Photo: Reina Takahashi
This story will benefit anyone, regardless of your career path. If you are working in the Entertainment Industry as a Dancer, Actor, or Singer, this blog is definitely for you. If you haven't read my previous article, take some time to do it now, as it is strongly related.
I dedicate this article to you, Samir and Nathalie. Thank you both for inspiring me...
Updated in Nov 2022
I spent many years dieting. As a professional dancer, it felt completely normal to me; therefore, I was constantly restricting myself. I used to go on a diet for 3 or 4 weeks, and then after getting the job, I would return to my terrible nutritional habits.
Five years ago, I got injured quite badly. This experience was eye-opening, and I decided to change my relationship with food altogether. The injury was so bad; I couldn't dance or go to the gym for six months. I was devastated. If you are a performer, you know how six months is long in our profession. So I found a way to escape reality: Sugar! I had always loved sugar but went a bit too far this time.
In less than three months, I gained nearly 13 kg.
Six 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 didn't want to admit it. I thought it was okay to live that way, but it wasn't enjoyable. Dieting all year long is not a life, and I had to stop living that way. I remember how I was feeling after overeating sugar, and 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 eight 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 and can't think clearly. I lived so many years that way, and I couldn't even see it.
Such an exciting video; learn about what sugar does to your body:
I cut refined sugar from my diet five years ago. Sugar is hiding in everything we eat, and chocolate was my favourite! 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 challenging part was finding healthy food outside 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 was problematic. I never realized that before. People couldn't understand why and always asked << Are you still dieting? >> That question changed everything. I wasn't dieting anymore! After two months, it became a habit.
It is not a diet; It's a lifestyle!
I spent three months working out very hard, Ballet, Horton, and HIIT workouts, 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 were 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 the new goal that I wasn't 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 three months and was completely cured of my sugar addiction. Dieting seems so far to me now. It's like another life.
- I love that 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: 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 a natural gift. I'm so positive and productive and have so much energy! I concentrate much better; I can move mountains with endless energy! After a year, I was mentally and physically ready to audition. I found my "Beast Mode 2.0"! (If you read my previous article, you know what I'm talking about) I could go to a last-minute audition or casting without dieting for four weeks beforehand. So many more opportunities! I can't believe it. It all started the day I cut refined sugar from my diet!
Not! Empty calories usually come from added sugar or saturated and trans fats. Therefore, sugar has no nutrients, minerals, proteins, or fibre. 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.
WHAT I DO NOT EAT
Fast food, no soft drinks, no milk chocolate of any sort, no Ice cream, no pastries, no biscuits, no juices, no sweet yoghurt, no sweets, no cake, no popcorn, no pizza, etc. I might sound extreme, but it is possible. It became so natural to me; I don't crave this type of food anymore.
HOW TO STOP?
First, you must want it. You must feel this genuine desire to change. That's the first step. I tried and failed for many years before finally succeeding. It took me three years. What did I do? The 21 days challenge. Stop eating refined sugar for 21 days, then keep going until you reach a whole month; you only need self-discipline and determination. You must do it for an entire month.
You can do it!
NATURAL SUGAR SUBSTITUTES
I use honey; it is my favourite. It is natural and friendly with everything. You can also eat fruit and dark chocolate too. I started at 75%, slowly increasing in intensity, and today I only consume 90% cocoa. I'm happy 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 with no calories, carbohydrates, sodium, or fat and does not affect blood sugar. Monk fruit sweetener is 150 to 200 times sweeter than refined sugar; therefore, less is more.
Stevia is an almost calorie-free natural sweetener made from a highly refined stevia plant extract. 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 doesn't contain additives or preservatives. Because it's much sweeter than sugar, you can use less to achieve the same taste. Honey is often used to sweeten yoghurt or drinks and has a lower glycemic index than sugar, meaning it takes the body longer to break it down. I love the taste of honey more; I want to love my food and drinks. You must choose what is best for you and your future. Think long-term.
Although date sugar resembles brown sugar, it's made from granulated dried dates. Because it's made from whole fruit, it has more fibre and antioxidants than regular sugar. Date sugar works well as a substitute for brown sugar in baked goods, but it isn't easy 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 why we added the HIIT workout to M-Intensive Online Dance Training. That 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 gaining muscle mass simultaneously!
WHY I STOPPED DRINKING JUICES AND SMOOTHIES
I know this is a difficult one. Before cutting down refined sugar from my diet, I was unaware of this. I was a juice lover; I loved smoothies too. However, I didn't drink juice or a smoothie for over three 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 and 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 soft drink. We need fibre; I always choose fresh fruit over juice or a smoothie.
Sorry Smoothies lovers, I know! I was as surprised as you!
Fat is 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. I ate good fat during rehabs, such as salmon, avocado, peanut butter, olive oil, cheese, dark chocolate, and 85% cocoa. It is entirely okay. Fat is good for you. 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 utterly wrong. I remember that show in India; I was on Tour with a lovely cast, and there was that dancer, that guy, he was pretty fit, shredded, in excellent shape. 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 pretty 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, with no restriction at all, and I was dieting as usual. He knew what I know now; this is why he enjoyed his cheese and stayed away from dessert! He had some Comte, Emmental, and Cheddar, which is relatively healthy, full of excellent fat, and 0% added sugar!
It is all about knowledge in the end, and now you know. However, don't eat 1 kg of cheese after dinner!
- A lovely book by Nina Teicholz, how fat is good for you!
"The Big Fat Surprise: why butter, meat, and cheese belong in a healthy diet."
"A groundbreaking study reveals how decades of misleading science and policy unjustly demonized the high-fat diet, which might 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 breeding serious health problems. Recent, more rigorous scientific work has overturned some of the shoddier theories of earlier decades to demonstrate 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! My typical breakfast back in the day was a nice glass of orange juice and a big bowl of cereal. 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 some lovely dried fruits and nuts are 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 yoghurt, 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 pretty well for me. I eat bread regularly; it didn't prevent me from losing weight. Completely fine. Many will think that bread is terrible, but it is not; choose the proper bread and still have your bread and butter for 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, an excess of calories makes us pile on the pounds – and it 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, which is a genuine 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. It is made of flour, but it is not like eating Snickers, right?! Be mindful of it; as long as you stay away from processed food, you are fine. We often think about our diet and what it can do for our heart and waistline, but the proper nutrients also fuel the brain to operate correctly.
Maggy Boyd, a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, explains how to feed your brain:
"The brain's primary fuel source 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."
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 – has several 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 to eat the three daily servings of whole grains 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 in moderation. I'm vegetarian once a week as there are many benefits to cutting meat from your diet. 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. 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 high in sugar; you can verify by yourself 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 favourite Chinese takeout spot every night, you're far worse off than a carnivore with a lean piece of chicken breast for dinner. Many "vegan" products on the market contain highly processed ingredients or excess sugar and sodium levels. If you are vegan, be mindful of it and avoid processed vegan alternatives.
- I recommend this excellent article by Cory Stieg:
Now you know how to pick a good yoghurt. You can get a nice greek yoghurt, rich in protein and delicious with fruit, nuts, or honey! Avoid low-fat or fat-free. I love Yeo Valley's natural yoghurt, and you can also find nice greek yoghurt 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 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. That is probably the reason why I was always in pain.
"DO NOT SNACK BETWEEN MEALS, DO NOT EAT AFTER 10 pm...BLAH BLAH BLAH"
Another legend! You can snack between meals and eat whenever you want; you can do all that without putting on weight. It is not about WHEN but WHAT you are eating! You are okay with a healthy snack, such as fruit, nuts, greek yoghurt, or three squares of dark chocolate 85%! You can also eat after 10 pm if 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 and the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine. That 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 fibre and protein, it is perfect; however, you do put on weight if you overeat these, stick to 1 or 2 handfuls a day. Remember, we are dancers, burning lots of calories, and the more you train, the more you need to eat! It is imperative. You can't give your best on an empty stomach, which is quite unhealthy. Have a good breakfast and eat regularly to stay energized throughout the day.
This is another misunderstanding! Dried fruit is not as healthy as we think, as they are pretty high in sugar! They can boost your fibre and nutrient intake and supply your body with many 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 of 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 fibre can quickly turn it into a high-calorie meal 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 exceptionally high in sugar. Because of this, we tend to eat lots of them, which can cause weight gain. However, they are not completely bad; they can also be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids from the fish it's made with; therefore, they should not be banned. Have a nice meal with not more than ten pieces once a week, but please do not eat sushi daily!
"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. You can destroy months of effort in just two cheat days a week. You 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 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 with natural ingredients from mother earth. I know it sounds pretty strict, but you genuinely become good at it, and I don't feel restricted. 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 sugary drinks can help people lose weight. However, a new major body of research claims low-calorie sweeteners is 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 and increased mortality overall compared to those who had one diet soda or less a month. Increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and weight gain can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. One study found that diet soda drinkers had a higher risk of stroke and dementia than regular soda drinkers. 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 okay with water. I make excellent drinks, sparkling water on ice with fresh lemons and honey. It is refreshing and healthy. I can make homemade Ice Tea too. I'm fine; water makes me genuinely happy!
Alcohol is relatively 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 correctly to reduce the "damage." For instance, I will choose red wine over white or rose, as red wine is not as high in sugar and is rich in minerals. I'm a wine drinker, so I rarely choose something else, such as vodka, whisky, or tequila. Too high in sugar for 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 a straightforward 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, which are natural and healthy. Therefore I can eat so much more! You can also eat frozen vegetables; there are some excellent options available. I don't buy ready meals; I always cook myself. I know life is busy, but you always find the time if it's essential.
It is not as hard as you think. Following these simple rules will also boost your metabolism!
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU WORK OUT?
I dance every single week; it is a workout, indeed. However, we also need to target particular muscles to stay in good shape, and dance isn't enough. I work out at least four times a week. HIIT, core workout, and I lift weights at the gym. I hit the gym only once or twice a week; it's more than enough for a dancer. The rest of the week is bodyweight training and dance. Horton is a real workout combined with HIIT; it is perfect. This is how I built my body and lost nearly 13 kg in less than three months! Genuinely, it is a fantastic 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 of your body regarding 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 ankles. Then your arms, legs, and neck. Belly fat is what goes at the end! However, you can work-specific body areas at the gym. You can work your butt or your biceps and your legs. You can target any area for muscle growth, but you will have to lose weight on your entire body for weight loss. Put your T-Shirt on, and let's go to the gym; 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, I occasionally reintroduced a few things I always loved into my diet. Jam (50% less sugar), chocolate spread (Very Dark, of course), and I set up a deal with myself: If I attend a wedding, birthday, bar mitzvah, etc. I do eat cake. I cut refined sugar from my diet, but I'm not rude.
If you invite me to your wedding, I will eat your cake as it means something to you.
- The Deal - You can eat dessert for :
Five years later. I NEVER FELT SO FIT, HEALTHY & MOST OF ALL HAPPY!!
I will celebrate my fifth year as a former sugar addict in December!
I can't believe it. It took me three years to succeed, and I finally made it! Was it worth it? Oh Yes! I am proactive and productive; therefore, I have many more opportunities. I'm in top shape all year long. My skin, hair, and teeth look better, and I am energetic! I can move mountains! If I did it, you could do it too! Sugar impacts our lives, and we don't realize it until we touch rock bottom, as I did. But now I know it was for the better.
It is a Lifestyle.
Sugar was a real problem, and I was tired of living this life. It wasn't the only reason; it was also my mindset. I was "dieting" all the time; I sent this message to myself and 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!
Are you looking to lose some weight? Get it done with the M-Intensive method!
Patrice Moniz, founder of M-Intensive, will take you on a journey of discovery by using a mix of modern dance and basic fitness exercises that will proactively target every part of your body. You will also discover the foundation of his method and how he lost 15 kgs in less than three months. At M-Intensive, we are not promising you the impossible; you will follow Patrice's lifestyle by using the Power of 4...
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