Six weeks ago I quit sugar. I didn’t think it would be too difficult as I didn’t think I had much in my diet anyway. How wrong I was.
Whilst not a sweet-tooth I have been staggered to learn just how much “incidental” sugar was in EVERYTHING I ATE. I’ve learned how to read those pesky nutrition labels and what an eye-opener that has been. Forgetting the obvious – chocolate, sweets and sugary drinks – the sweet little white granule has infiltrated almost everything in my pantry.
The premise of giving up sugar is eliminating “fructose”; I won’t go into the science-y details of it all, there is plenty of excellent information out there. I have been following Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar programme’. Apparently fructose is a nasty little sugar that our bodies cannot metabolise and it is stored directly as fat. Not healthy “feed your vital organs” fat, but unhealthy “is that a Christmas ham or me in a bikini?” fat.
Now, fructose is in fruit, so initially I had to cut out all fruit too. I know I know fruit is natural blah blah blah, but it contains high levels of fructose and while you wean yourself off the white poison, the fruit – temporarily – has to go too.
The general rule of thumb when reading your food label is that you cannot consume anything containing more than about 4g of “Sugars” (a subset of Carbohydrates on the nutrition panel) per 100gm/mL. My pantry has been completely overhauled over the past six weeks, but here’s the idea from a random assortment I pulled from my current store:
- BBQ Shapes 0.9g/100g
- Weet-Bix 3.3g/100g
- Peanut butter 7.8g/100g
- Corn Flakes 9g/100g
- Diced pears in fruit juice 11.2g/100g
- Vanilla yoghurt 12.8g/100g
- Tomato sauce 20.8g/100g
- Tiny Teddies 27.7g/100g
- Yoghurt topped Muesli bar 31.5g/100g
- Honey 82.1g/100g
The “Lite” or “Lo Fat” version of any of these have even more sugar added to replace the taste lost in removing the fat content.
The first two weeks were quite difficult for myriad reasons. I was extremely unwell with flu so I didn’t really eat anything at all for one week, just inhaled cups of tea and penicillin. The following week I was recuperating, school holidays began and I was pre-menstrual – it was a perfect (s*#!) storm and I struggled. I had a close girlfriend staying with me for a week of this so – sure! I stayed off the sugar; I simply replaced it with wine and cheese. The fructose in wine is eliminated in the fermentation process to create alcohol…. Do not follow my logic on this one. Sarah Wilson will be slapping her forehead right about now.
You can see from the list that a logical temptation is to replace Tiny Teddies with BBQ Shapes – which I did for a week or so – which is fine – but only for a week or so. More than six weeks on I find all white foods (bread, pasta etc) have become quite unpalatable. White bread tastes to me like cake. Strange but true.
My reason for this undertaking was to lose weight and I may have lost a kilo or two. Annemaree did it with me and hasn’t lost a cracker, although has lost almost two centimetres from her waist, bum, tum, arms and thighs. Compared to me, Annemaree has the virtues of a saint, but chocolate has been her biggest bug bear. This exercise has cost her a small fortune as she has replaced her afternoon tea and choccie fix with a walk….to the shops.
I’m not unhappy about not losing a lot of weight because I have learnt so much through this process. I will not be taking up sugar again anytime soon. I have realized that since jumping on the yoga, meditation, health and wellness bandwagon (Annemaree and I have banned the word “journey” because it makes us want to ralph) that this too is an exercise in mindfulness. It has made us both far more aware of what we are actually putting in our bodies and it is knowledge that can’t be unlearnt. But be warned – Annemaree will trample your granny if she comes within coo-ee of a Haigh’s Chocolate Peppermint Frog; her mantra at our weekly check-ins with one another is “There is no way I am giving chocolate up in this lifetime”. Meh, maybe in the next.
Despite not losing any weight, I feel absolutely fantastic. I cannot isolate it completely to giving up sugar because so much has changed, gradually and gently and with no real noticeable effort on my part. Since October of last year, like peeling the layers of an onion, I have removed:
- Anti-anxiety pills and anti-depressants
- Drinking (at least four days out of seven, I’m no Mother Theresa here)
- Sugar – from my diet and drastically reduced it in my children’s
- Negative self-talk, fear and catastrophising (this only returns after drinking which is telling me something quite loudly and clearly, but I am not ready to listen…yet)
- Saying sorry all the time and people-pleasing
Since giving up sugar I have noticed:
- I am less bloated in the body and less puffy in the face
- I have clearer skin and brighter eyes
- I get up early easily in the morning and have more energy
- I sleep better – one glass of wine and I experience nightmares and a broken, fitful sleep
- My tolerance for alcohol has evaporated
- I am more even-tempered, calm. Reducing it in my children’s diets has resulted in a much calmer household all around. Far fewer tears and temper tantrums – not just mine
- How much sugar is crammed into children’s lunchbox foods! Seriously, take a look next time you’re in a supermarket
- I feel in control of each day rather than at the mercy of it
- I sailed through a full menstrual cycle (sorry boys) without a single brain-snap – not one ruffled feather
- My (sorry everyone) pee has become clear and odourless – apparently a sign that my inner workings are less acidic
After all that I have taken out, I have also added in:
- Yoga once a week (ideally I’d like to add another class and some home practise)
- Meditation and deep relaxation once a week (hoping to build to daily practise)
- A 45 minute walk each morning with a good friend – the sense of obligation means I don’t hit the snooze button and roll over
- Whole foods have replaced processed foods
- Cheese has replaced chocolate… I told you I was a work-in-progress.
Until next time we meet,
Om & out.
Cartoon Source: toothpastefordinner.com
Hi Anita, what another wonderfully honest telling of your quest for enlightenment. I also have been very concious of how much fructose is in everything and trying to pare back our families’ diet to more whole foods. Very challenging indeed. I am going to look into Sarah’s book, I think she rocks anyway so I am sure her book is good. Fiona
Thanks Fiona. As I’ve said before – enlightenment might be nice, but just staying sane will suffice! I highly recommend reading Sarah Wilson’s book even if you don’t undertake the 8 week programme. She has a very down-to-Earth, highly readable, no-nonsense style of writing. If nothing else, you’ll pick up some great tips. Good luck and keep me posted – AQAxxx
wow, you are an inspiration. i tend to start alot of what you have done but keep falling off the wagon !! reading this today has made me think about setting time aside to really sit down and write out a plan and start taking steps like you have to make it a real change. well done. i am impressed.
Thanks naomi – an inspiration is something I have never been before and I am deeply touched. I would never tell anyone else what to do and I only write about my own experience; and my experience has been that true change came from going within and dumping all of the “stuff” I was carrying around – mostly emotional. Keep going and let me know how you go – AQAxxx