The sugar free lifestyle

 

sugar

I quit sugar just over a month ago for several reasons, but mostly for all round heath and wellbeing. As a woman of a certain age I was finding that in addition to getting more physically tired, I was also getting more mentally tired. I would get to the end of each working day and it was as if the filing cabinet in my head was completely full: there was literally no more head space for thinking or  processing. It also meant that when I got home there wasn’t much productive writing happening which, as you can imagine, was creating a problem for me given I’m currently working on book two. Trying to address the mental lethargy became my main goal – if I could clear the brain fog then I could significantly increase my productivity all round, re-energising body and mind along the way.

Having spent most of my adult life reading up about different diets and lifestyles, I knew that reducing refined sugars and carbohydrates was probably the way to go. It might also help shift that ‘increasingly harder to shift’ ten pounds. Coincidentally, as I was thinking about all of this, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of  ‘I Quit Sugar’ by Sarah Wilson. It felt like divine intervention. I went home that night clutching the book and resolving to start the sugar free journey immediately.

Although the book offered an 8 week programme to weaning yourself off sugar I found I could do it without any difficulty – I thought I had no need to take the 8 week road – I was 100% in from the get go.  It seemed a much more natural way to eat – focusing on lots of vegetables, wholegrains, protein and good fats (as a nation we have never consumed so many avocados!) whilst cutting the sugars, both added and hidden. I won’t go into the science of it all here but when you consider how our bodies were designed to eat and process food, and what and how we eat in the 21st century,  it is no wonder that we are plagued with diseases, conditions and allergies. 100 years ago the average adult consumed 1 kg sugar a year, a figure which has now risen to 60kg. Our bodies were never designed for that and consequently we’re paying the price.

So what were some of the immediate benefits I noticed?

  • I was enjoying cooking again, from scratch. I tried new ingredients and recipes and took my time preparing them, knowing I was feeding my body what it needs
  • Within 7 days the brain fog started to lift and I was achieving more throughout my working day with mental energy to spare by the time I got home
  • I lost what appeared to be a puffiness in some places, most notably my ankles – I didn’t know I was puffy until I wasn’t…
  • I was sleeping well – less tossing and turning
  • I woke up energised, ready to take on the day
  • My skin was clearer

It was going so well!

Then, somewhere in the middle of week 3 I started to feel a bit off. I wasn’t hungry, or craving sugar, or disliking my new diet in any way but I just felt…..off. Within a few days I had symptoms which I did not understand until, by chance, I looked up possible side effects of quitting sugar. The symptoms included:

  • nausea
  • headaches
  • aching joints and stiffness
  • anxiety
  • low mood / depression
  • tearfulness
  • under the surface shakes first thing in the morning

Not nice.

When I realised what was going on I was stunned. I had enjoyed such a positive start that it didn’t occur to me that side effects would kick in a couple of weeks down the line. In a way I was relieved to know it was down to the change in diet, otherwise I would have been really concerned about what was going on. What I discovered, when I read more on this, was that coming off sugar is more difficult on the body and mind than coming off certain drugs. And I had naively gone cold turkey. What it also made me realise though, was that sugar is playing havoc with our bodies and minds and yet we consume it in every possible way, feed it to our children as treats, and crave it as we would any other addiction. The only difference with sugar is this; it is the only socially acceptable form of addiction we have.

I have come through the withdrawal stages without returning to sugar, and throughout it all can honestly say I haven’t once craved the sweet stuff, though I know that isn’t everyone’s experience. I’m feeling the positive benefits again (even though that pesky 10 pounds isn’t for shifting – yet) and plan to keep going with this because when you come out the other end of it, it’s like giving yourself a whole new gear. And as a writer with a full time day job this is exactly what I had hoped to achieve from it.

So what would my top tips be if you’re thinking of quitting sugar? Here are some of the things which worked for me:

  • Be prepared – plan your shopping, stock up and cook ahead where possible
  • Try new ingredients and recipes – have fun in the kitchen, knowing you’re doing something really good for yourself
  • Have some treats to go to if you feel like you need something – a favourite cheese, a sugar free bake etc (there are loads of great recipes in Sarah Wilson’s books – my favourite is the almond bark which I keep stocked in the fridge and which feels like a decadent treat)
  • Eat lots of good proteins, particularly at breakfast – I often start my day with bacon and eggs
  • Eat good fats but go easy on them – it’s easy to over-do it when you’re cutting the sugar
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Quitting sugar and going gluten free tend to go hand in hand – if it happens naturally go with it, but starting out with both aims might be a step too far all at once

Sarah Wilson’s books really helped me, not just for the advice but also for the amazing recipes – I have 3 of her books now and they’re probably already amongst the most used cookbooks in my house. I have also just finished reading Michael Mosley’s Clever Guts book which supports and complements the sugar free lifestyle. There is a wealth of information out there on the topic and it makes for fascinating reading.

It’s been an interesting month, and it has absolutely improved my sense of health and wellbeing. Will it help me to write my way to the end of book two more efficiently? The proof, as they say, will be in the (sugar free) pudding.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments on “The sugar free lifestyle

  1. gone without much sugar for 4-5 years, definitely didnt miss it. Never craved sweets, And when I tried to include it /try some again, I noticed the headaches right away! as well as a loss of energy

    Like

  2. I had to cut out sugar recently when I was pregnant due to gestational diabetes. I was determined not to go on insulin and to control it with diet and exercise. I ended up losing 36 lbs during my pregnancy instead of gaining (I started off about 70 lbs overweight when I found out I was pregnant). I had a great and healthy pregnancy and gave birth to a beautiful healthy 6 lb 6 oz baby girl. Unfortunately, since she has been born I have gained back about 15-20 lbs because I have slowly given into sugar and simple carbs. : ( I am starting this week going back to my pregnancy eating habits in an attempt to cut out sugar and hopefully avoid type 2 Diabetes (which runs in my family). I am convinced that refined sugar is a guilty culprit in the cause of most of America’s diseases.

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