Eliminating processed sugar key to BYU grads’ weight loss

Emily and Colby Kipp three months after cutting out processed sugar from their diets. Colby Kipp lost 35 pounds in the course of four months. (Emily Kipp)

A lot has changed for Colby Kipp since the beginning of the new year. The biggest difference? He’s 35 pounds lighter than he was in January.

Kipp hasn’t eaten any processed sugar in 2016. He and wife Emily set a resolution to avoid all processed sugar for one year. Emily Kipp said it was difficult at first because they would often get cravings, but after about two weeks the cravings began to subside.

“As soon as you stop eating it and your body kind of recycles; the cravings go away,” Colby Kipp said.

Americans have steadily consumed more processed sugars in their diets over the last 30 years, according to the American Heart Association. The association also stated that these added sugars, which contribute additional calories with zero nutrients, have contributed to the obesity epidemic. Some people, like the Kipps, hope to improve their overall health by avoiding processed sugar altogether.

“Processed sugars are sugars that are derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar,” said clinical dietitian Florencia Brioni, who is based in Chicago. “Food manufacturers add chemically produced sugar to food and beverages to enhance its flavor.”

The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugars per day and men consume no more than nine teaspoons per day. Brioni said most Americans exceed this amount.

Michigan-based clinical wellness dietitian Shannon Szeles said consuming added sugars in excess leads to extra pounds.

“The main function is it’s going to add additional calories without giving you much back,” Szeles said. “The more calories you consume, if you’re not using those calories up, it’s going to lead to weight gain and lead to things like obesity.”

A map depicting adult obesity in the United States in 2014. Colorado has the lowest adult obesity rate at 21.3 percent while Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9 percent. (stateofobesity.org)

According to the most recent data from the State of Obesity, an annual report on the obesity epidemic, adult obesity rates in America have exceeded 20 percent in every state.

Colby, who majored in psychology at BYU, grew up in Carmel Valley, California, and said he struggled with his weight since he was 8 years old.

“My family was not very health conscious, and food became an emotional attachment for me,” Colby said.

Emily is a BYU graduate who majored in family life with an emphasis in human development. Emily grew up in Arcadia, California, and said her parents were very health conscious but that she would often give in to cravings. “I definitely had a sweet tooth.”

Colby said over the years he tried multiple times to change.

“I would be successful for a little bit, and then it would kind of fizzle out,” Colby said. “I would go back to old habits, especially with sugar. I would say, ‘I’m just gonna have one cookie,’ and then the floodgates would open.”

Szeles said oftentimes people feel the need to overhaul their diets all at once.

“It’s too much and people become overwhelmed,” Szeles said. “Just find that one thing, conquer it and then move on to the next.”

Colby and Emily Kipp on day one of their no sugar journey. Emily said the couple has no intentions to return to eating processed sugars. (Emily Kipp)

Susan Fullmer, a nutrition, dietetics and food science professor at BYU, said just becoming aware of what foods a person consumes can help him or her when trying to lose weight.

“You can write down all the foods you’re eating and keep track for a week,” Fullmer said. “You can see where you can make improvements and if people are willing to make those improvements they will very likely decrease the amount of sugars they’re consuming.”

The American Heart Association gives several tips on how to decrease daily sugar intake, including eliminating table sugar, drinking less soda, eating more fruits and decreasing serving sizes.

Although removing processed sugars takes a lot of effort and preparation, the couple said the positives far outweigh any challenges. Both have lost weight — particularly Colby, who has lost 35 pounds in just four months with only occasional exercise.

Colby and Emily aren’t just happy about the weight loss: they’re pleased with how much better they feel.

“It’s not about the weight loss,” Colby said. “It’s a really nice benefit but it makes me feel good and makes me more productive.”

Colby said becoming educated has been one of his biggest motivating factors.

“I’m actually learning how bad this stuff is for your body, and that’s helped me,” Colby said. “I don’t want this stuff in my body.”

Emily said she feels empowered and that she and Colby have no intentions of returning to their old eating habits.

“Even after this year is over, we don’t want to go back,” Emily said.

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