Sugar Cravings with Nagina Abdullah
Sleep is more than just a period of rest and it’s intricately connected to the subtle rhythms of our bodies, especially with our blood sugar levels. In simple terms, what we eat and how our bodies manage glucose can impact the tranquility of our nights. In one of our latest episodes of the Sleep Like a Boss podcast, I was excited to welcome Nagina Abdullah to talk about this specific topic - the intricate connection between sleep and blood sugar.
Nagina is a weight-loss coach for women in midlife and founder of the website MasalaBody.com. She teaches women to boost their metabolism especially when what worked before no longer works. She does this by teaching what metabolism-boosting foods to add and combine to reduce belly fat and overall weight gain in midlife. Nagina has a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley and has helped over 1,500 midlife women successfully lose weight and create a lifestyle change.
In our conversation, Nagina opened up about her own battle with weight issues and sugar cravings. Her personal journey was marked by constant struggles with maintaining a healthy weight and overcoming persistent cravings for sugary foods. In fact, for a significant part of her life, Nagina identified herself as someone inherently prone to sugar cravings, believing that it was an inherent trait she couldn't change. The turning point in her journey occurred when she decided to revisit her academic knowledge in molecular and cell biology to find a solution to her weight and sugar-related challenges. She delved into scientific research, exploring studies on metabolism and nutrition. This exploration led her to a revelation: instead of restrictive diets, there were specific foods she could add to her daily intake to boost metabolism and facilitate fat burning while keeping her feeling satisfied. This discovery marked the beginning of Nagina's transformation.
Implementing her newfound knowledge, she successfully shed 40 pounds in nine months, achieving a body that felt more energized, comfortable, and aligned with her goals. Nagina's personal success became a source of inspiration for those around her and in response to the growing interest, she first started a blog and eventually transitioned into a role as a weight loss coach. Through her blog and coaching, she has since helped over 1500 women not only lose weight but also enhance their overall quality of life, energy levels, and sleep patterns.
The Reason Behind Midsection Weight Gain in Our 40s
One thing that we really focused on during our conversation were the common challenges that women encounter as they enter their 40s, specifically the issue of weight gain, especially in the midsection. This phase often coincides with perimenopause, where hormonal fluctuations, specifically a decrease in estrogen, become more pronounced.
One of the key factors Nagina highlights is the impact of perimenopause on the distribution of body fat. Estrogen, a hormone that plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, including fat distribution, starts decreasing during perimenopause. As a result, women may notice a shift in the way their bodies store fat, with a tendency for more fat accumulation around the belly area.
Nagina points out that this phase brings about multiple changes, and weight management becomes more challenging for several reasons. One significant aspect is the increase in hunger hormones during perimenopause, contributing to heightened sensations of hunger. The combination of hormonal changes, altered fat distribution, and increased hunger can create what Nagina describes as a "perfect storm" for weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area.
Another critical factor is the decrease in muscle mass, a natural part of aging that accelerates in the 40s. Muscle mass plays a crucial role in metabolism, as it burns more calories than fat tissue. As muscle mass declines, the overall metabolism slows down, making it more challenging to maintain or lose weight. Additionally, muscle tissue contains insulin receptors that aid in metabolizing sugar efficiently. With reduced muscle mass, the body may struggle to process sugar effectively, contributing to fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Nagina emphasizes that these changes are not uncommon, and many women experience similar challenges as they age. However, the lack of widespread awareness and discussion about these biological shifts can leave women feeling perplexed and discouraged. Understanding the underlying reasons for midsection weight gain in the 40s becomes essential for developing effective strategies to navigate this phase successfully.
The Effects of Sugar on Our Body
Our sugar intake has a profound impact on both our weight management and sleep quality. Nagina shares insights into how controlling sugar consumption can have transformative effects on overall well-being, particularly in the context of weight loss and sleep improvement.
Sugar and Cravings: Consuming sugar triggers a cascade effect in the body, creating a continuous cycle of craving for more sugar. This, she explains, is due to the impact on gut bacteria, which creates a demand for additional sugar to sustain itself. The result is persistent and often overpowering cravings.
The Downside of Diets: Merely cutting out sugar often leads to heightened cravings and a preoccupation with sugary items.
Understanding Sugar Beyond Sweets: A crucial aspect often overlooked is the presence of sugar in non-sweet foods perceived as healthy. Many seemingly nutritious foods break down into sugar rapidly, causing spikes in blood sugar levels. This includes items often recommended for weight loss.
Blood Sugar and Fat Storage: When sugar enters the bloodstream, insulin is released to lower blood sugar, leading to energy crashes. Simultaneously, the excess sugar is stored as fat, contributing to weight gain, especially around the midsection.
The Midlife Challenge: Hormonal changes, such as perimenopause, make women more susceptible to weight gain, especially in the abdominal region. Addressing sugar becomes increasingly crucial during this phase to navigate the complexities of changing metabolism and hormonal shifts
Impact on Sleep: Blood sugar spikes can disrupt sleep patterns. The connection between sugar intake, blood sugar fluctuations, and sleep disturbances becomes evident. By moderating sugar intake and making strategic food choices, we can positively influence our sleep quality.
Food and Blood Sugar
During our conversation, Nagina introduces the innovative "Protein More" concept, aiming to enhance satiety, boost metabolism, and replace sugar with protein-rich foods. It centers on the idea of replacing sugar with protein to address cravings effectively. Nagina challenges the common approach of complete sugar elimination, advocating for a strategic substitution with protein-rich alternatives: meat and fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, as well as plant-based options like hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, beans, and lentils.
Nagina also emphasizes the importance of creating a well-rounded plate by combining protein with low-sugar fruits and vegetables. This balanced approach contributes to overall nutrition and assists in reducing sugar cravings. The combination of protein, fiber-rich vegetables, and low-sugar fruits promotes a sense of fullness, making it easier to resist sugary snacks.
If you struggle with nighttime snacking Nagina recommends pairing protein or healthy fats with sugary snacks to mitigate the impact on blood sugar levels and facilitate better sleep, for example: a date paired with a tablespoon of peanut butter. This combination provides a hint of sweetness while minimizing the potential disruption to blood sugar level.
While on the topic of food, it’s important to note that there are foods out there that may seem healthy but can spike blood sugar:
Granola is often perceived as a healthy choice due to its association with whole grains and nuts. However, even unsweetened granola can contain a significant amount of sugar.
Oatmeal, while commonly considered a healthy breakfast option, despite being a complex carb, can break down quickly, potentially leading to spikes in blood sugar levels.
Smoothies, which are often perceived as healthy, can be loaded with hidden sugars, especially in commercially available or internet recipes. Smoothies without adequate protein and healthy fats can be real "sugar bombs."
Also, one thing that can really make a big difference in your diet and your blood sugar levels are spices. Various spices not only make our meals more flavorful but also positively impact our metabolism. For example, cinnamon has the ability to manage blood sugar levels, providing a sweet taste while assisting in keeping insulin levels stable. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce puffiness in the face. Cumin can be particularly beneficial for reducing belly fat. Coriander has the ability to decrease water retention and reduce bloating in the belly. Cayenne pepper boosts metabolism and increases calorie burning. Incorporating these spices into your diet is not only about enhancing taste but also about promoting weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The shift from viewing healthy food as bland to recognizing its potential for deliciousness is key for turning your weight-loss journey into a lifestyle. If you want to learn more about the power of spices, make sure you take a look at Nagina’s "Sweet Spice Cheat Sheet" with the spice that is in your kitchen cabinet, that helps to lower blood sugar and curb sugar cravings.
And if you’re looking to boost your metabolism naturally and become the healthiest version of yourself in 2024., make sure you register to
Nagina's 5-Day Metabolism Boost for Midlife Women. Starts January 22nd!