On Quitting Sugar

Quitting Sugar

About a year and a half ago I quit sugar.

Well, actually, to be exact it was on April 10th 2012 and as my sister likes to remind me, it was the Easter Weekend. What great timing, what a great way to prove my resolve. You may think giving up sugar at a time when everyone is eating chocolate, talking about eating chocolate or talking about buying chocolate is complete madness, but it somehow seemed the perfect time.

If I was going to make it, then I needed to get through times just like this, all the time. I didn’t go it alone. I had my sister with me all the way and we did it and I’d just like to say we have remained sugar free since that day and we are very proud of our accomplishment.

 

You are going to hear more and more about this topic and if you are considering quitting for yourself, you may find it easier than you thought and you will most certainly improve your skin and your overall health.

 

There comes a moment, a turning point.

At the time, there was a definite ground swell starting to bubble up around the topic of sugar.In some circles it is not a new topic at all, but, sometimes all it takes is a few very determined individuals to get us all thinking and talking. I’d just heard a radio interview by the very clued up David Gillespie and so impressed was I, that I went on to buy his book, Sweet Poison. Reading his book was a turning point. David’s research is so well done and so impressive for someone with no scientific background on the subject. I was hooked.  I’ve never been a big consumer of the sweet stuff, but still the evidence against continued consumption of any kind was stacking up.

 

So, I decided to go cold turkey and give it up.

Unlike a lot of what I have read about the perils of going cold turkey, other than the occasional birthday party cake where saying no through gritted teeth was sometimes a sticky situation to be in, I really did not find it all that difficult. However, in those early days, what I did find truly amazing was the amount of hidden sugar in the foods we eat and I’m not talking about the obvious stuff, like ice cream, packaged deserts, confectionary, processed foods and the like. Oh no, what I found was sugar is added to almost everything.  In fact, there are not too many foods without it and unless your diet is completely unpacked or unpackaged, (which is another goal of mine) there is sugar EVERYWHERE. Go check out your cupboard or fridge right now. That innocent jar of crushed garlic? I bet it’s got sugar added. I know! Who knew? This new found knowledge led me to a something akin to an all out boycott on foods with unnecessary sugar added. Not just because it was bad for me, but I felt a certain sense of indignation that sugar was there at all. Why? For what purpose? Has our taste for the sweet stuff become so commonplace we do not even realise how much we are consuming. It appears so. We have been desensitised to its presence and I personally really do not like the idea of that.

 

I thought I was giving up sugar to lose weight.

If I’m honest, I gave up sugar as an attempt to lose weight, which in hindsight is not really the best reason to give up the stuff, but still, it was one of my motivators. The other really big reason was a history of Diabetes in my family, something I want to avoid at all costs and watching my darling mother suffer the consequences of Diabetes for the last 20 years of her life was enough for me to take stock of my own health. Of course, there is more to avoiding Diabetes than just giving up sugar, you need to exercise, cut back on refined carbs, minimise processed foods (laden with sugar) and keep your fat intake at a healthy level.
Of course like all ground swells, there is a debate that begins to rage. Everyone has a point of view. Some say moderation is just fine, others say avoid all sugars including fruits with fructose, some say it should be banned from school canteens, other would like it banned altogether and on it goes. Debate is good, it is the beginning of change and judging by the statistics on diseases like Obesity and Diabetes? Change is very necessary.

 

Moderation, moderation, everything in moderation.

So what to do? Do you give up all sugar including the natural sugar known as fructose which is found in cane sugar, all fruits and some vegetables? Do you go cold turkey like my sister and I did, or do you sit somewhere in the land of “moderation”? Either way, the most important thing is reducing the amount of sugar to a level that does not cause you unnecessary health problems. But I will say this, if you choose moderation, it leaves room for error, or it’s open to your chosen interpretation depending on the occasion and when given the chance especially when you are trying to lose weight, that “open to interpretation everything in moderation clause” can bring you unstuck in your resolve. You see, if you give up all sugars not just the obvious sugar laden foods, then it makes dieting easier, you can just say “no thanks, I don’t eat sugar” It’s actually quite empowering. Try it.
You might be thinking, “moderation is fine Julie. I don’t eat much sugar” and you probably don’t. But its the sugar that is hidden in the foods that you buy. Not so good. And those sodas with sugar added? Really not so good. They are just going to turn to fat and they are going to put you at much greater risk of excessive Glycation (sugar coated cells) for one thing and Diabetes for another. Both of those things are really going to age you and not in a nice way.
So, maybe quitting sugar is about moderation. Many experts will agree with this. But here’s the thing about moderation, it’s a bit like giving up smoking, but you still have a cigarette occasionally (in moderation) in which case, you haven’t really given up smoking and the temptation is always going to be there because you are always telling your brain that you can still have a cigarette. That’s the way I see sugar. If you just give it up occasionally or just eat it in moderation, there you are trying to lose weight, trying to be healthy and then temptation in the shape of a big ol’ sugary birthday cake  is put in your path at yet another office morning tea, well you’re probably going to eat it, because you have not fully committed to giving up sugar. So dieting (if that’s your motivator) kind of gets easier when you say “You know what? I just don’t eat sugar” and then its easy to say no to that cake, its easy to say no to that biscuit because sugar is just not in your world anymore. Hallelujah!
Now, this is the way I look at it and approach it. I don’t eat sugar (the white or the brown or the raw stuff) and I rarely eat really, really sweet fruits like bananas or dried fruits like apricots or prunes;  I keep them to a minimum and fruit juice is just a concentrated burst of fructose that me and my body can live without.
Of course, I recommend a realistic approach, going cold turkey is not for everyone and quitting sugar does not mean quitting the sweeter things in life. We all need fruit in our life, not just because it’s packed with Vitamin C, which is absolutely essential to life, but because it so wonderful to eat and so beautiful, life would be drab without a perfectly sweet strawberry, a bowl of gorgeous raspberries, a handful of delightful blueberries, nature provides and so nicely packaged, and these are the fruits at the top of the Antioxidants and Anthocyanin food chain; very important to your health . Eat them to your hearts content and as part of a well rounded healthy diet.

 

I made a few mistakes in the beginning.

For me, quitting sugar has felt like the right thing to do, but I made a few mistakes in the beginning, like swapping sweet things for foods full of fat. So, while every thing I read about giving up sugar told me the excess weight would drop away, I had quite the opposite experience, either I put on a few kilos or nothing happened at all, so in my righteous pursuit of all things sugar free, I forgot to look at all aspects of a healthy diet. Not so good, but now corrected.  My fat intake is at a very healthy level and I avoid processed and packaged foods and to my delight the weight has dropped away.
In the beginning you may find yourself, (as I did) seeking out sweet alternatives and there are some great cookbooks available, David Gillespie as recently published a cookbook and the other inspiring trail blazer in the quitting sugar crusade is Sarah Wilson, she has some really great recipes in her collection of cookbooks. Click here to visit I Quit Sugar. It really is worth looking out for if you want to quit while still enjoying the sweeter things.

 

Looking for sweet alternatives or just a bit more motivation?

If you are considering giving up sugar, do the research, it will help your determination and your success and as I mentioned, losing weight is just one reason for giving up sugar, there are so many other health benefits including improving your skin health.  I cannot recommend David Gillespie’s books highly enough as a great starting point especially if you love the science behind what sugar is doing to your body, or if you just want to get started and need a bit of help and motivation then Sarah Wilson’s books will definitely be essential reading for you.
If you choose to give up sugar, then I wish your great success and I would love to hear from you, so leave a comment below about your own personal experiences with quitting.
 Julie x