Living Without Sugar

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I posted a short statement on Facebook about living without sugar for February and potentially permanently. The reaction was great so as promised I’m going to blog about it as I go.

Quitting Sugar – The Theory

The theory is to reset your body’s reaction to sugar. We become dependant on it and crave it, even if we don’t realise it. They say it takes a full 8 weeks to reset how your body reacts. So this may well be a 2 month project to see if there are any major changes. Supposedly I might:

  • Lose weight – I weighed myself at the outset and will report the results at the end of the month.
  • Have better skin
  • Feel more energetic
  • Be more in control of my appetite
  • Be at a lower risk of diabetes, heart conditions and cancer (hard to measure that one!)

For more information I’ve chucked a few links I found useful at the bottom of this article. Take them all with a pinch of salt though, you need to decide what’s right for you!

The Rules

First up let’s define what I mean when I say sugar. To be honest no one seems to agree what the rules should be. After extensive Googling and analysis of different foods Mrs J and I have come to a set of rules that seem to make sense for us.

No added sugar.

This ones pretty obvious, but harder to do than you might imagine. Sugar is added to so many things, ready meals, bread and drinks. We also have to be very careful when we eat out – only homemade curry from now on!

No milk.

This might sound a little odd. But a little research revealed that a Flat White contains 57% of your daily recommended sugar intake. Just let that sink in for a moment. In fact a large Latte from Starbucks contains an astonishing 73% and I’m not talking about added sugar. This is naturally occurring Lactose. I’ll circle back to the natural vs added in a moment. If you start adding syrups like in a Caramel Brûlée Latte from Starbucks, you can expect to consume 227% of your RDA in sugar. You would be better off having a 500ml coke. And the worst part – we’re all blissfully unaware. There’s no nutritional information printed on your take away cup.

Natural Sugars?

Initially we were allowing natural sugars from fruits, however, a cheeky bit of research on Fructose reveals that you do need to be careful how much of your diet is made up of fruit. It is high in sugar, so from now (week two) we’re reigning fruit in a little to see how it affects us.

Products that contain trace elements of naturally occurring sugar – like coconut milk, cheese, nuts are fine, but again only in sensible quantities.  The last thing I want to do is start eating nuts by the kilo – this is after all an attempt to shed some excess fat!

No fizzy drinks or fruit juices.

This one’s fairly self explanatory!

No Aspartame or Sucralose

(or any other sugar substitutes for that matter).

Alcohol?

Alcohol with no, or trace amounts of sugar is ok, so lager and whisky are in. Wine is out.

Ok, so that’s the basic rules. Although we’re having to make them up as we make new discoveries about sugar content. If there’s anything on here that I don’t specifically mention it means we’re just reading labels carefully before we decide what’s for dinner. The key to this is preparing everything in advance – and thankfully Mrs J is a beast when it comes to making packed lunches!

Day 4 living without sugar

So far I’ve spent 3 days at work, followed by an evening out and a day at home. The nice thing is everyone in the office is being supportive and doing it to some extent too – which is always helpful.

You know that late afternoon lull where you get a little sleepy, concentration seems to elude you and your work rate really drops off; well I haven’t been having that, at all. Actually I feel good. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t experienced any ground breaking changes – it’s only day 4 after all. But I haven’t struggled either.

Last night we had to explain to our hosts that we weren’t having sugar and help them put together a menu that would work. We ended up having beef nachos with homemade salsa and guacamole – delicious. We even chucked in some rice for good measure. Again, beer, whisky and Cards Against Humanity – there’s no reason why you can’t have a good night out without consuming a tonne of sugar.

Naturally Occurring vs Added

One thing that we have found really frustrating and confusing is that no one seems to have a clear answer on what the difference between natural and added sugar is. Whilst cutting out added or refined sugar is a tricky undertaking, it’s easy to define what is included.

There’s plenty of programs out there that cut natural sugars too, but that seems crazy, fruit is after all good for me, right?

As with any diet, life choice or health kick, moderation is the key. You can’t just say, fruit is healthy therefore I’m going to eat as many grapes as I want. it’s about balance.

Meal Planning

Lunches and dinner have been easy for us. Lunch usually equates to Quinoa, chicken and hummus salad, maybe with a cheeky sprinkle of feta. Delicious. Snacks include nuts, cucumber sticks and satsumas. And dinner is usually a stir fry, chilli, or well seasoned chicken dishes. Just watch out for sauces, even fajita spices and some pots of herbs and spices have added sugar!

Breakfast on the other hand is weird. No milk, no cereals, no bread or pastries… And now we are trying to reduce the amount of fruit we’re consuming. Western culture really has pushed us towards high sugar foods at breakfast time. Next week we’re going with a hard boiled egg, 2 satsumas and a very small pot of nuts.

This means we will be really reducing even the natural sugar in our diets and potentially will really begin to notice the lack of sugar in our bodies.

I have to stress I am not a dietician or a medical expert. I’m not condoning cutting fruit out of your diet, that would be ludicrous, just monitor the quantities carefully.

That’s it for now but watch this space for more updates on living without sugar!

Click here to read my day 12 update on living without sugar!

Click here to read the final 1 month update.

Further reading

If you’re interested to find out more about living without sugar, here’s a few articles, books and websites on the topic:

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