A while ago I wrote about giving up some of my favourite things in search of a healthy lifestyle. Time for an update on quitting sugar.
Other People’s Opinions
When I mention that I am giving up caffeine and alcohol, I get similar reactions from most. People tend to agree that they are good things to give up but feel that cutting back is enough. “I just couldn’t live without coffee / wine” is the general gist of it.
I don’t disagree. It’s just that I am an all or nothing kind of person. As I have said before, my motto in life appears to be ‘if something is worth doing, it’s worth going completely overboard with’. I don’t really do cutting down, I do too much or not at all.
When I mention that I am giving up sugar I get a similar reaction. Again, folk agree that it’s a good thing to cut down but feel that there’s absolutely no reason to give it up completely.
And then I mention that by ‘giving up sugar’ I mean ‘giving up fructose’. I mean giving up refined sugar and also giving up honey and dried fruit. I also mean cutting down on whole fruit (no more than two pieces of fruit a day). At this point I always get the same reaction “but why, they’re completely natural and healthy?”.
This is the exact same reaction as I would have had a couple of months ago.
But that was before I learnt some more about fructose.
It started with watching That Sugar Film. That led me to read Sweet Poison and The Sweet Poison Quit Plan by David Gillespie. For anyone who is interested I would highly recommend these books. They go into the biochemistry involved in sugar, fructose and people. They are very readable and make a complex topic easy to understand. It took David Gillespie whole books to explain this so I’m not going to even attempt to explain it in this post. Suffice to say that the research on the effects of fructose is not just slightly worrying, it’s terrifying.
David Gillespie is a lawyer who taught himself about biochemistry in order to understand his own weight issues. A highly intelligent man but not a doctor.
I decided (rightly or wrongly) that hearing from a doctor was needed.
I am currently ploughing my way through Fat Chance: the Hidden Truth about Sugar, Obesity and Disease by Dr Robert Lustig. It is an incredibly interesting book, but not exactly light reading. Dr Lustig has worked in childhood obesity for fifteen years so I am assuming that he has a good understanding of the human body.
Again, I am not going to even attempt to summarise a book in a sentence.
Again, the research quoted is terrifying.
For now, I find it hard to summarise what I have learned when chatting to other mums in the playground. So I do leave people a little baffled as to why I am quitting sugar. At some point I will need to work out a summary. Once I work this out, I will post it and it might make me seem more sane.
Another Weight Loss Plan?
I did start out looking at quitting sugar as a way to lose weight. But it’s not about weight any more.
It’s about health.
More specifically, it’s about my long-term health. Sugar consumption has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a number of cancers. This is genuine, published, peer-assessed medical research.
It’s also about addiction. I have always been very independent and I don’t like feeling controlled.
In fact I love the weight I have reached at the moment. I am a dress size smaller and half a stone lighter than I was before I had children.
But that half stone does have a sneaky habit of creeping back on eventually. It would be nice to leave it behind for good.
Sunday 29th October was my first day without sugar. In keeping with my ‘worth doing, going overboard’ approach to life, I have just gone ‘cold turkey’ and have had no sugar since.
So, this is the end of week three. Here is my week by week account so far…
WEEK 1 – Quitting sugar is really not that bad. So it’s a bit inconvenient. I’m having to read labels quite a lot and am very disappointed in mayonnaise, but I am really not missing sugar. I am totally loving buttered toast, full-fat greek yoghurt and cheese.
WEEK 2 – I have got this quitting sugar thing sorted. I am not missing sugar. I am feeling pretty good. I am eating less calories but not feeling hungry. I am clearly the queen of quitting sugar.
WEEK 3 – I need chocolate. I need it now. Or cake. Cake would do it. Lots of cake. I need cake and I am going to snap at everyone until I get it. In fact, I am just going to snap at everyone anyway because they are all just irritating.
Suffice to say, week three has been tough going. Apparently I am not the queen of quitting sugar. I don’t know if this is just how it goes for everyone on week three or if it is a hormonal thing or if it is just me. But I do know that it has been tough.
I have got through it so far without hitting the sugar but I am really hoping that week four is not the same.
I have resorted to frantic baking to try and combat how I have been feeling. Yesterday it was banana bread. A friend passed me the recipe from a baby weaning book. I was so desperate that I went to buy bananas just for this (yes, I know what I said about fruit, remember I said I have cut back not given it up). They weren’t really ripe enough for the purpose but they had to do. I also used wholemeal flour and a loaf tin which was a bit too big. It smelt fantastic.
It was not fantastic. I basically baked a banana brick. A tasteless banana brick. If I ever need to build an outhouse for my cargo bike, I will build it from this banana bread. I bravely soldiered on and ate half of it, but then accepted defeat and chucked it in the compost.
Today I abandoned the baby weaning recipes and tried another David Gillespie book, The No Sugar Recipe Book. The book uses dextrose as a sugar replacement. Dextrose is slightly sweet but not as sweet as sugar and it does not contain any fructose.
I made macadamia brownies with dextrose. The recipe says this serves 8-10. Clearly David Gillespie is well past week three of sugar withdrawal. Due to the way I have felt this week, I have decided to do whatever it takes to get through this until it goes away. Tonight it took half a chocolate brownie. To be clear, I don’t mean half a slice of chocolate brownie, I mean half of the whole chocolate brownie. This week, that recipe serves 2.
It wasn’t exactly chocolate brownie as we know it, but it was really good. My husband (who is definitely of the opinion that I am going overboard again) even approved of it. He possibly even preferred it to ‘normal’ chocolate brownie as he doesn’t like things too sweet. He’s more of a savoury snacks kind of man.
Having eaten all that brownie, I am now feeling somewhat uncomfortable. But I do also feel a lot more relaxed.
I Am Still Quitting Sugar
A long long time ago I was a smoker. It started as a 15 year old rebellion thing and turned into a habit. After many on / off years, I finally quit smoking around fifteen years ago. I had forgotten how withdrawal felt…until this week. Withdrawing from nicotine felt scarily similar to how I have been feeling this week. That irritable sort of twitchy, unsatisfied feeling. That strangely deflated realisation that you can’t have what it is you are missing. That you can’t have it ever again.
Realising the similarities has unnerved me.
Nobody would dispute that nicotine is highly addictive. Many people would dispute that sugar (or at least fructose) is highly addictive.
So why do I feel how I felt fifteen years ago?
Like I said, I don’t like feeling controlled. So tomorrow begins week four and I think I might start referring to it as withdrawing from sugar rather than quitting sugar.
Now, where’s the rest of that brownie…