Fantocone, 39, now weighing 77 kilos, says it was at her third child’s first birthday party, about four years ago, that she finally decided she had to make a change and get serious about losing weight. Eliminating sugar from his diet was the key.

Lisa Fantocone, a mother of three, reached 350 pounds and her persistent headaches, joint pains, acid reflux and fatigue weren’t enough to force her to lose weight. There was also no family history of type 2 diabetes, nor a warning from her doctor that she was at risk for developing the precursor to the chronic disease, prediabetes.

It was at his son’s party that he decided to take the first step towards his health. “I was cleaning the kitchen, and as I looked at the rest of the cake, cookies, and candy, I realized this was my normal occasion, not a special one,” says Fantocone, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, a suburb of about 42 miles east of Los Angeles. “I even disliked how I looked in the photos with my son, so I deleted them, which was devastating.”

“I ended up living that way,” she adds, “and I knew I needed to lose weight in order to be healthy and match my son. From that day on, I made myself more of a priority. ”

Consuming added sugar helped her lose weight

To lose weight, Fantocone decided to focus on a specific problem area in his diet: added sugar, an ingredient commonly found in food that contains nearly 60 percent of the calories that come from consuming ultra-processed foods. According to a study published in November 2015 in the journal BMJ Open.

Recognize sugar as an addiction

“Mainly to me, [definitely] it’s true that sugar is probably one of the most addictive things you can possibly put into your body,” says Fantocone. “Even to this day, if I consume sugar constantly or a couple of times during a week, I will realize that I will want more again. I had to create that awareness in myself, that that was what was happening. ”

Read labels of what you buy

Fantocone began reading ingredient labels, paying attention to the amount of sugar in foods, and making smart substitutions, such as olive oil and fresh vegetables in place of packaged pasta sauce, which commonly contains added sugar .

Protein and whole foods the approach to consume

He focused on getting enough protein from foods like eggs, turkey, and yogurt, plus plenty of veggies and a moderate amount of healthy fats, like avocado, to help keep sugar cravings at bay.

For snacks, Fantocone ate berries or a handful of nuts, and she made it a point to drink 100 ounces of water every day. He planted a garden in his backyard and cooked all his meals ahead of time to make sure he always had healthy food on hand. “The pressure cooker is a lifesaver,” she says.

Can cutting sugar lead to weight loss? What the science suggests

Registered dietitians and public health officials agree that sugar consumption is a leading cause of weight gain and obesity in countries like the United States, for example, but the link between sugar and increased weight is complex.

While the natural sugars found in fruits and dairy are healthy as part of a whole food, the problem, experts say, is the sugar added to our processed and packaged foods . In addition to containing added sugars, which offer no nutritional value, these foods are generally high in calories and unhealthy fats.

Added sugars have no nutritional value

“Added sugars are added calories without nutrition, so it adds energy to your overall diet without actually increasing the quality of the diet,” says Angela Lemond, RDN, owner of Lemond Nutrition in Plano, Texas.

According to a meta-analysis published in January 2013 in the journal BMJ, the decrease in the intake of “free sugars” that are added to food, and the natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juices, are associated with a small amount of weight loss; and increased sugar intake is associated with a small amount of weight gain.

Refined foods are converted to glucose

Studies also show that the type of carbohydrate matters. In fact, a 2012 review published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found a diet rich in refined (white) grains, which the body processes similarly to sugar, was associated with weight gain, while a diet rich in Whole grains were associated with weight loss. “Refined grains remove the bran from whole grains, which removes many vitamins and most, if not all, fiber,” says Lemond.

Unlike whole grains that have fiber, which take up more space in the stomach and take longer to digest, refined grains break down more easily and don’t stave off hunger any longer, which can lead to eating more and gaining weight. .

For example, white rice has no added sugar, but it is quickly converted to glucose (a type of sugar) in the body and mimics the effects of added sugars.

Sugar, even when it occurs naturally, can be sneaky. For example, honey or agave nectar is natural, but once it’s isolated and added to a food as a sweetener, it’s an added sugar that can contribute to weight gain, Lemond says.

Artificial sweeteners can also be a culprit for weight gain. According to a meta-analysis published in July 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal , people who drank one or more artificially sweetened beverages per day were more likely to gain weight.

How to cut sugar from your diet to help you lose weight

It seems that no matter how much awareness there is of the links between refined sugar, weight gain, and other health problems, people continue to eat too much.

Use the following tips to help reduce your sugar intake :

Read Nutrition Facts Labels

To remove sugar from your diet , the key is to read the ingredient labels on your food.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, as there are more than 50 names for sugar, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics . When you read the ingredient list on your food packaging, you may not even see the word sugar, but ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), cane sugar, corn syrup, and Brown rice syrup is, in fact, the sweet thing you’re looking to limit, notes the organization.

Wrapped Foods Equal to Added Sugar

There is also the challenge of believing that innocent-looking foods based on claims like “all natural” and “healthy” in their packaging (cereals, ketchup, and sauces) do not contain added sugar, when in fact, chances are good have it if they come in a wrapper or a box. The fact is, you won’t know what you’re putting into your body unless you look at the label.

The good news is that in 2016, the Food and Drug Administration announced an updated Nutrition Facts label, which includes a line of added sugars, to make it easier to spot sweet things. While some manufacturers have already released the new labels, American companies have until 2020 to do so.

In the meantime, don’t let foods with added sugar lead you to believe they don’t contain sugar . “Know what’s in your food,” says Lemond.

Avoid packaged foods and look for more whole foods

One of the best ways to reduce sugar in your diet is to focus on eating whole foods rather than packaged, processed foods, such as cookies, cakes, candy, granola bars, and cereals. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Although your body may already be prepared to crave sugar, the more whole foods you eat, the more it can enjoy them. “Your taste buds will adjust,” says Lemond.

Don’t stress about the natural sugars in dairy and most fruits

For most people, the natural sugars found in whole foods are not something to worry about. Dairy products contain lactose, a natural sugar, but you also get essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D (when added), potassium, and magnesium.

Similarly, the fruit is loaded with vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and phytonutrients and is high in fiber and water, which promotes a feeling of fullness, makes you feel full longer, and helps prevent weight gain. . “If it occurs naturally, you shouldn’t emphasize the natural sugars that are included, because you get other nutrition from it,” says Lemond.

Still, it is important to recognize that some fruits, such as papaya, pineapple, and mango, are higher in natural sugars than other types of fruit. That’s not a problem for most people, but people with type 2 diabetes should be mindful of serving sizes with this type of fruit, due to its potential to increase blood sugar.

Fruits like raspberries, apples, and oranges have a relatively lower risk of losing blood sugar levels.

Be aware of your entire plate

Although fruit is part of a balanced diet, you shouldn’t overdo it either. Dietary guidelines recommend that adults consume 2 cups of fruit a day. However, if you have insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, be sure to discuss with your health care team how many fruits to consume along with your general diet.

At each meal, focus on creating a healthy plate that includes quality, lean protein, such as poultry and fish, a moderate amount of healthy fats, such as avocado and olive oil, and foods with natural fiber, such as vegetables. leafy green and whole grains. Aim for foods that have 3 grams of fiber or more per serving.

“All of that helps slow the rate at which your body breaks down [carbohydrates] and uses them for energy,” explains Lemond. “Focus on what to put on your plate instead of what to leave off your plate.”

Following a sustainable, low-sugar diet through occasional pleasure

Once the weight began to drop, Lisa embarked on an exercise plan. It started slowly – first riding a stationary bike, then running up to 8 miles a day, five times a week, and hired a coach to hold her accountable. “Knowing that someone was going to control me was a responsibility I hadn’t had before,” she says.

Lisa realized that she also had to stop using food to cope with stress and instead find a new way to cope. “Fortunately, at this point I have been able to exercise to relieve my stress. “If I go three days without training in any way, I feel anxious,” she explains.

Even though she’d like to drop to 150 pounds and gain more lean muscle mass, Lisa says balance is key, so she’ll make room for a few bites of cake at birthday parties here and there. “The most important thing I’ve learned is that you are much more capable of things in life than you give yourself credit for,” she says. “I am so confident in myself that I feel like I can do anything.”

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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