Eleanor Pulliam, RN
How much of the sugar in your diet is from natural sources, and how much is from empty calories?
Registered nurse Eleanor Pulliam drank sugar-loaded sodas and ate processed foods daily. Over time, she noticed significant weight gain and felt unhealthy. When her husband passed away in 2018, she decided it was time to make a healthy change — for good.
That’s when she gradually cut out all sodas and drastically reduced processed foods, like fast food and potato chips. She swapped sodas for water, and instead of eating nothing for breakfast like she had been, she opted for nutrient-dense protein bars.
“It was a gradual process, I definitely didn’t stop drinking sodas cold turkey,” said Eleanor. “But I set an alarm on my phone every hour to remind myself to drink water and stay hydrated.”
Within the next 6 months, the 5’1” nurse went from weighing 165 pounds to around 113 pounds. She felt healthier, and by keeping soda out of her diet, she kept the weight off long-term.
And it’s no wonder — sodas are loaded with more sugar than the American Heart Association recommends on a daily basis. The organization suggests women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day (about 25 grams), and men no more than 9 teaspoons (about 38 grams). The average 12-ounce cola contains about 39 grams.
Sodas are considered “empty calories”, meaning they offer no nutritional value. It’s always better to consume sugar from more nutrient-rich foods, like fruits.
Motivation to Keep Going
Today, Eleanor uses the memory of feeling unhealthy to keep herself on track. While she enjoys fast food or a small piece of candy once in a while, she doesn’t crave or miss sodas. And she has no desire to go back down that road.
“The temptation is surely there, but I don’t let it get to me,” said Eleanor. “Instead, I let myself enjoy things in moderation.”
Drinking ice water helps Eleanor curb any urge for sugary drinks, and she still makes sure to drink water every hour.
As a nurse, Eleanor understands the health and wellness challenges that health care professionals face. Her advice:
- Don’t buy what you shouldn’t drink. If it’s in your refrigerator, you’ll drink it. Instead, keep cold water nearby. It’s refreshing when you’re thirsty and if it’s all you have, you’ll drink it.
- Add flavor. Cut up slices of cucumber, lemon or other fresh fruits to add to your water. This gives it natural flavor and sweetness without the added sugars.
- Do something that promotes your own wellness. For Eleanor, a healthy diet makes her feel good. Find what makes you feel your best so you don’t burn out.
Eleanor Pulliam, RN, is a nurse contractor for trustaff.
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