On 12 October we celebrated the fourth international Sugar Free Day (in Swedish we call it Sockerfria Dagen) in the heart of Stockholm. It's an annual event since 2019, and marks the sobriety date of Swedish addiction expert, nurse and sugar free queen Bitten Jonsson. A tradition created to honour and celebrate both her many years of living a sober life in recovery, her hard work as expert in the field of sugar addiction and the science of brain biochemistry, and that she was the one who brought the knowledge of sugar addiction (which includes food) to Sweden from the US. Thanks to Bitten sharing her story, coaching clients and educating holistic addiction medicine coaches in Sweden and worldwide, she made it possible for many, many people to find their solution. To be able to find health and well-being, by living a sugar free and sober life in recovery, too.
Sugar, addiction and metabolic health The Sugar Free Day is also a day when Swedish and international metabolic health professionals gather to share their latest findings and expertise within the field of sugar free, real food and all things healthy. To inspire, educate, provide eye-opening facts and new science. This is a day when holistic health, science and real food vs. fake and processed food with its healing vs. inflammatory and addictive effects on us, is in the spotlight. A fantastic day of celebration that grows in popularity, size and expertise each year. And it's open for everyone: all is welcome.
The Sugar Free Day is held both live and virtually: the party of lectures this year took place at venue Epicenter here in Stockholm, but between 17-21pm those with digital tickets joined from the comfort of their own home which makes it possible for anyone to tune in regardless of location. This is a very appreciated setup, and great because it helps spread the awareness of sugar, as well as the many benefits of real food (the corner stones being what we're originally built from: proteins, good fats and vegetable carbs), which is like medicine for us humans.
If you are curious about real food and how to use knife and fork to balance blood sugar, lower your insulin levels, reverse modern chronic illnesses or improve your metabolic health, I recommend my book KETO-licious, available in Swedish here and here.
One hour before the party of lectures began, a pre-party was held at the indoor entresol at Epicenter's terrace, between 16-17pm. This hour was an opportunity for guests to mingle and socialize with us health professionals and each other. The pre-party is also an opportunity for selected partners in health to inform and promote their health services or products. Guests have the possibility to ask curious questions, find books and health-measuring gadgets or nutrient-dense supplements, as well as find out more about functional medicine coaching opportunities, sugar addiction treatment and where to find science and education within these fields.
The pre-party-partners in health of 2022 were... Deversify (my partners in health and the mothership company of Acetrack and Elitista) Elitista.se (to sign-up for my upcoming digital course the Female Cycle Bootcamp, click here) Acetrack (the ketosis-measuring companion for detecting patterns and improving metabolic health) Fun Med Know Addiction Academy (the new education portal for sugar addiction coaching based on Bitten Jonsson's concept) Leva Sockerfri and Sockerskolan (digital treatment for individuals with sugar addiction) Bittens Addiction
Upgrit (high-quality supplements and lifestyle optimization) Paleogruppen No Bond Beauty (who does skin care products from grass-fed tallow)
The Friendly Fat Company (who does a clean, unflavoured/sugar free MCT-powder and MCT oil)
Kvix.se JawPeer Good Idea Sverige The Humble Co.
Present, and glowing, was also entrepreneur and health professional Annika Larsson Lexelius, whose energy shone a warm atmosphere around her all night. She's one of those rare beings who is like sunshine in human form. Annika is the Sugar Free Day project leader together with Jenny Björk.
The lineup of keynote speakers First out was Bitten Jonsson, who was interviewed by moderators Johannes Cullberg and Ewa Meurk. Johannes is a very much appreciated advocate of real food and the entrepreneur who founded the very successful holistic food market Paradiset Matmarknad, the first of its kind in Sweden, which specialized on providing a wide range of carefully selected foods without artificial additives, refined sugars, chemicals and other health-degenerating substances. Due to the pandemic back in 2020 when most citizens isolated in their homes, Paradiset Matmarknad had no choice but to shut down. But fortunately, Johannes Cullberg is a true warrior and will re-launch in a new shape and form, digitally, this very Autumn/Winter. To read more, click here.
Ewa Meurk is the entrepreneur, lecturer, inspirer and insulin expert known to many as the Ewa Meurk the Health Engineer who founded Elitista. She is both a passionate business professional, metabolic health worker and co-founder of the Sugar Free Day. Ewa is also author of the book Bli Din Egen Hälsoingenjör (Become Your Own Health Engineer) in which she educates on how blood sugar, insulin and fatty liver play key roles when it comes to weight loss, hormonal balance and metabolic health. To find out more about Ewa's book in Swedish, click here.
Ewa's and Johannes's interview with Bitten kicked off the evening, and Bitten presented pedagogic slides exemplifying a client case study, showing how sugar addiction begins in early childhood, develops through life and gets worse if left untreated. For those born with the biochemistry predisposed to addiction, it's a chronic and progressive illness. By getting treatment from experts within this field, and the diagnostic tool SUGAR® (Sugar Use General Assessment Recording), it is possible to re-claim your health, repair imbalances, reverse inflammation, upgrade your lifestyle and fully thrive in life. If you are curious about how it works, and wish to find out more about SUGAR®, click here.
Next up on stage was the carnivore-exploring and biohacking speaker Göran Adlén, who is a trends-in-society-observer (in Swedish, it's called trendspanare) and public speaker. He presented an entertaining go-through of his recent personal journey during which he's been measuring health markers with different gadgets to evaluate the impact of different foods and lifestyle habits. Being an investigative biohacker myself, it was easy to relate to his levels of nerdiness.
Göran also delivered a fun fact which I agree on: if you want to stay healthy, do the opposite of what Agnes Wold tells you to do.
The South African professor Tim Noakes
With us virtually from his home in South Africa, was professor Tim Noakes who has been working with scientific research since the 1960s and is an authority in the health industry. He began to dig deep into the wells of food, metabolic health and diabetes as a young man, and founded The Noakes Foundation after his father died of complications from diabetes. Tim shared that he keeps his own diabetes in check through low carb, high fat foods, explaining that no matter how much he engaged in strength training or running as a young man, it didn't matter as long as he didn't eat real food. Proper nutrition is key for reversing diabetes. He realized this in his younger years when visiting Stockholm, while holding a lecture for Swedish athletes. He then started his own low carb-journey, lost his overweight, improved his health markers, and has since then kept spreading the low carb-message, written books and kept on doing research. If you're curious about his books, click here for a recommendation of mine.
Blood glucose and sports performance
Being an advocate for physical fitness, Tim held a very interesting and educational talk on the topic of running, side by side with explaining the metabolic syndrome to the audience as well as the connection between blood glucose and sports performance. Key message? Having stable blood glucose levels is important for both running results, recovery and health markers. The problem with insulin spikes stems from carbs. The solution: eating low carb foods, healthy fats and protein. An interesting fact that i took with me (and believe because I've been sensing it too) from Tim's lecture is this when it comes to fitness (please note: in full-health adults): Fatigue is an emotion, not a muscle thing. The brain might tell you that you are too tired to keep on running or exercising during a workout –because it wants to protect you from the risk of going out too hard for too long– but in reality you're only using about 40% or so of the muscles. Now, I don't recommend anyone to add 60% more engagement because of this theory, especially since I know just how black and white the mindset of many of us humans can be (the all-in kind of personality who might take things a little too far at times). I'm simply suggesting that it might be something to hold on to as a little extra motivation when Winter darkness arrives and mood might be running low. When the workouts might feel challenging for many with low levels of vitamin D (Winter depression is a thing here in Sweden). When you feel like you haven't got it in you or feel resistance towards heading to the gym in the morning – remind yourself that you are always capable of so much more than you think you are. And a workout, or nice long nature walk for that matter, is always worth it. So keep going. And remember to recuperate, fuel yourself, stay salty, add magnesium, practice nasal breathing and rest.
The Nutrition Network In partnership with doctors and scientists, Tim Noakes foundation is also the founder of the Nutrition Network, an educational platform for allied health workers and medical staff, to support healthcare providers globally with the latest education in therapeutic carbohydrate restriction. Click here if you want to learn more.
Food lies investigated by Ann Fernholm
After Tim followed Ann Fernholm, Swedish science journalist, author and expert on investigating what modern food products really contain. She's a champion when it comes to fighting the food industry's companies and goes after them when they label processed fake foods as "healthy" or "natural" when they're really not.
Ann talked about how she's called the bluff on several common food products of today, and creates change by not giving up on insisting that they correct and change labels that aren't truthful but in fact misleading, and often consists of high amounts of hidden sugars. Which, of course, is a key factor behind the many chronic diseases, poor metabolic health and addiction. These things are alarmingly common in society today.
A few key points:
Juice concentrate is 2,5 times sweeter than fruits. That is a lot.
Fatty liver disease increases the risk of developing cancer by 17 times! ...And worth mentioning here: fatty liver is not the case in alcoholics only, but is common in children too. It is sometimes a result of eating high amounts of sugars and modern fruits, which are sweeter than they were 12 000 years ago and now eaten excessively compared to when our ancestors munched on the (less sweet!) fruits occasionally.
For a product to be called yoghurt, it cannot be heated in production. Yet, a well-known Swedish baby food producer managed to sell a popular and practically packaged portion for little ones labeled as yoghurt when in fact it most likely contained no lactic acid bacteria at all (which yoghurt is supposed to provide) as it had been heated when produced. Ann successfully insisted they change this, and the product will no longer be allowed to label itself as something it's not.
Ann's main message: Eat real food, processed as little as possible.
If you want to read more about Ann's work, her books and passion project Kostfonden, click here.
A personal favourite of mine amongst the speakers, was the wonderfully inspiring MD and Functional Medicine expert Peter Martin. He talked about sugar and precision health, two favourite topics of mine.
I admire Peter's humbleness: he has vast knowledge within his field, yet is one of the most grounded and down-to-earth persons I've met. That is a nice combination!
When I studied to become a functional medicine health coach back in the days at Funktionsmedicinska Institutet (the Functional Medicine Institute in Sweden), Peter was one of my teachers and I learned a lot from him especially in regard to SIBO, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, which is a very common gut-oriented condition today and a result of modern lifestyle, sugar and processed foods. This has been very valuable in my work with clients. I also learned the importance of humility, and having a curious and soft approach to most things in life, as I heard him share his own health journey with us students. If you ever have the opportunity to listen to one of his lectures, I highly recommend it.
Sugar and precision health At this year's Sugar Free Day, Peter talked about the fact that one million Swedes are on antidepressant medications. He pressed that it's not the people working with medical care that are the problem, it's the (very flawed) system. For example, doctors are only given 12,5 hours of nutritional information during their whole education. This is one of the main reasons why functional medicine a.k.a. precision health, is needed today. Sugar and processed foods have negative effects on our gut health, and as most of us know, a vast amount of our immune system is located in the gut. It is no wonder that so many people are suffering from depression and chronic diseases, when most foods are processed and sugary and available to us 24/7. There is a strong link between gut health status and depression, not to mention the fact that on top of fake foods the illness is often worsened by stress, screen time and social media, lack of connection in modern society, poor sleep and more. Peter reminded us that gut bacteria loves to munch on sugar and carbs, and sugar and carbs love candida (a fungal infection creating for example brain-fog). And that antibiotics adds even more fuel to a gut-related fungi fire.
Precision-based functional medicine is a treatment model working holistically with each client. It begins with investigating the root causes of illness, and that looks different between individuals. By treating the underlying causes instead of just treating the symptoms, the client is able to reverse illness and live a life in recovery and health. Through nutrient-dense food in alignment with the client's needs, through lifestyle, healthy habits, supplements when needed and other important pieces of the individual, holistic health puzzle that altogether creates a whole.
Peter delivered an eye-opening fact for many: as much as 20-30% of the Swedish population suffers from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The underlying reason? Sugars.
Joan Ifland (PhD) Joan is the queen of food science and the author or book Processed Food Addiction. She is an innovator and global leader in food addiction recovery programs, and teaches health practitioners how to use food addiction recovery to put diet-related diseases into remission.
She joined us virtually from her home in the US, and shared about her scientific research and the relationship between food, science and addiction. I unfortunately missed the beginning of her lecture, but fortunately the lectures were all recorded and will be sent out via email to everyone who joined from home or live with us. One thing Joan softly pressed in her talk, was the reminder that addiction, regardless of outlet, has nothing to do with laziness or bad character. It about a physical condition in the human brain.
Babben Larsson The popular Swedish artist and standup comedian Babben Larsson who is also co-founder of the Sugar Free Day, held the final talk of the evening. She shared her heart-opening life story and some food for thought. The topics involved sugar and the addictive brain, workaholism, childhood programming, the problems with suppressed feelings and what it can be like to live a performance-based life in these modern times where it's easy to let your self-worth be determined by how much, or how well, you do. Did you know that 200 persons per year dies from the consequences of burnout depression?
Her finishing words touched the hearts of many high-achievers and over-doers in the crowd when she shared her love for her work, but also this: My work is where I need to hold myself back. How am I supposed to rest when I'm tired, if I don't think that I'm worthy of rest?
Recuperation is key for health and balance in life, but it's challenging for many these days and perhaps especially for those blessed and cursed with a type A-personality. Babben is brave and we need more people who dare to stand tall in their truths, sharing even the parts of life that aren't always pretty (we all have them). Removing the armour of guardedness, and having the courage to tell it like it is, can feel vulnerable. But to me, this is what real strength and authenticity is all about.
Babben sharing her story made me think of a sentence I came across a few years ago when reading a cutting-edge book about leadership:
”Enormous energy is set free when we drop the mask, when we dare to be fully ourselves” Frederic Laloux, author of the book Reinventing Organizations
Vulnerability is strength, and Babben proves it to be true every time she shares her story.
About the international Sugar Free Day
An annual event since: 12 October 2019
What is this event about? SFD helps raise the awareness of sugar addiction, which in society is hidden in plain sight. By spreading the knowledge of addiction, sugar, food, metabolic health, evolutionary science, tools and lifestyle for optimum health, well-being, longevity and much more, SFD contributes to create change for individuals, public health and society at large.
Founders: Bitten Jonsson, Ewa Meurk and Babben Larsson