It comes as no big surprise to me when I read that so many of us are addicted to sugar, and I’ve been wondering how many people included quitting sugar in their new year’s resolutions. Although it sounds like it should be pretty straight forward, truly quitting sugar is a complex and tricky task. I know this first hand, because I’ve done it.
You probably won’t want to hear this, but truly quitting is not a quick thing!
Thanks to all the fad diets and books on the market, it’s now a rather grey area, and folk are under the illusion that it can be done in a matter of weeks. That you can simply stop eating sugary foods, replacing the odd craving with a home baked cake sweetened with something like stevia, and hey presto within a month or two you’ve quit.
My own sugar free journey has been eight years in the making, and began after being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in 2007. When I was told by two different doctors that I’d need medical assistance to conceive, rather than just nod my head in agreement and accept my fate, I did a shed load of research into my new condition. Turns out that ladies with PCOS are also likely to be insulin resistant, which can cause all sorts of problems for us including infertility. It also puts us at huge risk of contracting type two diabetes in later life.
Taking control of my health
After learning how much damage sugars – especially refined ones – were doing to my body, I excluded them from my kitchen. This meant getting rid of almost all processed food, and cooking everything from scratch. I still had a grain heavy diet back then though, and as grains are complex carbohydrates that contain a lot of sugar by default, and have been through a very heavy refining process, I certainly wasn’t eating as optimally as I could have been.
Eliminating most refined sugar was just the start. In 2012 my husband and I went Paleo and cut out grains from our diet – I felt good, but I was still eating a lot of natural sugars in the form of fruit and home made treats. I very much had the mentality that I needed something sweet after a main meal. I also massively struggled with regulating my blood sugar levels in early pregnancy all three times.
Changing my mind set
In 2014 I started the gut healing dietGAPS the aim of which is to reset your auto-immune function and get it working better. At the start of the diet you remove almost all food, and the very first stage of GAPS sees you drinking home made soup morning, noon and night for a whole week.
After that you introduce foods one at a time – I didn’t have so much as a piece of fruit for four months. It was only after going through this that the penny dropped for me, not only could I go so long without eating a single sweet thing, but I no longer hankered after it.
Now, almost two years later, I am finally in a place where I can genuinely take or leave the treats. I can say no when I’m out, watch everyone else eat cake and not feel deprived. I can bake brownies with the kids and not be tempted by the raw batter; which was previously a weakness. I will have the odd home made desert (sweetened with raw honey or organic dates) when we’re entertaining, but my piece will be significantly smaller than the rest. If I find myself in a nice restaurant I might share a desert with my hubby, but day to day I have very little sugar in my diet. Natural or otherwise.
I’d like to share some wise words from a dear friend in remission for breast cancer
“I have read articles and listened to pod casts until I’m blue in the face about how sugar is a huge contributor to most disease. Yes most disease. My sugar avoiding game was motivated by breast cancer. My biochemist tells me “A diet high in refined carbohydrates has been to shown to increase the rate of breast cancer growth and to deplete the immune system.”
I call it a game as its all about a dialogue with my little old self. I tried Paleo, Keto, and raw vegan diets which have all helped get me to a safer less sugary place. Now I eat moderately including meat and dried fruit, chocolate, honey and homemade desserts not too often, but the difference is I can feel my blood sugar rise and my stomach filling up. I even know when I’ve eaten too much brown rice and beans (apparently even protein turns to carbohydrate in the body if you eat too much!).
It’s fashionable now to feed the soul, don’t deprive and have a little of what you fancy, but in all honesty if I hadn’t cleared the sugar addiction first, a bit of what I fancied three years a go would have been an extremely unhealthy amount of sugar. Now a little sugar goes a very long way. Its like going to rehab and coming out a more balanced and aware person (only when it comes to food of course). Sugar is relative, just like salt – we can retrain our taste buds and then we don’t need to feel deprived, because we just won’t need it.
There are countless articles, studies and research about the dangers of sugar and its hard to know where to start, so I thought I would quote Otto Warburg, Nobel Prize Laureate and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Cell Physiology, Berlin-Dahlem, Germany:
“The prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar. All normal body cells meet their energy needs by respiration of oxygen, whereas cancer cells meet their energy needs in great part by fermentation. Oxygen gas, the donor of energy in plants and animals is dethroned in the cancer cells and replaced by an energy yielding reaction of the lowest living forms, namely, a fermentation of glucose.”
According to this, sugar feeds cancer. But instead of listing all the diseases associated with sugar, (which we are all bored with by now surely) I vote for enrolling on a body-mind awareness course, at least it would be a start to a conversation with yourself about how much sugar creeps into your life. Sugar is a sticking plaster for emotions (which admittedly is very handy sometimes) but when over used, it creates and feeds disease. And lets face it, there is way too much floating around of both in everyday lives.”