Neider then mentioned that people are often tricked by the “light” label, assuming a packaged food with that language is good for them, when in fact it might not be.
“Salad dressings, for instance: They take out the fat and they add fake stuff for the flavor,” Neider said. “When so-called ‘light’ dressings take out the fat, it’s often replaced with sugar and unnatural flavorings.”
Healthy eating, exercise is key
Both Neider and Michelle Pliska, who works for Wurdemann Family Chiropractic in North Branch, can speak firsthand to the benefits of cutting sugar and increasing exercise.
Neider said she worked in youth ministry for about 15 years, and during that time she saw her weight slowly increase and her fitness decrease.
“I looked in the mirror one morning and said, ‘This is not going to work,’” she said.
She decided to make a life change, so she went to school to be a trainer. She started out at Snap Fitness and worked there for almost four years before setting up her own fitness studio.
“I’m excited because my life has radically changed over the past eight years,” she said. “I just love to bring people along on the journey.”
Neider said some people are just looking to get thin, but she noted that’s not always healthy. Weight training, along with cardiovascular exercise, is important. She said women are less likely to weight train than men, but it’s integral for both genders to maintain lean muscle mass.
“It’s not about 30-day weight loss, let’s get skinny,” she said. “I am not about skinny. I’m more about healthy and doing things holistically.”
Pliska said she used to be a cake decorator, and with that profession comes long days and easy access to a lot of tasty, sugary food.
“Since I’ve been here at Wurdemann’s and Kelly’s gym and learning healthy eating and this lifestyle, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds over the past couple of years, and I’ve been able to keep it off,” she said, noting that she still has a sweet tooth that she deals with by making healthier treats with sweeteners like stevia. “My blood pressure is extremely low.”