My oldest friends will know that I’ve always taken an interest in healthy food and fitness. A strange child, I shunned pop for fruit juice and would run 30 times round the parental garden daily.
I have never engaged in any food fads or diets though. They just didn’t make sense to me – I love eating too much.
I exercised enough and always stuck to options labelled low fat, so thought I was all good. Sugar was never really on my radar, so I continued to dismiss Ollie’s objections to my three sugar coffees. (Yuuuuuumy!)
My feelings towards sugar began to change when through a client’s PR campaign I came across Sarah Wilson. This lady’s caused quite a stir Sydneyside and is gaining global reach with her I Quit Sugar programme. She’s not a qualified nutritionist but a health coach. Her story is compelling though, it hooked me in.
I toyed with the idea of Sarah’s 8 week programme but wanted more of a phased reduction than full cold turkey. I planned to stop consuming refined sugar during the working day (where chocolate biscuits had found their way into my diet) but realised I could just as easily cut it out of weekday evenings and implement a no refined sugar during the working week rule. That put a stop to the evening Freddos and mini Malteasers. For the first few weeks I also stopped eating fruit whilst I was avoiding sugar to retrain my taste buds. I gave myself a break at the weekend – no “shoulds” from Saturday morning to Sunday evening.
When talking about cutting down on sugar I’m referring to fructose specifically. This is the most troublesome sugar type – to see why, I fully recommend watching That Sugar Film. Or for a more scholarly read, this article on Biomedcentral.com gives additional detail. Sucrose, the white stuff that we think of when we talk about sugar, is made up of fructose and glucose. This is the stuff that needs to go.
Just to put this all into perspective, this was my daily average sugar consumption:
- 1 large bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran: a healthy option right? About 12g / 3 teaspoons in a large bowl.
- 1 coffee with 3 teaspoons / 12g sugar
- 2 Jordan’s fruit musli bars. 19.2g / nearly 5 teaspoons
- Shop bought chicken and avo sandwich. 6g /1.5 tsp
- Supermarket strawberry and banana smoothie. 10g / 2.5 teaspoons
- 2 x chocolate Tim Tams. 16.5g / 4 teaspoons
- About 3 teas with 1 teaspoon in each. Another 12g
- Healthy Ollie cooked dinner i.e spag bol. 7g / nearly 2 teaspoons
- 1 x mini chocolate 9g / just over 2 teaspoons
104g – 26 teaspoons of sugar!
Now I was under the impression that I was eating fairly healthily. 104g of sugar a day doesn’t sounds so healthy though does it!? It’s not. The World Health Organisation advises that women eat no more than 24g sugar per day.
Cutting down my fructose intake has been a long process – it’s been about a year now that I’ve been refining my weekday diet. Breakfast and snacks were the hardest to think of low sugar alternatives for. I’ve just about got there now though.
I really wanted to share two key things that I’ve learnt over the past 12 months.
Firstly, how incredibly BETTER I feel. Honestly, there is no sweet treat that is worth losing that feeling over. And secondly, how much sugar there is hiding in foods marketed as healthy options.
If you think you eat healthily but are consuming any of the below, you’re probably getting too much sugar:
- Breakfast cereal (so much sugar, so upsetting!)
- Fruit juice (all the sugar out of the fruit, none of the fibre goodness)
- Dried fruit (concentrated sugar)
- Anything labelled low fat (sugar has less calories so often replaces fat in diet foods. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does)
- Any sauce in a jar; pasta sauce, curry sauce and especially anything Chinese
- Cheap stock / seasoning packs
This clip from the That Sugar Film sums up the issue quite nicely:
Cut right back on sugar and these are some of the beautiful effects you can expect:
- Level and consistent energy throughout the day. Yes I’m more tired in the afternoon than the morning but not to the extent of an “afternoon slump”. I might have a tea at 5pm if I have evening work calls but other than that can sail through the afternoon easily.
- No more “hangryness”. Historically I was a very hangry being but those feelings have all but gone. The nutritionist featured on That Sugar Film provides a lovely “ah” moment as regards the hangry phenomenon.
- Less snacking, because you’re less hangry
- A skinnier middle. For me this was never the aim, I was a happy size 10. Within a month of cutting sugar and ramping up the fat intake I slimmed right down, without changing anything else and whilst eating much more (good) fat than before.
- The ability to get up earlier and feel good. No longer waking up in sugar withdrawal means waking up fresh and ready.
- For me, the piercing razor stomach pains that I’ve lived with since about aged 10 have also greatly reduced. I’m not saying sugar was the cause of those but it was definitely aggravating whatever’s going on in there!
If you’re interested in trying to cut down on sugar but aren’t sure what to eat I’m going to share some of my go tos over the next few weeks. I’m definitely no chef, so these are all mega easy and fool proof.
I also recommend I Quit Sugar for recipe books. I’ve been testing out the new family recipes (Ollie and I love to bulk cook) so can report back on my favourites.
I’m clearly neither a doctor nor nutritionist so this is just my personal experience. If you are in Sydney and do want to get professional advice, I recommend Heidi at Be…Health. She is truly a fount of knowledge!