Last Friday I decided to quit sugar, for a while at least. Starting on Monday.
Of course, on Monday.
Did you notice that May the First was a Monday, a double fresh-start date? It seemed like a good omen to me, so I sat on the idea over the weekend, and ate my fill of toast and honey in the meantime.
Remind me again why I thought this was a good idea?
Fatigued, nauseous, congested in the sinuses, stiff all over; eek I must be pregnant! Not according to repeated pregnancy tests. After a month of weekly negative tests, I kinda had to acknowledge that I wasn’t feeling great and I wasn’t going to feel better until I changed something. In other words, carrying a baby for nine months and then giving birth was not going to be the solution to my general malaise.
Feeling so blimmin’ awful combined with watching a couple of food documentaries on Netflix got me inspired. First I watched Hungry For Change. The following day I continued my education with Fed Up. I haven’t been living under a rock, so the information in the docos wasn’t exactly news to me, but it did get me wondering.
Seriously, I don’t know if there’s ever been a day in my adult life when I’ve gone without sweets, let alone hidden sugars in packaged food. Except maybe times when I was unwell and unable to eat anything. It would be a rare day if I had. Suddenly I felt ready to find out if it was physically possible for me to go cold-turkey on sugar (urgh, sugar coated turkey!) and whether I would feel any different if I wasn’t sugar-fuelled.
I decided to do without fruit, sugar-added foods and artificially sweetened foods for the month of May. My aim was to remove all sources of sweetness (natural and otherwise) that could be messing with my energy levels and general well being, and also to try and recalibrate my tastebuds so as to not always prefer sweetened foods.
Because I’m a bad-news-first sort of person.
Actually, there hasn’t been any crippling headaches or absurdly low energy as I expected. Last time that I quit coffee cold turkey I lasted until lunch time before I had to take some caffeine and paracetamol to quell a raging headache. I expected to feel the same, if not worse, without sugar. So imagine my surprise, turning to smugness, turning to something like disappointment when I experienced no physical withdrawal symptoms whatsoever all week!
The only ‘ugly’ has been wondering if I’m abstaining in vain, without any physical signs to reassure me that removing sugar from my diet for seven days has changed me at all.
My post-sugar diet leaves a lot to be desired. As I’m basically just eating my regular diet but with fruit, sugar-added foods and artificially sweetened foods removed, it’s feeling a bit limited. Not an insurmountable problem, just one that needs a bit of imagination if I’m to break out of my bread-and-cheese rut. Also, I’d intended to avoid substituting sweet snacks with salty ones, but by day three I submitted to plain chips and salted peanuts. I have a new weakness for oily salty things.
I’ve missed the mood boost I get from sugar. There were days when I felt like I was rushing from one task to the next, never really making progress and constantly fighting the urge to open the pantry for a biscuit (or three) to keep me motivated.
I haven’t enforced a sugar free diet for the rest of my family. I was kind of hoping that I’d become a picture of glowing health and they’d be so inspired by my transformation that they’d jump on board without resistance. Staying strong while they indulge in the sweet stuff has been moderately difficult at times. I’ve relied on my innate sense of martyrdom to withstand temptation.
I’m still fatigued, congested and stiff when I get up from tending to my kids on the floor.
The lack of variation in my diet has (at times) allowed me to stop eating just for entertainment’s sake. When I feel peckish and open the cupboard to review my options, I normally decide nothing appeals very much and find something else to do. Without sugar, food is just not that much fun at the moment.
I’ve realised that I have a small problem with lack of moderation around food in general. Before, I thought I couldn’t control myself around sugar, but now I think I could probably be on a single-ingredient diet and eat too much of that one thing. Hence eating more bread, cheese, chips and peanuts than I actually need, or really want. I just like eating, and I like eating sweets most of all. That’s not a good thing, but it’s a good lesson to have learned.
I don’t think I’ve been feeling more energetic, but I would say more ‘motivated’. Without sweets to distract me I’ve found I’m more likely to get on with tasks I’ve been putting off for a while. I’ve organised the wardrobes of little ones who’ve had recent growth spurts and cleaned the cobwebby no-man’s-land down the sides of the oven for the first time since we moved here (I won’t say how long, specifically).
A rash I had near my right eye has improved, so I’ve saved myself a trip to the doctor. I can’t say for sure whether that’s sugar-related but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. I need something to show for not snatching my husband’s caramel slice and gobbling it up in one swift movement on a weekend cafe-stop!
I feel less ‘puffy’, although my clothes feel about the same.
I’ve accepted that going sugar-free is not the silver bullet I always thought it might be, and I can stop using sugar as a scapegoat for all my ills. The flip side is that I’ll have to incorporate additional lifestyle changes if I want to feel better.
I can’t liiiiiiive, if livin’ is without youuuu (said Air Supply). But I’ve learned that I can go a whole day, and more, without sugar. And without any difficulty. Somewhere along the way I bought into the idea that sugar is physically addictive and that I actually needed it to function. Now that I’ve tested my reaction to removing sugar from my diet, I know that’s not the case for me. That is quite a freeing feeling, after believing for so long that I couldn’t live without the stuff.
Going back or going forward?
So, after seven days with plenty of mental wins from quitting sugar but not many (or, any) physical wins, am I going back to a sugar-laced diet or going forward with a zero-sugar lifestyle? Do I soldier on for the sake of completing a goal which I now have to accept may not, in itself, bring about the payoffs I hoped it would (weight loss, unbridled energy, aura of health)? Or do I take what I’ve learned about my eating habits and reintroduce sugar without feeling hostage to it?
I’m still trying to make my mind up as I sit here now!
I think I’ll take it day by day, stringing out my new sugar-free habit for as long as it feels doable, but without a finish line to pass or fail by.
Here’s to eight days and counting!