My Journey to being Sugar Free

journey to being sugar free

We saw some great friends at the weekend who are in the process of going refined sugar free. They had Sarah Wilson’s ubiquitous book, and as I flicked through it briefly I thought to myself ‘wow I seriously missed a trick here’! Believe it or not I started out as a food blogger back in 2010. Well I say blogger, I uploaded recipes so friends could access them easily. I didn’t start adding stories or photos for another eighteen months, and by the time I got serious about the blog in 2012 I was fully on the Paleo wagon, which is a diet that is grain free, commercial dairy free and refined sugar free.

I carried on with the blog (Ren’s Recipes) for another year, but unfortunately back then my food was largely considered ahead of its time. Then I started writing Mummy Tries and decided to import all my recipes over and close the first blog down. If only I’d cracked on with it and produced the book Sarah Wilson had done, I might be a millionaire right now.

sugar freeMy journey to being sugar free began in 2007, after being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and being told categorically by two doctors that I would not naturally conceive. Never one to just accept something negative I did what I always do. Research research research baby!

A Life Changing book

It is not an exaggeration to say that the book ‘What to do when the doctor says it’s PCOS’ changed my life. This is an easy read, which for me means I am able to take the words onboard – there’s nothing worse than trying to understand a load of boring technical jargon. It explains what PCOS is and it’s intrinsic link to sugar. In a nutshell my body is insulin resistant and does not process sugar very well, because of this PCOS can often lead to type two diabetes in the long term.

On an immediate level PCOS can present a whole host of unpleasant symptoms – the most common being weight gain, acne, facial hair and infertility. The solution according to the book? A low GI diet which eliminates refined sugar and white carbs. It made perfect sense to me, and I started right away. Within two years I fell pregnant completely naturally and by accident. Being told I was basically infertile had to have some advantages, and not being careful was one of them because we didn’t think we had to be. You can imagine the sheer elation at proving the medical world wrong and having a baby without assistance. I then went on to have two more babies, and now eight years later, do not suffer from a single PCOS symptom.

The evils of sugar are in the press on a daily basis, so I won’t bore you with details of why you shouldn’t eat the stuff. Instead I’ve listed my top five easy wins for those starting their sugar free journey, or wanting to at least.

5 Easy wins when you start your sugar free journey 

1. Back then I was working 11/12 hour days and grabbing food wherever I could from the work canteen, so I went back to basics and started cooking mostly from scratch. I’d batch cook at the weekend and take all my own food to work, which made a huge difference. Cooking from scratch sounds scary at first, but once a regular routine is established it becomes so easy. Nowadays I could not imagine life any other way.

2. I stopped eating carbs after 5pm, which had an immediate effect. I didn’t feel bloated after my dinner anymore and I was no longer ravenously hungry in the mornings.

sugar free3. I swapped out the sugar in baked goods for alternatives. At first I used agave nectar, because back then we were led to believe it was a diabetic safe sweetener. We now know otherwise, and I haven’t touched the stuff in years. Now I use either organic dried fruit, such as dates and apricots, or raw locally produced honey. Check out my pintrest board of healthy treats for inspiration.

4. Initially I swapped all white carbs for their wholegrain counterparts. Then as I mention above, in 2012 I started eating the Paleo way which eliminates grains altogether. I have now been following the GAPS Diet for almost a year. Check out my other blog Mummy Tries GAPS for more info.

5. I stopped drinking anything other than water on a day to day basis. The occasional juice treat is fine, but drinks can add a monumental amount of unnecessary sugar to your diet. Low cal alternatives are not better for us either, as they are usually laden with artificial sweeteners. Have a read here of a fab article about the popular zero cal sweetener stevia.

What are your views on the S Word? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section…

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39 thoughts on “My Journey to being Sugar Free

  1. I’m always here hon, ask away… but I must warn you, talking about the evils of sugar is one of my favourite things to do so I might go on and on and on 😉 xxx

  2. I love this post. As you know I am trying to go sugar free but I’m finding it really tough. I would love to pick your brains about it all. I think I am going to have to look at all your old blog posts about it. Hugs Mrs H xxxx

  3. What a brilliant story! I love that you changed your diet and proved two doctors wrong!
    I have terrible acne; my GP told me that “some people are just spotty” and changing my diet probably wouldn’t make any difference… I’m hoping to prove him wrong too!
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rummage through your recipes…

  4. Thanks so much Morna, really hope you enjoy them. Please do keep me posted, I love hearing from people that have tried my recipes out. Have a lovely weekend 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for dropping by Mtonya! I think my biggest tip would be to always have a big pot of something on the top of the cooker. Slow cooked stews, curries, etc using cheap cuts of meat and plenty of root veg. Something a bit different that you usually wouldn’t have at dinner time. That way when the kids say they’re hungry you can give them a bowl of food that will fill them up. Of course I don’t say this with any authority at all, mine are all babies compared with yours.

    On the sweet treat front, banana bread is about as easy to make and economical as you’re going to get. If you wait until they’re so ripe the spots start joining up you’ll hardly need any other sweetner. Hope this helps hon, give me a shout if you want recipes – or use the search function on the blogs there must be over 200 dishes between this one and my GAPS blog xx

  6. I love reading your posts Renee. I found that it’s almost impossible in my house to change my families dietary habits. I went sugar free for a while and it became increasingly difficult. There are 2 adults and 3 children 2 of the children eat like adults and are very very vocal when they are hungry my son who’s at the cusp of becoming a teen wants to eat all the time there just is never enough good homemade food to satisfy him. I can honestly say it’s a little bit of a nightmare. My teenage daughter moans about not having anything to make quickly when she comes home from school or back with her friends. My husband is a sugar addict. I just don’t have the strength to fight over food along with all the other family stuff. We eat very well but not as well as we used to when the children were younger. Any tips would be gratefully received.

  7. Great post! I don’t think I’m going to be evangelical about it but I’m very keen on going low GI. I think my current cycle of healthy eating followed by binging on refined carbs needs to be stopped. I’m really keen to try out some of your recipes and I’m excited about an eating plan that doesn’t involve counting and measuring- I’ll see how I get on, I love your recipe ideas 🙂

  8. Ooh I love this post – so much helpful info and tips for doing it too!! I have the I quit sugar book and love the idea of it but have never seen a real person actually living it! I’m booking marking this baby.

    Thanks for linking up to #TheList xx

  9. Well I definitely feel much better at reducing my sugar intake. It’s amazing the first time you have a day without those terrible sugar lows, it feels amazing for your levels to be stable. I’m so glad it helped your PCO, I have already e-mailed this article to my BF who has been diagnosed. You are such in inspiration to be so dedicated to eating for your health and thanks so much for your all encouragement and support. I have been looking through your recipes for ideas too 🙂 xx

  10. I’ve heard so much about going sugar free lately, it seems to be quite an ‘in’ craze. A can totally understand however, when you’re dong it for health reasons such as yours. Sounds like a very sensible idea. The book sounds like a life-saver for you 🙂

  11. Interesting post and glad cutting out the sugar has helped! I know there is a link with PCOS and insulin resistance so I can see why! I’m a dietitian and have read quite a bit about sugar recently. I’m all for moderation but I would definitely prefer to choose to enjoy a bit of sugar in a cake and be aware but I hate the fact that things like yoghurts are packed with it! I try so hard to get my little one to have Greek yoghurt and hide the fromage frais xx #thetruthabout

  12. I am totally addicted to sugar but as I’ve always had a relatively high metabolism I’ve never really been forced to think about cutting it out before. I know it would be hugely beneficial in ways I can only guess at really. Like with preparing for a diet though – I’m not quite ready for this yet. I like to go into these things with absolute resolve! I’ll be sure to check out all your healthier recipes when I do! Interesting about agave too – I did realise that it wasn’t as good as it was cracked up to be which is a shame! Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X

  13. Have to say that I would struggle to cut out chocolate 🙂 I don’t actually have a particularly sweet tooth, but avoiding hidden sugars here in the US is particularly tricky… High fructose corn syrup anyone? It’s in everything, even bread! I keep an eye on what the kids are having, but in my usual everything in moderation way. I do wonder if I’d be less tired if I was stricter with myself though…

  14. Ooh very interesting post and at a time when I do need to be reminded of the effects sugar has on me. I’ve also got PCOS, having been diagnosed at 19 after putting on an immense amount of weight over a very short time period.
    Sugar really effects my mood, weight, fertility and appearance yet I still find it so difficult to cut out of my life. I would LOVE to have another baby but first I need to get the PCOS under control – the first step? The food I eat.

  15. As you probably know, this is the way I am going now too. I had a small cake yesterday and, last night, I suffered pretty badly! It really has helped me see what I need to eat to feel better. I am going to pin this post to help me when I need it. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

  16. I only find it easy now because I’m eight years down the line and it’s all totally normal for me. Best of luck with the discipline lovely and hurrah for miracle babies xx

  17. Hope your sister finds it useful lovely. I’m really pleased to hear that you’ve seen improvements after cutting the sugar out. I’ve never heard a bad story yet, only good ones and lots of energy 🙂

  18. It really is shocking how much sugar is sneaked into food. Also the hidden sugars made out of things like corn, which they manage to into food without most people even realising!

  19. I’d be inclined to think that going low GI from such a young age was a massive factor in not having trouble conceiving hon. It’s certainly all food for thought isn’t it. I’d love to see your documentary, bet it’s so interesting x

  20. Brilliant post, I was diagnosed with PCOS although there is a distinction between the syndrome and having polycystic ovaries although same term-I don’t have the syndrome which is usually acute symptoms like obesity. From 19, when I was diagnosed, I went low GI as it affects insulin resistance and has mostly followed a healthy low carb way of life, the majority of them time. I was lucky not to struggle to conceive but I always have to watch my weight generally as my specialist advised it takes someone with PCOS twice the time and effort to lose weight than someone without. They also advised exercise 4-5 times a week. I’ve read so many books on the syndrome and even developed a documentary for a well known production company a few years ago on it, which sadly didn’t get the green light but its something that needs wider exposure as it’s pretty common. Pcos affects mood, pmt, weight, well being. Think I have read the book but will check x

  21. I have been thinking a lot recently about how much sugar I eat. I love chocolate so would find it very hard to give up but I have become a bit more attentive to product labels and checking how much sugar they have (which is scary). #pocolo

  22. That’s so interesting about PCOS being effected by diet, my sister suffers so I’ll be sharing this post with her. I’m 2 weeks into cutting out sugar and as a previous chocoholic and cake lover I thought I’d be hard but with the help of a new recipe book its been surprisingly easy and I feel so much more energetic. #bigfatlinky

  23. Oh I am terrible for sugar, and sadly addicted to fizzy drinks, the only time I have been able to not drink them is when pregnant and that was because I had HG and all I could stomach was water!
    I do need to be stricter with myself, because Boo is going to start noticing and wanting what mummy has. I think my problem is time and the fact that there are so many things out there telling us what is best and healthy I just get confused.
    I would love to be able to give up sugar but I fear I would just feel like I was depriving myself! Hmmm going to have to have a serious think about this thanks for sharing your post

  24. You are very disciplined. Well done you. I also have PCOS and am overweight because I just cant completely cut out the sugar and carbs… I love wine too much and know that this is basically evil in terms of sugar.
    Every now and again we try our hardest to spend a few days sugar free and alcohol free. Its like the most difficult challenge ever! And we always lose weight doing it so it sort of pays off. Then we put it back on. Doh. So somehow, once again I need to discipline myself…
    We had a miracle baby naturally after two years of trying, so it is possible x

  25. I’m at the start of a new food journey at the moment and I am all for dates and other dried fruits to use as a sweetener. I really just need to plan better so I don’t just grab quick foods – as there is secret sugar in everything #PoCoLo

  26. A really useful post – and I’m so glad you bucked a negative diagnosis! I need to reduce the anount of sugar in my diet. Your post provides some real food for thought on how to do so (sorry – terrrible pun!). #PoCoLo

  27. (I’m back!!!) Having had a friend who suffered all the effects of PCOS, visibly, I think it is a real testament to the power of diet that you managed to overcome it. You are so right about cooking from scratch, the key is good food that really fills you up and stops those cravings.

  28. That is so funny Renee because I have got a blog lined up for the next couple of weeks while I take Easter off on the subject of sugar. Great minds think alike eh? I can’t believe you SCRAPPED your original blog! Such a shame. I am still on the fence about sugar…obviously with GAPS and SCD we are allowed honey…but Sarah Wilson would say bad, bad, bad! Still, I would rather something in its natural state occasionally than something highly processed! We are going to have soooo much to talk about at Brit mums!!!

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