Why I quit sugar: my overdose and lifestyle change
The most common question I have been asked since quitting sugar seven weeks ago is ‘why?’. Most think restricting sugar is something you do if you want to lose weight, which implies it’s a short-term tactic to achieve a narrow goal. But I have no intention of reintroducing the ‘sweet poison‘ after my eight week challenge is over. This is a lifestyle change, and I’ll tell you why.
My sugar overdose
I overdosed on sugar this week. I was at a hen’s weekend in Sydney which involved high tea, dinner and brunch. I ate scones with jam and cream, apple-berry crumble, chocolate and hazelnut mousse, and vanilla bean ice-cream. I had a bread and butter plate’s worth of sweet treats in bite sized-portions at high tea, while at dinner I finished a Lebanese banquet with coffee and baklava. Yes, I am on a no-sugar challenge. However, because I know this is a lifestyle change and not just an eight-week elimination of one food item, I resolved in my mind that I would “enjoy” the weekend and not cause a fuss about the “sugar thing”. What I do, however, was well and truly rediscover the reason why I quit sugar.
The consequences of my sugar intake were near instant and included:
- the shakes
- extreme bloating
- energy slump (about an hour after eating)
- I looked and felt drunk (eyes were ‘groggy’, my skin was oily and my first pimple in seven weeks appeared).
The bloating and energy slump continued through to the next day, which made it extremely easy to pass on the banana bread, chocolate croissants and danishes at brunch the next day. Instead, I happily and eagerly opted for the bacon and eggs – delicious and sustaining! I had tested the waters and found my sweet tooth had dissolved somewhere in the past seven weeks. I no longer found sweet things as enjoyable as I had always thought and was freed from the clutches of sugar. I can now eat sugar (albeit in significantly reduced quantities compared to previous consumption levels) and have the power to stop when I have had enough. This realisation completely blew me away, and was greatly liberating.
My lifestyle change
I have always been health conscious. Diets are not my thing, but ‘healthy eating and regular exercise’ was my overarching mantra. My idea of what was ‘healthy’ was based on guidelines endorsed by various health and government bodies. I never conducted my own research, I just took it all verbatim. It was difficult and frustrating at times because there were so many conflicting messages. As seems to be the way with cancer, it began to sound to me as though just about everything could cause this ailment or that. In about 2010 or 2011, I adopted the belief that eating as close to nature and keeping your body moving on a daily basis was the best option – it just made sense to me. As a result of my newly-adopted my food philosophy, I began reading ingredient lists instead of nutritional panels on food labels.
Making a mental shift in the way you perceive and approach health is very personal and experimental. There may be thousands of ‘experts’ on the topic but so long as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes are on the rise I think it’s safe to say that not all ‘experts’ are getting it right. As such, I know I will continue to experiment until I find what works for me. For years I have suffered bloating and stomach cramps. It’s painful and embarrassing at times – who hasn’t suffered from food-baby belly? I have been to doctors who could only suggest a process of elimination. The lack of guidance and support was disheartening. I tried limiting gluten and lactose to no real avail. Then a friend recommended a fantastic book to me.
If you haven’t yet heard of Additive Alert, I suggest you become acquainted. This book made so much sense and supported my gut-feeling that we humans aren’t designed to consume chemically-produced ingredients such as caramel colour number IV or scientifically-tampered with products such as hydrogenated vegetable extract (sounds harmless, natural even, doesn’t it?). Although I already knew I was consuming food additives on a daily basis, I became aware of just how many food additives I was consuming and the damage they were doing to my short- and long-term health. If I thought I was healthy, how was the rest of the nation – or world – going?
Why I quit sugar
I was having a whinge to my friend – a personal trainer – in late 2012 about my inability to tone and shift that ‘bit’ around my abdomen. She asked me not how I worked out (which was daily, and a variety of high intensity and endurance training), but what I ate during an average day. Breakfast was usually porridge made with rice milk, berries, nuts and honey. She stopped me right there and said ‘Great, but skip the honey’. Huh?! Like most people, I said ‘But it’s natural!’ The bottom line is though, honey, sugar is sugar. At that point, I didn’t look too much into it from a scientific point of view, but I took her advice and my first baby step toward reduced sugar intake.
Shortly after, I caught up with another girlfriend who I hadn’t seen for about eight weeks. She looked incredible (not that she doesn’t all the time)! I mean, her skin was glowing, her hair was shining, and she had lost about 6kg. She told me that she felt a lot better too and I asked how she’d done it. ‘No sugar’, she said. This friend has a medical background and so I quizzed her about it. I couldn’t quite keep up with all her medical lingo, so she referred me to Sweet Poison, a book written exceptionally clearly by David Gillespie. She also recommended Sarah Wilson’s Blog and Mark’s Daily Apple (don’t you love blog recommendations!). Finally, everything was presented to me logically and, for the first time in 26 years, it all clicked. This truly was my light-bulb moment.
I quit sugar in early 2013 and started blogging my experience under the 8-week no sugar challenge series (a concept of Sarah Wilson’s but one which I hadn’t actually looked into until my pre-order of her new book arrived in week 5 of the no-sugar challenge – and lucky for me it did!). Undoubtedly, the benefits have been worth the early struggles.
Benefits I’ve experienced since cutting sugar from my diet
- Steady energy levels – no more 3 o’clock slump.
- Clearer skin – I haven’t been wearing make-up since week 4.
- Food tastes better – by about week 3 or 4 I realised that my taste buds had been in the dark and they now see the light. I no longer craved for sauce but could appreciate every ingredient in my meals. And, in fact, the sugary food I consumed this week tasted much more bland than I remembered and were nowhere near as satisfying as the sugar-free foods.
- I’m running better (as in, if I was a car I’d be classed as more efficient) – I can spring out of bed at 5.30am, no worries. I know don’t have to, but I can do it happily if needed.
- I can better handle stress – it was one of those weeks at work and I just know if I had been binging on sugar to cope I would have been a complete train wreck. As it was, I was more of a car prang instead.
- I don’t bloat anymore – ever. I feel much leaner all the time.
- I’ve lost weight – 4 kg in fact, and 5cm off my waist (as at week 6 of the no-sugar challenge).
Have you been thinking of quitting sugar? What is stopping you?