Sugar addiction… this is a topic that few in the gluten-free community want to talk about, yet it happens to so many of us. It’s the same story many tell – they went gluten-free for their health and ended up with a massive sugar addiction.
While I’ve talked about this a lot here at GFS, I thought it might be helpful to debunk some myths about sugars we perceive as healthy, such as coconut palm sugar, as well as talk about how to get yourself back on track after the holidays. I asked my friend, Heather K. Terry to join me who runs Nibmor Chocolate (and thus is my go-to source about all things sugar) and helps me steer the ship of the Gluten-Free Sugar Cleanse.
I know that you will find our conversation eye-opening and helpful… check it out!
Sugar Addiction: What the Gluten Free Community Doesn’t Want to Talk About with Heather K. Terry: GFS Podcast 056
The following points were discussed in during the podcast:
00:52 — Jennifer introduces Heather K. Terry, long-time friend and Gluten Free Sugar Cleanse co-host to discuss sugar cravings, sugar addiction and how to keep following a healthy gluten free lifestyle, even during the holiday season.
02:10 — A chocolatier who so strongly advocates against processed sugar… What’s up with that?
04:29 — Find out why Heather considers a “sugar-free” diet to be unrealistic.
05:47 — The inside scoop on coconut palm sugar, honey, maple syrup and all those other natural and “healthy” sweeteners.
07:03 — NOW is the best time to “press the reset” button after holiday bingeing and why shame has no place here.
09:06 — The most surprising sources where sugar sneaks into our diets.
11:10 — Exactly how much is one gram of sugar, anyways?
12:21 — If dried cranberries are naturally sugar-free, why are they so bad for us?
12:56 — Things get complicated when you start adding these gluten-free foods to your diet…
15:47 — What’s really going on in the gluten-free publishing world…
19:38 — Results speak for themselves.
22:23 — Gluten Free School takes a simple 21-day approach to conquering sugar addiction.
26:03 — This free video series will show you how to get a handle on your sugar cravings.
27:27 — Closing remarks and warm gluten-free wishes for the New Year. May 2015 be your healthiest year yet!
Then take a moment and leave a review on iTunes sharing what you’ve learned and why others would benefit from subscribing as well!
Jennifer: Welcome back to the Gluten Free School Podcast. I’m your host, Jennifer Fugo. And today, we are going to talk about sugar.
I know that you have totally been burning through all those cookies and desserts and all sorts of stuff over the holiday season and now’s the time to reboot. It’s the thing that we all think about at this time of year. It makes our lives very stressful and challenging because we want to think that it’s going to be the easy.
January 1st is going to reboot our passion for health – and a lot of us don’t see much more than a week or two into January before we give up.
So I have invited my very dear friend, Heather K. Terry onto the podcast to join me in talking about how we can change the conversation and actually take back our cravings for sugar, our control over our diet and start to actually feel better – not just the way you felt before the holidays, but better than that.
Now, to give you a little bit of background on Heather, she’s a celebrated health coach, cooking instructor, yogi, writer and author of the upcoming book, My Life in Chocolate. Heather is a true health aficionado. She’s the founder and owner of HeatherKTerry.com, the CEO of Nibmor Chocolate, co-founder of the Gluten Free Sugar Cleanse (with yours truly) and is a member of the Organic Trade Association.
Heather is a strong advocate for eating real, simply prepared organic foods and avoiding genetically-modified, highly processed food-like objects. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the French Culinary Institute of Manhattan, Heather’s passion for food and nutrition are palpable.
Heather, welcome to the podcast!
Heather: You make me sound so important.
Jennifer: You are! I’m glad to have you here because you are always my go-to person when I’m curious about sugar. You know so, so much. So why don’t we talk a little bit about how you got into this whole realm of sugar and knowing so much about sugar. You work in the confectionary industry. So give us a little bit of background on your take with sugar.
Heather: I got into the confectionary space, but I wanted to come up with a way to mindfully indulge in sweets and not to over-indulge in sweets. I got into that because I saw options for dark chocolate and I was like, “Okay, great! Dark chocolate.”
Some stuff just didn’t taste that great like many really dark options, whereas some stuff was too expensive. So I wanted to marry those points- I wanted chocolate to be affordable, but I wanted it to taste great and I also wanted to find a way to get it to consumers in a way that they can feel responsible and good about that and not just like, “Oh gosh! I just ate that whole thing. How could I ever live with myself!”
That’s really how I got into all of this. As a chocolatier and as someone who creates a lot of recipes, I’m always looking to lower the sugar and figure out how to use sugar wisely. Where do you get the most bang for your buck? I don’t want to feel like I’m in prison because I eat well. I want to feel like everything I’m eating tastes great, but it’s satisfying too.
So that’s a big thing for me as a chocolatier and also in creating a lot of recipes because I don’t really feel that anybody should have to give up taste and some kind of indulgence sometimes in order to live life.
I just think we’re surrounded by these food-like objects and so much marketing and big business and the sugar industry is just marketing to us since we were children. So we have a lot of this stuff in front of us that we feel comfortable with and that we’ve taken in too much of it that now it’s toxic.
So we have to strip away all the layers, all the crap that we’ve been eating and find better ways to feel satisfied and share that with the people around us because that’s really important too.
Jennifer: And I will say one thing I’ve learned from you. I think this is very poignant for everyone. Ideally, we go into this notion of changing our diets as, “Well, I’m just going to go sugar-free. I’m going to take out all the sugar. I’m not going to eat any sugar.” And what you said to me was, “At the end of the day, Jen, people are still going to eat sugar.”
That fancy notion, the idea that we’re all going to be sugar-free is not realistic.
Heather: It’s not realistic because we live in the world. I always think it’s hysterical when people are like, “I’m going to be sugar-free.” I’m like, “You’re not. You’re not! You’re not.” Even people who are on the strictest of diets like the Paleo diet or this diet or that diet, I laugh. I’m like, “You guys, you’re still eating some kind of sugar. Agave is still sugar. Coconut sugar is sugar. It’s called coconut ‘sugar’. There’s an operative word there, ‘sugar’.” It’s still a sweetener.
So I find it humorous because then, what people think is, “Oh, if this is allowed, then I can have as much of it as I want, right?” Well no, you can’t have as much of it as you want. You have to be able to balance that somehow because you’re just defaulting to another source of sugar, right?
Jennifer: I want you to stop you for a second because coconut palm sugar has become a little bit of a health craze.
Heather: Yeah, it is.
Jennifer: And when I’ve asked on Facebook, for example, like, “What kind of sugar do you use? What kind of sugar do you eat?”, I have actually seen plenty of answers of people who say, “Oh, I use coconut palm or coconut nectar because it’s not really sugar. It’s not as bad.”
Heather: There is sugar in the name. I hate to break it to y’all… Yes, it has different properties. Yes, it is low glycemic. Yes, it has some trace minerals. Yes, all those things are true. But at the end of the day, it is still sugar and if you eat a pound of it a week, you aren’t doing nothing better for your body than anything else.
It’s still going to have a negative effect. Too much of anything is going to have a negative effect.
Jennifer: And this goes the same for honey. A lot of Paleo desserts use honey or maple syrup. Maple syrup is really high in sugar and you think because it’s natural, it must be okay. But sugar is still sugar. Those desserts still have an impact on your blood sugar, on your hormone balance, on how you feel and you can’t just wash it away and say, “Okay. Well, it was natural sugar.”
So here’s the thing I want to say. We’re here right after Christmas and the holiday season. Everybody has been inundated with sugar and we’ve burned the candle on…
Heather: Even coconut palm sugar.
Jennifer: Even coconut palm sugar and honey and maple syrup. We’ve been going at it full steam, going to parties, staying up late, drinking alcohol, eating food that probably is not great for us and over-eating. Do you know what this is like to go through this whole process of going really hard during the holidays and then crashing?
Heather: Yeah. I mean, I said no to a lot of things this year because I just was spinning my wheels at a certain point. I was really busy. When I took over as CEO [of NibMor], I thought, “Oh, my gosh! I can’t even think about going to these eight parties. I just have to take a breath.” But I know a lot of people are in that like totally about to combust like head on fire, flames coming out of the ears, I am burnt out, I’m done, it’s over.
So we’re at a really great point for everybody to start over and to kind of hit the reset button and say, “Okay, let’s take a step back. Let’s forget all that that happened” because you do kind of have to just forget it, you can’t beat yourself up over it, it happened, it’s done, let’s move on. But what can you do to set yourself up for the year ahead?
Jennifer: Before we move into that space, I do want to say that if anyone out there has done this, if you’ve gone to parties every single night, you’ve eaten way too many cookies (gluten-free cookies, of course), you’ve eaten a lot of desserts, your plate was probably filled with more sugar than anything else, you’re not alone.
This is not the place to be ashamed of what you’ve done because we all make choices and we realize that yes, the choices were our own, we have control over our choices – and I think that’s an important distinction to make, no one force fed you cookies – however, the reality is that in that we had a choice of what we ate, we now have a choice of what we can do to make changes moving forward.
Before we can even do that, I want to talk about some surprising sources of sugar where sugar kind of sneaks in and you might not realize it. So as you move into the new year, you think, “Okay, well now’s a really great time for me. I’m going to eat cleaner. I’m going to do all these things” and yet, there’s still a lot of sugar in people’s diets.
Heather, do you have any suggestions of some spots where there is just an insane amount of sugar and the person might not even realize it because it masquerades as healthy food.
Heather: One of the big things for me is I love green juice, but a lot of the commercial brands are really filled with sugar. Usually, they’re filled with a lot of fruit. And so not that fruit is a bad thing (because I think fruit is great), but it can be a little bit of an overload and talk about a glycemic spike.
Sometimes, if I have those really sugary green juices, the ones that are just like apple juice is like the first ingredient, it can kind of throw me a little bit out of whack. It can kind of send me on a sugar high.
So that’s one big one for me. I’m always looking for something that’s a little more balanced, maybe a little fewer ingredients, maybe not a commercial brand, maybe the local juice bar instead. I’m looking more for those kinds of things because it’s a healthy thing that we all think, “Oh, I should do a green juice,” but it doesn’t always mean that it’s not pumped up with natural sugar too. You have to kind of be a little careful. That’s a really fine line to walk.
The same thing even with coconut water. I love coconut water. I love it after a workout because I need that little boost after a workout. But if I’m sitting around all day and it’s snowing outside and I haven’t gotten off my tuckus, I probably should not be drinking any coconut water. You know what I mean? Even the best brands have about 12 grams per eight ounces, which is a lot of sugar.
Jennifer: A lot of people try to do yogurt as a snack. All of the yogurts, even vanilla, are loaded with sugar.
Heather: Plain. You’ve got to do plain.
Jennifer: Yeah, plain. If you’re going to do yogurt and even if it’s like a coconut milk or one of those almond milk yogurt alternatives, you’ve got to look for plain. I recognize it doesn’t taste as good.
And here’s the trick, everybody. If you’re not familiar with this and you didn’t listen to some of the earlier podcasts this year where we talked extensively about sugar with JJ Virgin or Brenda Watson, you really need to watch how much sugar is on the nutrition label and the way to know that is that every four grams of sugar is equal to about one teaspoon of sugar.
Heather: It’s so funny. I really wish that our nutritional labels in this country were done in teaspoons because people would avoid so many foods if they could see the teaspoon. Teaspoons are something we could actually visualize in our heads. A gram to us means nothing in this country.
So it is sort of like the food industry’s way of saying, “Oh, well, we’re just going to fool them. We’re going to trick them.” So yeah, I definitely agree with that and you got to be really careful.
The thing with yogurt that I think is great, if you get plain yogurt, you can dress it up yourself and you can kind of control the sugar. So if you put a few berries in there and you put a sprinkle of whatever that sweetener is that you want, you can control the sugar better than if you allow the company to deal with it.
Jennifer: Yeah. And the other thing too that came to my mind now is that a lot of energy bars. The snack bars are loaded with sugar. The only type that I personally will eat is from KIND. It’s the nut and spice line that only has four or five grams of sugar. So there’s really only one teaspoon of sugar in that bar, but if you look at all their other bars, they are loaded with sugar.
That’s not a good snack. And I’ll tell you the other worse thing that I think women fall into this trap is the dried cranberries. They go, “Oh, I’m going to have some nuts with dried cranberries.” Cranberries are not sweet.
Heather: They always sweeten them.
Jennifer: Yeah. I think it’s so easy. Eating really good food doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I think one of the biggest complications that a lot of people also don’t realize, which I have over the past couple of years been studying more and more is just this idea that we think, “Okay. Well, I’m not eating sugar per se, but I’m having gluten-free cereal. There’s not a lot of sugar in it, but that’s okay… I’m eating a lot of rice… I’m eating a lot of whatever.” We also have to remember that carbs are all converted to glucose.
So after you take out the sugar, you subtract the fiber, the rest of it is converted to glucose because your body can’t absorb anything except for simple monosaccharides (simple sugars).
It’s really important to know that yeah, you might be having this “healthy” gluten-free pasta dish every night, maybe you’re trying to do something that’s vegan but, you do have to be careful. I’m not suggesting a low carb diet, but realize that your body turns all of the carbs to sugar in order to absorb it.
So that’s another way I think that a lot of times we get into trouble. We try to eat more whole grain foods like brown rice pasta and such and not realizing that in reality, that’s also just as “sugary” at the end of the day as is maybe the gluten-free muffin because all those carbs get turned as well.
Heather: I think the important thing to remember is these things like gluten-free pasta, these things like gluten-free muffins and doughnuts and bread and snacks and treats. It’s not that they’re awful for you. The problem is we eat them all the time.
And so when you think of gluten-free and you think, “Well, I’m being healthier because it’s gluten-free.”Well, those items are so heavily, heavily processed.
Look, you know I could go on for days about GMOs and all that being part of the gluten-free food system. It is what it is. But the bottomline is if I’m going to have some pasta, I don’t have that every night of the week.
It’s not that people who are gluten-free should be robbed of those things, that’s not what I’m saying (or a piece of gluten-free bread) it is the amount of times we are doing it. It is how often it is on the plate that is really the problem.
When you have to go gluten-free, it’s hard. And if you’ve been eating bread and that’s something that comforts you, there’s so many emotional components to this too, there are some times when you just want a piece of bread. I get that, but it’s the frequency with which it enters our plate in the gluten-free realm versus making it something that is special and that we have once in a while.
Jennifer: And I think the other problem too is that there’s this avoidance within this community to acknowledge that there’s actually a problem.
Jennifer: I’ve been told by magazine editors who run some of the big gluten-free magazines that – one specifically told me that she did not believe that sugar addiction was a problem for anyone in the gluten-free community.
Heather: That’s funny.
Jennifer: My mouth dropped and I was like, “Uh, are you serious?”
Heather: Yeah, those magazines could never publish anything that you and I talk about. And you know, it’s funny, Vani Hari who is the Food Babe has the same, exact problem. She can’t publish certain things in magazines because the advertisers who are in those magazines would go crazy if an article was printed like that.
Guess what, you guys… The people who advertise in gluten-free magazine, they paid to be there. I know it’s shocking that somebody would pay to advertise to you.
They pay to be there and this is why a lot of these more in-depth topics, things that you’re struggling with at home, things you’re thinking like, “Wow! I shouldn’t be eating all these packaged gluten-free food, should I?”, they’re never going to address that in the gluten-free magazine because they have to sell magazines and in order to sell magazines, they have to get advertisers.
And guess who are the advertisers? The people who sell gluten-free products that are in plastic packages that are processed. That is what happens.
So this all goes back to being a very savvy shopper and somebody who understands what’s actually happening around you. Don’t just be a follower like, “Oh, this gluten-free magazine told me I should… oh, look! There’s 15 gluten-free packaged products here. I guess I’ll just go to the grocery store and buy all 15 of these.” Then you are just playing into marketing. That is not okay. Take control of your life.
Jennifer: The thing that a lot of people out there might not know is that you and I have both tried on several occasions to get articles into these magazines about sugar addiction and we’ve actually been told that they cannot publish stuff like that because of their advertisers.
I have done a lot of talks this past year in 2014 (especially during my book tour) and I was told on several occasions that I absolutely could not give the sugar talk that I have given at other places because it would anger the headlining sponsors. They couldn’t have that.
One place actually told me – this was a year ago, so this was in 2013. I was told that I actually couldn’t come back not because the talk was bad. They thought the talk was excellent, but one of the headline sponsors was so upset that that sugar addiction information was presented and so they didn’t want me to come back.
This is the reality. The information that women and men and kids in our gluten-free world are hearing is completely controlled by this advertising/sponsorship model that really only wants to perpetuate the idea that there are healthy, gluten-free maple doughnuts and healthy, gluten-free glazed blueberry muffins. That we can eat all these pancakes and recreations of our old favorites, but we’ll recreate them now with all these fancy gluten-free flours and things that’ll be pretty close to the normal.
We don’t realize that everything that we’re not hearing is silenced because companies want to sell products to you. Gluten-Free food companies masquerade it using that term ‘healthy’ because healthy doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Heather: Neither does ‘all-natural’.
Jennifer: This is something that obviously Heather and I feel very strongly about. I wanted to share that with you because Heather and I have worked with a lot of women (a few men, but a lot of women around this) and it is amazing. When you take sugar out, you start to lose weight, you start to feel better.
A lot of digestive problems that nag and plague people even after they go gluten-free a lot of times result because of sugar. Your gut bacteria changes, there’s major problems.
We’ve worked with this one woman, she’s a stay-at-home mom and within three weeks, she lost 11 lbs. just from taking sugar out of her diet. Can you imagine? So many women go, “I want to lose the last five or ten pounds.” And really who knew that sugar could be the missing piece to this?
We’ve worked with other women who felt completely fatigued and their minds weren’t clear anymore. They just lost it. They didn’t feel sexy. They didn’t feel good. And here, this whole time, it was sugar.
Heather, for you, what do you think really was the most significant impact of removing excess sugar from your diet?
Heather: Energy is always the first thing because we do so much in this country and we have to be so on all the time. We’re always striving to get to the next thing. And so I feel as if we use sugar in order to try to help us get there, but the minute we take a break off of it or get the right balance of moderation, we actually can do way more than we used to.
You know my story about the bags of Swedish fish and the 12 cups of coffee with the international creamer and the whole thing. I kept thinking that was keeping me going and keeping me awake, but it was just crushing my health. And when I stopped doing that and I started getting smart about the kinds of sugar I was eating and why am I eating sugar –
I mean, look, no one’s perfect. I definitely have my moments too where I have more indulgences than I should. Everybody does. We all have those moments. But it’s a matter of being able to step back and go, “Okay, what’s going on here? Is there something going on in my life? Do I need this for some reason? Why am I falling into this pattern?”
And so when you can take a look at it objectively, you can really change things.
Jennifer: And I think that’s a good way to approach it because we all have gone through that. I know for myself, I eat sugar when I am incredibly stressed. It is for me a very big trigger.
Heather: Think about vending machines. They’re just filled with sugar. That’s the whole thing, Coke machines, the whole thing. It’s just crazy! It’s mayhem. It’s just begging to be used in the wrong way.
Jennifer: It takes time. It takes this mindfulness of learning the process. I think one of the things that is a big deal for us at Gluten Free School is this idea of marrying empowerment with information. By educating yourself and learning how to be your own advocate, you then become inspired to make better choices and empowered to make those better choices.
And not just that, being willing then to share that with your friends and family and hopefully inspire that change in them. So this is a big deal. This is why Heather and I are talking about this.
We run – and this is not frequent at all, but we run a sugar cleanse a couple of times a year. We haven’t done it for about a year. We’ve been revamping and rebuilding the program out to something that’s phenomenal, but we would love for you guys to check it out and we actually have three free videos for you to take a look at to see where do you fall in this whole process and how can you start to actually make changes.
And there’s a lot of amazing content that’s very valuable that I know – and I think, Heather, you feel too – that this is a really great spot to begin.
Heather: It’s a great spot to begin because sometimes, you need a little inspiration to get there and you need a community. It takes 21 days to form a habit. And so the cleanse is that amount of time and it just changes your whole perspective on sugar.
Now, we talk about everything from – the things that we’re talking about here on a really basic level and then we delve into it where we really break down food labels, we really break down organic, non-GMO. It’s not just about, “Oh, don’t eat that candy bar… oh, don’t eat those packaged foods.” It gets so much more in-depth. You learn so much in this program to change the way you do everything around food. And that is so important to making this change.
Jennifer: It really is. And I think too that the greatest thing about it, which I’ve heard from so many women is that the recipes that we have are family favorites. Literally, the food that you end up eating is the “normal” food you could eat every day.
Jennifer: But it just happens to comply. So again, there is no sense of feeling – like you were saying earlier, you’re not going to feel deprived, you’re not going to feel like you’re missing out on things. If anything, you gain a sense of control and empowerment to say no and pass on dessert, to start feeling awesome and know that it is the product of your own hard work and to find a community that actually gets you.
For me, that was huge, finding a community that I could go back to and say, “This is what’s going on with me” and everyone just got it. I didn’t have to feel like a weirdo or anything.
Heather: I think I want to say too, one of the big things we talk about is we’ve been there, we are these people. We are both gluten-free sugar addicts. We have definitely both gone through this. We’ve both had our own struggles and we share a lot about that very candidly on this cleanse.
I think that it helps a lot of our participants. I know we’ve gotten a lot of feedback about this, Jen and really say, “Okay, these women know exactly where I’m coming from because they’ve been in my shoes.”
And like I said, it doesn’t mean that every day is perfect for us because we certainly have our moments, but it’s definitely way different than it was ten years ago for me.
So this is a process that goes on. This is not just something that gets fixed on this one cleanse. This is something that you have to implement for the rest of your life, but this is the starting line. This is the starting line. It’s like the marathon, you’re at the starting line.
Jennifer: Exactly! And this is a really great spot to begin that training for the rest of your life because every day forward is something new. There’s new possibility, there’s new opportunities for you to make changes to your health.
So all of these stuff said, again, there’s really no commitment here, ladies. If you want, go over to GlutenFreeSugarCleanse.com. You can sign up to watch the free video series. There is, again, no commitment to that. So you can go and check it out. You can take all the information you want from those videos.
But if you feel so inclined to join us (and we hope that you do), this is an amazing program. Everything is online, it doesn’t matter where you live. We make sure that there’s back-ups and redundancies so you’re always going to get your information, you’re always going to be available for things.
Everything gets done and we are there, the community is there to support you, but the first step is stepping up and saying, “Yes, I am a sugar addict and I’m going to head over there and just check out the videos.” That’s all we really want to invite you to do here, to check out the videos, take the information and then think about joining us.
Heather: But you should join us because it’s a lot of fun.
Jennifer: You should. It really is. We’ve had a great time every single time.
Heather: We have so much fun. We make it fun. We make it accessible. We make it so that you don’t feel guilty or bad or wrong. It’s such a great group of people and it’s been such a pleasure doing it. I don’t know about you, Jen, but I love doing it. It’s so much fun.
Jennifer: I do too. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast, Heather. It was great to have you!
Heather: So fun!
Jennifer: I look forward to having you back some time this year. We’ll talk about more food issues of course. But let’s check out these videos, let’s do what we can to really make this year, 2015 something that is amazing and is really focused and centered around your health and becoming the advocate for your own best health.
So remember, everybody, go check out the free video series at GlutenFreeSugarCleanse.com.
And then go, rate, review and please, if you haven’t already, go subscribe to this podcast. If you have any questions about sugar or anything that we have talked about, leave your questions and comments below.
Thank you, guys so much for joining me. Have a very happy new year and a wonderful 2015. I’ll see you the next time in the new year. Bye bye.
Heather K. Terry — www.HeatherKTerry.com
Nibmor Chocolate — www.nibmor.com