EPISODE 53
How to Kick Your Sugar Habit

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Nirmala asks:

Recently I came across a student who has a problem while tuning the hips inward rather than out. Rather than outer rotation, the hips are more an inward rotation. It’s a little painful. Which yoga practice can improve this condition?

There’s all kinds of things that can lead to this, but you probably have a slightly forward tilted pelvis in that student. In terms of can yoga help, for sure. It really depends on the age of the student. Younger students can have more success, in terms of correcting these kind of imbalances.

The truth is, all of us have a little bit of an imbalance. If you go to a chiropractor, every chiropractor will tell you one of your legs is longer than the other and you have an imbalance. The reason they tell you that is because it’s true. We’re all a little bit imbalanced. We tend to be a little bit here or there.

If somebody is getting painful issues from that, whether they’re having knock knees or bow legs or whatever it is, lots of yoga poses can help. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it’s very balancing. So were you to go to the gym and do 100 kettle bell squats or 15 pull ups, I can’t do 15, but if you were to do 15 pull ups, that would be really, really fantastic for you, but by nature it’s young in nature. So it’s building strength but not flexibility. The beauty of yoga is that it stabilizes and increases range of motion, at the same time builds strength, builds flexibility.

And so which poses are going to be beneficial? Well, a well-rounded practice that’s a regular practice is probably going to be the best. With all that said, you need to make sure that the condition is not such that the yoga is actually aggravating the situation. Something to think about is to maybe go meet with a trusted chiropractor or a physio and/or a yoga teacher privately to get some instruction. Work with that student, see if you can find some practices that will help. But a really well-rounded practice is probably going to be the best answer, because that is so balancing by nature.

Tünde asks:

I’d like to know how you kicked your sugar habit. Fat instead of sugar?

I have a pitta constitution, which is an Ayurvedic body type constitution. Very, very strong pitta, and we tend to have sugar cravings. I’ve had a sweet tooth my whole life. As I got into my 20s and 30s, sweet foods I still really, really like them, but they just make me feel like crap. I feel terrible, and I get these sugar crashes if I eat too much sugar. So I was always really, really a sugar head, even from a really young age. I love, love sweet stuff, and I still do love it but it just makes me feel like such crap and nobody needs more sugar in their life.

So how I kicked the sugar habit and really started eating less and less sugar is by increasing my fat intake. People get really, really scared about eating more fat. The first thing people get worried about is that fat will make them fat. It’s really important to remember that fat, dietary fat all by itself, is the least fattening food you could eat. I know that sounds like heresy, but it’s true. If you ate nothing but fat, you will lose weight faster – it will blow your mind. I don’t recommend that, but it will blow your mind.

The most lipogenic food on the planet is sugar. So if you had a big old blubby ball of fat or you had a big old pile of white crystal sugar, that sugar will turn into body fat 1,000 times more than the dietary fat will.

So the second thing people are very, very worried about is clogging their arteries and giving themselves a heart attack. Now in some cases, like if you have heart disease, if you have a history of heart disease, if you’re trying to reverse early onset heart disease, a high-fat diet might not be right for you. If you have a healthy body and you know you’re in good shape and your doctor signs off for it, a higher fat diet, meaning instead of the normal 30 percent of fat from your calories, maybe a 40 percent, maybe 50, or like I eat a 60 percent fat diet, it might work just great for you and your cholesterol will stay very, very low and healthy and you won’t have any problems with anything. It really depends on you, though.

So how do you kick the sugar habit? Well basically if you get rid of sugar, we have three macronutrients, three calorie-bearing nutrients. This is not rocket science, but most people forget about this. We’ve got proteins, carbs and fats. Those are the only things that we eat that have calories or give us energy. All the micronutrients, all the phytonutrients, microminerals, vitamins, enzymes, all this stuff are very, very important. And the truth is, we probably don’t even understand all the ways those work and are metabolized.

But on a very basic level, fat proteins and carbs give us energy. So the challenge is, someone decides, “I need to cut back on sugar, so, wham, I’m going to get rid of the sugary breakfast cereal, wham, I’m going to get rid of the Milky Way chocolate bar at lunch, wham, I’m going to get rid of the strawberry daiquiri cocktails,” whatever it is, and suddenly they just dropped 500, 700, 800 calories. They just removed that many calories from their diet, and they didn’t replace them with anything.

Well the real challenge here is, your body, sure, yes it’s having sugar cravings and your body does get addicted to sugar and sugar releases dopamine and all this stuff and that’s all very real, but it’s pretty short lived in terms of how long that’s going to impact you. It’s just like quitting coffee or something. It’s just a couple of days.

But the real challenge is, you have this caloric deficit. So let’s say your body is used to eating 800 calories a day or 2,800 calories a day and you just whack that off by like 20 percent, you’re hungry. So what people call sugar cravings and sugar addiction, that’s definitely real, but a big part of it is you’re just hungry and you need to eat some other form of nutrient that’s not going to feed that sugar addiction.

Here’s the real challenge. When people try to cut down on sugar in their diet, they do the obvious things, like they stop eating sugar cereals, they stop putting sugar in anything, they stop eating sweets like cookies and cakes. The real hidden danger here is your body knows how to get sugar in a lot of different ways, and simple starches are the fastest way. So a lot of people will quit eating processed sugar and their body will go, “I’m not getting sugar. Let’s crave bread, let’s crave pasta, let’s crave grains.” And so a lot of people will make up for the sugar they just tried to kick, accidentally, unconsciously, by eating whole grains and whole wheat bread and thinking they’re doing a great job and they’re really still feeding that sugar addiction.

So you really want to cut out grains as much as you can. There are certain grains that are less offensive than others, like a quinoa, which is kind of a pseudo-grain. Even like a long grain rice, people tend to not overeat it and it’s not nearly as addictive or as irritating to your system. It doesn’t have nearly as many health consequences as something like wheat.

But sugar in all its forms, and there’s so many different forms, the easiest way is if you try to crowd it out by eating other stuff. But it’s not just fat. You would say what about protein? Yes, protein is great, too. There’s just certain body types that react really, really well to protein and certain body types don’t. From my experience, which is limited but not short lived, most people don’t really respond very well to high protein long term.

High protein, that would mean 50 percent or more of your calories coming from protein. Most people, that puts them into a ketogenic state more than a higher fat diet, for whatever reason, and it just makes them feel rundown, gives them bad breath and body odor and things like this. And for a lot of people, for whatever reason, it’s just very, very hard to sustain.

Most people that I’ve worked with, again, my limited experience, take it with a grain of salt, is that fat is one of the most satiating foods, meaning you have a high-fat meal, healthy fats, uncooked fats, plant food fats, it tends to be the most satiating thing, extremely, extremely filling and sustained energy. A lot of people don’t realize this also, but fat actually lowers the glycemic index of anything you add it to. So if you have fruit on its own, it has a higher glycemic index than if you have fat with your fruit, like a handful of nuts or something like that. So it slow releases those sugars. So fat is really the perfect thing to combat that.

The other thing people don’t realize is that your body can turn protein into sugar as well. And it does, if you’re eating a high, high protein diet, it will spike your insulin level, store that as fat, it will turn that protein into sugar as well.

But all that said, for some people a high-protein diet really does work. So if that works for you, go for it. But whatever you do, if you’re kicking the sugar, you’ve got to replace those missing carbs with something else and do not replace it with whole wheat bread. That’s not the answer. It’s exactly the same thing, except that it also irritates the heck out of your digestive system, so be careful with that.

Natsu asks:

I am currently on a supervised diet to lose weight and taking a bunch of supplements. Should I wait to finish my weight loss program then start taking YOGABODY Stretch? Things I’m taking are mostly vitamins, like a multi-vitamin, omega fatty acids, fibers, B12, Calcium and Magnesium. Or is it the best to ask my physician?

For sure, Natsu, ask your physician. All the things you’re taking sound just fine. When you’re taking a lot of different supplements, the key thing to watch out for is your digestion. If you’re feeling gas and bloating and these kinds of things, you can play around with taking supplements at different times, you can play around with taking your supplements with or without food. When you start to take dozens of supplements, there’s a very good chance you’re going to get gas or bloating or diarrhea and that’s no good. So that’s really the key thing to look out for, but of course check with your doctor. It sounds like the things you’re taking would compliment rather than conflict with YOGABODY Stretch. But yeah, definitely check with your doctor.

Can I still practice Gravity yoga without taking supplements? Would it be safe?

Totally, yeah. Supplements are not required. Practice yoga, do your stretches. You’ll be glad you did.

Teresa asks:

At one time you made a recommendation for a good juicer. What would you recommend for super green, super wet juicing?

I have a post up on my site, it’s called Best Juices Best Blenders. I’ve used pretty much every juicer you could imagine. Because I used to work in commercial kitchens, we had all kinds of different juicers, and I’ve had them in my home as well. So for juicers, there’s two different categories. There’s a few different categories, but just two main categories. You have central fugal juicers, which is a spinning basket and you put stuff in there and it spins it really fast. Those are the ones you see in most juice shops and things like that.

Then you have what’s called a masticating juicer. The masticating juicers, mastico is a Latin word, just to drop that on you to show you my exciting Latin knowledge. Mastico means to chew. So what that is, is it basically chews up the produce instead of spinning it really fast.

The chewing up kind are the kind you want, masticating juicer, and they have this auger, and they’re usually horizontal although there’s a new vertical juicer which I’ll talk about in a moment, but they’re usually horizontal and they’re the ones you see people juicing wheat grass with. Those are masticating juicers. Now, a masticating juicer is the one you want.

They cost a lot, usually $250 to $500 and they can even cost more than that. The reason they cost a lot is because they’re very, very strong. The good news is they really last forever. I have broken them before, but only once and it was still covered under warranty and that was using it commercially, and I really, really juice heavily. So they last a long, long time. They’re well worth the money.

The spinning central fugal juicers are only good for making fruit juice, and fruit juice is only marginally beneficial. What you’re really getting excited about when you’re going for juices are green juices, low-glycemic dark green vegetable juices, sprout juices, wheatgrass juices, these kinds of things. So you want a masticating juicer.

I like Oscar. There’s basically this factory in Korea that makes them, and they come out under different brands in different countries. I’m not sure where you’re writing in from, Teresa. In the US, Samson juicer is the brand. In parts of Asia and Europe they call it an Oscar. And then there’s a new juicer, which is the same thing but it’s a vertical one, which is called a Hurom.

I got it a couple of months ago, and I like that one, too. It’s a little bit more expensive, it’s a little bit easier to clean, but if I had to go back I would still go back and get an Oscar, which I also have, an Oscar or a Samson, just because it’s more versatile, you can also do fruit sorbets and you can do nut butters and things, which you can’t really do very well in the Hurom. I have it, but it doesn’t really work.

Renee asks:

I started taking YOGABODY Stretch, and I started to retain water. I stopped and the water retention went away. Is this something that will get better once my body adjusts to taking it, or should I not take it? The water retention inhibits my stretching so it seems counterproductive, or do I just have to get used to the water retention?

That’s interesting. Everybody’s body is different, and usually when you’re taking any kind of supplement you’ll notice some kind of reaction. It depends on the person. I’m what I call a reactor, so no matter what I take I feel it. If there’s the tiniest bit of caffeine in a cup of tea, I’ll feel it right away. If one of the side reactions of aspartame is it will give you depression, I’ll feel depressed, if somehow I get some aspartame in my food. And so it sounds like you may be a reactor as well.

The thing that I have found with most things like that, most reactions like that, water retention, is that they go away very quickly. Now nothing in YOGABODY Stretch should cause you to retain water, but that said everybody’s body is unique. So, Renee, if I were you I would give it a week or so, and I would be very, very surprised if that didn’t go away. But if it doesn’t, yeah perhaps you just have an aversion to it, which is completely possible.

Ric asks:

I’m dealing with what I’m told is plantar fasciitis. Upon getting up in the morning, the first few steps on right foot are quite uncomfortable. The discomfort fades and returns during the day. Can you point me in the right direction to something regarding a posture or postures to remedy this pain in the heel?

So this is just a chronic problem that plagues specifically runners. It’s just this nagging foot pain. It’s very, very difficult in terms of what to do. I don’t have a great answer, Ric. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about this. The research that I’ve done so far hasn’t really revealed anything exciting. I do appreciate the question. What I’m going to do is I’m going to research this further. I’m going to see if we can get an expert on the call, maybe a podiatrist or something like that, to give us more information on possible treatments.

Again, I’ve been doing a bunch of research, just haven’t found anything too interesting. It’s like researching lupus or something. It’s really all over the place, in terms of what people are recommending. But it’s a common problem. I know people that have suffered from it. If you have pain in the heel, I’m wondering if that’s tendonitis. It sounds like you’ve been to a doctor though, it sounds like you know what that is.

But in any case, I’ll take a rain check on that one and do a little more research.

Lyn asks:

I would like to point out that high blood pressure and yoga, you said double your inhale to exhale and your example was if you inhale for 4, you exhale for 8? Please explain.

Part of yoga, the yoga system is Pranayama. Pranayama means life force extension, more practical translation is breath extension, so extending your breath. There’s all kinds of different very, very complex breathing patterns you can do in Pranayama breathing practices, but the basic premise of Pranayama, the basic premise of the entire thing is to extend your exhale.

When you extend your exhale, you kind of trick your biochemistry into calming down, and this is most clearly seen in the yoga system, but medical doctors know all kinds of different scientific studies have been done. If you want, you can just do a little scientific study on yourself. Take your heart rate and do this practice. You’ll watch your heart rate drop very quickly. It’s just a biofeedback mechanism that you can trick your body into slowing down.

The simplest ratio is a 1:2 ratio, so exactly like you said, Lyn. If you inhale for the count of 4, exhale to the count of 8, and that immediately have a calming effect on your sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic sounds like it’s nice, but it’s not. Your sympathetic nervous system is the one we don’t like, the one we want to calm down.

Weston asks:

Do I have to warm up first before doing the Gravity yoga poses?

Weston, if you can warm up, do it. If you don’t have time or don’t have the inclination, don’t worry about it. Just get right into it.

I don’t feel my shoulders in Wide dog, am I doing it wrong?

It depends. If you’re feeling a big stretch somewhere, you’re doing it fine. If you’re not feeling a big stretch, then yeah, try doing something different. Try bringing your legs really, really wide and try to sink down into your shoulders. A lot of times people go too long with their stance. Make your stance very, very short, Weston.

I can’t touch my foot in Flamenco, is it okay to bend my leg?

Don’t bend the leg, Weston, use a strap. Use a strap so both your arm and leg are straight. If your leg’s bent, it’s not really going to work. You’ll be getting into your hip instead of your hamstrings.

Joanne asks:

I find if I don’t have a coffee in the morning I go through withdrawal and have a headache. What do you recommend to drink instead?

Joanne, if you’re a coffee drinker you will get a headache, you will get constipated and you’ll feel pretty bad. It goes away really fast, just a couple of days. If you’re looking to wean yourself off coffee, I don’t really see the point. I think you should just go for it, and even if you have to take an aspirin or something for your headache, it’s just one day. There’s worse things in the world.

But if you really want to wean yourself off, I usually recommend people do it with like a yerba mate or a green tea or whatever it is, to lessen the caffeine. So a cup of tea will usually have about half the caffeine as a cup of coffee, and you can kind of wean yourself off that way.

If you can develop a tea habit, a lot of people find it’s a lot easier to switch from a caffeinated tea to an herbal tea than it is to switch from coffee to a non-caffeinated tea. So I would give that a try, work on teas. The teas that I usually recommend to people are rooibos, which is a really strong, dark tea. Also like a peppermint tea is usually strong and people tend to like that. Neither of them have any caffeine, so that’s a nice thing to try.