Going sugar-free: why I’ve given up sugar
It was my daily treat of two squares of chocolate every evening that did it. Over time this indulgence had morphed into three, then four squares, and sometimes more. But what really troubled me was that even when I didn’t fancy it, I would tuck in – as though it was my right.
Throw into the mix several elderflower/ lime cordials a day plus an overload of festive wine and pud, and I felt uneasy. These daily refined sugars had become a bit of a habit, regular treats keeping me topped up with sugar throughout the day.
Yet as a health writer, I know all about the reports linking a diet loaded with sugar to a build-up of fat around the liver, increasing your risk of fatty liver disease. I know that sugar raises your risk of diabetes and also Alzheimers, and increases your chances of fatal heart disease. I’ve heard sugar described as ‘the new tobacco’.
I decided it was time to break my chocolate habit and give sugar a rest for a bit. So since the start of the year, I’ve been on a no-sugar mission.
Is it hard? Yes and no. Yes, because it involves extra thought about your meals, diligent reading of the labels (I’m choosing foods that have 5g or less of sugar per 100g) and a certain amount of refusal.
But no in that my cravings have balanced out – making it a whole lot easier as I simply haven’t fancied sweet things as much. And no in that people seem happy to support you in a wierd dietary quest at this time of year – no-one blinks if you say you’re on a no-sugar mission.
What sugar-free means to me
Out: Booze, puddings, cordials, chocolate, sweets, bread, dried fruit, tomato ketchup and, interestingly, my usual yoghurt – the label gave me a a bit of a fright when I read it. Sushi slipped in once but then I read that the preparation of the rice involves lots of sugar, so that’s a no-no too. High-sugar fruits are out too – like mango, pineapple and grapes.
In: Oats, berries, apples, oranges, full-fat Greek yoghurt, lots of vegetables, unsalted nuts (for salads, stir-fries and snacks), chickpeas and other pulses, eggs, meat, potatoes, quinoa, rice, pasta. Balsamic vinegar is borderline but I’ve allowed it in for now. Cooking from scratch. Sparkling mineral water (not quite the same as a glass of wine, I agree.)
Why I think it’s worth it
I’m not so hungry. Within days, I had none of those give-me-food-before-I-fall-down feelings. As my blood sugars have become balanced, I’ve stopped fancying chocolate and sweets, and this has helped me stick to a no-sugar plan as on a daily basis, it hasn’t seemed like a particular struggle.
Plus I feel leaner and my clothes are looser. I don’t weigh myself often so can’t give you facts and figures. But I feel pretty good at the moment – giving up sugar for a few weeks seems to be the key to sustained weight loss without experiencing gnawing hunger at bedtime. After all, I’m still eating three satisfying meals a day, plus snacks too.
Other people claim to have more energy after being sugar-free. I can’t give you any info on this, I’m afraid – I’m still a working mum-of-three, fighting dodgy sleep issues and juggling kids’ parties, this blog etc. So I still feel exhausted at bedtime. But I think that by day, I do have more of a spring in my step than before.
I’m not saying that I’ll be sugar-free forever, but now that I know it’s feasible, I think this could be the way forward. Well, most of the time at least. (Sometimes wine o’clock comes calling.)
If you’re interested in giving up refined sugars too, don’t miss my 11 tips for going sugar-free.