As a women's natural health therapist I am fascinated with hormones. The endocrine system regulates everything from metabolism, growth and development, to tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood. Not to mention the millions of minute changes which occur throughout our monthly cycle!
When our hormones are in check, our general health is in order. When they are out of whack, all sorts of issues can occur - sometimes in the most unusual of places. There are many things which can disrupt our hormones, sugar being one of the biggest and most common culprit.
Amongst other foods which can wreak havoc with your hormones, sugar leads to spikes of the hormone insulin, which works to move the sugar out of the blood stream and into the cells. When you eat a diet high in sugar, your insulin levels will be elevated chronically until your cells develop resistance. As your body becomes focused on processing the sugar and not excess hormones, it can cause a HUGE imbalance in estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
With this in mind I recently signed up for a 7 day sugar free challenge with the incredible Natasha Mossayebi-Maclean - a local health and wellbeing coach specialising in women's health. The week - which included meal plans and an exclusive Facebook group to support each other - blew my mind and made me realise how just one week without sugar could transform my health so much.
I needed to know more! So I asked this lovely lady to tell me more about what going sugar free has meant for her, and how she is helping other women just like me to take control over their health, naturally.
My Sugar Free (not so sweet) Journey
By Natasha Mossayebi-Maclean
"I’ve been sugar free for nearly 3 years now and I’ve found my passion in helping other women cut sugar from their diets and feel good about their bodies again.
I gave up sugar 3 years ago. WHY?! I hear you cry…
I thought I was doing everything right, I would hit the gym 5 times a week, eat so called ‘healthy’ mueslis and honey for breakfast, snack on cereal bars, grapes and dried fruit add even added dates to my fat free yoghurt. Dates are natural sugars so they’re healthy right?!
So why was I still suffering with headaches, mood swings, IBS and being a stone over-weight, which I just couldn’t shift! Not to mention long and painful periods, bad skin and a general lack of energy. I was spending huge amounts of money on expensive vitamins and in a bid to find that magic weight loss pill I’d order anything on the internet that promised me quick weight loss results while I could still sit on the sofa and drink wine.
The photo on the left was taken at my sister’s graduation in 2006 and the photo on the right is me in 2017 on my wedding day. I’m about to give a speech – something I never thought I would have the self-confidence to do.
In the picture on the left I weighed just under 11 stone and although I believe weight doesn’t always matter, for me and how I felt generally, I knew I was overweight and I was deeply unhappy. I didn’t love myself, I was in a relationship with a man who didn’t love me – but if I didn’t love myself how could I expect anyone else to love me?
I was so unhappy with the way I looked and I ALWAYS turned to food and chocolate for love and comfort – it helped initially but I’d always go through the same battle in my head experiencing shame and guilt.
The photo on the right is basically how I am now. I’m 2 stone lighter, about to give a speech on my wedding day and I’m in a loving relationship with my husband AND myself. I’m not saying my life is perfect, it has its ups and downs just like any other, but I can hand on heart say I am truly happy and I genuinely put this down to getting a hold of my sugar addiction, my relationship with food AND my relationship with myself.
SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE
Whilst working on super yachts in New Zealand, I discovered the Kiwis were pretty clued up on this ‘going sugar free’ business. After extensive research and obtaining a diploma in diet and nutrition I decided to cut the dreaded white stuff from my diet. Lord knows I’d tried everything else – weight watchers, slimming world, juice diets – I even succumbed to fasting one day a week! I won’t even go into the hell I experienced on ‘fasting Thursdays’….
I had tried cutting and gluten and dairy from my diet and although this helped a little, it wasn’t sustainable - mainly down to my love/obsession with cheese.
WHY WE DON’T NEED SUGAR
Sugar isn’t a food group – it’s not like carbohydrates, protein or fat all of which contribute towards a healthy, functioning body. Sugar is made up of mainly glucose and fructose. Fructose is the part of sugar we want to avoid. Fructose has been linked to obesity, diabetes and even cancer. I worked with an incredible South African lady who had actually managed to reverse her husband’s life threatening cancer by cutting out all processed sugar and food from his diet. To me this is mind blowing but not surprising as I’ve experienced the pretty awesome effects of cutting out sugar for myself.
Fructose is the part of sugar, which spikes our blood sugar levels and causes our bodies to store fat.
SUGAR IS IN EVERYTHING! Once I started to check the backs of packaging I was horrified to see that sugar is even added to crisps and pasta sauces. Sugar is a flavour enhancer and preservative plus is pretty damn cheap to buy so its win win for food manufactures!
I embarked on an 8 weeks detox where I cut out alcohol, honey, dates, agave syrup and even fruit. Yep that’s right, even fruit! You might think this is a little far fetched BUT I can assure you, any health benefits you feel you gain from fruit and honey, you can find all of these from fresh seasonal vegetables. For example – a red bell pepper contains THREE TIMES more vitamin C than an orange!
Needless to say I was a HORRIBLE human during the fist few days of the detox. I experienced headaches, nausea and a complete lack of energy. I didn’t have enough energy for the gym and I craved my sugar-laden cereal! My mood swings were out of control and I’m pretty sure my husband nearly left me or at least fantasised about throwing me overboard a few times a day. I would have vivid dreams of eating delicious cakes, covered in chocolate and cream…. oh it was just awful. I was an addict coming off a drug. What had this horrible stuff been doing to me?!
After around day 3 I started to feel genuinely amazing. I had more energy in the mornings
and noticed I could actually go a few hours without even thinking about chocolate. The withdrawals subsided after only 4 days. But what really came up for me was much deeper. How often I would turn to food for comfort.
For years I had been using food/sugar/sweets to mask my feelings and hide my emotions. Rather than dealing with the problem I would just eat my way through a bag of crisps or family bar of galaxy and then starve myself the next day because I felt so bad. But I couldn’t do this on my detox, my real, true, raw feelings actually had to be dealt with. So I faced them, I didn’t comfort myself with cake, I listened to my feelings head on. I discovered a love for mediation and yoga and I uncovered my inner hippie who had been hiding away for so long.
As the weeks went on I felt amazing, the weight came off, my energy soared and even other people started to notice a change in me. I wasn’t actually eating fewer calories or exercising anymore, but was still seeing the weight coming off and more importantly, I had my life back. I was in control of food, not the other way around.
Things were great, I had completed my 8-week detox and I started to implement these changes into my life. BOOM! I finally had my shit together! YES!
THEN CHRISTMAS HAPPENED
Still in New Zealand and feeling emotional that I couldn’t get home for Christmas with my family, we threw a BBQ for local friends and we made the most of it.
I had a moment of weakness and peer pressure struck and I ended up eating a slice of chocolate Yule log.
Even though I’d armed myself with delicious sugar free sweet treats I still caved and went for the chocolate log. It was like the floodgates had opened. I JUST COULDN’T STOP. I had to have more and more and ended up binging until I was nearly sick. I had a terrible nights sleep, stomach cramps, feeling sick and woke with what can only be described as a sugar hangover.
GETTING MY SUGAR FREE ASS BACK ON THE WAGON
This was a pivotal moment for me. I realised there and then the effects sugar has on my body. I’ve not binged like that since and I never want to feel like that again.
Emotional eating is something I’ve always battled with, even as a child. Giving up the white stuff has helped me combat this – along with eating real wholesome food; practising self-love and daily mediations I’m able to deal with my emotions head on.
At the risk of sounding like an Oprah guest, this was actually life changing. Changing my diet and cutting out sugar really has changed my life.
My husband and I moved back to the UK in 2016 and I launched my health food business in
September that year. I have since branched out into Holistic Health and Wellness and I help women overcome their sugar habits and emotional eating. I want to inspire and empower women to take control of their lives and unhealthy emotions around food.
‘’I now specialise in Women's Health and Wellness because I KNOW what it’s like to be a women trying to get fit and lose weight. I know what it feels like to look in the mirror and hate the person staring back’’
I offer a Holistic approach to Health & Wellness, offering Personalised Nutritional Plans, Women's Support Packages and one 2 one Advice & Guidance on cutting down on sugar.
Leading a healthy lifestyle and giving up sugar isn’t just about eating a few salads and hitting the gym, its SO much more than that. Which is why I have created a happy and healthy way for women to kick-start their healthy lifestyles.
If you have had any experience with emotional eating or sugar habits or even if you’d like to chat further with any of the above I would love to hear form you.
Love Natasha x"