My naturopathy experience - saying goodbye to sugar!

When people find out I don’t drink coffee they often wonder how I make it through my day since it most often starts before 6am and ends most evenings after 6pm (or later). SWEETS! I love my sweets! I may not be drinking coffee in the afternoon to keep me going through my day but I crave sugar to get me through my classes and clients when I am feeling a crash. Now, this doesn’t always mean a donut (but sometimes, yes it does!). I love to bake so I often seek out healthier alternatives to traditional baked goods.

A few months ago I began seeing Dr. Hilary Chambers, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto because I knew I needed help. I knew I needed more sleep. I also recognized my body was crashing, my energy levels were up and down, and I knew I couldn’t keep this going forever. Although I am still young, I knew my body needed to be better cared for if I wanted to remain in an industry that requires a lot of someone - physically, mentally, and emotionally - to be successful.

So what was the plan?

  • track my food for two weeks in a food journal
  • have my blood tested for B12, iron, and cortisol
  • create a better sleep schedule where my goal is 8 hours a night and a proper wind-down routine to make that happen

What did we learn?

  • I seek sugar, natural or added, when I am tired and in need of a quick pick-me-up before a class or client
  • my B12 and especially iron levels are low, my cortisol levels are extremely high
  • I feel better and therefore choose less sugary options when I sleep more (who knew sleep could do that :P)

What were my next steps?

  • eat fat, fibre, and protein, with every meal and snack to avoid the up and down crashing of energy
  • aim for 25g of sugar per day maximum (VERY tough for me!) 
  • watch out for natural sugars such as those in bananas and dates, which are often used to sweeten baked goods
  • continue my sleep routine of aiming to sleep by 9:45pm - which honestly doesn’t always happen but I now know my body needs and deserves it
  • supplements and B12 injections for now to help my iron, B12, and cortisol levels get to where they need to be

In a city like Toronto where most people I know work multiple jobs to pay the bills and pursue their passions, we are a community of people often running on empty. When people ask me how I teach or wake up at the hours I do I always know I am running on adrenaline and the excitement of the career path I have chosen. I also recognize I can’t sustain this forever and that burning out is by no means a badge of honour I need to wear.

Through my almost three month journey with Dr. Hilary, I have truly realized the power of putting yourself first. When I sleep well I have more energy which I can therefore give off to my clients! I choose better snack and meal options that will continue to fuel me well for the rest of the day and don’t crave those sugars as much. I feel more accomplished by day’s end and can keep it going through to the next day and week ahead.

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My biggest surprise is the sugar cravings! Some days I can go without really consuming anything extra. I am sticking to adding fat, fibre, and protein into snacks in particular and I can honestly say that I don’t feel the need to look for sugar by the time the afternoon rolls around. 

Although taking supplements and seeking professional help isn’t always timely or accessible for everyone, I hope you are able to reflect on your own routines to see how to better enhance your life. As intimidating as it can be to make big shifts, they will help you out in the long run. For me, I feel the most successful when making small changes over a period of time to avoid overwhelming myself.

Feeling overwhelmed about where to start? Pick an area of your life that might need some adjusting. From there, choose a particular aspect of that area that needs improving and set a small goal or two to start with and see how you do. For example, if I chose nutrition as my area I would acknowledge that I need to pay closer attention to my sugar intake. My small goal for the month might be to add fat, fibre, and protein to my snacks to reduce cravings for sugar. Now, your turn! Happy healthy habit creating!

Yours in self-discovery,

Rachel