Why I'm Quitting Sugar
*I am not a nutritional expert or dietician - what I share below is my experience and journey in finding what works for me. This approach might not work for everyone.
I'll be honest, I never real thought of myself as a sugar addict. I never put sugar in tea, I only drank diet versions of soft drinks and whilst I indulged in the odd chocolate bar or biscuit, I more often than not would give dessert a miss. I was far more of a savoury girl - crisps were my weak spot.
I did know that my diet wasn't healthy - being busy with work meant that I often relied on packaged goods when it came to mealtimes and I did have a reliance on bread for breakfasts and lunches. Have you seen how much sugar is in bread?!
I regularly felt bloated and sluggish, and my energy levels (not to mention my hormones) were all over the place.
And so, when I turned 30 in August, I started to think a bit more seriously about what I was putting in my body. In the past I had tried the typical low calorie, low fat diet. I lost a lot of weight but never felt any healthier and then slowly it began to creep back on.
This time round, I decided to do a lot of research - I wanted to find a way that I could restore my energy levels and stabilise my hormones, to cut my emotional dependancy on food and yes, to lose a bit of weight. I evaluated a range of 'diets', Whole 30, Paleo, Gluten free, Vegan, and I have decided that the best option for me is to quit sugar.
Before anyone gets too concerned ("it's not healthy to cut out entire foodstuffs"!), let me explain that when I say sugar, what I really mean is fructose.
What's so bad about Fructose?
There is not one nutritional or biochemical reason that we need fructose in our diets. We need glucose but by eating a balanced diet of protein and fat, our bodies naturally convert these into the glucose our body needs.
There is a lot of compelling evidence that not only do we not need fructose, it actually makes us ill. *Here comes the science bit* Fructose converts directly to fat. Glucose is burned up after absorption as almost every cell in our body needs to use it. Fructose is different, only a small amount is broken down in the liver meaning that the rest converts to fat. It has been shown to cause issues with fertility, aid development of certain cancers, interfere with mineral absorption, inhibit our immune system and contribute to dementia.
So there we go. The more I have read about the topic, the more sense it makes to me to quit relying on low fat processed goods and eat a well-balanced diet made of real food. The stuff that goes off quickly and doesn't keep in the fridge for weeks.
So what am I eating?
I'm loosely following the I quit Sugar 8 week plan by Sarah Wilson.
I'm into the second week and I'll be honest, I have not gone cold turkey. I am very deliberately making healthier choices slowly, so that I know I will stick to them. This isn't a quick fix diet to lose weight fast, this is a lifestyle choice. These first two weeks have all been about cutting back and making healthier, less sugary choices. Over the course of the next 6 weeks I will be cutting out all sugars completely to recalibrate my body, before slowly reintroducing certain low-fructose fruits and sweeteners.
The main changes for me are:
- Loading up on good fats. Yes that's right - eating more fat. This is such a hard one for me to wrap my head around after years of being told a low calorie, low fat diet is best. The truth is that incorporating good fats into my diet helps to keep me fuller for longer and avoid sugar cravings. I only use Coconut or Olive Oil for cooking, and snack on nuts, seeds or a small amount of cheese (proper cheese, not scarily orange processed stuff).
- Avoiding anything processed or packaged that includes sugar or any kind of chemical based sweetener. This also includes dried fruit, fruit juice, honey/maple syrup/agave, soft drinks.
- Switching from low-fat dairy to full-fat. I use unsweetened almond milk, full fat yoghurt or coconut milk or Quark as a cream alternative.
- Loading up on high density, green veggies - at least 1/3 of every meal is made up of these.
- Eating eggs, including the yolks as a yummy and filling source of protein. Also, Quinoa is my new best friend.
- Drinking more water - a glass with every meal or snack plus more in between.
Honestly, it's really not bad so far. For the next 3 weeks (or until my body resets itself) I will be cutting back even further and avoiding fruit, stevia, bread, alcohol and rice/pasta. After that, I will slowly reintroduce these as part of a balanced diet - choosing wholewheat, low-sugar versions.