‘Tis the season for getting your health back on track, with New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, eat better, and the like still fresh.
One of the best ways to lose weight while gaining energy—and become healthier overall—is to give up or greatly reduce your intake of carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol. Here’s the low-down on each of these, including how they affect your health and how to quit or limit your intake.
The Skinny on Carbohydrates
“Carbs” is a broad category that covers items like refined grains as well as whole grains. Carbohydrates are stored in the body in the form of glycogen, each gram of which stores three to four times its weight in water. So when you cut out carbs, you’ll notice your weight will shed easily, though it’s not fat you’re losing, it’s water weight.
Carbs are also the brain’s main source of energy, so you may notice an array of symptoms as your brain runs out of fuel: bad breath, dry mouth, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, and brain fog—similar to having the flu. Your body will eventually adjust, but carbs are always going to be your brain’s preferred energy source.
As you limit refined carbohydrates, you’ll avoid the blood-sugar crash that inevitably follows. You’ll also lower your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Opt instead for fiber-rich whole grains, which don’t involve that crash and can help prevent these diseases. Plus, if you’re working out more, your body will need carbs to keep going—whole grains can be that healthy source.
Drinking—or not—to Your Health
New research shows that chronic, heavy drinking can lead to brain damage, even if you’re not always getting drunk or showing common signs of addiction. How much is too much? The jury is still out, but experts say men should probably limit themselves to 14 drinks a week, while women should stick to no more than seven. This number varies for different people, though.
Some studies show that people who drink moderately lower their risk for cardiovascular disease and depression, as low levels of alcohol actually improve blood flow to the brain. Still, giving up alcohol or even just reducing your intake will help you sleep better, eat less, reduce sugar cravings, lose weight, clear your complexion, and lower your risk of cancer.
Giving up the Sweet Stuff
Most people eat too much refined sugar—whether it’s the stuff you put in your morning coffee or the first ingredient in your favorite candy. Avoiding sweets can help you avoid health issues like cavities and diabetes, while also avoiding that dreaded sugar high, and the subsequent crash.
How to Quit the Habit
It can be a serious challenge to drop sugar, carbs, and alcohol, especially when others around you are still consuming them. Consider reducing your intake slowly, weaning yourself off so you don’t experience severe cravings—and the urge to binge. Drink plenty of water, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and continue your exercise routine to help your body fight any withdrawal symptoms. You might also want to work with a dietician to help you better understand the best ways to replace these items in your diet.