You might remember that at the beginning of the year, I made a new year’s resolution for every month. May’s resolution was one that I had been dreading: cutting down on sugar.
I am a total sweet-tooth. Cakes, biscuits, chocolate, lollies… if it’s sweet, you can bet that I love it. As much fun as all this sugar-munching is, I was starting to notice some not-so-sweet side effects. Every day at three, I hit a major energy slump. I’d need a chocolate bar or a very sweet coffee to revive myself. Dinner always felt incomplete until I’d had dessert. I was also experiencing some astronomical mood swings and bouts of ‘hangriness’ (where you’re a combination of angry and hungry). I was concerned that my sweet tooth might be to blame for some of these things, and I was interested to see how cutting down on sugar would impact upon the way I was feeling.
On my first day of trying to cut down on sugar, I stumbled across a book called I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson. Believe me when I say that buying this was the best thing I did all month. The book was filled with sugar-free recipes and suggestions for switching to a sugar-less lifestyle. There were loads of helpful hints for beating cravings and even an eight-week plan to help you quit sugar for good.
Now, I don’t want to stop eating sugar altogether. But I do want to drastically cut down the amount in my daily diet. I want to get to the point where lollies and cakes are treats again, rather than part of my regular routine. What I really want is to get to a point where I no longer feel as though I ‘need’ sugar to feel awake/happy/human.
Here’s a basic run-down of the changes I made:
– I evaluated my diet and looked at all of the foods that have hidden sugars. And there were a lot.
– I made the decision to go without sugar completely for two weeks. Cold turkey. I managed to do this, but it was difficult. After this I started to re-introduce small amounts of sugar as special treats. So far, the only sugary things I’ve eaten this month are a small fruit juice, a slice of lemon tart and a slice of my Dad’s birthday cake.
– Specifically, my goal was to cut down on fructose. There are so many different kinds of sugar, and if you cut them all out of your diet then you wouldn’t have many food choices. But fructose is the one that has the most adverse effect on your body and mood, and it’s the one that most of us are OD-ing on. I figured I had the most to gain by limiting my fructose intake.
– I changed my breakfast habits. I replaced sugary cereals with eggs on toast, homemade muesli and natural yoghurt.
– I started snacking smarter. I made piles of savoury muffins and biscuits and stocked up on nuts, vegetables and crackers.
– I started making time to cook a proper, substantial lunch to keep me full for longer and help keep my afternoon cravings at bay.
– I stopped drinking soft drink and cordials.
– I tried to eat less fruit and more vegetables.
– I stopped having sugar in my coffee.
– I stopped having dessert after dinner and snacking in front of the telly at night.
– I made sure that every meal had some form of protein in it (cheese, meat, eggs, nuts, dairy, tofu) to keep me feeling full for longer.
Here’s what I noticed:
– The first two weeks were hard. Like, really hard. I had cravings like crazy. I couldn’t stop thinking about sweet things. I even dreamed about chocolate!
– There is actually a withdrawal period. For the first week or so, I had stomach cramps, headaches and mood swings. Most afternoons I needed a nap just to get through the day.
-Quitting sugar three days before you’re due for your period is a stupid idea. I made it through, but I think it was harder than it would have been if I wasn’t a mess of hormones.
– After two weeks with no sugar, my cravings all but went away. I still crave sweet things, but not as often and the cravings are less intense.
– I have loads more energy. I’m sleeping better and I wake up feeling refreshed rather than groggy. I no longer slump at three o’clock.
– I don’t get hungry as often and I feel I have a better handle on my appetite. I’m getting better at stopping when I’m full.
– My skin has improved out of sight.
– My teeth feel cleaner. When I was eating sugar all the time, my teeth would get a ‘furry’ feeling towards the end of the day. Now I don’t get that.
– My moods have stabilised a bit and I haven’t had as many depressive episodes after the withdrawal period ended.
– I don’t get ‘hangry’ as often.
-I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous with my cooking and I’ve tried loads of new recipes.
– I don’t know if I’ve lost weight, because I don’t ever weigh myself. But I do feel less bloated around my tummy area and I’m having an easier time doing my jeans up.
I have a lot more that I could write about this topic, so if you have any questions about cutting down on sugar, please feel free to ask.