You Want To Ditch The Diet, But Still Lose Weight?

You Want To Ditch The Diet, But Still Lose Weight?

I think many of us can relate, including myself, when I say that one of the hardest parts of deciding to ditch the diets is coming to terms with what the alternative is… and that is body acceptance. Simply not pursuing weight loss anymore. Sounds completely whacky and scary right?

The non-diet approach (Intuitive Eating) is an approach that doesn’t pursue weight loss. Rather, it pursues healthy behaviours and lets weight do its thing. It means letting go of the calorie-tracking apps or food rules and letting your own inner wisdom of hunger, fullness and satisfaction guide the way.

The worry can be that food freedom will result in the inability to control oneself around food. And the biggest fear for many when deciding the ditch the diets is the fear of weight gain. These fears are all valid.

Before we get into the meat of this article and ways to address a fear of weight gain, it should be made clear that this desire is not abnormal. In no way is the Health at Every Size (HAES®), Intuitive Eating, or the Body Acceptance movement meant to make folks feel ashamed for wanting to change their bodies. HAES® isn’t even anti-weight loss, it’s simply anti-pursuit of weight loss.

The reason why these movements are not (or at least shouldn’t be) judging individuals for a desire to change their bodies is that we live in a culture that promotes thinness in many different capacities. Why wouldn’t we all want to be thin in a society that discriminates for body size?

Weight Bias is a form of Discrimination

We all hold biases. These are trained social preferences. We’re all human.

One preference we’re trained to hold is a preference for thinness. Weight bias is defined as negative attitudes towards, and beliefs about, others because of their weight.

This results in a culture that sells ways to fix our bodies into a size that society deems to be acceptable. And it called “diet culture”.

Diet culture tells us that our bodies are not worthy of care or love until they have reached a particular size. And even once we’ve reached that “goal size”, there is still a lingering fear of becoming the size that our society seems bent on eradicating.

“I am a thin woman. I fear weight gain because I see the way society treats larger bodied folks.”

But, that also means as a thin woman, I cannot and will not, be able to properly emphasise, or feel the emotions, that those who are presently in a larger body feel. But, I can sympathise, or try to understand the feelings of those in a larger body. And in doing so, I hear about the negative lived experiences of others who live in larger bodies. For example, traveling difficulties, limited clothing choices/shopping, unwarranted judgements at restaurants and grocery stores and much, much, more. We live in a society that tells people to change their bodies rather than the discriminatory practices of the culture to change.

In no other forms of discrimination do people:

1. Feel biased against people in their own group and

2. Do we tell the oppressed group to change themselves to better fit the society.

Can you imagine if we simply told people who utilise mobility assistance devices to simply, “learn to walk” so we wouldn’t have to make things accessible?

Absolutely not, the idea is ludicrous. Yet, here we are, in a society that tells people to change their body size, to better fit an environment built around the thin ideal. So, one can imagine why it is simply wrong to tell people of larger bodies, that a desire for weight loss isn’t right. Unless my body changes, I won’t know the ins-and-outs of a life where my body is a source of stress and judgement, therefore, I am not here to tell people that a desire to change is wrong.

Taking the Spotlight off Body Size

What I can do, is offer up some solutions to at least take part of the spotlight off of body size. To begin, I think this is a good time to reflect on what the desire for weight loss is about.

Is weight loss about wanting to better keep up with the kids? Is it about wanting to “improve health”? Or is it about acceptance or something else? Think about what will come out of weight loss. Could these desired outcomes associated with weight loss actually come from a different means of change? After all, I imagine you’re reading this article becomes previous weight loss attempts haven’t resulted in improved health or permanent weight loss. Maybe your weight has even increased with every diet attempt. This is pretty common.

“But I need to get fitter…”

What are other ways do you think you could improve your fitness/flexibility/reduce aches and pains or increase your ability to keep up with the kids? Are you currently moving your body regularly? Or are you only deciding you will do this when you’ve lost the weight / pursuing weight loss? What things can you start to do as of TODAY to improve how you feel?

“But what about my health?”

What are other ways can you support your health, outside of weight loss? Because weight doesn’t necessarily equate to improved health. Behaviours do (more on weight and health here).

Have you thought of options like managing stress, improving your sleep, seeking mental health support, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, reducing alcohol intake? There are many more ways to support health that aren’t about weight.

Because after all, diet’s don’t work for many people. Dieting is ANYTHING that you do to pursue weight loss whether it be jazzed up as a ‘lifestyle’ or a full blow detox diet. Keep brainstorming ways that health can be supported outside of the pursuit of weight loss.

It Isn’t Expected that We Immediately Ditch the Diets & Weight Loss Desires

Next, it isn’t expected that the desire for weight loss is eliminated. But, an active step to lessen the deafening message of weight loss, is to work on body acceptance. A lot of people think that ditching diet culture means suddenly falling in love with their body. I can easily say, that even your favourite body-positive Instagram influencer, has many bad days. Personally, I have a lot of bad days. But, I also recognise that it’s not about the bad days, but how I learn from them.

If I wake up in the morning disgruntled about my body, that tells me it is time to take a step back. What other things are going on in my life that could be eliciting this stress response? Am I visiting family for the first time in a while? Is work becoming too much? Am I projecting insecurities from other areas of life onto myself? Combat negative body thoughts with positive self-talk. If I wake up in the morning wishing my tummy-area was different, then I can combat that thought with a thought about how I am having a good hair day.

Another way to turn down the volume on a desire for weight loss is to work on respecting your body. Avoid the formation of negative body thoughts all together by not body-checking. What is body-checking? It’s any situation where one unproductively takes extra time to examine their body. That can look like staring into the mirror trying to decide what outfit looks the tiniest, it can look like squeezing tummy fat in disdain, and it can look like paying more attention to a body part (let’s say thighs) than that body part deserves.

Other ways to promote body respect is to acknowledge the care your body is worthy of. We are worthy and deserving of nourishment, comfortable movement, respect from our partners and peers, worthy of comfort in our clothes, and so much more. At any size, no matter where a person is on diet culture spectrum is the freedom to care for oneself in the ways available to you.

Grieving the Loss of Your Weight Loss Goals

Given the ways diet culture seems to scream in our ears that weight loss is our only solution for a better life, it is normal to want to pursue weight loss. However, what we rationally know about dieting is that it tends to hurt our health. Therefore, acknowledging ways we can care and respect our body outside of weight loss is not only crucial to our health, but important to begin leaving a desire for thinness behind. This process won’t happen overnight.

In fact, it’s even normal to grieve the loss of the thin ideal.

It’s okay to go through a phase of denying the ways that dieting has been harmful. Get angry! What has dieting taken from you? Maybe you’re ready to start intuitive eating, but only once you’ve dropped some weight? That’s bargaining. Some of us may be in a place where we recognise that dieting has harmed us and it no longer serves us, but the thought of giving up on dieting makes us really sad. After all, a $60 billion industry has told us that dieting is the answer, and without the answer, it is normal to feel depressed.


The last stage of grief is acceptance. If you are fortunate to get to a place where you can at least have a neutral view of your body and are ready to leave weight loss behind, that is fantastic. But, it probably will take some time. If you are someone who has made it this far, be an advocate for your peers. Don’t shame dieters but encourage and promote folks to take non-diet approaches. Help people along their journeys. Getting to a place of acceptance or neutrality also comes with the responsibility to use your voice to speak for those who don’t have one.

If you’re struggling with any of this, you may find the FREE audio guide and actionable workbook helpful as a starting point, which provides 7-steps to find food peace and food freedom.

Am I addicted to sugar?

Am I addicted to sugar?

When clients first come to me, I often hear “I am addicted to sugar”. They question whether sugar addiction is a real thing and if so, whether they should go cold turkey to quit.

Quitting seems a logical solution, given that it is often the advice for someone with drug and alcohol addiction. In this article, I am going to break down what sugar addiction is, why you crave sugar and some tips to overcome feeling like you have a sugar addiction. I aim to answer your question “am I addicted to sugar”. 

Firstly, what is addiction?

This is a complex question because the definition of addiction is controversial.

In short, you can have two categories of addiction:

  1. A substance addiction such as drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  2. A non-substance behavioural addiction such as gambling

It has been suggested that some foods with “addictive agents”, such as salt, fat and sugar, could result in people showing the same symptoms as someone with drug addiction. There have even been media reports suggesting that sugar addiction is a thing and that it’s as addictive as heroin and cocaine. But the reality is that there are not many studies that have examined sugar addiction specifically in humans – the studies that do exist have been carried out in rodents.

Sugar addiction – is it the same as being addicted to drugs?

Chances are that you have already googled “am I addicted t sugar”. After reading a ton of contradictory information, you may think sugar addiction and drug addiction manifest the same symptoms.

Well let’s look at it in detail.

If we were to go by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), it diagnoses a Substance Use Disorder (substances such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs) based on 11 symptoms. These can be grouped into four categories:

  • Impaired control: symptoms relate to cravings and a strong desire to use the drug or failed attempts of cutting back on drug use.
  • Social issues: symptoms relate to situations where the person’s work, home and social life is disrupted due to continued drug use.
  • Risky use: symptoms relate to a person’s continued use of the drug despite the known negative consequences.
  • Drug physiological effects: symptoms of tolerance (the body requires more of the drug to produce the same effect) and withdrawal (the body shows withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer in the body and a tolerance has developed

So could some of those symptoms occur with a “sugar addiction”? After reading this, you may think so!

For example:

  • Do I have cravings and a strong desire to eat sugary foods? Yes!
  • Have I repeatedly attempted to cut back or “quit” sugar? Yes!
  • Do I feel so “out of control” with food that I’m not in the mood to attend social events? Yes!

But let’s pause for a second. For a substance use disorder diagnosis, the symptoms need to cause “significant impairment or distress”.

And anyone who is experiencing significant distress such as this related to eating patterns, is more than likely going to be diagnosed with an overall eating disorder, which is very different to suggesting that someone is addicted to sugar in the same way that someone is addicted to drugs.

Another key part of a diagnosis, is that the symptoms produce physiological effects. Drug taking can cause people to develop withdrawal and tolerance symptoms. The good news is that there has never been a human study to show that sugar (or any nutrient for that matter, except for caffeine) produces tolerance or withdrawal effects.

So am I addicted to sugar if I crave it all the time?

There are a number of reasons why you may feel addicted to sugar. Here are some reasons why:

1) Restriction

The root cause of feeling out of control around food is restriction, not food addiction. We know this because as soon as we deprive ourselves from a food, we want the food even more and there a number of studies to support this (see my recent article with the research on how to stop food obsession). We subsequently eat more of it than we would have if we’d just allowed ourselves to eat in the first instance! Following food rules that restricts intake of our “forbidden foods” can lead to excessively focussing on those foods which just exacerbates disordered eating.

You may have heard that in animal studies, sugar is addictive. However, these studies fail to emphasise, that the animals have actually been deprived of sugar. So of course they ended up “bingeing” on it when they were allowed it again. The group of rats that were deprived, actually ate the same amount of sugar in a 12 hour period compared to a group of rats that weren’t deprived over a 24 hour period. What’s the moral here? Eat the sugar!

2) Food is pleasurable (which is not a bad thing!) and needed for survival

Whilst animal studies might show that the brain reacts in a similar way to when drugs are taken, they fail to recognise that food is something that is needed for survival. Sugar is not a drug – it’s the most basic fuel source we need to stay alive! It is therefore supposed to bring joy. Our brain needs glucose to make sure we can carry out all the required biological functions to keep us alive. So how could we be addicted to something that we need to function?

The same centres light up when we have sex, when we stroke a puppy or even when we win or anticipate winning money. Does that mean we are addicted to sex, puppies or money? No.

Where does that leave us?

Studies in this field are still in their infancy, and of the research that does exist, it is limited to animals.

Also, it is difficult to confirm that sugar, as a standalone nutrient, is addictive as we rarely consume this on its own. Sugar is in starchy foods such as potatoes, breads and pastas as well as in fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Things we usually eat in conjunction with many other things!

In saying all of this, I do not want to lessen the struggles that some people may feel they have around food. It is still possible to feel “out of control” around sugar and overeat sugary foods, but it is unlikely to be addiction. It’s more likely to be rooted in restriction.

If you feel this is you, Intuitive Eating is a gentle evidence-based approach that doesn’t require going cold turkey. This framework has helped people reduce overeating or binge eating because it teaches how to identify hunger and fullness signals without restricting food.

Intuitive Eating requires time and patience, but also the right support from someone qualified. A Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor is a good place to start. If you’d like to know more about what you can start to do today to overcome your difficulties with feeling addicted to sugar, check out my free 20-minute audio download below.

Please note: if after reading this, you think you might have an eating disorder, I encourage you to visit your GP to discuss this. You can also listen to this in depth YouTube interview on sugar addiction that I share on sugar addiction to find out more of the juicy details! 

References throughout text.

How to Stop Binge Eating at Night

How to Stop Binge Eating at Night

Are you wondering why you binge eat and how to stop binge eating at night? Night time is a really common time of the day to experience binge eating. This is for a number of reasons which we will dive into in this article.

Firstly, let’s discuss what type of binge you are experiencing. 

What is a binge?   

There is a difference between a ‘subjective binge’ (what YOU define as a binge), and an ‘objective binge’ (what a psychologist uses to define an Eating Disorder).

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is defined as regularly eating a large quantity of food in a discrete time period with a sense of feeling out of control (1). The binge eating episodes are usually accompanied with three or more following: 

  • Eating past the point of uncomfortable fullness
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment 
  • Eating faster than usual 
  • Feeling upset and guilty afterwards
  • Eating a large amount of food when not physically hungry

If you suspect you may have BED, I encourage you to discuss this with your GP.

What If I don’t meet the criteria for BED?

If you don’t meet the ‘criteria’ for BED, doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing suffering or deserve help. A ‘subjective’ binge eating episode may still be accompanied with embarrassment, guilt, eating fast, eating a large amount of food…. but not enough food to be considered an ‘objective binge’ for a psychologist to diagnose a BED. A little silly I know.

In this article, I refer to some reasons why you may be experiencing binge eating, and in particular, we dive into how to stop binge eating at night. I also provide recommendations for how to stop binge eating at night. This article is targeted at those experiencing a ‘subjective binge’, without diagnosed BED. 

Nude Nutrition Blog

How to stop food obsession

Why do I binge at night?

There tend to be 3 common reasons that cause bingeing at night.

1) Restriction during the day

It is common in diet culture to label foods such as rice cakes and salad as “safe” to eat during the day and “not allow” more substantial meals such as pasta and sandwiches.  

Any time a food is out of bounds, it puts it on a pedestal increasing our desire to want to eat that food. There are two ways in which foods can be out of bounds:

  • Physically: the diet restricts it. 
  • Psychologically: we attach a moral value to that food and label it as bad, unhealthy. 

We then start to desire that food even more, because we tell ourselves we can’t have it. When we do have it, we’re likely to feel guilt and eat more () than if we’d just allowed it in the first place!

A 2001 study showed that when people were forbidden sweets that were considered “novel”, the attraction to eat them was heightened compared to people who were allowed to eat the “novel” sweet. This idea rings true for any food, not just high sugar foods. In another study, children were divided into groups and told not to eat either sweets or fruit. Both groups ate more of the restricted foods (including more fruit!) when they were given the opportunity, compared to a group who wasn’t restricted at all (7). 

2) Tiredness

  • If you’ve had a really long day or if you had a poor night’s sleep. 
  • If you’ve done a lot of exercise or if you simply have too much going on.  

Being tired makes it difficult to tap into hunger and satiety cues. Studies show that being unable to get a full night’s sleep (<6 hours) interferes with our hunger hormones. These hormones dictate how much we would eat in a day. Sleep deprivation causes increased ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) and decreased leptin (the hormone that tells us when we are full).

Research also shows that tiredness can increase food intake by 400 calories a day. A systematic review that analysed 11 different studies found on average that people who had between 3.5 to 5.5 hours sleep the night before ate an additional 385 calories that day, compared to when they’d slept at least seven hours. 

3) Hunger

Many clients I meet that are struggling to stop binge eating at night, are actually just hungry and haven’t tuned in to the sensations of hunger. That bowl of cereal at 8 am, and salad at lunchtime simply hasn’t cut it. Of course, they walk through the door ready to eat the house down. 

So this, coupled with our hunger hormone ghrelin being revved up in the evening, means we’re in a position where we’re likely to binge. If there are foods that you are restricting, you are more likely to binge on these. If when we get home from a long day there is food in the cupboard that’s “not allowed”, of course, we are going to want to eat it … because we’re hungry and tired!



How to Stop Binge Eating at Night

Here I am sharing my experiences of working with 1:1 clients and a couple of the ways in which they have managed to stop binge eating at night. 

1. Meeting your basic needs

This means two things:

a) Get organised for the week so that you feel in control, can schedule regular eating patterns and eat according to hunger.  

For example:

– Making sure you have a stocked-up fridge with food that can be easily prepared and/or eaten without much fuss (unless cooking at night helps you to unwind!).

– Setting boundaries at work, or with friends/family, so you don’t take too much on. 


If Sunday meal prepping is your thing, go ahead and make yourself a few days worth of dinner and lunches ahead of time. But if that doesn’t sound right for you, take yourself on a shopping trip (or do an online shop) and stock your fridge and cupboard with snacks and fresh produce that don’t require too much preparation. Ready-to-eat meals that you can easily heat and eat each weeknight are great too! 

Check your diary at the end of each week for the week ahead to ensure you’ve not overloaded yourself. Schedule downtime, just like you would any other activity. 

If you’re struggling to eat according to hunger,  check out my FREE download with a recorded audio guide and actionable workbook which tackles this. 

b) Find activities/hobbies that make you feel good and check that you are meeting the basics. 

What is it that makes you feel amazing? 

Having a proper night’s sleep? Spending time out in nature? Making space for you time in the week? Curling up on the couch with a good book? Getting out in nature? A bubble bath? A pedicure? Sweating it out in the gym? Spending time with your fur baby? Spending time with your human baby? 

Whatever it is, ensure you are meeting your basics (sleep, setting boundaries, managing stress), but also doing things that fill your heart with joy and that helps calm your mind. These types of activities are a great way to make sure that we can deal with emotions such as tiredness, anxiety, boredom, loneliness or anger without using food to suppress that feeling. Emotional eating is very common and something I have written about in more detail here.

2. Stop labelling foods as good and bad

To create a healthy relationship with food, we have to stop describing food in moral terms. Because you know what? There is no one food that will make us healthy or unhealthy. 

Try to neutralise your language around food and label foods as what they are. If it’s a croissant, call it a croissant. If it’s a carrot, call it a carrot or vegetable. Neither are good, or bad. They are just-food.

Learning how to stop binge eating at night is a process. It takes time to figure out what triggers it and the sorts of things you can do to avoid it. But hopefully, after reading this, you have a few ideas up your sleeve. And just remember, if after reading this you still find yourself struggling, do not need to beat yourself up. Move on and be kind to yourself.

This is hard work and the first step is acknowledging it (which you clearly have if you are reading this). So, I encourage you to keep being compassionate and patient as you take these next brave steps to find how you’re going to do this important work.  

You can sign up for my 7 Steps to Find Food Peace and Food Freedom with an audio guide and workbook to get started on how to stop binge eating at night. 

How to Start Intuitive Eating – 5 Simple Steps

How to Start Intuitive Eating – 5 Simple Steps

I’m often asked by clients how to start Intuitive Eating. Learning how to eat intuitively after months or years of dieting and weight-loss attempts is usually a process. A wonderful, liberating, best-thing-you’ll-ever-do-in-your-life, but a sometimes tricky process. Whilst it isn’t as simple as following a prescriptive meal plan or diet, there are some clear steps you can take to get started.

Why get started with Intuitive Eating?

Eating is an evidence-based approach to health and wellness. It helps you tune into your body signals, stop the binge-restrict cycle, and heal your relationship with food. In the process of intuitive eating, you let go of the misconception that certain foods are good or bad, and over time you are able to eat what you want without feeling guilty. It is steered by internal body signals and wisdom (i.e. hunger, fullness and satisfaction) rather than external rules.

This may sound simple, but after years of diet talk and food rules, it is usually tricky to just, well, eat!

Here are five steps that you can follow that show you how to start Intuitive Eating.


Step 1: Allow yourself unconditional permission to eat ALL foods

A little scary, right? But also exciting!

This can be really hard to do when we live in a diet culture where food is given a moral value. That is, foods that are seen to be associated with thinness and “health” = good. And any other food = bad.  

That’s where we:

  1. Start restricting and forbidding the “bad” foods … ultimately leading to feelings of deprivation.  
  2. This leads to biological cravings for said forbidden food. 
  3. Which leads to a bingeing episode, guilt and starting another diet to be “good”. 
  4. And so, the cycle goes back to number 1. 

Does this cycle sound familiar? 

The only way to stop the cycle is to cut it off at the beginning. This means to allow yourself to eat ALL foods. No labels, no good or bad foods, because really, no food is morally good or bad. It’s all just-food.

Step 2: Stop trying to control your weight

Research shows us that up to 95% of people regain the weight lost whilst dieting within 2-5 years.

Why? Because of the setpoint weight. This is the weight that our body works very hard to maintain (usually within a range of 4-5kgs) to carry out all the necessary functions to keep us alive. When we’re not swinging between doughnut land (i.e. being bad), and diet land (i.e. being good), our weight settles at its natural set point. This weight range is already pre-determined, largely by genetics.

If we start messing with our set point weight through dieting, it starts to put a strain on our body and impact how well it can do its job.

In essence, diets make us work against ourselves and paradoxically, we end up achieving the exact opposite of what we wanted in the first place. Argh! 

 If you’re struggling with the idea of letting go of weight loss pursuits, this article might be helpful for you.

Step 3: Detox your social media feeds 

There is a lot of rubbish nutrition advice out there in the world.

Also, our social media feeds are usually going to represent thin, white bodies more than all the other wonderful types of bodies that are out there.

Research tells us that we need to avoid or challenge this type of imagery because of the association between being exposed to unrealistic images and body dissatisfaction.

It’s time to get ruthless and unfollow anyone who: 

  • Promotes a balanced diet but say they need to “burn off the calories” after eating pizza  
  • Gives nutrition advice but does not have appropriate qualifications  
  • Uses terms like “eat clean” or eating “whole foods” 
reliable nutrition information

Step 4: Honour your biological hunger

It is extremely common after years of dieting and eating according to external rules to lose touch with what it feels like to be hungry or full. Don’t stress, these signals are still there and you can learn to hear them again. It will just take some time and a bit of trial and error. The best way to start tuning back in is to take a minute to pause before and after you eat to feel your hunger.

Hunger Fullness ScaleAs a starting point, see if you can figure out what a 3, 4 or 5 level of hunger might feel like. You could feel one or a combination of the following:


Signs of Hunger 

It usually feels good to start eating at a 3 or a 4, but explore for yourself, keeping a little diary using this free tool I’ve created. 

Step 5: Find movement that makes you feel good

When learning how to start Intuitive Eating, it’s key to ditch the rigid exercise plans and start moving your body because of how great it feels!

Our bodies are designed to love to move. If exercising has never been joyful, it may be for a few reasons: 

  • It was often associated with dieting. And when the diet failed, so too did the exercise. 
  • You had bad experiences as a child being made to exercise when you didn’t want to; and/or 
  • You were always pushed by others to exercise and therefore have always rebelled those people.  

Swap your mindset by focusing on how exercising makes you feel, rather than thinking about the calories that are being burned.  

After exercise, how do you feel? – Energy levels? Confidence? Stress levels? Sleep? Most people find that these are all improved with regular movement.

It is well established that physical activity provides positive health benefits over the long term. It has impacts on metabolism, bone density, preserving lean muscle mass and mental health. It’s time to start viewing exercise as beneficial for improving quality of life, rather than as a weight loss tool.

Find something that you enjoy and start out slowly. This could be:

  • going for a walk around the block while listening to your favourite podcast
  • walking to a bus stop that’s one stop further away from your destination.
  • dancing around the house


Well that’s my top 5 strategies on how to start Intuitive Eating. It’s not about getting any of these things perfect, but instead chipping away so that barriers start to come down. Be kind to yourself and allow plenty of time to see how you can apply these steps each day. This is about making progress towards healing your relationship with food, not striving for a perfect diet (which by the way, doesn’t exist).  

If you would like more information on how to stop binge eating, how to stop food obsession, how to stop emotional eating, and how to start intuitive eating, check out my free audio recording. It provides you with 7 actionable steps on how to start intuitive eating, with an actionable workbook.   

Why you don’t need to stop eating sugar to improve your health

Why you don’t need to stop eating sugar to improve your health

First it was salt. Then fat. Then carbohydrates.  

Now we’re told to stop eating sugar.

All these foods have been demonised at one point or another over the years and we’ve been taught to fear them due to the implications they can have on our health. But sadly, this is more fear mongering, than fact. 

Let’s talk about the facts, specifically regarding sugar. 

Have some “wellness experts” left you believing that you need to “stop eating sugar” or that “you’re addicted to sugar“? Sugar is nothing to be feared, unless it is consumed in huge quantities (like anything, really!), or you have specific health conditions like Diabetes, where sugar intake needs management. 

The problem with the idea that we should “stop eating sugar” is that not all sugars are equal. If we stop eating sugar, we’d be quitting entire food groups and all the important vitamins and minerals found in them! 

Hang on, I thought sugar was bad, because it’s the stuff in cakes, biscuits and sweets, I hear you ask?  

Yes and no.  

Yes, there is sugar in our favourite sweet treats, but this is usually refined sugar (table sugar). Consuming this type of sugar in small amounts is not harmful to our health (1)It is recommended that we consume sweet foods with meals as much as possible to protect our teeth, however, cutting out sugar from our diet all together could backfire and we could end up feeling like we can’t stop eating it. Especially in those who want to stop food obsession, or who struggle with binge eating, feeling out of control at night, or want to stop emotional eating (2, 3, 4).  

The other type of sugar that shouldn’t be feared, is the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and wholegrains. But more about these two things later.   

Let’s first look at what a sugar actually is. I apologise, but there is a little bit of chemistry ahead. 

The chemistry…

A sugar is something that is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms (a sugar molecule). The number of these atoms and how they are arranged, will determine the kind of sugar it ishow it behaves in food and then how it interacts once it is in your body. 

There are many different types of sugars found in foods. 

For example, the sugar found in dairy products (lactose) is different to the sugar in fruit (fructose) – they are completely different sugars and digested in different ways, but they are sugars nonetheless. 

If we were told to quit eating sugar, we’d essentially be eliminating dairy and fruit out of our diets!  

And we’d also be eliminating cereals, pasta and rice … because the complex carbohydrates found in those foods are also made up sugar molecules – lots of them (hence the name “complex”).  

Sugar, at its most basic level, is what our body needs for fuel.

But what about blood sugar levels?

One reason why there is fear surrounding sugar is because of its impact on our Blood Glucose Levels (BGLs). You might have heard someone say “oh don’t eat that, it makes your blood sugar spike”?? This is semi-true. Yes, dramatic spikes in our BGLs can affect our energy levels. Also, eating foods that are high in sugar and low in fibre could cause hunger to reappear more quickly after eatingBut this all depends on the type of the sugar that is in the food and what we eat the sugar with (e.g. protein and fats).   

We can measure how quickly a carbohydrate food makes your BGLs rise by using an international standard called the Glycaemic Index (GI) (5). Carbohydrates are rated on a scale between 0 – 100 depending on how quickly the body breaks it down to be used for energy.  

Foods with a higher GI are broken down more quickly and can cause a sharp rise in BGLs – things like a glass of sugary drink on an empty stomachwhite bread, white rice and white potatoes. However, who just eats a plate of white rice, or a whole lot of bread without a topping? No judgement if you do, but most of us prefer these with other foods most of the time. We usually eat these foods with some proteins and fats which naturally lower the GI.  

Foods with a low GI number break down more slowly and help to keep your BGLs stable – things like wholegrain bread and pasta, fresh fruit, lentils and legumes, yoghurt and milk. In fact, chocolate is low GI because it contains a high amount of fat and protein… I bet you never realised that!  

So, what’s important is the type of sugar and what we pair it with, to determine its nutritional quality and impact on your body, rather than tarnishing all sugars with the same brush!  

Naturally occurring sugars vs “free sugars”  

Now that we know what a sugar is, we can talk about naturally occurring sugar vs “free sugars”.  

Natural sugars, as the name would suggest, are those already found in the food. These often come with a host of other beneficial nutrients. For example, milk and yoghurt contains the sugar lactose as well as calcium and protein. Fresh fruit contains fructose, as well as vitamin C and fibre.  

So, what exactly are “free sugars”?  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as those that are added in by either the consumer or the food manufacturer and the sugars naturally found in fruit juice, honey, syrup and fruit juice concentrates. Things like bakery items, cakes, cookies and soft drinks. It also includes the table sugar you add to your coffee in the morning.  

The WHO recommends limiting free sugars to no more than 10% of total daily energy intake (about 10 teaspoons) to reduce the risk of dental carries, chronic disease and poor diet quality (6). 

What about alternative sweeteners then?  

If we’re told that we need to reduce our sugar intake, additives and preservatives, should we turn to sugar substitutes instead? Well there are loads of sugar alternatives being used, many so that recipes can claim they’re “sugar free”, but it’s difficult to know whether they’re any better than just your regular old table sugar. 

Let’s have a look at some. 

Maple Syrup 

What it is: More commonly used as a weekend breakfast item, but it is also used in recipes as a table sugar replacementThe syrup is formed after the sap is extracted from the wild maple tree and concentrated. 

Nutrients: Contains traces of vitamins and some minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium. 

GI: 54 (7).  

Brown rice malt syrup 

What it is: An expensive replacement often used by people who follow a “sugar free” lifestyleIt is produced by cooking brown rice flour or starch and breaking it down into simpler sugars to produce a liquid.  

Nutrients: It is low in fructose and could be suitable replacement for people with fructose malabsorption.  

GI: 98 (7)  

Agave syrup 

What it is: A very sweet sugar alternative with minimal impact on BGLs. Processed from the agave plant grown in the south west of the USA and northern parts of South America. 

Nutrients: Is high in fructose, which could cause digestive distress for people with fructose intolerance. Has slightly higher calories than table sugar, 60 calories per tablespoon compared to 40 calories for the same amount of table sugar (8). 

GI: 10 (7) 


What it is: A whole fruit  

Nutrients: Contains fibre, potassium (essential for maintaining fluid balance in the body and controlling electrical activity in the heart) and magnesium (essential for proper nerve function, muscle contraction and regulation of blood glucose level and blood pressure) 

GI: 50 (7) 


What it is: Made from the leaves of a native plan in Paraguay in South America, is often used in coffee as a replacement for table sugar in coffee.  

Nutrients: It is much sweeter than table sugar, with negligible calories and does not raise blood sugar.  

GI of 0 

Coconut sugar 

What it is: Made from the sap in the flower buds of a coconut palm. The sap is boiled to allow the water to evaporate and then dried to form a concentrate. It is  

Nutrients: Contains potassium, iron, zinc, and calcium according to research conducted by the Philippines Government research body, but you need to eat a lot to make a difference (9). It also contains the same number of calories as white sugar. 

GI: low GI of 54 (7) 

So, while there are many pros and cons on just this short list of the many alternatives that are available, the reality is that they are all still sugars and most of them contain energy, with little vitamin or minerals (10). And whilst sweeteners are low in calories, there is some evidence that sweeteners may actually increase our appetite (11). 


So, with all the scaremongering around sugar being harmful, the reality is that a diet that has a limited intake of sugar (whatever sugar that may be) is not harmful for a healthy individual.  

There are many foods with naturally occurring sugars that contain nutrients that are highly beneficial, so let’s not go cutting those just yet.

And then as for those free sugars which have little nutritive value? Well, a little bit of honey on toast or glazed on roast carrots can fit into a healthy diet. These foods are there for the enjoyment and satisfaction of eating and cutting them out completely could backfire and result in food obsession and binge eating. After all, who was it that once said a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?  

If you want to learn more about how to have a healthy relationship with food, reduce food obsession, and feel more in control around sugar, learning about Intuitive Eating is a good place to start. 

Note: this article is not designed to replace individual advice from your healthcare provider.  


  1. The British Dietetics Association. (2017). Sugar. Retrieved from on 1/03/2019.  

2. Keeler, Chelsey L., Richard D. Mattes, and Sze‐Yen Tan. “Anticipatory and reactive responses to chocolate restriction in frequent chocolate consumers.” Obesity 23.6 (2015): 1130-1135. 

3. Konttinen H, Haukkala A, Sarlio-Lahteenkorva S, Silventoinen K, Jousilahti P. Eating styles, self-control and obesity indicators. The moderating role of obesity status and dieting history on restrained eating. Appetite (2009): 53:131–4.  

4. Jansen, Esther, et al. “From the Garden of Eden to the land of plenty: Restriction of fruit and sweets intake leads to increased fruit and sweets consumption in children.” Appetite 51.3 (2008): 570-575.

5. International Organisation for Standardisation (2010). Food products — Determination of the glycaemic index (GI) and recommendation for food classification. Retrieved from Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

6. WHO. (2015). Sugar intakes of Adults and Children. Retrieved from. Accessed on 3/03/2019. 

7. The University of Sydney. (2017). Search for the Glycemic Index. Retrieved from on 1/03/2019.  

8. Web MD. (2014). Agave: Calories, Nutrition Facts, and More. Retrieved from on 1/03/2019.  

9. Medical News Today. (2018). Coconut sugar. Is it good for you? Retrieved from Accessed on 1/03/2019. 

10. NHS Choices. (2016). Are sweeteners safe? Retrieved from Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

11. Web MD. (2018). Is there such a thing as healthy sugar? Retrieved from Accessed on 1/03/2019.  

Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

Hitting Diet Rock Bottom

There will be a time in your life where you will eventually feel that “enough is enough” with trying to lose weight and keep it off long term (dieting).

It could be days, months or years before you get there.

It will most likely be after repeated attempts of dieting or restriction, only to become more and more frustrated with the results.

It will most likely make you feel like you’ve failed the diets (when in actual fact, the diets have failed you).

You will most likely never want to look at a diet again.

This is what we call hitting ‘diet rock bottom’.

It is an important step, because more often than not this is the time when you are truly ready to break up with dieting forever. 

Do you think you’ve hit diet bottom? Let me paint you a picture of what it might look like for some people.  

Meet Emma.  

She’s a hard-working woman in her mid-50s with three children, an adoring husband and dog named Barry.  

The thing about Emma is that she’s always dieted. It started as a young teen when she had to suddenly stop dancing competitively due to injury.   

Without dancing in the picture, she became increasingly worried about her figure so took it upon herself to jump on the scales every day to monitor her weight.

She noticed the numbers increase and started to copy what her always-dieting mother would do at meal times. Emma stopped having toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and potatoes at dinner because “carbs are full of calories” her mother told her.  

And this was the beginning of her relentless pursuit to make those numbers on the scale go down by dieting. 

Throughout her teens and then in her 20s and 30s, Emma followed every diet out there. Each one with the same result – initial weight loss, then weight regain.   

She couldn’t understand why. She would follow the diet’s rules precisely… for days and sometimes weeks. That was, until she would crave the foods that the diet said she couldn’t have. And those cravings would get more severe the longer she kept restricting. Which eventually led to binge eating on the foods that she’d deprived herself from eating.

Then after overeating, she’d feel guilty. She’d hate herself for failing her diet. She’d tell herself she had no willpower. But then she’d pull herself together and promise that the next day would be a clean slate to start the diet again…

And this would be repeated each and every time she was on a diet. 

Now in her mid-50s, the effects of dieting have taken their toll. As a result of yo-yo dieting, Emma is now so preoccupied with food that she’s anxious at meal times and constantly thinking about what she can and can’t have.  

She doesn’t like exercising. 

She eats less food but weighs more than ever before. 

She’s uncomfortable in her body. 

She doesn’t trust her body. 

She feels completely at a loss about what to do around food and can’t stand the thought of going on another diet.  

She has hit diet bottom.  

And this is not Emma’s fault. It is the world of dieting that has failed Emma.  

This scenario is experienced by many of my clients.  

The problem is that we live in a world where it is ideal to be thin. This culture (also called diet culture which you can read more about here) drives us to believe that dieting is the norm and being thin is the key to happiness and success.  

But unfortunately, dieting is the very cause of health issues such as disordered eating, weight gain and decreased psychological health.  

And it’s not until we hit diet bottom that we truly see this.  

When we see this, we can open ourselves up to the alternative to dieting, which is Intuitive Eating – a mindful, evidence-based approach that teaches us how to respond to internal body cues and eat according to our individual needs. Intuitive Eating is the proven method to help people break up with dieting and heal their relationship with food and their bodies. You can read more about it here.

If you feel like you’re at diet bottom, I’d love to hear from you. Or if you’d like to learn more about how we can work together, sign up to receive my free download below!