Before Christmas I had been researching the damage sugar is doing to our bodies and how it is actually the cause of our obesity epidemic. I was really enjoying leading a sugar free life and then Christmas happened!!!! I allowed myself some treats and tried to get back to my sugar free lifestyle. It didn’t happen. Now I could sit here and list all the reasons why… life just happened and it was not the right time or very easy for me to get back into the swing of things. Old habits began to resurface. Emotional eating happened. This along side a few weeks off from exercise has meant I had to start this all over again.
I was feeling sluggish and a bit demotivated but then Sugar free February for cancer research popped up on Facebook and I knew it was a sign. I was ready to go cold turkey and cut the sugar this time for good but with a good incentive to get me started. No treat days to wreck it. 4 whole weeks of sticking to no sugar.
If you are reading this and you haven’t read my blog on Cutting the sugar… then you really should to get the low down on sugar and what it is doing to us!!!
I’ll give you a quick overview of what giving up sugar has meant for me. A diet free of refined sugar. I removed all unhealthy processed foods, foods that have had sugar added to them (including those they lead you to believe are healthy like Cereals and Low fat Yogurt). No obvious foods containing sugar, honey or syrups… I do not eat any white bread, pasta or flour only wholemeal (check ingredients for added sugar) and I try to limit this to 1 or 2 portions a day but I am not always strict with this. Especially in the first 2 weeks.
I have never been one for drinking fruit juices anyway but I avoided these as well as dried fruit and stuck with whole fruits. Fruit juice is a controversial one as even if its pure fruit juice its still best to avoid. It has had all the fibre removed and is a concentrated glass of sugar. I eat fruit with nuts or seeds to slow the absorption of the sugar. Berries and green apples are lower in sugar than tropical fruits like mangos and pineapples. Dried fruit has had all the water removed and is full of concentrated sugar. I was shocked to discover that grapes are very high in sugar, as are red apples and bananas. I do not restrict fruit though I just try to limit the amount I have. Our bodies can utilise this with out storing it in the liver as fat and I would much prefer to sit and eat a fruit salad than be tempted by eating a sugar laden pudding.
The first 2 weeks I felt really motivated but found I was snacking more on things I perhaps wouldn’t normally eat just because they didn’t contain sugar…by the 3rd week I was really aware of this and started to pay more attention to my habits and changed them. By week 4 I was really starting to crave things strangely because I thought by now that would be long gone…however not for anything massively sweet. To be honest a refined sugar free treat would really do the trick, so with this in mind I decided I would do just that and make a treat from my Davina sugar free book. I embarked on this challenge to give myself some focus to stop me falling off the waggon again. It worked but I have always wanted this to be a lifestyle change not just a challenge. I am fearful that I will fall back into old habits and to stop this I know I would be silly to just indulge for the sack of indulging. I still have a way to go until I feel confident In my own body. I have lost a total of 5lbs over the 4 weeks…. I now have some accurate measurements to track as the ones I took at the beginning were taken with an inappropriate tape measure. Oops!!! I have a good few inches to lose from my waste and hips…
For this reason I will not go back to sugar. I will now introduce dried fruits and honey for occasional treats in sweet treats I make i.e. my Coconut caramel bars and Vegan banoffee pie. I will stick to having no more than 2 pieces of fruit a day and I tend to eat my fruits with something savoury like peanut butter, porridge or cheese as it counteracts the blood sugar rise and tastes bloody yummy. I will get my chocolate fix from 80% cocoa chocolate and have no more than 1 square (I did not eat this during my 4 week detox). I usually mix this into my porridge or break up and crumble over natural yogurt with fruit. I have discovered cacoa nibs taste really good so there should be no reason to miss chocolate. When eating out I will try not to over think it but make sensible choices. Birthdays I will enjoy a piece of cake and if I can have any kind of control over it will make them refined sugar free.
Here are some tips to help you get started…
- Reduce sugar you add to hot drinks gradually to give yourself time to adjust to the difference in taste.
- Check your low-fat foods. They can sometimes have sugar added to them to replace the flavour lost from the fat being removed.
- Check the ingredients for added sweetners. They can make you crave sweet things leading to over eating.
- Swap your white bread, pasta and rice for wholegrain versions and eat starchy carbs with a protein to slow the absorption of the sugar contained in them.
- Swap your usual cereal for porridge oats and make your own toppings.
- Replace your jar sauces for homemade ones and flavour with herbs and spices.
- Swap fruit juices for water or herbal teas.
- Have a piece of fruit or some nuts as a snack when you are craving sugar.
- Eat little and often to avoid low blood sugar when you first stop eating sugar.
- Eat more good fats like butter, olive oil, avocado, nuts and cheese.
Giving up sugar hasn’t felt restrictive. I will allow myself a treat and not feel bad about it. I no longer feel like I have to cut out large food groups from my diet I just make smarter choices and alternatives and most of all listen to my body. If it feels full and bloated for me this is a sign I have eaten too many starchy carbs…If I am hungry… like really stomach rumbling hungry at night time its usually when I haven’t eaten enough of them. I like my porridge as many of you will know and this is because it is enough to energise me for the day, and I can last a long time until lunch with out feeling hungry. For this reason I always make time for my porridge.
I hope I have motivated some of you enough to try cutting back on your sugar at the very least. I know you will not regret it. I have even managed to inspire my husband to join me… the biggest sugar addict I know. He isn’t “sugar free” but has cut back on so much of it. I am extremely proud of him!
P.S if you would like to read my other blogs on #sugarfreefebruary you can find them here…Day 1 Sugar free, Day 2 Sugar free, Day 3 Sugar free, Day 4 Sugar free, Day 5 Sugar free, Day 6 Sugar free, Day 7 Sugar free, Day 8 Sugar free, Week 2 Sugar free, Week 3 sugar free.