When you see a white dinner roll in your mind’s eye do you see a pile of sugar? You should. White flour is a simple carbohydrate that quickly turns to sugar in the body. If it is not expended as energy it gets stored as…wait for it: FAT. When you look at a plate of pasta, pizza crust, white breads, white rice, tortillas, crackers, cookies, and pastries, you should identify their primary component—white flour—as a sugar. (This is in addition to the sugar that is added to the cookie or pastry as a sweetener.) Why is it important to see food as belonging to a group? Because in order to become free of eating issues we have to identify foods properly into the groups they belong. Only then can we effectively fill in the missing gaps. When all the gaps are filled and we have the full spectrum of nutrition required that day, we become balanced—without restriction. And, balance means you have a metabolism that hums along rapidly burning fat for fuel instead of storing it on the belly.
Here is the good news: Sugar is not bad. Acknowledging its presence merely allows me to balance my body with metabolic-boosting ratios. A diet of primarily plant fuel (think vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits), augmented with a small amount of proteins, dairy, oils, and treats (sugars), will usually ramp up a metabolism and fortify all systems. Yes, treats and fats are part of a healthy day. However, using sugar, or any other food for that matter, in a disproportionate manner will eventually get our bodies out of balance and slow our metabolisms. Just as too many cookies will make me bloated and out of balance, I remember several times when I gained weight eating nothing but salad and tuna fish. On a diet of 1000 calories a day I had too much from the veg group and too much from the lean protein group. As I deprived myself of the full bounty of healthy fuel values I slowed my metabolism to a snail’s pace—and suffered the weight-gaining consequences. In addition, diets of lettuce and tuna fish are not a lot of fun. Just as I need whole grain, vegetables, hydration, and lean protein, I also need treats, oils, dairy, and fruit. It takes diversity to fuel my body which is a Ferrari, not a go-kart.
Identifying all fuel groups (not just sugars) helps me to honestly round out my day with those groups that I am lacking. For instance, if I have lots of granola for breakfast, I may not need nearly as much bread or grain at lunch. If I have lots of leafy salads and greens over the course of a day, the next day I may need less greens and more proteins. If this week I eat lots of hollow Easter chocolate bunnies, some of Aunt May’s Lemon Cake along with those ghastly marshmallow Peeps, I may need to have fewer sugars the next day. There really is no bad food, only an imbalance of fuel that might not give me the wealth of nutrition required to supply my body with energy and health.
By thinking in terms of groups, I can more readily identify what I have had, what I still need, and then pinpoint what sounds good from the absent categories. Our bodies talk in colors. When you need vegetables and your body longs for red, you might reach for juicy strawberries, red bell peppers, radishes, or plums. If green sounds good some spinach or broccoli might fulfill your needs. A craving for crusty whole grain brown bread smeared with butter might be delivered with a very clear need for brown grain. This approach of using logic and then asking the body what sounds good connects us to our bodies in a permanently healthy way and keeps us free from food issues. Try it. Note the foods you eat today and their corresponding groups. Did you discover any imbalances? Were there more grains than vegetables? Did you have more dairy than you needed? Is your food so processed it becomes hard to tell? Did you experience a critical absence of chocolate? It could happen…I’m just sayin’.
Tres Hatch is the author of Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy