Sugar and Weight Loss: How Sugar Affects Your Weight Loss Goals

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This article first appeared on Sweetdefeat.

Perhaps the biggest topic in health and wellness these days is sugar and how to cut back on consuming it. For ages, the average adult would add a spoonful of sugar here and there to food— it never seemed like a big deal. But over time, food manufacturers started adding sugar to just about everything in the grocery store, even foods that you don’t think of as sweet, like crackers and spaghetti sauce.

Today it’s clear that  sugar is linked to various illnesses and conditions, and it is likely a major culprit connected to the rise in obesity and weight gain in this country. The information below will  give some background on the sugar debate and suggest ways in which you can cut it out for good.

Does Sugar Make You Fat?

Obesity has been a hot topic in recent years, and with good reason. Roughly 38 percent of adults over the age of 19 in the U.S. are obese. What’s more staggering is that more than 70 percent of adults over the age of 19 are overweight or obese, suggesting that most people in this country have weight problems.

Just think about these statistics a bit: seven out of every 10 adults are overweight or obese. From a public health standpoint, effective weight loss programs are important, and it seems that sugar may play a role. Let’s take a look at how sugar is associated with weight gain.

Sugar’s Calorie Content

One of the first things with any body weight management program is to consider how much you eat and to cut out whatever is unnecessary. Sugar is a major culprit in weight gain since it contains calories, but not much else in the way of vitamins, minerals, or anything else that’s good for you. You can find a detailed description of the amount of calories in our calories in sugar guide, but overall, if you eat more than what you need, you will store the extra energy as fat. Some weight loss programs suggest that eating fat is the path to gaining fat, but in reality, it does not matter what nutrient you over consume; the more you eat, the more you gain.

Excess Sugar May Lead to Obesity

Considering the difference between how much sugar we should be eating  and how much we’re actually eating, that excess sugar consumption might be one of the key factors in the rise in obesity levels in this country. If the recommended amount of sugar is at most 150 calories each day and the average adult is consuming more than double this value, perhaps the increase in overweight or obese adults is caused by this excess.

If a pound of fat equates to roughly 3,500 calories, and men consume 180 calories (at least) in excess and women consume 230 calories (at least) in excess, this could add up over the years. If you do the math on the extra amount men eat, 180 calories of sugar in excess from what is recommended each day, for a total of 365 days over an entire year, and this amounts to about 19 pounds of fat per year. Do the same math for women and this equates to 24 pounds of fat added each year. Doing the math, it seems clear  how sugar can contribute to obesity across the nation.

Cutting Sugar to Lose Weight

One of the first rules in any weight loss program is to burn more calories than what you eat. This method suggests that for every 3,500 calorie deficit, you lose roughly one pound of fat. This is not an exact science, but it is a good way to estimate weight loss. In contrast, if you eat more than what your body needs, then you will gain weight. Figuring out the balance between the energy in and the  energy out can be a challenge, but cutting sugar may be one of the best ways to reduce your excessive caloric intake.

If you use the figure of 82 grams of sugar consumed by the average adult each day, it should be no surprise that you could lose some serious weight from sugar alone. Consider this: if you eat a standard 2,000 calorie diet (men or women) each day and you immediately cut all sources of sugar from your usual food and drink, you would reduce your caloric load by 330 calories each day, assuming you eat the average of 82 grams of sugar each day. Reducing your caloric load by 330 calories in sugar each day would translate to about 34 pounds of fat loss each year, or close to three pounds per month.

If you are like many adults out there and you feel your diet is impeccable and that sugar is not an issue, consider this: one medium apple contains about 19 grams of sugar, a banana has 12 grams, one orange has 17 grams, and 1 cup of grapes has 15 grams. You can see that sugar is everywhere, even if you have a healthy diet. It is easy to hit the average 82 grams of sugar each day from fruits alone, but considering a plethora of other foods have sugar in them, it would be easy to consume this much without even touching a candy bar.

Cutting out Sugar Completely Can Be Challenging

One of the biggest issues in any weight loss plan is avoiding things that your brain wants. This is where many adults have issues when it comes to cutting sugar from the diet. The brain has a strong desire to obtain sugar as a way to boost dopamine (known as the happiness hormone), which can be a major sign of sugar addiction. Sugar also provides a quick burst of energy that also floods the brain with compounds that make you feel euphoric. This craving for euphoria is hard to defeat, and it is one of the biggest challenges people have when they’re trying to cut out sugar for good.

9 Effective Ways to Cut Sugar From Your Diet

Now that you have some information on how sugar impacts your weight management, some of the names that it goes by, and the difference between natural and added sugars, you will want to learn about some effective ways to cut sugar out for good. Consider the following tips to aid in your journey to successfully avoid sugar in your daily eating habits.

1.  Substitute sugary beverages for water.

It may taste  boring when you first make this switch, but beverages are the primary source of added sugars in the adult diet. Consider drinking your coffee black without sweetener or sugars and avoid all forms of soda, including ones with artificial sweeteners.

2.  Be mindful of sugar substitutes.

Avoiding sugar is something that adults on diets aim to do,  and many switch to artificial sweeteners as an alternative. While they may be calorie-free, artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can be up to 600 times sweeter than regular sugar, which means your brain thinks you are consuming enormous amounts of sugar at one time. This strategy often leads to you having intense sugar cravings throughout the day.

3.  Avoid fruit juices.

An orange has plenty of sugar, and a cup of orange juice has the juice of five oranges in there—so it has five times the amount of sugar.  And that’s if you make the juice yourself. Orange juice found in cartons in the grocery store—even the ones that say they’re not from concentrate— are highly processed, and many brands have added sugar.

4.  Limit fruit.

If you are serious about cutting sugar from your diet, you should pay attention to how much sugar is in the fruit you’re eating. Fruit can be healthy for you, but you need to limit your intake to 2-3 pieces at most a day—and count that as part of your sugar consumption.

5.  Avoid jams, jellies, honey, or other preserves.

American breakfasts are often sweet, and jams, jellies, and other options are a source of sugar  that you may not think about.

6.  Eat plain Greek yogurt.

You may be surprised that yogurt is a common source of added sugar—sometimes up to 30 or 40 grams in a serving! Choose plain Greek yogurt, which only has the natural sugars in dairy and no added sugars.  Make sure to read the food label to double-check.

7.  Consider products that help lessen sugar cravings.

One amazing way to cut back on sugar and to fight some of the associated sugar cravings is to consider getting a little help. There are products such as lozenges that help fight sugar cravings so that you can effectively eliminate it from your diet.

  1. Get used to reading grocery labels.

Even if the ingredient list on your favorite food items doesn’t specifically list “sugar” as an ingredient, there’s still a chance that it could have a high sugar content under the veil of a different name. There are at least 60 other names for sugar out there, with the most common being high fructose corn syrup.

9. Know the difference between natural and added sugar.

Not all sugar is created equal and it’s important to know the difference between natural vs added sugar. While it may be difficult to avoid all forms of natural sugar, avoiding added sugars that are refined or processed can be a realistic goal to strive for.

Helpful Weight Loss Tips

If you have ever been on a diet plan only to see it work briefly and then go south from there, then you should consider a lifestyle change to make your plan more effective. Consider the tips below as some of the most effective ways to boost your weight loss journey so that your previous frustrations turn into successes.

Adjust your exercise routine.

One way to boost your weight loss success is to adjust your exercise routine. Many adults hit the gym, perform endless amount of cardio exercise day after day, only to see minimal results. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, your cardio intensity may not be high enough. Consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for better results. Second, add a resistance training program—lifting weights, for example—which will help build muscle. Muscle burns more energy than fat, so this will help with weight loss. Changing your workouts to include high intensity interval training as well as resistance training is a great way to boost your metabolism and add lean muscle mass.

Avoid long periods of sitting.

One of the biggest issues with weight loss is that adults go all-out at the gym, only to lose all of the benefits directly afterwards. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time can lead to weight gain, suggesting that changing this  habit may help with n your weight loss goals. Avoid sitting for longer than 30-60 minutes at a time throughout the day for best results. Taking standing breaks can help to circulate your blood, and it increases your heart rate and metabolism just enough to where your body is not in continuous fat storage mode.

Be mindful of alcohol.

Another factor that adults should watch when attempting to lose weight is alcohol consumption. Alcohol may have some health benefits, but consuming it often can lead to increased fat production as well as inflammation. Consider cutting alcohol from your diet any time you are looking to lose weight and only drink amounts that current health guidelines suggest you consume.

Make a Habit of Walking.

One effective way to control your body weight is to take a brisk walk after each meal. Research has shown that brisk walking after a meal for about 15-45 minutes can lead to an improvement in overall glycemic control in older adults. An improvement in glycemic control could cause better usage of insulin, which could lead to a reduction of fat in your body. Consider making a brisk walk a habit after each meal and you may see great benefits in both weight and in mood.

Bottom Line

Sugar consumption is linked to a number of health concerns. Perhaps the most concerning one is obesity. Obesity is a highly prevalent issue in the U.S.: seven out of every 10 adults are overweight or obese. And  sugar plays a major role in this statistic.

The average American consumes twice as much sugar as what’s recommended. That excess sugar adds up to about 330 calories each day, which means the average adult could be gaining close to 20 pounds a year simply from eating too much sugar. Sugar consumption is likely a major element contributing to obesity levels in this country.

Consider finding healthy ways to cut sugar from your life to help you lose weight.

How Optimity Helped Predict Episodes of Depression  

I got in touch with one of our power users, Paul, to find out how Optimity has helped him in his everyday life. We asked him about how he found Optimity and what made him keep coming back to the app.

Paul is a 59-year-old IT Specialist who found Optimity back in 2017 while looking for a gamified health app. He needed a digital wellness solution that would link him to scientific health content, and helpful nudges that would remind him to take care of himself without being too “naggy”.

“I’m always busy with work and I needed something that would help me find time for myself”.   

Paul, who suffers from depression, found that Optimity helped his self-care techniques and his overall well being. The app allowed Paul to focus on looking after himself at a time when no other solutions had seemed to work.

“Depression sneaks up on people and health tracking is usually a good indicator of when a depressive episode is starting”.

Paul has said that he is a healthy guy who enjoys being able to integrate his health-tracking wearable devices with the Optimity app. Optimity has become his one stop shop for all his wellness needs and reminders. He’s hopeful about keeping his health concerns at bay and continues to use micro-activities to boost his mood and productivity.

Paul is excited to see the new social feed within the app. He loves the current feed that lets you “like” and give “kudos” to other community members but he’s really looking forward to the ability to start conversations with likeminded people who enjoy being healthy.

We appreciate Paul taking the time to speak to us about his Optimity experience, and we are delighted that he is able to manage his health through the app. Great job, Paul!

 

We’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to share your experience with using Optimity and how it impacted your life, please reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.

 

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Not yet a user? Sign up now to join people like Paul and the rest of the Optimity Community to start getting healthier and claiming free rewards along the way!  

5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness for a chronic diseases that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s surprising how little people and companies knows about the condition, and how to prevent it, and how to incorporate diabetes awareness into in the workplace.

While diabetes costs an individual considerably higher health care fees, it can also cost a company more money to keep, and look after employees with the disease. Not only is diabetes a completely preventable disease, with about 9 out of 10 cases being easily avoided, but there are also some very easy ways to ensure you prevent diabetes effecting you.

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to prevent diabetes:

 1. WATCH YOUR WEIGHT

Although not everyone that develops type 2 diabetes is overweight, the majority are. The more visceral fat (fat around your midsection) you carry, the larger your risk of developing diabetes.

Studies show that losing a small amount of weight can help reduce your risk, and that the more you lose, the more benefits you will experience. Losing just 5kg over several years can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by 50%!

There are many options for losing weight, but the easiest one is to simply watch your portion sizes and add more vegetables into your meals. Choosing a way of eating that you can maintain long term is the key to succeeding with weight loss.

2. CUT THE SUGAR

 Did you know that in 2001, sugar represented more than 10% off the calories consumed by Canadians? Imagine what it represents now, in 2017! This sugar can be hard to identify, as the industry uses so many different names for sugar in labels, so be sure to always check your food labels for hidden nasties. The names you’re looking out for are sucrose, dextrose, fructose-enriched corn syrup, glucose-fructose, malt syrup, etc. These are all different ways to say sugar, and the closer these items are to the top of the ingredients list, the more the product contains.

3. ADD SPICES

An easy and interesting way to prevent Type 2 diabetes is to add more spices in to your diet. Spices such as cinnamon can actually improve glucose tolerance and even has the ability to restrict the amount of glycation products that damage the blood vessel linings.

 Other spices that can be instrumental in the prevention of diabetes are seasonings such as black pepper, thyme and turmeric. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory activity helps to reduce the damage caused by a sugar surplus in the cardiovascular system. So instead of using sugar or salt in your meals, opt to use spices and seasonings to add flavour in to your cooking.

4. NOT ALL FATS ARE THE SAME

Fat is not all bad, but there are definitely different types of fat that should be consumed less to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. Certain saturated fats are known to promote inflammation, indirectly causing insulin resistance, but the main fat in olive oil actually has an anti-inflammatory action, provided that you’re having it cold and not heating it in a pan.

Don’t avoid fats all together, instead, include fats like nuts, avocado and any omega – 3 fats to keep you healthy.

5. DITCH SMOKING

Apart from the fact that smoking, and even second-hand smoke can be linked to type 2 diabetes, smoking has also been proven to contribute to many health conditions, including heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema. In a study of over 1 million people, smoking was proven to increase your risk of diabetes by a massive 44% in average smokers and 61% in people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day.

Researchers have found that even though people can gain weight after quitting smoking, after a couple of years off of the cigarettes, their risk of diabetes was considerably lower.

As an employer, you play a huge role in the lives of your employees. This presents a great opportunity to promote the awareness of the risks associated with diabetes. By supporting your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle, everyone benefits.

 

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards:

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Laughter: Enemy of Stress

Everyday problems, like work pressure and family responsibilities, can get us down and cause unnecessary stress. Stress isn’t always a big deal. But chronic stress can lead to serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure or heart attack.

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Many studies have suggested that a good laugh may be the key to decreasing elevated stress levels. Apart from improving your emotional wellbeing, a giggle here and there can have a great impact on your mental and physical health. Laughter increases your breathing rate, increasing your intake of oxygen, which stimulates parts of your body like your heart, lungs and muscles. Laughter also releases endorphins—responsible for pleasure and euphoria—into your brain. We all know that laughter is contagious. But more importantly, it induces a state of relaxation while reducing your stress and tension. Here are a few tips to help you laugh off that stress!

Try laughter therapy!

You can try it at home yourself or with a group of family and friends. There are many classes for laughter therapy available, so find the one that works for you and make it a part of your schedule.

Include humour in your everyday life!

Take the time to read those jokes that your friends forward you or watch a funny video on your Facebook newsfeed! Don’t shy away from laughing! There’s something funny for everyone!

Socialize!

Spend time with your most lighthearted friends and share some fun memories from the past. Laughter is contagious and spending time with people who make you smile is one of the best things you could do for yourself. Spending time with kids can also do the trick; they are experts at being silly making people laugh!

 

Laugh at yourself!

Learning to laugh at ourselves is also really important. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Make other people laugh then join in on the laughter at your own jokes. This can be an amazing way of cheering yourself up and maybe even give your confidence a boost!

It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe in time we’ll start believing it. There is nothing as simple and as natural as laughter when it comes to reducing stress. So, keep smiling!

Sign up for Optimity to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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The Benefits of Eating Pumpkin this Fall

Now that the Fall is in full force, pumpkin has made its long awaited comeback, and while you may only be familiar with delectable pumpkin treats such as pumpkin pies and pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin has far more to offer that just its sweet desserts. Its vitamin-rich flesh also has an abundance of health benefits, including better quality sleep, weight loss, and increased vision.

If cooked correctly, pumpkin is actually one of the healthier foods of the season, which is why we’ve noted some amazing health benefits of pumpkin to kick start your obsession this fall.

 

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Weight Loss

Mashed pumpkin has only 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber, whilst pumpkin seeds have about 1.7 grams of fiber per ounce. Fibre helps you to feel fuller for longer which will assist in the prevention of over eating.

 

Increased Vision

Just one cup of pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A improves your vision and has also been found to slow the decline of retinal function in those with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. Vitamin A has also been proven to help maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones.

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Better Sleep Quality

Have you ever wondered why you feel so sleepy after a big slice of pumpkin pie at thanksgiving dinner? Well, pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, which is the amino acid that contributes to sleepiness. It also helps the body make serotonin, which assists in feeling a sense of relaxation. So not only will you be sleeping better, you will also experience and improvement in mood.

 

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With pumpkin’s high fibre content, it also helps to protect your heart. A recent Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that those who ate a diet high in fibre had a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate less fibre.

 

                                                      Boosts your Immune System

boost-immune-systemPumpkin can help you fight off that pesky cold or flu that often comes hand in hand with fall. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 11 milligrams, or nearly 20% of the 60 milligrams the IOM recommends women need daily, whilst men should aim for around 75 milligrams.

 

Want to start leading a healthier life and win FREE rewards? Sign up here to start!

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Trista Chan is a Client Services Associate at Optimity.  She leverages her education in nutrition and experience in corpoate health to guide organizations in building healthy, engaged employees.  Her “me-time” activities include yoga, reading health blogs, cooking….did she mention she likes wellness?  Her passion for all things health-related shines through in both her work and personal life.  

How Optimity Helped Me Lose Weight!

I got in touch with one of our Optimity users over the week and asked how Optimity has played apart in their life. Today I’m joined by Stephanie, who has been an Optimity user since early 2017, to share her user experience.

Hi, I’m Stephanie, and I’m really happy to be able to share my health journey with everyone.  I’m 24 years old and Optimity helped me get healthy during my last year of University! Growing up I’ve always been a little bit “bigger”. It was normal for me to think being overweight was genetics and there was no way around it. So I ate the same food my family was eating, which obviously didn’t help because they were on the heavy spectrum. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I realized that I was heavier than my other friends.

I went through some high and lows throughout my teen year because of my weight, I always felt a little insecure about the way I looked. It also didn’t help that my relationship with food wasn’t all that great. I had tried different dieting techniques, and weight loss programs but would just give up easily and the weight would come back on. I have unhealthy parents and I could see their health deteriorating as they got older with their unhealthy habits.   

I decided it was about time I did something about how I looked, but more importantly, how I felt inside. I didn’t want to get old and regret not trying to improve my overall health when I had the opportunity. I’d tried a lot of fad diets and the newest gadgets and they were great at first, until I would quit or stop using them. My biggest problem was about keeping a sustainable healthy lifestyle, with constant tips and reminders to stay on target with my goals. I was in this for the long run and I needed something that would help me continuously improve my health.

It was about a year ago when I had a friend introduce me to Optimity, I never took it seriously at first, it was just a great tool that provided me with useful notifications to help me build healthier habits and had a huge library of content. It wasn’t until a quarter way through the year that I noticed I developed a lot of new habits and I was actually losing weight! I was sitting in the library one night studying when I got a sudden urge to get a snack, and the old me would have went straight to the vending machine but instead, I walked to the nearby cafeteria to buy myself a yogurt parfait and some water! Who would have thought that I would one day walk right past the vending machine. It was then that I realized all those small quick activities I was doing from the Optimity app actually helped me develop new nutritious habits and help curb my usual unhealthy snack cravings. Thanks Optimity!

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Tasneem: Wow! That honestly so amazing I’m so happy for your healthy progress and that Optimity was able to help you on your journey. Can you share some of your top activity packs that really helped you get to where you on now?

Stephanie: Ya for sure! So time was a big issue for me, I was still in school and working at the same time so I really utilized the activity packs that I could have done from anywhere and that were quick. My top 3 activity packs that I would highly recommend is: 60 Second Workout, Eat well, and Energize With food. These 3 are my holy grail activity packs, they made me squeeze in quick workouts literally anywhere, even when I was sitting in one of my lectures, I would do seated leg raises. The last 2 activity packs really helped me improve my relationship with food, I no longer looked at unhealthy food as “bad” it just became high calorie, low nutritious food. This outlook helped me figure out which food worked for me and when.

Tasneem: Thanks so much for all that Stephanie, I’m really happy you’re in a healthier place now and are happy with your experience with Optimity!

 

We’d love to hear from you! If you’d like to share your experience with using Optimity and how it impacted your life, please reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.

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Not yet a user? Sign up now to join people like Stephanie and the rest of the Optimity Community to start getting healthier and claiming free rewards along the way!  

Exercising in the Fall

Keep up your exercise routine when the weather gets colder

Posted by Jeff Cai

TIME STAMP: 2 MINUTE READ

The summer months make exercising enjoyable and definitely a lot more motivating, but as soon as the weather start to plummet we often just want to head inside in front of the fire and curl up. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best for our health or exercise routine.

Exercising in the fall isn’t all bad, and can actually be a nice change compared to the warm summer months. The fall is the perfect time to ramp up your exercise routine with the holidays approaching, which can be perfect for your motivation levels. To inspire you to keep up your exercise routine in the fall, here are 4 tips to help.

1. Start walking everywhere

Fall weather, whilst a little colder is the perfect time to take in the scenery, colours and smells of nature. If you’re only a few blocks away from your destination, opt for taking a walk rather than driving. Once you start walking, you’ll not only warm up, but you will be so distracted by your surroundings that you’ll forget you’re even exercising. You could even carry around a spare set of shoes for if you choose to walk to or from the office.

2. Dress for the weather

When the weather gets colder it can deter you from going outside, let alone exercising! But there’s an easy fix for this. Invest in some new, warmer exercise clothes and dress in layers. The new exercise clothes will motivate you to exercise more frequently, and keep you warm at the same time. Items such as gloves or a scarf work wonders in keeping you warm, and are easy to take off and carry when you start to work up a bit of a sweat.

3. Turn your house work in to a workout

According to a study done by Harvard Health, a 155-pound person can burn 149 calories just by raking leaves for 30 minutes! By turning your indoor and outdoor chores in to a workout, you can burn fat without even knowing it. Put on some music, some workout clothes and start cleaning!

4. Exercise Inside

If you really don’t want to go outside in the cold, or you have a few rainy days, why not bring your workout inside? There are so many fat burning exercises and workouts you can do from the comfort of your living room. Invest in a set of workout DVD’s or search YouTube for a workout that interests you. There are so many workouts available online that you can do in a small space, you just need to find what you like.

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards:

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