Photo: Reina Takahashi
Are you willing to change? This story will benefit anyone and if you are working in the Entertainment Industry either as a Dancer, Actor or Singer this blog is definitely for you. If you haven't read my previous article yet, take some time to do it now as it is strongly related.
I dedicate this article to you Mr S. Thank you for inspiring me...
I spent many years dieting. It felt completely normal to me as a professional dancer, therefore I was constantly restricting myself. I used to go on a diet for 3 or 4 weeks, then after getting the job I would go back to my terrible nutritional habits.
4 years ago I got injured quite badly. This experience was eye opening and I decided to completely change my relationship with food. The injury was so bad, I couldn't dance or go to the gym for 6 months. I was devastated. If you are a performer, you know how 6 months is long in our profession... So I found a way to escape reality: Sugar! I had always loved sugar but this time I went a bit too far...
In less than 3 months I gained nearly 13 kg.
6 months later... Back to the studio, watching myself in the mirror with my tights on was a real shock... I needed to do something about it, cut refined sugar from my diet.
I knew where the problem was, I just didn't want to admit it. I thought that it was OK to live that way but in reality it was annoying. Dieting all year long is not a life and I had to stop living that way. I remember how I was feeling after eating too much sugar, I couldn't explain it until I found this:
"Brain fog can be a symptom of a nutrient deficiency, sleep disorder, bacterial overgrowth from overconsumption of sugar, depression, or even a thyroid condition. Other common brain fog causes include eating too much and too often, inactivity, not getting enough sleep, chronic stress, and a poor diet"
I couldn't explain why I felt this way but now I know, it was sugar! Did you know that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine?!... I had such a terrible diet, and when you have a poor diet you don't look after yourself properly, you can't think clearly. I lived so many years that way and I couldn't even see it...
Interesting video...What sugar does to your body:
I cut refined Sugar from my diet nearly 4 years ago. Sugar is hidden in everything we eat and chocolate was my favorite! So addictive... However, I genuinely wanted to stop and this is how I started my 21 days challenge. No refined sugar for 21 days. I was so motivated it wasn't as hard as I thought. After a month the most difficult part was to find healthy food choices outside of the home. It is not easy as sugar is everywhere! My family and friends couldn't understand my decision "Wow, are you sure? no cake?" refusing every single dessert when I was invited was really problematic. I never realized that before. I became a weirdo, seriously. People couldn't understand why and they were always asking << Are you still dieting? >> That question changed everything. I wasn't dieting anymore! After 2 months it became a habit.
That was it! I'm not dieting, it is a LIFESTYLE!
I spent 3 months working out very hard, Ballet, Horton, HIIT workout and I wasn't craving sugar anymore. I was on fire! I remember that day I went shopping to get a new pair of trousers. The trousers was way too large for me, I was standing in front of the mirror and I told my friends << Is that my body?! >> Don't get me wrong, I'm a dancer, I could see myself in the mirror but somehow I was so focused on my new goal that I wasn't really paying attention to my figure. Not at all! People started to notice the change, I went to my Doctor for a check up after such a bad injury and his reaction was priceless, he couldn't believe it. Everyone around me was pretty shocked. I lost nearly 13 kg in less than 3 months and I was completely cured from my sugar addiction. Dieting seems so far to me now...It's like another life.
- This is the perfect book by Nicole M. Avena PhD and John R. Talbott, the best way to understand why you can't be healthy and in great shape if you are constantly eating sugar!
"Why Diets Fail (Because You're Addicted to Sugar): Science Explains How to End Cravings, Lose Weight, and Get Healthy"
I cut refined sugar for superficial reasons, it was to get my abs back! I got my body back and I'm so grateful for that but this is nothing. My body is just the tip of the iceberg. The way I feel inside is the real gift. I'm so positive, so productive and I have so much energy! I concentrate way better, seriously, endless energy, I can move mountains! After a year, I was mentally and physically ready to audition. This is where I found my "Beast Mode 2.0"! (If you read my previous article you know what I'm talking about...) Now I could go to a last minute audition or casting without dieting for 4 weeks beforehand. So much more opportunities! I can't believe it, it all started the day I cut refined sugar from my diet!
NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY ?
Absolutely not! Empty calories usually come in the form of added sugar or saturated and trans fats. Therefore there is no nutrients, minerals, proteins and fiber in sugar. You can't create any deficiency by cutting refined sugar from your diet.
Now that you know my story, I will tell you how to stay in perfect shape all year long.
WHAT I DO NOT EAT
Fast food, no soft drinks, no milk chocolate of any sorts, no Ice cream, no pastries, no biscuits, no juices, no sweet yogurt, no sweets, no cake, no pop corn, no pizza etc...I might sound extreme but it is possible. It became so natural to me, I simply don't crave this type of food anymore.
HOW TO STOP?
First you must want it. You must feel this real desire to change. That's the first step. I tried and failed for many years before finally succeeding. It took me 3 years. What did I do? the 21 days challenge. Stop eating refined sugar for 21 days then keep going until you reach a full month, all you need is self-discipline and determination. You must do it for a full month.
You can do it!
NATURAL SUGAR SUBSTITUTES
I use Honey, it is my favorite, it is natural and nice with everything. You can also eat fruit and dark chocolate too. I started with 75% and slowly I increased in intensity and today I only eat 90% cocoa. It is good, I'm completely fine with it. You will get used to it. Honey is my choice but you can try many natural alternatives such as:
Monk fruit extract is a natural sweetener that has no calories, carbohydrates, sodium or fat, and it has no effect on blood sugar. Monk fruit sweetener is 150 to 200 times sweeter than refined sugar, therefore, less is definitely more.
Stevia is an almost calorie-free natural sweetener made from a highly refined extract of the stevia plant. Some brands of stevia contain other additives, such as dextrose, sugar alcohol or maltodextrin, which add tiny amounts of carbohydrates and calories, this is why I'm not a big fan...
Honey is considered an “added sugar” but it’s still a natural alternative to refined sugar, and it doesn’t contain additives or preservatives. Because it’s much sweeter than sugar, you can use less to achieve the same taste. Honey often is used to sweeten yogurt or drinks and has a lower glycemic index than sugar, meaning that it takes the body longer to break it down. I love the taste of honey more, I want to love my food and my drinks. You must choose what is best for you and your future. Think long-term.
Although date sugar resembles brown sugar, it’s actually made from granulated dried dates. Because it’s made from the whole fruit, it has more fiber and antioxidants than regular sugar. Date sugar works well as a substitute for brown sugar in baked goods, but it’s difficult to blend into beverages because of its grainy texture.
Coconut sugar has more antioxidants and nutrients than refined sugar and contains a prebiotic called inulin that supports gut health. Like honey, it’s a lower-glycemic sweetener, but it’s still mostly sugar and should be used sparingly.
IS EATING HEALTHY ENOUGH?
To stay in shape obviously not. This is the reason why I added HIIT workout to M-Intensive Online Dance Training.This is how I lost 13kg so quickly. I use HIIT because it is also natural, you don't need any equipment, bodyweight only. HIIT changed my body, I practice it a few months a year. It is perfect for weight loss and to gain muscle mass at the same time!
WHY I STOPPED DRINKING JUICES AND SMOOTHIES
I know this is a difficult one, I was so unaware of this before cutting down refined sugar from my diet. I was a juice lover, I loved smoothies too, however I didn't drink juice or smoothie for more than 3 years. Drinking smoothies doesn’t mean you have a healthy, balanced diet. These are both high in sugar. If you blend fruit, the natural sugars are released from within the cell walls of the fruit and become “free sugars”. Free sugars include any added sugars and are the kind we should all be cutting down on to protect our teeth as well as lower our energy intake to help maintain a healthy weight. Even if they have some added vegetables like spinach or kale, they are still likely to be high in sugar. According to the national Eatwell Guide, a serving of smoothie (or juice) is 150ml. That’s the same as a “mini” can of cola and less than half the size of a standard can of soft drink. We need fibre, this is the reason why I will always choose a fresh fruit over a juice or a smoothie...Sorry Smoothies lovers...I know! I was as surprised as you!
Fat is actually innocent!
Absolutely! Let me tell you about fat. I eat butter every day for instance, many consider butter as bad. It is not. Your body needs fat actually, your muscles love it! They need fat to perform at their best. During my rehab I ate fat, good fat, such as salmon, avocado, peanut butter, olive oil, cheese or dark chocolate 85% cocoa. It is completely ok, fat is good for you. When I say fat you might think: << And what about junk food? >> These are not good fat. It is so high in sugar and added fat, this is why it's so addictive! Also, forget about all the fat free food, stay away from it. FAT IS GOOD! In moderation of course.
When I was on the "dark side" (when I was a sugar addict) I used to stay away from cheese. Why? Fat! Now you know, I was completely wrong. I remember that show in India, I was on Tour with a lovely cast and there was that dancer, that guy, he was quite fit, shredded, in very good shape actually. We had dinner and I remember how shocked I was when I saw him eating an entire plate of cheese. I was like: How can he stay in such good shape and eat like this?! I was quite confused. That night I stayed away from cheese but I had my dessert...So wrong! He was in way better shape than I was back then and he was eating so much more, no restriction at all and I was dieting as usual. He knew what I know now, this is why he was enjoying his cheese and stayed away from dessert! He had some Comte, Emmental, Cheddar which are actually quite healthy, full of excellent fat and 0% added sugar!
It is all about knowledge at the end...And now you know. However, don't eat 1 kg of cheese after dinner!
- Lovely book by Nina Teicholz, how fat is actually good for you!
"A groundbreaking study that reveals how decades of misleading science and policy unjustly demonized the high-fat diet, which might actually be our healthiest option. For the past 60 years we have been told that a low-fat diet can protect against obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Yet despite many of us taking this advice in the developed West, we are now in the midst of an obesity epidemic that is breeding serious health problems. Recent more rigorous scientific work has overturned some of the shoddier theories of earlier decades to demonstrate conclusively that we have been needlessly avoiding red meat, cheese, whole milk, and eggs for decades, and that we can now, guilt-free, welcome these delicious foods back into our lives."
ARE YOU A CEREAL LOVER?
I used to love cereal for breakfast! That was my typical breakfast back in the days: A nice glass of orange juice and a big bowl of cereals. Not healthy at all. I was even having some muesli at night instead of a meal, yes I did that! I was sure it was perfect for weight loss! Oh my, so many mistakes! No wonder I was putting on weight every single year. Muesli! even worse, so high in sugar, so high!!! I know, there is some nice dried fruits and nuts inside, but it is just a trick, stay away from it! So what to eat for breakfast? Whole wheat bread, butter, peanut butter (sugar free) fruit, nuts, honey, greek yogurt, dark chocolate, eggs, avocado etc...Way better options. I love peanut butter and I am a big fan of Whole Earth, so good!
I love bread, however I strongly reduced my consumption of white bread for a while as it is also high in sugar: Flower! Instead I eat whole wheat bread. It works quite well for me. I eat bread regularly, it didn't prevent me from losing weight at all. Completely fine. Many will think that bread is bad but it is not, choose the right bread and you can still have your bread and butter at breakfast!
What about rice, potatoes and pasta? Most health experts agree there’s no proof that high carb foods are more likely to make us gain weight than any other food. Ultimately, it’s an excess of calories that makes us pile on the pounds – and it really doesn’t matter where those extra calories come from. I didn't cut carbs and I still eat carbs today. Many people cut it from their diet and this is a real mistake. Yes I know white rice is not the best, pasta even worse because of flour, however, I ate both during "my rehab" and it didn't impact my weight loss at all. Why? It might be made of flour but it is not like eating a Snickers right?! Be mindful about it, as long as you stay away from processed food you are fine. We often think about our diet in terms of what it can do for our heart and our waistline, but the right nutrients also provide the fuel for the brain to operate properly.
Maggy Boyd, a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, explains how to feed your brain:
"The brain's primary source of fuel is carbohydrates," Boyd said. "Those carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in a form called glucose. Your brain uses glucose as its main source of energy."
That's why she says low-carb diets may not be best for your brain.
"If you're not eating enough carbs, you're essentially restricting your brain from its fuel source it prefers."
There’s also good evidence that wholegrain – typically found in high carb foods like wholegrain cereal, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and oats – have a number of health benefits, including keeping our heart and digestive system healthy and helping us control our weight and blood sugar levels. A diet that skips these foods makes it difficult for us to eat the three daily servings of wholegrains recommended by most health experts.
- Another great read by Brett and Kate McKay:
VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN FOOD
Many foods marketed as vegetarian or vegan are often highly processed, high in added sugar or lacking in nutrients. If you include these products in your diet, eat them only in moderation. I'm vegetarian once a week to be honest, as there are many benefits on cutting meat from your diet for instance. There are some established health benefits, says Maggie Michalczyk, RD, based in Chicago:
“Being vegan eliminates a big source of saturated fat from the diet and (hopefully) adds more fibrous vegetables to the diet in its place. So there is a lower risk for things like high cholesterol and heart disease [on a plant-based diet]".
However there is a big misunderstanding with vegan products, these are not "healthy choices" Vegan options are actually high in sugar, You can verify by yourself, it's important to note that going vegan doesn’t necessarily make you any healthier than a carnivore — nor is it a guarantee that you’ll immediately lose weight. If you’re ordering crispy tofu from your favorite Chinese takeout spot every night, you’re far worse off than a carnivore who’s having a lean piece of chicken breast for dinner. Many of the “vegan” products on the market contain highly processed ingredients or excess levels of sugar and sodium. If you are vegan be mindful about it and avoid processed vegan alternatives.
- I recommend this nice article by Cory Stieg:
Now you know how to pick the right yogurt. You can get a nice greek yogurt, it's rich in protein and so delicious with fruit, nuts or honey! Avoid low fat or fat free. I love Yeo Valley's natural yogurt and you can also find nice greek yogurt at Sainsbury's or Tesco. Healthier alternatives and it is not expensive!
I had many concerns regarding fizzy water until I spoke to my Physiotherapist in Paris. Back then I was training quite hard, at least 15 hours a week and my hamstrings were always so tight until he educated me about sparkling water and its benefits. He advised me to drink a small bottle of sparkling water at least twice a week. Everyone sweats during a workout and although we drink lots of still water, it is not as rich in minerals. This is probably the reason why I was always in pain.
"DO NOT SNACK BETWEEN MEALS, DO NOT EAT AFTER 10PM...BLA BLA BLA"
Another legend! You can snack between meals and you can eat whenever you want, you can do all that without putting on weight. It is not about WHEN but WHAT you are eating! If you have a healthy snack, such as fruit, nuts, greek yogurt or 3 squares of dark chocolate 85%, you are fine! You can also eat after 10 pm as long as it is healthy and refined sugar free! Nevertheless, nutritionists will tell you to wait about three hours between your last meal and bedtime. This allows digestion to occur and the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine. This may prevent problems like heartburn at night and even insomnia.
You can't put on weight if you are eating right! Remember that.
I love nuts! high in fiber and protein, it is perfect, however you do put on weight if you eat too much of these, stick to 1 or 2 handfuls a day. Remember we are dancers, we are burning lots of calories and the more you train the more you need to eat! It is very important. You can't give your best on an empty stomach and it is quite unhealthy. Have a good breakfast and eat regularly to stay energized throughout the day.
This is another misunderstanding! Dried fruit are not as healthy as we think as they are quite high in sugar! They can boost your fiber and nutrient intake and supply your body with large amounts of antioxidants. However, they are also high in sugar and calories, and can cause problems when eaten in excess. For this reason, dried fruit should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods. Be mindful about it and always prefer fresh over dried fruit.
Sorry Sushi lovers...Sushi is often regarded as a weight-loss-friendly meal. Yet, many types of sushi are made with high-fat sauces and fried tempura batter, which significantly increases their calorie content. The lack of protein and fiber can easily turn it into a high-calorie meal that's unlikely to make you feel full. I know, I love my sushi too! You can still have sushi but consider this a "cheat meal" as they are particularly high in sugar. Because of this we tend to eat lots of them which can cause weight gain. However, they are not completely bad, it can also be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids from the fish it's made with, therefore they are not to be banned. Have a nice meal once a week and not more than 10 pieces but please do not eat sushi everyday!
"Cheat Days? Nope. Cheat meals!"
I'm against cheat days, let's be clear, I don't believe in cheat days at all. Cheat days can ruin your hard work, in just 2 cheat days a week you can destroy months of efforts, you really do. This is why I prefer "cheat meals".That is the right thing to do. For instance I still eat fries, I love fries, but only once a week, like sushi. I could have pizza but not from a fast food because they are completely processed. We rarely eat one slice of pizza as they are so high in sugar and fat. I eat homemade pizza only. Made of real ingredients from mother earth. I know it sounds quite strict but you genuinely become good at it and I don't feel restricted at all. It is just normal to me. If you are an Entertainment Industry Professional your body is your tool. Look after your tool the best you can.
Some studies suggest these calorie-free versions of sugary drinks can help people lose weight. However, a new major body of research claims low-calorie sweeteners are no better for weight-loss than sugar. Diet soda's link to poor health. Most recently, a 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that those who drink two diet sodas a day are more likely to die from circulatory diseases, as well as increased mortality overall, compared to those who had one diet soda or less a month. Increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and weight gain. Which can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. In fact, one study found that diet soda drinkers had a higher risk of stroke and dementia than regular soda drinkers. To be honest, diet drinks are as bad as regular ones.
SO WHAT DO YOU DRINK?!
I hear this question often...I drink water. I know it might sound boring but I'm fine with water. I make nice drinks, sparkling water on ice with fresh lemons and honey. It is fresh and healthy. I can make homemade Ice Tea too. I'm fine, water makes me genuinely happy!
Alcohol is quite high in sugar . However I love life and I do drink alcohol sometimes. Because of my knowledge of sugar I know how to pick my drinks properly to reduce the "damage". I will choose red wine over white or rose for instance as red wine is not as high in sugar and rich in minerals. I'm a wine drinker anyway so I will rarely choose something else such as vodka, whisky or tequila for example. Too high in sugar to me. You can drink alcohol but be aware that alcohol causes weight gain. Always in moderation...
WHAT TO EAT?
It is all about picking the right ingredients. I have one simple rule. Cook ingredients from our dear Mother Earth! You can't go wrong! If it's coming from Mother Nature you are fine. I cook fresh food myself, I know the ingredients, I know it is natural and healthy therefore I can eat so much more! You can also eat frozen vegetables, there are some nice options available. I eat a lot more now, guilt-free! I don't buy ready meals, I always cook myself. I know life is busy but if it's truly important to you, you always find the time.
It is not as hard as you think. Following these simple rules will also boost your metabolism!
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU WORKOUT?
I dance every single week, it is a workout indeed. However, we also need to target particular muscles to stay in good shape, dance isn't enough. I workout at least 4 times a week. HIIT, core workout and I lift weights at the gym. Personally, I hit the gym only once or twice a week, it's more than enough for a dancer. The rest of the week it is bodyweight training and dance. Horton is a real workout to be honest, combined with HIIT it is perfect, this is how I built my body and lost nearly 13 kg in less than 3 months! Genuinely, it is an amazing tool! Perhaps a great opportunity to learn more about our Online Courses on offer, train wherever you wish and at your own pace!
HOW CAN I LOSE BELLY FAT?
I see so many misleading ads about targeted weight loss. You can't just lose belly fat, it is impossible. You can't target a particular area on your body when it comes to weight loss and if you want to know the truth, this is how you will lose body fat: First in your extremities, hands, feet, face, wrist and your ankles. Then your arms, legs and neck. Belly fat is what goes at the end! However you can definitely work on a specific area at the gym. You can work your butt or your biceps and your legs. You can target any area for muscle growth, however for weight loss you will have to lose weight on your entire body. You can do it!
Still not convinced? Here's what happens to your body when you stop eating sugar for 30 days. I experienced it and this YouTube channel helped me so much!
After a year sugar free I reintroduced occasionally into my diet a few things I always loved. Jam (50% less sugar), chocolate spread (Very Dark of course) and I set up a deal with myself: If I'm invited to a wedding, a birthday or a bar mitzvah etc...I do eat the cake. I cut refined sugar from my diet but I'm not rude.
If you invite me to your wedding I eat your cake as it means something to you.
- The Deal - You can eat dessert for :
4 years later...NEVER FELT SO FIT, HEALTHY & MOST OF ALL HAPPY!!
In December I will celebrate my fourth year as a former sugar addict!
I can't believe it. Seriously, it took me 3 years to finally succeed and I finally made it! Was it worth it? Oh Yes! I am so proactive and productive therefore I have so much more opportunities. I'm in top shape all year long. My skin looks better, my hair, my teeth and I am full of energy! I can move mountains! If I did it, you can definitely do it too! Sugar makes a real impact on our lives and we don't realize it until you touch rock bottom as I did...But now I know it was for the better.
It is a Lifestyle...
Sugar was a real problem, I was tired of living this life. It wasn't the only reason though, it was also my mindset to be honest. I was "dieting", all the time, I sent this message to myself, to the people around me, it was my decision and I was wrong. What happens when you are dieting? Frustration, unhappiness and you feel like you are sacrificing something. You are simply restricting yourself from being you.
Stop dieting and it will change your life forever.
It's Summer and I'm dancing! WHAT ABOUT YOU?