Of all the recommendations I give to my clients in clinic, cutting back on sugar is in the top 3. Sugar is addictive and, in most forms has no nutritional benefits and is linked to plenty of issues including tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity (which can also link to other issues).
The government state that it’s acceptable for an adult to have 7 teaspoons of sugar per day of added sugars. That doesn’t include milk or whole fruits but will include juices, sweets, biscuits, chocolates, teaspoons of sugar in hot drinks, fizzy drinks, cakes, sauces and cereals etc
The 3 top reasons for asking my clients to significantly reduce sugar are
- Weight Management
- Tummy Issues (especially bloating and diarrhoea!)
I generally don’t make recommendations unless I have tried them myself. It means I’m able to discuss whether it’s easy or hard to do and offer advice in a much more constructive way.
When it came to cutting down on sugar I went the whole nine yards and completely cut it out for 6 weeks. Want to know how easy that was…..then read on!
Once I’d made the decision I needed to get planning. For that I used the Apples to Zinc Ultimate Meal Planner so that I could really plan each meal, know I had all the right foods in the kitchen and not get caught out with no option to have something sugar rich.
My rules were quite simple – no foods with any added sugar – including honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, coconut sugar etc, no artificial sweeteners either (they are even worse than sugar!!). No dried fruit and no juices. This did automatically mean that processed foods were not an option and so I had to accept more food prep time. I wasn’t cutting out carbohydrates completely as they are natural sugars that our body does need. Lastly it was no alcohol either which for me wasn’t hard as I often go many weeks without anyway but others I appreciate would be much harder.
Day one went well. I was hugely motivated and, lets face it, 1 day with no sugar is fairly easy to do. Day two was a little harder…..I did fancy some chocolate and the fact that I couldn’t made me want it even more! I didn’t feel like my energy levels were very good and apparently, I was a bit “snappy” with the family.
Day 3 was hard work. It felt like all I could think about was sugar and I had a bit of a headache grumbling in the back ground. I was finding it harder than I thought it would be but I was determined to do this and so I persevered. I went to bed that night early as I was tired and a little bit grumpy.
Day 4 was a turning point. I woke in the morning earlier than my alarm which is unheard of. Getting up was easy and I felt wonderfully refreshed. My head was clear and I felt really alive. The foods I was eating tasted great, I felt nice and full, my mood was pretty good and energy felt stable and natural. By the end of the day I was definitely tired but went to bed feeling that I had turned a corner.
Day 5 was much the same as day 4….except it seemed there were offers of sugary foods whichever way I turned. Despite feeling very good it was tempting as I was missing the taste and needed a great deal of willpower to resist. I did manage and felt pretty happy with myself.
After those initial 5 days things did really get much easier. I found that as long as I had the meals and any snacks planned I was okay and could stay on track. I didn’t actually fancy sweet foods anymore and there were no cravings at all anymore. Getting up in the mornings was definitely easier and my energy throughout the day was much more stable but I did find that I wanted to go to sleep much earlier as I was more naturally following the day and night pattern with the sun and moon.
After the 6 weeks I’d lost some weight (which was a bonus as it wasn’t the objective but was very welcome!) and I really cannot tell you how well I felt. My skin felt good and I was generally buzzing. People were commenting on how well I was looking
I then did something stupid……I treated myself to some chocolate as a well done for finishing the 6 weeks. It tasted disgustingly sweet and I really didn’t enjoy it….but my body got the sugar hit and BAM I had a real sugar buzz and then the crash….and then the cravings start to creep back in as my body needed the quick sugar fix to help give it a boost. Willpower did prevail at this point and I stuck to my guns. I carried on with having much less sugar in my diet for quite a while. But it is amazing how quickly the levels creep back up and the old symptoms start to return!
So all in all it is something that was hugely beneficial for me and, although hard work, was worth it. Why not give it a go yourself? Here is a typical sugar free day:
BREAKFAST: Porridge make with oats, unsweetened almond milk and topped with peanut butter and banana or Homemade granola, unsweetened natural yoghurt and berries
LUNCH: Soup or oatcakes, boiled eggs and vegetable sticks followed by some fruit
DINNER: Roasted Vegetables with fish of meat, a homemade curry with rice or a vegetarian chili
SNACKS: Oatcakes with nut butter, fruit and nuts or carrot and hummus
DRINKS: Plenty of water and herbal teas
PROS: Mine were – some weight loss, better energy, boosted mood, skin clearer, no headaches, more efficient in my day to day chores.
CONS: Mine were – Hard eating out, lots of temptations, early few days are very hard work, lots more cooking, planning is a must.