It has been 4 weeks since I quit sugar, including fruit and other sweeteners. I also quit alcohol for 2 and a half weeks during that time. I was quite nervous at the beginning wondering how I would go and I did quite a bit of pre-work in advance so that I could be in the right head-space for making these not insignificant changes to daily habits (which you can read about here). I did have some early problems with an IBS flare-up which I managed to resolve in an un-orthodox, but effective way (read about this here), however since then this little experiment of mine has been a successful one. This is what I have learnt over the last 4 weeks:
1. There is no need to buy expensive face creams. My skin is glowing, soft, and my lines are less visible. I think that quitting sugar and alcohol has something to do with this, however I had already started eating more good fats and less carbs for a few months now and my sister commented in January that my skin looked less like crepe paper (you can always be sure of complete honesty between sisters!).
2. When the cravings hit, reach for some nuts or other healthy fats. I did experience cravings, but if I am honest, they weren’t strong physical cravings, more like a strong emotional desire to eat something when I was feeling anxious or bored. These feelings have always been there, they are not new, however I only really became aware of them when I started this sugar free gig. It is there as an uncomfortable feeling that I “needed something more” after eating a meal. I wasn’t physically hungry but emotionally and habitually hungry for something sweet. Over time these feelings have eased (but not gone yet!), however when they hit quite strongly I found that they best way to deal with it was to eat a small serve (no more than 1/4 cup or it irritates IBS) of Cacoa Nutty Granola with low lactose natural yoghurt or an unsweetened muffin made with cacoa, zucchini and flaxseed meal. Now that these feelings are starting to be less intense it is getting a lot easier….
3. I can do it my way. I have learnt a critical life lesson following the low fodmap diet and that is that when it comes to eating there is no need to be perfect and I can give myself a break. The same goes with sugar. I didn’t eat anything sweet with sugar, but I did eat some store bought savoury sauces and soup (read my review of Sue Shepherd’s Low Fodmap Sauces) that did contain some added sugar. For me it was a real treat eating something that I didn’t have to make from scratch and they were delicious. The world did not come to end by me over-looking the little bit of sugar.
4. My taste buds are adapting and changing. Things that weren’t sweet before are now tasting sweet! I regularly make my pumpkin pancakes and they are now starting to taste sweet simply from the roasted pumpkin puree – I don’t feel the need to add a sweet spread. The same with my regular low fodmap bolognese which I make with passata – I usually add stevia to balance the acid notes from the tomato, but now my taste buds don’t feel the need to balance the palate with sweetness. I also ate two grapes (see point 3 above, the world did not end). And they were so sweet and delicious. I felt that I had never really tasted and appreciated a grape before that moment.
5. My hands are less stiff and painful. I’m not sure if it is normal to have arthritis in your hands at age 35, but I think that is what I must have. They get particularly stiff when the weather is cold and/or damp and I have noticed that there has been more discomfort over the past year, but not to the point that I have felt that I needed to talk to my doctor about it. Over the past 4 weeks the stiffness has lessened and there isn’t as much pain. This must mean less inflammation which has got to be a good thing.
6. I have more energy and more stable moods. This is having a positive impact on my physical health, mental health and how I am interacting with my kids.
7. Alcohol really effects how I feel and how my body works. Quitting alcohol has also had its challenges. We went camping on the weekend and given that involved putting up a tent in the rain I felt that I deserved (or needed?) a glass of wine and so I did, followed by social drinks with friends on the following night sitting around the camp fire. What I noticed after introducing alcohol after a break is that it (a) effects my sleep dramatically, (b) effects my energy levels, (c) leading me to increase or want to increase my caffeine intake, (d) triggers a craving for sugar/carbs, (e) triggers an IBS flare-up that is urgent, painful and unpleasant, (f) my face puffed up and it was not a good look, and (g) all of these effects lasted 2 days. Was it really worth it? I’m not sure. I am becoming very aware at how alcohol consumption is intertwined in our culture and social norms and I suspect that I would have a lot more trouble quitting alcohol for life than I would quitting sugar for life. I’ll let you know when I end up on this train of thought.
I am enjoying my experimentation and learning a lot. I have another 4 weeks to go of no sugar, so I’m half way there, and the worst is over…
PS My husband is doing this with me and it is such good support, I am blessed with a wonderful partner 🙂 That is why I chose the picture for this post…