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 think I did pretty well with this month’s resolution. I’m hoping to keep up the good habits that I’ve learned this month.
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.
[…] also been giving my I Quit Sugar cookbook a workout since last month. I’ve made a bunch of savoury items to keep afternoon cravings at bay. The best ones so […]
Well done. The first few weeks are soooooooooooooooo hard. I gave up sugar and carbs when I found out I had diabetes last year. I started to introduce them back in recently – especially as thanks to the quick diet change (quick as in as soon as I found out) my diabetes is actually gone. So yay! Hope you inspire lots of others to give it a go.
The hidden sugars are the worst though – sauces were what really upset me. I like lots of flavours…I became very good friends with herbs and spices.
Wow. That’s a huge deal! It’s fantastic that your diabetes have packed up and gone. I’ll admit that diabetes is something that I’ve worried about on several occasions when I’ve really thought about my sugar consumption. It’s amazing that you managed to get yours completely under control.
I’m with you about hidden sugars. I buy a lot of pre-packaged pasta and stir fry sauces to use as a base for recipes, and so many of them are packed with added sugar. It was a very sad day for me when I realised that my favourite kind of muesli bar has about the same amount of sugar as a Mars Bar. That was an eye-opener!
You st – stopped drinking soft drinks? H – holy… good job!!!!
Thankyou. *takes a bow* I never really drank a lot of soft drink anyway, so it wasn’t that difficult for me. I do love a glass of cordial so giving that up was really hard. Also, finding something new to mix with my gin (tonic water is so sugary!)
What a great post! This must have been a huge effort. I don’t think I could get through even one day without chocolate!
It was a huge effort! I’m still working to maintain my newly-developed habits, but so far so good. I do still have some Easter eggs in the cupboard that are screaming my name though. I’m saving them for a special occasion.
This is so awesome! Thanks for posting this- and great job! I can relate to all of this. I often need an 3pm coffee and chocolate bar (or something sweet) to pick me up. I figured it was because I have a two year old haha.
But seriously, I did notice I’ve been eating too much sugar, and have cut down, but i think I should try to make a better effort. Not waking up groggy sounds amazing.
Did you replace your sugar with something else in your coffee? or did you just get used to the flavour? I’m embarrased to say how much sugar I put in my coffee and don’t know if I could drink it without.
I think if you’ve got a two-year old, you’re entitled to any form of pick-me-up that works! But I did find that I was more energetic without sugar. Once the withdrawal stage had passed, that is.
I am a shocker for sugary coffee. I used to have at least 3 spoons in every mug. I’ve always drunk black coffee, so when I started cutting out sugar, I added a splash of milk to my mug. It gave it a bit of sweetness and made the flavour easier to take. I actually found that it wasn’t as bitter as I’d been expecting. The first few cups tasted a bit strange, but I think that my tastebuds have adjusted now.
I am SO glad you posted this. I’ve been going through my own rough patch with sugar. I was eating pretty well, as I often do when we have less food stamp money (more money, more food… and I often pick the sweet, junky foods, eep.) So last month when our money dwindled, I was stuck eating better for me foods. When the EBT card was filled up for May, I grabbed quite a few sweet treats and now my cravings are *insane.* I think I have ate more sugar filled sweets this WEEK than I did all of April! Eep! I definitely gotta cut back a bit. The only thing I won’t budge on is Splenda in my coffee and tea, and I do like juice and soda. The thing is, they rarely make me feel like crap, it’s all the cookies and cakes and such that do. So those gotta go for a bit! Have a lovely day, friend and I swear, I will frakkin’ e-mail you. v.v I feel so bad that I haven’t responded yet!!!
It’s so funny, but the more I go without sugary foods, the less I crave them. I had one slice of birthday cake at my Dad’s birthday party, after having no cravings for nearly a week. The following night I was like, “I want ice-cream covered in chocolate and then doused with caramel syrup!” But I’ve gotten better at resisting the cravings and allowing cakes and chocolate to be occasional treats.
I don’t really drink a lot of soft drink or juice anyway, so it wasn’t difficult to cut these out. I also have never taken sugar in tea, so that was a non-issue. As for coffee, I decided to try it with no sugar but just a splash of milk, and I really liked it.
This was made even trickier by the fact that I don’t tolerate artificial sweeteners well. There are a couple that cause a really bad reaction whenever I eat them (super-bloated stomach, cramps and crazy gas) so I try to steer clear just for those reasons.
Don’t stress about emailing me. There’s no rush!
Great job with all the resolutions. I loved the pictures of the treats, they looked amazing. Keep up the awesome work and best of luck with everything 🙂
Thanks for the well-wishes!
You are very welcome. If you want to read some funny and inspirational stories, you are more than welcome to come by my blog and have a Cup of Joe 🙂
Thanks a bunch. I’ll do just that!