Thursday, 29 August 2013

Experimenting with Quitting Sugar

Recently I discovered the blog of Sarah Wilson, journalist, TV personality, former editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, and author of I Quit Sugar. As the title of her book suggests, nearly 3 years ago she quit sugar. And now I'm going to follow her 8 week plan to quit the stuff myself. 

Actually I won't be quitting all sugar. That would be pretty impossible (and not good for me!)! The body needs glucose, it is the main source of energy. But the stuff that you might put in your tea, or sprinkle on your cereal, or put in your cake, is made up of both glucose and fructose. It isn't the glucose that is the problem, it is the fructose. Which is also found in high concentrations in many fruits. 

Why is fructose a problem I hear you ask? The majority of people who I've told I'm quitting sugar and therefore don't eat fruit say "but fruit is healthy sugar". 

Well yes fruit is healthy, to a point. It is full of vitamins, which is great, but in most fruits, that is accompanied by a lot of fructose. The thing is, fructose doesn't stimulate insulin production, which in turn means that the hunger hormone isn't switched off, and the satiated hormone isn't switched off. So the presence of fructose in food means we can't tell when we've had enough. On top of all this, fructose converts directly into fats, which the body then stores. 

So, while fructose itself might be lower in calories, its effect on the body is the opposite of what we want. And yet a lot of companies use fructose as an alternative to sucrose in low fat foods and drinks!

Initially, I will be cutting all fruit from my diet. Which in reality for me means cutting out like 1 portion of the stuff. I'm really not a natural fruit eater. Can't remember ever being one! My natural preference is for less sweet fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, if I eat them at all. But if I can't have sweet fruit I'm not that bothered. I'm quite happy munching on tomatoes and cucumber, peppers and other savoury fruits, which contain far less fructose.

Why would I want to do this?
For me the answer is pretty straightforward. There is a link between sugar consumption and hormones, and mine are a little bit all over the place. I'm still trying to stabilise my skin, and I've come to the point that I need to look at my diet. There are studies that show that fructose can cause skin problems, and these are more likely in women than in men. 
Quitting sugar is just one change I am making (and I will talk about the other changes later), but I hope it will be a successful one. 
Secondary to this is my desire to lose the kilos I've put back on this summer, which has in part been down to sugar consumption, and I'd like to do it before we go on holiday in October. If I can shift just 3kgs by then I'll be happy.

How am I going to do this?

First off, I have bought Sarah Wilson's book containing her 8 week plan, I Quit Sugar. I chose her plan out of all those out there because I like her writing style, and her honesty about the downs as well as the ups. She doesn't come across as preachy, just as a normal woman seeking balance and a better life, and if you read her blog, she isn't afraid to tell it when it all feels awful. In short, she seems very normal and I like that refreshing honesty. 

I've had a quick skim through it, and so far I can tell that I will be able to go straight to week 2, as I've been on a relatively low sugar diet for nearly 2 years now. I had a bit of an 'aha' moment today when I realised that one of the successes of Slimming World for me was the reduction in sugar. 
I don't take sugar in my hot drinks, I drink sugar free soft drinks and I have hardly touched fruit juice in 2 years. So far so good. I just need to go that extra mile and get to the point where my sugar intake is consistently on or below the recommended 6 tablespoons (approximately 24g of sugar).
In theory I shouldn't go through any horrendous withdrawal, and I've already started with some of the suggestions she has for week 2, which is eating more good fat, like avocado and olive oil.

My intention is to blog my progress at the end of every week, but I may do more, if the mood takes me. I don't want to put any pressure on myself to write posts at particular times or record my thoughts, because knowing myself, that isn't going to work.
This challenge is going to be a real test of will power for me, but I'm hopeful that I can break my remaining bad habits, and forge a new, healthier life for myself. Thankfully giving up alcohol is not necessary, but I do need to make some adjustments to the way I drink, and hooray, beer doesn't contain fructose!

The one thing I don't want to do is tell myself I can never have sugar again. That sure as hell isn't going to work for me! But I want to reserve it for special occasions, like Christmas (I'm not giving up my Christmas puddings - there is no way to make a fructose free one!), or the odd cider as a treat. But that is what they shall remain. I'm working on a way to make cakes and biscuits that will be fructose free, thankfully sourcing some suitable sugar (dextrose) is easy enough.

I think my only downfall will be cocktails. I love love love cocktails, and many contain sugar laden fruit juice. My natural preference is for sour cocktails, or low fructose fruit ones, like Daiquiris, or Mojitos, or Caprinhas (yes, I know they all contain big heaps of sugar in them), which makes like a little easier, but tonic water will be my toughest challenge. Sugar free versions are impossible to find in Austria (although artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulphame potassium aren't exactly fantastic for you for other reasons, when it comes to the no fructose thing, they are on the side of ok) which must suck if you're diabetic, but evidently there are not a lot of diabetic tonic drinkers in this fair country. The solution to this may be making my own tonic water, if I can find powdered quinine somewhere, then I can replace the sugar with dextrose or stevia. 

This is a whole new direction for me. I've spent years trying really hard to be good to the outside of my body, and moderately good to the inside of my body, but now it is time to really kick it up a notch.

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