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Episode 13

Can you eat sugar & lose weight?

Wall art of desserts

Episode Summary

There are two versions of this episode: One with background walking music and one without. There’s a bell at the halfway point so you can turn around if you want.

People are always saying we shouldn’t eat sugar. What if we want some sugar?

Here’s my motto: If you want sugar, have sugar.

Obviously, I don’t mean spiralling into a two-day sugar binge. If sugar is a trigger for you, I’ve got you, and I am going to address that in this episode as well.

But first, put on your walking shoes and let’s go for a 20-minute coached walk while talking about sugar.

Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor. If you have a medical condition that requires you to cut out sugar, this episode is not for you.

Here’s a quick walk-through of this episode:

  • Dark chocolate is a great way to get your chocolate fix while improving your health.
  • Does sugar trigger you? I have a few tips.
  • Live your life for the message you want on your gravestone.
  • Sugar alternatives aren’t always better.
  • Changing how we think about sugar, and food in general, can make a huge difference.
  • I’m not the boss of you. Your decisions are yours to make.

A few more thoughts from the show:

Why I say you should have some sugar

Unless you’re trying to reach a super low body fat percentage, or other lofty goals, sugar is probably not for you. Having a little bit will probably not make much of a difference, but sugar is empty calories, so if you’re hyper-focused on nutrition and macros, then you may decide to cut it from your diet.

If you’re the average healthy person and you find that a little sugar booster is the perfect pick-me-up every now and then, then have some sugar.

I started my days with chocolate, and still lost over 80lbs.

We’ve demonized sugar to such an extent that we’re almost afraid of it.

Did you know that dark chocolate actually has quite a few health benefits? It’s a great source of antioxidants. It may reduce heart disease and lower blood pressure. The compounds in dark chocolate can help decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) in your bloodstream. The flavanols in cocoa can increase your skin’s hydration and protect against sun damage. Those same flavanols can also increase brain function by boosting the blood flow to your brain for up to five days.

So, a good day is a day that starts with (dark) chocolate.

Get that good quality chocolate for premium enjoyment. You’ll thank yourself.

One really great tip to trick yourself into avoiding a binge is to brush your teeth or use mouthwash after having a snack. Nothing tastes good after that.

Are you’re triggered by sugar?

If you feel that sugar is going to send you into an uncontrollable binge, choose to avoid it until you feel more confident that you can have just a little bit and be okay.

Think about your life as a whole.

In the end, the message on your gravestone reflects the kind of life you led.

Do you want it to say, “avoided sugar, had no body fat, spent her days in the gym?” Or would you rather it said, like my dad’s gravestone, “Enjoy the life?”

Are you going to enjoy life without chocolate? If not, is it worth totally giving it up?

Are artificial sweeteners good for weight loss?

Chances are, you’re looking for a sugar replacement because you heard that they’re supposed to be healthier.

Run. Grab the sugar instead. These artificial sweeteners might look better on the surface, but they are not good for you. I’ve even found sucralose as an ingredient in some store-bought bread products. That doesn’t even make sense.

You have better alternatives such as Stevia and erythritol, which are the sugar alcohols. They don’t seem to cause harm, except for some minor stomach problems for some people.

But really – stick to sugar than to try and find an alternative that could be bad for your health.

You decide whether to eat sugar or not.

If you want to cut sugar out of your life, it’s up to you. Some people feel more in control and healthier when they do. Whatever you need to do for you. If you want to cut out or down on sugar, I have a free guide that will help makes the transition easier for you.

Photo: Sofia, Bulgaria

Podcast Transcript

I keep hearing if I want to lose weight or want to get healthier, I need to not eat sugar, stay away from sugar. Every diet is like, "Don't eat this", "Don't eat that", "Can't have sugar". How am I supposed to live like that forever? I like sugar.

Hi, walkers and talkers. It's Helen. I need to tell you a story. This just popped into my head. At one point I went to the doctor few years ago. It was actually for my back because I was having back pain. And the doctor started telling me about sugar and how sugar is bad. And that I can't have fruit because, as he said, "Fruit is the devil's candy." And I was like, what?

I had to go to my car to pick something up and I walked past the break room. And in the break room, they had tons of donuts. The box was half empty. There were all kinds of fruits. “So you're telling everybody not to eat sugar, but you guys have tons of sugar in here.” That makes no sense at all. Needless to say, I did not go back to that doctor. 

Today we are talking about sugar. 'Sugar', remember that song? ♩Uh, honey, honey♩. Let me just preface this with a fact that I am not a doctor and I'm not a nutritionist. If you have diabetes or any other medical reason why you should not have sugar, just ignore this whole episode. Go listen to something else. Put on some kick ass music. But if there's no medical reason why you can't have sugar, stay tuned.

I Ate Chocolate Every Day to Lose Weight

If you want sugar, have some sugar. That's my motto for today. And that's actually my motto every day. Not tons of sugar, but just a little something sometimes just to give a little moment of happiness and just to give you a little bit of energy.

Now when I say have some sugar, that's unless it triggers you to just go crazy with it. Because I have been there and done that. And sometimes, I still do it every now and then. But I have gotten to the point mostly where I can have a little bit of sugar and feel happy. I don't let it push me into a full-on binge. If it triggers you, I'm going to cover that in a little bit.

The reason why I say eat sugar is because life is short, right? And you have to think about what your realistic goals are. If you want a six pack, if you want to be super lean, you probably can't eat much sugar. It's empty calories and not enough proper fuel if you really want to be very lean and have more muscle. But if you just want to be healthy, if you want to enjoy life, if you just want to feel good about yourself, it's okay to have a little bit of sugar.

So when I started my more accidental weight loss journey where I ended up losing over 80 pounds, I started every day with chocolate. And you're thinking like, what? How could you start everyday with chocolate? Well, not Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which I do love. But I would eat plain oatmeal with milk for protein. Then I would add some 60% cocoa chocolate chips. And it really just gave me a good start to my day. I had a saying I would say to myself, that “any day that starts with chocolate has to be a good day.”

Of course, yes I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate. And don't we all? But dark chocolate has quite a few health benefits. And here are two new things that I just learned: 1) Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which can protect your skin against sun damage and improve the blood flow to your skin. 2) The flavanols in cocoa can improve blood flow to your brain for five days. What? Let's get into that chocolate right now.

It needs to be dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, which is my favorite. But I can learn to live with it because dark chocolate can also help lower your blood pressure and improve several important risk factors for heart disease. It can increase your HDL, which is your “yay” good cholesterol. And lower your total LDL, which is your “boo” bad cholesterol.

Does Sugar Trigger You?

A lot of us don't have a real good relationship to food and we don't have a real good relationship to sugar. Sugar has always been vilified and we have that thought in our mind that sugar is bad for us no matter what and no matter how much or how little we eat. We need to work on changing our relationship to sugar so that it stops triggering us to binge. And so that one day, one cookie will just be a cookie. One cookie will not be an open invitation to eat everything that's not nailed down for 48 hours, which I have done by the way. Sugar is just sugar. It's not the enemy and it's not a license to keep eating.

Use the tools from episode 12 to kind of fake yourself out so that sugar doesn't control your life. Remember, it's not the enemy and the key is moderation. When you eat sugar, learn to enjoy the sweets and the sugar that you eat. Don't get the stuff that's full of chemicals. Not that crappy stuff from the Dollar store. Eat something really good. Eat real food, real desserts, real chocolate. Just check the ingredient labels and see what is in it. Can you pronounce what's in there?

You can try Belgian chocolate, Swiss chocolate, something that's going to light you up inside. But only have a little bit and enjoy it. Feel happy about it. Cherish it. And appreciate that we have the opportunity to eat it.

Let's not use sugar as a punishment. Let's not use sugar as a way to deflect the negative feelings we might have, or if we're unhappy with someone. Let's enjoy the sugar. Let's really feel a happy moment. Let's change our perspectives. Let's change how we feel about it.

Have a little something, and then go brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth is the number one secret that I have to get the taste out of your mouth and to keep you from eating more and from triggering you to eat more.

The important thing is to find a lifestyle that works for you. A way of eating that works for you. If giving up all carbs, giving up all sugar, is going to make you really unhappy, then why do it? Why indeed?

My dad's gravestone says 'Enjoy the life'. And that was his motto. Enjoy the life. He had his beer, he had his peanuts, he had his wife who he loved and he was really happy. He worked a job that he liked. He was very simple. He didn't have a lot of flash, big house and 12 cars. He just enjoyed the little things in life.

On my gravestone, I want it to say the same thing. I want it to reflect that I enjoyed my life. I don't need it to reflect that, oh, I didn't eat any sugar. I went to the gym three hours a day and I just obsessed too much about everything I put in my mouth. I want to reflect the fact that I had a happy life. I had a balanced life. I got to travel. I had amazing kids. And I ate chocolate.

So probably it should say, 'Enjoy the chocolate' on my headstone, because everybody who knows me knows that I love chocolate.

If you feel like it triggers you, you may have to wait a bit before you have sugar. You may not be ready to be able to eat sugar and not continue on and not having it turn into several days’ worth of eating everything. If you feel that way, don't eat sugar for a while. Get in touch with your body. See how you feel. And if it comes to the point where you feel like you can have a little bit of sugar and you're not going to make it into a big binge, then that's good. You may not be at that point. You may not ever get to that point. That's totally up to you. But if you've gotten to the point where you've lost some weight and you really feel good, you may be able to have a little piece of dessert at a party and it will all be okay.

It really is about faking yourself out, but also listening to your body, listening to yourself and knowing yourself. Nobody knows you like you know you. No weight loss coach, no weight loss program, nobody knows your life, your desire, your needs, your schedule and how you handle stress. That's all up to you. And you do what's best for you.

I like a little bit of sugar. I want some sugar and good chocolate. Okay, sometimes I eat Tootsie Rolls at Halloween, but they're not my favorite. And I certainly don't like Oreos. Although in the past I've been known to eat Oreos…a whole box of Oreos. And I don't even like them. Just because there was sugar in there and I was angry about something.

Think about some of your favorite foods, some of your favorite desserts. One way that you can incorporate them into your life is to cut a piece off, maybe half a slice or a quarter of a slice, whatever works for you. And then as I said, brush your teeth or use a disgustingly strong mouthwash, because that burns your mouth a little. And then you're not going to want to eat anything because everything tastes like mouthwash. Isn't that clever?

There's not a huge demand for mouthwash-flavored chocolate as far as I know. I mean, I haven't looked into it. There might be. There's a market for pretty much everything. Have you ever discovered that? It's kind of weird, but I guess that's what makes us all human.

Artificial Sweeteners

You may ask, what about artificial sweeteners? "Yes, Helen. What about those artificial sweeteners?" And I'm going to answer “run away as fast as you can.” Artificial sweeteners are not good for you. They're made in laboratories. They are full of chemicals and some have been shown to cause cancer and other side effects.

You may want to research whatever artificial sweetener that you're using. I'm going to say always go with sugar, maple syrup, or honey before you reach for an artificial sweetener. Because they are not good for you. Always go with the real stuff.

We're all familiar with NutraSweet, which is aspartame. It is the blue one. Splenda, which is sucralose, is the yellow one. Saccharin, which is Sweet 'N Low. Yes, the pink one. There is Acesulfame. Then there's Sunett. I actually have never used Sunett so I really can't speak on it. But NutraSweet used to give me really bad headaches. I try to stay away from all of it.

It was very alarming to me when I discovered that they use sucralose a lot in pre-made bread products at the store. Just check the ingredients on some of the pre-made baked products that you buy and you'll be surprised. Why would they put sucralose in there? Why would a regular bread product need to be sweet? And why would it need to have chemicals in there?

So, what about sugar alcohols and Stevia? Stevia hasn't really shown to have any adverse health effects. Except if you eat a lot of it, it can cause stomach issues, which I can testify to. That did happen to me. And also, erythritol. It's in different sweeteners and certain beverages to reduce calories.

It can just cause some gastrointestinal distress, which I have also experienced. So I do check the labels for those things to make sure that they're not in there. And again, I just prefer some regular 'sugah' - as my ex-mother-in-law would say. She would call it 'sugah'. She was from Long Island.


If you feel like sugar triggers you and you want to clear it a little bit out of your system, I have a free guide that I will link in the show notes and also on The Walking & Talking Show website. Or you can cut down the amount of sugar that you've been eating and clear it out of your system, and then you can take it from there and see how you feel.

Do you feel okay with eating a little bit of sugar? Does it trigger you to eat more? Or are you okay with just having a little bit? And you just have to figure out for yourself what is best for you. As kids are fond of saying, "You're not the boss of me." So, I am not the boss of you.

I’ll see you next time on Walking & Talking with Helen podcast.


Helen is an author, entrepreneur, certified personal trainer, and lifestyle coach. She lost over 80 pounds and kept it off for 16 years. She loves travel, chocolate, and cats.