Meet Michele Promaulayko, Creator of Sugar Free 3Feb 12, 2020
Michele Promaulayko, health journalist and wellness aficionado, is the creator of Sugar Free 3, Openfit’s first nutrition program. As the current Editorial-Director-at-Large for THE WELL and former Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan, Michele is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle — and eating well plays a major role in her wellness routine.
Knowing that most of us overconsume sugar, Michele created Sugar Free 3 to help people cut back on their sugar intake for better overall health, easier weight loss, higher energy levels, healthier-looking skin, and more.
We chatted with Michele to learn more about her background and how she lives a balanced life.
Get control of your sugar habit with Sugar Free 3! It gives you simple instructions to eliminate added sugars, refined carbs, and artificial sweeteners for just 3 weeks. Sign up on Openfit today, and order your book on Amazon for even more tips.
Openfit: How did you become interested in nutrition?
Michele: My interest in the topic has steadily increased over the years as I’ve learned more about it. Growing up I was active and I played soccer up until college. But back then, I didn’t understand the connection between eating nutritiously and athletic performance and energy. I got through college and my 20s eating pretty much whatever I wanted. Even when I was trying to be “healthy” I was misinformed about what that meant as far as food goes, so I wasn’t making the best choices.
As time went on, I got more into working out and eating healthfully. But any meaningful relationship with nutrition didn’t start until I became the Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health in 2009. There I was steeped in health and wellness topics and got to tap into the best experts in the world.
How did you come up with the idea for Sugar Free 3?
Of all the healthy habits I’ve developed over the last decade or so, sugar dependence has been the hardest to wrestle to the ground. I have a sweet tooth (or as my friend Keri says, sweet teeth), which is partially innate and partially due to cultural conditioning. Either way, sugar has a powerful pull.
I was looking for options to help me get back in the driver’s seat when it comes to sugar consumption, but I couldn’t find a program I thought I could adhere to. I didn’t want a super restrictive plan because I like eating a variety of foods. So, I created my own.
Why do you think Sugar Free 3 works?
It’s a purposefully simple program. It focuses on eliminating added sugars, refined carbs, and artificial sweeteners — that’s it. There’s no calorie counting or portion control, and you can eat a wide variety of foods — including some carbs, which are verboten on many eating plans.
There’s also a lot of community support built into the program, and an option to have a mindful indulgence once a week (something on the “not allowed” list, like a glass of wine or slice of pizza). For some people, a once-a-week treat is enough to get them through the 21 days. For others, it may trigger them to want more sugary foods, in which case they should avoid it. The program is customizable to your goals and preferences.
How did the program change your day-to-day life?
It helped me sleep better, have more energy, and even helped my cravings for sweets decrease tremendously. All of that happened pretty quickly. Fruit began to taste much sweeter — there was a palate adjustment that happened for me. I also learned even more about paying attention to the tricky marketing language brands use around sugar.
What do you eat in a day?
Almost every day I have eggs and greens for breakfast. I’ve never met a green I didn’t like: arugula, kale, spinach, chard, fresh herbs — I love them all. Sometimes I’ll add a whole-grain bread or a starchy veggie like a sweet potato. I also have coffee with whole milk and stevia. (By the way, monk fruit and stevia are both allowed on the program!)
If I have a snack before or after lunch, it might be nuts or a brown rice cake with nut butter. For lunch I’ll have a salad with a protein, like grilled chicken or shrimp or salmon. For dinner I’ll have a protein like steak, fish, or beef with veggies. Broccoli is my favorite vegetable, but I enjoy them all. I may add roasted baby potatoes or brown rice if I’m on the hungrier side.
I try not to eat dessert too often, so at night I’ll have a sliced apple sprinkled with cinnamon and herbal tea. That way I have something to enjoy without falling prey to mindless eating.
How do you try to live a balanced life?
It’s been described as the 80/20 lifestyle. Eighty percent of the time I make healthy choices, and twenty percent of the time I indulge. I enjoy dry red wine, chocolate, and ice cream. And though they aren’t allowed on Sugar Free 3 (unless you option one as a mindful indulgence once a week), I never intended to give them up for life, and I don’t have to.
I truly believe that when you attach guilt and negative feelings to food, it becomes even more unhealthy. When you do indulge, you should do it consciously, mindfully, and enjoy it thoroughly. You just shouldn’t do that every single day.
Any tips for sticking with the program when you want sugar?
There are tons of tips in the book and in the Openfit videos on how to help crush a craving — taking a moment to think about what’s driving the urge (maybe it’s boredom), taking a few deep breaths, drinking some water (you may just be thirsty), or eating something satisfying but healthy, like a creamy yogurt that doesn’t contain any added sugars. It also helps to get moving, even if it’s just taking a short walk.
You can also call or text someone else who’s doing the program or is just a supportive friend — I call this a Sugar Sponsor — so that they can talk you off the sugar temptation ledge.
How do you stay motivated to live healthy?
What really keeps me stay focused is to think about the “why.” I always suggest that people think about why they want to do the program. If it’s because they want to look good in their favorite jeans, that’s great. No judgment. Feeling good about ourselves is reflected in every area of life — it impacts our self-confidence and our relationships. But for many people — me included — the why is a little deeper. My mother has some cognitive issues, and I believe poor nutrition is one of the contributing factors, so health and long-term vibrancy are huge motivators for me. And I want to look good in my jeans too!
What are your favorite foods or meals?
I love chicken paillard, which is a chicken breast that has been pounded thin, grilled and drizzled with olive oil and lemon, and piled high with arugula and tomatoes. It’s so clean and delicious. I also enjoy whole-grain pasta with seafood in a red sauce.
What do you like to do for fun?
It depends on the season! I love stand-up paddleboarding in the summer, snowboarding in the winter, and going to dinner with friends and traveling all year round. I rarely go to the same place twice — though I make an exception for Paris.
I’ve visited wine countries all over the world — California, Italy, South Africa, Argentina. For me, eating and drinking is huge part of the traveling experience.