Quitting Sugar: One Patient’s Story

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Many Americans have a hard time kicking their sugar habit despite evidence that excess sugar affects all aspects of our health. As One Medical member Nicole Curcio learned, cutting out sugar and other common food allergens can help alleviate a wide range of health issues, from asthma and eczema to fatigue.

Curcio came to One Medical nutritionist Karyn Duggan, CNC, earlier this year in a quest to get pregnant. She’d been receiving acupuncture treatments from Sarah Fink, LAc, who encouraged Curcio to make dietary changes—a daunting prospect. “I was addicted to sugar and didn’t know how I was going to survive the work day without a sugary afternoon pick-me-up,” Curcio says.

However, after experiencing a miscarriage, she decided she had to make a change. At her first nutrition consultation, “Duggan let Curcio know that if she wanted to get healthier, sugar would have to become a significantly less prominent part of her diet.” Duggan jokes now that she was afraid Curcio would never come back.

Thankfully, Curcio did come back, and her journey has been one of accountability, trial and error, and partnership. She feels grateful to have gone through the process with her husband. “It was very motivating to see my husband change,” she said. “He used to be super sluggish and had a hard time getting up.”

Curcio experienced dramatic improvements in her own health as well. “Changing my diet has helped me with the most major health problem in my life—asthma. I noticed my breathing was a lot better and I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night with asthma,” Curcio says. “I’m so glad that I made those steps because I’ve seen the results and feel my own body changing in a positive way. I just wish I had gone to see Karyn sooner.”

Curcio shares what she learned from Duggan to make changes toward better nutritional health.

Not all calories are created equal.

“Karyn showed me a healthier way to eat that was more satisfying and wouldn’t make me rely on sugar for energy,” Curcio explains. Duggan encourages her patients to focus on healthy, nutrient-dense foods that are naturally low in calories and rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

  •         Eat balanced meals that include protein, fats, and carbohydrates
  •         Load up on healthy fruits and vegetables
  •         Keep healthy snacks on hand
  •         Cut down on processed foods
  •         Switch from refined grains to whole grains like quinoa and wild rice
  •         Enjoy healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and olive oil

Choose carbs wisely and avoid added sugars.

“Before, I would just crave sugar at 2 or 3 p.m. Now, because I have a better nutritional base, I’ll eat a lot more fruits and vegetables because they’re the best carbohydrates that are good for me. I didn’t know about quality—what was a good carb and what wasn’t.”

And there’s a reason sugar is so hard to kick. In the documentary “Fed Up,” brain scans showed that sugar consumption triggers the same areas of the brain that cocaine does, and according to Dr. Mark Hyman, it’s eight times as addictive as the narcotic.

But when you know where to look, it’s much easier to cut out those sneaky sources of sugar from your diet.

Try an elimination diet to identify your triggers.

Curcio’s next step was to undergo an elimination diet to determine which foods were causing the majority of her health issues.

“Too many people take their symptoms for granted, whether it is a rash, headache, or fatigue,” Duggan notes. “The gastrointestinal system is linked to every part of how we function and how we feel on a daily basis. Inflammation is a cornerstone of disease, and an unhappy gastrointestinal system is often the source of the problem.”

Don’t miss 9 Tips to Survive an Elimination Diet.

“Knowing that I had a level of accountability with Karyn helped,” says Curcio. “I wanted to know the ‘why’ of why I should be eating a certain way, not just counting calories to lose weight. Karyn really broke down the mechanics of food and how what I eat affects me throughout the day.”

Set yourself up for success by consulting with a pro. One Medical Group members can book nutrition appointments with Karyn Duggan, CNC and Samantha Treyve, MS, RD. Not a member? No problem. Many non-members can still schedule a video visit.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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