FIT Talk With Tania  

Fake sugar, real health issues

Closer look at aspartame

Recently, while watching an interview with renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Russel Blaylock, about the damaging effects of sugar on the brain, artificial sweeteners also came up.

Labels touting “diet” and “sugar free” are still very much advertised So, I did a little digging. It didn't take much to uncover some pretty significant and shocking information.

We all know too much sugar isn't conducive to good health. But many think by replacing sugary items for those labelled “sugar free” or “diet,” they are bypassing those harmful effects and doing something good for their health.

If there's no sugar in it, then it must be lower in calories so you won't have to worry about gaining weight either. That's the thought, but is it true? That's the more important question.

One of the most popular artificial sweeteners of our time is aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet, Spooonful and Equal. If you've looked into sugar and fake sugars even a little, you will have likely found some information cautioning on the use of aspartame as there has been negative press about it from time to time over the years. But how bad it is really? Let me share with you what I found.

Aspartame is really a compound made up of three components, methanol, aspartic acid and phenylanalanine. I’m not sure about you, but that doesn't sound much like food to me.

The Arizona Advanced Medicine website breaks down each component and describes them:

Methanol is a colourless, poisonous and flammable liquid. It is used for making formaldehyde, paint strippers and carburetor cleaners. And that's just the first component.

Phenylalanine is an amino acid —just not the kind we get from food that our body needs. This one has the individual amino acid separated from its protein chain, making it toxic.

The aspartic acid component is described as an excitotoxin, a substance that causes disruption to the brain by overstimulating nerve cells. Essentially, the cells are excited and overstimulated to the point of death. Just a side note, excitotoxins are also found in things like MSG, aspartate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, to name a few. Another plug for the importance of reading labels. To top it off, it was found aspartame can actually cause weight gain, the exact opposite of why most people choose it in the first place.

Now that we know what it's made out of, let's see what the studies say about aspartame.

On the National Institute of Health website in the National Library of Medicine, I found a study called, Aspartame and cancer – new evidence for causation.

The study states, “Aspartame is one of the world's most widely used artificial sweeteners and is an ingredient in more than 5,000 food products globally. A particularly important use is in low-calorie beverages consumed by children and pregnant women.”

It went on to say that back in 2006 and 2007, aspartame caused an increase in cancerous tumours in multiple organs in rats and mice, even when they were given a lower dose close to the acceptable daily intake. That also included in the offspring of pregnant rodents. Because of these findings, it was encouraged that all national and international public health agencies “urgently reexamine their assessments of aspartame's health risks, especially the risks of prenatal and early postnatal exposures.” And yet we still see it on labels today.

What I really hope is people see (this) and what I want to impress upon you is food, or rather food-like substances, (aka Big Food) is a business. The goal is simple and singular, to increase the company's bottom line. It has nothing to do whatsoever with health.

Is it any wonder then that the acronym for the way we eat in North America is “SAD,” standard American diet? Do not assume every item on the shelf available for purchase has quality ingredients or that it is even safe because clearly, many are not.

Do your due diligence, read labels or better yet, avoid buying things that have labels and that come in their own wrappers as often as possible. Your body will thank you and your brain, will be able to remember why.

If you're looking for a safe, scientific approach to health and healthy weight, watch Tania's Free 15 mins video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More to keeping weight off than just eating right and excercise

Healthy way to lose weight

I eat right, exercise and still can't lose weight.

This is something I've heard from a lot of people, and, as you can imagine it can be a huge source of frustration. Making the effort to choose foods you believe to be healthy while avoiding those that aren't, hitting the gym or making sure to go for a walk or run everyday, and yet for some reason that number on the scale won't budge and you're stuck.

As important as what you eat and how you exercise are, they are only two pieces of the health puzzle. Yes, I said health, not weight. An unhealthy body simply will not release the weight. So, in order to get and keep the results you want, health needs to be your focus. When you get to your optimal health, you'll also get to your optimal weight.

Just as your body is made up of many different parts, there are several components you need to consider when building health.

Say you're a runner preparing for a marathon, and a week before the race you break your leg. Your body doesn't shut down, you keep on living, breathing, talking and eating, but there's no way you'll be up for that marathon. Same with your health, and subsequently, your weight.

There are six components to optimal—health, nutrition, sleep, stress, water, exercise and supplements. Six spinning plates if you will. Like the juggler at the circus who spins plates on long sticks. He's always making small adjustments and moving when necessary to keep them up and spinning, to stay in control and not let them come crashing down. It's a beautiful show.

For your health, if your only ever focus on the food and exercise. As good as you are doing with that, you’re only going to get two plates up and spinning, while the rest will crash to the ground. And no one wants that.

Trying to get all those plates up in the air and spinning and balanced all at the same time can be a bit overwhelming at first. Heck, even the juggler at the circus had to get started with just one plate before he could add any more. The same principle applies when it comes to your health. And when your nutrition and exercise plates are already up and spinning, you're off to a good start.

Are you sleeping well? How much water are you drinking everyday? Do you know what vitamins to be taking? Where's your stress level at? All great questions because each one impacts your health and therefore your weight.

Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality results in your body not being able to properly metabolize food. Repair, healing and recovery all happen when we sleep. So, not sleeping enough, or well, prevents your body from healing as it should.

Our bodies are almost 70 percent water and every function the body performs needs water to do it. As many as 75 percent of people are living chronically dehydrated. Think of a plump, juicy grape next to a shrivelled up raisin. The grape is what your cells look like when you're properly hydrated, the raisin, not so much. Be the grape.

People always ask, “Do I really need to supplement?” The answer is, “Yes.”.

Can you get all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients you need on this planet? Absolutely we can. Do we make a point to do it with every meal, every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year? Nope. Nobody's perfect and you shouldn't expect to be. Just know that filling nutritional gaps is like brushing your teeth. Just because you brushed your teeth today, doesn't mean you can skip brushing them for even a few days and still have good teeth in a year. You've got to be consistent in order to consistently have good teeth. The goes for those nutritional gaps.

And then there's stress. Most people expect it's just something they have to live with and really can't do much about. So they don't. But you can, and here's why you should.

When you're living in a constant state of stress, regardless of what kind of stress it is—you could be chased by a bear, swamped at work, going through a divorce—all your body knows is that there's a danger present and it's stressed. When that happens, your body goes into fight or flight mode.

Circulation restricts blood flow to organs and sends more out to the extremities to help you run or fight, not knowing that you're not likely to do either. Blood flow is life, so extended limited supplies affect digestion, immune function, focus, concentration, moods, and the ability to make decisions. Adrenaline is also released, along with cortisol, causing spikes in blood sugar and blood pressure. There are more physiological responses designed to help your body escape the danger you never escape from. Instead, you store fat and increase your risk of metabolic diseases.

Fat and calories are fuel after all, and your body wants to make sure you have enough fuel when you do actually decide to run away from that bear it thinks is chasing you.

The Bottom line is weight is a symptom of health and hormones. Health and healthy weight absolutely do start with clean, whole nutrient-dense foods and moving your body everyday.

Just make sure you're also addressing the other components of health to get the rest of your plates up and spinning too.

To learn more about your six plates and creating health in your body, watch Tania's free training video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Why hormones go rogue and What to do about it

Hormonal imbalance

I used to think, years ago, as I'm sure many of you did as well, there are certain things that happen hormonally as we age and there's not much we can do about it.

Wrong. Let me assure you that assumption is incorrect.

Yes, things happen. Changes occur that bring about symptoms and feelings we are not always happy about. But are they all normal? And should we expect them and all the craziness that comes with them, and call it normal? I'm living proof that doesn't have to be the case.

Many medicine doctors and natural health practitioners agree and say the same.

Well-known physician and author, Dr. Mark Hyman, stated in one of his podcasts, “.... unfortunately, especially for women, the signs of hormonal imbalances are constantly being written off as “normal.” I’m here to tell you that they’re not.”

Great news, right? As Hyman suggests, hormonal imbalances, and the fallout that goes with them, happens when your body is out of balance. Women are more susceptible especially after the age of 40 and as menopause symptoms start to creep in. But that's not to say men can never be affected. Andropause is a real thing as well. Both are affected by hormonal imbalance.

Not surprisingly, the key culprit in any hormonal imbalance or dysfunction, is food. Not only what you eat but how you eat it can either set your body up to be in a state of balance and calm, or a seriously hot mess. And when you're talking hormones, “hot” is something most of us want to avoid.

When it's not working properly, a condition known as insulin resistance can occur. Insulin is the hormone largely responsible for inflammation, weight gain and chronic disease. It is literally a “fat feeder”.

The Cleveland Clinic defines insulin resistance as, a complex condition in which your body does not respond as it should to insulin, a hormone your pancreas makes that’s essential for regulating blood sugar levels.

An unhealthy body won't release that excess weight, neither will a body struggling with “disregulated” blood sugar. When blood sugar is out of balance, hormones are as well. If you're thinking balancing hormones is really only important for those women dealing menopause and men facing andropause, think again. The Cleveland Clinic defines hormones as, chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles, and other tissues. Those signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.

I'd say hormones are pretty important at any age, wouldn't you agree?

Those are the exact reasons the approach I share with my clients doesn't use food to lose weight like diets do, but rather uses food to create hormonal balance and stabilize blood sugar. We focus on creating health in the body first.

A healthy body with stabilized blood sugar, will naturally balance hormones, turn on metabolism, increase energy, decrease the risk of disease, even reverse disease. Our bodies are designed to heal when we give it what it needs and create the right conditions for it to do so.

Diets, on the other hand simply use food – count it, track it, limit it, restrict it, even eliminate some of it – to achieve a desired number on the scale.

The problem with that approach, aside from the discomfort, cravings, hunger pangs, guilt, shame, negative self-image and feelings of failure when you realize it's not something you can do for life, is that health suffers. When health suffers, and the unrealistic expectations mandated by those diets are no longer something anyone can do, it stops “working”.

I use the word “working” loosely because if what you're doing to create health and lose weight isn't something you can live for life, did it ever really “work” for you? That’s food for thought.

Approaching weight loss by first stabilizing blood sugar, targeting the six components needed to create health – nutrition, sleep, stress, water, exercise, supplements – and then filling in nutritional gaps, will not only get you results today, you'll be able to live your life healthfully and with food freedom and keep doing so.

For more on health and healthy weight loss, watch Tania's free 15 mins training video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Five tips for enjoying vacation food without sabotaging your goals

Enjoy vacation foods

Hola! This week's column is coming to you from the Baja, Mexico.

My husband and I love to travel and have been blessed over the years to visit several different countries. We enjoy exploring the areas we are in, meeting the locals and trying the local fare. In fact, the one thing my hubby always does before we arrive is to search out the best-reviewed places to buy fresh, local produce as well as where to go out for a great meal.

This trip is our second time to this part of Mexico. And as we are staying with friends, and helping them move down here, we are doing some cooking and enjoying some new restaurant finds that we missed the first time around.

This time of year is often a big travel time for families with spring break as well as Easter holidays. And as we are emerging from winter, I do think that many are just so eager to soak up some summer sun, that when it's slow to come they snap up the first good flight deal to somewhere warm that pops up on their screen. And who can blame them?

The shorter days, lack of sunlight and therefore shortage of vitamin D—most of the population that lives above the 39th parallel is deficient in vitamin D unless supplementing— has your body craving the sun. And while I've yet to meet someone who will say they really don't want to leave the last dregs of winter for some sun, sand, surf and a little R&R, the excitement of a trip can also be a source of stress for a good many folks.

If isn't you, you're probably wondering what, aside from planning and the logistics to get you to your destination, could be so stressful. If you can relate, for you it's that four-letter 'F' word.

Yep, that's right, “Food.” For those who struggle with health and/or weight, leaving the security of home where you have complete control over what food you buy, how you prepare it and how much you're eating is huge. Going to a place you've never been, where you seemingly have little or no control over what, when and how you're going to eat, can be terrifying. And that's never how food should feel.

Food is used in every culture around the world not just for nourishment, but also to celebrate, to mourn, to surprise, and to generally bring people together. It's a huge part of our culture and in almost everything we do. Food should be something you savour, something you enjoy and something that helps create those warm fuzzy moments you'll look back on and smile about. Especially on vacation.

The problem comes when dieting is also a big part of your relationship with food. Diet culture has you locked in to believing the only way to that vacation and eat all the things is to starve yourself for months leading up to departure day, eat everything in sight while away, then psych yourself up to jump back on that diet the first Monday after arriving home. Sound familiar?

There is a way to enjoy both your vacation and the food that comes with it without bringing back that holiday 10 pounds around the middle and it's all based around using food to create hormonal balance and stabilizing blood sugar.

Here are five tips to make sure on your next trip you bring home souvenirs and memories, but not the weight around the middle.

1. Always take food with you. We travel with my favourite PFC protein powder, protein bars, nuts, a few pieces of fruit and a large water bottle to fill after we clear security. This makes sure we have what we need while in transit and don't have to resort to airplane food.

2. Eat breakfast every day and be sure to include a protein. This sets the tone for your body for the day and starts you off with your metabolism burning fat instead of muscle. Which is what happens when you skip breakfast. Or any meal.

3. Take a small day pack to carry water and snacks as you're out and about visiting, sightseeing, or on tours. The “eat a huge breakfast so you don't have to eat anything again until dinner” philosophy will have your body storing fat before you leave the hotel in the morning, burning muscle before lunch and a drop in energy come 2 p.m to 3 pm.

4. Enjoy treat foods guilt free. When you're eating a balance of a protein, fat and carb (PFC) together frequently throughout the day, having that handmade gelato or pretzel hot from the oven becomes a small blip in the radar, not a gigantic blood sugar spike and crash. The more consistent you are ahead of time, the smaller the impact will be. (Tip: Pair treats with a protein to stay balanced and burn fat, rather than store it.)

5. Alcohol is a carb. Think of it like a piece of white bread. Just like treats, pairing it with a protein and a fat will help your blood sugar remain stable and burning fat.

When I turned 50, hubby and I travelled throughout the U.K. and Europe for five weeks and we used these five principles. Not only did we enjoy the croissants, wines and cheeses in Paris, the gelato in Italy and experienced a chocolate tasting at the Lindt factory in Zurich guilt-free, we didn't bring home any extra weight. In fact I came back a pound lighter.

If you're ready to stop dieting and live with food freedom, watch Tania's free 15 min training here.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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