Let’s talk C.R.A.P….I’m not big on swearing in blogs, videos or generally in life unless there’s a good reason. The reference to C.R.A.P is not just a mild profanity describing certain types of less than healthy food. It’s also an acronym for categories of food that we are best to limit or avoid if we want to feel energised and healthy.
But why am I writing about C.R.A.P foods in July you may ask? Surely that’s a December topic! While Christmas is the classic fall off the healthy wagon time of the year, there are other times of the year when less than healthy foods sneak into our diets more than they should. And summer can be a minefield of temptations, despite all the pressure to get “beach ready”. Why is this? Going away on holiday, end of school year activities, weekend BBQs, drinks after work on a Tuesday because it’s sunny – the list of reasons to eat, drink and be merry are seemingly endless when the weather is nice.
Here’s the Energised low-down on how to stay semi virtuous over the summer months.
What do I mean by C.R.A.P?
Firstly let’s unpick the acronym. C is caffeine, R is refined sugar, A is alcohol and P is processed foods. I would also add a B for beige carbs but then the nifty acronym is lost. Generally speaking, these foods don’t have an especially good nutritional profile. They are often empty calories, meaning calories that offer very little in the way of nutrients. Alcohol (perhaps with an exception for red wine which contains antioxidants) and refined sugar are classic examples of empty calories. Whilst our bodies need calories from carbohydrates in order to function properly (sorry Keto fans), there are far more nutritious such as vegetables, fresh fruit and wholegrains. These provide our bodies not only with energy from carbohydrates, but also fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (goodness from plants).
Why do they make us feel C.R.A.P?
Starting with caffeine – too much of it makes you feel jittery and it can affect your sleep. Caffeine also raises cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body. Too much cortisol is not a good thing as it can lead to blood sugar imbalance and diabetes, weight gain (especially around the middle) and it can suppress your immune system.
Too much refined sugar can lead to inflammation in your body (which can trigger or contribute to an array of health problems), blood sugar spikes, brain fog and weight gain. Alcohol…well, I don’t think I need to tell you why too much of that makes you feel yuk.
Finally, processed foods and beige carbs which I’ll put in the same (beige) basket. The lack of fibre and high levels of processing mean that beige carbs tend to hit your bloodstream faster than wholegrain varieties. This leads to blood sugar spikes which can play havoc with your energy levels. Highly processed foods can also be laden with salt or sugar (or both). Again, these tend not to contain much fibre or other healthy nutrients. Empty calories = empty energy.
Here are 5 ways to clean up your diet this summer. You don’t have to adopt all of them to get the benefits and to notice improvements in how you feel.
5 ways to reduce C.R.A.P and feel more energised
Try a Marie Kondo approach to your fridge and pantry
Remove common culprits such as biscuits, sweets, crisps, processed meats and soft drinks. If your pantry is groaning under the weight of beige carbs such as white pasta and rice, replace them wholegrain versions next time you are shopping. Hide any wine or other alcohol away and fill your shelves with exotic herbal teas. If you haven’t tried kombucha yet, give it a go instead of your evening G&T.
Go sugar free for a month (including no alcohol)
Now I didn’t say that all of these options were easy but this is definitely one way to reduce some of the biggest C.R.A.P contributors from your diet. You’ll need a fair amount of commitment and willpower to do it, but the pay offs are definitely worth it.
Cut back to one coffee a day
If your caffeine consumption has slowly crept up, it’s good to set some limits and stick to them. You shouldn’t need more than one cup of coffee a day if your energy levels are good. In fact, if your energy levels are really good, you should be able to manage without any caffeine at all. I know I should have a break from coffee for a month or so, but it’s one challenge I haven’t yet tackled!!
Adopt some eating out rules
For many people, being healthy at home is not the most difficult thing to do. But put them in a social situation and things can go a bit pear-shaped. One of the best ways to stick to your guns when faced with social situations is to come up with some rules. For example, no more than 2 drinks, not having a starter or dessert, not eating snack foods such as crisps, nuts etc, no cakes for morning tea. If you are worried about hurting feelings when Jenny from Accounts brings in her homemade chocolate brownie, you can quietly decline saying you are trying to stay off sugar for a month or just say you had a really big breakfast.
Use your skin as a C.R.A.P-ometer
Your skin is a pretty good indicator of what your diet is like. Once you start to clean up your diet, you should notice some improvements in your complexion and you should start to feel more energised. Instead of fixating on whether you think you are losing weight by changing your diet, notice the changes in your skin, your energy levels and your digestion. After all, how you feel is way more important than the numbers on a scale.
Once you’ve figured out which of these steps you want to try, put at least one of them into practice TODAY. You’ll be far more likely to stick to it if you take action immediately, rather than thinking you’ll start tomorrow. Another tip to help you commit is to find someone who you can be accountable to. Ask your partner, a family member or a friend to help keep you on track in a nice supportive way.
Enjoy the summer months and remember, it’s progress not perfection that you’re aiming for.